Monday, August 31, 2009

Some Things Just Never Get Old

Like Dan Froomkin calling bullshit on Dick Cheney and the media coverage of him.


Its About Damn Time

It appears that the White House is finally willing to ackowledge what has been apparent from the start, that Republicans aren't interested in bipartisanship in the least when it comes to health care reform.

"It appears that at least in Senator Enzi's case, he doesn't believe that there is a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the president thinks that is wrong," said Gibbs. "I think Senator Enzi has clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided it is time to walk away from the table."

Gibbs's comments came after Enzi told a Wyoming town hall audience last week that would not compromise with Democrats. And in a radio address on Saturday, Enzi accused Democrats of proposing health care reform that "will actually make our nation's finances sicker without saving you money."

"I think the radio address over the weekend by Senator Enzi, repeating many of the generic Republican talking points that Republicans are using, that have bragged about being opposed to health care, are tremendously unfortunate, but in some ways illuminating," said Gibbs.

In targeting Enzi, Gibbs offered the strongest hint to date that the White House is fed up with the process and progress of bipartisan negotiations in Congress. Asked whether he thought Republicans were negotiating in good faith, he shot back:

"That is a question you should ask them. I think, again, some of the comments that have been made certainly seem to suggest to anybody who reads them that they see to be less interested in the bipartisanship they talked about only a few weeks ago."

The press secretary called the recent slew of largely negative health care-related comments from Republican senators "tremendously unfortunate."

"It looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution," said Gibbs. "It is bad for this town but it's worse for this country."

Now honestly it has taken so long for them to be honest about this that it almost has a "too late" quality to it. Still late is usually better than never and I can only hope that this signals a change in tone and message out of the White House for getting health care reform passed this year.

We shall see.

Whose Side Are You On?

Gotta love this new attack ad hitting Chuck Grassley over the public option.

Still wish they would use the phrase "freedom to choose" or "freedom of choice" though.

Whose Side Are You On?

You Gotta See McMegan Get Ripped To Shreds!

I just had to link to this instant classic from inversesquare who proceeds to bend Megan McArdle over and spank her, and not in the good kind of way.

(h/t John Cole)

Using Cheney Logic

Dick Cheney was his usually morally repugnant self yesterday on FoxNews Sunday, shamelessly advocating torture. And there is a lot in the interview for people to take apart but I want to focus on something he said early on. Its one of the best recent example of Orwellian double speak that I could possibly even imagine. First lets look at the question and answer in its entirety and then we can take it apart a little.

WALLACE: This is your first interview since Attorney General Holder named a prosecutor to investigate possible CIA abuses of terror detainees.

What do you think of that decision?

CHENEY: I think it's a terrible decision. President Obama made the announcement some weeks ago that this would not happen, that his administration would not go back and look at or try to prosecute CIA personnel. And the effort now is based upon the inspector general's report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.

They made decisions about whether or not there was any prosecutable offense there. They found one. It did not involve CIA personnel, it involved contract personnel. That individual was sentenced and is doing time. The matter's been dealt with the way you would expect it to be dealt with by professionals.

Now we've got a political appointee coming back, and supposedly without the approval of the president, going to do a complete review, or another complete investigation, possible prosecution of CIA personnel. We could talk the whole program about the negative consequences of that, about the terrible precedent it sets, to have agents involved, CIA personnel involved, in a difficult program that's approved by the Justice Department, approved by the National Security Council, and the Bush administration, and then when a new administration comes in, it becomes political.

They may find themselves dragged up before a grand jury, have to hire attorneys on their own because the Justice Department won't provide them with counsel.

It's a terrible, terrible precedent.

Ok lets work backwards here. Dick Cheney is worried about a special prosecutor looking into whether or not any CIA personnel broke the law by going outside the guidance of the OLC memos. He says the fallout from such a probe woudl be:

We could talk the whole program about the negative consequences of that, about the terrible precedent it sets, to have agents involved, CIA personnel involved, in a difficult program that's approved by the Justice Department, approved by the National Security Council, and the Bush administration, and then when a new administration comes in, it becomes political.

They may find themselves dragged up before a grand jury, have to hire attorneys on their own because the Justice Department won't provide them with counsel.

It's a terrible, terrible precedent

So he says that it will set a "terrible precedent" and that the decision to look into the program is "political" He then goes further shortly after in another answer to describe what he thinks will be the impact of this investigation.

CHENEY: Well, you think, for example, in the intelligence arena. We ask those people to do some very difficult things. Sometimes, that put their own lives at risk. They do so at the direction of the president, and they do so with the -- in this case, we had specific legal authority from the Justice Department. And if they are now going to be subject to being investigated and prosecuted by the next administration, nobody's going to sign up for those kinds of missions.

It's a very, very devastating, I think, effect that it has on morale inside the intelligence community. If they assume that they're going to have to be dealing with the political consequences -- and it's clearly a political move. I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing this -- then they'll be very reluctant in the future to do that.

So this investigation is going to lead to nobody wanting to "sign up for those kinds of missions" and its going to have a "very, very devastating...effect...on morale inside the intelligence community".

Well my goodness who knew that just investigating to see if any wrongdoing occured should have such adverse effects on the intelligence community? But wait, there is one thing that isn't really adding up to me here. If investigating the CIA for wrong doing creates so many problems, why did the Bush administration do just that?

Lets go back to the Cheney's answer again.

And the effort now is based upon the inspector general's report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.

They made decisions about whether or not there was any prosecutable offense there. They found one. It did not involve CIA personnel, it involved contract personnel. That individual was sentenced and is doing time. The matter's been dealt with the way you would expect it to be dealt with by professionals.

So wait, Dick Cheney himself admits that the Justice Department while he was still Vice President did in fact investigate and prosecute at least one bad actor in this whole situation. He makes the distinction that it was a CIA contractor but the truth is the two men who actually orchestrated the torture program were ALSO CIA contractors too so its a distinction but not much of one. Now using his own logic shouldn't this have devastated the CIA?! Shouldn't they have all been pulling out their fainting couches and refusing to protect the nation after that prosecution? Shouldn't we have been attacked by bin Ladin many times over due to the fact that DOJ even looked into the allegations put forth by the CIA's Inspector general? And wasn't Alberto Gonzales who led that inquiry ALSO a political appointee?

Oh wait, I keep forgetting, Its Okay If You're A Republican.

What would be great would be if some journalist points out this contradiction in the man's logic, but I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why Does John McCain Hate America And The CIA And The OLC?

At this point you would have to say that the authors of the OLC memos could have a very lucrative careers as fiction novelists.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a torture survivor from his days as a captive during the Vietnam War, says his private comments about harsh interrogation methods were misrepresented by the Bush Administration in a recently released legal document intended to justify a six-day-long course of sleep deprivation for one CIA detainee in November of 2007.

The newly declassified memo by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel mentions a secret briefing McCain and other members of Congress received sometime before October 17, 2006. The memo says the lawmakers were told about six CIA interrogation techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation.

The memo recounts McCain's reaction this way. "[S]everal Members of Congress, including the full memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Senator McCain, were briefed by General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, on the six techniques that we discuss herein," writes Steven G. Bradbury, a deputy assistant attorney general in the July 20, 2007, memo, which cites a CIA summary of the discussions. "In those classified and private conversations, none of the Members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate."

A spokeswoman for McCain said that contrary to those claims, the Arizona Republican repeatedly raised objections in private meetings, including one with Hayden, about the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique. "Senator McCain clearly made the case that he was opposed to unduly coercive techniques, especially when used in combination or taken too far — including sleep deprivation," says Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for McCain.

An aide to McCain said that in meetings with Hayden and others, McCain raised the story of Orson Swindle, a friend of McCain's who suffered forced sleep deprivation through stress positions as a captive of the North Vietnamese. During the his last presidential campaign, McCain repeatedly spoke publicly of prolonged sleep deprivation as a form of torture.


The contention by McCain and others that private discussions were misrepresented are important because they call into question the legal conclusions that allowed harsh interrogation in late 2007. The CIA account of the congressional briefing was used by Bradbury to argue that prolonged sleep deprivation did not "shock the conscience," a legal standard based on the Constitution's Fifth Amendment right to due process. While "not conclusive on the Constitutional question," Bradbury argued that the lack of objections from members of Congress following the classified briefing contributed to providing "a relevant measure of contemporary standards." If Bradbury had concluded that extended sleep deprivation did "shock the conscience," the technique would have been illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which applied constitutional standards to the treatment of CIA detainees.

The U.S. State Department has long characterized extended sleep deprivation by foreign countries as a form of torture, though Bradbury in his memo dismissed this fact as not providing "controlling evidence" on the issue of contemporary standards. The U.S. Army Field Manual, which regulates military interrogations, also prohibits extended sleep deprivation, but Bradbury dismissed this standard as failing to provide "dispositive evidence" of the government behavior.


In late 2007, after a presidential campaign event in Iowa, McCain said that he supported the prosecutions of any government employee who violated laws governing detainee treatment after October of 2006, when the Military Commissions Act was passed. "After we passed the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act, then obviously anybody who violated any law of the United States would have to be held responsible," McCain told reporters.

Well at least McCain is willing to back prosecutions of people who broke HIS laws lol. But this story just keeps getting better and better. At this point nobody involved in the torture program has any credibility and its likely that we are still only scratching the very surface of this issue. But we gotta look back and not forward, right?

Yep, just keep on walking.....

Damn I'm Good

I rarely toot my own horn. I make predictions that I feel like have a great chance of coming to fruition but many times this isn't some kind of magical insight its just a matter of reading the right tea leaves. But I have to say that I even kind of impressed myself with this one because I didn't see a lot of other people putting forth the same predictions.

Here is what I had to say about the effect Ted Kennedy's passing would have on the health care reform debate.

I get that a lot of people are hoping that Massachusetts changes their rules to allow Governor Deval Patrick to quickly name a place holder for Senator Kennedy's seat in case they need that 60th vote for cloture. But honestly I think that the truth is having that seat open helps the cause of health care reform.

The truth is I am not at all confident that even if we have 60 bodies in the Senate that claim to be Democrats that all of them will vote for cloture on the kind of a health care reform bill than any self respecting liberal or progressive would find acceptable. And its a pipe dream to believe that some how because Senator Kennedy passed that a few Republicans will find their honor and sanity. So THE avenue for getting a health care reform bill through Congress this year that actually represents change and reform is going to have to come through the reconcilliation process in the Senate.

Now the one thing that the media has been really terrible at is being realistic and honest about the Democrats' so called "Super Majority" in the Senate anyway. With Senator Kennedy having terminal cancer and Senator Robert Byrd being very old and, of late, sickly, it was always a Super Majority only on paper. For that reason we would have always needed at least one or two Republicans to vote for cloture and that's not even taking into account needing to do the humongous job of cat herding every single one of the Democrats to do the same. In short it never looked good for that.

However now the prospect of a Super Majority is gone and the realization is that cloture might as well be 10 votes away as it is one with the understanding that that one vote will have to come from a Republican bucking their whole party. In essence even if we could buy off one or two Republicans to vote for cloture on a health care bill it would probably be at such a high cost for our side that the bill would suck and such a high cost for them personally that they would HAVE to change parties. I don't see that happening.

But what I can see now is Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin being able to make a much stronger case to the Democratic caucus for why we should and must use reconciliation to get this done.
And at this point I would say that the media is at a point where they would also be inclined to keep making the case that reconcilliation is the way to go since there is no 60th vote for cloture. Bigger than that if Republicans continue to be obstinant about not even attempting to work with Democrats on the bill I think this is a moment in time where the media will finally call them out in the wake of Ted Kennedy's passing.

Now honestly I didn't see pretty much anybody else looking at the situation that way. I heard a lot about trying to get lawmakers in Massachusetts to change the law so that Governor Deval Patrick could appoint a place holder until a special election could be held next year. I also heard a LOT of people saying that it probably meant the death of the public option. Now I am not saying I was literally the only one who made the prediction of Teddy's passing bringing on a push for reconcilliation but I'm just saying if there were others there were only a handful.

Well lets take a look at the New York Times editorial board today:

The talk in Washington is that Senate Democrats are preparing to push through health care reforms using parliamentary procedures that will allow a simple majority to prevail in their chamber, as it does in the House, instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster that Senate Republicans are sure to mount.

With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democrats do not have the votes just among their 57 members (and the two independents) to break a filibuster, and not all of these can be counted on to vote in lock step. If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy.

We say this with considerable regret because a bipartisan compromise would be the surest way to achieve comprehensive reforms with broad public support. But the ideological split between the parties is too wide — and the animosities too deep — for that to be possible.

In recent weeks, it has become inescapably clear that Republicans are unlikely to vote for substantial reform this year. Many seem bent on scuttling President Obama’s signature domestic issue no matter the cost. As Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, so infamously put it: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

Superficially seductive calls to scale down the effort until the recession ends or to take time for further deliberations should be ignored. There has been more than enough debate and the recession will almost certainly be over before the major features of reform kick in several years from now. Those who fear that a trillion-dollar reform will add to the nation’s deficit burden should remember that these changes are intended to be deficit-neutral over the next decade.

Delay would be foolish politically. The Democrats have substantial majorities in the House and the Senate this year. Next year, as the midterm elections approach, it will be even harder for legislators to take controversial stands. After the elections, if history is any guide, the Democratic majorities could be smaller.


The Democrats are thus well advised to start preparing to use an arcane parliamentary tactic known as “budget reconciliation” that would let them sidestep a Republican filibuster and approve reform proposals by a simple majority.

The approach is risky. Reconciliation bills are primarily intended to deal with budget items that affect the deficit, not with substantive legislation like health care reform. Senators could challenge as “extraneous” any provisions that do not change spending or revenues over the next five years, or would have a budget impact that is “merely incidental” to some broader policy purpose, or would increase the deficit in Year 6 and beyond.

So how much of the proposed health care reforms could plausibly fit into a reconciliation bill? The answer seems to be: quite a lot, though nobody knows for sure.

Knowledgeable analysts from both parties believe that these important elements of reform will probably pass muster because of their budgetary impact: expansion of Medicaid for the poor; subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance; new taxes to pay for the trillion-dollar program; Medicare cuts to help finance the program; mandates on individuals to buy insurance and on employers to offer coverage; and tax credits to help small businesses provide insurance.

Even the public plan so reviled by Republicans could probably qualify, especially if it is given greater power than currently planned to dictate the prices it will pay to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other providers, thus saving the government lots of money in subsidies.

Did you get that? Not only is the New York Times editorial board now ADVISING the Democrats to use reconcilliation. The are also pointing out that the public option could make it through as well if it is STRENGTHENED!

Yall are going to have to excuse me while I go to the store and get buy me a green game blunt and a lottery ticket.

Yes I am feeling myself right now, so sue me lol.

FoxNews Vs Reality On Ted Kennedy And Medicare Part D

In their quest to create a myth that Senator Edward M. "Teddy" Kennedy, the "Liberal Lion of the Senate", would be willing to sacrifice the public option just to get a health care reform bill, FoxNews has been engaging in some pretty blatant revisionist history. Thankfully Jed Lewison is on the case to expose them for the liars that they are. Please pass this video on before this meme actually becomes a reality for people who aren't really paying attention.

Make Bob McDonnell Own His Shit!

Looks like Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is trying to run from his wingnut culturally conservative philosophy and his record in office when it comes to womens' rights and gay rights among other things.

At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

The 93-page document, which is publicly available at the Regent University library, culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families -- a vision that he started to put into action soon after he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.

In his run for governor, McDonnell, 55, makes little mention of his conservative beliefs and has said throughout his campaign that he should be judged by what he has done in office, including efforts to lower taxes, stiffen criminal penalties and reform mental health laws. He reiterated that position Saturday in a statement responding to questions about his thesis.


One controversy that drew wide attention was an effort in the General Assembly in 2003 to end the judicial career of Verbena M. Askew, a Circuit Court judge from Newport News who had been accused of sexual harassment by a woman who worked for her. As chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, McDonnell led the effort in the House. He said he was opposed to Askew's reappointment because she didn't disclose, as required, that she was a party to a legal proceeding.

McDonnell was widely quoted at the time as saying that homosexual activity raised questions about a person's qualifications to be a judge. Spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell was misquoted and does not consider homosexuality a disqualifying factor for judgeships or other jobs.

Askew, who was not reappointed, denied any wrongdoing and was never found by a court to have harassed the employee.

I saw recently that his Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds was actually hitting him on his opposition to abortion, something that not many Democrats have the balls to do anymore. When I heard about it I was on the one hand happy that Deeds wasn't hiding from the issue but on the other hand I did wonder about the political implications. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that McDonnell must have some radical skeletons in his closet or something when it comes to abortion and I guess we see now that this is certainly the case. But what we need to do is keep him on the defensive and keep hitting him on these issues.

Every liberal and progressive blogger who is concerned about the race in Virginia should be bringing this issue up a couple of times a week. For as much as people may have some personal reservations about abortion I don't think his views on it are even close to being mainstream. Its time that we started labeling the anti choicers as the real radicals as we should have been doing from the start.

Make McDonnell own his past and then see how many Republicans continue to try to fight these culture wars.

(h/t O Dub)

Teddy "Politicizes" His Own Funeral

Just in case the wingnuts were successful in cowing the Deomcrats into not speaking up for health care reform during his memorial, Senator Ted Kennedy made sure prior to his death that the message would come anyway.

Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States Senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything that I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country.

This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I'll continue to advocate for it, as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.

The "Liberal Lion of the Senate" let out one last powerful roar and let his last wishes be known. Now its time to see whether Democrats in the Senate will heed his call to action.

(h/t dailykos

President McCain

Imagine my fellow Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives, that the unthinkable happened and John McCain won the election last year. At this point he is putting together plans to bomb Iran, making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and taxing our health care. In the middle of all this he gives this explanation for why he will never allow anyone to look into torture committed by contractors and sanctioned by the Bush Administration over the previous 8 years.

Now, would you accept President McCain telling you that we have to look forward and not back lest we "damage" the CIA? Would you hold your tongue when he says he won't investigate because its distracting from his policy agenda?

Then why are you accepting those same arguments from President Obama?

Food for thought.

John Kerry Brings The Weaksauce

How did this guy ever get to be the nominee in 2004?!

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator Kerry, there already is a big debate over what would Teddy do. I mean, I think a lot of liberals and progressives saying he would fight for this public health insurance option and, you know, if that -- if you didn’t have that, it wasn’t worth doing.

Others look at it, and I think you may be one of them who say, no, the lesson of Senator is that he got what he could get, the perfect couldn’t be the enemy of the good.

KERRY: Well, Ted would put facts on the table and he would put the reality of life for a lot of Americans on the table. And the reality of life is that we have over 87 million Americans every year during some portion of the year who don’t have insurance. And almost 50 million who all of the time don’t have insurance.

It costs them and costs America an enormous amount of money. We are not managing an efficient health care system. And so we are delivering worse health care for more money than many other nations in the world.

Now Orrin knows that. We know we can do a better job of providing health care to Americans. And what Teddy would do is he would fight for that public option, because he believes -- believed that the public option, as I do, is an effective -- the best way possible to be able to reduce the...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he could count votes as well...

KERRY: Now let me just finish...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and the votes don’t seem to be there.

KERRY: Let me just finish. Let me finish. He would fight for it, and he would do everything in his power to get it, just like he did for the minimum wage or like he did for children’s health care, et cetera. But if he didn’t see the ability to be able to get it done, he would not throw the baby out with the bathwater. He would not say no to anything because we have to reduce the cost. We have to make these changes. And he would find the best way forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he wouldn’t agree with those like Howard Dean who say it’s not worth doing if you don’t have the public health insurance option?

KERRY: I think there is an enormous amount, George -- oh, here is what Teddy would do. He would say, I’m going to fight the fight, and if and when we get to the point that we can’t get there, we’ll see whether or not we can do enough to make good happen out of this.

And you can’t make that measurement today. We have to go down that road.

Here is my thing, if I could have my druthers then no Democrat would try to speak for Senator Edward M. "Teddy" Kennedy. They would respectfully decline to put words in his mouth and instead turn the conversation towards one of his life's ambitions of health care reform in general and then affirm their committment to making it happen.

However if a Democrat IS going to speak for the "Liberal Lion of the Senate" then at least they should come off sounding...well, liberal. I can tell you what I don't think Ted Kennedy ever would have done, and that's concede anything including whether or not he would compromise on a bill, to the press or in public. He made deals not in front of a camera or a microphone when he made them. He did it away from the prying eyes of the public.

Now even if Democrats see a need to compromise on a public option, which is not something I will support and in fact will motivate me to help insure this is Majority Leader Harry Reid's last term in the Senate, you don't concede that on a Sunday show so that it can now be used as a negotiating tool by ever Republican in the country. I will almost guarantee you that right now the RNC is working on talking points which will incorporate Kerry's stance that Teddy Kennedy wouldn't have "thrown the baby out with the bath water" so they can bash the left and claim if there is an obstacle to health care reform its us and not the wingnuts.

You gotta believe that Kerry knows this and yet so as to not look like a flaming liberal himself he just can't bring himself to actually stand strong on what is really already a major compromise for liberals and progressives. There is a reason that the 2004 election was close enough that it came down to one state even though Geroge Bush had already revealed himself to be close to a functioning moron by that time. And there is also a reason why Kerry never even attempted to fight for that state.

One thing is apparent, if there is to be another "Liberal Lion" in the Senate it won't be the new senior Senator from Massachusetts.

I Feel Like I Can Make It, What About You?

This song always gets me....

WaPo Is A Safe Haven For Neo Cons And Pro Torturists

When Politico is fact checking you then you know that you have jumped the shark, the whale and the giant octopus!

For a more complete debunking of the Washington Post article yesterday and the new one today which reported that torture "worked" on Khalid Sheik Muhammed despite tons of evidence to the contrary I would recommend emptywheel's posts here and here.

How screwed up is it that in 2009 we are even having to prosecute the argument against torture in the court of public opinion?

Why The Villagers Will Never Accept Bill Moyers

Its because the man just keeps on telling the truth.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Eulogy For Senator Edward M. "Teddy" Kennedy

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Eulogy for Edward Kennedy

Boston, MA

Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese." I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly-elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, "It’ll be the same in Washington."

This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.

But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, "...[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves." Indeed, Ted was the "Happy Warrior" that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:

As tempted more; more able to endure,

As more exposed to suffering and distress;

Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act –all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch’s support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his Chief of Staff serenade the Senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas Committee Chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the Chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the Chairman. When they weren’t, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said "Luck of the Irish!"

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"

But though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I’m sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?" It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. Senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that’s my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with "You wouldn’t believe who called me today."

Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, "On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love."

Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.

In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:

"As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us."

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.


Let's Turn ALL Of Our Attention On Harry Reid

Yesterday Majority Leader Harry Reid muddied the waters on his support for a public option:

During a tele-townhall with constituents today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he supports a public option...but then he added an extremely important caveat. Reid said he doesn't think the public option ought to be a government run program like Medicare, but instead favors a "private entity that has direction from the federal government so people that don't fall within the parameters of being able to get insurance from their employers, they would have a place to go. "

That sounds suspiciously like Reid would prefer a so-called co-op system, which almost all reformers regard with suspicion, and many regard as a non-starter. Reid is ultimately more than just one vote, too. If the Senate passes a health care bill through the regular legislative process, he'll be the one marrying two different pieces of legislation: one which creates a public option, and one which creates co-ops.

Having read this breakdown from TPM yesterday I was upset of course but kind of shrugged it off. The reason being is that this is part for the course for Harry Reid. I can't think of anyone on the left, not one single person, who is happy with Reid's performance as Majority Leader. Time and time again he has failed to bring bills to the floor for up and down votes and its because of his lack of leadership why so many of President Obama's appointments still have yet to be confirmed by the Senate (anybody seen Dawn Johnsen lately?). But just now watching the funeral of Senator Edward M. "Teddy" Kennedy, and marvelling at his life's work, I had something of a lightbulb moment.

The grassroots left has been outstanding this year in terms of advocating for progressive legislation. There have been attack ads funded to run against both Republicans AND Democrats to try to bring pressure on them to support health care reform. Many of these projects have been very remarkable in that just a few people came together to produce and fund them and they have actually made a difference on several Democratic members of Congress.

Having said that, the one thing that has been a hinderance has been the fact that we have had to divide all our resources to attack these people individually in their home states. This is because with a so called "super majority" we needed every single Democrat to vote for cloture in order to get a health care reform bill to the floor for an up and down vote. But while I think those were worthwhile efforts, I think the time has come to pool all of our resources to bring to bear the full force or progressives against one member of Congress.

Harry Reid.

Many of the ConservaDems in the Senate feel safe because they aren't up for reelection next year anyway. And several of the ones that are come from very conservative states. Ironically enough Harry Reid himself may be the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate running for reelection next year. So it is time we gave him a choice, either we get health care reform with a public option or he doesn't get to be Senator any more.

I know some people will see this as a purity purge, I however disagree. Universal health care has been a plank of the Democratic platform for over half a century. If a person decides that they want to be elected as a Democrat then there should be at least some level of expectation that goes with that with support for universal health care being the lowest of bars. Otherwise what use is it to have a party or a platform in the first place?

To that end Harry Reid is uniquely positioned to bring as strong health care reform bill across the finish line. If he decides he wants to start twisting some arms and snatching some chairmanships the votes will inevitably come. But as long as he keeps this "just vote your conscious" attitude then we will continue to see every single progressive bill that makes it to the Senate be filibuster and therefore for them to pass just about every single one of them will have to be watered down. He has given all the power of Congress over to the rump Republican Minority without so much as a whimper let alone the roar we will now miss with Senator Kennedy. He can't even make the Senate Finance Chairman, Max Baucus, negotiate a health care bill in the full committee where the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is reflective of how the citizens of this country have voted in the last two cycles.


What we should do is simple. All of the money put together for ads should now be used to produce ads against Harry Reid. I would call them warning shots to get his attention both in Washington and in Nevada. The next step will be setting up fundraisers for which ever Republican decides to run against Reid next year. Third we should pledge to phone bank Nevada against Harry Reid next summer. We won't have to campaign for his opponent but just remind the people of Nevada how Reid has failed them over the last 3 years as Majority Leader.

Now I know that many will say that Democrats in Congress aren't afraid of the Netroots, but recent events have shown just how wrong they are. If Ben Nelson wasn't worried about the netroots he wouldn't be calling up people who appeared in attack ads against him. But Nelson himself is actually the little fish in a little pond. It is now time that we go big game hunting.

If there is one thing Harry Reid wants in this world its to continue being a Senator. We need to use that against him in order to get this health care bill done. Im sick and tired of complaining about Reid. I am sick and tired of wishing we had a better Majority Leader. Its time we stand up and DEMAND that he gets his shit together or we will all make sure to send him packing after next year's midterms. What damned difference does it make anyway to have 60 Democratic members of the Senate if we still can't pass progressive legislation?

I would much rather have 55 Democrats in the Senate with Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer or Pat Leahy as Majority Leader than continue on with 60 or more and have Harry Reid continue on in that role. Sometimes you have to add by subtracting.

Now, whose coming with me?

The Stain Of Stupid

Well said Rachel, well said.

Friday, August 28, 2009

All Death All The Time On FoxNews

Its a wonder to me that the FoxNews viewers don't pull their own plug after watching this kind of vitriol.

That's what you call indoctrination folks.

(h/t Greg Sargent

Killing The Senate Republicans' Revisionist History

Rachel Maddow was awesome last night reminding everyone that the words of the Senate Republicans about how they would have worked in a bipartisan fashion with Senator Ted Kennedy on health care reform just doesn't match up with the facts of history.

Tamron Hall just now on MSNBC referred to this clip to set the record straight. I can only hope that other journalists in print and on TV also take notice.

LeMieux Who?

Today Governor Charlie Crist decided to fill the the Senate seat being vacated immediately by Republican Mel Martinez with his former Chief of Staff George LeMieux. Now this is needless to say a head scratcher. Not only has Lemieux never held elected office, he also was most recently a lobbyist..errrr, "consultant". Aren't those kinds of people exactly who we are trying to run OUT of Washington? With so many big issues facing our nation and with our military still actively engaged in two wars, Governor Crist decided to install a puppet of his into a seat that he will be challenging for next year. I mean LeMieux proudly proclaims that he is a "Crist Republican" so what should we expect from him other than being Crist's proxy in the Senate?

The Democratic challenger for that Senate seat, Congressman Kendrick Meek, had this to say about the appointment.

"From the moment Senator Martinez announced his retirement, Governor Crist placed his ambitions over Florida's needs. Floridians require a Senator working to ease their economic pain and achieve comprehensive health insurance reform, not a political appointee who serves the monied special interests.

"The Governor added another addition to his campaign team at taxpayers' expense. George LeMieux doesn't represent Floridians facing economic challenges - he represents privileged clients with expense accounts far removed from the realities Floridians are facing.

"Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers' expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience from Congressman Clay Shaw to Mayor John Delaney to various Hispanic leaders were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent.

"By appointing George LeMieux, Governor Crist's inner circle was rewarded with a U.S. Senate seat and Floridians are left lacking the representation they deserve."

Tough words but they are really on point. Floridians deserve a strong legislator looking out for their interest for the next year or so, not a political neophyte just trying to find his way.

Well there is a little bit of information out there about Lemieux online including his newly published wikipedia page. has a post up currently about LeMieux's previous support for gay adoption and how that may make some conservatives nervous.

But it's some of the stances LeMieux took on gay adoption and gay benefits way back in 1998 when he ran unsuccessfully for the state House that could really rankle the conservative base.

In 1998, when LeMieux was challenging Democratic state Rep. Tracy Stafford for a Broward Congressional seat, he sought to siphon off votes from the district's gay community in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manor.

LeMieux told Steve Bousquet (back then of the Herald, now of the Times/Herald) in September 1998 that gay couples in Florida should be allowed to adopt children. He also said he favored domestic partnership laws to extend health care and other benefits enjoyed by married couples. He said unmarried partners should be permitted to be listed as beneficiaries on insurance policies.

Now this is obviously is a very progressive view on gay adoption and even though he doesn't support gay marriage his support for gay adoption would definitely be a plus. But the question is will Lemeiux, like his former boss, now govern to the right of Tom Coburn just to try to help Governor Crist curry favor with the wingnuts in the Florida GOP? I guess it will remain to be seen but since the deed is done now I think its important to try to divine what kinds of views Lemeiux has held in the past. Thankfully he publishes a newsletter called "The Lemieux Report" online which has been really good resource for taking a peek into his way of thinking.

On health care it doesn't make me optomistic about his position when he decides to quote a stain on humanity like Dick Morris in one of his newsletters.

The Death of U.S Health Care: From Dick Morris' column, "When all of America's top health insurers and providers met at the White House this week and pledged to save $2 trillion over the next decade in health costs, they were pledging to sabotage our medical care. The blunt truth, which everybody agreed to keep quiet, is that the only way to reduce these costs is to ration healthcare, thereby destroying our system." Click here to read more

Going by LeMieux's position on federal help for Hurricane relief funds evidently he doesn't think that government is always the problem.

Topic 2: Cat Fund:-No Help From the Feds?

With Hurricane Season just around the corner, Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is short on cash. The Cat fund sells reinsurance, insurance for insurance companies, to private companies who can draw on the fund to bridge the gap between the funding they have on hand, and the amount they need to cover claims in the event of a major disaster.

If a serious hurricane or other natural disaster hits Florida, the Cat Fund could be responsible for covering up to $29 billion in damages. Currently, the fund has resources to cover only $11 billion.

Last year, Florida paid Warren Buffet $224 million to secure a $4 billion line of credit in the event claims against the Cat Fund surpassed available funding. This year, Florida asked the U.S Treasury for a line of credit, but last week the U.S Treasury denied that request. Members of the Florida Cabinet are now faced with the task of exploring alternative means to bridge the gap.


Florida isn't the only state facing this problem, which underscores the need for federal lawmakers to act. President Obama supported a National Cat Fund on the campaign trail. It's time to fulfill that campaign promise now before hurricane season starts.

LeMieux definitely saw the utility of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment act as he spoke favorably of it several times including ways it could be used to solve the state budget problems, how it could be used to build a light rail system within the state, how the funds could be used to invest in green energy and also how they could be used to shore up the educational system.

Topic 5: Education Funding: Possible Sales Tax Hike?

How do you maintain the current level of education funding and implement the Class Size Amendment during an economic recession? That is the question Florida lawmakers in both the House and Senate faced last week as they mulled over the education budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10.

So far the three suggested avenues for maintaining Florida's current level of education funding have surfaced: 1) accepting federal stimulus dollars; 2) ratification of the Seminole Gaming Compact; and 3) a constitutional amendment creating a penny increase in the statewide sales tax.

The Senate's budget maintains the current funding level, $6,860 per student, by incorporating both federal stimulus dollars and funding from the Seminole Gaming Compact. The House plan includes federal stimulus dollars, but no gaming funds, and results in a 10 percent reduction in education spending.

The Senate has also suggested a constitutional amendment for a penny increase in the statewide sales tax to bridge the gap in education funding. Within that amendment is a provision to ease the class size limit voters previously approved in 2002. House leaders oppose the amendment, while education interest groups have yet to take a side.


Flexibility, rather than tax increases, is the solution to this problem. Both chambers should incorporate federal stimulus dollars and funding from the Seminole Compact. The federal dollars serve as a bridge to better times, while ratification of the Seminole Gaming Compact will produce billions in funding over the twenty-five year term of the Compact.


Topic 1: Stimulus Part II - What it means for Florida

According to state-by-state employment data released by the White House last week, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will create over 200,000 jobs in the Sunshine State. Florida is set to receive over $12 billion from the nearly $789 billion package.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, leader of the statewide organization of 193 local chambers, has joined with The Florida Council of 100 and Enterprise Florida in requesting that the Legislature target stimulus funds toward more than 250 job creation proposals. The Chamber also noted that Florida is home to 6.5 percent of the nation's population, but is slated to receive only 1.5 percent of the Federal Stimulus Package.

On Friday, Governor Crist released his 2009-10 recommended budget. (See Topic 2) The budget proposal includes recommendations for investing $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars during the current fiscal year, and $4.7 billion in 2009-10. $1.4 billion will go toward shovel-ready projects that can be initiated within 180 days, creating or retaining an estimated 24,200 additional Florida jobs.

BOTTOM LINE: Without the federal stimulus funds, Florida's 2009-10 budget would have dropped to $61.8 billion and required drastic reductions and deep cuts to important programs and projects. We all can think what might have been with the spending of nearly 800 billion in revenues:

*raise the salary of every public school teacher in America by 20% for five years for $150 billion;

*allocate $100 billion to alternative energy research, implementation, and commercialization to free us from foreign oil;

*spend $250 billion to build regional high speed rail projects nationwide (Los Angeles to San Francisco, Boston to New York to Philadelphia to D.C., Miami to Orlando to Atlanta to Charlotte, Dallas to Houston to San Antonio, etc.);

*invest $100 billion to cure cancer, Alzheimer's, and other diseases;

*divide $200 billion between the states on a proportionate basis to shore up their budgets and fund transportation and infrastructure programs.

Whatever might have been, the national economy needs a stimulus to put Americans back to work. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

On the other hand it seems that LeMieux was in a bit of denial about the severity of the recession earlier this year.

Topic 1: Is the Media Making the Economy Worse?

Are we really in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? It depends on who you talk to. The national economy has slowed, unemployment is rising and the financial crisis of last fall, even with TARP 1 and 2, has frozen credit for many. However, for my money it is not as bad as the late 70s/early 80s. The April 21, 1980 cover of Time magazine carried the stark headline: "Is Capitalism Working?" The American economy was in crisis after years of stagflation (inflation and economic stagnation occurring simultaneously). The story recounted the ills: mortgage rates were 17%, business loans carried 20% interest rates and productivity had collapsed.

Since that "Great Recession" we have had several economic downturns. What makes this cycle different? This is the first economic decline since the saturation of 24-hour cable news, widespread use of the Internet, PDAs and social media that allow folks to track and analyze in explicit detail every single up and down the economy takes throughout the day. Media outlets competing for your attention take the same "if it bleeds it leads" approach to the economy as they do to crime stories and hurricane coverage. Media pressure moves markets as evidenced by the one ubiquitous appliance in every stock trader's office-a television.

Is it possible that while these are tough economic times, the media is making it worse by jamming down on the accelerator as the car approaches the cliff? Eight percent unemployment is troubling, but 92 percent are still working, and many of the restaurants, theme parks, hotels and attractions in Florida are still doing well.

So what should business leaders and entrepreneurs do? Make the most of a down economy. To that end, the St. Petersburg Times ran an interesting story on the upside to the down economy. The story notes that with inventories down, some small businesses are weathering the storm and rising to the top as lean mean fighting machines, bettered equipped for future shifts in the marketplace. For would-be homebuyers and investors, both homes and stocks are selling at a significant discount. The market may be down now, but it will rise again as it always does, so those willing to take the risk could reap substantial benefits down the road.


There is no doubt that the economy is in a tough place, but don't be fooled by the media into believing that that situation is worse than it actually is. And when the market recovers, expect the media to act accordingly by exaggerating the upside (look for the Time Magazine cover "America is Back!"). The truth is that it is never as bad or as good as it seems.

Now its very important that all Floridians familiarize themselves with what LeMieux has said in the past because any deviation from his past policy stances will probably be prompted by Crist pulling LeMieux's string to help his electoral chances in 2010. Such is the dynamic Crist set up when he decided to play politics and cronyism rather than give us a Senator that we deserve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Everybody Is A Fuckin Comedian Now

This kind of shit is getting to be all too common.

BOISE -- Rex Rammell, Republican candidate for Idaho governor, says his comments about "Obama tags" are not a big deal, but he apologizes if people think he wants the president assassinated.

The Twin Falls Times News reports that during during a discussion on wolves Tuesday night at a local Republican party event, an audience member shouted a question about "Obama tags."

According to the newspaper, Rammell responded: "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."

Rammell, a veterinarian and former elk rancher from Rexburg, told Times News reporter Jared Hopkins his comment was a joke and he would never seriously talk about President Obama that way, although he doesn't support anything Obama's done as president.

"I was just being sarcastic. That was just a joke," Rammell told the paper. "I would never support him being assassinated. "She kind of caught me off guard, to be honest with you."


Nobody we talked to found kidding about hunting tags for the president of The United States very humorous, and Rammell told CBS 2: "If people read into my comments I would want him assassinated then I apologize for that. That was not the intent of my comment."

Classic non apology apology. These bastards don't deserve to ever lead this country again.

(h/t O Dub)

Greg Sargent Keeps PWNING Sock Puppet Stephen Hayes

Please for the love of God and all that is sacred in blogging, somebody throw in the towel for Stephen Hayes. He didn't really want it with Hov Greg!

We Have A Right To Be Fearful

Remember the black guy who showed up with an AR 15 semi automatic assault rifle at one of President Obama's townhall meetings a week or so ago? Check out this clip of The Young Turks as Cenk Uygur exposes who and what the guy listens to for "spiritual advice"

Talking Points Memo has more

I am really praying that the Secret Service is paying attention to all this and responding accordingly.

That Makes 2 out of 3

We already had already seen one member of the so called "Gang of Six", Chuck Grassley, admit that he isn't voting for any bill that he negotiates "compromises" into. Now the second of three Republicans in this clusterfuck, Mike Enzi, has come out and admitted that he is just there to obstruct and water down the bill as well.

Mike Enzi, one of three Republicans ostensibly negotiating health care reform as part of the Senate's "Gang of Six," told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions.

"It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out," Enzi said Monday, according to the
Billings Gazette.

Enzi found himself under attack at the town hall simply for sitting in the same room as the three Finance Committee Democrats. Republicans in the crowd called for him to exit the talks. He assured conservatives that his presence was delaying health care reform.

"If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," he said.

Excellent job there Max Baucus.

I don't want to hear another gotdamned word from President Obama or anybody else in his administration about these assholes negotiating in good faith. It is time to say to hell with it, pull the fucking bill back into the full committee where it should have been from the get go, mirror the HELP committee bill and bring the damn thing to the floor for a vote. And as an alternative drop it all and just move to reconcilliation and be done with it. Its over for this namby pamby farce of a bipartisan negotiation. It is time for Democrats to shit or get off the pot. We voted for change dammit not another 4 years of Republican rule.

Its time to make it happen!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Effect Ted Kennedy's Passing May Have On Health Care Reform

I refrained from offering an opinion about the political reprecussions Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy's passing would have on health care reform for most of the day out of deference to his memory. Now I will offer up how I see it probably playing out in a best case scenario type of deal.

I get that a lot of people are hoping that Massachusetts changes their rules to allow Governor Deval Patrick to quickly name a place holder for Senator Kennedy's seat in case they need that 60th vote for cloture. But honestly I think that the truth is having that seat open helps the cause of health care reform.

The truth is I am not at all confident that even if we have 60 bodies in the Senate that claim to be Democrats that all of them will vote for cloture on the kind of a health care reform bill than any self respecting liberal or progressive would find acceptable. And its a pipe dream to believe that some how because Senator Kennedy passed that a few Republicans will find their honor and sanity. So THE avenue for getting a health care reform bill through Congress this year that actually represents change and reform is going to have to come through the reconcilliation process in the Senate.

Now the one thing that the media has been really terrible at is being realistic and honest about the Democrats' so called "Super Majority" in the Senate anyway. With Senator Kennedy having terminal cancer and Senator Robert Byrd being very old and, of late, sickly, it was always a Super Majority only on paper. For that reason we would have always needed at least one or two Republicans to vote for cloture and that's not even taking into account needing to do the humongous job of cat herding every single one of the Democrats to do the same. In short it never looked good for that.

However now the prospect of a Super Majority is gone and the realization is that cloture might as well be 10 votes away as it is one with the understanding that that one vote will have to come from a Republican bucking their whole party. In essence even if we could buy off one or two Republicans to vote for cloture on a health care bill it would probably be at such a high cost for our side that the bill would suck and such a high cost for them personally that they would HAVE to change parties. I don't see that happening.

But what I can see now is Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin being able to make a much stronger case to the Democratic caucus for why we should and must use reconciliation to get this done. And at this point I would say that the media is at a point where they would also be inclined to keep making the case that reconcilliation is the way to go since there is no 60th vote for cloture. Bigger than that if Republicans continue to be obstinant about not even attempting to work with Democrats on the bill I think this is a moment in time where the media will finally call them out in the wake of Ted Kennedy's passing.

Now understand that I grieve the loss of Senator Kennedy as I know most of you do too. But what I am talking about right now is a political reality that is out there for us to take advantage of. I am pretty sure that should we were to use Senator Kennedy's death as a lever to help push through health care reform which covers almost all Americans that he himself will be up in Heaven smiling down on our efforts. I, as much as anyone else, wish he could have lived long enough to see health care reform come to fruition during his lifetime, but for him to pass and health care reform to fail I think should not and will not be acceptable.

Its time to strike while the iron is hot and use all means available to get it done. And as it stands right now reconcilliation is the way to go. No one will remember the process years from now when everyone has health care, all they will remember is the result.

Nope, Nothing Racist About That...

Great White Hope eh?

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reports that freshman Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) told a town hall meeting a week ago that the GOP still had to find a "great white hope."

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," said Jenkins. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington." As examples, Jenkins mentioned Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

I can't wait till Congresswoman Jenkins rolls out her 2 or 3 "black friends" to prove she isn't a racist. She is now on the clock.

What Is The Price?!

Im firmly convinced that somebody needs to lock Majority Leader Harry Reid up in a room and make him watch hour upon hour of impassioned floor speeches from Ted Kennedy. Maybe, just maybe, then he would start learning how to kick some ass and take some names!

Classic Teddy

Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy speaking in Alaska about the recent assasination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

RIP Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy

We lost the "Lion Of The Senate" last night as he sucumbed to the effects of his brain cancer.

Statement from President and First Lady Obama:

Statement from President Obama:

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

Statement from Governor Deval Patrick and his wife:

"One of the Commonwealth's brightest lights went out last night. Ted Kennedy was a compassionate, effective, visionary statesman, family man and friend. Diane and I were blessed by his company, support and many kindnesses, and miss him profoundly. We pray for comfort for his beloved wife and partner Vicki and his entire family."

Turning The Tables On Michael Steele And The GOP

This is a pretty nice take down of Michael Steele and his spurious op-ed in the Washington Post the other day by Steve Pearlstein also in the Washington Post.

An excerpt:

On the issue of end-of-life care, Steele was uncompromising: In a Republican world, no government funds could be used to pay doctors to provide information about living wills, hospices or palliative care, whether seniors and their families ask for it or not.

"Government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but," Steele explained in articulating the new philosophy. Once back in power, look for Republicans to apply the same approach to issues such as flu vaccinations, disaster relief and air traffic control.

According to Steele, Republicans will also seek to outlaw "any effort to ration health care based on age." You don't have to be a lawyer like Steele to understand that would effectively make it a federal crime for any hospital to refuse a heart transplant to a 95-year-old, or for any doctor to refuse to prescribe Viagra to a sexually precocious seventh-grader. Although Steele did not indicate what the penalty would be, he did not rule out the death penalty.

Indeed, Republicans seem determined to preserve the uniquely American system under which health care is rationed today -- on the basis of employment status and ability to pay. According to the respected Institute of Medicine, this market-based approach to rationing has held the number of untimely deaths each year to a mere 18,000 uninsured souls. Thanks to Medicare, all of those victims are younger than 65, but apparently that is the kind of age-based rationing that real Republicans can embrace.

After reading his broadside, one is left wondering exactly what health reform plan Steele thought he was attacking. At one point, Steele claims that Democrats would prevent Americans from keeping their doctors or an insurance plan they like. Later, he warns that government will soon be setting caps on how many heart surgeries could be performed in the United States each year. Where is he getting this stuff? Has the chairman of the Republican Party somehow gotten hold of a top-secret plan for a government takeover of the health-care system that GOP operatives snatched during a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters?

If all that sounds spurious and unsubstantiated, it is. And like many of the overstated claims in this column, its purpose is to highlight the lies, distortions and political scare tactics that Steele and other Republicans have used to poison the national debate over health reform.

Have you no shame, sir? Have you no shame?

Me being the cut throat bastard that I am, would love to see Democratic strategists go after the GOP with similar memes even if they aren't necessarily factually correct. I for one am tired of only being on the receiving in of the misinformation, maybe its time we put out some of our own.

Im just sayin.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A The Torture Technique That Only David Vitter Could Love

Prolonged diapering!


His Kung Fu Is Strong

Congressman Anthony Weiner walked onto the set of Fox & Friends to talk about health care reform and straight owned the joint. Rarely will you see even the best of Congressional Democrats so thoroughly smack down right wing talking points without even blinking an eye. If President Obama were smart, he would track Weiner down and ask him to help craft some speeches and some talking points for the rest of the Democratic caucus to use going forward. And that's real.

Chuck Todd, Card Carrying Villager

Jeremy Scahill of the Nation ate Chuck Todd for lunch on Bill Maher's show. But bigger than that Chuck Todd revealed himself to be a hack on national TV. By his own admission he doesn't care about the facts of any criminal case against torture. All he gives a shit about is how Republicans will react to any prosecutions. So in his world its more important for President Obama and his administration to shield themselves from attack than to enforce the rule of law. And Chuck Todd basically endorses this point of view rather than pointing out that this is not the way our country was founded.

I remember a time when people were saying Chuck Todd would be a better host than David Gregory on Meet The Press. Well Gregory is abysmal so that isn't saying much but if Todd would be better than him it wouldn't by much.

Monday, August 24, 2009

They Didn't Know What The Fuck They Were Doing

More great reporting from Spencer Ackerman:

In the August 1, 2002 memo written by Bybee and Yoo, the lawyers summarize and refer repeatedly to what the CIA told them about how the “enhanced interrogation techniques” are supposed to work, as well as to assurances that the lawyers then consider material for whether the proposed actions violate U.S. laws. For instance, discussing waterboarding, they write, that water would be applied “in a controlled manner,” and that the CIA orally informed them that “this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is in fact not drowning.”

Just one problem: CIA medical personal objected to the description that OTS gave to the Justice Department as factually inaccurate.

Addressing the
discrepancies between how waterboarding worked in the SERE school and how it worked at CIA and other torture techniques that changed between on-paper justification and in-the-field practice, a footnote to the inspector general’s 2004 report reads:

According to the Chief, Medical Services, OMS [the CIA's Office of Medical Services] was neither consulted nor involved in the initial analysis of the risk and benefits of EITs [”enhanced interrogation techniques,” nor provided with the OTS report cited in the OLC opinion. In retrospect, based on the OLC extracts of the OTS report, OMS contends that the reported sophistication of the preliminary EIT review was probably exaggerated, at least as it related to the waterboard, and that the power of this EIT was appreciably overstated in the report. Furthermore, OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe.

I ask that you read that excerpt several times slowly and let it sink in. Bush, Cheney et all trusted our national security, basically our very lives, to two guys who didn't know what the hell they were doing with no evidence that what they were proposing would work. And that is notion is supported by FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who himself pulled a lot of information out of high value Al Qa'ida detainees using traditional methods, in his testimony before Congress earlier this year.

A major problem is that it is ineffective. Al Qaeda terrorists are trained to resist torture. As shocking as these techniques are to us, the al Qaeda training prepares them for much worse – the torture they would expect to receive if caught by dictatorships for example.

This is why, as we see from the recently released Department of Justice memos on interrogation, the contractors had to keep getting authorization to use harsher and harsher methods, until they reached waterboarding and then there was nothing they could do but use that technique again and again. Abu Zubaydah had to be waterboarded 83 times and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times. In a democracy there is a glass ceiling of harsh techniques the interrogator cannot breach, and a detainee can eventually call the interrogator's bluff.

In addition the harsh techniques only serves to reinforce what the detainee has been prepared to expect if captured. This gives him a greater sense of control and predictability about his experience, and strengthens his will to resist.

A second major problem with this technique is that evidence gained from it is unreliable. There is no way to know whether the detainee is being truthful, or just speaking to either mitigate his discomfort or to deliberately provide false information. As the interrogator isn't an expert on the detainee or the subject matter, nor has he spent time going over the details of the case, the interrogator cannot easily know if the detainee is telling the truth. This unfortunately has happened and we have had problems ranging from agents chasing false leads to the disastrous case of Ibn Sheikh al-Libby who gave false information on Iraq, al Qaeda, and WMD.

A third major problem with this technique is that it is slow. It takes place over a long period of time, for example preventing the detainee from sleeping for 180 hours as the memos detail, or waterboarding 183 times in the case of KSM. When we have an alleged "ticking timebomb" scenario and need to get information quickly, we can't afford to wait that long.

Bush and Cheney ordered torture not because it would keep us safe but because it would make them feel macho. Like they were "real" men. And they put all of us at risk in the meanwhile. Anybody who claims to be concerned about terrorism and national security should be outraged about this. Unfortunately Republicans only care about their party at this point so there won't be any accountability forthcoming from their side fo the aisle.

It is what it is.