Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker"): Palin Supporters Encourage Harassment of Alaska Judges? The Palin v. Johnston Custody Case Takes an Ugly Turn

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Just when you thought things couldn’t sink any lower, they drain the pool and start digging.

There are new developments in the recently disclosed Bristol Palin v. Levi Johnston custody case. The Palin half of Palin v. Johnston wanted to keep the identities of the parties pseudonymous – Jane and John Doe. Of course, a custody hearing in Wasilla, Alaska between Jane Doe represented by Palin’s high-profile lawyer, and John Doe represented by Johnston’s equally high-profile lawyer couldn’t have stayed off the radar for long.

Palin’s argument was that the case would be traumatic for their 12-month old son Tripp. Johnston claimed that the trial, if kept secret, would allow the Palins to operate under the radar, allowing potential bad behavior from Sarah Palin in particular to occur out of the sunlight.

“I know that public scrutiny will simplify this matter and act as a check against anyone’s need to be overly vindictive, aggressive or malicious, not that Bristol would ever be that way, nor that I would. But her mother is powerful, politically ambitious and has a reputation for being extremely vindictive,” Johnston said in his affidavit. “So, I think a public case might go a long way in reducing Sarah Palin’s instinct to attack.”

His attorney, Rex Butler notes:

Embarrasing facts sometimes present themselves in cases involving custody. If the legislature chose to make any trial involving embarrasing facts subject to closure, nearly all the domestic violence hearings in this state would be sealed and private. This case presents a custody case with similar facts that attend open cases every day in the Alaska Court System. The plaintiff has failed to meet the test for either closure or the use of pseudonyms or a protective order and has not identified an evidentiary basis upon which to find closure necessary under a privilege rationale or for any other reason.

The judge ruled for open proceedings.

Sarah Palin’s group of supporters including controversial conservative radio shock jock Eddie Burke, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Palin’s Wasilla hairdresser, have decided to take action and help promote a campaign seemingly designed to harass the judges involved in Tripp’s custody case.

KBYR Radio Host Eddie Burke at a meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, 2009

<img class="size-full wp-image-9272" title="beehive" src=""
Sarah Palin’s Wasilla Hairdresser Jessica Steele, aka “Jessica Beehive”

Others, outside of Alaska have created a Facebook Group with a posting as follows:

“Tripp is not a Political Football”

We want to thank everyone for their time and attention to this matter. Over the Holidays; Superior Court Judge Kari C. Kristiansen issued a ruling under the authority of Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason. The ruling was a denial to keep the Custody dispute Between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston over 1 year old Tripp closed.

Judge Kristiansen sited there was no reason to keep this matter private. The Palin’s trying to keep the proceedings focused on Tripp, fought for the closing of the proceedings. Levi Johnston argued for an open proceeding. The Decision raises many concerns of Political Hanky Panky; but even more, cannot be justified to be in the best interest of a 1 year old child.

Both of the Judges are appointees of Former Governor Tony Knowles–(Democrat). Both of the Judges are up for retention. Fancy for Re-Appointment in 2010. [<---Editor's pick for best sentence in Facebook post] Both have been accused of activist liberal rulings prior.

The Law in Alaska without doubt provides for the closing of a proceeding. The best interest of the child, or other mitigating circumstances is the guide. There is no question both elements are in play here.

We here believe this decision is either one of the worst in Alaskan History; or is in fact: a Politically motivated attempt to harm or perhaps payback Sarah Palin. Perhaps elements of both could also be correct. Barracuda Brigade for Our American Girl! 2012 has decided, since the Judges want a public proceeding; to give them one.

This the address for both Judges. [removed] 2004–Attn: Judge Sharon Gleason/Attn: Judge Kari C. Kristiansen

Judge Gleason’s phone: 907-***-****
Judge Kristiansen’s phone: 907-***-****

The Judicial Review Commission of Alaska is set-up in a way, that any protest to them would be handled in this situation by: Judge Sharon Gleason—yep–that is why she had Judge Kristiansen hand down the decision.

The next level up is the Governor, Sean Parnell. His phone is–907-465-3500, fax–907-465-3532. See link below; under contact: will take you to his e-mail.

The “Tripp is not a Political Football” protest will formally begin on Thursday Jan. 7th at 12pm. cst. We ask all concerned to call, fax and e-mail Governor Parnell: also to call and write both Judges and let them know: Patriots across America find your actions a disgrace to the Judicial system. That our concerns are being directed to the Governor’s Office.

The actual Court record will be available shortly, along with the list of retention.
We thank you for your time and concern—-Dave & Alicia

A formal protest of a custody case, including apparent telephone harassment and the identification of the physical location of judges by “patriots across America?” Whipping up a political frenzy while claiming the best interest of the child you’re trying to protect from a political frenzy?

Local political watchdog Linda Kellen Biegel at the blog Blue Oasis, who has frequently been on the receiving end of the wrath of Palin supporters was concerned enough to craft the following letter to a number of law enforcement agencies in the state:

“I was not sure who has jurisdiction over this issue, but I wanted folks to be aware that there is a push across the Internet involving Facebook and Twitter (and now posted on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page) to contact/harass the two Judges in the Palin v. Johnston custody case: Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen in Palmer and Presiding Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage.

They have their office phone numbers and the Anchorage office address published on a Facebook Fan Page and are encouraging everyone to start contacting them on January 7th through a Facebook “protest” page.

(Inclusion of text)

As someone who still receives regular (almost daily) harassment from these folks, I know that it isn’t a question of “if” but “when” someone actually makes a threat against one or both of these judges.

Three of the people pushing this within the State of Alaska are:

–Wasilla hairdresser Jessica Steele from Beehive Hair Salon. From her @JessicaBeehive Twitter page:

RT @ArcticFox2012: upcoming campaign: We R organizing event 2 show our disdain & utter disgust for this judges lack…

RT @ArcticFox2012: Patriots: Provided here R Names–Address’s—Phone Numbers of the 2 Judges in the Bristol Palin…

–another is KBYR talk show host Eddie Burke–from his @TalkRadioHost Twitter page:

@JessicaBeehive lets keep these ph num going!! its important to keep pressure on judges

–And Thomas Lamb.

I wanted to give a “head’s up” to whatever agency is in charge because, quite frankly, I know how extreme these folks can be.

Linda Kellen Biegel”

Biegel notes the recent report discussed on CNN and the AP regarding the spike in threats against judges and prosecutors.

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded there are still major gaps in reporting and responding to threats. Concerns about security for judges intensified five years ago after the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago were killed by a man angry over a court ruling.

Between 2003 and 2008, the number of threats and inappropriate communications jumped from 592 to 1,278, the report found. The government defines “inappropriate communications” as messages that aren’t explicitly threatening but worrisome enough to require further investigation.

What will actually happen on January 7th at noon Central Standard Time remains to be seen, but one thing in certain. Sarah Palin’s divisive influence and ability to fan the flames of anger and vitriol among her supporters continues, and enters uncharted territory. Let’s hope we see a Facebook post from her condemning this national campaign against Alaskan judges.

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Paul A. London: Financial Reform: Fixing the Fed

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, staked out a clear position for the upcoming debate over financial regulation at the American Economic Association on January 3. Bernanke had to make his case because the role of the Federal Reserve Bank is central to financial reform, and that debate starts in earnest now that the Congress and the President are returning from Christmas vacations. Not surprisingly, Bernanke argued that the Fed ought to have a broad mandate, and that it would be a mistake to take away its role in the supervision of financial institutions as some legislative proposals would. I agree with him but understanding the reasoning is very important.

Bernanke’s argument on January 3 was two-fold. He said that supervision of financial institutions had to be strengthened and he took great pains to show with data and slides that those who believe that is monetary policy — low interest rates — caused the 2008 financial debacle are mistaken.

Bernanke said unambiguously that the Fed had almost failed to avoid a catastrophe but he did not fully explain how that was connected to the monetary argument he was at such pains to address. To understand why the Federal Reserve allowed the dot com and sub-prime crises to build and explode, we have understand why the Fed did not better supervise the banks and financial system in the years prior to 2008 and why the monetary argument Bernanke spoke about at length is so important.

The short answer to these questions is that monitoring private sector excesses and supervising banks had become a secondary task for the Fed because for the last 30 years it has been preoccupied with inflation and monetary issues even when inflation was not a problem. The Fed’s leaders, Wall Street, and the media for over three decades had repeated a catechism that described the Fed’s role as inflation fighting, and which rarely if ever mentioned supervision of private sector players. Facing catastrophe in 2008, Bernanke put aside that pernicious preoccupation and did what the Fed was created to do: As the designated agent of the Federal government, he threw roughly two trillion Fed dollars into saving the financial system, which had to be done. He stopped thinking of the Fed as the Federal Anti-inflation Bank and used it as the Federal Reserve Bank as it was intended.

Bernanke made clear on January 3 that he now understands that reform must center on better supervision and regulation because hands-off faith in the wisdom of financiers bolstered by shamanistic statements about inflation and interest rates did not work. Bernanke knows that inflation was not the reason for the Fed’s creation, which followed a financial panic and deep recession. Nor did inflation cause the Great Depression or any of the milder job-killing recessions of the post-World War II era. Collapsing speculations like the one we are still working through have caused far more damage. Bernanke and the Fed came to the support of the financial system in 2008 and 2009 because the Bernanke is a student of the Great Depression. In the 1930s, when the Fed failed to supply reserves, economic collapse followed and the Fed was consigned to irrelevance for the following 20 years. Bernanke does not want that to happen again and perhaps he fears that some legislative proposals now being considered could do just that.

Republican electoral calculations, more specifically Richard Nixon’s electoral strategy in 1968, were what transformed the Federal Reserve Bank into the Federal Anti-Inflation Bank. The 1968 election marked the triumph of monetarists and inflation hawks who had been hanging around on the outskirts of academic economics for decades. Why did Nixon decide to support this particular group of academics in 1968? That is an interesting question that I wrote a few pages about in my book, The Competition Solution: The Bipartisan Secret behind American Prosperity (AEI Press 2005).

In a nutshell, Nixon was facing Lyndon Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election and wanted to undermine Humphrey’s support among union workers. Unemployment was less than four percent and inflation was low but rising. Low unemployment did not make the unions happy, however, because they were not getting wage settlements as big as they wanted. Johnson had kept inflation down by twisting the arms of powerful business and labor interests that had more power to raise prices and wages at that time than they do today. Not surprisingly, the unions did not like this because they saw it as keeping wages down.

The annual reports of Johnson’s Council of Economic Advisors show that Johnson had many fights with unions from 1966 through 1968. He, like every president since World War II, had locked horns with Big Steel and the steel workers union. The newspapers also covered his battle with the International Association of Machinists, representing workers at the established airlines. The IAM’s president, Roy Siemiller, contemptuously defied Johnson’s 3 percent wage increase guidelines and got more than 5 percent. The powerful head of the AFL-CIO, George Meany, deplored Johnson’s efforts to keep wages in check. Other union leaders shared his views. Nixon, an astute politician, wanted to play on this discontent.

University of Chicago economists led by Milton Friedman offered Nixon a monetary theory of inflation that ignored the issue of union and business power, just what Nixon wanted. Republican business allies had long preferred this approach because it absolved them of responsibility for the “price push” aspect of inflation. The Chicagoans said that inflation was caused by errors in setting money supply not by greedy companies and unions. This was a huge difference in political terms because it shifted the primary blame for inflation from bad actors in the private sector to the government’s money supply policy directed by the Federal Reserve.

Leaning on monetarist theory, Nixon promised Meany and the other labor leaders that he would not twist their arms to keep wages down. Instead he would use the Fed to control inflation. He repeated this promise all through the 1968 campaign and made it again explicitly at his first press conference in January 1969 after taking office. As a result, after 1968 the Federal Reserve might more rightfully have been called the Federal Anti-inflation Bank.

Of course, monetary policy aimed at controlling inflation by raising interest rates failed in the early 1970s. Prices continued to rise despite higher interest rates and slower economic growth. Nixon recognized that the new policy was not helping him so he junked it before the 1972 election. He broke his promise and began pressuring powerful industries and unions to hold prices and wages down just as Johnson had. When this did not work either, he instituted wage and price controls which were popular for long enough to secure his reelection. Both steps recognized that market power in the hands of companies and unions was a root cause of rising prices, and that Fed-engineered monetary policy could not do the job if companies and unions continued to have the power to set prices and wages.

Unfortunately, the idea that the Fed’s role was almost exclusively to fight inflation long outlived Nixon. It did so because it absolves the private sector — financial institutions in the most recent debacle — of responsibility for the country’s economic ills, and blames government, the favorite whipping boy of many Americans. Bernanke acknowledged this at the AEA, clearly blaming the economic crisis on abuses by the private sector and arguing that monetary policy had little or nothing to do with the housing catastrophe. He is right, but the day after the speech, the Wall Street Journal was already emphasizing in its headlines a few words in the speech about monetary policy, in effect discounting Bernanke’s much lengthier endorsement of stronger supervision and regulation of private sector abusers.

To reform financial regulation in 2010, policy makers need to abandon the discredited monetarist accretions of recent decades. A more realistic approach would recognize that in most cases inflation as well as speculations are the result of abuses in private markets that must be exposed. Take healthcare as an example. Inflation in healthcare is not the result of Fed monetary policy anymore than the housing fiasco was, as Bernanke showed during his speech. Cozy, non-transparent, and non-competitive arrangements throughout the U.S. healthcare system are what keep driving costs up and government must use regulation and competition policy to dismantle them.

Financial reform means recasting the role of the Federal Reserve Bank in keeping with its title. Its job is to provide reserves to financial institutions when bad investments threaten to cripple their ability to lend to healthy borrowers, and supervising the various financial players so that they do not get in such trouble that they have to turn to the government to bail them out. Coordinating policy with other central banks is an important Fed role and fighting inflation sometimes is too, but better supervision, as Bernanke emphasized, is crucial.

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Broncos Lose To Chiefs 44-24, Miss Playoffs

January 4th, 2010 admin No comments

DENVER — Josh McDaniels’ first season as Denver coach ended the same way Mike Shanahan’s last one did: with a late-season flop and an embarrassing blowout that wasted a strong start and kept the Broncos out of the playoffs.

Jamaal Charles ran for a Chiefs-record 259 yards on 25 carries and linebacker Derrick Johnson returned two interceptions of Kyle Orton passes for touchdowns in Kansas City’s 44-24 rout Sunday, their first victory in nine tries at Invesco Field.

For Denver it was eerily reminiscent of last season’s finale, when they were routed 52-21 by San Diego with a playoff berth on the line, a loss that led to Shanahan’s departure and McDaniels’ arrival.

Johnson returned his second interception 60 yards for a score that gave Kansas City a 37-24 lead with 10 minutes left, and then Charles capped his amazing performance with a 56-yard TD run. He bested Larry Johnson’s franchise record of 211 yards set in 2005.

The Chiefs looked nothing like a 4-12 team against the Broncos (8-8), who lost eight of 10 after a sizzling 6-0 start and went 0-3 at home in the AFC West after going 3-0 in divisional road games.

It was the first time the Broncos failed to win a division game at home.

There were 10 scenarios when the day began for the Broncos to avoid joining the 1978 Redskins and the ‘03 Vikings as the only teams since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to miss the playoffs after a 6-0 start.

By kickoff, that list of possible paths to the postseason was whittled to three. They all involved a Broncos win and either Baltimore losing to Oakland or Cincinnati beating the New York Jets in the late game Sunday night.

Those other games didn’t matter when the Broncos lost to a team they routed 44-13 just one month ago.

The Broncos went into their high-stakes season finale with a thin receiving corps after Eddie Royal was held out with a neck injury and McDaniels deactivated Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler for disciplinary reasons.

McDaniels accused Marshall, his best offensive player, of exaggerating a hamstring injury two days after making his second straight Pro Bowl and four weeks after setting an NFL record with 21 catches at Indianapolis.

Neither he nor Scheffler were at Invesco Field for the game.

That left only Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd and Matt Willis, who was promoted from the practice squad 24 hours earlier, at wideout. The four had combined for 58 catches and five touchdowns this season, about half of what Marshall has.

But Denver’s defense was as responsible as its depleted offense for keeping the Broncos out of playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Other than Gaffney, who had a career day with 14 catches for 213 yards, the Broncos didn’t play as if much was at stake, never once holding the lead.

They went three-and-out on their opening possession with Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno each continuing their short-yardage flops and getting serenaded with boos as they left the field, catcalls that only got louder until the fourth quarter when the fans filed out in disgust.

Defensive leaders and Pro Bowl teammates Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins weren’t on the same page on Denver’s first defensive series, allowing Kansas City to score its first offensive touchdown in the first quarter all season with a four-play, 86-yard drive.

With Dawkins biting on a run fake, Bailey was burned for a 50-yard catch by Terrance Cooper. Bailey missed his assignment on tight end Leonard Pope on the next snap, good for 29 yards. Two plays later, fullback Mike Cox dived in from a yard out for Kansas City’s first TD on its opening possession in 18 games.

Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal gave the Chiefs a 20-17 lead in the third quarter, and Johnson’s interception return made it 27-17.

Stokley’s 3-yard TD catch three plays after Ty Law returned an interception from Matt Cassel inside the Kansas City 5-yard line made it 27-24 late in the third quarter, and the Broncos got the ball back following Succop’s 47-yarder that made it 30-24.

With a chance to take their first lead, they reached the Chiefs’ 40-yard line, but Johnson stepped in front of tight end Daniel Graham and returned Orton’s pass 60 yards for the score.

NOTES: With Chicago (7-9) ending its season with wins over Minnesota and Detroit, the Broncos were denied a top-10 draft pick to complete the Jay Cutler trade. … In a bad bit of timing, Marshall was featured on the Broncos’ game day program.

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Midday Open Thread

January 1st, 2010 admin No comments
  • As has been the case for months now, there’s been mixed news on the economy this week:

    The Conference Board’s consumer confidence indexrose 2.3 points to 52.9, a good sign, but the “present situation index” fell 2.5 points to 18.8, a near-record low, and an extremely large 46.6 percent of respondents said business conditions are bad.

    Hotels had their worst year since the Great Depression.

    The restaurant business took another dive in November.

    The Department of Labor reported that four-week running average for unemployment compensation claims dropped again.

    The Institute for Supply Management reported a large expansion in the purchasing manager index.

    Fannie Mae reported another increase in mortgage payment delinquencies.

    NASDAQ up 45%, DOW industrials up 20% and the S&P up 25% for the year.

  • Is delayed gratification really good for you?. Edward Tenner explores the concept with a story from David Ogilvy:

    When I was a boy, I always saved the cherry on my pudding for last. Then, one day, my sister stole it. From then on, I always ate the cherry first.

  • Jeff McMahon takes note that North Dakota wants to sue Minnesota for even thinking about a carbon tax:

    North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Tuesday he expects to sue Minnesota for just that, and North Dakota’s legislature has set aside $2 million to fund the lawsuit. Now there’s a good cause.

    What did Minnesota do wrong? Two years ago the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission passed a regulation requiring utilities to consider the potential cost of carbon emissions when they project the cost of energy to Minnesota consumers.

  • Some folks are still arguing about when the decade really ends.
  • In Single-Payer’s Last Stand?, Greg Kaufmann offers a chance for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to provide a smidgen of help in this direction:

    One item worth rallying around–and it hasn’t received a lot of attention–is waiver language that would permit states to implement alternatives to insurance market exchanges, including single-payer systems.

    The Senate bill would allow such waivers, but not until 2017, even though the private exchanges start in 2014.

  • Jim Hightower suggests Six Things to Do in 2010:

    On issue after issue, it’s been go-slow and don’t-rock-the-corporate boat. “Where’s the ‘audacity of hope?’” people are asking. “Where’s the ‘change you can believe in?’”

    The answer is that in our country’s democracy, audacity and change are where they’ve always resided: out there with you and me, at the grassroots level.

  • Yes, polar bears and (walruses) are in big trouble:

    [Thursday], responding to a court-ordered deadline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized long-overdue reports documenting the status of polar bears and Pacific walrus in Alaska. The reports confirm that polar bear populations in Alaska are declining and that Pacific walrus are under threat. Both species are being hurt by the loss of their sea-ice habitat due to global warming, oil and gas development, and unsustainable harvest.

  • Targeted Yemeni cleric says, ”I’m Alive”

    A week after U.S. and Yemeni officials said the radical Yemen cleric Anwar Awlaki may have been killed in a U.S.-backed Christmas eve air strike, a Yemeni journalist says Awlaki has surfaced to proclaim, “I’m alive.”

    “He said the house that was attacked was two or three kilometers away from him and he was not there,” the journalist, Abdulelah Hider Shaea, told ABC News. He said he talked to Awlaki on the phone and recognized his voice from previous interviews.

  • The Daily Beast has something to make you smile and probably piss you off in its 2009 Gallery of Monsters and Weenies.
  • Glenn Greenwald hits the bullseye with a Tweet:

    As AQ Terrorists make explicitly clear, nothing helps them more than treating them as warriors rather than criminals:…

  • The Real News Network takes a look at a New stage of resistance in Iran, including an interview with Nader Hashemi, Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the University of Denver.
  • Thalif Deen investigates how U.S. Arms Feed Yemen’s Gun Culture.

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TiVo planning a new "Premiere" DVR?

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

A packaging mixup may have revealed the next DVR coming from TiVo. Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the Series4 we were looking for, but the “TiVo Premiere” (or Premiere XL) instructions sent along with a new TiVo HD to self-described Chicagoland geek Patrick McCarron show a slimmed down box with one (multistream only) CableCARD slot instead two and no S-video or phone jack. The prevailing speculation is this is a lower cost revision of the existing Series3 hardware that could be on shelves very soon, but we’re still hoping for updated internals and UI to make TiVo fresh for the next decade. The full instructions are scanned and posted over at Infinite Shamrock, for confirmation and any real details on what’s next we’ll probably be waiting until next week in Las Vegas.

TiVo planning a new “Premiere” DVR? originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 30 Dec 2009 19:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Zatz Not Funny  |  sourceInfinite Shamrock  | Email this | Comments

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F. Kaid Benfield: Village Green: Happy Cycling & Transit Holidays! (fun photos)

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

  SF Bay Area (by: Richard Masoner,, creative commons license)

“Bicycle Christmas lights – drivetrain” (SF Bay Area), by Richard Masoner (creative commons)

  NYC subway (by: Luke Redmond, creative commons license)

“Santa Claus is coming to town,” by Luke Redmond (creative commons)

  Chester Co., PA (by: Sharkey M., creative commons license)

“Neighborhood decor” (Chester County, PA), by Sharkey M. (creative commons)

  Chicago El (by: Jovi Girl J/Jen Marie, creative commons)

“CTA Holiday Train Interior” (Chicago), by Jovi Girl J/Jen Marie (creative commons)

  Los Angeles (by: pinguino k, creative commons license)

“bike santas ride into the park” (Los Angeles), by pinguino k (creative commons)

  Chicago's Santa Train (by: Sarah Best, creative commons license)

“The Santa Train” (Chicago), by Sarah Best (creative commons)

  the electric bikeman, Portland (by: npGREENWAY, creative commons license)

“Bike lit up at Peacock Lane Car Free 2008″ (Portland), by npGREENWAY (creative commons)

  Canadian Pacific holiday train (by: Eric Begin, creative commons license)

“Canadian Pacific Holiday Train,” by Eric Begin (creative commons)

  Glendale, CA (by: digablesoul/Al, creative commons license)

“Festival of Rights (13)” (Los Angeles), by digablesoul/al (creative commons)

Many thanks to these great photographers for allowing people like me to display their work for you.

Kaid Benfield writes occasional “Village Green” commentary on Huffington Post and (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment on NRDC’s Switchboard blog site. He becomes self-indulgent around the holidays.  For daily posts, see his Switchboard blog’s home page. 


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Did Obama Campaign On The Public Option? Yes But Not Entirely

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

President Barack Obama, in an interview with The Washington Post, said on Tuesday that in the two years leading up to his election he “didn’t campaign on the public option” for insurance coverage.

Could that possibly be true? A plan for government-run insurance has been the focal point of the soon-to-be-concluded health care debate; the catalyst of white-hot partisan warfare; and the provision that progressive and conservatives alike have deemed the arbiter of whether legislation is a success. Is it possible the political world was, by-and-large, confused when they assumed this was what candidate Obama had wanted?

Not entirely.

The Obama campaign clearly did incorporate the public option into its health care agenda. The then-candidate signed a statement put together by the pro-reform group Health Care for America Now, which included the provision as part of its principles for reform. On issue forms Obama filled out for several publications he pledged to “create a new public health plan for those currently without coverage.” His campaign arm, Organizing for America, continues to champion a “public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.” The White House website says that: “The President believes [public health insurance option] will promote competition, hold insurance companies accountable and assure affordable choices. It is completely voluntary.”

It does, indeed, seem fair to say that a public option for insurance coverage was a component of the Obama health care agenda. But exactly how serious a component was it?

An examination of approximately 200 newspaper articles from the campaign, as well as debate transcripts and public speeches shows that Obama spoke remarkably infrequently about creating a government-run insurance program. Indeed, when he initially outlined his health care proposals during a speech before the University of Iowa on March 29, 2007, he described setting up a system that resembles the current Senate compromise – in which private insurers would operate in a non-profit entity that was regulated heavily by a government entity.

“Everyone will be able buy into a new health insurance plan that’s similar to the one that every federal employee – from a postal worker in Iowa to a Congressman in Washington – currently has for themselves,” Obama said at the time.

In the following months, reporters would remark, as did Robert Pear of the New York Times, that Obama “says he would ‘establish a new public insurance program’ for people who do not have access to group coverage.” But it’s not clear that their reference was a non-profit entity modeled after congressional coverage or the “government-run plan” that progressive pine for today.

By December 2007, however, Obama clearly had endorsed a government-run option. In a speech at the Iowa Heartland Presidential Forum, the then-Senator declared that if he “were designing a system from scratch” he would “probably move more in the direction of a single-payer plan,”

“But what we have to do right now,” Obama added, “is I want to move to make sure that everybody has got coverage as quickly as possible. And I believe that what that means is we expand SCHIP. It means that we extend eligibility for some of the government programs that we have. We set up a government program, as I’ve described, that everybody can buy into and you can’t be excluded because of a pre-existing condition.”

In January 2008, meanwhile, Obama submitted an issue form to Ebony Magazine, in which, as the third principle of his health care reform agenda, he promised to “require all employers to contribute toward health coverage for their employees or toward the cost of the public plan.”

By that point, the press, commentariat and widely respected health care observers all were reporting the government-run plan as a component of the Obama agenda.

On May 31, 2007, Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a New Yorker staff writer, wrote in The New York Times that both Obama and then-candidate John Edwards, were offering “a choice of competing private plans, and… a Medicare-like public option, too.”

On September 20, 2007, Ezra Klein — then a staff writer at The American Prospect and now with The Washington Post — wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times in which he said that “all of the Democrats” in the primary field had offered the option of “a government-run insurance program modeled on, but distinct from, Medicare.”

On February 12, 2008, Jonathan Oberlander of the University of North Carolina, told NPR’s Fresh Air that Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton both “would create a new public plan similar to Medicare.”

“And do we have any sense of what those public plans would look like?” the host asked.

“They have been fairly vague about that, as candidates often are in this election season, other than to say it would be like Medicare,” said Oberlander.

On February 26, 2008, meanwhile, Jacob Hacker, the so-called “godfather” of the public option, offered much the same synopsis. In an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the Yale University professor noted that both Clinton and Obama would require employers to “provide coverage to their workers or enroll them in a new, publicly overseen insurance pool.” People in this pool, he added, “could choose either a public plan modeled after Medicare or from regulated private plans.”

On July 30, 2008, The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn wrote that Obama was gravitating closer and closer to making the public plan a prominent feature of his health care platform. “[He] not only included an optional public plan in his eventual blueprint for universal coverage; more recently, he also tapped Hacker to be on his campaign’s health care advisory committee,” Cohn wrote.

On August 18, 2008, Cohn followed up on his story, writing that Heather Higginbottom, the Obama campaign’s policy director and now White House adviser, considered the public plan “an elemental pillar” of the proposal. The President, Cohn added (channeling Higginbottom) “is prepared to defend this fall even if, as expected, Republicans attack it (falsely) as a “government takeover” of medicine.”

The general press, naturally, followed suit.

Fortune Magazine, on July 7, 2008, wrote that “At the center of Obama’s plan to help ease the middle-class crunch would be a requirement that nearly all businesses provide health insurance or contribute to a government-backed “purchasing pool” that includes private plans and one public plan like Medicare.”

The Chicago Tribune, on August 21, 2008, wrote that Obama, “would require employers to offer health benefits to workers or contribute to the cost of a new public plan”

The National Journal on August 23, 2008, reported that Obama’s health care plan “would require insurance companies to compete in publicly structured exchanges not only with each other but also with a government-run insurance plan. ‘Wherever possible,” Obama said in an interview last year, he wants to harness “market mechanisms to bring about change.’”

There are countless other examples as well; but remarkably few other times in which Obama himself was quoted supporting an additional program of government run insurance. His campaign never pushed back on the report. If anything, it seems they clearly constructed a health care strategy that embraced the public option as one of several principles of reform.

It also, however, seems clear that the philosophical attachment of the candidate to the issue was limited. Obama would discuss the public option more frequently once he took office. But on the trail he almost always highlighted other elements of his health care agenda first. As one progressive activist who has worked on health care reform for the past year put it:

“What I think [Obama's] point was [in making his statement to the Washington Post], is true. The public option was not his number one talking point on the trail. Hell, it wasn’t even number 12. The public option didn’t become the central part of health care reform until after [he entered the White House].”

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April D. Ryan: Interview With President Barack Obama

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

Q: I’m sitting in the Oval Office with the 44th President, President Barack Obama. Thank you so much for this interview, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s great to see you and Merry Christmas to you and all your listeners.

Q: Well, first of all, let’s start off on a light note. You’re preparing to go away to Hawaii for vacation, and everyone around here is talking about you body surfing. Is that a healthy thing to do? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a wonderful thing to do. I grew up doing it, love the ocean. I’ll admit to you that the Secret Service these days does not like me doing it. The last time I tried it they had a bunch of people out on jet skis in the water and surrounding me with all kinds of stuff and it was a little distracting for the other swimmers. So I don’t know if I’ll get out there this year, but I tell you what I will definitely be enjoying some sun.

Click on above link to hear the entire interview

Q: Now with the holidays we have cold season, we have, as you say, Chicago snow — sniffles, coughs. And I understand possibly that you and your wife received the H1N1 shot this weekend. Is that true? And what would you say to the African American community and the brown community, the black and browns of this nation who are leery because of past history — i.e., Tuskegee — of getting the shot?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, people need to understand that this vaccine is safe. Malia and Sasha actually had it several months ago, right when it was first being made available to school-age children. That’s the most important population because this flu, unlike seasonal flu, disproportionately affects children and young people — healthy children and young people as well as people with underlying conditions like asthma or neurological diseases.

So it is so important and, frankly, the African American vaccination rate has been lower, substantially lower so far than the general population. I think people just need to understand: If I had the two people that are most important in my life, my two daughters, get it right away — and they’ve been just fine with it and in fact haven’t gotten sick this entire flu season — then you need to know that you need to make sure your children get it as well.

Michelle and I just got the shots ourselves we wanted to make sure nationwide that children were getting it before adults did. And now there’s enough vaccine so that adults should get it as well.

Last point I’ll make on this, particularly if you’re a senior citizen, you should get both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu. They’re different flus. The seasonal flu is still deadly, particularly for older Americans. And if you haven’t already gotten your flu shot there’s ample seasonal flu vaccine available as well, so you should do both.

Q: As we’re talking about health, we’re talking about health care today — earlier this morning, 1:00 a.m. — were you up, first of all, to see the vote?

THE PRESIDENT: I was up because I wanted to make sure that I was watching what could end up being a historic moment.

This health care bill, I think people need to understand just how significant this is. We’ve got 30 million people who are going to get health insurance because of this bill. And disproportionately they will be African American as well as Latino. One out of five African Americans don’t have health insurance — that’s almost double the general population. So right off the bat you’re helping millions of people across the country.

Then if you’ve already got health insurance this says that insurance companies can’t engage in the kind of gimmicks and abuses that lead them to drop coverage right when you get sick or prevent you from getting health insurance because you’ve got a preexisting condition. So all the insurance reforms that we care about are in this package, which is why the insurance companies have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in trying to fight this.

Then it’s deficit neutral. It’s not adding to the debt. Contrary to what you’re hearing from a lot of opponents it’s not adding to the debt. It’s subtracting from the debt because we’re going to be able to get a lot of savings in terms of how we provide medicine over the long term. There’s money in there for prevention, for community health clinics that serve underserved communities, particularly in the inner city. I mean, there is so much good in this bill and I’m now confident that it is going to pass and I think that the African American community — which has been suffering from health care disparities for such a long time — has a huge, huge interest in seeing this go through.

Q: That’s interesting you talk about the disparities in African Americans, because many civil rights leaders, to include persons in the NAACP, are upset that the Senate version does not have the public option; the House has the public option. And the Senate and the House version are very far apart. What are the fears that you have going forward with trying to get a health care reform bill together in a timely fashion?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to understand, April, that the Senate and the House bills are 95 percent identical. There’s 5 percent differences, and one of those differences is the public option. But this is an area that has just become symbolic of a lot of ideological fights. As a practical matter, this is not the most important aspect to this bill — the House bill or the Senate bill.

And the idea behind the public option was is that alongside these choices that you could choose from in the private insurance industry, you could also potentially get a government-managed plan. But it was only going to apply to a few million people who were buying into the exchange. So it wasn’t like suddenly everybody would just go out there and buy a government-run plan; most people will still get health insurance from their employers. What will happen is, is that if you don’t get health insurance through your employers, you can then go to this what we’re calling a health care exchange, get a subsidy, and buy health insurance through that exchange.

But either way, whether there’s a public option in there or not, if you don’t have health insurance, you are going to have now the option of getting it at a reasonable cost. And that’s the most important thing. And as I said, nobody has a bigger stake than the African American community in this, because disproportionately, we’re the ones without health insurance.

Q: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front — African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you — Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.

I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there’s grumbling, because we just went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And everybody is concerned about unemployment, everybody’s concerned about businesses not hiring, everybody’s concerned about their home values declining. And in each of these areas, African Americans have been disproportionately affected. We were some of the folks who were most affected by predatory lending. There’s a long history of us being the last hired and the first fired. As I said, health care — we’re the ones who are in the worst position to absorb companies deciding to drop their health care plans.

So, should people be satisfied? Absolutely not. But let’s take a look at what I’ve done. The Recovery Act helped to lift up an economy that was teetering on the verge of depression. We made sure that states didn’t engage in budget cuts to cut teachers and firefighters and police officers, many of whom are African American. Unemployment insurance we have put in place so that folks can still make their payments and keep their electricity on as consequence of what we’ve done. We have now made enormous investments, historic investments in education, a lot of that targeted into the inner city. Health care I already discussed. This will be hugely important for the African American community.

So this notion somehow that because there wasn’t a transformation overnight that we’ve been neglectful is simply factually not accurate.

Now, do we have to do more work? Absolutely. Because as I said before, the African American community was already hurting before the recession. And that means that the steps we’re taking around education reform, to make sure our schools are performing properly; the fact that, for example, we have recorded historic increases in Pell grants and Perkins loans, which disproportionately help our folks; that is all projected to get our education system up and running, so that it’s working for young people, they can take advantage of the jobs of the future.

When we are designing our green jobs initiatives, one of the things that we’re looking at is how do we make sure that young people in the cities who are going to be weatherized are trained for those weatherization jobs, to put them on a track for a trade over the long term. Small business lending, we have increased Small Business Administration loans by 73 percent, because banks weren’t lending. Those are being lent to African American small businesses, who are out there struggling because the larger banks aren’t helping them out.

So we have made a series of steps that make a huge difference. The only thing I cannot do is, you know, by law I can’t pass laws that say I’m just helping black folks. I’m the President of the entire United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need. That in turn is going to help lift up the African American community.

But we’re going to have a hole that we have to dig out of for a long time, and it has to do with structural impediments to opportunity that we are going to continue to try to knock down. But it’s not going to happen in one year; it’s going to take not just one term, but it’s going to take years. The important point is that we’re moving in the right direction.

Q: And lastly, you’ll be coming up with your State of the Union, your first State of the Union in January. And I know you’re going to speak to all America. But, in your opinion, what is the state of black America?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think this continues to be the best of times and the worst of times. I mean, I think it’s the best of times in the sense that never has there been more opportunity for African Americans who have received a good education and are in a position then to walk through the doors that are opened. And, obviously, you and me sitting here in the Oval Office is a testament to that.

I think it’s the worst of times in the sense that unemployment and the lack of opportunity, particularly in some cities, has never been worse. I mean, you look at a city like Detroit where you used to have an enormous African American middle class built on the auto industry — that city is in hard, hard times right now.

Now, just going back to the point you raised earlier about our responsiveness to the African American community, imagine what Detroit would look like if we hadn’t stepped in to make sure that GM stayed open, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Having said that, if you’ve got double digit unemployment in cities like that, we’re going to have to make some special efforts, and it starts with early childhood education; it starts with education generally. That’s why I’m putting such a big emphasis on that. But it also means that every federal agency has to make sure that the assistance that’s being made available to the general population is targeting those hard to reach places, so that they are also benefiting from our overall efforts to lift up the economy.

I’m optimistic about the long term future of the African American community, but it’s going to take work. It was never going to be done just because we elected me. It’s going to be a collaborative effort between people in the community who recognize that we’re going to have to rely on government to do some things, but a lot of these things we’re going to have to do ourselves.

Q: Mr. President, thank you so much. Happy holidays. It’s awesome to be here in the Oval Office. It’s very nice — (laughter) — to say the least. But thank you so much, and thank you for giving us this interview for American Urban Radio Networks.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it was great to talk to you. And I wish everybody out there a blessed and happy New Year, a wonderful Christmastime. And I feel pretty confident that 2010 is going to be better than 2009.

Q: Thank you, sir.


Cross-posted at

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Arianna Huffington: The Senate Health Care Bill: Leave No Special Interest Behind

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

With Monday morning’s 1 a.m. 60-40 vote, the Senate’s health care bill took another step towards passage, prompting a fresh round of public celebrations. “I think it’s very exciting,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told HuffPost. “It’s a big day.”

Even many of those with serious reservations about the bill were slipping on their party hats. “Make no mistake about it,” said SEIU president Andy Stern, “for working Americans, this vote signals progress.”

And Paul Krugman, while calling the legislation “a seriously flawed bill we’ll spend years if not decades fixing,” applauded it as “an awesome achievement.”

This typifies the current thinking of the “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” crowd. Unfortunately, there are three faulty premises at work in this line of reasoning. First, that those who oppose the bill do so because it’s not perfect (as opposed to because it’s a hot health care mess). Second, that the bill is, well, good (as opposed to a total victory for Pharma and the insurance industry — witness the spectacular spike in health care stocks following Monday’s vote).

Third is the premise that this is as good a bill as we can get right now, and we can always go back and improve it later.

It doesn’t work that way. We heard the same kinds of sentiments about No Child Left Behind when it passed in 2001. Backers on both sides of the aisle had problems with it, but both sides celebrated it as a major step forward — and promised to make it better in the future.

“The agreement we reached reflects the best thinking of both sides,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman.

“This was a reform bill. We can’t have reform without resources, and that will be the next step,” said Sen. Tom Daschle.

“This is a good bill… And there are going to be many additional steps that will be necessary along the way, but all of us are committed to following in those steps,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy, the primary Democratic co-sponsor of the bill.

But despite the widespread commitment to taking the “many additional steps” needed, the steps were never taken, the resources were never allocated, the bill was never improved, and, indeed, is now generally regarded as a disaster (or, as Bill Clinton put it last year, “a train wreck”).

In an ominous sign of things to come, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy’s widow, made many of the same arguments that were used in support of No Child Left Behind in her Washington Post op-ed promoting passage of the current health care bill.

It’s a moving piece of writing — and nobody doubts her late husband’s heartfelt dedication to health care reform. But nobody doubted his dedication to education reform, either.

If the miserable Senate health care bill becomes the law of the land, it’s only going to encourage the preservation of a hideously broken system. Just how broken the system is is summed up in the fate of Byron Dorgan’s drug re-importation amendment.

This is an idea that Obama co-sponsored when he was in the Senate and unequivocally championed on the campaign trail: “We’ll allow the safe re-importation of low-cost drugs from countries like Canada.”

But when Dorgan introduced an amendment that would do just that, the White House, sticking to the deal it made with the pharmaceutical industry, lobbied against it — and the commissioner of the supposedly non-political FDA just happened to release a letter citing “significant safety concerns” about all those dangerous drugs from Canada. Big Pharma’s many congressional lackeys trumpeted the letter and the amendment was killed.

But that didn’t stop David Axelrod from insisting in an interview with John King this weekend that “the president supports safe re-importation of drugs into this country. There’s no reason why Americans should pay a premium for the pharmaceuticals that people in other countries pay less for.”

No reason other than our broken system surrendering to the special interests.

From start to finish, the insurance and drug industries — and their army of lobbyists — had control over the process that resulted in a bill that is reform in name only. The postmortems of how they pulled it off have already begun. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune published an exhaustive front-page analysis by Northwestern University’s Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics of how it was done. The main culprit: “a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation.”

The study found that 13 former congressmen and 166 Congressional staffers were actively engaged in lobbying their former colleagues on the bill. The companies they were working for — some 338 of them — spent $635 million in the last two years on lobbying. It was money extremely well spent — delivering a bill that, by forcing people to buy a shoddy product in a market with no real competition, enshrines into law the public subsidy of private profit.

As we approach the end of Obama’s first year in office, this public subsidizing of private profit is becoming something of a habit. It is, after all, exactly what the White House did with the banks. Just as he did with insurance companies, Obama talked tough to the bankers in public but, when push came to shove, he ended up shoving public money onto their privately-held balance sheets.

This is not just bad policy, it’s bad politics.

Sharp-eyed opponents are already seizing on the opportunity to rebrand Obama and the Democrats as the party beholden to special interests.

Sunday night, just before the post-midnight vote was taken, John McCain took to the Senate floor and, hearkening back to his days as a crusader for campaign finance reform, lambasted Obama and the Democrats’ “negotiations with the special interests,” adding: “We should have set up a tent out in front and put Persian rugs in front of it. That’s the way that this has been conducted. So the special interests were taken care of, then we had to take care of special senators.”

This kind of populist rhetoric resonates with voters across the board, including independents. If Democrats cede this turf by celebrating a bill that is a victory for special interests and special senators, look for a lot more of this kind of rhetoric in the run-up to 2010.

President Bush brought us preemptive war. President Obama’s specialty seems to be preemptive compromise. He gave the farm away to Pharma, and then had to keep on giving when Lieberman, Nelson, and the other industry-backed Senators came calling.

There are many reasons for hoping the current Senate bill doesn’t become law. But the biggest reason of all is the desperate need for a DC pattern interrupt. The desperate need to draw a line in the sand against the continued domination of our democracy — and the continued undermining of the public interest — by special interests.

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Harold Pollack: Some unsolicited advice for Howard Dean, and for President Obama, too

December 21st, 2009 admin No comments

I’ve been spending much time recently with primary care physicians across Chicago. Interspersed with the work, I hear many stories about the difficulties experienced by urban low-income patients.

There was the man with diabetes who was uninsured until age 65. Thanks to Medicare, he now gets excellent care. That won’t restore the sight he lost to diabetic retinopathy a few years ago. There were the uninsured women whose metastatic breast cancer was diagnosed in hospital emergency rooms. There are the uninsured men recovering from gunshot wounds who face large bills. There is the woman with a serious chronic illness worried what she will do if she loses her job, and thus her good employer-based coverage. There are the people who suffered strokes after going years saving money by skipping doctors’ visits or by skimping on their pills.

These are not horror stories ginned up by advocacy groups. These are commonplace occurrences within most low-income communities. Every one of these patients would have benefitted from provisions of the Senate health reform bill. Within the catchment area in which I do my work, maybe 100,000 people would gain health insurance through provisions in the House and Senate bills.

Dr. Dean. I thought about these stories as I read various emails from you and from your affiliated group, Democracy for America. I read with special dismay your recent Washington Post op-ed saying that you would vote against the Senate bill. These missives may reach a receptive audience. I’m dismayed myself by the loss of the public option, by affordability concerns, by the ridiculously long delay before reforms take full effect, by the unworthy prominence of Senator Joe Lieberman, Given the real disappointment progressives are feeling, it’s important to note how foolish and destructive your message could be.

As others have noted, Democrats are on the brink of enacting an imperfect but historic bill that will cover 30 million people and correct egregious defects in our current health insurance system. Fully implemented, the bill would provide about $200 billion per year down the income scale in subsidies to poor, near-poor, and working Americans.

$200 billion is a big number. It exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and all nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes of Health.

More than that, this bill codifies the responsibility of the federal government to ensure decent and affordable health coverage is available to every American. The Senate bill does not yet live up to this responsibility in every particular. Still, by almost any measure this is a historic expansion in the humanity and the ambition of American government. Paul Krugman, Jonathan Cohn, Jacob Hacker, Ezra Klein, and Paul Starr disagree about many things. Not about this. Almost everyone I know with expertise in health policy, public health, and the politics of health care believes as I do: we just have to pass this bill.

Nine months ago, I was one of a small group of health policy wonks and bloggers who helped jump start Democracy for America’s healthcare advisor website on in the health reform fight. In one of the very first postings, David Cutler noted

Why, then, has health care reform been so elusive? The old folklore is apt: no one favors the current system over his or her ideal system, but the current system has always come in second place.

In the early 1970s, and then again in 1993/94, many people sat on their hands or rejected messy, imperfect, and politically possible compromises in the hope that we would eventually see a better bill. That stance was understandable, but eventually didn’t come. Ted Kennedy and many others rightly concluded that absolutism fostered political defeat and to continued suffering by millions of uninsured or underinsured people. We see that stance today among some (though not all) single-payer advocates, some of whom have marginalized themselves into irrelevance by opposing every non-single-payer alternative from a robust public option on down.

In fairness, you were never this bad. You played a useful role with your emphatic support of the public option in the health reform debate. Yet there was more than a whiff of personal positioning in your approach. You oversold the public option, and undersold other equally important pillars of the current reforms: the positive possibilities of insurance exchanges and regulation, the nuts-and-bolts of affordability credits. Then there is the centrality of this health reform bill to the Obama presidency and to the broader Democratic coalition.

I fear that your rhetoric and the rhetoric of others–Kos and Robert Reich, to name two–threaten to at once undermine support for a politically fragile reform, and to sour progressive support for what is actually a hard-won victory pursued at real political cost by Democrats from President Obama on down.

I had hoped that the proposed Medicare buy-in would provide a dignified path for you to sign on. When we lost that, you seemed to have no way to climb onboard. And you’ve kept talking, digging yourself into even greater difficulty. That has attracted a major backlash from liberals and progressives, which you deserved.

In the midst of Governor Mark Sanford’s amazing scandal earlier this year, and his even more amazing series of public comments in press conferences, a South Carolina clergyman stated that he was looking forward to a period of silent reflection from Governor Sanford. John Stewart provided the requisite translation of the minister’s remarks. There is some sign this morning that you are stepping back into the Democratic fold. If not, you might profit from a period of silent reflection of your own.

President Obama, I have some other unsolicited advice for you, too. You have genuine fence-mending to do with your progressive base: not with liberal incrementalist professors, but with larger progressive constituencies that look to you with such hope and that play such a key role in your 2008 victory. Dr. Dean’s recent statements are only one symptom of a broader and potentially dangerous problem.

Progressives have taken their lumps this year. Single-payer was off the table. Then there was the robust public option, which steadily evaporated into a residue of its former self before being jettisoned. Then there was the Medicare buy-in. Then there were the Stupak provisions, and more. Democrats needed to make these concessions. As I noted above, we needed to pass this bill.

Most of your supporters understood that this would require unpalatable deals to reach that crucial 60th Senate vote. By and large, progressives have been pretty good sports. They bit their tongues watching the White House and Senate moderates spend weeks reaching out and making painful concessions in the vain search for a few moderate Republican votes. They’ve accepted costly giveaways to rural blue-dogs to secure critical votes. They have been polite in expressing their anxieties regarding affordability and regulatory vulnerabilities in the Senate and House bills.

Yet the frustration is building. At times, it is stoked by the comportment of your top advisors, some of whom speak a bit too evenhandedly about the excesses of both right and left, and who can be casually condescending about the need for progressive constituents to appreciate the realities of hardball politics. The same frustration is stoked by your administration’s visible reluctance to expend political capital to pursue the public option and other progressive goals in health reform and in other policy arenas, too.

I understand the reluctance. The administration couldn’t back itself into a corner and thereby risk passage of the final bill. Yet these decisions brought a real cost. Partly because of them–more because of the inherent difficulties and frustrations of navigating a complicated bill–there is a real gap emerging between the Obama administration and a segment of Democratic Party activists. It’s hardly surprising that people emerge to fill this space.

Without dissing moderates whose votes you still need, you could address many progressive concerns by laying out in specific and visceral terms your own disappointment about provisions that have been lost. Delivering the following paragraphs from the Oval Office might help:

I should peak for a moment to my progressive supporters, who are rightly disappointed that we could not secure a public option or better protection for women’s right to choose, who want greater help to middle- and low-income families, who want swifter action for people who need help now.

My job at this critical moment is to lock down a historic achievement: securing coverage for 31 million people who would otherwise be uninsured, hundreds of billions of dollars in desperately needed help to tens of millions of people, protections for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Millions of Americans will benefit from this bill. My first responsibility–and Senator Reid’s, and Speaker Pelosi’s–is to get this difficult job done.

Thank you for standing with me, even when I asked you to acquiesce in some painful compromises we needed to reach those 60 critical Senate votes. We did what needed to be done. Yet I share your concerns about every one of the above items. I’m proud to be the first President to take this bold step forward. My pride is bittersweet given my disappointment that we couldn’t do more. So I will be back next year and every year after that, standing with you to improve this bill.

That might be a hard speech to give. It might include acknowledging your own mistakes, such as casually floating that $900 billion figure which forced House and Senate leaders to backload key provisions in the final bill. It might include an acknowledgement of the inherent limits on your ability to lead given current Senate rules.

It’s important to communicate these difficulties, so that your supporters can appreciate what has actually been achieved. You enjoy a tremendous reservoir of good will among millions of grassroots supporters. Don’t take that for granted.

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