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Gina Glantz: Congress: Take the "Hanging Out" Challenge

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Driving across the country the last three weeks meant rarely hearing punditry. On occasion I scanned the New York Times and Washington Post on line. Small town papers became my news staple. Conversations along the way opened doors into lives outside the Beltway. Home now, I discover that pundit focus, beyond terrorism, is on how many Congressional seats the Democrats will lose. Clearly that also consumes Members of Congress.

Party changing and retirements signal re-election nervousness and job dissatisfaction. Not surprising since Congress seems to be all about who is doing what to whom in Washington and little about what is really happening back home.

It is time for Members to put aside pouring over poll results and resist town hall meetings that attract the most enraged constituents. It is time they sat down and read small town or city neighborhood papers and visit — unannounced – locally owned diners and the like. Members need to see first hand that decisions made in Washington are played out daily in difficult decisions made around kitchen tables. They need to be reminded that national statistics distort and what we all think about, we don’t necessarily know about.

Over the last three weeks, at locally owned establishments, we dined with a giant stuffed moose and a taxidermied buffalo that had appeared in “Dancing with Wolves.” (Sadly, we arrived at four diners with CLOSED signs in towns with as many closed stores as open ones.) We asked folks how they felt about health care reform. Almost everyone had a story to tell about someone they knew not having health care or about being so lucky that they had health care. Almost everyone said they couldn’t figure out what was going on but felt “something had to be done but Washington will probably get it wrong.”

We met a young family that had moved to a small town in fear that a potential economic collapse would happen in big cities first. They searched for a small town where there was good hunting, good schools and good neighbors. The father, a pig farmer, and his wife, a doctor, investigated Illinois but rejected it because “it has the highest rate of malpractice suits and therefore the highest malpractice insurance costs.” After four months in their new home, they decided to take their oldest out of public school because “No Child Left Behind really means every child left behind.” Hearing we were from San Francisco, the farmer said that we were probably ideological opposites. It didn’t matter because, in fact, his family concerns matched mine of years ago except I felt guilty about moving my oldest child out of public school while the farmer felt frustrated and vindicated in his view of government-run anything. If his two year old hadn’t gotten antsy, our engaging, civil conversation could have gone on and on.

Conversations become good anecdotes. The mainstream media often pick up on local stories as anecdotes. Reading about events where they happen transcends anecdotes. A county report indicated that town-by-town unemployment ranged from 9% to 25%. So much for national down ticks. A ninth grade class was featured because it collected 13,000 pencils to be sent to students in Appalachia. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress thought about children in America without pencils? I learned about the Bennett Freeze, which fortunately the Obama administration reversed. Nevertheless, only 3% of Native Americans affected by the Bennett Freeze have electricity. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress became enraged over Americans without electricity?

Over 30 years ago I was a District Administrator for a congressman who came home every weekend and went door to door. I am sure there are still Members of Congress who do some version of that. I suspect there are a lot more who don’t. Today, polls and demonstrations seem to drive Members’ impressions and that does a disservice to those they serve because the result is policy driven by partisanship not people.

I am not suggesting legislation by anecdote, though I prefer it to what we have now — legislation by angry mob and high profile lobbyists. I am suggesting “hanging out”, without fanfare, with constituents where they spend their time. And to do it right means to go without a trailing media. And why not have a district office staffer assigned to “hanging out” every week and reporting back to the Member. Maybe if Members shared stories, they would discover that a conservative family in Kentucky has the same desires and values as a liberal family in NY.

President Obama gets it. He obviously can’t “hang out” so from the start of his Presidency he insisted on reading ten letters a day from around the country. Maybe the White House should create a job for someone who travels around the country without fanfare and has conversations like I did. Someone who reports back to the 7:30 morning meeting to remind those in the middle of chaos that what they decide connects palpably to ordinary Americans. Such a job should be time limited because hanging out in the White House or in the halls of Congress for too long makes one beholden to the institution rather than to the people.

Who knows, maybe “hanging out” would result in civil conversations and legislative deliberations about people’s lives rather than all-consuming ideological screeching.


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Raj Patel: Proud to Be An American

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

“I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.”

Let America Be America Again” — Langston Hughes

I’ve never actually attended a Moonie mass wedding, but I imagine it’s much like the ritual of becoming a US citizen. In the Masonic Hall in San Francisco yesterday, I was one of 1,245 people from 103 countries who faced a stage, put our hands on our hearts, and with one voice betrothed ourselves not one another or the Reverend Moon, but to a flag. There was something faintly cultish about it all.

To become a US citizen is to be invited into a very exclusive cult, of course, one whose armed forces can now call on me to bear arms. And there was no shortage of military themes in the proceedings. In general, when people sign hymns to bombs bursting in air, I tend to run the other way. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a step up from the rituals of my previous national anthem. In Britain we sing God Save the Queen, a song so interminable and with lyrics so ponderous and toe-curling – “Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us … Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour” – that in the time it takes to go through it once, you can not only have memorized the Sex Pistols version, “God Save the Queen, The fascist regime, … No future, No future for you, No future for me,” but begin fervently to wish it to come true.

No Sex Pistols for us new US citizens, though. The ceremony closed with a video of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be An American,” which was accompanied by lots of breathtaking images of American pastoral beauty, intercut with images of armed men and women. It seems it’s impossible to be a proud American without expensive military hardware. Like other nations, this one doesn’t have an entirely glorious history, founded as it is on that hardware pointed at Native Americans, then slaves, then striking workers, civil rights activists, immigrants and global justice protesters.

Our Master of Citizenship ceremonies, a nice man from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, put all that behind us. He reassured us that the US was better today for our membership in it. “But,” he said, “we’ve got a lot of problems in this country. Now that you can vote, we’re going to need your help to vote to help to make them better.”

He’s right: there are problems. More than one in six Americans are going hungry, there’s record inequality, stagnant wages for middle and working class Americans, incarceration rates are high, health care levels low. If African American women’s health care levels were counted as a country, they’d be doing worse than Uzbekistan.

The uncomfortable wobble in the middle of our official’s sentence betrays a deeper truth, though. Voting isn’t going to solve problems this big. It rarely has. But what he neglected to mention is that this is a country forged from struggle. The catalyst for the Boston Tea Party, at least as Pulitzer prize-winning historian Arthur Scheslinger tells it, came not because of ‘taxation without representation’ but, rather, a widespread opposition to the increasing monopoly of the East India Company. In other words, US history began with a people’s fight against a corporation so powerful, it was the Wal-Mart of its day. Likewise, emancipation, universal suffrage and civil rights weren’t won through voting, but through direct action for social change, involving protests for equality, democracy, and justice.

It’s this America, where democracy isn’t something you let other people take care of on your behalf but something that you’re empowered to do yourself, which I joined yesterday. I didn’t need a certificate from the government to do it, just as I didn’t need a marriage certificate to love my wife. The citizenship certificate is a sign of commitment – and I want that commitment to be public. Not least because if in being democratic I am arrested, I won’t get deported back to Britain.

In civic groups, churches, schools, unions and cooperatives, it’s this democracy that’s alive and thriving. It’s invariably pitted against the power of large corporations and the state, against the most public embodiments of America.

There’s a painful ambiguity here – I loathe the militarism, corruption and injustice that America represents, but I celebrate the genuine democracy, equality and freedom that can already be found growing in every corner of the country. It’s this tension that Langston Hughes caught exactly in his beautiful poem, “Let America Be America Again.” As the rock guitars blared over the hall of newly minted citizens and the video screens showed images of aircraft carriers and star-spangled banners, I kept this fragment of Hughes’ poem in my heart.

O, yes,

I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Raj Patel is the author of “The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy” (Picador).

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Economic Outrage du Jour: Emails Exposed

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

Hugh Son at Bloomberg reports that e-mails forced into the light show that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, parts of whose job is supposedly to be curtailing bankers’ riskiest impulses, told American International Group to conceal information about its payments to banks while the financial crisis was unfolding:

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. …

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.”

You won’t hear any applause in this corner for the obstructionist, ultra-wealthy Darrell Issa. His self-funded recall petition encumbered us Californians with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governorship, a position Issa himself hoped to capture. His support for English-Only laws, right-wing attacks on ACORN, dissing of the 9/11 widows and other antics since his self-funded campaign put him in Congress epitomize the politics progressives are duty-bound to grind into dust.

But, frankly, if the disclosures in those emails are what Bloomberg and Reuters and others are saying, congressional Democrats ought to be on top of this issue. Must we depend on the richest man in Congress to engage in an oligarch vs. oligarch battle to give us the skinny about what’s going on?

Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns says, quite correctly:

At issue is whether the 100 cents on the dollar payments by AIG to its credit default swap counterparties were a backdoor bailout.  Most market watchers believe that AIG counterparties would have received significantly less on the free market, exposing them to tens of billions in losses instead of taxpayers (see CW story from March 2009 on this issue). So, in a very real sense, many believe taxpayers were defrauded by the government’s handling of the AIG affair.  This latest revelation only adds to that belief.

Moreover, in regards to Tim Geithner personally, this revelation is extremely damaging. Not only did he, Paulson and Bernanke mishandle the Lehman bankruptcy which triggered the panic central to the financial crisis, but he has now been personally implicated in withholding – covering up, if you will – vital evidence on the looting of taxpayers to the benefit of financial companies, some of whom are not even domestic institutions. You have to see this in a negative light.

With the economy continuing to show signs of at least short-term improvement, many Democrats and some progressives in and out of the party, seem unwilling to second-guess what was done on the fly at the height of the financial crisis. And, with an election year already under way, there may be a tendency to stand publicly and firmly behind Geithner. Hoping for what? That even more damaging revelations don’t come to light before November? How much that was unknown when this was written might become known by then?

Next week, Chairman Phil Angelides will hold the first hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that was approved in May. Some people hope this will operate with the same spirit as the 1930s investigation that came to be known by the name of its last and toughest chairman, the Pecora Commission. If Tim Geithner’s name doesn’t come up a few times during those hearings, it will be a very big surprise.

= = =
The emails are here. (h/t to fladem)


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Obama Pushes Excise Tax, House Dems Fight It

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

President Obama remains steadfastly committed to forcing the Senate’s Chevy tax on health plans over the House’s millionaire’s surtax.

WASHINGTON — President Obama told House Democratic leaders at a meeting on Wednesday that they should include a tax on high-priced insurance policies favored by the Senate in the final version of far-reaching health care legislation, aides said.

The White House has long expressed a preference for the excise tax on high-cost plans, which health economists say could be an important tool in controlling long-term health care spending for the government and for individuals and families….

Senate Democrats are generally believed to have greater leverage in the negotiations to reconcile the two bills because they cannot afford to lose a single vote and some centrists have warned that they would turn against the bill depending on how it changes.

The Senate approved its bill on a party-line vote, 60 to 39, on Dec. 24.

But the House does not have much wiggle room either. It approved its bill on Nov. 7 by a vote of 220 to 215, with just one Republican joining 219 Democrats in favor. That means Ms. Pelosi could spare just two votes without jeopardizing the bill’s chances.

This is undoubtedly not a smart tax in terms of politics.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) notes that Obama pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning under $250,000 and that he attacked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the campaign trail in 2008 over his plan to do away with the tax-free treatment of employer-provided benefits. Pro-Republican groups are already turning the tables by running ads accusing Democrats of wanting to tax benefits.

“It’s a plan that has great political risk for the Democrats,” Courtney said.

And it’s so unpopular in the House that Courtney has the signatures of 190 Dems who oppose it.

Courtney actually collected the signatures against the excise tax back in September and October, but he said that in the only caucus of House Democrats before Christmas, the majority of comments from members objected to the tax. He said that the Senate is “leaning hard for their position,” and they have some support from the White House. But judging from Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments, “this is where there’s the most resistance to the Senate plan because she knows this is where the caucus is.”

Courtney believes that the feeling has intensified among House Democrats because of input from constituents at town hall meetings and polling, both public and private. He cited several public polls showing 2-1 opposition to the excise tax, and said that members have conducted their own polling showing the tax to be “politically toxic.” He added that “on policy and political grounds, the House approach is right approach.”

The millionaires’ surtax, supplemented by the Medicare tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year from the Senate bill, is much fairer, better politics, and doesn’t have the potential policy problems that the excise tax could bring.


Timothy Terhaar: The New Activism

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

The New Activism has been around in some form for years. Precisely how many I don’t know. It’s a label meant not to sew an ideology from whole cloth but rather to give some unity of purpose to seemingly disparate grassroots social projects and political causes.

Because of the diversity of its manifestations, it is tempting to give a disjunctive definition of the New Activism, a laundry list of exemplars. One of those items would be a suggestion made on this website December 29, 2009 by Arianna Huffington and Rob Johnson that U.S. citizens transfer at least some of their savings from monolithic to local banks. Some other New Activist projects are Kiva, CouchSurfing, and the Freeconomy Community.

It is hard to define the New Activism without listing its manifestations because it is a rising spirit, not a dogmatic, codified set of political beliefs. It is not as concerned with questions about how involved a government should be in the lives of its citizens as much as it is that the government should be democratic and not oligarchic.

Beginning with what Eisenhower recognized as the then-incipient military-industrial complex, the U.S. government has steadily ceded more of its power, functionality, and agenda to vested interests. We the citizens still vote for representatives, but it is less our interests than those of multinational corporations and other rotting institutions of habit which are represented.

Lobbies have eroded many citizens’ trust in the ability of our government to design policies favorable to us. In betraying our hope and patriotism, this corruption of the honesty of representation has produced in us a deep political apathy and cynicism. We have been narcotized against the possibility of real political action.

Cynicism is inimical to a well-functioning democracy. The New Activism is user-driven and necessarily participatory. In order for common citizens to reclaim their political prerogative, we must take responsibility for the allocation of our resources. From that which is blighted, we divest; into that which is vital, we pour ourselves.

The fundamental change, as the Great Recession has shown us, must occur at the level of the structure of our government. For decades the system has reproduced exploitation and corruption. We must refuse to be robbed. We must re-imagine the possible modes of production and distribution. We must not depend on an ossified government to transform itself; we should instead seek to enact on the local level a system of empathic and voluntary cooperation.

What then is the New Activism? It is not revolution; revolution is a dialectical move in the debate between tyrants. Rather than employ violence or other direct antagonism and thereby imbue a failing system of veiled oligarchy with an aura of legitimacy, we should simply withdraw. An evolutionary political change enacted through the investment of time, money, and faith in businesses and institutions we actually appreciate: this is the New Activism.

Of course, as adumbrated here, the label “New Activism” could apply to diametrically opposed projects. I do not think this a failure of the scheme. Rather than think of it as a set of policies, it’s best to think of it as the political application and expansion of communitarian social values. A nation without community is a nation without patriots.

Indeed, mobilizing the Youth Vote has often proven prohibitively difficult precisely because there has been little honesty in politics and U.S. social organization has appeared uninspired and unjust. It is a hard thing to do, to take responsibility for the generation of community, but if we can understand that the deep-rooted capitalist process of social isolation and exclusively self-serving individuality is a prime cause of the current, rather bad state of U.S. economic and political life, we will have come a long way as Americans.

Mark 12:31: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than [this].

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Promoting al Qaeda’s Agenda

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Matt Duss at The Wonk Room asks an excellent question: why are conservatives so committed to promoting al Qaeda’s “success”?

As I noted yesterday, it is true that one of the goals of terrorism is to elicit a wild over-reaction from the target government, resulting in greater publicity and a larger pool of potential recruits for the terrorists’ cause, and so any response has to be balanced against that. But the idea that “the strategic goals of al Qaeda” are better advanced by more security theater at American airports than they were by, say, inducing the United States to invade and occupy two Muslim countries and engage in a global campaign of kidnapping and torture, is just ridiculous on its face.

But this is largely beside the point, because conservatives like Kristol, Hume, and Doan aren’t genuinely (or at least primarily) interested in analyzing threats and policies to deal with them, they’re interested in promoting a specific, and politically advantageous, narrative about the nature of those threats. And apparently, the possibility of those threats serving as Al Qaeda propaganda is a price they’re willing to pay in order to achieve that political advantage.

Duss also cites an expert on Middle East media, who points out that:

… the exaggeration of al-Qaeda’s role works directly and devastatingly against American goals … It magnifies al-Qaeda’s perceived power, strengthening its own media campaign and feeding its most powerful propaganda instrument…

And yet here we have Charles Krauthammer and Wesley Pruden likening the failed underwear attack to the bombing of Pearl Harbor that killed nearly 2,500 Americans and propelled the United States into World War II. Let me repeat:

… the exaggeration of al-Qaeda’s role works directly and devastatingly against American goals.

As Duss points out:

 In March 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed “We are being hurt by al-Jazeera in the Arab world…There is no question about it.”

“The quality of the journalism is outrageous — inexcusably biased — and there is nothing you can do about it except try to counteract it.” He said it was turning Arabs against the United States.

“You could say it causes the loss of life,” he added.

Later that year, Fox News ran a story entitled “Al Jazeera: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror?” Given how committed Fox News and other conservative media seems to be to waving Al Qaeda’s flag for them, maybe we should be asking the same question now about them.

Indeed. And another question should be, why aren’t these people being called out for their dangerous anti-American rhetoric by the rest of the media?


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ND-SEN: Schultz Can Run

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

On MSNBC today, talk show host Ed Schultz apparently suggested that he would be unable to run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan because of the Peace Garden State’s five-year residency requirement for officeholders.

Schultz was mistaken.

As a primary matter, the constitutional provision on its face only applies to state officers:

Art. V, sec 4:

To be eligible to hold an elective office established by this article, a person must be a qualified elector of this state, must be at least twenty-five years of age on the day of the election, and must have been a resident of this state for the five years preceding election to office. To be eligible to hold the office of governor or lieutenant governor, a person must be at least thirty years old on the day of the election. The attorney general must be licensed to practice law in this state.

(The officers established by Article V are the North Dakota governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner, attorney general, auditor, insurance commissioner, three public service commissioners, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, tax commissioner, and treasurer.)

More to the point, even if this provision in the North Dakota Constitution purported to apply to the U.S. Senate, it would be blatantly, unmistakably unconstitutional.  The only requirements for serving in the U.S. Senate are those in Article I, sec. 3, cl. 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.

“When elected.”  In other words, that day in November, and not a day before counts constitutionally.  (As to why it’s “inhabitant” and not “resident,” see Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention from August 8, 1787.)

In the 1995 case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas Constitution provision attempting to place term limits on the state’s federal legislators, with Justice Stevens writing for the majority:

Such a state imposed restriction is contrary to the “fundamental principle of our representative democracy,” embodied in the Constitution, that “the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969) (internal quotation marks omitted). Allowing individual States to adopt their own qualifications for congressional service would be inconsistent with the Framers’ vision of a uniform National Legislature representing the people of the United States. If the qualifications set forth in the text of the Constitution are to be changed, that text must be amended.

The Congress of the United States … is not a confederation of nations in which separate sovereigns are represented by appointed delegates, but is instead a body composed of representatives of the people. As Chief Justice John Marshall observed: “The government of the union, then, . . . is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat., at 404-405. [n.31]  Ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” A. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863).

The Framers deemed this principle critical when they discussed qualifications. For example, during the debates on residency requirements, Morris noted that in the House, “the people at large, not the States, are represented.” 2 Farrand 217 (emphasis in original) (footnote omitted). Similarly, George Read noted that the Framers “were forming a Nati[ona]l Gov[ernmen]t and such a regulation would correspond little with the idea that we were one people.” Ibid. (Emphasis in original.) James Wilson “enforced the same consideration.” Ibid.

Consistent with these views, the constitutional structure provides for a uniform salary to be paid from the national treasury, allows the States but a limited role in federal elections, and maintains strict checks on state interference with the federal election process. The Constitution also provides that the qualifications of the representatives of each State will be judged by the representatives of the entire Nation. The Constitution thus creates a uniform national body representing the interests of a single people.

Permitting individual States to formulate diverse qualifications for their representatives would result in a patchwork of state qualifications, undermining the uniformity and the national character that the Framers envisioned and sought to ensure.

Bottom line: if Ed Schultz wants to run for the U.S. Senate, he can.


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What’s Joe Worth In A "Not 60" Senate?

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

While the Senate sorts through its retirement news (Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd), the likelihood of the Senate staying at exactly 60 seems less and less real. And as a Connecticut resident, the last 24 hours couldn’t help but remind me about two recent Joe Lieberman columns. This one is snarky dialog between Gail Collins and David Brooks on the popularity of the (soon the be senior) CT senator:

David Brooks: The big theme of holiday conversation is what an atrocity Joe Lieberman is. Everybody agrees apparently. Most people who agree couldn’t even tell you what the Medicare buy-in is or what his position on health care reform is. They just know that in polite society it is imperative to detest old Joe.

Gail Collins: David, excuse me! I have been making this point for several years now. In fact I believe I announced in 2007 that Joe Lieberman was responsible for everything terrible that’s happened to the world since 1999.

and this gem from Jon Chait:

I think one answer here is that Lieberman isn’t actually all that smart. He speaks, and seems to think, exclusively in terms of generalities and broad statements of principle. But there’s little evidence that he’s a sharp or clear thinker, and certainly no evidence that he knows or cares about the details of health care reform. At one point during the 2000 recount, the Gore campaign explained to Lieberman why lowering standards for military ballots would be totally unfair and illegal, and Lieberman proceeded to go on television and subvert the campaign’s position. Gore loyalists interpreted this as a sellout, but perhaps the more plausible explanation was that Lieberman — who, after all, badly wanted to be vice-President — just didn’t understand the details of the Gore position well enough to defend it. The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate.

Now, without 60, health reform doesn’t pass the Senate in any way, shape or form, period. Republicans are too afraid of passing something that reminds people that Democrats at least try to help their fellow citizens when they are in power. But without 60, it also means that Joe Lieberman doesn’t matter the same way he did the last two months.

Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Tuesday he would join a Republican filibuster to block the final vote on any health care bill that has a government-run public health insurance option.

Is Joe Lieberman, RNC Convention speaker and McCain endorser, ready to change parties? If it happens, don’t let him fool you into thinking he was chased out. As Collins notes,

Joe Lieberman is not representing anybody but Joe Lieberman. I’ve thought that ever since his last election, when he got bounced by the Democrats and ran as the nominee of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Why wasn’t it Lieberman for Connecticut? Because it’s got to be all about Joe, that’s why.

It’s pretty much conventional wisdom that Joe can’t win [in 2012] as a Democrat in CT – too many bridges burned, cut into pieces, and sold on eBay.

Now that Dick Blumenthal will retain Dodd’s seat, he’s not available to beat Joe like an old rug in the next cycle. But don’t worry –  there’s plenty of people that would relish the thought. To protect himself (remember, it’s always all about Joe), he ran as the Republican against Lamont by making sure there was a weak Republican in that slot. Without Karl Rove’s help, he’ll have to do it on his own this time.

If Joe can’t be belle of the ball as an “independent Democrat” [in 2011 and beyond] , look to see him scramble for whatever suits him best. But after health reform passes, he’ll do it without cover from Senate Democrats, who may have their own bone to pick with him over a few issues here and there.


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George Pataki: The Obama Administration’s Systemic Failure on Terrorism

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Following the Christmas Day near-disaster on an international flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, President Obama referred to a “systemic failure” of our nation’s intelligence sharing. He is right in referring to a systemic failure, but it is not just in intelligence sharing. From day one, the Obama Administration’s anti-terror policies have amounted to a systemic failure that have placed our country’s security in grave jeopardy. As one who has seen and experienced the consequences of prior failures up close, I am urging the Administration to drastically change its approach to defending America.

Virtually every decision this Administration has made has placed American security at greater risk, since refusing from the very beginning to even acknowledge the existence of a War on Terror, or to call enemy combatants terrorists.

It is time for the Administration to wake up and smell the explosives.

It is time for them to acknowledge their mistakes and change course. Let me outline five specific actions that the president should take:

First, the decision to return six terrorists to Yemen last month was a mistake that should not be repeated. The Pentagon reported this week that one in five terrorists released from Guantanamo are either suspected or confirmed to have returned to the battlefield in places like Afghanistan. The president should suspend his effort to shut Guantanamo until we are certain of a secure alternative facility to hold all detainees.

Second, end the wrong-headed investigation of our own CIA officials. Against the strong recommendation of CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Obama Administration has begun an investigation into CIA agents who interrogated terrorists, even though this action was rejected time and again by prior Justice Department officials. The September 11th attacks were largely the result of a weak intelligence apparatus, and this Christmas Day near-disaster again was again a failure to appropriately share intelligence. The decision to investigate those devoting their lives to protecting us is an example of left-leaning political correctness run amok and greatly hurts morale at that agency at a time when we need a strong CIA more than ever.

Third, treat our military with respect and honor, not as criminals. Yes, we need our military to be professional, respectful and honorable, and they are. But to court-martial Navy Seals — among the bravest of the brave, who are willing and prepared to die for our country — because a barbaric terrorist complains of a bruised lip is absurd and unconscionable. What’s next? Assault charges against the brave passenger who foiled the Christmas Day bomber? We count on our military professionals to protect us. They should be able to count on their government to support and stand with them against America’s enemies.

Fourth, reverse the decision to treat Khalid Sheik Mohammad as a criminal defendant instead of a terrorist. He was captured while continuing to fight a war against us that he acknowledges, even if the Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge the same. As the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, he does not belong in our civilian court system and should be prosecuted under the military tribunal system created for this purpose. To give this butcher and his followers a global media forum to act like victims and spew their hate defies logic. It will inflame anti-American actions across the globe. To show the world such a weak, politically correct response to terrorists makes America and Americans less safe. This is an unprecedented, dangerous mistake and I implore President Obama to reverse this horrible decision before it is too late.

Finally, fire Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and replace her with a competent professional. I have met Secretary Napolitano and found her to be a perfectly nice, reasonable person. But on homeland security, she like the rest of the Obama Administration has been consistently wrong. From confidently asserting “the system worked” in the wake of the Christmas Day near-disaster, to her previous assertion that returning American servicemen and women were prone to right-wing terrorism and presented possible threats to our safety, she has consistently proven that she does not get it and is not up to the challenge of protecting Americans from terror threats.

I could go on. Failure to let Army officials know of the potential dangers prior to the Fort Hood massacre; calling the Christmas day bomber an “isolated extremist” although he was associated with the same radical Yemeni Islamist cleric who instructed the murderer at Fort Hood; issuing a hard timeline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan at the same time as we are implementing a limited surge… The point is clear. Every week adds more to the growing list of missteps and mistakes made by the Obama Administration that greatly weaken American security and undermine our ability to identify threats and prevent terrorist attacks.

By taking the five steps outlined above, the president would demonstrate to the American people and the world that he understands the threats to our security and is willing to do what it takes to defend and protect our country.

More on Terrorism


Categories: World Tags: , , ,

Oops: Bachmann’s anticensus hysteria could backfire

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

As you may recall, over the summer Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) urged Americans to protest the ACORN-Census conspiracy by refusing to comply with the decennial census.

But now it’s becoming clear that if her constituents heed her advice, she might end up losing her seat in Congress.

Why? Because the results of the census determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Heading into each census there are always states “on the bubble” of either losing or gaining an extra seat, and as it turns out, in 2010 Minnesota is one such state:

State demographer Tom Gillaspy has been warning for months that the next census could result in the loss of one congressional seat in Minnesota.

The irony was not lost on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

It’s ironic that a Minnesota member of Congress, Republican Michele Bachmann, went so far last summer to declare her intention to only partially complete her census forms, and to suggest reasons for others not to comply with the census law. If Minnesota loses a congressional seat, Bachmann’s populous Sixth District could be carved into pieces. She likely would have to battle another incumbent to hang on to her seat. We’ve noticed that her anticensus rhetoric has lately ceased. We hope she got wise: Census compliance is not only in Minnesota’s best interest, but also her own.

Of course, if Minnesota does lose a seat, Bachmann will undoubtedly decry the government conspiracy against counting people who refuse to be counted. The black helicopters are already circling.


Categories: Politics Tags: , ,