Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why 2010 Isn't 1994

I normally don't read Kaus on his Slate blog, but I couldn't pass this up:

What would be the best thing that could happen to Obama? Losing Congress in 2010, argues Red State's Erick Erickson of Red State. It worked for Bill Clinton! (snippage)

Here's the first thing Kaus should have noted: Red State isn't exactly rooting for Obama under any circumstances. Why should people expect anyone writing for a neocon blog of doom would be giving sage advice?

I also take offense at the "It worked for Bill Clinton!" argument. Um, I'm pretty sure Bill is still extremely p-ssed off he had a Gingrich-led oppositional Congress that spent nearly 6 years of his two terms hounding him over Whitewater and Paula Jones all the way up to that flimsy nightmarish impeachment attempt over BLOWJOBS. And that's overlooking that whole GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN in 1995 that only went Bill's way (barely) because Newt was too whiny. Now try to picture a GOP Congress facing Obama. We would have nonstop investigations into Obama's birth certificate until the Republicans get driven out of power again for being totally batsh-t insane. And if you think the battle over health care reform is nasty... we would honestly get absolutely no legislation passed. Total government deadlock. Even our military actions overseas would get shut down or screwed over by the power struggle.

And that was Clinton. Do you think George W. Bush and Evil Overlord Co-President Dick Cheney were thrilled the Dems held Congress in their last two years of office? Did ANYTHING substantial get done those last two years?

At least Kaus doesn't let the Red State madness go unmentioned:

Minor Hmms: 1) As things stand now, Erickson says, "Barack Obama cannot work the center." Hmm. I'm not so sure about that. He could be working the center a lot harder than he has been on education, welfare, the auto bailouts and the CIA, to name four. (And he probably thought he was working the center when he focused his health care pitch on curve-bending cost-control. Goes to show it's not enough to mindlessly triangulate.) ...
Kaus is actually a little off here. Obama has been working the center, or at least trying to work a bipartisan position, but doing so has actually cost him support from his Democratic base. Independents have wavered but within statistical norms. Republicans of course always had Obama low in their polls so no big loss there. And for all we know about how the auto bailouts went, it looks as though Obama & Crew handled it just right. One other thing: I don't see welfare as a major issue, outside of unemployment issues and of course the Health Care debate.

2) Erickson speculates that if Obama lost Congress he'd still get immigration reform through, thanks to moderate GOP senators like Grassley and Bennett. Hmm, again. Isn't immigration more likely to remain another one of those Washington Mirage Issues where you can technically count enough votes for legalization, but (because legislators are rightly skittish) the vote somehow magically never takes place? ...
"Speculates that if Obama lost Congress he's still get immigration reform through"? Erickson is definitely insane at this point: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS POSITIONED ITSELF THOROUGHLY ANTI-IMMIGRANT. They even did this in opposition to Dubya and Rove! How the HELL does Erickson think the GOP will pull a 180-degree turnabout on an issue they're using to inflame the wingnuts? Didn't he notice the huge voter shift of Hispanics in 2008 away from the Republicans? Didn't he watch the same crap we did re: Sotomayor nomination?

Kaus points out that Immigration is a Mirage Issue: something that theoretically can get voted on, but because it's such a third-rail issue we'll never really see any action on it. I dunno. After this whole health care reform fiasco, I'm willing to bet the Democratic party is gonna use the rest of '09 and the whole of 2010 to push Immigration reform, simply because it'll drive the Far Right into Crazytown and drive all the Youth, Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Sane voters well into the Democratic side of the argument.

3) Erickson even speculates that Obama, recognizing the utility of a loss in 2010, will "start" to undermine the Blue Dogs in swing districts. Really? "Start"? What would he do to undermine the Blue Dogs that he's not doing already? ... Hmm.

And it won't be Obama doing the undermining. It'll be the Kos crowd: they'll be hunting for Blue Dog scalps the same way they hunted for Joe Lieberman's, especially if Health Care reform doesn't pass. And don't forget, Kos' crowd beat Lieberman in his primary: it took him to run as an 'Indy' with hefty Republican support (taken away from an actual Republican challenger btw) to stay in that Senate seat. Imagine that played out over 20-30 primaries in 2010... which is one of the reasons (not the strongest, but) the Dems will pass some form of health care package...

The one thing the Red State article highlights, and what Kaus' response highlights, is that people are looking ahead to the next midterms, and they're already trying out the math to see if the Republicans have a chance to rebound and regain seats. They're thinking that it's 1993-94 all over again (esp. with the same health care fight going so quickly to pot). To that I would like to make Five Observations:

1) Not every midterm goes against the person or his party currently occupying the White House. Seats may shift accordingly, and may go up and down depending on the actual races. But the Democrats currently enjoy a sizable seat count in both House and Senate, far too much to where they can actually lose control of either wing of Congress to the Republicans. At least not in 2010. To regain the Senate the Republicans have to win nearly 21 of the 22 elections up for grabs (unlikely) and to regain the House they have to win over 77 seats (and given the near-invulnerable status of incumbents that's unlikely as well). Throw into that mix that the Republicans are virtually non-existent in the Northeast anymore (save for a handful of moderates) and there's a lot of hurdles for the GOP to overcome in this regard.
EDIT: After re-doing the math, it may not be 21 wins needed for the Republicans to retake the Senate. It's NOT 22, it's 34 elections for 2010 (there are 3 extra for special elections due to replacing Senators who left for Cabinet jobs as well as Kennedy's passing. There may be more if Hutchinson from Texas follows through on resigning to run for Governor). There are 16 Incumbent Democrats and 12 Incumbent Republicans: do note Incumbents are very hard to defeat. There are 8 Senators retiring - 2 Democrat and 6 Republican - which is where the competitions tend to be fiercest. The deal for the Republicans would be 1) return all incumbents (12) and secure the vacating seats (6) meaning they need the 18 they already count on, and 2) take away 11 seats from the Democrats to get the Republicans over 50 total seats, most likely getting the 2 vacated seats (it's so doubtful Kennedy will get replaced by a Republican it shouldn't even be considered) and somehow earning 9 upset victories over any of the 16 Democratic incumbents (insert Ha-Ha noise here). Based on this math, the GOP Senate needs 29 wins out of 34 elections (so far). That's still very unlikely.

2) Add to 1) the fact that the Republicans in Congress (and overall) are still massively unpopular compared to the Democrats across general polling lines. And a lot of that unpopularity stemmed from a Republican-led government that had been in power long enough to leave some damage on the nation.

Compare to 1994. In the early 1990s the electorate had endured 25 plus years of Democratic control of Congress (save a few times the Senate tilted GOP), with that Dem control anchored in the Watergate crisis that IHMO threw off the electoral cycle by 10-15 years. During that time there had been scandal after growing scandal of Democratic misdeeds, culminating in the infamous S&L scandals and the less-remembered Rubbergate. There may have been a good number of Republicans caught in those scandals, but for the most part these were burdens on a Democratic leadership. It was most likely the Iran-Contra scandal that kept Reagan's GOP from exploiting that issue until his term of office was well over.

Compare that to right now. The Republicans had (barring one year hiccup) control of both houses of Congress from 1994 until 2006. 12 years to build up their own record of corruption and malfeasance. Voters are still blaming Bush (and by extension the whole Republican party) for the current economic hardships. While Obama and the Dems will have been in power for 2 years by the 2010 elections, it's still too early to shift everything worth blaming (the housing crisis, the wars, the joblessness) onto them.

A good amount of polling bears this out. While Obama's numbers have been slipping (into the low 50s/high 40s), for the most part the Democrats' numbers remain decent (high 30s) compared to the Republicans' numbers (low 20s). Voter registration should also be considered: as of 2004 it was 72 million D(em), 55 million R(ep), 42 million I(ndy). And the registrations trends by 2008 were solidly Democratic and Independent. I'm trying to see what the current allotment is...

3) The big question about the midterms: What will the Republicans be FOR?

Right now, what agenda (besides tax cuts) are the Republicans pushing? What issues are they laying the groundwork for as a platform to run on? Because for right now, all we voters know is what the Republicans are AGAINST: the Republicans are AGAINST OBAMA, AGAINST SOCIALISTS, AGAINST OBAMA, AGAINST HEALTH CARE REFORM (which, despite their current victories in the media battlefront, isn't going to win over voters to them either), AGAINST WISE LATINAS, AGAINST THIS, AGAINST THAT, AGAINST OBAMA. Repeat 20 times.

Compare to 1994. Gingrich and his fellow back-benchers got together to forge a Contract With America, listing items on a broad national agenda for the GOP Congress to rally around. While the Contract was dismissed as a gimmick, it proved a popular enough draw to conservative voters who came out to vote. When the Republicans won that midterm, the Contract was cited as a key reason.

Compare also to 2006. Howard Dean, essentially in charge of things for the Democrats at the DNC, initiated the 50-State Strategy to make Congressional challenges in every state, even those deemed 'unwinnable' for being so conservative. Dean realized that you can only win if you actually run for the damned offices, and pushed for candidates in as many places as were found. That strategy worked: it revitalized previously despondent Democrats in key states and helped the Dems re-take both houses in Congress.

Just as a side note: both in 1994 and in 2006 the ruling party in Congress suffered from waves of retirements (tens of Democratic incumbents fleeing in '94, tens of Republicans fleeing in '06.). Just to ask, do you see any massive dash for the lifeboats by the Democrats right now?

So, to re-state the argument: What are the Republicans FOR right now? Other than being obstructionist and paranoid, not a lot. That negativity is not a solid platform for campaigning.

4) Aside from the platform problem the Republicans have, what about their leadership? Upon whom can the mantle of flagbearer be placed?

The deal with Republicans is their organizational structure: they love to follow specific leaders (unlike the Democrats, who operate under a system best comparable to cat herding). It's been that way since, well, back in the day of machine politics. It's REALLY been that way since Goldwater in 1964. Lead up to Nixon in '68. Nixon's fall from grace really mixed up the party in the 70s, but there was Reagan by 1980. Bush the Elder went in via Reagan's good graces (albeit untrusted by the Far Right). With Bush's fall in 1992, it was left to Gingrich to rally the troops via that Contract in 1994...only for Gingrich to be driven out by backstabbers by 1998. Bush the Lesser was ostensibly the flagbearer as the President by 2000, but in truth by then the GOP Congress fell to the more corrupt elements that had driven Newt out (DeLay, Armey, anyone on Abramoff's payroll). And those clowns were out of office by 2006.

So who's in charge now of the Congressional GOP? Obstensibly the likes of McConnell, Cantor, Boehner. But how effective have they been with regards to GOTV issues? How effective have they been positioning themselves in the media as leaders in their own right? Because they haven't. In the media the only ones the voters see and listen are the rabble-rousers like Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity. Irregardless of whom those guys invite onto their shows, you really don't see a lot from the congressional leadership.

Also, if voters could name anybody from today's Congress, it's going to be the wackos like Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who's been getting all the press that's been encouraging the GOP Base but scaring the hell out of moderates and Independents, the voters you still need to actually, you know, win elections. It's been these wingnuts who've been screaming about birth certificates and socialist concentration camps getting all the press. GOP Leadership? What GOP Leadership?

5) There's still a lot of time between now (2009) and the midterms (2010). As I've mentioned earlier, there's still a lot of time there for the Democrats to pull out other issues of major import - Immigration Reform! - that poll well for Dems but will cause massive self-inflicted damage on Republicans.

That's my position. I seriously doubt the Republicans will make any serious gains in 2010. They *could* win back some seats that are normally in GOP-friendly districts that they lost merely due to retirement/lousy candidates/the fact that Bush the Lesser, Cheney and Rove made the GOP brand less popular than swine flu, but that's all I would concede at this point. For all the noise they're making in the media, the Republicans just aren't impressing people with any sign of, you know, maturity and intellect and wisdom. Stuff we need from our elected leaders.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dead Kennedys Get New Member

Aiming for MOST TASTELESS HEADLINE EVER Award.

Yup. Ted Kennedy, Last of the Heterodyne Boys of the Kennedy Patriarchs kicked the bucket last night.

The news will be filled with how Ted had spent 30 plus years pushing for health care reform, how the Democrats should use his death to rally their more moderate and conservative members around a memorial health care reform bill, and how the Republicans are gonna claim that Ted was really a conservative at heart (They do that, they're like Mormons, you die and they add you posthumously to their church roster even if you were devoutly with another faith) and that Kennedy would have wanted a 'bipartisan bill' (read: no health care reform at all). We might even get a few of the hardcore remnants of the Nixonian crowd lining up to piss on Kennedy's grave the second he's in the ground.

For meself, gotta say the Kennedys weren't very much popular in my house. With my parents for the obvious reasons (Dad's a Nixon man), for meself mostly being a Gen Xer, who came after all the 60s hoopla... Yes, that family goes through a lot of bad sh-t. But seriously, half of it is self-inflicted upper class twittism. I don't see why the whole family has to be worshipped like royalty.

Give me a few days to be more coherent. By then we'll see how the whole "Ted Died For Your Health Care Bill" meme plays out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'd Do More, But the Frustration Gets Me Down

This is mostly just for comments. Not linking to anything.

I'm sitting on the sidelines here, bearing witness to a Health Care Reform debate that's been hijacked by the gun-toting lying-through-their-asses Far Right, wondering where and when and how this whole thing turned to crap.

We've got a Far Right Noise Machine that's so deep into the distribution of falsehoods, crazed unprovable accusations, and intimidation that it surprises me no one's filed a defamation or libel charge on any of them. I'd be pushing for Fraud charges on some of these jokers, especially the lobbyist/astroturfing firms behind the twisted media push.

We've got a Democratic party that's never been able to organize behind any set of political banners - which is helpful in keeping the scandals localized (unlike the Republicans' whose organizational skills are unparalleled but leaves them vulnerable to larger, far-reaching scandals such as the Abramoff deal) but makes getting the whole party unified on any policy efforts akin to herding egomaniacal cats.

Which is leaving me in a major funk. I despise what the GOP's done and is still doing to this country, but I can't get myself worked up defending Democrats who can't even stay on message for one freaking day.

The only thing that will get me up out of my La-Z-Boy recliner...? We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whatever happened to the Port-O-San Cleaner from Woodstock?

(Update 4/30/2016: Whoa. WHOA! HOLY (Awed and stunned cursing inserted here). Mr. Taggart if you're re-reading this blog my email link is here, please get back in touch with me at your best convenience.)

Today is August 15th. It was 40 years ago today in 1969 that a bunch of enterprising hippies started what they thought would be a modest-sized 3-day festival out in the hills of New York state.

I grew up after, being born in 1970, with the Myth of Woodstock permeating the American culture well into today. Having one of the best film documentaries of all time playing every so often on PBS or Bravo or Biography channels (did MTV ever broadcast it? Probably, but I bet VH1 did a few years) didn't hurt.

The Woodstock documentary is pretty long (director's cut on DVD prolly moreso), and let's face it away from showcasing the musical performances it does meander and get self-referential/self-indulgent. But there are images and sounds you can never ignore: Richie Havens' impromptu jam of "Motherless Child" turning into a uniquely brilliant song "Freedom"; nuns flashing peace signs; the mud baths; Wavy Gravy being relatively saner than usual and warning others about the brown acid; Hendrix's Monday morning wake-up call with the bomb-sonic "Star-Spangled Banner," as the movie comes to a close with images of before (the calm rolling hills of farmland) and after (the mounds of trash and mud left behind by indulgent hippies, damn for a bunch of bleeding-heart do-gooders you can't clean up your own pollution?!).

But the bit that stays in my mind was added toward the end, a brief interview with one of the few guys actually working that weekend: the Port-O-San cleaner.

Update: trying to replay the YouTube clip...



Here's this middle-aged guy, doing back-breaking work - and you don't see a crew there it looks like he's doing this solo, cleaning up after all the damn dirty hippies - and there's no anger or bitterness about him, he's just doing his job, and he says "Glad to be doing it for these kids. My son's here too. And I got one over in Vietnam too. Up in the DMZ now, flying helicopters."

Boom. Right there. One of the other things that Woodstock captured was the moment in history America was deep in a war. A war that had become increasingly unpopular, and not just with the hippies. Even by 1969 Vietnam didn't look like it was going to end well, but kids kept going over there as soldiers, families all across the nation had to recognize what the cleaner guy was going through. And there he was, a son in 'Nam, a son at Woodstock...

David Crosby mentioned the Port-O-San guy in an interview quote in Rolling Stone back in August 24th 1989 issue (can't find a full-text link, so check your local library!). Film reviewer Roger Ebert also took note. Crosby and I - and probably a few million others - all had pretty much the same question: What happened to that guy? What happened to his sons? Did his son survive Vietnam? Did his son survive Woodstock (I'm talking metaphorically here)?

Every so often, when this time of year comes around, I took a moment to dig about, try to see if anything available in the libraries - histories, newspaper articles, stuff like that - would provide some light on that question. Finally, someone updated a trivia note on the IMDb entry: the guy had sued the filmmakers "...on the grounds of mental anguish, embarrassment, public ridicule, and invasion of privacy. An appellate court opinion in this lawsuit may be read at Taggart v. Wadleigh-Maurice, Ltd., 489 F.2d 434 (3d Cir. 1973)."

O.o

This was kinda heart-breaking. Here he was, one of the real heroes of the Woodstock festival, filing a lawsuit out of what seemed to be anguish. Were people harassing him over his appearance in the film? What happened?

A link here to a copy of the transcripts to that court case.

36. Taggart contends that the sequence in which he was interrogated while performing his necessary though not necessarily pleasant employment was edited into the 'documentary' in such a way as to achieve, at his expense, a comic effect. That this may well have been the intended and actual effect is supported by evidence in the record of the reaction of critics. For example, Kathleen Carroll, the critic, stated 'The funniest scene shows the latrine attendant proudly demonstrating his job.' Craig McGregor, writing in the New York Times, April 19, 1970, stated '. . . and the man who is the real schizophrenic hero of Woodstock, the Port-O-San man, who empties the latrines of the beautiful people and has one son there at Woodstock and another flying a DMZ helicopter in Vietnam.' Taggart contends that while he was engaged in his ordinary work he was without warning, and without consent, drawn into a conversation and photographed so that the sequence could be used as a key part of the theme of the 'documentary' which was being prepared as a commercial enterprise.
37. When Taggart learned that he had been included in the commercial film he protested to the defendants, but they refused to delete the scene and proceeded to distribute the film nationwide. As a result, he alleges, he has suffered mental anguish, embarrassment, public ridicule, and invasion of his right to privacy which has detrimentally affected his social and family life and his employment. His deposition supports his contention that such ongoing damaging effects have occurred and are continuing...

Ouch. Well, I have to admit if I had been filmed and ended up in a movie without any compensation or right to say how I get shown in said film, I might be angry as well. The filmmakers contended as the defendants that, basically, they interviewed Taggart as he was part of a "newsworthy event," and as such isn't protected by most if any of the right to privacy laws. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what the appellate court is actually saying, but it looks like they're ordering the lower court to re-try the case in Taggart's favor. Dunno where it goes from there. Probably got settled out of court. Might need to check the New York court cases...

I'm still concerned though. Was Taggart getting hassled at work or at home by people for being in the movie? For being the Port-O-San guy? I've been scanning the 'Net, there's forums and blog entries here and there, and not one person is saying bad things about him. He makes the movie: some commenters say his part in the movie is the best one, way more than any of the performers. Maybe back then, back in the 70s when everyone was sulking away from the 60s like a bad dream, and people went out of their way to hassle any leftover hippies and anything associated with them even if they weren't hippies themselves. 'Tis the pity of it, if that be the case.

Look, I dunno where Taggart is now, given his age, given that it's 40 years later he might not even be here with us. But his family probably is. Maybe even his sons from Vietnam/Woodstock. I hope they're still not bitter about it. Please don't be (yeah I know, like they'll find this blog, like any of the seven commentators I've ever had ever came back...). Guys, your dad was a hero in that film, one of the good guys just doing his job and doing it well, and like the judge wrote in that appellate ruling "...the latrine sequence apparently makes a significant and memorable contribution to the film's overall impact..."

A toast, people. To Mr. Taggart, the Hero of the Woodstock Festival.

UPDATE (2/2/13): This is one of my most popular articles, and I've discovered some of the links (especially the ones to YouTube) have gone bad, I will try to fix them where I can.

Update (7/4/15): I've hopefully located a replacement YouTube clip of the documentary.

Update (8/14/15): Just sharing this again on Twitter and Facebook, just to share the moment.  Hopefully the YouTube clip is still good.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Job Vacancy! Florida Seat in the Senate

So I'm driving to a part-time job I have tonight, it's not much and I'm still on unemployment benefits, and somewhere around Keystone Rd. it hits me. Hey, didn't Mel Martinez just resign from his seat as U.S. Senator representing Florida? Maybe I should send in my resume...

So, here goes.

To Governor Charles Crist
Tall Hassle, Xanth Tallahassee, FL

Dear Governor:

I understand you currently have a vacancy for the United States Senate. I am very much interested in the position and I am hoping you can give me a fair hearing.

I am currently seeking full-time employment, and I am currently receiving unemployment benefits. Let me put it this way: if I am successful in convincing you to hire me, you will not only fill a vacancy but also lower the unemployment statistics for Florida by one. It's a Win-Win.

I am confident I fulfill the major requirements for the job: I am a long-time resident of Florida since 1977; I am over 30 years of age; and I am a natural born citizen (with a birth certificate and everything!).

As Senator for Florida, I would do everything within the powers of the office:
  • to ensure Florida's environmental concerns are addressed;
  • to ensure Florida's unemployed are provided for during this difficult economic period, and that the state's employment and business opportunities improve;
  • to ensure Mel Kiper stops picking on Tim Tebow well, Tebow can take care of himself, I suppose...
I do openly admit that I am currently registered as Not Affiliated to any party, and would most likely enter the Senate as an Independent. But look on the bright side: I'm not a Democrat. Besides, it's not like the Republicans would be hurt even more by the lack of seats right now.

I am aware that the position is temporary, that the seat will receive a fully-elected representative in 2010. However, I still view the time I would have as Senator as a challenge to be met. I also revel in the opportunity to prove my effectiveness as a patriotic citizen, to serve my state and my nation in any way and with whatever time the job provides me.

I hope this letter finds you well. Please let me know if I might have a chance to forward my resume, some personal references, and my mom's apple pie with an eye for a formal job interview with your office at your best convenience.

Thank you, and enjoy the coming Labor Day weekend.

Signed.

...think it will work?

Because the Insanity Won't Ever End Part VI

Guess this has to be discussed sooner rather than later, when the pre-packaged riots are hammering at the meeting doors in your own backyard.

Three different sources I suggest reading about this current - and for all intents ongoing-since-1946 - fight over health care reform. First, from Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, the big question "Why?":

...what do conservatives want out of the health care debate? "Wingnut, smash" isn't an especially compelling answer.

B.A. is right about the broad benefits for Americans. Some of Rush Limbaugh's listeners are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Some Michele Bachmann voters can't get coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Some Glenn Beck viewers will see their insurance companies drop them when they need their coverage most. Many of Bill O'Reilly's fans already enjoy the benefits of government-run health care. Some RNC donors may want to start their own business, but can't because they can't afford to pay the monthly premiums. Some of the same people who attended "Tea Parties" in April saw the insurance for themselves and their families disappear after they lost their job.

There's nothing partisan or ideological about this -- everyone is getting screwed by the status quo. We're all paying too much for too little. A huge chunk of the country is uninsured, underinsured, or uninsurable, and the system is blind to how you voted in the last election.

Now, this is not to say that the Democratic proposals are flawless; they're not. But what's striking about the opposition to reform -- at least the loudest opposition to reform -- is that the right has chosen to completely ignore the actual flaws in the plan(s) and focus on imaginary, delusional nonsense. (ADDED NOTE: for example this meme about Death Panels being set up to euthanize the elderly and genetically infirm.)

So why are far-right activists so apoplectic? Why would people who stand to benefit from health care reform literally take to the streets and threaten violence in opposition to legislation that will help them and their families? President Obama supports an approach to health care reform that emphasizes competition and choice, doesn't increase the deficit, and wouldn't raise middle class taxes ... and conservatives are comparing the plan to the Nazi Holocaust?

B.A.'s confusion is understandable. I don't get it, either...

Benen tries to examine the protesters, identifying five different groups: The Greedy (a small group who profits from the broken system, and the ones by the by paying for all the protesters to get bussed in); The Partisans (politicos more obsessed with political victories than doing the right thing, basically they want Obama To Fail even if it means the nation suffers); The Tin-Foil Hats (the crazies terrified of anything they think of as 'foreign,' 'Socialist,' what have you, basically the Birthers who care more about Obama's birthplace than the REAL F-CKING WORLD); The Dupes (the great uninformed who believe whatever the other groups say, no matter the lies being told to them, basically anyone watching FOX Not-News); and the Wonks (the five or six conservative reformers who actually have some ideas on health care reform but of whom no one is paying any attention, basically people you haven't heard of because no one invites them onto the Sunday talk shows - the Wonks don't yell enough).

Benen's examination of the groups shows that the opposition is mostly the Partisans riling up the Dupes and the Tin-Foilers while the Greedy foot the collective bill: that it's not really rioting in support of anything, it's simply rioting for the sake of intimidation and a belief it would weaken Obama and the Dems come the 2010 Midterms.

The second link is to David Frum's article, followed by a third link to Digby's Hullabaloo response to Frum:

What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?

For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself. (ADDED: The Partisan view)

The problem is that if we do that… we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.

We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.

Not a good outcome.

Even worse will be the way this fight is won: basically by convincing older Americans already covered by a government health program, Medicare, that Obama’s reform plans will reduce their coverage. In other words, we’ll have sent a powerful message to the entire political system to avoid at all hazards any tinkering with Medicare except to make it more generous for the already covered.

If we win, we’ll trumpet the success as a great triumph for liberty and individualism. Really though it will be a triumph for inertia. To the extent that anybody in the conservative world still aspires to any kind of future reform and improvement of America’s ossified government, that should be a very ashy victory indeed.

Digby:
Frum seems to be operating under the illusion that the Republicans will be blamed for this, which I think is unlikely. Obama will be held responsible for the failure, just as Clinton was. it will be seen as a failure of legislative tactics ---- that's how liberal politics is discussed... (snippage)

Frum is fretting over the actual repercussions of failing to reform the health care system, which is completely beside the point for his fellow Republicans. Health care has officially joined the "faith based" constellation of issues, which includes global warming and evolution. They are now simply denying there is a crisis at all. And if there is one, there is simply no solution other than prayer and dogmatic belief in American exceptionalism and free markets.

The next couple of weeks will tell us whether the Republican obstructionism will result in backlash and give the progressives some room to maneuver. It's always possible the wingnuts have succumbed to hubris again --- having Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as the spokesmen for their obstructionism might end up being a mistake similar to having Newtie push the government shut-down back in 1995. They often overreach and the hysterical, far right rhetoric people are seeing at these Town Halls may not resonate in the rest of the country quite the way the villagers think it will. We'll see.

But regardless of what actually happens, if health reform fails, I believe that when the history is written it will be seen as a Democratic failure. If you put an issue on the table and are given a mandate to enact it, you are blamed for its failure, particularly when the whole promise of your campaign was based upon the magical notion that you would change the very nature of the political system. Sadly, if that happens, the likely result will not be a newly invigorated, liberal president with lessons learned and a fresh approach. It will be a chastened and weakened president newly committed to the status quo, just as the Village ordered from the beginning. And that, in the end, may be what was being promised all along: symbolism over substance. It wouldn't be the first time...
Myself:

I keep looking at the world, seeing nearly every other Capitalist nation out there with a universal health care system and wonder why we can't see what the Brits and French and Germans and Japanese see. I keep watching the Far Right take offense at ANYTHING that doesn't have their royal seal of approval, and watching them express themselves in ways far more ignorant and violent than the Far Left has done in the last 20 years.

Part of me is thinking "The Democrats can't be THAT stupid, can they? They have to see that all this town-hall rioting is just the Republicans trying to bully them into doing something that 76 percent of the American population wants. They can't be going back to DC thinking 'gosh, Americans don't want health care reform, we'll just drop the Public Option and go back to the status quo and let the billion-dollar health industry rake in more dough at the expense of everyone else'? We're still going to get some halfway decent health care package that will reduce costs and improve basic care access and cover everyone, right?"

...Yeah, my pessimistic side is groaning right about now...

Meanwhile, expect the town hall meetings nationwide to be as much fun as the one we just had in Tampa... Seriously, they're getting death threats in Missouri and the rioters are Twittering about packing their firearms...

Friday, August 07, 2009

Everything I Needed To Know About Politics I Learned from Ferris

John Hughes just passed away. From "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

Ferris: Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.

Also, I learned that Ben Stein is an incurable ham. But that's neither here nor there.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Iran: A Friend of a Friend...

A woman I know from mah high school days just posted an entry on Facebook. She has Iranian friends, one in particular that was IN Iran but had disappeared three weeks ago. Another friend in the US is Twittering that their circle of friends in Iran haven't heard anything. This is not good news. The Best-case scenario is that he's gone into hiding, I mean serious hiding, like a small house in Yeehaw Junction/Middle of Nowhere hiding... but that means he's on the run from his own government. The most-likely scenario, God help us, is that the friend is in prison... but that means certain torture. Worst-case scenario... you don't wanna think that.

The best things I can suggest to my friend is to contact Amnesty International, see if they hear anything, if they're keeping track. Also start using her blog to get the word out. I'd also think sending requests to our State Department to make inquiries, but if he's not an American citizen there's little I think they can do...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Yeah, This Had to Happen

Check out my Official Fake Kenyan Birth Certificate

My parents will not be thrilled.

I Wanna Apologise to Larry Sabato

Early on in this blog, during the period I was actually able to write up amendment ideas instead of obsessing over political sideshows, I spent some time reviewing the ideas that professor Larry Sabato (University of Virginia) put down in a book he wrote, A More Perfect Constitution.

One blog post focused on the idea of expanding Congress, increasing representative counts in both the House AND Senate as a means of ensuring better representation (smaller constituencies, the idea goes, means the representative will be more aware of what his/her district wants).

At the time, I was incredulous. I didn't much approve of the idea of increasing the House to an even 1,000 members: I thought it would merely increase the number of bought members to be owned by the Beltway lobbyists.

I also felt that Sabato's idea of adding more seats to the Senate via population counts - top ten large states get 2 extra Senators, next fifteen mid-sized states get 1 extra - was disrupting the Great Compromise that the Founders used to settle the debate between small- and large-populus states over how the legislature would be seated.

On that point, I want to apologize to Dr. Sabato. You might be right about this.

For one thing, we shouldn't hold EVERYTHING the Founders did as stuff carved into marble for permanent display. After all, another compromise the Founders did was the 3-out-of-5 count of slaves for population rolls, not to mention allowing slavery to exist period. And our nation had to spill a lot of blood four score years later to revise that mistake. They also didn't give women the vote, didn't establish due process across all the states, and allowed for the consumption of vile alcohol which led to the 18th Amendment banning beer... which led to the 21st Amendment unbanning it less than 20 years later. But I digress.

So we can allow for changes to the Constitution. The question was, is, and will always be, do we need to make a radical change to the make-up of the Senate?

Originally, the Senate was meant to be the great equalizer between the states making up the nation. Here, each state gets 2 Senators to represent, regardless of population size. All states therefore equal. Wyoming having as much say as Texas, North Dakota as much as North Carolina, Alaska as much as Florida. The House gets proportioned by population: there California rules all, with Wyoming sitting in a back corner wondering why nobody likes them.

But now, we're at a point where representation in the Senate is massively unbalanced, not by seating but by accountability. To quote Matthew Yglesias:

...but it does strike me as worth noting that when you read a puff piece in The New York Times about the Gang of Six bipartisan dealmakers in the Senate that vast power is being wielded by people who, in a democratic system of government, would have almost no power. We’re talking, after all, about Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Collectively those six states contain about 2.74 percent of the population, less than New Jersey, or about one fifth the population of California. The six largest states, by contrast, contain about 40 percent of Americans.

We're currently in a major health-care crisis in the country, all related to rising costs. There's a bill (or twenty) stuck in the Senate, all facing blockage because a) the Republicans are playing the role of Obstructionists AND b) Max Baucus is obsessed with the idea of 'bipartisanship' even though his party now commands a 60-seat majority in the Senate and the other party is, again, playing the role of Obstructionists.

Some of it might also have to do with the fact that Baucus comes from a low-population rural state, which leans conservative more often than not and would be less likely to vote for things that even hint of 'socialism' (yeah, that word again). But Yglesias has a point: there are now Senators who are more powerful than other Senators, disproportionate to their state's actual place in our country's size.

Back in the beginning, when we had 13 states, this wasn't really that big a deal. Population disparity wasn't that pronounced, and the large population states (Virginia, New York, Massachussetts) were divided on certain regional issues to prevent any overt bullying of the smaller states. So you could live with an even number of Senators per state. But today: Today we have 50 states, and the population shift between the smallest and the largest are more pronounced. Those states that Yglesias lists (Wyoming, Montana, Maine, North Dakota, Iowa, New Mexico) barely total to New Jersey, which is at 8 million people only 11th on the list. Iowa tops out that list of Six at 3 million. Florida is over 18 million at the 4th spot. California is at 37 million. A majority of Californians may want health care reform... and a majority of Texans (sorry Ross Douthat but Texas ain't the Utopia you think it is) might want it, and I *know* living here in Florida there's a lot of people who want health care reform... but you've got six Senators from nowhere states thisclose to killing it. The proportions are now seriously WAAAAAY off.

So Sabato is right about the Senate needing a fix, that we need to include population size in adding more Senate seats so that the larger states get better representation.

Although I'm not entirely sure boosting the top ten with two additional seats is feasible. Given how the Senate rotates their 6-year terms over 2-year election cycles, you're gonna have overlap of 2 Senate seats up for grabs in one election year. A more modest proposal would perhaps give the top 15 states one additional Senate seat each. That caps out to 3 Senators per big state, and each election year with a Senate seat up for grabs with no overlap. It might also allow for the mid-size states to more often rotate who gets the extra seat every 1o-year census: while the top 8 states are so overly populated that they may never lose that extra seat (barring natural disaster or an insane state tax code killing off all social services), with this system the states between spots 9 to 17 will be more... interested in maintaining their population figures. If 15 states is too small a portion, we can go to 20 states getting an extra seat and get all the important states (except poor Minnesota, which might declare war on Wisconsin to get that coveted 20th spot).
Giving 15-20 states one extra Senator would also be more fair than giving the top 10 two extra Senators: that could give California, Texas, New York, Florida and the other six mayhaps TOO much representative power. Even if the next 15 states in Sabato's proposal get one extra.

So again, to Professor Larry Sabato, my apologies. We do need to make the Senate more responsive and accountable to the overall population of the United States: we need to reduce the choke-hold small-population states may have over large-population states. We need a government more responsive to the People, not the States.

But still... Yeah I know, I shouldn't be adding a "But..." to an apology. But I just want to point out that while this proposal will fix representation in the Senate, it won't fix the undue influence lobbyists have on government as a whole. (dammit, I had an article online that showed the health care industry's contributions to both parties over the years, and now I can't find it... grrr) THAT is gonna take a whole different amendment... and maybe a class revolt or three...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

When You Care Enough To Forge The Very Worst

Today is Barack Obama's birthday.

That is, if he was really born. At all.

The Intertubes are abuzz with the latest attempt by Orly Taitz to file a lawsuit proving Obama wasn't born in Hawaii like the birth certificate and the Hawaiian newspapers claim, but from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse after all I mean his father's home nation of Kenya. The argument had been Obama's short form certificate was a fake, never mind that reputable people (even the World Daily Net people also saw it) have seen it and judged it legit: the counter-argument was that the Birthers needed to find real evidence for their claim, such as a Kenyan birth certificate, before anyone could even take them half-seriously.

Taitz submitted a birth certificate for some lawsuit in Florida claiming just that.

The debunking of that certificate began about ooooh 5 seconds after it got onto the Tubes. Primarily that the document has anachronistic errors - labeled 'Republic of Kenya' when at the time of the birth's documentation the country was officially a 'Dominion', that Mobassa was in Zanzibar and not Kenya at the time, that the names of the registrar mimic the names of registrars from an Australian birth certificate easily viewable online - that showed said document couldn't be what it claimed to be.

I'm gonna quote from About.com's David Emery for a minute:

The debacle shines a light on two fatal flaws of the birther movement: one, their blatantly inconsistent and prejudicial standards of evidence — i.e., they're perfectly willing to accept (and circulate) unsourced photographs of an unvetted document as "proof" of foreign birth, while dismissing out of hand a state-issued, state-validated U.S. birth certificate; and two, what the foregoing reveals about their true motives — i.e, despite their protestations, they have no interest whatsoever in truth, accuracy, or "protecting" the U.S. Constitution, but are bent, rather, on delegitimizing Obama's presidency at any cost and by any means possible.
Amen.

From this, I have a few points and questions:
1) Anyone think of calling up a university in Kenya and see if there's a directory archived from the 1961-64 era that would list the Registrars working for the government back then? Just checking the University of Florida's library catalog found me two Kenyan government directories from 1966 and 1969 (both in Storage), and that's a Florida college. You'd think their nation's own schools would have more comprehensive holdings. See if the Registrars (especially this E.F. Lavender, whose name is apparently also a detergent) have an entry, and cross-check the names.
1a) Better yet, get in touch with the Registrar's offices and see if there's anyone still employed who would know who the Registrars were back when this document was supposedly filed.

2) What was Orly Taitz doing involved in a Florida-based lawsuit? I thought her license to practice law was limited to just the state of California. Where was this 'Kenyan birth certificate' filed?

3) Why are even talking about this conspiratorial nonsense? Oh, yeah I forgot. THE DAMN MEDIA ALLOWS IT.

I admit to having interests in conspiratorial stuff: huge X-Files fan here, got a copy of the Big Book of Conspiracies on my shelf somewhere. I've even got my own thoughts on who killed JFK (and why a cover-up was necessary). But even I know the difference between slightly titillating nonsense that tweaks my reading habits and this crap about Obama's birth status that extremists are using to stir up talk of coup d'etats and actual military misconduct. Too many crazy people are taking this sh-t seriously. And that's not good for the rest of us. It'd be nice if I could stop talking about it, but it's either this or the pre-planned Republican Riots at Congressional town halls this month for discussion.

Sigh. The crazy is not gonna end anytime soon.