22 December 2009

I do still say, pass the bill

Here's Ezra Klein on why the bill, flaws and all, should pass. Lest my other posts here, which are highly critical of the bill and the White House, create an impression otherwise, I still basically agree with Klein, although I very much take exception to his calling Jane Hamsher, whom I regard as a progressive heroine, "deceptive," even implicitly.

I agree with Jed Lewison, who makes the same general case, writing on Daily Kos.

Obama disingenuous on health care bill

Obama:  "every single criteria [sic] for reform I put forward is in this bill."

See, this is the problem. That's just not true. There are no meaningful cost controls. There is no real option in the bill for purchase of truly competitive health insurance. There is an individual mandate, but no real cost relief for ordinary middle class people. There's a tax on health plans that for some will amount to welching on the pledge of no new middle class taxes. Further, to quote Jon Walker writing on firedoglake:
"the public option was clearly part of his campaign plan. His campaign plan also promised a national exchange, drug re-importation, an employer mandate, direct Medicare drug price negotiations, to let you keep your current plan if you like it, and to bring down health care costs by $2,500 per year for a family. The Senate bill will do none of these things.¶ Obama did promise to not do two very important things with health care reform. He promised to not include an individual mandate and not tax employer-provided health insurance benefits. This Senate bill breaks both of those promises."

Obama can call a turkey an eagle all he wants, but the people see through that, and if he thinks he will gain the trust of the American people by lying to them, or however you want to characterize it, he's just wrong. The people who voted him into office aren't so easily fooled.

If he were to honestly say, "we tried, and this is not quite what we hoped for, but it's the best we could do," I would say, at least he's truthful about the at-best partial success. But instead he insists that this crappy legislation is what he wanted all along. Which is scary, because it begs the question, what if it is?

Bye-bye, Blue Dog Griffith, and Good Riddance to You

I welcome the news that notorious Southern Blue Dog Parker Griffith has switched to the Party of No. I think we Democrats are better off without these people. If the President would make clear that he stands for the interests of ordinary people, and lobby and pressure members of Congress in the Democratic caucuses to do likewise, I believe the disaffected Independents would in large measure drift to the Democratic column, and the loss of right-wing and even some Corporatist Democrats would be offset. Combined with an all out effort culminating in ditching the 60-vote for Cloture rule in the Senate, the Democrats would then be in a position to build a majority that is actually based on some coherent principles, and then turn those principles into actual progressive policy -- and Legislation.

Today's Missive to the White House: Time to Change Course

The fact that Rahm Emmanuel did not even bother to lobby Lieberman on the Medicare Buy-In or Public option is a tell. The White House, i.e., the President, just doesn't get it. He was elected by an electorate that was sick and tired of not having their interests represented in Washington, when the interests of Health Insurers, Wall Street, Banks, Military Contractors, the War Machine... on and on... all have powerful constituencies. But instead of fulfilling his promise to be a Champion of the interests of ordinary Americans, which is the traditional role of great Democratic Presidents, this president has proven to be a "New Democrat," i.e., a dealmaker-in-chief, ever-ready to make deals to subvert and compromise away those interests. He isn't even TRYING to prevail on the policy changes that actually benefit ordinary people.

This is a recipe for disaster. Already disaffected Democrats are telling pollsters they will likely stay home next year, and much of the uptick in opposition to so-called health care reform (what a pathetic disappointment that turns out to be) is, again, from disaffected Democrats, who see no real cost controls, no real options other than mandated private insurance. This is an albatross around the neck of the party that may mean defeat in many districts.

It's not too late for the President to change course. Call up Matt Taibbi, who explained the situation very clearly on Bill Moyers the other day. Listen to him, because the present strategy is exacerbating the disaffection not only of Progressive Democrats, but millions of Independents who believe, quite rightly, that no one in Washington has represented their interests in a very long time.

Thank you.
David Studhalter

18 December 2009

I agree with Krugman: Pass the Bill

Although I am as frustrated as anyone by the legislative shenanigans that have all-but ruined health care reform and the entire Democratic legislative agenda, I completely disagree with Moveon.org's attempt to kill the legislation, and I agree with Paul Krugman's op-ed today: Pass the bill. Please follow link and read this piece, if you haven't already.

17 December 2009

To the White House: It's just not working

The health care bill is a debacle. It is a testament to the failure of the Senate leadership, and the White House's failure to marshal the support of its own party. This is simple historical fact.

The White House must now do a postmortem and figure out what to do about it, if it hopes to make any progress in the future on a Democratic legislative agenda.

HERE are a few ideas:

Have the courage of convictions. Pres. Obama should have loudly lambasted Joe Lieberman early in the debate, and made clear that he expected Democrats to be Democrats. By not doing this, he was effectively giving them permission.

The President needs to realize that his future support will NOT come from the Republicans or the right. It is the disaffected Independents, who are not ideological, but who have not believed for YEARS that anyone in Washington represents their interests, who are the margin of future victories. The president must reach out to these people with a message not of hopes and dreams but concrete programs that he asks for  their support for. He needs to ASK the people to MAKE the special interest addicted members of his own party in Congress vote for an agenda of principle.

People like Nelson, and especially Lieberman, need to be called out. We Democrats aren't stupid. When a Democrat isn't voting like a Democrat but is allowed to hijack the whole program, it's frustrating. It makes people stay home and not vote, while the party out of power is marshaling its base.

The president needs to lay out some specifics of what he wants to do and make clear that he needs the support of the people to see to it that the Congress does its job. Otherwise, it won't, and the Democrats will fail. It really is that stark.

Some major rethinking needs to be done, because whatever you in the White House are telling yourselves: IT'S JUST NOT WORKING.

Thank you.

David Studhalter

E-mail to Reid: Fire Joe Lieberman tout de suite

I wrote this to Sen. Reid's website today: 

Dear Sen. Reid,

I wrote to you in the past urging that you hold the threat of effective expulsion from the Democratic caucus... particularly including loss of all chairmanships... over that outrageous and obnoxious hypocrite Joe Lieberman's head if he failed and refused to support... or at least allow a vote on... the most important Democratic initiative in this era. This, after all, is a TEST OF YOUR LEADERSHIP.

Well, Sen. Reid, it happened. The man did what he said. He is not a Democrat. He is a right wing Republican, an unprincipled toady of the rich and the moneyed interests, and a complete traitor to the Democratic party. He is useless to Democrats, and not really a member of the caucus anyway, for all intents and purposes.

It is time for whatever procedural steps necessary to remove him from all his chairmanships and disgrace him publicly to be taken. There MUST be consequences for his total betrayal of the vast majority of Democrats, or party discipline will mean nothing at all.

This is more than just Senate internal politics. The whole country... everyone who voted for Change by electing Obama.... we are watching, and we are frustrated by the Senate's abject failure to overcome the resistance of a handful of phony Democrats, ESPECIALLY Lieberman. This man must feel the pain of the consequences of his action.

I have contributed to DSCC and DCCC in the past, but now, it's ActBlue and MoveOn for me, and I will actively support the challenge of all Democrats who fail to vote like Democrats in the future. The party must stand for something, and its members must stand for that, or they should not be supported. There must be courage of convictions, and that means courage to face defeat. Only by taking the risk of losing a seat here and there by calling out Democrats who aren't really Democrats will the millions and millions of disaffected voters, who just don't believe anyone in Washington represents their interests, be attracted to vote for Democrats in the future. The sad truth is, in this disaffection, those voters are NOT WRONG.

I honestly believe that if the President and you had lambasted Hypocrite Joe publicly early in the game, the outcome would have been better. And if Democrats were willing to say, this is the BOTTOM LINE, if you don't stand for this, you're not a Democrat and we won't support you, the party would ATTRACT wavering Independents, and, possibly after a rocky transition, would end up with a stronger majority, a majority that actually supported the agenda that the people voted for.

I can't say this outcome is a success. I'm not even sure it's better than nothing. For sure, if Joe Lieberman keeps his power and privileges after this, it's all up for the Democratic legislative agenda, and the sad, inevitable consequence will be that large numbers of disaffected progressive Democrats and Independents will stay away in droves from the polls next year, and the Republicans will win back many seats. This can be avoided, but the way forward is strength of conviction and discipline in the party, not endless compromise and backing down.

You and the other Democratic leaders had better wake up and pay attention, because the way this has been handled has JUST NOT WORKED.

Start by firing Joe Lieberman. He may be your "friend," but we the people who elected a Democratic majority consider him an enemy. Then move on to making clear that if you want to call yourself a Democrat, (or in Joe's case have the privileges without even doing that), you have to be a Democrat, or the party won't support YOU.

Thank you.

David Studhalter

E-mail to Hypocrite Joe Lieberman

Not that it'll do any good, but it made me feel better. I sent this to Sen. Lieberman's contact e-mail site:

I wrote to Sen. Lieberman several times politely requesting that he pay attention to the majority of his constituents both in CT and in the rest of the nation and support the Democratic health care initiative.

We now know that Sen. Lieberman is in truth a right wing Republican. He has virtually single handedly destroyed the most important Democratic initiative of this era. I have contributed to Move-on.org's effort to ensure that he is defeated in the next primary, and I am urging Sen. Reid and the White House to see to it that he is removed from all privileges of the Democratic caucus as soon as possible.

Anyone who refuses to support core Democratic initiatives, who supported the Republican candidate for president and Republican policies, and who is much of  total, unprincipled hypocrite as Sen. Lieberman cannot be considered a Democrat, is useless to the Democrats anyway, and should be for all intents and purposes expelled from the caucus, including, of course, his chairmanships.

Joe Lieberman is a shame and a disgrace to the American people. He would be doing us all a favor if he retired in disgrace as soon as possible.

David Studhalter

14 December 2009

It's not working, Barack

Some Democrats, who cling to a belief in a political system of horse trading and attempted "bipartisanship, will disagree with me on the failures of the Obama administration and the Congress to actually deliver on "Change We Can Believe In." But I gotta tell them that those of who think so highly of this president are going to have a difficult time convincing a very large number of Democrats who feel betrayed by the virtual collapse of health care, and who look down a long list of things they thought President Obama stood for and see just not enough in the way of accomplishment. Financial re-regulation, compromised to a shadow of itself. Infrastructure investment, weak. New Renewable Energy projects, not much. War, escalated. Constitutional rights infringed by the Rightist government of Bush, nothing much: they even defend Torture Memo Guy Yoo. "Enemy Combatants" still being held. 4th Amendment still being ignored. Climate Change, little hope. Traditional Democrats may think me naive, but I believe I am representative of many millions of people who just aren't willing to accept a Center-Right Democratic party any longer, and who find this list of not-enough-Change we can believe in really frustrating. 

Sure, you can say the administration brought us from the brink of financial collapse, and I do recognize that the previous president booby trapped both the economy and two wars, but this just isn't good enough. People, ordinary people, who voted for Obama out of hope that things would be really different, are very, very tired of all this compromise. What's needed from President Obama is some righteous anger, and some "kicking butt." For example, why has he not publicly lambasted Lieberman, who is nothing but a right-wing Republican at this point? Why is Lieberman still allowed to keep his chairmanship after virtually singlehandedly derailing both the Public Option and the Medicare Buy-in, both of which had the support of a majority of Senators?

It just isn't cutting it, and they are going to have to do better if they expect to keep, let alone build on, House and Senate majorities. Because, illogical though it may be, when people are frustrated (and ordinary people, not just progressive Democrats are frustrated, believe me), they tend to vote for the party not in power. Or else, they'll just stay home. Polls show 80+% of Republicans intend to vote in 2010, but only about a quarter of Democrats say this. Of course it does more harm than good. But this is so often-repeated in history that it's become a truism of politics.

What I'm doing is supporting Harkin's call for an end to the filibuster, and not contributing to DNC or the House or Senate campaign committees... not until they promote only Democrats who are real Democrats. I support ActBlue, which will support primary challengers to Democrats who vote Republican. It's time for Democrats to have the courage of their convictions, which means being willing to take the risk of losing, so as to move the party to a place where it actually stands for something. I truly believe that if the party leaders did that, expelled Lieberman, criticized and pressured Lincoln, Landrieu, Pryor, Nelson, and others, to come around to a generally progressive viewpoint, then the party would start attracting  a lot of disaffected Independents, who basically don't believe that any politicians represent their interests. And, the sad truth is, the way things are now, they're not wrong. 

Roosevelt used to tell his critics on the left to "go out and make me do it." Obama seems to be saying, shut up, don't rock the boat, let's just compromise this compromise of a compromise and maybe the Republicans will give us a crumb or two. It's not working, and it's time for some Big Change. 

Disgusted with Democrats, Disgusted with Obama

I am just speechless with disgust. Lieberman has hijacked the entire country and destroyed health care reform, and the jackasses in the White House, including the President, and the Senate "Leadership," who can't lead a kindergarten parade, have just let it happen.

If they don't kick Lieberman out of the Democratic caucus, they might as well forget it. They will lose big in 2010, and people like me will be even more than ever thinking, "What exactly do these people stand for?" Big fat nothing, mostly.

Obama has failed to reverse the Bush Constitutional infringements. He is failing to secure meaningful climate change legislation. He failed to endorse and push through real financial regulation, while renominating the guy (Bernanke) who presided over the greatest financial debacle since the Great Depression without a peep and appointing others equally up to their necks in the failed system as his main economic advisers (Summers, Geithner). He has failed to deal with the embarassing politicization of the top military brass or find a way to start bringing the reckless and foolish war in Afghanistan to an end.

I'm finding very, very little to celebrate in having a Democratic president and supposedly Democratic Congress right now.

07 December 2009

Wrong side of history

I saw on TPM where Sens. Thune, Hatch, and Coburn pretended to be offended by Reid comparing Republican obstructionism on health care to those who blocked an end to slavery, Jim Crow, etc. I wrote the following to each of them:

As Rep. Grayson put it, Mr. xxxx, we the American people do not care about your FEELINGS. You are, indeed, obstructing progress in just the same way as rightists of old attempted to block the end of slavery, the end of Jim Crow, and any number of other progressive changes. You are very much on the wrong side of history, and if the criticism stings, it is because it is TRUE.

04 December 2009

Anti-Imperialism and a paradigm shift vis-a-vis Israel

A friend commented as part of an ongoing discussion that if the U.S. were more virtuous in its policies, maybe the Muslims wouldn't hate us, although the Chinese invasion of Tibet looks like a counterexample of the principle. I made a comment about collective karma, but what really got me going in response is the concept, widely believed (although probably not by my friend, he was just using shorthand), that "Muslims" want to kill us. Here's part of what I wrote in response: 

I wouldn't say that "Muslims," without qualification, do want to kill us. It's probably fair to say that the most extreme Wahabists basically want to kill all non-Muslims who refuse to convert, but most Muslims in the world aren't nearly as fanatic as that. (I do have some problems with even some of their mainstream tenets, but let that go). 

I also believe that if the U.S. stopped prosecuting an Imperial policy in the World, and especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and stopped asymmetrically supporting the extreme Right Wing government of Israel, the anger and resentment of "street" Arabs and other Muslims (of whom, after all, there are about 1 billion in the World) would evaporate fairly quickly. At the same time, we would be demanding that Israel participate in good faith in negotiations to bring about a two state solution in Palestine. We should never underestimate the intensity (never mind whether justified) of the anger and resentment most Muslims feel towards what they perceive to be the oppression of Palestinians, with what is perceived to be biased support from Western nations, especially the U.S. This, along with the fanatic resentment of U.S. troops having ever been stationed in Saudi Arabia, is the main fuel of radical Islamist hatred of the U.S. I'm referring to perception, not just reality, although there is a reality there too. None of this is argument to justify horrendous crimes of terrorism, but you have to look at causes, in order to find solutions.

Israel is a nonsignatory to the Nonproliferation treaty and a nuclear power. It refuses to stop colonizing the West Bank. It recently waged an asymmetrical punitive war in Gaza, and another a few years ago in Lebanon. (Of course there was some justification, but the response was radically asymmetrical; and punitive wars against civilians have been recognized to be war crimes for decades). All of these are reasons, in my view, to pull the plug on U.S. financial and military support for that government. They will not cease to exist without it, don't worry.

Sure, there would remain a small group of lunatics among the Islamist terrorist factions, but what they wouldn't have is the tacit support of millions of others, including some governments. The wild card being the House of Saud, which I believe it is provable is totally duplicitous and actually finances terrorism. But we can only take care of our side of the street.

Unfortunately, AIPAC, and even the more moderate pro-Israel lobbies, have tremendous influence in Washington, all out of proportion to a country that is about the size of Switzerland. Changing U.S. policy with regard to Israel would (will) be almost as difficult as shifting away from an imperialist foreign policy everywhere else. 

I really believe, however, that it is absolutely necessary for us to make both of these major paradigm shifts in foreign policy. The conflict over Palestine has consumed far too much of the world's resources, especially when you consider all the repercussions in the broader region. We are facing major climate and economic crises in the whole world which it now appears will be the primary focus of the first half of this century. It is long past time to put these 20th century disputes to rest; and if the parties will not cooperate, they must be left to fend for themselves.  

02 December 2009

Snowe and Collins in play?

It's being reported that Olympia Snowe and (possibly) Susan Collins are "back in play" for the Health Bill, with the assumption that the public option is going to be converted into some sort of bullshit "trigger" option. Bleah.

It will, however, be ironic if Snowe, and maybe even Collins, end up voting for a bill that Lieberman, Nelson, Landrieu and/or Lincoln vote against.

Maybe as actually elected Democrats, Nelson, Landrieu and Lincoln should be left alone if they vote no. But I still say that Lieberman, who made an all but public promise not to block the Democratic legislative agenda in exchange for being allowed to keep his chairmanships (especially of Homeland Security), an agreement he has already reneged on, should be stripped of his chairmanships if he fails to vote for cloture, and even if he does vote for cloture but fails to vote for the final conference bill.

The hell with him. He is in no meaningful sense a Democrat, so why pretend he is?