August 2, 2009 archive
In light of recent enthusiasm for a “robust public option” on Big Orange I thought it apropos to suggest other “robust public option” solutions to the routine denial of necessities offered Americans by their beloved capitalist system.
(Crossposted at Big Orange)
SEATTLE — A man has died after being shot in the head in the city’s Leschi neighborhood on Wednesday night.
Police said the victim was sitting in a car with two others when he got into an argument with another man. That man went into a home in the 800 block of 32nd Avenue South, came back out with a gun and opened fire around 8:30 p.m.
The suspected gunman fled the scene, detectives said, and is believed to have run inside a house in the 700 block of 31st Avenue South. Officers surrounded the home and tried to communicate with the man for several hours, but received no response.
The following Associated Press article was entered into the national discourse earlier today, Sunday, August 2, 2009 — http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200…
This writer would submit that the views advanced in that article might be worthy of further examination and discussion. My initial intent was to include each two-part segment, entitled “CLAIM” and “THE FACTS”, followed by my commentary, but soon discovered that discussion of the first item was extensive enough to comprise an entire essay in and of itself.
Should there be sufficient interest in this exercise, it is this writer’s intent for this to be the first of a series, following by subsequent discussions of other “CLAIM” and “THE FACTS” pairings described in the above-referenced article.
CLAIM: The House bill “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia,” House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said July 23.
Former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey said in a July 17 article: “One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years … about alternatives for end-of-life care.”
THE FACTS: The bill would require Medicare to pay for advance directive consultations with health care professionals. But it would not require anyone to use the benefit.
Advance directives lay out a patient’s wishes for life-extending measures under various scenarios involving terminal illness, severe brain damage and situations. Patients and their families would consult with health professionals, not government agents, if they used the proposed benefit.
Former CIGNA Exec Wendell Potter, says Michael Moore was right!
WENDELL POTTER: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie.
But the [Insurance] Industry, from the moment that the Industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.
BILL MOYERS: What were they afraid of?
WENDELL POTTER: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.
Right now there’s a big headline at Huffington Post: Senators Who Opposed Bill Received Top Dollar From Tobacco Industry.
If I were to cite similar stories of the corruption of money and its quid pro quo in our nations capital, I would drown this blog. Another big headline has appeared recently: Blue Dog Dems Rake in Health Care Contributions, Protest Exclusion from Debate.
The corruption of our political system is obvious to anyone with a pulse. Yet campaign finance reform isn’t even on the radar in most progressive circles. Why? Well it may have something to do with the delusion that many in the progressive left have been selling for years now.
I went to a book signing with Kos when his first book, Crashing the Gate came out. His big message that afternoon to the 40 or so people in attendance was that we have to be the Democratic party that we want. His big pitch was for everyone in the new netroots revolution to get superactive in their local Democratic parties, become precinct captains, run for local office etc. Others pushing this strategy were Jerome Armstrong, Chris Bowers and a whole slew of bloggers who had gained notoriety online.
The underlying assumption in this strategy is that us Netroots Democrats were somehow, inherently better than the thousands of already existing volunteers, precinct captains and local politicians. And that if we all flooded the party at the grassroots level, donning our orange hats, it would become a party that is a reflection of our Netrootsy betterness. As though our current grassroots Democrats were the problem.
As one who has actually been involved in local Democratic politics for many years, I saw the fallacy of this logic. While it is always better to have more boots on the ground, it is delusional to assume that netroots activists are somehow immune to the same systemic corruptions that plague our party. Again, it’s always good to get involved, but the idea that by us being the Democratic party that we want we can bring about a better party is a fantasy.
The next big delusion being sold by the our netroots leaders was that we can create the party we want by electing better Democrats. This strategy is often referred to as “more and better Dems.” Getting more Dems was the mantra of the Bush years where Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. This was an easy sell – anything to remove power from the most transparently criminal GOP in history.
But after the 2006 midterm elections, and Democrats seized back Congress, the netroots was struck by a hard and cold reality: The Democrats we had worked so hard to put in office were, on such critical issues as economic justice, constitutional rights, investigating the White House and our illegal war in Iraq, not much better than the Republicans we had just defeated. So after one failure after another, and as the policies of the Bush administration continued unimpeded, a new mantra began to emerge: better Dems.
This idea was that the big bloggers would become bundlers of sorts, through their online networks, to raise money for politicians who had the progressive stamp of approval. So in 2006, Actblue for example, an organization founded by Kos and other netroots players, picked 19 candidates to rally around. Most of them lost. But of the ones who won, there’s a pretty good probability that the progressive netroots helped take these races over the finish line. But how has it worked out since? Are these candidates the voices for progressive change that we had hoped? Far from it. On a whole host of issues, from the war in Iraq, to the bankers bailout, to FISA, to the Mortgage cramdown to aid homeowners, these senators have been disappointing at best, and downright traitorous to the cause at worst.
Kos was questioned a while back about these disappointments. His response was more of the same:
Systemic change is a long-term process with lots of setbacks. I have a whole chapter on how you have to take baby steps. Etcetera, etcetera.
He went on to note the conservative movement’s vision and patience. “For them, it was a 30-year process to take control of the government. And had they not been so corrupt and incompetent in running the government, you know, we’d still be playing catch-up. ”
That sounds good – spend the next 30 years building a new progressive party. Except for one problem. It too is a fantasy. The progressive movement is fundamentally different from the conservatives. We want to take money away from big business and the super wealthy. Conservatives want to do the opposite. Take health care for example. The public option would be a trillion dollar loss to the health care business. And while I see no evidence that most progressive see it this way, I can assure you the health care crowd and their proxies in Congress do.
Understanding that almost all of politics is really about money is a subject for another essay. But here let me just point out that the conservative takeover, which actually began 40 years ago, was a deliberate, well coordinated campaign started by corporate leaders who were mortified by liberal gains in the 60s. Google the Powell Memo if you want to know more. But suffice it to say that the path of conservative ascension and any possible progressive rise to power are not the least bit similar. These corporate forces, from the Business Roundtable to the Chamber of Commerce, to countless PR fronts and think tanks, have endless resources, control most of the media, and display a ruthlessness that no good intentioned progressive could match.
Thinking that we could somehow replicate the conservative’s rise to power, without the pocketbooks of the wealthiest corporations on Earth at our disposal, is ridiculous. The only thing we have on our side that can match that kind of spending power is the truth.
But despite the obvious failure, visible every day, to move an inch closer to anything resembling a progressive policies on these most critical issues (economy, national security, wars, constitutional rights), the same crowd is still selling the same prescription. I hate to keep picking on Kos. But he’s front and center on a lot of bad ideas. And on the worst idea of all of them all, he is downright nasty. That is campaign finance reform.
The single worst idea the netroots captains have been selling is that we can overcome the corrupting influence of money by replacing it with small contributions. But Kos and a couple other big netroots bloggers have gone further. They’ve actually attacked campaign finance reformers in broad strokes. It is true, some campaign finance reform proposals are absurd. And Markos and others are right to go after these proposals – such as trying to limit who can make political videos in the age of Youtube.
But they do a disservice by conflating those with really bad ideas about the media’s role in our political process and who should have access to it, and those who just want to make it a crime to bribe a politician. Here is Kos spewing the most nonsensical, misinformed, idiocy I’ve ever read on the issue – excluding Mitch McConnell:
From a Daily Kos entry titled, Scrapping Campaign Finance Reform
Finally, there’s the boneheaded belief that money is inherently evil, and thus getting rid of it is the highest purpose. The problem, of course, isn’t money, it’s the source of the money and the ability of money to corrupt government. That fear is obviously real.
The original solution, embodied by campaign finance efforts, was to eliminate money from politics. It seemed like a noble goal, but over 30 years after first enacted, CFR has been an abject failure. Big money continues to find ways to enter and corrupt the system. The Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech (and it is, no matter how much that may rankle many of you), and as such, drastic restrictions in its political application are limited. I used to be a huge CFR supporter, but it requires ideological rigidity (the likes we see on the Right) to continue pretending that CFR is a valid solution to the problem. Reality has shown, quite clearly, that it simply does not work.
But there is another solution — people-powered campaigns. That $20 or $100 contribution that we send candidates buy us no special access. It doesn’t guarantee that our pork is inserted in the latest appropriations bill. It may make politicians more responsive to us as a community, but responsiveness is not the same as buying our way into the system. Being heard is not the same as using the government to financially reward our private business dealings. (There is no “Bloggers Tax Relief Act of 2008” on the books.)
So one would think that Obama’s millions of small dollar supporters are a good thing — they lessen his dependence on corrupting big-money contributers and has allowed him to swear off PAC contributions and cut lobbyists out of the picture. This financial independence has given him governing independence — no industry or interest group will be able to hold his agenda hostage.
But, and here we go full circle, this financial independence has a cost — millions of regular people are now participating in the process. Organic farmers from Montana and grizzled combat vets and authors from Virginia are winning elections against establishment favorites on the strength of people-powered campaigns. John McCain, best friend to the elite “reformer” community, is under assault from who?
Kos begins with the first absurdity: We’ve tried CFR, and it hasn’t worked. This is only true if your definition of campaign finance reform is to keep allowing our politicians to be bribed, but change the rules every now and then to create the illusion that the problem is being solved. The last round of CFR was the McCain-Feingold Act. Does anyone really believe that that legislation did anything to reduce the corrupting influence of money? I they do, I have a bridge in Alaska to sell them.
He moves directly on to absurdity #2: giving politicians money is “speech” as ruled by the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo. This ruling has as much credibility as Bush vs. Gore. What kind of speech allows only the wealthy to speak? Free speech as protected by the First Amendment? No. Very expensive speech.
This is as far as I’ve gotten on what was supposed to be part 1. I may or may not finish it.
Never has the divide between the Ruling Class and the “Underclasses” been so transparent, so stark, and so great.
The debacle in Iraq and the torturer arising from it has limned the Military Industrial Class. The Financial ruination the Economic Class has wrought has outlined them in a bright spotlight. The hypocrisy at the heart of the Religious and Cultural (including the media) Class, whose rhetoric is used to divide the “Underclasses” is being exposed. And of course the corruption of OUR government, government as owned by the Ruling Class is now glaringly obvious.
It is obvious in the battle for health care, and obvious in the financial crisis. It is obvious, and they are vulnerable, for one main reason, this time they are not just going after the “Lower” Classes, they have made the critical mistake of “going after” (affecting adversely to a grievous extent) the Middle Class as well.
Last Thursday, John McCarron in an op-ed at the Chicago Tribune used the excuse of “skepticism” to trot out slopping thinking and laziness about digging up facts, in Slow down those fast-train dreams
Among many “God, I want to file a bug report” passages in a fairly short piece is:
The purpose of high-speed rail, near as I can tell, is not to ease the daily commute of millions of Chicagoans — we’ll still clank along on what is, in many places, a century-old system — but to rocket a much smaller group of occasional travelers to places like St. Louis, Detroit and Minneapolis at speeds approaching 220 m.p.h. Two hours to St. Louis! All we’ll need is a reason to go there.
So, (1) McCarron frames local transport and regional transport as either/or tasks … we either do one or we do the other. Unlike any other time in our nation’s history, we are unable to address both.
And (2) McCarron likes his opinions unadulturated by fact. The 220mph Express HSR project is in California. The actual projects that the states of Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio are requesting funding for are in the “Emerging HSR” tier of HSR … trains running at 110mph.
There used to be some other serious and important issues the whole country was focused on before Barack Obama and the Democrats shoveled $12.8 T-r-i-l-l-i-o-n D-o-l-l-a-r-s of your money (nearly last years U.S. GDP) into the hands of their criminal friends on Wall Street who destroyed the U.S. and global economy before they decided to move forward to torturing and distracting you with promises of a watered down useless legislative proposal called The Public Option that will shovel who knows how much of your money into the hands of the insurance companies who are screwing you out of proper health care while forcing you to pay through your teeth for the highest per capita health care spending, the highest infant mortality, and the shortest life expectancy of all advanced countries in the world.
But there’s always a new flap to take your mind off the older flaps.
If there seems to be something odd about this latest flap, if there’s much that we don’t know yet, we do, at least, know one thing: This particular small splash from the previous administration’s deep dive into crime and folly will have its brief time in the media sun and then be swallowed up by oblivion, just as each of the previous flaps has been.
After all, can you honestly tell me that you think often about the CIA torture flap, the CIA-destruction-of-interrogation-video-tapes flap, the what-did-Congress/Nancy Pelosi-really-know-about-torture-methods flap, the Bush-administration-officials-(like-Condi-Rice)-signed-off-on-torture-methods-in-2002-even-before-the-Justice-Department-justified-them flap, the National-Security-Agency-(it-was-far-more-widespread-than-anyone-imagined)-electronic-surveillance flap, the should-the-NSA’s-telecom-spies-be-investigated-and-prosecuted-for-engaging-in-illegal-warrantless-wiretapping flap, the should-CIA-torturers-be-investigated-and-prosecuted-for-using-enhanced-interrogation-techniques flap, the Abu-Ghraib-photos-(round-two)-suppression flap, or various versions of the can-they-close-Guantanamo, will-they-keep-detainees-in-prison-forever flaps, among others that have already disappeared into my own personal oblivion file? Every flap its day, evidently. Each flap another problem (again we’re told) for a president with an ambitious program who is eager to “look forward, not backward.”
Of course, he’s not alone. Given the last eight years of disaster piled on catastrophe, who in our American world would want to look backward? The urge to turn the page in this country is palpable, but — just for a moment — let’s not.
As a start, remind me: What didn’t we do? Let’s review for a moment.