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Okay, I know, I probably should have been blogging during the run-up to the election. My only excuse is that I’ve been working on a couple of manuscripts while holding a day job. But if you people elect Romney/Romney today (or allow them to be elected by not voting) I’m going to have to get back to this. And that will get in the way of my other creative efforts. So go vote, everyone! And not for Romney, ‘kay?
Inevitable, but worth watching if you haven’t seen it already:
Whoever is running against Rep. Boehner for his House seat this fall should just play this video as their campaign commercial. That’s probably all it would take to get his weirdly-orange face out of national government.
Today, President Obama signed the much-fought-over health care reform bill into law.
Almost immediately, a group of thirteen Republican state attorneys-general filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to overturn the law.* I suppose we should be grateful that their rationale for overturning the statute has nothing to do with alleging that Barack Obama is secretly a Kenyan Muslim and thus not eligible to be president.
While the new law represents an improvement over the current system, and it will make health insurance available to many who are currently regarded as uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions, I do not believe that it will truly halt runaway health care costs.
The main problem, of course, was that the Obama administration and Congress would not look outside the current mostly for-profit health insurance paradigm for more effective ways to provide health care to the people of this country.
Someone please explain to me how insurance companies add any value to health care services? When did adding a middleman to any transaction ever drive costs down? Their role, if they want to be profitable, is to deny and/or place limitations on the health care services ordered by patients’ physicians.
And in exchange for this, they claim a hefty share of every health care dollar.
Yes, if we are doomed to retain the insurance company paradigm, the health reform bill represents a marked improvement over the existing system. But will it truly provide insurance coverage at a reasonable rate to everyone who needs it?
Somehow, I doubt it. Especially since the public option did not survive the legislative process. But the individual mandate did survive the process, so now those of us with no employer-sponsored insurance are at the mercy of all those mostly-for-profit insurance companies.
If we were serious about fixing our broken health care system, Congress would have given serious consideration to moving to a single-payer system. Take the profit-driven insurance companies out of the equation, and you will find that costs drop significantly, while consumer satisfaction will increase (so long as the system is adequately funded to meet public needs, that is). Plus, health care dollars will actually go primarily to providing health care, rather than to driving up insurance company shareholder profits.
Of course, talk of a single-payer system prompts the teabaggers – excuse me, Tea Partiers – and the sort of people who actually believe what they hear on Faux News to panic and scream about socialism and death panels. (Do they really think insurance companies don’t deny care – even though denial will mean a patient’s death – on cost/benefit grounds?)
Call it socialism if you must. I assure you, my feelings will not be hurt if you call me a socialist, as I don’t view it as an insult or a badge of shame the way certain people (cough*teabaggers*cough) do. Heck, while you’re at it, call me a liberal and a feminist as well. No skin off my nose.
But some services should be socialized. We already have a number of services that fall into this category at either the state or federal level: Medicare, Social Security, police and fire protection, public education, road and highway maintenance, and food safety inspections, to name just a few. We have the government provide these services because it is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure that everyone benefits from these services.
Why shouldn’t health care be in the same category?
* A copy of what purports to be the district court filing can be found here, though I question whether it is the lawsuit as filed – the document contains numerous errors that should have been caught at the proofreading stage.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce just released a report that breaks out the impact of the health care reform bill on a district-by-district basis so you can tell what it’s going to mean (and cost) in your area.
If you’ve been watching Glenn Beck much lately – something I generally try to avoid, but I inevitably see clips on Countdown, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and/or just about every blog on the liberal side of the blogosphere – you know that the man has been bandying about terms like “Nazi” and “fascist” and “Hitler” pretty freely in connection with progressives generally and President Obama in particular.
Not that President Obama is particularly progressive, but that’s another rant for another time.
Anyway, Beck has been engaged in a lot of ranting and raving and name calling, including some odd combos like “communist fascists,” which apparently is what happens when someone moves so far to the left end of the political spectrum that they end up back around at the extreme end of the right side of the spectrum.
Apparently no one’s ever explained Godwin’s Law to Mr. Beck.
Now, just yesterday, I ran across the following photo from the Washington Post (h/t @chrislhayes, link takes you to the original photo in context):
I ask you, who does this photo remind you of?
Here’s a hint. Change the flag behind him with another historical flag. One from, say, Germany. Late 1930s – mid 1940s era.
Seriously, dude. Glass houses. Pot. Kettle.
Mind, I’m not calling Glenn Beck a Nazi. Because, hey, I am familiar with Godwin’s Law.*
I’m just saying that, well, if there was a photo of me looking like this floating around on teh internets, I’d really want to avoid mentioning the H-word. Or the F-word. Um, fascist, that is, not the other F-word (which I manifestly have no problem with using when the occasion seems to call for it).
Just a thought.
* I will concede that there comes a point where the comparison to fascism as a system of government may be appropriate, despite the emotional valence of the term. I drafted a couple of posts for this blog during the Bush administration where I speculated about where we as a nation were along the slippery slope leading to fascism, though I don’t remember if I actually posted any of them. I was not alone in speculating about this – see for instance Joe Conason’s It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush.
Okay, first let me say that I generally like Obama, though there are plenty of points where he and I disagree on things. Still, I did vote for the man, and I think he is lightyears better than the asshole who was squatting in the White House until January 20th of this year.
Nevertheless, I had one of those “spray coffee all over the computer monitor” moments a couple minutes ago when I saw the headline that Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
I seriously had to double check my facebook feed to see if it was a headline from the Onion. Then I had to visit three other news sites, because I was afraid I had gone to sleep in October and woken up on April Fools’ Day.
Okay, I get that the man is popular. And yeah, he’s a damn sight better than the Shrub was.
But seriously, the man has been in office for ten months. Actually, eleven days shy of that. He hasn’t even managed to close Gitmo yet, and they’re awarding him the Peace Prize? Is the Nobel Committee smoking something illegal? And if so, where can I get some, because it must be some seriously good shit to make them completely take leave of their senses like this.
I can come up with only one theory that makes any sense at all, and it is this: the Nobel Committee is not so much rewarding Obama’s efforts as collectively mooning George W. Bush.
And while Bush no doubt deserves a good collective mooning, preferably with him viewing it from a jail cell where he will spend the rest of his life for his crimes against our nation, the Constitution, and humanity, I’m not convinced that it warrants giving what is to my mind the most prestigious award in the world to his successor after a mere ten months in office.
Because seriously, what are they going to do for an encore if and when the man truly accomplishes something deserving of such recognition?
Winning the Nobel Peace Prize deserves recognition, whatever the circumstances, however, and so I will say this:
Congratulations, President Obama. I just hope you eventually accomplish enough to be worthy of it.
Follow up: I wanted to say that I very much liked President Obama’s remarks on the subject of the Nobel Peace Prize earlier today. From the Huffington Post:
Obama told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that he wasn’t sure he had done enough to earn the award, or deserved to be in the company of the “transformative figures” who had won it before him.
But, he said, “I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”
“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee,” Obama said.
“Let me be clear, I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
I like his perspective on this. And it’s less cynical than my characterization of the award as a “collective mooning” of the Shrub.
I do think it’s really a “Welcome back, America, we’ve missed you” message from the rest of the world.
But then again, is that such a bad thing?
I say jaw-dropping, but really, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a few more moderate Republicans follow in his footsteps.
With McCain’s resounding loss in November, the Republican Party has been lacking a clear voice and leader, leaving it increasingly vulnerable to the rantings of the more extreme elements within it.
People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. And let us not forget the extremely scary Newt Gingrich.
And the visibility of those more extreme voices further marginalize the party, causing more and more moderate Republicans to abandon their party for independent or democratic status.
Meanwhile, no matter how much the Faux News people want to holler about socialism, Obama has if anything brought the Democrats closer to the middle than they were before (something that pisses off liberals like yours truly, but whatever).
Given the apparent public distaste for the extreme positions currently adopted by many high-profile Republicans at the moment, one is forced to wonder about the logic of the proponents of such positions.
I have my own theory about this. Regular readers of this blog will not be at all surprised to learn that it relates to terror management theory. But I will save that speculation for a subsequent post … check back in a day or so for that.
Meanwhile, in other news, I think the Department of Justice should open a war crimes investigation into the activities of the Bush administration. Just sayin’…
At least for the next four years, the federal government will be tempering its drug policy in a humane manner.
Yesterday, our new Attorney General, Eric Holder – already several orders of magnitude better in that role than Alberto Gonzales – announced that “the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law.”
This is very good news for people suffering from various conditions where administration of marijuana can be beneficial. Marijuana can be particularly beneficial for those undergoing chemotherapy, because it helps counter the nausea-inducing effects of the chemo drugs so the patient can keep food down. If the patient can maintain a healthy diet, his or her chances of surviving the cancer and the chemotherapy are much better.
The previous federal policy of arresting those who are merely trying to help the gravely ill by providing them with a proven treatment for the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy – or arresting the gravely ill themselves for using marijuana – was nonsensical and frankly cruel. It resulted in unnecessary suffering by those who were already fighting for their lives.
It’s nice to see a more enlightened enforcement policy being announced.
Okay, first of all, whose brilliant idea was it to have the State of the Union speech on Fat Tuesday?
I didn’t watch the speech live. Not that I was out Mardi Gras-ing, or anything. I just kind of spaced until after it was over. I’ve gotten so in the habit of watching podcasts for news coverage (Countdown and the Rachel Maddow Show, natch) that I don’t turn the TV on anymore…and most of the time, I don’t miss anything except a few commercials with this approach.
So I kind of blew it last night, and missed Obama’s SOTU.
Fortunately, everything is available on the internets these days, so I can watch the speech and Jindal’s response in the comfort of my favorite coffee shop. Following are my thoughts on his speech, in more or less chronological order, along with a few quotes so that the comments aren’t arriving in a vacuum:
- Okay, did he just say hello to every single person in the chamber before taking his place at the podium? Also, did the Shrub get a standing ovation just for being presented the last couple of SOTUs he gave? I think I would have remembered that…
- Jeez, could Hillary’s suit possibly be a more vivid color?
- Also, somebody needs to explain to Nancy Pelosi that she is also on camera during these speeches and needs to not mess with her hair.
- A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.” Yeah, Dubya, he’s talking to you.
- Let the record show that when President Obama said, “And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law,” the Republican half (oops, sorry, significantly less than half) of the chamber sat on its hands, while the Democratic side gave itself a standing ovation.
- “And that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.” Okay, that’s a sound bite that’s going to end up in the history books…
- “Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade.” Not that that’s difficult to have done, since Dubya and his minions did exactly nothing on the health care reform front, beyond adding a Medicare drug benefit that was written by Big Pharma. Oh, and vetoed SCHIP every chance it got…which is why the Obama administration can claim to have done so much.
- Forty three minutes after his introduction before he actually says the word “Iraq”, and then only to talk about the no-bid contracts there… okay, granted I am radically opposed to those contracts and the Halliburtons and Blackwaters running around that country acting in our name on cost-plus contracts (anyone who’s seen my reviews of the movie War, Inc., and my comments on Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine knows my position on this). Just seems like he should be talking about Iraq and Afghanistan more than this…
- “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.” Hallelujah! I had a HUGE argument a few years back with a friend who does business consulting who took a gig on behalf of an Indian company trying to get American jobs. His rationalization was that he was helping American corporations operate more efficiently, and couldn’t see or didn’t care that he was sending American jobs overseas. Or maybe he just wanted to remain in denial… (Are you reading this, my friend? You know who you are…)
- Okay, this is amusing. At the part of his speech where Obama reveals that families making less than a quarter million a year won’t see their taxes go up a dime, all the Democrats in the chamber stood up right away, but initially the people on the Republican side of the chamber remained seated. Then it apparently occurred to some of them that staying seated on this point might not look real good to all the less well-off citizens who vote against their financial interests in supporting the Republican party, and some of them started standing up, too. Out of touch much, Repubs? Remember, if it were just the rich people voting for you, you’d maybe have four or five congressmen and a senator or two…maybe.
- Ooh, another mention of Iraq and Afghanistan, this time in connection with the budget. They’re including the “full cost” of fighting these conflicts in the budget, instead of doing supplemental things that make it harder to track how much the government is spending…very nice. “For seven years, we’ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.” Yeah, Bush, he’s talking to you…again…
- Ah, 46 minutes into a 58 minute speech, finally we get to actually ending the war in Iraq: “Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” Yay!
- “And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Quaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.” Um, sorry, does this mean we’re going to be fighting Pakistan, too? Aren’t they ostensibly one of our allies? Or is he just talking about launching raids into the remote areas of Pakistan where the government really doesn’t have any power?
- At least he is doing more than just mouthing platitudes about “supporting the troops” and talking about DOING things to help them out: increasing pay, increasing recruiting, and expanding health care benefits for vets. That’s something…
- And 49 minutes in he mentions closing Gitmo, “…because living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.” Yeah, that’s aimed at you again, Duhbya…
- “New era of engagement”…”cannot shun the negotiating table” … “lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”…Groovy
- And of course, something inspiring to close on: “I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far. There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. I know that. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.’” Very nice.
This wasn’t nearly as much fun as blogging Bush’s SOTUs, which were so damn mockable…still, it’s a nice change having a president who is capable of speaking without completely mangling the English language. Which is actually damning with faint praise – Obama is one hell of a public speaker.
Jindal’s response next…
I was going to post one last anti-Bush diatribe, as many other writers and commentators have done. I’ve been working on it off and on for several days. But today I find that I just can’t.
I’m too giddy.
We made history today, folks, in a day many thought would never come.
It’s a great day to be an American.
We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, undoing the damage of the past eight years – the past twenty-eight years, more accurately, perhaps even longer. And tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves and get to work.
But for now? I say we party.
The end of any year is often a time of reflection. Looking back to see what went right, what went wrong. This year, we could perhaps benefit from such retrospection more than other years.
I was going to refer to 2008 as “a kidney stone of a year,” but I was almost certain I had heard that phrase elsewhere, likely in something by Hunter S. Thompson. A quick Google search of the phrase didn’t reveal the original source, but it did show three other people describing 2008 in those words, so at least I’m not alone in thinking of it that way.
On a national level, we saw a further…what’s the word I want? crumbling? eroding? collapsing? disintegrating?…let’s go with… deterioration of: our civil rights, our privacy, our status overseas, the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding all the neocons rushing to claim the surge has been a “success”), the situation in Afghanistan, the economy, the health care system, our schools, our infrastructure (Rachel Maddow’s favorite word), the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the environment, and…well…it’s a really long list, actually.
So maybe we should think of 2008 as the year when the whole house of cards we’ve all been living in fell to the floor.
There was the presidential election, which filled up our ears for way too many months with noise and lies and distortions and endless debates and oh the spinning and spinning and spinning and stop the world, please, I’m getting dizzy.
Before that, though, we had the primaries, and the caucuses, and the conventions, and the polls, and the protests and…well, you were there. You heard it.
There were a lot of lows, but there were a few highs, as well. Particularly toward the end of the year.
For a nice change, we had a presidential candidate that appealed to our hopes, rather than hammering at our fears. We dodged the bullet of a McCain/Palin administration, four more years that would most likely have looked like the last eight, except less organized, and instead managed to elect the smart guy over the guy people would like to have a beer with. Thought I suspect Obama would be way more fun to have a beer with than McCain, anyway.
And there was the nice bit about finally electing someone who isn’t a white male to the highest office in the land. That part was pretty cool.
But the economy is bad, and likely to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement investments. We’re probably going to see a lot more people moving in with other family members to save money, and we’re already seeing more people living on the street.
It’s a scary situation.
And yet, with the new year comes hope.
In twenty days, we will be rid of alleged president George Walker Bush.
We will have strong Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress.
Let’s hope they use their new power for good. Let’s hope they actually use their power, instead of allowing themselves to be conned by Republicans into thinking they don’t dare use the power we gave them to change things.
Hope is good.
I have some ideas for a new project for myself in the new year…something that will involve this blog – or perhaps a separate blog created specifically for the project…more on that soon. But I think some more changes are coming in the life of yours truly, that I hope will be interesting for you all, and ultimately, perhaps profitable for me. We shall see…
In the mean time, happy new year, everyone!
And stay safe.
p.s. And lest there be any doubt about it…I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.