Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Will Obama sprain his elbow patting himself on the back?

President Obama, who gave himself a B+ for his first year in office, a grade which, had it been given out to students at a university with similar accomplishments would have sparked a cheating scandal, patted himself on the back once again by saying his decision on sending troops to Afghanistan proves he knows how to make the hard, but politically unpopular decisions.
What it really proves is that Obama, as always, tries to twist the facts and distort them to suit his own political standing.

Every poll has shown that his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan has been politically popular with over 65% supporting it even though people are not, on the whole, happy that we are there fighting. And why should they be?

What he doesn't say is that he did everything he could to make as politically popular a decision as possible, announcing a troop increase and a troop withdrawal at the same time setting a new world record for duplicity in less than 60 seconds.

That is pure Obama, only this time it went over like a lead drone, with people from both parties criticizing his announced withdrawal date which made him look foolish.

His attempt at trying to explain it fell flat too, saying he wanted to give the Afghans a date so they knew the commitment was not open ended. But Obama could have given Karzai that date privately. His announcing it was for purely domestic political purposes and once again, he hoped people would be dumb enough to accept it, and some were, especially in the press.

But Obama doesn't talk about are the tough decisions he didn't make. He " didn't want to meddle" when the Iranian people revolted against a rigged election and took to the streets. It was the best opportunity the US has had in more than 30 years to affect a regime change by supporting and encouraging the protestors, letting them know the US and the rest of the world supported them and at the same time he could have roundly condemned the Iranian government for their deadly crackdown on the demonstrators.

It was a golden opportunity for Obama and the US to at least make an attempt to destabilize that regime which was teetering. Instead, Obama was the only leader in the West who backed away, saying he " didn't want to meddle".

An opportunity that was lost because of Obama's unwillingness to stand up for what was right, and make a hard decision.

It should be said that now, with more riots on the streets of Iran, he is saying the kinds of things he should have said six months ago, and might have had a bigger impact with hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets instead of the thousands there are now. Maybe better late than never.

But that might not be true with healthcare reform where, like trying to appease Ahmandinejad six months ago and nothing to show for it, Obama backed off and sold out the public option in order to appease Joe Lieberman at the expense of the wishes of 58 others.

The truth about Obama and making tough political decisions is this: during his entire tenure in the Illinois state senate, Obama voted "present" over 100 times. That means he decided to neither vote for or against a bill, obviously to avoid making any kind of unpopular vote and not having a record someone could run against.

The fact is no one thinks more of Obama than Obama, and like his self graded B+, it is mostly unjustified in terms of real accomplishment. And with failures or tepid successes in areas where real progress and change could have been affected by someone with the courage and moral conviction to achieve them, Obama has fallen well short. And those failures and his self praise seems now to be wearing thin, even among his most ardent supporters.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Are Hillary Clinton supporters murmuring I told you so?

With a new NBC/Wall Street journal poll showing Obama hitting his lowest approval rating in that poll, and the same poll showing that people are getting increasingly fed up with Obama, the Democrats and how both have handled health care,(how they handled it, not rejecting things that are in it, like the public option) those who supported Hillary Clinton for president in the Democratic primaries are starting to say "I told you so".

Obama's had the biggest approval ratings drop of any first year president in history. He has disappointed most of his supporters on the left. And he has accomplished little to nothing in his first year that has showed any concrete results in spite of him giving himself a B+ for his performance in his first year.

What he has done is make more speeches and had more prime time press conferences in his first year than any president has given in their entire first term.

On healthcare reform, most of his supportes are complaining that he sold out and was two faced in his capitulation. Which he was. But these are traits he exhibited not only during his entire 12 years of elected office, but were on glaring display during the Democratic primaries.

Now everyone is angry with him for showing a lack of principle, commitment, experience and expertise and his willingness to sacrifice any principle on a dime, but that's who Obama has always been and he showed it repeatedly during the primaries, whether he was willing to sell out the voters of Florida and Michigan to help himself get elected, or reversing himself on a pledge to use public financing.

Now as Obama's approval ratings continue to hit record lows for a first term president, and he is bringing the Democratic party down with him, as people are getting fed up with his handling of a propositon -- the public option and health care reform -- that 72% supported back in June, many Hillary Clinton supporters are starting to say "we told you so".

More and more of Obama's staunchest supporters, the same people who turned a blind eye to Obama's deep character flaws, lack of experience, and brazen political dishonesty and deceit, are now complaining that he's not what they thought he was, that this isnt change they can believe in. But it never was in the first place. It was clear to anyone who was paying attention, that "change you can believe in" was nothing but a slogan. Because he never did say what kind of change he had in mind.And if you asked a supporter they couldnt tell you either.

Ed Schultz, Arianna Huffington, the people at The Nation, Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, and Michael Moore are just a few of Obama flag wavers now wavering in their support and scratching their heads saying "what happened"?

The answer is nothing happened. Obama is being the same Obama he always was, the same Obama that was apparent during the Democratic primaries, the same Obama that 18 months ago after listening to a couple of speeches, caused me to write that he was a snake oil salesman and the most underhanded, deceitful politician since Richard Nixon. But the press. who was in Obama's pocket, refused to see it.Or report it.

For those who saw through the phoniness, Obama has been exactly what the majority of Democratic primary voters thought he was. Remember that Hillary Clinton actually received more votes than Obama, and went into the Democratic convention having won the popular vote.

During the primaries Clinton supporters mocked Obama supporters and their beliefs as people who were "drinking the Kool-Aid". Obama supporters accused Clinton supporters, and anyone who opposed Obama's candidacy of being racist. This was the state of the Democratic party courtesy of the candidate who ran on the proposition that he had a unqiue ability to unite people and bring them together. He ran on the fiction that he had some great ability to unite Democrats and Republicans and put an end to partisanship. Which is why every Republican is voting against the health care bill and he hasnt been able to unite any disparate group on anything.

In a recent article in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi writes, "Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn't be surprised. Maybe it's our fault, for thinking he was different."

Yes it was your fault for not seeing what was right in front of everyone's eyes. The fact that he pulled a bait and switch shouldnt leave anyone surprised. That was the snake oil Obama was selling during the primaries and a lot of people bought it and are now seemingly first finding out it was all just sugar and water.

The reason people are feeling so stung by Obama is that he held himself up to be a different kind of politician, someone above the petty politics and back room deals of Washington. All the while engaging in petty politics and backroom deals. What also makes it particularly insidious is when a snake oil salesman goes into a community that is hurting and tells everyone he has the cure and its right in this here bottle when all along he knows its nothing but a bottle of empty promises. That's called a con. And now a lot of people who should have known better are realizing it.

It was clear during the primaries when Obama constantly reneged on promises and pledges and resorted to serial lying both when it came to Jeremiah Wright, and the incident in Ohio when a document was leaked that caught Obama red handed lying to the people of Ohio about his position on NAFTA. He told the people in Ohio who were hurting economically precisely because of things in NAFTA that if they elected him he'd get rid of NAFTA. At the same time he was caught telling the Candians to ignore what he said in Ohio, that he had no intention of getting rid of NAFTA, that it was all just for politics. if that had happened to any other candiate for president it might have been the end. But the press had an agenda for Obama and they just ignored it.

But If a politician is willing to prey on the misfortunes of people to get votes, raising their hopes, and making promises he knows he has no intention of fullfilling, nothing he does should surprise anyone.

But at the time it was exposed, the same people who are now complaining about Obama betraying them and selling them out, turned a blind eye to what happened in Ohio. If Clinton had been caught doing the same thing the press would have demanded she drop out of the race and would have said she couldnt be trusted.

The fact that Obama was clearly the least qualified candidate for the Democratic nomination, didnt seem to matter to his supporters either. And while he claimed he was the person who knew how to bring people together the Democratic presidential primaries were the most divisive in the history of the party. In his campaign speeches he said "voices must be heard" but he did everything in is power to keep the voices of the voters in Florida and Michigan from being heard because he was landslided in both primaries by Clinton. Instead of fighting for the right to have their votes count on principle, he was quite content to have them silenced in favor of his own ambitions. So why are people surprised now that he sold them out on healthcare reform?

The other big issue that seemed to matter to Obama's supporters was that he was black. So they took everything Martin Luther King stood for and threw it out the window, which was that a person should be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Many of his supporters, including John Kerry who made no bones about it, decided the color of his skin mattered more.

But while this may come as a shock to them, Obama is not the first black president. He is the first mixed race president, half black and half white. He is no more the country's first black president than Derek Jeter was the Yankees first black shortstop. In all of Jeter's hall of fame career no one ever referred to him that way. But his genetic make up is the same as Obama's. The difference is the random shuffling of genetic material resulted in Jeter having more Caucasian features and a caramel complexion while Obama's features and complexion were more black. So maybe now that they feel betrayed by that too, Either that or maybe ,those who supported him because they wanted a black president will admit Martin Luther King was right the first time.

During the primaries,Obama's selling out promises were rampant. He promised to use public financing if he was the nominee then reneged as soon as became the nominee. He promised to filibuster and vote against the FISA bill if it gave telecoms retroactive immunity then reneged, didnt filibuster and voted for it. And lied, until he couldn't lie any longer about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright and on sending on his economic advisors to the Canadian embassy to tell them to ignore everything he was saying publicly about NAFTA.

This is the person that liberals and Democrats who supported him are now surprised has sold them out when it was apparent that Obama was probably the most underhanded politician since Richard Nixon. The difference between the two is that Nixon used deceit to get even. Obama used it to get ahead. It all goes to character and how that influences decisions. As well as having a vision and sticking up for a principle, something Obama has thrown overboard on healthcare.

So perhaps Hillary Clinton supporters can be excused if they are now saying " We told you so". Because they did.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Obama gave himself a B+ as a grade for his first year in office. No one was surprised that he'd give himself a B+. After all no one thinks more of Obama than Obama himself. But it did leave a lot of people laughing and other's shaking their heads.

What makes it more amusing is that It comes on the heels of Obama admitting in his Nobel speech, that he "probably didnt deserve the peace prize". And there are few who would disagree.
So it mght be understandable that when you receive a Nobel Peace Prize for accomplishing absolutely nothing in the area of peace, not providing even a glimmer of hope or direction, not even an idea, that he somehow he thinks he deserves a B+. for his lack of accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.

After his first 100 days, in CNN's First 100 Days poll, Obama was somewhere around a C- nationally. What was interesting about that poll is that he was a C- consistantly from coast to coast in almost every state. It wasn;t regional, and it didnt break down by party. Everyone thought he deserved a C-. And it has gone downhill from there. So where Obama thinks he deserves a B+ and for what is simply Obama being Obama.

Of course asking Obama to grade himself is like the Queen in Cinderella asking the mirror who is the fairest of them all. In this case Obama is not only doing the asking, he is also the mirror giving the answer.

An objective grading of Obama for his first year is very different. On healthcare Obama gets an F. He's been a disaster in every facet of the health care debate, being completely ineffective in every area you can think of. He spent as much time running and ducking from the criticism of Republicans and town hall crazies as he did supporting health care reform.

He has constantly dumped the public option when the political heat got too hot, then reaffirmed his support for it when congressional Democrats grabbed him by the scruff of the collar and said the public option is a must. Then after, affirming it one day, and dumping it the next, and watching the cycle repeat itself endlessly, Obama, after saying he would never back off the public option, finally said he supported it but could live without it. Now behind the scenes he is urging Harry Reid to capitulate to Joe Lieberman and cut a deal. Why? So that Obama can claim they have a deal by Christmas.

On the entire health care issue, he gave no direction to congress, contributed no ideas, drew no lines in the sand, stood up for nothing, had no convictions, and was equivocal in everything he said and did. And a supposed salesman , he took the public option, something supported by 72% of the people in June, and 58% now, and ran it into the ground, refusing to stand up for it.

He's been useless in trying to get four senate Democrats who opposed the public option to compromise. Instead he is now trying to get the 56 senators who support it to compromise with the 4 who dont.

When Harry Reid created the "opt out" version of the public option, which initially passed the senate, moving it to the floor for debate, Obama tried to take credit for it by trying to claim it was all part of a grand White House "hands off" strategy. Kind of like a rope -a- dope. Only it was more dope than rope. Only the New York Times was gullible enough to swallow that one.

On the economy and jobs, David Obey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the Administration's inflated numbers on jobs creation, "outrageous" , and forced the White House to revise its numbers on jobs created or saved on Obama admitted they made a mistake. And unemployment is over 10%.

People are angry over the way Wall Street seemed to get bailed out with no benefit to average people and then paid themselves huge bonuses as a pat on the back for using tax payer money to get out of the red. Even the Congressional Black Caucus sent Obama a scathing letter calling him on the carpet for his enemic record on jobs and the economy.

On the Israeli-Palestinian front, he has been a non-entity, uniting both the Israelis and Palestinians only in their anger towards him, rejecting almost everything he's said. He angered Israelis with his empty demand that they freeze settlements then angered the Palestinians by backing off when Netanyahu ignored him. And in his Cairo speech he empowered Hamas, a terrorist organization calling for the destruction of Israel, making Abbas' job in uniting the Palestinians that much harder. In fact an argument could be made that Obama has actually caused a set back to the entire peace process.

While Bush remains and always will remain, the most inept, incompetent ,irresponsible, reckless and disaterous president in US history, and nothing Obama will ever do will come close to the damage Bush and the Republicans did to the country for 8 years, for Obama to give his dismal job performance a B+ is not a good sign. It shows that his standards are very low and so is his idea of success. And the way things are now, the county cant take too much more of what Obama thinks is success.

If Obama, when he was a so called professor at Harvard ( I say so called because no one can find a class that he actually taught) gave out grades to students like he gave to himself, he would have been dismissed. He might meet a similar fate in 2012 if he doesnt show vast improvement.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Like with Obama, media slow to turn on Tiger Woods

The media plays favorites. If they like you, you get a different kind of treatment no matter what you do, and the same is true if they don't.

During the Democratic primaries, SNL did a skit satirizing the extent to which the mainstream press was in Obama's pocket, and for the most part the press was pitiful in their coverage of Obama.

Journalist Jonathan Alter actually wrote a piece calling for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race after she landslided Obama in Ohio and Pennsylvania and beat him in Texas. At the time Clinton had landslided Obama in 13 of 15 of the biggest states in the country. The only big state she lost was Obama's home state of Illinois. But Alter said she should get out.

For the first week of the Tiger Woods revelations, the press almost seemed to close ranks behind Woods in the same way.

Yes, the tabloid press has made each new Tiger lady front page news as the number climbed to 9 including two porn stars (it's now 13). But while there's been a lot of reporting, there hasn't been a lot of criticism and it almost seems the media has been more interested in trying to cover for Woods than criticize him.

Donny Deutsche, a man who has his own ad agency and appears regularly on CNBC, was on Larry King a few nights ago actually trying to make the case ( with a straight face) that these revelations would not result in Woods' sponsors leaving him because the scandal made Woods more human and thus enhance his value as a spokesman.

I doubt sincerely that Gillette, a division of Proctor and Gamble is prepared to see their entire Lady Gillette division go down the drain because they think Tiger cheating on his wife with porn stars makes him more human.

An analyst on ESPN, even after the worst had been exposed was still talking about Woods' sponsors staying with him because of what a great golfer he is. The fact that many people and most women look at Woods as, well, a pig, out cheating on his wife with 11 other women while she stayed home with the kids didn't seem to enter his mind.

But that kind of media sympathy could change with the recent 911 call where its apparent that stress over the situation sent Tiger's mother in law to the hospital, although so far that hasnt seemed to dampen media sympathy. An ESPN analyst said on Wednesday he thought all of this would make Woods a better golfer. That's what he said.

As for his sponsors, the only reason there's been no formal announcements regarding Woods being dumped is they just don't want to be drawn into the controversy. Or be seen as piling on. As for playing golf, the source of Woods endorsement deals, given the media circus that would accompany any appearance on a golf course and the ptoential reactions in the galleries, it will be a cold day in August before you see Woods on a golf course again.

The comparisons in media treatment between Woods and Obama are similar, even if the two have avoided criticisms for very different reasons. The media has given Obama a free pass from the Democratic primary through his first year in office, even as he has blundered, proved ineffective in many areas, and has left many of his supporters, and based on the polls, a majority of the country, grumbling. Even so, the press has been largely hands off Obama terms of harsh criticism. The same is true for Woods.

But as approval ratings for both continue to plummet that may change. Because the media always goes where the money is and wants to be seen as being on the side that's most popular. That means Obama's honeymoon could soon be over. It already is for Woods and his wife.. And the press might be next.

UPDATE AS OF 7 p.m. EST: As per my prediction above with regards to Woods not playing golf any time soon, Tiger Woods just issued a statement announcing he is taking an indefinite leave from playing golf. My guess it will be at least one year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Bishop Thomas Tobin, the bishop who barred Patrick Kennedy from receiving communion said in an interview with CNN that he did so because he just cant understand how a catholic, any catholic, even a legislator, can take the stand on abortion as a legal choice for women that Kennedy has taken.

By saying he "can't understand" how Kennedy could vote contrary to catholic doctrine, it' a tacit admission on the part of bishop Tobin that he either doesn't have any understanding of the establishment clause of the first amendment or he does has no respect for it , and doesnt care, except when the Catholic church is using it to avoid paying taxes.

It is either arrogance or ignorance on the part of Tobin since he shows he has no understanding nor respect for the fact that its Kennedy's obligation is to serve, not Catholics or the church, ( that is Tobin's obligation, not Kennedy's) but the vast majority of his constituents regardless of their individual religious beliefs. And Tobin's admission that he can't understand how Kennedy can justify his position on abortion as a legislator just re-enforces the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson and the founders who wrote the establishment clause to specifically deny the church from having any official influence on the affairs of state.

But Tobin doesn't want to understand this. Or he does and doesnt care. He seems to think its Kennedy's obligation to vote according to church doctrine and he practically said so in so many words.

If this is the official position of the church then they should make it clear to catholic members of congress that they are either to vote according to catholic church doctrine or resign from congress, since, based on Tobin's point of view, no member of congress can or should vote for legislation which the church does not approve.

If the church hierarchy has the courage of their convictions they should issue such a proclimation and then they wont have to wonder how a catholic member of congress could vote for a bill that the church opposes.

The church is certainly free to make such a pronunciation and catholic members of congress are certainly free to make their own decisions as to whether they want to remain in congress and vote according to their constituents wishes or leave if those wishes are in conflict with church doctrine.

But the church cant have it both ways. If they want to lobby for or against legislation ( and they do -- they have a lobbying effort in Washington D.C. staffed with 350 people) then let them renounce the establishment clause and with it their tax exempt status on which their tax exemption is solely based.

On the other hand if church hierarchy like Bishop Tobin wish to keep their tax exempt status it, then let them understand that the same establishment clause they use to keep from paying taxes comes from the same constitution Patrick Kennedy took oath to defend. Then let them decide where they stand.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Woods crash, a crash course in media stupidity

Usually when I write about the media its about the stupid and inept way they cover politics, Obama, and issues affecting the country both foreign and domestic. But the stupidity that the media exhibits shows itself once again with the Tiger Woods story.
The only reason its a story at all is because it's a potential sex scandal, the media's favorite topic. If you remember, like Howard Beale in the movie "Network" Bill Clinton became the first president impeached for higher ratings.

It was beyond obvious that Woods was cheating on his wife which led to a domestic dispute which led to his car accident backing out his driveway and a window bashed in with a golf club that was not used to free an unconscious Woods from the car. And now Woods has come out and admitted the obvious.

Of course what makes the media look so stupid is that they kept asking the question, why wont Tiger talk to the police?

The answer was Tiger wouldnt talk to the police because he knew that anything he told them would be a matter of public record. He and his lawyer also knew that lying to the police or on a police report is a felony. So there was no way he was going to turn an embarrassing situation into a felony and there is no way he wanted anyone to know the truth. But now with a second woman, a 24 year old cocktail waitress who said she had an affair with him and has the text messages to prove it, Woods decided he had no choice and has come clean.

Why the news media couldnt figure this out earlier is important only as it pertains to subjects much more important to the country than Tiger Woods making a hole in one with a nightclub hostess. Its why you cant trust the media when it comes to their reporting on anything, from health care to Afghanistan. And why they should do everyone a favor and stay out of the speculation business because they are lousy at it.

If they couldnt figure out the truth about Tiger Woods 2:25 a.m car accident, they certainly aren't going to have any insight on anything important. So, to paraphrase a line from the poem, "Tiger, tiger burning bright, what stupidity will the news media bring tonight?" The answer is, anything they put on the air..

The story of Woods' affair was broken by the National Enquirer. They may not deal in "news you can use" but unlike the New York Times, CNN,and Fox News, the Enquirer, believe it or not, has proved to be the most reliable of all major national news organizations. Their accuracy rate is the best of any national news organization. They almost never get it wrong. And they virtually never print anything unless they know its true ( remember Jennifer Flowers?) And its been proved once again.

Chances are, Rachel Uchitel, meaning no harm to Woods, shot her mouth off to someone about her affair with Woods, and her confidant either told someone else who sold the story to the Enquirer or did it themselves. But the Enquirer would not have run with the story, not when it involves someone whose image is as squeaky clean as Tiger Woods, unless they had enough to back it up.

It didnt take Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to figure out what the Woods crash was really all about.. But as a professor of journalism once pointed out, a scandal isnt a scandal unless the news media wants to make it one. And in Tiger Woods case that is probably a decision being made right now by news directors behind closed doors.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For far too long many religious groups, most recently and most visibly the Catholic Church, have tried to have it both ways. They avail themselves of the constitutional separation of church and state to avoid paying taxes on their secular investments, and then violate the separation of church and state by maintaining a strong lobbying group in Washington to influence legislation.

Recently it became known that the Catholic Conference of Bishops was instrumental in authoring the anti-abortion amendment attachd to the House health care bill, a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. And its a perfect example of a religious institution trying to have it both ways.

Financially, the church for years has operated like a huge multinational corporation with extensive real estate holdings, stock holdings and other secular investments generating huge income streams for which they pay no taxes. Exempting religious organizations from taxes on contributions and donations is one thing. Exempting them from capital gains taxes on secular stock investments is another. But the church as do other religious institutions, claim tax exempt status based on the doctrine behind the First Amendment establishment clause.

Yet Catholic dioceses all over the country are filing for bankruptcy protection because of tens of billions of dollars in jury awards against the church for the serial child sexual molestation that went on for decades with the church's knowledge, (which is why they were held liable). In those cases the church asks to be subject to secular bankruptcy laws to protect them from having to pay the billions in jury awards but, claim exemption from tax laws based on the establishment clause.

Adding to the hypocrisy, The Catholic Conference of Bishops has a well funded lobbying effort in Washington, staffed by 350 people whose sole job is the same any other lobbyist -- to influence and even write legislation that gets inserted in bills. In the case of the church, or any religious instituion it is a clear violation of the separation of church and state and a breaking down of the "wall" between religion and the affairs of state that Jefferson and the Founders said the amendment was designed to create.

This is not to say that the church doesn't have freedom of speech, to speak out about issues that matter to them, to support candidates who support those issues and to exercise their right of free speech to influence elections. But influencing elections is one thing -- influencing, lobbying and writing legislation is another.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops conference has been extremely critical of the senate health care bill which, with regards to abortion, goes only as far as the Hyde amendment in prohibiting public funding of abortion. Doerflinger said that the senate bill was " the worst bill we've seen on the life issue".

What Doerflinger, in the singular myopic way of the typical Washington lobbyist doesnt seem to understand is that this is not an abortion bill but a health care reform bill and it isnt being designed to meet the approval of Doerfliinger or the Catholic Conference of Bishops. And to further underscore the arrogance of Doerflinger and what he seems ot think is an entitlement, he said of the senate health care bill that it;s "completely unacceptable".

Unacceptable to who? Him? The Catholic Conference of Bishops? That isnt a powerful senator with the power to stop a bill talking. That is a representative of the Catholic Church how have no business being involved in the legislative process.

Doerflinger';s statement that the legislation is "completely unacceptable" is exactly why Jefferson and the Founders made sure religion would have no place in affairs of state. What is "completely unnacceptable" to Doerflinger or the Catholic Conference of Bishops may not be unacceptable to the a majority of the US senate or the country at large. And that is all that matters. What the bishops feel is acceptable or unacceptable may matter to Doerflinger in his private life, but they dont matter at all to the legislative process that is designed to produce bills that affect affairs of state.

If the church thinks that lobbying for or against legislation like registered lobbyists is that important, let them forego their tax exempt status and continue their lobbying efforts as registered lobbyists. Either that or continue their tax exempt status and give up their organized lobbying efforts. Or if they continue to lobby have the IRS revoke their tax exempt status.

The constitution is clear. -- religious institutions are to be officially kept out of the affairs of state. The First Amendment was specifically instituted to assure that the United States would never have anything like the Church of England of which most of the Founders had a very low opinion.

The role of the Catholic Conference of Bishops headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, in authoring the anti-abortion amendment in the House healthcare bill was a clear violation of the First Amendment . The fact that Pelosi and Obama allowed it to happen is something that has to be addressed and stopped.

Now the Conference is hoping to extend the same influence to the senate. The arrogance of Doerflinger's comment about the current bill being " completely unacceptable" shows the power they think they can weild -- or are entitled to weild -- power that the establishment clause is designed to prevent.

The bishops are likely to fail in the senate. Reid needs to stand up for the constitution and make it clear there wont be the kind of meetings in the senate that the Conference was able to get in the House.

It should also be noted, that conservatives who are always wrapping themselves in the constitution and trumpet their views on Original Intent, have not only said nothig about the constitutional violation that occurred in the House amendment, most of them voted for it.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Although it would never be directly said or implied diplomatically, it is clear that there is now little respect for Obama in the middle east. And based on recent events neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be looking to Obama for any kind of solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict any time soon. Which itself could turn out to be a good thing since the parties will have to find other ways to resolve their differences themselves.

This has been made obvious by the Palestinians floating the idea of going to the United Nations for help in unilaterally declaring a state. Its an idea that even they know wont fly and would only make matters worse but the fact that they have sent up the trial balloon shows they do not see Obama as an effective broker for a peace settlement. And for that matter neither do the Israelis and it seems that Obama's backtracking on his positiion regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank was the last straw.

Months ago, Obama had made it clear that he opposed additional settlement building on the West Bank and at one point "demanded" that Israel freeze the expansion of settlements. Netanyahu made it clear he could care less what Obama wants or demands and announced additional settlements in the West Bank.

Obama, faced with Netanyahu's rebuff, has, like he has done with many other issues, ( health care, torture prosecutions and many others), backed off his position and instead called for the restricting of settlement expansion which is what Netanyahu is doing.

But following her last meeting with Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton, speaking for the Obama Administration, set off Palestinian diplomatic rage when she called Netanyahu's agreeing to restrict settlement expansion " an unprecedented concession". The Palestinan response was they wouldnt resume peace talks without a settlement freeze and Clinton pointed out that never before had the Palestinians demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition for peace talks which is true. Netanyahu then as agreed to resume peace talks without precondition. The Palestinians felt betrayed..

On the other side of the equation, Obama's Cairo speech did something incredibly stupid -- it legitimized Hamas, a terrorist organization whose legitimacy should have been undermined by Obama not strengthened. Predictably Hamas was delighted with Obama's ill conceived Cairo speech and no doubt Netanyahu took note.

That myth that Obama has some kind of talent or ability to be a conciliator was always false but one the news media promoted. He has a history of saying what he thinks any given audience wants to hear and its never driven by conviction.

While running for the Democratic nomination, Obama gave a speech in front of an audience of 7000 Jews in Miami and said that he supported a unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Jews and Israelis cheered but his statement predicatably sent the Palestinians into a rage and they quickly condemned his remarks.

Less than 24 hours latter Obama reversed himself, pretending that everyone misunderstood him and that by a unified Jerusalem,he only meant a Jerusalem without barbed wire, something that hasn't existed in Jerusalem for 45 years.

Obama's credibility in the middle east is now just about zero with Israelis and Palestinians though both need the clout the United States wields in the U.N. and the aid they can provide. But it is unlikely that anything Obama has to say is going to have an impact on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The reality is, peace negotiations have stalled, Netanyahu is not about to freeze settlements to restart peace talks and Palestinians have said they wont resume talks without the freeze. What's left is the Obama myth, thudding to earth and leavng the parties to have to work it out themselves, which in the end might be the best thing that could have happened.Because they will either find a way to restart negotiations themselves, or resign themselves to the fact that they wont and learn to live with it.

UPDATE: Israel announced Tuesday the building of 900 news homes in the West Bank terroritory it annexed during the 1967 war and added to the municipality of Jerusalem. George Mitchell, Obama's envoy had asked Netanyahu to block the additional building where 40,000 Israelis already live and was rebuffed. Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat issued a statement saying he "strongly objects to American demands to halt construction in Jerusalem".

Monday, November 16, 2009


Kimberly Munley is being honored as the hero she is, having risked her life, doing the job she was trained to do, and saving countless lives in the process. But its worth remembering as conservatives oppose the health care bill, that 20 years ago they opposed someone like Kimberly Munley being able to do the job she is now being honored for.

As the congress gets closer to passing health care reform and as Republicans and conservatives ramp up their opposition and predictions of doom and gloom in their opposition, its a good idea to remind ourselves of how wrong Republicans have proved to be about everything over the past 25 years. And Kimberly Munley is only the latest shinning example.

The incident at Ft. Hood and the heroism of Kimberly Munley reminds us that 20 years ago conservatives were telling us that women couldn't do the same jobs men could. And they shouldnt even be allowed to try.

As Munley is being honored for her heroism, returning fire after being shot herself, and taking down Nadal Hasan, putting an end to his killing spree, we should remind ourselves that conservatives opposed women becoming police officers, they opposed women in combat roles in the military, they opposed the removing of any institutionalized barriers that separated men and women in terms of opportunity, authority, and ability. And they did it because they said women just werent equipped to do the job. They told us where a woman's place was. Which is not to say a woman shouldnt have her place in the home and raising children or combining it with a career if thats what she wants to do. No one ever said flying to the moon was a bigger accomplishment than raising a child. And it isnt.

But conservatives didnt want women to even have the choice. They didnt want them to waste their time trying to be a Kimberly Munley because they said women couldnt. And let us not forget that one of the biggest arguments they made to try and prevent the removing of barriers between men and women, the great fear they tried to spread throughout the country was that if barriers between men and women in the workplace were removed, it would lead to unisex public bathrooms. No kidding. You can look it up. Thats what they were afraid of. Mandate equality for women in the workplace and it will be the end of separate public bathrooms for men and women.

Somehow, America has remained the land of the free and separate public bathrooms in spite of these Republican fears. More importantly it has become the land where a Kimberly Munley can be at the right place at the right time and exhibit the kind of bravery and heroism and rising to the occasion at the risk of her own life which resulted in her saving lives, by doing the job conservatives said women could never do.

As the congress prepares to pass health care reform which will also save lives, its worth keeping in mind, especially after the events at Fort Hood and the bravery of Kimberly Munley, how wrong conservatives have been in the past and how hard they try have tried to prevent progress. And how much poorer the country would be had they succeeded.

It's worth keeping in mind because conservatives and Republicans have been just as wrong about health care reform as they were about Kimberly Munley and women like her. And, as they were 20 years ago, they will be on the wrong side of history when it comes to health care too.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Back in the sixties, Senator Barry Goldwater was the country's leading conservative. He was considered the model of conservatism and was the Republican party's candidate for President in 1964. He lost in a landslide to LBJ after being portrayed as too quick on the trigger militarily.
But he was still the leading voice of conservatism in America at the time. Today he would be a prime target of contemporary conservatives who would probably try and drum him out of the Republican party.

Because Barry Goldwater was pro choice. Goldwater believed in something contemporary conservatives do not -- individual liberty.

Goldwater believed the government had no place in American bedrooms. Today's conservatives want to stick their noses under everybody's sheets, probably because there isnt much going on under their own.

Today's conservatives on a daily basis, display nothing but hypocrisy when it comes to individual freedom. What they want is the freedom to tell you what to do and impose their values on everyone else. Values that have clearly made them so unhappy, that it's not enough to simply live those values -- they have to validate them by trying to impose them on everyone else. What they want is the freedom to force their ideas, most of which are antithetical to American ideals and which most people reject,onto the majority.

Conservatives are against gay rights because they are more interested in taking away things from people they dont approve of than be for anything that makes their own lives better. They oppose health care reform and the idea of universal health care because they dont want people who cant afford it to have it. Maybe, like Alan Grayson said, they dont even want them to live.

The idea of any choice at all is a violation of their values. After all, they believe in towing the line and living lives restricted by rules half of them dont believe in and make them miserable, so why shouldn't everyone else? Misery not only wants company, they want to run the government. Which is why America had nothing but misery under Bush and the Republicans for eight years.

Individual liberty, individual freedom, and the government staying out of people's personal lives is something conservatives, bending more to a new fascism than anything else,want to end. They think they know best and while they hypocritically wave signs opposing health care reform as a threat to their individual freedoms, the only choices they support is the choice to do things their way.

Which is why it will never happen. Because unlike the conservatism of 40 years ago, the conservatives of today, the tea party loudmouths and town hall disrupters, the people whose goal is to shout down anyone who disagrees with them, are the very people the Founders wrote a constitution to protect the country against. These are people as the town hall meetings showed, who have more in common with Berlin in 1939 than Philadelphia in 1776.

And as the election in NY's 23rd district showed, unless the Republican party repudiates them, they will lead the party down the road to its own destruction.

Friday, October 23, 2009


As the war of words between Fox News and the Obama Administration continues, one thing becomes clear -- assertions that Fox News gives slanted and biased, even dishonest coverage, applies even to the way Fox News defends itself.

Fox has been asserting that since the Obama Administration has begun their attacks their ratings are up. It's an attempt by Fox News to imply that Obama's attacks against them for bias and dishonest reporting has backfired and has driven more people to watching Fox News. This matters because it goes to the heart of the of the problem. After all if Fox News cant or wont tell the truth about itself, why would anyone think they would tell the truth about the issues they report on?

The fact is Fox ratings were up last week but not as a result of Obama's firing back at the network. The evidence is they were up because of the balloon boy incident, and it's aftermath, carried live by Fox as it was by the other cable networks and attracted a large audience on all of the cable networks and is still a story that is attracting a lot of interest.

Fox has media people who know this. But it didn't stop the News division from trying to claim that it was Obama's attacks against the network that increased their ratings.

Brit Hume, who has his good moments and bad moments tried to come to Fox's defense by asking if the other cable networks felt good about getting "a pat on the head" from the Administration. His implication is that the press' role should be adversarial in their coverage of politics and that being embraced by the Obama Administration is nothing to be proud of. But it begs the question. Distorting the news and using a purported news organization to promote right wing propaganda is nothing to be proud of either. Media Matters reported that over a four day stretch from August 24th-28th Fox News aired 22 news clips opposing health care reform and none supporting it.

And it was laughably obvious that during the Bush administration and Republican control of congress Fox News did every bit as much to deserve "a pat on the head" from Bush and the Republicans as Hume is accusing the other two cable networks of doing for Obama. Fox was about as adversarial over Iraq, Bush's failures in the 911 attacks and the economy as a trained seal is adversarial to a fish.

The real problem though, is with the media as a whole. Rick Sanchez, a CNN anchor has been blistered for airing racist Rush Limbaugh quotes that turned out to be false. And he deserves to be blistered. Sanchez is one of the sloppiest journalists on the air and his pandering to what he sees as a "young audience", probably college students who can watch his show at 3 p.m. is almost embarrassing as he keeps using the word " cool" in almost everything he says.

CNN continues a brand of journalism where their anchors just cant stop inserting their own opinions into the news, wanting to be the news as much as reporting it and their opinions are invariably wrong about everything all the time. And no one can deny that MSNBC went from being in Bush's pocket to Obama's pocket as soon as the political winds changed, though to be fair, Keith Olbermann was the lone anti-Bush voice on MSNBC when it wasn't popular be to anti-Bush.

Obama's war with Fox News is a war worth fighting,since they are hardly an unbiased objective news organization and their slogan of fair and balanced is simply a lie. But the two other cable news networks aren't much better when it comes to objectivity . The difference is, especially in CNN's case, its not an ideology that they are constantly promoting, its themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


While controversy continues to swirl around the selection of President Obama as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in Afghanistan, the next momentous decision facing Obama, the news is more about the Afghan woman who was nominated for the prize but didn't win.

Her name is Dr. Sima Samar and unlike the criticism of the prize being given to Obama for having not yet accomplished anything, Dr. Samar does have a long list of accomplishments and many in Afghanistan felt she should have been given the prize.

P.J. Tobia,a journalist writing from inside Afghanistan describes her as "incredibly courageous" .

Dr. Samar has spent most of the last ten years treating women and young girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan at considerable risk to her own life. She is now the chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and is the first woman to have received a medical degree from Kabul University which she obtained in 1982.

Dr. Samar fled Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union and returned in 2002 where she became, according to writer P.J. Tobia, Minister of Women's Affairs in the interim Karzai government.

Dr. Samar prominently and publicly opposed the Burka saying that it was a principle cause of bone disease in Afghan women because of it preventing sunlight on the skin. In a country that saw the Taliban throw acid in the faces of 8 year old girls simply for going to school in violation of Taliban law, simply being a woman and being a doctor put Dr. Samar at risk. But to be so outspoken on her opposition to the Burka, Dr. Samar knew that she was risking her life on a daily basis and yet continued with her work.

According to Tobia, Samar losing the prize to Obama was bigger news in Afghanistan than Obama winning it. And a bigger disappointment. And it takes on even greater poignancy and irony since the future of Afghanistan and the security threat represented by the Taliban is going to be decided by Obama in the very near future.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Rep.Alan Grayson gave everyone a needed anatomy lesson, on the state of health care, on Republican obstructionism and Democratic weakness.

Grayson's anatomy lesson to the Democrats reminded them of what it means to have what Madeline Albright once called "cojones" and what happens when you're willing to use them. He also pointed out another part of their anatomy that many Democrats seem to have forgotten about for the last 15 years - their backbone.

Republicans made a debate over the public option because they were able to intimidate Obama and the Democrats and for a short time were winning the PR war because Democrats didn't know how to fight back. Or wouldn't.

Republicans and their allies lied about almost everything relating to the health care bill and Obama had no answer.

Obama himself opened the door to the Republican obstructionism by making bi-partisanship a goal, something that politically was stupid beyond belief.And the Republicans took full advantage.

The public option should have been a no brainer from the start. In poll after poll 65-72% of Americans said they wanted it. And for good reason. The public option, as Max Baucus pointed out as he voted against it, would accomplish everything it was intended to do from insuring uninsured Americans to creating competition that will force down premiums.

While Republicans whined about Grayson using language that was over the top, the fact is that is what good teachers sometimes do to get the attention of inattentive or unruly students. And it obviously got the attention of Republicans, Democrats and the inattentive news media. And what Grayson said wasn't far from the truth in terms of actual consequences.

For the 44,000 Americans who die every year because they don't have health insurance, the Republican obstructionism would be the kind of death sentence Republicans had dishonestly been accusing Democrats of implementing with the public option.

What Grayson gave the country and the news media was a much needed anatomy lesson in how to govern, how to make a point, how to stand up for what you believe is right, how to fight for it, and how to handle bullies. Which is smack them back and they stop. A teachable moment and anatomy lesson for everyone, not the least of which, hopefully was President Obama.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


As President Obama likes to pepper his speeches for health care reform by giving first person stories of people who have had tragic experiences with the tyranny and injustice of insurance companies.

Probably the most tragic is the case of Nataline Sarkisyan.

In 2007 Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17 year old girl with leukemia whose family had health insurance through Cigna was told by her doctors she needed a liver transplant. Cigna refused to pay saying that the operation, one of the most expensive that can be done, was "experimental".
The assertion was absurd since liver transplants have become common, though still very expensive, but as a result of Cigna refusing to pay for the transplant Nataline was taken off the donor list.

Her family and her doctor appealed and for a second time Cigna insurance refused to pay for the operation.

When the California Nurse's Association found out, they staged a massive demonstration in front of Cigna Headquarters in Glendale California and urged their membership to call Cigna to protest.

Under the glare of the TV cameras and protesting nurses, a public relations nightmare for Cigna, they reversed themselves and said they would pay for the operation.

Two hours after Cigna's reversal Nataline Sarkisyan died.

This isn't an isolated incident but it is one of the most tragic. So much so that the Sarkisyan's lawyer, Mark Garragos had considered petitioning the Los Angeles DA to file murder charges against Cigna.

And if you think this cant happen in your family, remember, no one does.

Death panels do exist. They're called insurance companies. And most people never realize the power they have over them and the injustice they are capable of until it;'s too late.

Healthcare reform with a public option is best the way to make sure there are no more Natalines. And the best way to make sure there is a public option is for people to call their member of congress 202-224-3121. It's not a recording its a real live operator at the Capitol switchboard who will connect you with the office of any member of congress you choose.With Obama wavering from one day to the next,it is congress who will forge the bill that Obama will sign. And a reform bill with a public option will put an end to the real death panels

Monday, September 21, 2009


As the health care debate rages there is one person whose persistent silence has become conspicuous by her absence. Michelle Obama. Until last weekend.

This isn't about a First Lady going out into the country and using her good will and a smile to further her husbands agenda. At one time before Obama ran for President, her biography lists her as having been a hospital administrator.

As such one would think she'd have something to say and contribute to the debate and it might be considered curious that she has had little to nothing to say and has been kept conspiculously silent during the debate.

That is, conspiculously silent except to the mainstream press who, before her weekend speech, hasnt seemed to notice.

But the answer to why we havent heard from Michelle Obama might lie in the administration trying to keep her old job at the non-profit University of Chicago Hospital out of the limelight because it is clear her job was part of the problem regarding health care costs and not part oft the solution.

Michelle Obama having been part of the problem could actually be something the administration could use to their advantage if they were willing to be honest about it, but asking most politicians to be honest is like asking a dog not to bark and Obama might view it as politically embarrassing.

Probably because Michelle Obama's job as a "hospital administrator" had nothing to with medicine and nothing to do with administrating. It was all about PR.

Her official title was Vice President for External and Community Affairs. But that title and that job was so unnecessary, that , it not only didnt exist before she got it, when she resigned the position to campaign with her husband, no one was ever rehired to fill it, and the job itself was terminated after she resigned..

The circumstantial evidence is that it was only Barrack Obama's election to the US senate in 2005 that caused the creation of the position specifially for Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama had been working for the University of Chicago Hospital at a salary of $121,000 a year. But in 2005 after Barrack Obama was elected U.S. senator, Michelle got the promotion to Vice President of External Community Affairs, -- a position that didn't previously exist -- and a $200,000 a year raise -- to $316,000.

John Easton, a spokesman for the University of Chicago Hospital told the Chicago Tribune that Mrs. Obama was one of 16 other vice presidents at the non-profit hospital making a similar salary which was approximately $100,000 a year more than an anesthesiologist made.

And salaries like that, especially for a postiion as unneccesary as Michelle Obama's helps to drive up the cost of medical care which in turn drives up the cost of insurance premiums people pay.

This is the kind of waste Obama is talking about eliminating and that argument and need for reform would be made pretty powerfully if Michelle Obama herself helped make it.

Would it be embarrassing? Momentarily. But it would also be honest. And the honesty and sincerity and the conviction behind the need for reform would trump the embarrassment in the long run. People respect honesty and respond to it. .

Michelle Obama standing up for the good of the country and making the case about hospital waste from personal experience and admitting she was part of the problem, would have a powerful effect.

It's obvious that the President has made a personal decision to keep Michelle out of the debate to keep her from politically embarrassing questions rather than use her and her experience to further the reform the country needs.

Using Michelle Obama's former job and that of the 16 other vice presidents at Chicago University Hospital in what seems like unnecessary positions and over payment, would make the point in even a stronger way of why radical reform, including a public option is needed.. There is no doubt that a government paid public option would never be spending tax dollars on medical care that factored in anything as frivolous as those salaries.

But so far Obama has chosen to try and keep it buried. But it would help the cause of reform if he didnt.

The word from the White House is that they hope to use Michelle Obama in a "softer" way. I hope not. She can have a much stronger impact talking about the 17 vice-presidents at Chicago University Hospital, a non-profit hospital, who are making over $300,000 a year and how we need to eliminate things like this to bring down the cost of health care, even if it means biting the hand that once fed her.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The Tea Party Express hit Washington and while there are many sincere people involved in the Tea Party protests and they have valid points to make about government spending, the entire movement is stained by the fact that its organized by conservatives who are the ones responsible for the mess in the first place and who haven't to this day, taken responsibility for their own mistakes and the economic mess they created by letting George W Bush get away with his disastrous policies.

The problem for the sincere Tea Party protesters is the entire movement is conservative organized which. unfortunately completely undermines iits credibility.

It was the conservatives who, after 8 years of the greatest economic expansion in history during the Clinton years, came to power and intentionally undid everything Clinton did, reversing all of Clinton's policies. And anyone with half a brain knows that if you do the opposite of anything you will get the opposite results. And that's what the Republicans did. And that's what the country got. Now the conservatives are shaking their baby rattles and complaining.

It was a conservative Republican administration and a conservative Republican congress who blew a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus. They destroyed the balanced budget they inherited, and after Clinton had eliminated the deficit, they exploded the deficit to record levels with their war and tax policies.

It was a conservative Republican government that took the country from the greatest economic expansion in history, lowest unemployment in 40 years, a balanced budget and record surpluses to deficits, unemployment and the greatest economic crisis since the 1930's.

So during these Tea Party protests conservatives are showing why the word "hypocrite" should be part of the dictionary definition of conservative.

They said nothing and did nothing while Bush and the Republican congress were getting the country into deeper and deeper trouble. The conservatives who organize the Tea Party protests sat on their hands and did nothing. They did nothing when the balanced budget was destroyed, nothing when Bush exploded the deficit, nothing when Bush cut taxes instead of raising them to pay for the war he started.

This means that nothing the conservative organizers have to say can or should be taken seriously or be seen as anything other than cheap partisan politics. And that is too bad since there are legitimate issues to be dealt with. And while not everyone who is protesting is a conservative, the protests bear the conservative stamp. And that is the Kiss of Death. Because conservatives forfeited their right to be taken seriously by playing Hear No Evil ,See No Evil ,Speak No Evil during 8 years of the disastrous Bush Administration.

They proved there are no real principles behind the organizing of these protests even if some of the people who join them do so out of principle. But for the organizers its only a lust for power and their motivation is politics.

When Bush became the first President in history to take the country to war and cut taxes at the same time they said nothing. They just happily took their tax cuts, supported the unnecessary war in Iraq and were happy not to pay for it and pass the cost along. Exactly what they are complaining about now. They simply don't want to pay for their mistakes. But they will, like it or not. Which is why the Tea Party protests from conservatives have not so much to do with tea but with whine.

If the legitimate Tea Party protestors want to be taken seriously they are going to have to split from the conservative Republican organizers of the movement who have no credibility. As long as the Tea Party protests are conservative organized and motivated they will never be taken seriously by the only people in congress who matter -- the Democrats who control both houses.

The Tea Party conservatives not only don't want to pay for their mistakes they don't want to admit they even made mistakes while Bush and the Republicans ran the country's economy into the ground. Instead they want to blame the current president and the current congress.

It isn't a coincidence that now that the Democrats are in power these fiscally concerned conservatives have suddenly found their voice.

The honest Tea Party protestors will need to divorce themselves from any affiliation with Republicans or conservatives, the people who created the problem in the first place and did nothing, if they want to be taken seriously.. Otherwise the only thing these protesters can expect in the end is a lot of tea but no sympathy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


President Obama finally got specific and did what people have been wanting him to do for months -- put down some markers.

On the most controversial issue, the public option, he made it clear he supported the public option, even though, almost in the same breath, he equivocated and said he was open to other ideas.

This is what he said:

"But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. ...It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight."

He did leave the door open for some squabbling when he said..".....some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring."

Actually they are not worth exploring and would only put off a public option and make it more complicated than it needs to be, but it's hard for Obama to be definitive about anything and this is as close as he's going to get. And it may be enough. It is unlikely the Democratically controlled congress will put out a bill that doesnt contain the public option as originally conceived.

He made it clear enough with this: "...but I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice"

That choice is the public option and Obama's laying down a marker that health care reform has to include it in some way, probably is enough to propel the public option in the senate where Democrats favor it by a count of 46 yes, 13 maybe, No 0 .

In the House the public option has overwhelming support.

Obama may have accomplished what he set out to do with the speech. Stop the squabbling among any Democrats that opposed the public option, as small a minority as they are, since its clear it is now part of the agenda. And he may have also made it clear that Republican opposition is not going to be enough to stop it or even slow it down and that, taking the cue from Dick Durbin, a bill will be passed even if it means without any Republican support.

There seems little the opposition can do now. It is up to the Democrats to draft the bills, vote them out of committee and send them to the floor for final votes. Bills that will have the public option. And get the show on the road.

As for the Republicans, Joe Wilson, a Republican member of the House yelled out during the speech that Obama was a liar. Obviously he has future training conservatives who go to town hall meetings. He may have done Obama a lot of good since it generated so much condemnation from members of Congress it could be an end to Republicans lying about the reform package and if they have legitimate issues with it, to deal with those instead of the "pulling the plug on grandma" nonsense.

There is a good chance that the speech and its specifics might have spelled the end of any hopes the Republicans have of derailing the public option. Had Obama given the same speech three months ago, it would have solidified support for the public option then, and avoided all the nonsense of the last three months instead of empowering Republicans.

But, as the saying goes, better late then never. Now lets hope Obama continues to to break his mold, and not change his mind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


CNN is reporting that, 8 months after he should have, President Obama is considering drawing up his own legislation on health care and submitting it to congress. Most people feel that as far as it relates to Obama himself it is too little too late. And also not very smart.

One aspect of the legislation includes a dropping of the public option to appease Republicans, a party in such a minority their votes arent even needed to pass any legislation the Democrats want.

What Obama is considering in place of the public option is this silly idea of a "trigger", a Republican smokes screen for putting the public option on ice.

The "trigger" idea is that the public option would only be triggered after insurance companies are given a chance to meet certain benchmarks and if they don't a public option would be triggered.

What these benchmarks would be and how long insurance companies would have to meet them would have to be negotiated and anyone with two cents for a brain knows that Republicans are not going to agree to a time table or benchmarks that Democrats would go along with. It also would effectively put off a public option for years which is the whole idea.

Obama is either dumb enough to fall for it, or thinks other people are dumb enough to fall for it but the whole idea is for Obama to do, not whats best for the country but to politically take the heat off himself.

Olympia Snow has said she would vote for such a "trigger" and so it seems Obama is willing to throw the public option and his whole party under the bus in order to get one Republican vote. Not every smart. And it's not going to work.

Obama's problem is the Democrats in the House have made it clear, especially to him that they consider a strong public option essential to any health care reform. And it is. The fact that Obama would consider dropping it is showing the Democrats he can't be trusted.

How stupid is this decision if in fact Obama tries to sell it? The only people opposing the public option are Republicans and the town hall mini-fascists with the Hitler signs and swastikas that have obviously made Obama's knees buckle. And by trying to mollify them Obama is on the verge of alienating his own party.

Someone who CNN identifies as a "Democratic aide" but who is clearly someone inside the White House, suggested to CNN that Obama doing something that "makes the liberals mad at him is not a bad thing to do now". First, notice that the statement has nothing to do with considering whats best for the country,only what they think is best for Obama politically. And it shows just show smarmy and political Obama is.

The second part of that statement is that it was obviously suggested by someone who can only be called a political village idiot who is trying to shape the debate.

What makes this "aide's" statement so idiotic is that if Obama tries to forge a bill that doesn't have the public option he will not just get the liberals "mad" at him. They will not vote for it and it will go down to defeat in the House, and will be as humiliating a defeat at the hands of his own party as any President has had in American history. In fact it would probably have Republicans rolling on the floor laughing and Obama's entire presidency at that point will have blown up in his face.

He will be seen as a totally ineffective and ineffectual non-leader who will not have the backing of his own party. He will certainly not have the backing of Republicans who want nothing more than to defeat him in 2012. He will be a President without a party, without a constituency and without support of the American people. Those who oppose him now will continue to oppose him and those who supported him will oppose him also.

To add to his humiliation, a bill containing a public option will most certainly be brought to the floor of the House and would most certainly pass. As far as the senate which supposedly is where the problems lie, the reality is according to a Whip count there is now not one single "no" vote among Democrats for a public option. The current count is 46 "yes" votes, 13 "maybe's" and Sen. Kennedy's seat up for grabs.

If a bill does come out of the senate without a public option thanks to Obama's knee buckling it will never get reconciled with a House that will not pass a bill that doesn't have a public option. If the result is no health care reform, Obama is finished for the rest of his term and will be little more than a public joke, a cigar store Indian of a president, a symbol and president in name only. And if he tries to sell anything without a public option to appease Republicans as "don't let the good be the enemy of the perfect", he may get a job writing greeting cards but he is finished as a president.

If the White House thinks its okay to alienate liberals and moderates in the House over the public option, Obama is in for the surprise of his life, and for those who thought he couldn't mess up health care even worse than he has, it will get a lot worse. But mostly for Obama himself.

If health care reform gets passed with a public option and without Obama's steadfast support, Obama will be irrelevant for the rest of the legislative session. And if it should stall in the senate, Obama will be blamed for it as well he should be. In other words Obama has put himself in the incredibly stupid political position of getting no credit for reform or the public option if it passes (though he would certainly try) and all the blame if it fails. And he will deserve what he gets.

The rest of Obama's presidency is going to be decided on health care. And the way it looks now, he is going to be so damaged as a result of his own disingenuous political actions that no matter what happens, dont be surprised if his own party asks him not to run in 2012.

His only chance is to drop this idea of a "trigger" as some kind of political bait and switch on the public option, stand up for ithe public option since he has claimed he supports it and fight it out. Otherwise he could be headed for oblivion. But he's had so many chances to redeem himself before on health care and has blown it each time, that passing a health care reform bill with a public option is much more likely than Obama redeeming himself. But one can still hope.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Everything Obama has done politically in his 12 years of elected life has always been about one thing -- the next political step. This is why he voted "present" more than 100 times in the Illinois State Senate, voting neither for nor against a bill more than 100 times. After all if you don't have a record its hard for anyone to run against it.

Now that there are no more political steps, Obama's way of doing things are catching up with him. His constant reversals on torture and torture prosecutions, reversals on the release of torture photos, not having a clear plan on where to send the detainees once Gitmo was closed all unsettled a lot of people. But it has been his mishandling of health care reform that is now blowing up in his face.

His approval ratings have declined more sharply than any president in history and he came into the White House with more good will than any president in history. Of course why any news or polling organization was doing job approval polls a week after his inauguaration when he hadn't yet done a thing is another story. That's why I call it more good will than anything else. But that good will is quickly disappearing among Democrats and independents.

And while people have become more and more disenchanted with him for a number of reasons, this latest sharp drop in the polls can be directly attributable to his ineffective response to Republican lies and tactics on health care reform and more to the point, there is at least circumstantial evidence that the decline can be tied to his short lived attempt at dropping the public option as a political compromise with Republicans which resulted in almost immediate repudiation by the Democratic House leadership, Howard Dean and a number of Democratic House members.

Obama's testing the waters on dropping the public option has undoubtedly cost him both Democratic and independent votes while gaining him nothing with Republicans. And it has undermined both his creditiblity and the credibility of health care reform in general. After all, it wouldnt be unreasonable for people too busy to investigate the issues for themselves, to think that if Obama was ready to drop ithe public option, then maybe its not that important after all.

But the public option is not only the centerpiece of reform, less than 2 months ago a CBS poll showed 72% of Americans favored the public option and 57% were willing to pay higher taxes to get it. CNN had a similar poll with 66% favoring the public option and 60% willing to pay higher taxes to get it. And most recently a CNN Quick Vote showed 80% of the country believed health care was a fundamental American right not something that should be based on ability to pay.

That Obama has turned a proposition that 72% favored into negative numbers is an exercise in incompetence I thought we had seen the last of with George W. Bush. The only thing Obama has going for him so far compared to Bush is that so far his handling of things hasnt killed anyone yet.

The only thing that's changed since 3/4 of Americans favored and wanted a public option has been Republican attacks and disinformation that both Obama and the news media, who would rather report on a good fight than the truth, have been pathetically ineffective in refuting.

Obama has always tried to be all things to all people politically but he is seeing that approach isn't working anymore. The Democratic congress has taken the reins with health care and with the House Democrats saying there wont be a health care bill without the public option and Dick Durbin saying the Democrats will pass a health care bill with no Republican votes if they have to, Obama is on the verge of being irrelevant unless he decides to put on the brakes and join the fight.

Right now no one is looking at Obama as a leader. He gave no direction to congress on health care, had no plan of his own, laid down no markers, drew no lines in the sand. And signalling, even for a day that he would be willing to drop the public option made it worse. And the polls are reflecting it.

Health care will get passed with him or without him since its a congressional initiative and not one that came from Obama. But there is still time for Obama to become a leader and act like one. But not that much time.

If he doesnt take a stand and soon, then he may be headed for another LIncoln Moment. The one that goes " you cant fool all of the people all of the time".

Thursday, August 27, 2009


As the healthcare debate continues to heat up the one thing that has become apparent is that the opponents of sweeping reform ,specifically opponents of the public option, and those showing up at the town hall meetings to oppose it, feel that in order to defeat the kind of reform being proposed, their best and only weapon is to simply lie.

This isnt new. Republicans and conservatives have consistently resorted to telling "the big lie" as a tactic to achieve a political aim. The idea if you tell a lie that's big enough and often enough, many gullible people, especially those submissive to authority as most conservatives are, will believe it for a variety of reasons. But it always reeks of hypocrisy.

As one opponent of healthcare reform, a self proclaimed conservative told Arlen Specter at a town hall meeting, healthcare reform is "systematically dismantling what this country is about", and that healthcare reform would turn the country into a "socialized" country. Presumable she would have no problem with her socialized fire department showing up to put out a fire to keep her house from burning down.

We saw the lies in 2002 when Bush and Cheney tried to promote the lie that Saddaam had a connection to Al-Qaeda, a lie they needed to justify the invasion of Iraq. Many conservatives swallowed it whole even though there was not a shred of proof and in fact proof that proved it was a lie. But to true believers proof never matters.

We hear a lot of talk about the deficit, but conservatives and Republicans had no problem blowing a balanced budget and creating record deficits when Bush instigated and unnecessary war and became the first President to take the country to war and cut taxes at the same time.

The lies they tell at the town halls are either in the name of their ideology or they are simply dupes of the organizers, people willing to believe anything they are told, like the man who held the sign that said " Health care reform genocide for seniors". A dupe or a dope?.

Here are some of the lies the opposition has been spreading. They have all been repudiated:

Health care will be rationed especially for the elderly( the rationing as everyone knows is being done now by the insurance companies who deny care, drop coverage or wont insure for pre-existing conditions. There is no rationing of any kind in the bill and AARP is planning an extensive ad campaign to deal with the lie).

A government run option has death panel provisions that would be tantamount to, in Senator Charles Grassley words, "pulling the plug on grandma".(The AARP has also said this is a lie and the Associated Press. proved it)

Its a government take over of health care. ( a public option is just that -- an option for people who want it. Its no more of a government take over than Medicare and right now between medicare, medicaid and veterans hospitals 47% of the country are already on a government paid for system.)

The government will have access to your bank account. (it states clearly in the bill that the provision opponents are citing involves electronic money transfers applying only to insurance companies and not individuals)

It's socialism ( presumably none of these conservatives would have a problem with the socialized fire department showing up to keep their house from burning down).

The majority of Americans are against it (a CNN poll showed 66% were in favor of a government paid option and 60% in favor of higher taxes to pay for it. A CBS News poll showed 72% support a government paid for health plan and 57% would pay higher taxes to get it only two months ago This was before the opposition started lying and Obama was weak in refuting the lies.)

Medicare is a failed government system ( a recent poll showed 92% of people on Medicare felt their healthcare was good to excellent. Only 8% were dissatisfied)

The public option would be so bad, such a boondoggle, so terrible, that everyone will want it and it put the insurance companies out of business. ( Even Yogi Berra can''t figure that one out).

The biggest problem has been, not the Republicans and conservatives lying which is nothing new, but Obama's complete mismanaging the debate and his total ineffectiveness in combating the lies of the opposition.
With Ted Kennedy's death, it's possible that Obama may find both some inspiration and a backbone to take on the Republican lies, lies which so far he has been completely ineffective in addressing.

What Obama could be doing is letting people know the next time they hear a Republican or conservative talk about all the bad things about health care reform, consider the source. Its a source that has been proved wrong about every single thing important to the country for more than 20 years. And that's no lie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


One of the more significant and telling parts of the healthcare debate is to watch the behavior of both sides. As Yogi once said, you can observe an awful lot just by watching.
The people engaged in opposing healthcare reform and the public option have been engaging in tactics we've seen before.

They drape themselves in the American flag, accusing those who disagree as socialist or communist, or just plain anti-American. They claim their way is the American way. They did the same thing with anyone who opposed the invasion of Iraq and everyone knows what happened there.

During the Iraq war Clear Channel dropped Nightline from their TV stations around the country when Nightline had the audacity to start showing the names of soldiers who had been killed in Iraq on a daily basis. And everyone remembers what happened to the Dixie Chicks thanks to the moronic Texas station manager who banned their music and the organized burning of Dixie Chicks CD's which looked in every way like the images of Nazi book burning.

People like this operate not only out of sheer ignorance, but part of the plan is to drown out real and useful information, keep it from getting to people and let ignorance ( and their ideology) rule. The other tactic is what is called "the big lie". Tell a lie big enough and often enough and there are a lot of people who will swallow it. And that has been having its affect as well.

What we see with the disrupters ( not protestors which is fine, but they are not protesting, their goal is to disrupt) is ironic because everything these people engage in comes right out the fascist handbook. From telling "the big lie" to trying to drown out anything that dispels it. And then they claim they are the true Americans.

If you listen to what's actually behind their opposition to the public option you learn that for most of them, it's not enough that they don't want it, they don't want you to have it. Its been made clear over and over that anyone who wants to keep their present insurance can. But that's not enough for these true believers. They dont want a public option because they dont want anyone else to have the choice. It is ideology at work. And pure utter ignorance.

How ignorant are these people who oppose reform and the public option? As Paul Krugman reports, a man in a town hall meeting in South Carolina stood up and shouted at Congressman Bob Inglis, "keep your government hands off my Medicare". When Inglis tried to explain that Medicare was already a government program, the man "wouldnt have any of it".

These are people who represent a political group whose polices were a disaster for the country the last 8 years. But to them it doesn't matter. Its the philosophy that matters not whether it works or solves problems. And what the Republicans use to motivate these people are the same tactics that have always been used to motivate a mob -- fear.

We saw another man comparing healthcare reform to Nazi Germany in the 30s, and signs showing Obama with a Hitler mustache. Limbaugh has picked up on the Nazi and Hitler theme and if anything, it is a classic example of projection with the real fascists accusing the other side of being exactly what they are.

Another problem is the news coverage. A CNN reporter interviewed a union member outsdie a town hall meeting in Maryland who opposed health care reform because he said he didnt think he should be forced to give up his insurance and take something he didnt want. In true CNN fashion, the reporter, obviously feeling it wasnt his place to actually inform anyone of anything, didnt tell this man that the plan doesnt force anyone to take anything and that the public option is voluntary. So the news media is content to let those who are completely ignorant of what is being proposed to stay that way. After all it makes for some good pictures.

It is certainly true that Obama and his White House have botched the entire health care debate beyond anything thought possible, thanks to a complete lack of leadership. And Obama has shown no ability to fight back. They allowed the Republicans to make their dishonest charges without a strong and powerful response and the result has been that the conservative mobs are either believing the lies or are simply willing to be foot soldiers in an ideological cause. CNN and Wolf Blitzer in particular have shown they are the most easily intimidated by the mob mentality.

The question now is to what extent will Obama and his White House fight back? Are they going to label the Republican position lies something they should have done weeks ago? Are they going to take them on and fight? Or are they going to just offer weak resistance like John Kerry did in 2004?