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?

Monday, August 10, 2009


With healthcare reform bills having been stalled and floundering in the House and senate, with three different versions coming out of committee, and with talk that some Democrats on the Senate Finance committee have been considering caving in on the public option in order to compromise with the Republicans, the most damaging approach Obama has taken on healthcare, the one thing that has caused all the slogging and confusion in congress, was to make bi-partisanship an important goal in passing health care reform.

The big question is why?

Why do the Democrats and Obama feel they need bi-partisanship? Since when does bi-partisanship have anything to do with whether an idea is good or bad or whether it will work or not? Perhaps Obama has never heard the line about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. And when your trying to do it with a bi-partisan committee, it's not only harder, the results are liable to be a lot worse..

The point is, bi-partisanship is often a worthless goal and in this case it couldnt be more worthless.

In 1992 every Republican in the House and Senate voted against Bill Clinton's 1993 budget which passed by one vote -- Al Gore's deciding vote as president of the senate. Republicans called numerous press conferences during the debate to say that Clinton's budget was going to be a disaster for the country. They said specifically it was going to explode the deficit, drive up unemployment and deepen the recession. The Republicans batted 1.000. They were wrong about everything.

Clinton's economic polices which included tax increases, eliminated the deficit, achieved a balanced budget, resulted in the lowest unemployment in 40 years, the greatest economic expansion in US history and Clinton left the country with a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus that Bush and the Republicans blew in 3 years. something even Paul Volker, Chairmen of the Fed under Reagan, said was mindboggling.

During the Bush years, the Republicans employed policies that destroyed the balanced budget, created record deficits ,saw Bush become the first President since Hoover to lose jobs in his first three years in office and then saw all these policies lead to the greatest economic crisis since the Depression.

And Obama wants bi-partisanship?

This is taking the PR of Obama being a conciliator way too far. The only reason to have bi-partisanship is if you are afraid your idea will fail and you want to share the blame if it does.

The country elected Obama and gave the Democrats big majorities in the House and Senate because they had enough of 6-8 years of Republican ideas and governance and went to the polls and said they didn't want any more. So why are the Democrats negotiating with the Republicans? Why are they trying for bi-partisanship when the majority of the country voted for something else? What,as the saying goes, are they thinking?

Either Obama and the Democrats believe in their ideas and what they are doing on healthcare or they don't. If they don't, then drop it. If they do, then forget bi-partisanship, pass the ideas and the programs and the bills you think is best for the country, most notably the public option, and do it without bi-partisanship if the Republicans dont want to go along.

If Obama and the Democrats are right then the country will reap the benefits and the Republicans who opposed it will find themselves in a political hole they will not get out of for decades. If it goes wrong, the Republicans who opposed it will reap the political benefits. That's the way it goes. That's how the game is played. Those with the best ideas win.

Bi-partisanship is only about one thing -- spreading the blame politically if something doesn't work. It has nothing to do with whether an idea is a good one or whether it will work. The Republicans didn't look for bi-partisanship when they impeached Bill Clinton (for which they took the blame) and there was no bi-partisanship on passing the Clinton budget that turned the country's economy around and resulted in the greatest economic expansion in history.

Obama and the Democrats need to forget bi-partisanship and stand on what he and they believe. .Obama has to give up this idea of wanting everyone to like him. If the Democrats have the votes to pass the public option and other reforms they believe are best for the country, then just do it and be done with bi-partisanship related to healthcare reform.

And what Obama needs to do with the Democrats is tell them the public option is non-neogitable and not to waste time discussing compromise plans with the Republicans.

Tell them to vote against it if they dont believe in it and that they wll be held accountable politically if it passes and it succeeds. Let him be clear that he will veto any bill that does not include the public option and that their choices are to vote for it or against it but not waste any time trying to forge a bill that drops it.

Obama also has to address the lies being told by those opposing the public option and label them in no uncertain terms for what they are -- lies instead of treating it like the thing he supposedly came to Washington to change -- politics as usual. And make it clear he will hold them accountable for lying when they do..

Obama likes to remind the Republicans that the Democrats won. Its time for both he and the Democrats to start acting like it or hand over the government to the Republicans who know how to act like a majority party even if most of their ideas and policies were a disaster.

The best thing the Democrats can do is pass what they think will work with or without Republican support . And if Obama wants everyone to get along, then he can invite everyone over for a beer instead.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


When by all accounts, Henry Louis Gates got into the face of Sgt. Crowley after being asked for some ID in his own home after Crowley had responded to a 911 call of a possible burglary in progress, and in the ensuing charges and accusations made by Gates, both at the time and even days later, Gates used the same prejudice, assumptions and false conclusions about Sgt. Crowley that have been used in profiling African American men by the police. In this confrontation between black man and white cop, it was the black man who was the profiler and the cop who was profiled.

Crowley wasn't judged by the content of his character or by his actions, but by the color of his uniform. Crowley wasn't judged based on the facts or what was actually occuring, but by abuses and actions of other cops in other places at other times with other people. And that is exactly what profiling is about.

Gates took every horror story he ever heard about African American men being profiled by white cops and projected them onto Sgt. Crowley. That's profiling too.

Sgt. Crowley was profiled by President Obama who admitted he didn't know the facts and didn't care -- Crowley was guilty of "acting stupidly". That is profiling. And Sgt. Crowley was profiled by every person in the country who wrongly accused Crowley of a racist act, made cowardly annonymous phone calls to Lucy Whalen calling her a racist. or accused Sgt. Lashey, the 26 year veteran of the Cambridge police and a black officer who stood by Sgt. Crowley as an Uncle Tom. They are all profilers.

None of them, not Gates, not President Obama, not any of the people who took sides against Crowley wanted to know who he is, or what exactly happened. It didn't matter. They just jumped to conclusions and made a series of assumptions. based on what they knew or heard of the abuses endured by African Americans at the hands of other cops in other places and with other people. That's profiling.

Some have tried to pass off Gates' overreactions to the fact that he had just gotten off a long flight back from China. That doesn't explain Gates calling Crowley a "rogue cop" a few days later on CNN. That was profiling too. There are rogue cops who have used profiling to roust innocent African American men and committed abuses. Most of those are in the minority. Crowley is not now nor does his record show he has ever has been one of them. In fact his record shows the opposite, that he was handpicked by a black police commander to teach recruits about the dangers of racial profiling at the police academy.

Obama has called the whole episode a teachable moment. One Democratic strategist said that it was a teachable moment for the whole country. But it wasn't the whole country that jumped to the wrong conclusions and needed the teachable moment, only a few. So one can only hope that the people who needed to learn a few things, did.