31 December 2009

New Year Chill

Whether it's background music as you prepare for the evening's festivities, or whether you listen on your way to the midnight hour, here is part of the night's soundtrack as we countdown to 2010:

The Forgotten People - Thievery Corporation
Reserver - Redlounge Orchestra
Free - Lisa Shaw
Music & Wine (Conga Lounge Remix) - Blue Six
Love You Inside Out (Cole Medina Remix) - Bee Gees
Big Fun - Inner City
The World Is a Beat - N'dambi
Crazy (2005 Remix) - Seal
We're In the City - Saint Etienne
The Music's No Good Without You - Cher
Aerer - Redlounge Orchestra
Postales - Federico Aubuele
MJ Mega-Remix - Michael Jackson

Happy New Year!

28 December 2009

Thoughts On Detroit

More on the attempted terrorist attack in Detroit later, but suffice it to say:

1. The President has done the right thing in not putting these thugs front and center by rushing back to D.C. to tend to the follow-up investigation. (I don't know that I would have played golf, but that's just me.) That said, Mr. Obama is monitoring events and his team has been hard at work since the 25th.

2. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's contention that "the system worked" is way off base. Obviously it didn't. The "system" as it stands does not, I presume, take into account the fact that airline passengers function as air marshalls. Granted, the system broke down in Niger and the Netherlands, as well as the United States, and the American government needs to work in concert with both of those countries to put a working system in place; but to say the system worked is arrogant along the lines of the Bush administration. One way Napolitano can redeem herself? She can fire the staffer responsible for letting this guy slip through the cracks.

24 December 2009

Happy Hanu-Kwanz-Mas!

Have a wonderful holiday everyone. Be safe. I'll be back after the long holiday weekend.

It's Official: Health Care Passes Senate

On a strict party line vote, following a filibuster attempt by the Republicans and several more procedural moves, the Senate passed their version of health care legislation this morning. The vote was 60 to 39 (one Republican was not present). All 60 "yes" votes came from the Democratic caucus.

Read the President's remarks on passage of the bill here.

23 December 2009

"The courage to do the right thing"

As always, Thomas Friedman nails it:
As I listened to Denmark’s minister of economic and business affairs describe how her country used higher energy taxes to stimulate innovation in green power and then recycled the tax revenues back to Danish industry and consumers to make it easier for them to make and buy the new clean technologies, it all sounded so, well, intelligent.

How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things — whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit — are “off the table.”

My fellow Americans, the fact that the recent Copenhagen climate summit was a bust in terms of solving our energy/climate problems doesn’t mean that we can ignore those problems — or that we can ignore how individual countries, like Denmark, have effectively addressed them. With unemployment in Denmark at about 4 percent, compared with our 10 percent, maybe we should at least consider putting a few of its ideas on our table.
Because I was disgusted with the lack of gravitas in the Democratic presidential field, I cast a write-in vote for Mr. Friedman in the California Democratic primary in 2004. The man was the only one who wanted America to take the debris of 9/11 and turn it into something positive; he was the only person to say out loud that Americans had to sacrifice a whole lot to get where we needed to go; he was the only guy in the room warning that if we didn't step up to the plate, America was to find herself a second-class world citizen.

Yet many in congress (mainly Republicans, but a few Democrats as well) refuse to make the hard choices needed to make us less dependent on Middle East oil, to overhaul our failing education system, to repair and solidify our manufacturing sector. These members of congress have one goal and one goal only: to be re-elected time and again. To which I ask, "for what?" The longer they wait to do something, the harder those things that need to get done will be when a future congress finally has the cajones to address these issues head on.

And until these imbeciles cast the votes necessary for such legislation, America's stature diminishes further by the day.

Update, thinking out load: Personally, I think it would behoove President Obama to add two voices to his team of advisers in the White House - two men who could challenge the President to go the extra mile, to serve as key players during administration debates, to add a level of intelligence to the discussion that Mr. Obama doesn't necessarily get from his core political team. Those two men are Mr. Friedman and Andrew Sullivan.

Had I been president, those two would have been offered key advisory roles in my administration. I wouldn't have agreed with them 100% of the time. Not even close. But to have such brain power challenging the president on the key issues of the day would help make any president one of the greats of the 21st century.

Chateau Vaux le Vicomte

Our buddy Curtis puts together his 2009 gingerbread house. It's nothing short of amazing, really.

22 December 2009

Released This Week, 47 Years Ago

My personal all-time favorite...

The role of Atticus Finch won Gregory Peck that year's Best Actor Academy Award. His acceptance speech should be studied by every nominee in every category every year.

Movie vs TV Mash-Up: "Let's Enhance"

Pretty fun stuff...

Santorum of the Day

The fascists over at World Net Daily...

Christmas Across America

Peace and joy, my ass. THIS is your typical American Christmas...

More On Health Care

Andrew Sullivan nails it:
What Obama has done is force the existing system to insure 30 million more people at a modest cost, and to include a swathe of (still-insufficient) varieties and strategies of cost-control. This is huge - the biggest first year achievement of any president since Reagan. If you consider that he did this while also managing the steepest down-turn in decades, revamping America's image in the world, preventing a banking implosion, and prosecuting two unresolved wars in the face of almost deranged opposition, it's pretty damn impressive.
Ross Douthat:
In the end, when the history of the health care debate is written, I don't think any of the choices that G.O.P. lawmakers made this year will loom particularly large. The choices that they made, or didn't make, across the last fifteen years are what made all the difference. Between the defeat of Clintoncare and the election of Barack Obama, the Republicans had plenty of chances to take ownership of the health care issue and pass a significant reform along more free-market, cost-effective lines. They didn't. The system deteriorated on their watch instead. And now they're reaping the consequences.
Taegan Goddard:
...the political blunder made by Republicans -- an all or nothing effort to defeat the bill -- means they will now have to live with the consequences for a generation or more.
Two more random points:

1. As Sullivan said, the cost-controls in the Senate bill are insufficient. Over the next couple of years, congress should work to get those under control. This bill is a step in the right direction, though.

2. While 60 votes were cobbled together to end the filibuster the other night, and while the bill looks to be on track to jump over some procedural moves this week on its way to passage by Christmas Eve, this process still has one more major battle ahead before it becomes law. This is the SENATE bill. Last month the HOUSE passed their bill. Once the Senate passes their bill this week, a conference committee consisting of key members of both houses will try to merge the two bills into one. The final bill is then voted on by both houses of congress before going to the president for signature. This is how most bills work. But with two conservative Democrats saying they won't support certain measures in the House bill if they wind up in the merged final product, then we're in for another bumpy ride after the holidays. (As the Ways and Means Committee Chairman said about merging these two health care bills, "It's akin to mating a Chihuahua with a Great Dane.")

21 December 2009

Kyle at Christmas


Filibuster Defeated - Health Care Final Vote This Week

On a raw party line vote, the Republican filibuster to the Senate health care bill was defeated at 1am this morning. All 58 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with the Democrats provided the 60 votes needed to end the block. Not one of the 40 Republicans voted with the Democrats.

While there are still several procedural things that need to take place, the bill looks to be on track for final official passage sometime this week.

And despite all that is wrong with this bill, that is a huge step forward. There's still some work to do, but we're heading in the right direction. For the first time since a health care overhaul was first proposed in 1917, a bill will go to the president's desk for signature.

UPDATE: Sen. Al Franken (Democrat-MN) explains why is supporting this bill over at DailyKos.

UPDATE 2: Krugman is pleased:
Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It's a seriously flawed bill, we'll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it's nonetheless a huge step forward.

20 December 2009

The Winter Solstice

Fourteen songs for these shortest days of the year. Press play and enjoy...

Maybe So, Maybe No - Mayer Hawthorne
Moon River - Henry Mancini
Happy Ending - Joe Jackson/Elaine Caswell
Planet Home - Jamiroquai
Never There - Cake
Stand By Love - Simple Minds
Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
L.I.E. - N'dambi
I.G.Y. - Donald Fagen
Reality - Steve Taylor
Undress Me Now - Morcheeba
What It Feels Like For a Girl - Madonna
Your Love Is Forever - Ben Bridwell
Je Cherche un Homme - Eartha Kitt

19 December 2009

Kennedy's Widow Endorses Health Care Plan

Victoria Reggie Kennedy's op-ed will appear in tomorrow's Washington Post. Key passages:
The bill before the Senate, while imperfect, would achieve many of the goals Ted fought for during the 40 years he championed access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. "If it were easy," he told me, "it would have been done a long time ago." He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away.

Saturday Morning Mash-Up

Boston and the Black Eyed Peas have a feelin'.

Google's Quest For World Domination Continues

They've put an offer on the table to buy Yelp.

A Senate Deal on Health Care

For better or for worse, the hapless majority leader has struck a bargain with Sen. Ben Nelson (Democrat-NE) regarding abortion language.

TPM has the scoop on the poop here.

18 December 2009

Pass the Health Care Bill

Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, wants congress to pass the health care bill.

Key passages of today's column:
A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.

But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.

...let’s all take a deep breath, and consider just how much good this bill would do, if passed — and how much better it would be than anything that seemed possible just a few years ago. With all its flaws, the Senate health bill would be the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare, greatly improving the lives of millions. Getting this bill would be much, much better than watching health care reform fail.

At its core, the bill would do two things: First...Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs.

The result would be a huge increase in the availability and affordability of health insurance, with more than 30 million Americans gaining coverage, and premiums for lower-income and lower-middle-income Americans falling dramatically. That’s an immense change

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.

Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, America would be in much better shape today if Democrats had cut a deal on health care with Richard Nixon, or if Bill Clinton had cut a deal with moderate Republicans back when they still existed.
Krugman then goes on to suggest that the Senate needs to change its ways:
Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.
With rules as they stand, the Democratic majority can't govern. Of course, they have only themselves to blame for making the rules that way. But, with the hapless Harry Reid leading them, the only way the Democrats stand a chance next November is if they change the Senate rules so they can actually GOVERN between now and Election Day next year.

I am not suggesting they do away with the filibuster. But they really ought to make it so that it's really hard to call one. As I have suggested before, the way to do that is to go back to the old days solid Senate leaders like Alben Barkely and Lyndon Johnson. If a senator calls a filibuster, then that senator (and only that senator) must stand on the senate floor and discuss the issue at hand non-stop until either one of two things happen: 1. the chamber cobbles together 60
votes to stop the filibuster; 2. The senator stops speaking.

As it stands right now, the current rule essentially requires every bill to pass with a 60-vote majority. That's a super-majority rule, and that, in my view, is unconstitutional.

UPDATE: A TPM reader writes Josh Marshall:
If I feel abandoned, it's not by Obama and the Democratic party, it's by those on the left advocating to kill the bill.

I am unemployed and have a pre-existing condition that requires daily medicines, quarterly doctors visits and an annual test. I am on COBRA, which runs out mid-2010, when I will have to find new health insurance. I will need to purchase some kind of health insurance, assuming I can find provider who will insure me.

I don't pretend to understand all the intricacies of the health care reform bill, but I do read a lot. From what I can glean, if the bill passed, I would be able to find health insurance because I could not to be turned down due to my pre-exisiting condition. And based on my income at the moment, my premuims would be subsidized.
My hunch is that once (if) this bill passes, more people will be pleased with it than you think.

But as I said earlier today, those on the left who are advocating that congress jettison the current proposals and start from scratch aren't really thinking. Dump the current legislation and it will be another generation - if not longer - before we see this tried again.

End-of-the-Week Levity

Santa Claus: Terrorist?

Jack Bauer is on the case...

Point, Counterpoint

Nate Silver and Markos Moulitsas debate the current Senate health care proposal, with Silver thinking we should take what we can get and Moulitsas thinking we should jettison the plan and start from scratch.

In hindsight, this probably should have been approached at more piecemeal pace, with a ban on pre-existing conditions and policy cancellations, along with some serious cost control measures put into place in one bill, then tackling how to insure the uninsured later.

That said, I tend to agree with Silver at this point. We should take what we can get at right now, because with 2010 being an election year, most of Congress won't touch a revised bill. And with the Democrats more than likely to lose a significant number of seats in that election, the chances of doing something in 2011 are almost nil. In fact, if the current bill isn't considered (or if it fails) we won't see significant health care legislation for at least another generation.

16 December 2009

Joe and Harry

1992 Illinois Democratic Senate primary: Twelve-year incumbent Alan Dixon loses re-nomination to Carol Moseley-Braun. Dixon, ever the Democratic Party loyalist, concedes gracefully:
I spent a lifetime in Democratic politics, and I spent that lifetime in Democratic politics playing by the rules.... And I said in this primary campaign that I would support the winner, that I would endorse the winner, and that I would vote for the winner.... I accept that result just as fully as I accepted 29 good results for Alan Dixon in the past.
2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate primary: Eighteen-year incumbent Joseph Lieberman, his party's nominee for vice-president in 2000, loses re-nomination to Ned Lamont. HIS concession? Classless:
I am of course disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged...let me tell you...I cannot and will not let this result stand.
Back in the days of Alben Barkley and Lydnon Johnson, Lieberman would have been stripped of every committee assignment and chairmanship, his seniority in the chamber rolled back to zero, and his professional life made miserable.

But in the Senate of a cuckold old rooster like Harry Reid? A turncoat like Lieberman barks and the majority leader bends over and spreads his ass open.


Mid-Week Brain Break

Amateur video put together to "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear...

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.

Lieberman vs. Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a fucking cuckold wimp of a man, has given Sen. Joe Lieberman (Fascist-CT) way too much power.

Adult Swim was able to film health care negotiations between the two men. Here, Lieberman (wearing black) tells Reid (wearing blue) exactly what needs to be done if Lieberman is to support a bill...

15 December 2009

Little Miss Chloe

Waiting for her daddy to sit down on the sofa and settle in for the evening.

Lieberman: Fuckwad of the Year

Greg Sargent dug up a video from THIS PAST SEPTEMBER, in which Sen. Lieberman backed the Medicare "buy-in" he is currently threatening to filibuster:

It is obvious at this point that Lieberman's only goal is to screw the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This isn't about health care for him. It's about payback for his loss in the 2006 party primary.


Up Shit's Creek, Sans Paddle

Quote of the Day:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
-Upton Sinclair, as quoted yesterday by NY Times columnist Paul Krugman.

In that column Krugman argues that, as history shows us, it's up to the Democrats to reign in the banks and put our financial system back on solid footing.

With THIS congress?

Well, shit. We're fucked, aren't we?

Update: Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the Congressional oversight panel on bank bailouts, says bank regulations fail over time.

As I just said: Fucked.

Biden: Lieberman Wrong on Health Care

Well, at least the VICE-president hasn't lost his cajones.

14 December 2009

Parker Wins Mayors Race In Houston

Annise Parker was elected mayor of Houston, Texas this past weekend, winning 53.6% of the vote to her opponent's 46.4%. Parker becomes the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city.

Her acceptance speech:

Buckley on Heller

Christopher Buckley, in yesterday's NY Times, on the anniversary of the death of his good friend, author Joseph Heller:
The death of any friend leaves a hole. In this case, a succession of holes, for I’ve often found myself wondering over the last 10 years, “What would Joe have made of this?” Having died just before the start of a tumultuous — to say the least — decade, the author of a landmark 20th-century satire missed, or perhaps another way to put it, avoided:

• the Florida recount

• 9/11

• weapons of mass destruction

• Saddam Hussein’s hanging, available on cellphone and YouTube

• Dick Cheney shooting his lawyer

• Hurricane Katrina

• John Kerry, war hero, being depicted as a Swift-boating wimp

• Lady Gaga

• A.I.G. bonuses

• Bernard Madoff

• the election of Barack Obama

• Glenn Beck

• the “controversy” over Barack Obama’s birth certificate

• Sarah Palin, best-selling author.
Heller's "Catch-22" is next on my list of never-read-classics. I have been meaning to pick it up ever since reading "No Laughing Matter," his memoir about battling Guillain-Barré syndrome, in 1987.

That one, I recommend highly.

Santorum of the Day

Senator Joe Lieberman (Fascist-CT):
You've got to take out the Medicare buy-in. You've got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act, which was a whole new entitlement program that will, in future years, put us further into deficit. And you've got to adopt some of the cost containment provisions that will strengthen cost containment, that all of us favor.
Never mind that you argued FOR those exact things during your 2000 run for the vice-presidency, and again in 2006 during your run for renomination to your Senate seat.

Hey Joe: It seems to me that your move to the dark side is now complete, and that the only reason you continue to caucus with the Democrats is so that you can remain chairman of your beloved Homeland Security committee.

Why don't you do us all a favor? Admit that your transformation to becoming a Fascist Republican is now complete, caucus with their lot, and then fuck right off.

Wright vs. Hitchens

The Republican Party (namely the Fascists among them), as well as some Democrats, would do well to watch this debate over the war on terrorism between Robert Wright ("The Evolution of God") and Christopher Hitchens (Vanity Fair).

In watching it myself, there were times when I wanted to reach through the monitor and ring Hitchens' neck; but at the same time I had to respect the courage of his convictions, even years after the evidence has proven him so terribly wrong.

THIS is how a policy debate should take place, especially on something as grave as war. Had the United States Senate actually took the time to think it all through, to weigh the intelligence (or lack thereof), well, things may have turned out a bit differently, don't you think?

The Dispensaries vs. the Dime-Baggers

Joel Stein's hilarious take on California's growing, and practically legal, pot industry:
I was granted a medical-marijuana license, even though I'm healthy and I don't smoke weed. I went to a doctor's office that consisted of a desk, a TV, two cans of air freshener and a man wearing a Hawaiian T-shirt. I told Dr. Magnum P.I. about my constant anxiety, insomnia and headaches — two more conditions than any previous patient had bothered to mention. He freaked out and gave me a pot license for only six months until I saw a psychologist. My lovely wife Cassandra, however, got a full year's prescription by claiming she was afflicted with a condition called "menstruation."
The entire piece is well worth your time.

11 December 2009

Obama's Nobel Speech

In its entirety...

I will say it again: Mr. Obama is not a dove. He never has been and he didn't campaign as one. Those doves on the left who find themselves disappointed in the President's new policy for Afghanistan were not listening during last year's presidential run. Obama isn't against all wars. Rather, he thought it foolish to fight dumb wars. Thus, his decision to slowly draw down in Iraq.

Afghanistan, however, was always thought of as a just war, and during 2008 he promised to refocus the war effort there. There will - and should - be debate over whether it remains a just war eight years after its start. But to act shocked and dismayed at his decision to add 30,000 troops to the Afghan effort is a bit perplexing.

09 December 2009

Ten Years On

Happy Anniversary, sweet man. The last ten years have been the highlight of my life. You are my soul mate, the love of my life, my best friend.

With all the love in the world,

Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
You Were Meant For Me - Jewel
Your Smiling Face - James Taylor
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever - Susan Tedeschi
You Make Loving Fun - Fleetwood Mac
Swept For You Baby - The Sylvers
Saint - Texas
Power of Two - Indigo Girls
My Funny Valentine - Elvis Costello
Buckets of Rain - Neko Case
How Deep Is Your Love - The Bird and the Bee
Elton's Song - Elton John
Nobody Does Me - Diane Schuur
I Try - Macy Gray
Candy - Paolo Nutini

03 December 2009

One More Try

Quote of the Day:
On reflection, Obama was saying something quite simple: one more try, guys...He has put Petraeus and McChrystal...on notice: prove your case.

As always with Obama, look a little deeper. He has made the very best of a very bad situation. And he is playing a long game for a win or a necessary withdrawal or both. I retain all my doubts; but I give him and Gates and McChrystal and Clinton and the troops all my support for the two years ahead. This much he and they deserve.

One more try, guys.
-Andrew Sullivan's take on President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Santorum of the Day

Thirty-eight assholes in the New York State Senate.

02 December 2009

Obama as Bush? Give me a break!

I love Rachel Maddow. I really do. Her intelligent and well-parsed commentary and debate are a joy to watch.

That said, I highly and respectfully disagree with last night's piece on President Obama's Afghanistan war policy...

Obama as Bush? Give me a break!

Look, I'm a lefty but I'm no dove, yet I am not a hawk either. Like President Obama, I am not against all wars, I am simply against dumb ones. Iraq was a war of choice, fought illegally on the wings of a lie, at the expense of the real war in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Had the previous president kept his eye on the ball we would be wrapping this up right now. But he detoured, and now his predecessor is forced to finish the fight and clean up the mess.

This move should shock and disappoint no one. (NO ONE.) My fellow compatriots on the left who are crying foul this morning obviously weren't paying attention during last year's presidential campaign. Mr. Obama made no secret of his desire to wind things down in Iraq so that we could tidy things up in Afghanistan. Am I thrilled? No. In a perfect world we'd pull out. But to have watched last year's presidential campaign and then turn around and act shocked and dismayed at this decision flies in the face of reality.

And to compare Mr. Obama's new Afghan policy to the irresponsible and incompetent policy of the Bush/Cheney team is over the top and an insult to those of us who voted for Mr. Obama with the knowledge (however much we disagreed with it) that he was going to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush shot from the hip, making snap decisions without fully fleshing out the pros and cons (thus, the mess Mr. Obama inherited last January). I for one am extremely content with the knowledge that President Obama and his team took the time to talk this through, time and time again, over the course of several months, to come up with what they felt was the right approach. Whether it will succeed only time will tell. But the grown-ups were at the table for this one. And I sleep better at night knowing that.

01 December 2009

Better Than I Thought

Ok, 30,000 troops with the goal of shoring things up and getting the hell out of Dodge by 2011. I'm less weary and hope this goes well.

We'll see.