Saturday, August 22, 2009

To repeat 

From former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (neither particularly smart, left-wing, or skeptical -- but well-connected and credible in what he says here):

Last night, the so-called "gang of six" -- three Republican and three Democratic senators on the Senate Finance Committee -- met by conference call and, according to Senator Max Baucus, the committee's chair, reaffirmed their commitment "toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill" (read: less coverage and no public insurance option)....

It's come down to these six senators. The House has reported a bill as has another Senate committee, but all eyes are fixed on Senate Finance -- and on these three Dems and three Republicans, in particular. But who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation's health care?

I don't get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House's health-care bill will spawn "death panels," empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die....

I really don't get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that's what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.

So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley's hands?

It's not even as if the gang represents America. The three Dems on the gang are from Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota -- states that together account for just over 1 percent of Americans. The three Republicans are from Maine, Wyoming, and Iowa, which together account for 1.6 percent of the American population.

So, I repeat: Why has it come down to these six? Who anointed them? Apparently, the White House. At least that's what I'm repeatedly being told by sources both on the Hill and in the Administration. "The Finance Committee is where the action is. They'll tee-up the final bill," says someone who should know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Pharmakon 

Here is Roger Ebert, going Biblical on health care. His reduction of these questions to a leap of faith, as it were, recalls the necessarily religious logic of human rights discourse.

In other news, Obama does not sound like someone who has given up on universal care.

Have we at AmCop closed the book already? We are ready to call this a lie?

I'm asking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


No one should be under any illusions about what is happening. This is about Barack Obama giving in in advance to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. The capitulation happened a long time ago, and Obama and Rahm ("Blue Dog") Emmanuel were the ones who made it happen.

Whether or not Obama could have done otherwise is really irrelevant -- though surely he could have, at least to some degree. What matters is recognizing the alignment of forces and opposing it.

Glenn Greenwald (read his post for all the links and substantiation):

The attempt to attract GOP support was the pretext which Democrats used to compromise continuously and water down the bill. But -- given the impossibility of achieving that goal [getting GOP support] -- isn't it fairly obvious that a desire for GOP support wasn't really the reason the Democrats were constantly watering down their own bill? Given the White House's central role in negotiating a secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry, its betrayal of Obama's clear promise to conduct negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN no less), Rahm's protection of Blue Dogs and accompanying attacks on progressives, and the complete lack of any pressure exerted on allegedly obstructionists "centrists," it seems rather clear that the bill has been watered down, and the "public option" jettisoned, because that's the bill they want -- this was the plan all along.

The Obama White House isn't sitting impotently by while Democratic Senators shove a bad bill down its throat. This is the bill because this is the bill which Democratic leaders are happy to have. It's the bill they believe in. As important, by giving the insurance and pharmaceutical industries most everything they want, it ensures that the GOP doesn't become the repository for the largesse of those industries (and, converesly, that the Democratic Party retains that status).

This is how things always work. The industry interests which own and control our government always get their way. When is the last time they didn't? The "public option" was something that was designed to excite and placate progressives (who gave up from the start on a single-payer approach) -- and the vast, vast majority of progressives (all but the most loyal Obama supporters) who are invested in this issue have been emphatic about how central a public option is to their support for health care reform. But it seems clear that the White House and key Democrats were always planning on negotiating it away in exchange for industry support. Isn't that how it always works in Washington? No matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter which party controls the levers of government, the same set of narrow monied interests and right-wing values dictate outcomes, even if it means running roughshod over the interests of ordinary citizens (securing lower costs and expanding coverage) and/or what large majorities want.

* * * * *

That's why this debate has now taken on such importance -- regardless of whether you think a public option is important or even if you think it's a good idea. Thanks in large part to the months-long efforts of Jane Hamsher and her FDL team -- who spent enormous amounts of time and resources getting large numbers of progressive House members to emphatically commit on video to opposing any health care bill that lacks a robust public option -- there's actually a chance this time that the outcome could be different. If those progressive House members actually adhere to their pledge, they can and will block any health care bill that lacks a public option. They can actually thwart industry demands and the dictate of Beltway leaders; can empower a new faction in Washington (themselves) beholden to different interests (ordinary citizens); and can vest some actual significance in the outcome of the 2006 and 2008 election.

UPDATE: Sign this petition being gathered by FDL for presentation to the House. Here is the message I sent to House Dems:

You have to take a stand sometime.

There is more to life than smooth functioning.

Without principles, the Democratic masters of profit and competence will become indistinguishable from suicidal Republican nihilists.

Or worse. At least Republican rage and insanity betray a residual self-disgust, which Rahm Emmanuel seems to lack.

You cannot count on sane people always to choose the lesser of two evils. Eventually, this logic leads to the precipitation of a third position -- the least evil of non-collaboration.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


One has to appreciate the few moments of genuine humor that the health care debacle has provided.

Lefty lifestyle points in conflict!! Does one help save the environment by savoring the top-shelf Manchego that can only be found at this apparently Republican den of organic and free-trade iniquity, or give in to one's less alternative, less exciting, and surely less taste-buds-zingin' liberal side, which might prefer that health care be extended to all and to thus not add overpriced dollars to the coffers of machine gun-wielding protesters at town halls.

This is a clash of values on par with some of the most torturous in recent memory. Feminism v. indigenous cultural rights in the female circumcision debate, human rights v. humanitarian intervention in Kosovo, and now this. Will it be farm-raised Shitaki-cilantro-herbed Artic char, or the bland inner satisfaction that comes from fealty to single-payer? Man I'm not even sure if I can go to work today!

Most interesting is that WF has clearly been anti-union since its inception. Didn't seem to bother anyone until now...

I vote... BOYCOTT!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

all your change are belong to us 

That's game, kids.

The Obama administration sent signals on Sunday that it has backed away from its once-firm vision of a government organization to provide for the nation’s 50 million uninsured and is now open to using nonprofit cooperatives instead.

See ya in three years for Obama v. Palin. I wonder who'll win? Surely this pile of FAIL will cost him electorally. (shits out of eye sockets. dies.)


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?