2009/08/29

Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy

I was in Massachusetts from about 1965 to 1991, after which I joined the Navy. I guess the time when I was most aware of Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA, lived from February 22, 1932 to August 25, 2009) was when I was in the cab going to my Navy "A School" (Training following boot camp in my "rate" or speciality) from the Meridian, MS airport.

A fellow Seaman from a deep South state thought he'd amuse his new buddies by telling tales about how awful that Senator from Massachusetts was. I politely informed him that I was from Massachusetts. He continued to disrespect Senator Kennedy. I informed him again that Kennedy was MY Senator and that I really didn't appreciate people disrespecting him.

He switched to Senator Kerry. I again reminded him that I was from Massachusetts and REALLY didn't appreciate it when people disrespected my Senators. Obviously, he was used to people freely & cheerfully disrespecting these two for his entire life. Finally I could see the gears in his head grinding and enlightenment dawning and he switched the subject to women. Never saw the guy again.

On Friday, a Daily News columnist brought up Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick and insists that we remember "that sad footnote" amid our celebrations of Kennedy's life. A buddy of mine agrees that, yes, Kennedy was a "
flawed human being" and that Chappaquiddick was indeed a good reason to not to vote for Kennedy for President in 1980. However,

Kennedy remade himself from that troubled time, and rededicated himself under his second marriage to a new life. I honor the Senator who repented and returned.

No, Kennedy never specifically referred to Kopechne, but I don't consider it a stretch to think that part of the time and energy he devoted to public service was indeed a reaction to her death and to the role he played in it. As a side note, the people who held up signs telling O.J. Simpson "We forgive you" during his 1995 low-speed chase showed that they had no idea what forgiveness truly means. Forgiveness is something one gives in return for repentance. Simpson had not repented, so he had done nothing to earn forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't free, it isn't something one just hands out.

As my buddy points out, members of the Bush Administration have done far less to warrant forgiveness than Kennedy has done through the many, many bills he has gotten through the Senate that have improved the lives of American citizens. If Kennedy never formally repented, he at least devoted the remainder of his life to good works.

Was his desire to do good genuine? Apparently so,

[Kennedy:] "There was a lot of resistance to No Child Left Behind - on that point, even. Unbelievable. But it was put in, and it got funded, and . . . I met the parents today and saw the direct results. I met the mothers out there, and I saw what a difference that's going to make. That's enough for me today, I'll tell you."

His voice changes on those five words: I met the parents today. His identification with them is nearly a physical thing. You can see their images in his eyes. You can hear their voices in the way that his changes.

The piece makes the point that Kennedy was excited by the good that the NCLB bill did in the real world, to real people. The left blogosphere is as one in insisting that Kennedy had no use for simply passing bills just to get legislation passed with his name on it. He was in it to make a difference in people's lives.

Has the left "politicized" Kennedy's death? That is, has Kennedy's death been used inappropriately to boost support for health care reform along lines that progressives would like to see? Perhaps, but the left was accused of politicizing the deaths of Senator Paul Wellstone (D-WI) and of Coretta Scott King and yet, Republicans never had to take any grief for politicizing the death of 40th President Ronald Reagan, when the speakers at his funeral came entirely from one party. Those speakers didn't include a single Democrat, as though Reagan represented only Republicans.

Some right-wingers are reacting with hysterical, bile-filled rants. Interestingly, one of them is a prominent editor at the Drudge Report, a website that many, many people in our press corps cite as their go-to source. Eric Stanger, a director at ABC Radio and Premiere Radio Networks has made similarly unhinged and hateful comments. Somehow, I'm guessing that many anti-Kennedy talking points will make their way into the nations' political discourse.

Frankly, the best idea I've heard so far is not to name the whole health care bill after Kennedy, but just the public option portion of it!


List of newspaper obituaries of Ted Kennedy.
Summary of legislative accomplishments.
People at Daily Kos and Media Matters post their thoughts on Kennedy.
President Obama's eulogy.

2009/08/18

Inky piece on health care today

In a front-page piece today:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that government insurance was "not the essential element" of an overhaul, and that a Senate proposal to create nonprofit cooperatives could be an alternative way of creating new competition for insurance companies to drive down costs.

Erm, sorry, but no.

From a piece in FireDogLake:
  1. "The cooperatives' potential to reduce overall premiums is limited because (1) they lack sufficient leverage as a result of their limited market share; (2) the cooperatives have not been able to produce administrative cost savings for insurers; or (3) their state laws and regulations already restrict to differing degrees the amount insurers can vary the premiums charged different groups purchasing the same health plan."
  2. "There's a lot of GOP leadership in that above list [that oppose co-ops], but even more importantly, two out of the three Republican Senators negotiating themselves oppose co-ops. Senator Grassley is opposed and Senator Enzi is really opposed. "
Not only are co-ops a complete non-answer, neither Republicans nor conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats will use them as a basis for negotiations.

2009/08/16

Obama is losing me on health care

Okay, so first the former Republican Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, goes onto her Facebook page (Signing up to Facebook is free, but link not available to non-Facebook members) on 7 August and delivers a completely insane rant about "Death Panels" (PolitiFact examines the charge and finds it to be completely without merit). Something to do with bureaucrats sitting at desks deciding on the basis of spreadsheet projections or somesuch whether a loved relative, whether a new-born child or a great-grandparent, should live or die. This talking point is actually not brand new. It actually goes back a few months. Okay, fine.

Then Palin doubles down on that obviously dishonest and thoroughly inaccurate point. In the meantime, other Republican spokespeople, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly join her. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) made a very similar point about how the health care bill would set a "ceiling" (Set of maximum benefits) on health care when, actually, the bill would set a "floor" (Set of minimum benefits). He claimed that the bill would "lead" to rationing, ignoring the fact that private insurance already enforces rationing. The complete and utter hypocrisy Republicans bring to the health care issue is just astounding. Again, fine, okay. All this is to be expected. No biggie.

Then Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decides that Palin's "death panel" nonsense is serious and opines that

"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life," Grassley said. "And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out. And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."

Of course, getting counseling for how to handle end-of-life decisions should be done as far in advance as possible. Is that always practical? Is that something that people are prepared to discuss years before it's necessary? Not in all cases, obviously. There's absolutely zero evidence that anybody has ever been plotting to "pull the plug on grandma." That's nothing more than zany, unhinged scare talk.

But okay, fine. Grassley's a Republican and everyone knows that Republicans hate the American citizen and that the Finance Committee is dominated by Blue Dog Democrats who don't like the American citizen much better.

...it was a rebellion by the largely rural "blue dog" Democrats on Waxman's committee that held up the bill. Their complaint: The bill was too expensive and there wasn't enough money in it for their districts. And so they held things up, long enough to prevent a vote before the start of the August recess, wrecking President Obama's timetable.

The real problem started with Obama's reaction to Grassley's lunatic statement. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said that

the White House remained committed to working with Republicans to get health care reform passed.

to which the blogger Digby replied:

It's an unusual strategy. I've rarely found it to be very effective to try to negotiate in good faith with lunatic demagogues, but maybe it can work.

I certainly hope so, because if it doesn't somebody is going to have a reputation for being a weak little chump. And it isn't going to be Grassley.

Unfortunately, it appears that Palin's insane demagoguery might be having an effect. Or, more likely, people who were never serious about health care reform in the first place are complaining that their arms are being twisted. Very unfortunately, it's now looking like the Obama Administration will drop the Public Option entirely. Sorry, but a public option is absolutely necessary. I completely agree that Single Payer would be better, but there's simply no way that a health plan without at least the Public Option will work.

2009/08/12

More on health care disruptions

Lou Dobbs makes a complete idiot out of himself by saying about Howard Dean that:

"I thought we had gotten rid of this left-wing pest for a while," Dobbs said of the former Vermont governor. "But I guess he is just resurgent.... He's a bloodsucking leftist. I mean, you gotta put a stake through his heart to stop this guy."

Dobbs sorta, kinda, not really walked his statement back a wee bit. What strikes me is that Howard Dean is not at all any sort of failure. He's not some fringe figure that never accomplished anything. Dean was the author of the "50 State Strategy," the idea of "Let's contest EVERY seat everywhere." This was a strategy that put Democrats firmly into the driver's seat.

Dobbs' ranting and raving has caused a great loss of credibility for the media critic Howard Kurtz. Dobbs and Kurtz both receive paychecks from CNN. When Dobbs makes insane statements, Kurtz's silence is deafening.

The Inky today did a front-page piece about the birthers/teabaggers/anti-health care people who are screaming and yelling and disrupting town hall events across the country.

The piece does indeed bring up the astroturf organizations Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, in the story's eighth paragraph and stating that they have organized "some" of the protests. The evidence is that they've been the driving force behind ALL of the protests. No other coherent reason is given for the over-the-top opposition to health care in the piece.

Amazingly, a Blue Dog Democrat (Blue Dogs are frequently given the positive "purr-word" designation of "moderate" or "centrist" and it's usually an undeserved accolade) talked some common sense on the subject:

“When people say, oh, we don’t want the government programs I ask how many of you are on Medicare, how many of you are veterans. When the hands go up I say, I don’t know if y’all know this but those are both government-run programs,” Cuellar said.

A few conservatives have whined and moaned and groaned "Wa-a-ah, sob, sniffle, the bill is much too long to read!!! Obama is trying to put one over on us!!1!!" Wel-l-l-l, a single individual somehow didn't seem to have any trouble going through the entire bill and finding all sorts of "awful" things in it. He gives a very detailed list of all the "problems."

Oh, and BTW, not all faith-based political movements are conservative. A group of progressive Christians says:

5PM EDT Wednesday, August 19th, the faith community is hosting a national call in and audio webcast on health care reform and President Barack Obama has accepted the faith community’s invitation to join the call.

2009/08/03

What is the purpose of the CforC program?

An especially hilarious set of sentences concerning the successful "Cash for Clunkers" program, courtesy of the NY Times:

...dealers must destroy the old engines of cars being turned in before the government will reimburse them for the $3,500 or $4,500 discount...

The Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye has captured the “laborious and potentially dangerous” car-crushing process on video.

Furthermore, some critics have noted that the requirement to demolish old engines could reduce their availability at junkyards, which could prevent people who cannot afford any kind of new car, rebate or not, from fixing up old vehicles. That has bolstered criticism from the right that the program was intended for “limousine liberals.” [emphases added]

Sigh! Okay, what is the purpose of the program?!?!? Clearly, one purpose of the program is to act as an economic stimulus, encouraging people to go out and buy new autos. Cool! Wonderful! That's exactly the sort of thing that America needs right now. But the other purpose is to get polluting old cars off the road. It's to exchange the old polluting cars for cleaner-burning ones that don't pollute as much.

Obviously, if old engines are simply re-sold, that would defeat the secondary purpose of the program. Dunno why the authors of the piece didn't make this clear as opposed to just regurgitating Republican propaganda on the program.

Commenters in the Inky on the program bring up a good point, that the CforC program rewards past bad behavior.

Posted by Bobphxville 02:21 PM, 08/01/2009
I agree with rbpeeple. I have two old cars that I am limping by with - a Cavalier and a Prism. Both with over 100k miles. Because I made smart choices years ago, and by purchasing cars with decent gas mileage (which lessened the negative impact on the environment over the past 10 years) - I can get NOTHING by this program. This program benefits those that made stupid choices, bought gas guzzlers, and hurt the environment during the past 10 years. I am waiting for one of these government programs to help me - while I am trying to pay $5000 a month for 10 months to a college (Bucknell) that decides that I make too much money to get a penny of finacial aid.

I can't disagree with this, Bobphxville makes a valid point. Ya just can't please everyone. To allow responsible citizens to get the same deal that those who made foolish choices did would again, defeat the purpose of the program.