Tag Archives: Congress

Goldman Sachs and the politics of financial reform

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep so I ended up mulling over the fraud case against Goldman Sachs (GS) for about 3 hours. Here’s my (totally uneducated) take:

Bottom line, this case against GS is not a gamble by the government. The administration wants financial reform much more than they want to “get” GS, but because midterm elections are around the corner and Democrats are already expected to lose a fair number of Congressional seats, the administration really can’t afford to have Republicans running around telling people that financial reform is Maoism in disguise (or in the best interest of the banks…with the Republicans still auditioning opposition strategies, it’s like amateur hour on the Hill). So. What is to be done? How do you pass real financial reform in this political climate without more than a mock brawl? Apparently if you’re particularly savvy, you bring a charge against the most loathed bank on Wall Street based on a disclosure issue that may not actually be technically illegal, but that very clearly sounds like something that should be. The ambiguity of the law is the SEC/administration’s ace in the hole. Either GS settles or loses and financial reform happens because the issue is very clearly illustrated for the public by one great example, or GS wins and financial reform happens because the entire country is incensed that whatever GS did isn’t illegal. Either way, financial reform passes.

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Maybe They Just Want to Belong? Confederate History Month and the Tea Party

It’s been a really, really long time since I last posted. This time around, I hope to vastly improve on the quality of my former posts (it’s always strange looking back at opinion bits and realizing that you kind of sound like a moron…eh). I guess we’ll just see…

This is not a true “post” in the sense that any of this is meant to be coherent. Rather, just a jumble of thoughts I can’t get out of my head at 2:23am. In fact, this was originally written as a comment for an article on NY Liberal State of Mind (you might want to read this first), but I jumped over here before clicking the send…:

I’m from the South, North Carolina specifically. That may not be important to impart, but having spent the vast majority of my life in the South, I have had plenty of opportunity for observation. Having said that, I will now make a ridiculous claim.  I think I might understand, to some degree and academically, a bit of the need that white southerners feel to “honor” the Confederacy. Let me just state that I do not support, to any degree, a Confederate History Month, or any sort of dismissal of Slavery. Leaving Slavery out of the Civil War is like leaving religion out of the history of the Crusades- absurd, historically inaccurate and just, plain bad (“wrong” seems like an indictment too light). My theory, though, is this:

Essentially, I think it comes down to the sense that, as the U.S. became more mobile, as more people began moving into the Southern states and others out, the structures of the original community organizational schemes were lost and those people left behind, aka white southerners, were left feeling not a part of any particular community. A century ago, white southerners, for the most part, would have either been part of a town community filled with people they knew because there wasn’t that much mobility and they had all lived there for a fair amount of time, or they were newer to the country and perhaps still identified with their origin nationality (Irish, Germans, Italians, etc), or they were still identified with a specific Southern church community. All of these areas provided identities for those who were a part of them. Now that the organizational structures are gone, white southerners are those with power but no sense of identity or self, no greater organization into community.

When I say, “I’m Jewish,” I’m claiming a host of experiences, point of view, and history that are specific and give me a place in the world. White southerners have no label like that. Though there are those who believe that labels are generally detrimental, we all use them to self-identity and show identification with larger groups that we consider ourselves a part of. White southerners only have, for the most part, a shared geographic history. Memories of the Confederacy do remind them of a better South as long as they forget that slaves were not just there for the “paternal coddling,” but I think that behind the portion of hardcore racists, most of these people just want to be a part of something.

I see the same thing in the Tea Party. There is, of course, an element of the Tea Party movement that is legitimately racist and just afraid of the black man in the White House, but I think the majority of Tea Party members are looking to be part of a group, to belong somewhere, something we all desire. This doesn’t excuse the bad behavior by some and lack of condemnation by most, but it seems to explain, in my mind, their totally contradictory and inexplicable ‘ideology.’ The ideology isn’t what’s most important, the important part really is the party itself.

Goodnight!

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An Amendment to Kill Medicare?

Anthony Weiner  is like the Superman/Clark Kent of the House- half wonkish and half seriously aggressive. Who else would consider using legislation as an offensive weapon? 

Writes Glenn Thrush from Politico:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says he plans to introduce a politically-targeted amendment forcing Republicans to vote “yes” or “no” on continuing Medicare, the government-run health care program for seniors, on the 44th anniversary of its enactment.

Weiner [who plans to vote yes, obviously] said he wants to tack the amendment onto the health care bill being marked up today — to call bluff on Republicans who say federal intervention into health care has been a failure.

“It’s put-up or shut-up time for the phonies who deride the so-called ‘public option’,” Weiner said.

This guy is a baller.

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Rachel Maddow Discusses the Deathers and Other Anti-Reform Conspiracies

Here’s what I now know about the proposed government takeover of health care:

1. The government wants to kill my grandparents. They will be “put on a list and forced to die early”….by being sent out into the ocean on ice floes…

2. The government is going to use the takeover of health care to promote abortion. The more abortions people have the more the government benefits because (fill in the blank).

Did I miss anything?

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Deathers: The New Birthers

Christopher Beam writes on Slate.com:

First came the “birthers.” Now, as President Obama makes a final push for health care reform, we have the deathers.

Many senior citizens are concerned that health care reform would mean cuts to Medicare. That much was clear at a town-hall meeting hosted Tuesday by the American Association of Retired Persons at which Obama fielded questions from seniors who don’t want to give up their benefits.

But one question stood out. It addressed what the host from the AARP called the “infamous” Page 425 of the House health care bill. “I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die,” said Mary from North Carolina. “This bothers me greatly, and I’d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill.” The host elaborated: “As I read the bill, it’s saying that Medicare will, for the first time, cover consultation about end-of-life care, and that they will not pay for such a consultation more than once every five years. This is being read as saying every five years you’ll be told how you can die.”

“Well, that would be kind of morbid,” Obama said.

The audience laughed. Many observers aren’t so amused. To them, the House bill and health care reform in general are the legislative equivalent of euthanasia.

“Obama’s not going to say, ‘Let’s kill them,’ ” says Charlotte Allen, a conservative commentator and author of The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus. “But he seems to be perfectly comfortable with the idea that a lot more old people are going to die a lot sooner.”

Deathers point to several parts of the House bill as evidence that health care reform means letting old people die. Most prominent is the end-of-life consultation provision mentioned above. An article on World Net Daily argues that the proposal “specifically calls for the consultation to recommend ‘palliative care and hospice’ for seniors in their mandatory counseling sessions.” In fact, the bill says the meeting must include “an explanation by the practitioner of the end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice”—not a recommendation of it. (Emphasis added.) Still, Obama pointed out that it’s not too late to remove the language: “If this is something that really bothers people, I suspect that members of Congress might take a second look at it.”

Another seemingly scary provision is one that permits “the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration”—or, more accurately, the withholding of it. Betsy McCaughey, founder of the Committee To Reduce Infection Deaths and former lieutenant governor of New York, wrote an influential (and, to many, misleading) critique of Hillarycare in the New Republic 15 years ago. She told me that the provision is a disturbing example of the government making decisions for the patient. But the bill specifically says that an order to withhold, say, an IV drip, must be one that “effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, including an indication of the treatment and care desired by the individual.” In other words, a doctor can’t make you do it.

 

Read the rest of the article here.

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Freshman Senators From Colorado Get Smacked Down by Columbine Father for Support of Thune Gun Amendment

As reported by Glenn Thrush at Politico:

Denver Post Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The father of a Columbine massacre victim says he’s “disgusted” with Colorado’s freshman Democratic senators for voting in favor of the failed Thune Amendment, which would have allowed licensed owners to transport concealed firearms across state lines.

Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was murdered a decade ago at the Littleton, Colo. high school, is featured in a full page Denver Post ad questioning the “yes” votes of Michael Bennet and Mark Udall.

“I was disgusted,” Mauser tells POLITICO. “I felt that they were measuring the political winds instead of voting for what they thought was right…  I think they could still get elected [without voting for the Thune Amendment] but they are trying to do something that makes them seem more moderate. It’s ridiculous.”

Mauser, whose son would have been 26, appears in the ad, sponsored by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, holding his son’s sneakers.

“We tend to have such a short memory in this country,” added Mauser, who works for the Colorado transportation department.

 

When I learned that my two Senators, Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D), would be voting for the Thune Gun Amendment, I called and emailed both offices to register my extreme disappointment. I’m generally a supporter of Second Amendment rights, but as former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) plainly stated in an ideas piece on Politico, the Thune Gun Amendment wasn’t pro-gun, it was pro-criminal. 

Thank you Sen. Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) for your “no” votes!

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Last Call: Thank You, Senator Specter!

This is my final posting for the day, and I think it’s a good one. I don’t know what it is about Senator Specter these days, but I like this guy! Maybe I’m feeling a little ethnic (MOT) pride?

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My Healthcare Day Dream…In All of its Most Likely Unconstitutional Glory.

Here is my dream healthcare plan (it’s most likely unconstitutional, practically impossible, doesn’t address really any of the nuanced issues, and is highly unorthodox). Regardless, I do believe that it represents the greatest use of democratic principles:

Step 1: Design a strong public healthcare option in Congress. Forget about the rest of it, just make sure the public option is everything that it should be (“Socialist” or not). 

Step 2: Figure out how to set aside a chunk of money to pay for the public option. When Blue Dogs and Republicans get upset, just let them talk.

Step 3: Declare that we believe each state should have the right to decide whether or not to adopt this public option. Those who don’t want it, don’t have to have it. How can those who believe in States Rights not accept this? Let the advertising and mudslinging, state by state, begin!

Step 4: Put it on the ballot, state by state, and allow the citizens to vote on it.

Step 5: Those states where the proposition passes will have the public option implemented in their state (which will not take away the right to keep current coverage for those who are happy already), and will receive the necessary federal funding (as well as any other funding being provided by other elements of the healthcare industry).

Everybody (or at least a voting majority) gets what they want!

Epilogue: Two things might happen in this scenario- a) the vast majority of states could pass the prop, thus taking the decision making out of the politically motivated hands of their clearly incompetent representatives. This would be extremely bad news for Republicans. Or, b) the measure passes in some states (perhaps those that light up blue), but not others. If this happens, I foresee massive migrations over the next decade to states that offer a public plan, thus cutting down populations in some states and adding to others. This of course will have a major effect on the number of representatives allotted to a state, etc, but at least these states will be able to save themselves from what they perceive to be Socialism. 

Of course this is a pipe dream. But, then again, what would be so wrong with letting each state decide? Wouldn’t that be extraordinarily democratic? It would certainly serve to diffuse a lot of the political pressure on Congress. Then perhaps they could put together some legislation that will actually work.

UPDATE: I don’t believe that only those who are poor and uninsured would migrate to states with a public option. Rather, I think it would be a major selling point for businesses who would no longer have to pay for their employees’ healthcare, as well as for anybody with domestic help who pays for healthcare for their employees (ie upper middle class+).

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Senator Sessions Look-Alike?

I happen to like Sen. Jeff Sessions. I think he’s a thoughtful politician who, I believe, will be a much more tempered leader during the Sotomayor hearings than Chuck Grassley would have been. BUT (and there’s always a caveat), it’s quite possible that his astonishing resemblance to another American icon may confuse and fluster viewers at home:

 

Senator Jeff Sessions  Keebler Elf                                                  VS.

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GOP: The First 50 Days

Craig Crawford over at CQ’s Trail Mix put together this great video highlighting the GOP’s first 50 days of the new political term:

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John McCain Gets a Reality Check, or (alternately), Stay Out of South Carolina, Sen. McCain!

As a twitter follower of Senator John McCain (twitter name SenJohnMcCain), my text message box has clearly noticed that the Arizona Senator has started regularly sending out a Letterman-style top 10 list of  that day’s 10 worst earmarks from the Omnibus bill. Granted, as a supporter of superfluous things like science, the environment, and the arts, I generally don’t agree with him, but this is his schtick and has been for a long time so I’m not at all surprised to see him list something like beaver management in North Carolina as an extraordinary luxury that the federal government shouldn’t have to foot the bill for. Has John McCain ever seen a North Carolina beaver? Has he ever looked into their beady little eyes? They’re like gremlins. Greatest national threat (besides bears) in my opinion. 

In a Friday opinion piece from the Myrtle Beach newspaper The Sun News however, it appears that there are some who do not have my sense of understanding (and let’s be honest, rightfully so. John McCain! Get your act together!): 

#6. $950,000 for a Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, SC

– Tweet from Sen. John McCain.

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP candidate for president, has been having fun with his twitter.com account lately. He (or perhaps an aide) scrutinizes the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill under consideration in Congress for earmarked projects that strike him as silly, then publishes daily “pork” lists on the micro-blogging Web site. Among the projects that made one of McCain’s Wednesday list is $950,000 for expanding the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The purpose of this pork-identification exercise, apparently, is to make congressional earmarks a political wedge issue for the Republicans (even though 40 percent of the earmarks in the bill are attributable to Republicans). Demonize earmark-backed projects as pork of socialistic nature attributable to President Obama and the Democrats, and perhaps you can re-energize the tattered GOP base.

Twitter is made to order for such political misdirection. As readers familiar with the service know, it limits messages to 140 characters – the perfect format for context-free political zingers. McCain has more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, so his zingers reach a large audience. And considering that McCain’s true believers share his “tweets” with others (that’s how we found out about it), the senator’s audience might run in the millions. Regardless, readers of McCain’s Convention Center tweet are now invited to think – without the inconvenience of critical reflection – that the Myrtle Beach Convention Center project has no value.

Wrong. The project has huge potential for the long-term creation of wealth and jobs here on the Grand Strand, and the $950,000 infusion advances that goal.

The proposed expansion of the Convention Center to include space for larger trade shows got a lot of ink a few years back. Larger shows in an expanded center would fill up local hotels at the times of years when occupancy is low while energizing restaurants and retail establishments in the during typically slow times of year, building jobs and economic activity for the entire region.

Equally important, larger trade shows could acquaint new visitors with decision-making authority with our communities. In tandem with an aggressive, well-run local economic-development outreach effort, trade-show visits could become an important recruitment tool for nontourism diversification of our local economy.

To that end, the S.C. General Assembly two years ago approved a

$7 million grant toward land acquisition for the expansion project – money that must be spent by 2011 or lost. The total estimated cost of the expansion is $70 million – a price that local, not federal, taxpayers will pay. The new $950,000 in earmark money will go into the city’s land-acquisition kitty.

The irony in all this: In bad-mouthing the project on Twitter, McCain threw Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., his supposed close pal, to the wolves.

It was Graham, long a supporter of Grand Strand economic-development projects, who inserted the Convention Center earmark into the appropriations bill. Our counter-tweet to McCain:Graham deserves praise, not mockery, for this earmark. The money in question won’t be wasted.

Just one word: BOOYAH. This editorial gives the kind of legitimate explanation that exists for many of the earmarks that are being ridiculed: creation of jobs, infrastructure, and investment in the future of the local economy. As much as we may theoretically hate the idea of specific legislators marking specific money for their own state projects, it is a) a big part of what we actually elect our Congressional representatives to do, and b) not inherently evil. Clearly the system needs an overhaul, as the number of earmarks in the Omnibus is exorbitant, but to say that this money will definitely go to waste, rather than pumping necessary capital into local communities and potentially creating jobs/ tourism/ various other revenue streams, is simple and silly. So if the states desperately need money, and we know that they do, and Republicans want smaller government, less taxes, more state control, etc., why are earmarks not the solution instead of the problem? And in all seriousness, if not earmarks, is there a better means of appropriating the necessary money to the states that need it without creating greater bureaucracy? 

*60% of earmarks in the Omnibus come from Democrats, 40% from Republicans. That essentially represents the make-up of Congress so this is definitely a bipartisan issue.

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Jack Cafferty Woos Michelle Obama Via Web Blog

Jack "The Jacktor" Cafferty

Jack "The Jacktor" Cafferty

Jack Cafferty seems like a pretty dry fellow. His commentaries are generally fairly interesting but always slightly “Droopy the Dog,” which isn’t necessarily bad when you have Campbell Brown running around. But his piece today entitled “My Crush on Michelle Obama” is just plain bizarre. Has he been exposed to the same Love Potion no. 9 as Chris Matthews? WARNING: the essay, nay, poetry below is practically Shakespearian and may thus make children and small animals swoon:

I think I am developing a crush on America’s first lady. Michelle Obama is more compelling than her husband. He’s good, but she’s utterly fascinating.

Mrs. Obama has blown away the stale air in a White House musty from eight years of the Bushes. It’s like the sun came out and a fresh spring breeze began wafting through the open windows.

It’s the people’s house, and Michelle Obama totally gets it. So much so that she has taken to inviting people in from the streets to see her home. Nice touch — one completely lacking in her recent predecessors.

Watch her when she visits a local school and you see the warmth and affection she instantly triggers in people. Kids are pretty much totally honest with very good BS-detectors. If they sense you’re a phony, forget it. But around the first lady, they want to hug her and laugh with her and tell her stories.

You can see the same qualities these kids recognize in her daughters. She is the consummate mother as evidenced by the poised, polite smiling children she and her husband are raising. I have four daughters, and trust me — they don’t turn out like the Obama children without devoted parents.

New to the Washington neighborhood, Michelle Obama has taken it upon herself to go around and introduce herself to the people in the various agencies of government. When’s the last time a first lady did that? I don’t ever remember it before. And during her visits she listens rather than lectures. And people respond to her.

She was raised on the south side of Chicago by blue-collar parents. She went to Princeton University, and Harvard Law School. But in many ways she’s still a kid from the south side of Chicago, and that’s what makes her special. She knows exactly who she is.

The Obamas bring a humanity and humility to their tasks which sets them far apart from the run-of-the mill phonies who populate Washington. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered for this wounded nation.

Michelle Obama’s unassuming, but dead-on, sense of style has the fashion press gushing all over itself.

Her arms are becoming the stuff of legend. Who appears sleeveless on the cover of Vogue, let alone in front of a joint session of Congress while her husband delivers one of the most important speeches of his life? And the reviews were rave.

Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour magazine gushed, “Oh my god! The first lady has bare arms in Congress in February at night!” If she keeps it up, Seventh Avenue will soon stop making women’s clothes with sleeves.

Ok, I admit it. When it comes to the first lady, I’m smitten.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jack Cafferty.

Her arms? Really? You, Jack Cafferty, think that’s newsworthy?


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