Friday, August 7, 2009

Countdown: Jonathan Alter says some things we may not want to hear...

The whole interview is good, but the stuff I'm talking about (how we Liberals shouldn't be so wedded to a particular version of the Public Option) starts at the 8:08 mark.

ALTER: Well, there has to be some kind of cooperative, maybe what they call a souped-up cooperative, one that can actually withstand pressure from insurance companies which in the past have taken something like BlueCross, which is originally nonprofit and turned it into just another insurance company. So, the problem with the co-op idea is that it-they have been putty in the hands of the insurance company.

But there still is room for compromise there. They could design a new kind of co-op that could provide some real competition.


ALTER: It could be essentially a public-private option that satisfies enough people to get something through.

So, I don't think liberals should go, you know, public option or bust. There are other alternatives and you have to remember that there are many, many important things in this bill that have become almost non-controversial that two years ago, if you'd been told they're going to-they're going to end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, they're going to insure another 30 million Americans, we say, "Great, where do we sign up?"

And now, some progressives are-maybe a little bit too wed to the public option. Even though, my favorite, too, but we shouldn't go down with the ship, with the public option.

Lawrence O'Donnell: In defense of...Lobbyists??

I really wanted to show the video on this, but The Ed Show's MSNBC Website isn't as well set up as the other shows yet.

Guest Host Lawrence O'Donnell gave us a treatise on how Washington actually works, as opposed to how we'd all like it to work, or how we fear it works.

In the Washington of Lawrence O'Donnell's day (and remember he was the Chief of Staff for the Senate Finance Committee, working for its chair Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the same position Max Baucus holds now); Lobbyists weren't the enemy.

When I went to work in the Senate, I thought most lobbyists were criminals like the most infamous of them all, Jack Abramoff. But I was wrong.

In those pre-Abramoff days, none of them were that bad. Some of them surely were criminals at heart, but they feared the law too much to break it and there was way too much money to be made perfectly legally to ever risk jail time.

I was chief of staff of two Senate committees back then, first Environment and Public Works, then the all-powerful Finance Committee.

Environment and Public Works is an odd mix of jurisdictions, basically protecting the environment and billing highways, courthouses, and order federal buildings. If you wanted to protect wetlands or an endangered species, of if your company poured concrete, your lobbyists desperately needed to see me.

Lobbyists for the biggest construction companies in the country tried to talk their way onto my schedule all the time. And when I moved to the Finance Committee in 1993, every lobbyist in town needed to see me because the committee's jurisdiction is so vast.

The corridor outside my office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building is actually known as "Gucci Gulch," because it's constantly patrolled by lobbyists.

My own sleaziest encounter with a lobbyist occurred in my Finance Committee office. One lobbyist who I didn't know somehow got 15 minutes on my schedule to describe the unbearable suffering AIG was being forced to endure because of some corporate tax provision or other that he wanted to get repealed or amended or something such. I feigned interest, I nodded a lot, maybe even led a hint of sympathy into my eyes and said nothing. If he told his masters that I was anything but noncommittal, he was lying.

The next day, one of our staff rushed into the office. She had just opened an envelope addressed to me and was shaking as she handed it to me.

It was from the AIG lobbyist, a letter thanking me for the meeting, and a check made out to my boss' reelection campaign. I would not even use a sheet of Senate stationery to reply.

Instead, I hand-wrote a very harshly-worded version of, "How dare you?"-and that's cleaning it up-on the lobbyist's letter and sent it back to him with that check. I didn't have to check with my boss, the late New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to know that is what he would want me to do. He was always impervious to the influence of campaign contributions and ran his campaigns on one-tenth the amounts that his successor, Hillary Clinton, raised to win his seat.

There are honorable lobbyists. I dealt with them every day. By "honorable lobbyists," I do not mean only those who do pro bono lobbying for charities or the underpaid lobbyists working for environmental groups. When a giant corporation, let's say Kodak, sends its very high-priced lobbyist to see you, to talk about how Fuji is subverting international trade agreements, you listen, because Kodak is the last manufacturer of film left in the United States, and the single biggest employer in Rochester, New York.

Yes, Kodak's lobbyists are trying to protect corporate profits, but they are also trying to protect American jobs and save Rochester from becoming a ghost town. Only the most zealous Marxist could fail to see the honor in that lobbying campaign.

Good lobbyists tell you something you don't know, like why teaching hospitals need more money for doctor training. They then tell you what they think you should do about it, how to pay for it, and most important, who opposes it and why. They know their opposition is going to be lobbying you too, so they don't say anything that can be proved wrong in your next meeting. And they don't promise their clients that they will always get what they want.

There are not enough Congressional staffers to keep track of the hundreds of thousands of complex issues under federal jurisdiction. Good government needs good lobbyists.

Our defense against the toxic mix of bad lobbyists and campaign cash, it always comes down to the people we vote for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP. What follows is a clip of Laurence's former show, The West Wing, featuring Alan Alda playing Senator Arnold Vinick, and Patricia Richardson playing Shelia Brooks:)

SHELIA BROOKS: Now these energy guys that are going to be there tonight, obviously they're going to want to hear how you're voting on the energy deregulation bill.

SENATOR VINICK: Well, it depends on what is in it when it comes out of committee.

SHELIA BROOKS: Sends a very bad message to the big contributors if you vote against it.

SENATOR VINICK: Hey, if you can't drink their booze, take their money and then vote against them, you don't belong in this business.


O'DONNELL: Yes, "The West Wing" was a fictional universe, but I would not have written that scene if I never saw senators let lobbyists make their cases, contribute money to their campaigns, and then vote against them.

There is a massive amount of special-interest money from the health care industry sloshing around in the campaign coffer of our senators and Congressmen as they consider health care reform legislation. Let's just hope that enough of them still know how to take the lobbyists' money and vote against them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

TPM/WaPo: "Abandoning All Pretense" (VIDEO)

This is from back to back stories on TPM. One featured Video from the apparent melee in Tampa at the Health Care Town Hall, and another is a column from tomorrow's Washington Post courtesy Steve Pearlstein. Juxtaposing these two items seemed most apt, especially in reflection of the death threats made to Rep. Brad Miller yesterday, and the sick jokes made at Sen. Chris Dodd's expense.

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

If by some miracle, you are reading this, and you are of a Conservative bent, someone who has a fundamental political disagreement with the President over this Health Care Legislation passed, I say, go to the Town Halls. I'm a Liberal, and that's totally cool. That's kind of the idea of Representative Democracy. Go for it. Represent your point of view. Ask tough questions. I actually encourage this behavior; so do your Congress-people.

But there is a line here, and too many people on your side of the aisle are only too happy to cross it.

You don't have to get nasty. You don't have to get violent, and you sure as hell don't have to shut down the meeting for everyone else. There are undecided people out there with questions of their own. Do you really think you're convincing them to take your side in this??

What's going on here is dishonest, and dangerous both politically and societally. And for that some of the people in the Tampa video should be in jail.

And some of this stuff is just not @$@$%ing funny. We are on the razor's edge here people, because like I said...the Union folks are coming. We can either have a Health Care debate or an arms race between two motivated and pissed off camps. What's it going to be?

Obama: "Get out of the way" (VIDEO)

I remember this guy...

It's finally happened...

...with more to come, to be sure, actual violence at a Health Care Town Hall.

This is just going to get worse, because at some point, the Progressive Army is going to start showing up at these things. At some point, Union folk are going to be at these town halls, and to the Union guys, this is life and death.

Memo to Teabaggers, screw with a Steelworker at your peril.

Talking Points Memo
has more...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

TPM: ...and now they're resorting to death threats.

It's very simple, Tea-Baggers. You want to show up at a Town Hall and throw your Congressman some really pointed (but respectful) questions? Be my guest. In fact, I encourage that kind of behavior...

...but that's not good enough, is it? First, there was Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), now we have Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC).

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will not be hosting any town hall events this August -- instead, he's making himself available to constituents for one-on-one meetings about health care reform -- and at least part of the reason is this: His offices have received threatening phone calls, including at least one direct threat against his life.

"We had no town hall events scheduled for the August recess anyway, but in light of everything that's happened -- we have received a threatening phone call in the D.C. office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office," said Miller communications director LuAnn Canipe, in an interview with TPM.

"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?" and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."

Canipe explained that Miller had no plans for a town hall before and won't be holding any now, due to this event and the examples he's already seem from the around the country: "Our point is, we're not gonna be bullied into having a town hall so it can then be interrupted by the fake grassroots folks."

"We don't want to people to think we're shutting out our constituents," Canipe added.. "We're meeting with them one on one to discuss health care reform."

Obama talks to Chuck Todd, and answers's User questions (VIDEO)

Obama: Unleash Prosperity speech from Elkhart, Indiana (VIDEO)

The lady with the camera started to get on my nerves (you'll see if you watch), just so you know...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

TPM: Now they're wishing Sen. Dodd would die (VIDEO)

In case you can't hear: "Barack Obama clearly said, all you should do is take a painkiller. How come we just don't give Chris Dodd painkillers?" shouted one man. "Like a handful of them at a time! He can wash it down with Ted Kennedy's whiskey -- oh excuse me, scotch!"

HuffPo: Maybe they should have had some beers... (VIDEO)

So, middle-class Nebraskan, Michael Snider appears in ad ripping his Senator (and alledged Democrat) Ben Nelson for costing him his Health Care.

Hey, full points for doing this. This is what Democracy is all about. A Constituent has a concern? Let's find out what's the problem is, and then address it.

But that noble impulse soon faded because I don't think Senator Nelson was the least bit interested in listening to Mr. Snider.

"To be real honest with you, I don't know if he was just being aggressive or nervous but he just wanted to put out his position on the issue," Snider recalled in an interview with the Huffington Post. "He said he supported the public option but one that wouldn't affect the current plans of 200 million Americans."

"I told him I didn't understand. And he tried to explain it. He put his position out. He said if we went with a full public option -- which he called a government plan -- it would drive the price down and hurt private companies. I said, 'you mean competition.' And he replied that it would force people off the private plan and onto the government plan."

"That happened twice," Snider concluded. "He was telling me how bad a public option would be and when he was done I said, 'So you don't support a public option.' He would reply, 'That's not what I say.'"

The call lasted roughly ten minutes. In the end, Snider thanked Nelson but made no plans for future discussion.

What Truce???

Okay, it was widely known that Keith Olbermann, on his return from vacation was going to have to address the New York Times story that said, basically that the CEOs of NBC-Universal and NewsCorp had cut a secret deal to dictate to Olbermann and Billo the terms of a truce, a media cease fire as it were.

I thought Keith was going address the subject head on, but instead he does what he usually does...and attacked this sucker sideways.


By naming Billo and Rupert (arrrgh!) Murdoch as his worst persons in the world:

So, in short. Let's go over what Keith said, shall we?

The bronze to Brian Stelter of the "New York Times." Front page story Saturday about a, quote, deal in which, as the headline read, voices from above silence a cable TV feud. Problem, Mr. Stelter asks me at least twice last week if there was such a deal, and I told him, on and off the record, there was not. And told I rather obviously would have to be a party to such a deal. And I told him that not only wasn't I, but I had not even been asked to be by my bosses.

And he printed it anyway. And I had even written to him that this was merely a misinterpretation of an announcement I made here on June One, that because Bill Reilly at Fox News had abetted the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, he had become too serious to joke about, and I would thus stop doing so, an announcement that would obtain unless and until, of course, I felt like changing the rule again later since this is not the US Constitution here. It's a half baked television news cast and I make all the rules.

Keith went further in his DailyKos Dairy:

Primarily, there is no "deal" between MSNBC and Fox over what we can and cannot cover. This is part of a continuing strategy of blackmail by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, that reaches back to 2004, and has as its goal the cancellation of "Countdown." This stuff has ebbed and flowed for five years, it's part of my daily job to push it back with whichever strategy I think will best work at a given moment. For the last two months I've been employing "News Jujitsu." If you watch tonight and catch the references to Fox and its rogues gallery you will know that the most recent tack has worked, but the fight is endless and there will be reversals in the future, I'm sure.

Ailes himself is tonight quoted as saying he tried to 'broker peace' by restraining his hosts. This is the same Ailes who insisted he would never interfere with what Bill O'Reilly said on the air. Even naked hypocrisy is not too much if Fox can make itself seem victimized, or can muzzle dissent.

But there is no "deal." I would never consent, and, fortunately, MSNBC and NBC News would never ask me to.

Okay, so let's be clear. Keith is on the record here...there is no truce. If he's lying, he's going to destroy his reputation and take his show down with it at this point.

Is that good enough for some? Of course not.

From David Sirota (whom as you know, even though he's a someone I can't stand):

Olbermann's Non-Denial and His Good Move.

On his show last night, Keith Olbermann essentially issued a non-denial denial about the GE-MSNBC-Fox story, saying that he himself was "party to no deal" - exactly what he said in the original New York Times article. There's no reason to doubt Olbermann - however, as journalism prof Dan Kennedy suggests (h/t Glenn Greenwald & Jay Rosen), Olbermann's own personal lack of involvement in a "deal" is far less important than the simple fact that GE started trying to give blatant news-content orders to MSNBC's newsroom - orders that may have been followed in places well beyond Olbermann's control.


What part of "there is no "deal" between MSNBC and Fox over what we can and cannot cover" doesn't Mr. Sirota understand?

Didn't Mr. Sirota read how "This is part of a continuing strategy of blackmail by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, that reaches back to 2004, and has as its goal the cancellation of "Countdown." This stuff has ebbed and flowed for five years, it's part of my daily job to push it back with whichever strategy I think will best work at a given moment."

Translation: the story is a Murdoch plant to undermine Countdown's credibility, and s**t like this happens every once in a while, forcing Keith to respond in kind.

Still, Glenn Greenwald was successful in one part of his attack on Countdown, the question about Richard Wolffe's new job outside of Newsweek (a story that was released back in June, but Greenwald is just getting to now). Not that Glenn "Holier Than Everyone" Greenwald is the only one complaining about this.

As to Richard Wolffe I can offer far less insight. I honor Mr. Greenwald's insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and his reporting on Richard's other jobs. I must confess I was caught flat-footed. I do not know what the truth is; my executive producer and I have spent the last two months dealing with other things (see above) but what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.

I am confident his commentary to this point has not been compromised - he has been an insightful analyst and a great friend to this show - but until we can clarify what else he is doing, he will not be appearing with us. I apologize for not being able to prevent this unhappy set of circumstances from developing.

I'm less comfortable with this part. Anyone who read the story in June, knew that Wolffe had left Newsweek under particularly unfriendly terms. He took a job with Dan Bartlett's PR firm. While this probably should have been disclosed, anyone watching him with Keith knows he hasn't pulled any punches. He has said elsewhere he will not discuss clients while on the air, so it's easy to keep him off the air, but I'm not sure what the big deal is.

Monday, August 3, 2009

He's baaacccckkk.... (VIDEO)

...with a warning.

WSJ Editorial Page: It’s Certifiable...

...when even the Murdoch Street Journal is agin' you. (And for the record, calling the Birthers pretty much on the money.)

Obama has already provided a legal birth certificate demonstrating that he was born in Hawaii. No one has produced any serious evidence to the contrary. Absent such evidence, it is unreasonable to deny that Obama has met the burden of proof. We know that he was born in Honolulu as surely as we know that Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Ark., or George W. Bush in New Haven, Conn.

The release of the obsolete birth certificate would not “resolve the issue” to those for whom it is not already resolved. They claim without basis that today’s birth certificate is a fake; there is nothing to stop them from claiming without basis that yesterday’s is as well.

The president would gain nothing politically for his trouble. By acknowledging the birthers’ demands, he would lend them a modicum of credibility. By ignoring them, he actually reaps political benefits from their efforts. His critics, even those who are not birthers, end up looking like cranks by association. His supporters use the birthers to paint Obama foes as racist--which is probably unfair even to the birthers, as we argued Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

In a Commentary article last year, William F. Buckley recounted the way he, Sen. Barry Goldwater and a handful of other top conservatives worked to stigmatize the John Birch Society, whose founder, Robert Welch, maintained, among other things, that President Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist Party.” The Birchers, like the birthers, made respectable conservatives look like kooks, and in preparation for a prospective Goldwater presidential campaign, Buckley and his associates “thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.”

They succeeded in “excommunicating” the Birchers. It’s probably impossible to do the same to the birthers, because today the right wing is too vast to mount much of a conspiracy. The birthers are likely to be with us for as long as Obama is president--and because of them, it is more likely that this will be for the next 7½ rather than just 3½ years.

Need I say more? (VIDEO)