AllSpinZone's Richard Blair comes out of self-imposed blogging hiatus --- writing via email that he's "not sure what it means that my internal levy finally broke this evening" --- to notice:
Healthcare. Afghanistan. Iraq. Unemployment. TARP. State-level governments going tits up. Homelessness. Hunger. Veteran’s affairs. Torture. Gitmo. Not one piece of the progressive agenda is being meaningfully addressed, and congress is about to go on a month’s vacation.
Is there a reset button for the reset button? If so, the coming Congressional recess would be a good time to hit it, boys and girls on Capitol Hill.
On Friday the House Labor and Education Committee voted 27 - 19 to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to HR 3200 [PDF], the hybrid "public option" health care legislation that leaves in place the current multi-payer system. The Kucinich amendment was supported by 13 of the Committee's Republicans. It was opposed by the Committee's chairman, George Miller (D-CA). If it survives a House floor vote and a House/Senate Conference Committee, the Kucinich amendment would insure that efforts to secure single-payer systems at the state level would not be preempted by federal law.
As explained by Donna Smith, co-chair of Progressive Democrats of America's "Healthcare NOT Warfare" campaign during a July 15, 2009 conference call [audio] amongst single-payer activists, the Kucinich amendment does not reflect an abandonment of the effort to enact the national single-payer system embodied in HR 676 [PDF]. As Smith sees it, the right to basic health care is a civil right, and like the earlier civil rights movement, its advocates must be flexible, yet relentless in pressing various strategies to put an end to what I described in "Single-Payer and the 'Democracy Deficit'" as a corrupt, dysfunctional and deadly system which places the obscene wealth of the few over the health and very lives of our citizens.
The Kucinich amendment would permit single-payer advocates in the U.S. to pursue the same strategy used in Canada where a single-payer system was first adopted at the province level, eventually placing pressure on Canada's federal government to adopt a national health care system.
This, by no means, suggests that HR 3200 comes even close to representing meaningful reform...
We missed last night's Daily Show, but thanks to the alert Megan Carpentier at Jezebel, we see that BRAD BLOG commenter "Roger" was quoted in reply to Sen. Linsdey Graham (R-SC)'s ingenious use of anonymous Internet slams on Sonia Sotomayor to attack her during her Senate oversight hearings this week...
Well done, Roger! Good anonymous name-calling! We couldn't be prouder.
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." - Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 2001.
"I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial, or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge regardless of their background or life experiences." - Judge Sonia Sotomayor, July 14, 2009.
A fair reading of the full context of Judge Sotomayor's 2001 University of California remarks reveals that the above two statements are not inconsistent. In the first, Sotomayor was merely giving recognition to what cognitive science has long recognized --- that differences in culture, background, and experience create frames through which our minds process data, or as George Lakoff observes in Don't Think of an Elephant and in greater depth in Moral Politics: "Concepts are not things that can be changed by people telling us a fact. Frames are needed to make sense of the facts."
Sotomayor's personal history suggests a progressive world view, or what Lakoff refers to as the Nurturant Parent Model, which emphasizes concepts like empathy, fairness in opportunity and relativity.
Such concepts were put into stark contrast with those of her lead inquisitor in this week's Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearings, where Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) --- whose "checkered past" includes allegations of racism, a nearly-unprecedented rejection by a Republican-led Judiciary Committee for his appointment to the federal bench and a long track record of obsession with non-existent minority "voter fraud" --- led the ironic attack on her record...
Just in from Senator Feingold (D-WI), on the weekend news, that "The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney," according to CIA Director Leon Panetta...
Statement of Senator Russ Feingold On the Program Terminated by CIA Director Leon Panetta
"The failure to notify the congressional intelligence committees of the program prior to last month was a violation of the National Security Act and individuals who ordered that Congress be kept in the dark should be held accountable. I also have deep concerns about the program itself and have conveyed those concerns, along with a request for a thorough investigation, in a classified letter to the president."
Senator Feingold is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
We hate to pile on, but we've been on the roll much of this week, and haven't had time to post this until today. But it's worth noting it here, if only for the historical record.
The soon-to-be Community Organizer, then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, in March 2008, was critical of then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's complaints about perceived unfair media bias against her. Here's what she had to say about it back then (video above right):
PALIN: Fair or unfair, I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it, really. I mean you gotta plow through that. You have to know what you're gettin' into, which --- I say this with all due respect to Hillary Clinton, and to her experience and to her passion for changing the status quo also --- but when I hear a statement like that, coming from a woman candidate, with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism, or maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think 'Man, that doesn't do us any good'. Women in politics, women in general, wanting to progress this country, I don't think it bodes well for her, a statement like that.
Because, again, fair or unfair, it is there. I think that's reality. And I think it's a given. I think people can just accept that she is going to be under that sharper microscope. So be it. I mean, work harder. Prove yourself to an even greater degree that you're capable, that you're going to be the best candidate and that, of course, is what she wants us to believe at this point.
So, it bothers me a little bit hearing her bring that attention to herself on that level.
Palin seems to have had a change of heart since her video-taped apperance early last year criticizing Clinton for not sucking it up in the face of "fair or unfair" media scrutiny, since she is now "bring[ing] that attention to herself on that level" by "whin[ing] about that excess criticism, or maybe a sharper microscope put on her" by media, and even local bloggers, who she has now threatened with defamation lawsuits in a statement issued by her private attorney on the Fourth of July.
We don't think it bodes well for her, a statement like that, or for her passion for changing the status quo also.
TheUptake continues their important role of sharing with the citizenry every step of the long U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota, with some "backstage" video of Sen. Al Franken, thanking supporters at a luncheon in his honor, following his swearing-in yesterday...
And now we'll find out --- over time I'd think --- which Al Franken we'll get in the U.S. Senate. Will it be the feisty, funny, dogged, hypocrite-busting, pre-Air America best-selling author Franken? The too-careful, not-so-funny, conservative Air America stalwart party-Democrat Franken? Or will it be the independent, heroic, and courageous Paul Wellstone progressive Franken, whose seat Franken now fills, and whom he so often nods to, as he does with a few tears at the top of the video above, and again at the end when he notes, through more tears, what Wellstone "said politics is about...It's not about power, it's not about elections, it's about improving people's lives."
UpTake.org interviews Senator-Elect Al Franken: "I want to thank the UpTake for what you did during the recount and the contest, for making it so transparent, what the process was, the transparency of it. It was an unbelievable great service."
On that point, we'll concur with Franken wholeheartedly. Their coverage alone helps make specious, partisan propaganda disguised as commentary, like the WSJ's, even more laughable and baseless than it already was.
The UpTake's live video, radio, and live-blog coverage and analysis of every step in the Franken/Coleman hand count, election contest, etc., set the standard for the very best of indispensable citizen journalism. Big thanks and kudos are owed Michael McIntee, Noah Kunin, et al! Take a well-deserved victory lap, guys!
In an unbylined Wall Street Journal editorial (why a liar and sore-loser like WSJ/GOP operative John Fund is so ashamed to put his name on his own writing we'll never know...okay, maybe we do), the once-respectable paper shamelessly asserts: "Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election."
In response, we'll associate ourselves with TPM's Eric Kleefeld's take on it, calling it "an essay that is so full of factual errors and distortions about what happened, it can drive you nuts if you'd spent countless hours following all the gritty details like I did."
But since the sore-losing, sour-grapes, tin-foil hatted conspiracy theorists of the Wall Street Journal have taken the opportunity to propagandize the transparent Franken/Coleman election results by comparing them to the 2004 Washington state Gubernatorial race, where the Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi during a long, sloppy post-election contest and court case, let's remind folks for the record, here in the reality-based community, what the judges in each case found in regard to the keyboard wingnut claims of "fraud"...
When ballots are counted in secret (or, in many cases, not counted at all), democracy is dangerously imperiled. Lucky for Minnesotans, that wasn't the case up there, even if it meant some eight months without proper representation in the US Congress. It was worth the wait.
Transparency wins again. Along with the voters of Minnesota. Nice to see the voters win one for a change.
Check out the whole thing, if only for some of the whacky comments posted by some of the wingnut dead-enders over there. One of them, "MikeMichigan" wrote in response to my piece, channeling every nutball with a primetime show over in Crazy Land (aka Fox "News")...
The Minnesota Supreme Court has just ruled that Democrat Al Franken will be the state's next U.S. Senator, bringing to a close the months-long contest against former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
The decision was a unanimous 5 to 0 ruling, finding that Franken was "entitled" to be certified by the state's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and its Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Pawlenty has recently said he would sign the certification for Franken, if ordered to do so by the MN Supremes. The state requires a signature for certification from both the Governor and the Sec. of State before Congress members may be seated. State law also allows for all election contests to be settled in the state before certification is signed.
Franken's seating would give Democrats a theoretical 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, following Arlen Specter's recent move to the Democratic party.
Franken, an author, former radio talk-show host, and comedian, was found, by a three-judge, tri-partisan election contest panel to have won the election by 312 votes following an historic, painstakingly careful hand count of nearly 3 million paper ballots cast in last November's election. Coleman may now appeal the decisions of the state canvassing board, the three-judge election contest panel, and the unanimous decision of the state Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court...
"Americans think that it’s healthcare that produces health, when there really is very little evidence for that. What turns out to be really important is the nature of caring and sharing in society….Where societies are more equal --- and economic equality is the thing that is most important in this --- people look after each other…and pretty well everyone does better. There’s almost nothing that is better in a society that tolerates the extreme levels of inequality in the United States. And so, we end up dying younger than people in all the other rich countries, despite spending half the world’s healthcare bill." - Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, March 30, 2009
"Who are we? Is this what we have become --- a nation that dumps people off like garbage who can't pay their hospital bills?" - Michael Moore, following a segment in which a confused elderly woman in a flimsy hospital gown is dumped curbside near a Skid Row rescue mission, in his documentary Sicko!*
In Failed States (2006), Prof. Noam Chomsky, a preeminent linguist and one of this nation’s most prolific political writers, concludes that the U.S. suffers from a “democracy deficit” --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- which he attributes to the manner in which “elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people.”
The deficit is especially acute in what Chomsky describes as “the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world.” Chomsky notes that a single-payer system --- that is a system in which all medical providers would be paid by a government entity as now occurs with Medicare --- has long been overwhelmingly favored by “a considerable majority” of the American people, but routinely dismissed by both the corporate media and the leaders of both political parties as “lacking political support” and not being “politically possible.”
The issue touches on the core contradictions which arise because we have allowed private authoritarian entities, corporations, to subvert democracy by controlling our economy, our mass media and the manner in which we conduct elections.
This piece will focus on the irrationality of a privatized health care system which values the wealth of a handful of CEOs of the parasitic and entirely unnecessary middle-men --- for-profit carriers and HMOs --- over the health and very lives of our people. It will explain what corporate America and their bought-and-paid-for politicians do not want you to hear...
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) informed MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:
I can't sign the certificate until the State court process is complete. We don't know who the winner is, but as soon as that process is complete and they give direction as to signing the certificate, I'm going to sign it…
Pawlenty's remarks are consistent with MN Election Law as interpreted [PDF] by the MN Supreme Court in Franken v. Pawlenty. (The latest MN Supreme Court action in Coleman v. Franken was recently covered here). MN law prevents either Governor Pawlenty (R) or Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) from signing the certificate once an election contest has commenced and before it is completed in state court. It is also consistent with the legal argument presented by Al Franken in his MN Supreme Court brief [PDF] that the MN Supreme Court should order the Governor and Secretary of State to perform what amounts to a "ministerial duty" to sign and countersign the certification of election upon the completion of the state court process. This statement follows, within one day, Pawlenty's announcement that he would not seek a third term as Governor.
UPDATE 6/4/09:Roll Call now reports that Coleman also may be ready to throw in the towel if he loses at the MN Supremes: "Sources close to Coleman say the former Senator would likely give up his legal battle and accept defeat if the Minnesota Supreme Court decides in Franken's favor. That's because Coleman anticipates that Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) would ultimately sign Franken's certification papers."
During a news conference yesterday (video here courtesy of TheUptake.org) Marc Elias, representing Sen.-elect Al Franken in the election contest brought by former Sen. Norm Coleman, announced the filing of Franken's brief [PDF] responding to Coleman's appeal [PDF] of the decision by the tri-partisan, three-judge election contest panel's ruling which found: "Franken received the highest number of lawfully cast ballots in the November 4, 2008 general election for United States Senator and is entitled to receive the certificate of election."
Noting that, because of its ability to make credibility determinations, a trial court's factual findings are entitled to "great deference" in an appeal, Elias observed that Coleman had a "heavy burden" in showing that the three-judge panel erred on the facts and the law. He says it's a burden the Coleman team has not met in their appellate arguments. Elias noted that the legal contentions made in Coleman's opening brief were "virtually identical" to those that were made and rejected by the three-judge panel.
We discussed Coleman's arguments, and the three-judge panel's rejection of them, last month in 'For Coleman, the End is Near...'. As our legal analysis detailed, we agree with Elias' May 11, 2009 assertion that the Coleman legal challenge is "without merit."
For example, per Elias, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg continues to tell the media that 4,400 uncounted absentee ballots were improperly rejected, but as we observed...