Saturday, March 20, 2010


What a tour de force. This was, for me, the most moving speech I have seen President Obama deliver. Like Lincoln, the President appealed to the better angels of our nature, and reminded the people’s representatives why they first got into politics starting out, and most of all, why they became Democrats. Because, he said, there was a moment “I realized if I wasn't willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn't change.”

The President continued:
“Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don't just look out for ourselves, that we don't just tell people you're on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community, and we are willing to look out for one another, and help people who are vulnerable, and help people who are down on their luck, and give them a pathway to success, and give them a ladder into the middle class.”

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For the first time in his presidency, President Obama clearly and eloquently articulated why we are Democrats, and not Republicans. Party identification matters, and the Democratic Party was reminded of its roots as the party of the people and of transformational social legislation: Social Security, Civil Rights, and Medicare. While outside the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party screamed ugly epithets at Democratic lawmakers and spat on one black Congressman, inside the halls of Congress the Democratic Congress found its voice anew, inspired by a young president from Illinois who was, himself, inspired by a great Republican president of another era.

Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, has always been among President Obama’s favorites:
“I am not bound to win, but I'm bound to be true.

I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cracking the Whip on Wavering Democrats

Quotable: Bart Stupak, the Whiner

“How’s it been? Like a living hell.”
So whined Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, whose rigid rejection of language in the healthcare bill that prohibits public funds for abortion, still isn’t good enough for him –- while making the rounds and getting lots of TV face time, extending his 15 minutes -- and even getting a sympathetic ear from Chris Matthews, who seems to be Stupak’s sole remaining friend in the vicinity of Capitol Hill, as Stupak’s imaginary coalition keeps peeling off. Unfortunately for Bart, “Harvey” doesn’t have a vote.

Stupak remains intransigent despite several Catholic organizations coming out in support of the bill, including: The Catholic Health Association; the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in a statement, signed by Religious Sister of Mercy Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, president of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious; and Network, which represent 59,000 Catholic sisters.

Believe me, Bart, take Rachel Maddow’s advice: You really don’t want to get on the wrong side of the nuns. Neither, for that matter, should the ultra-conservative Catholic Bishops.

Texas Textbook Outrage: What you Can do to Help

I am departing, for a moment, from my usual irreverent posts to make a serious public outreach request. As you may know by now, the Texas Board of Education has voted initially, on a strict party line vote, to adopt an extremist right wing curriculum that will undermine the teaching of science and social studies education by, among many other things
  • Claiming that evolution is a lie and the separation of church and state is a myth;
  • Rewriting history to promote political agendas; and
  • Censoring authors, important historical figures, and ideas that don’t fit into their own narrow worldview.

How you can help: There’s a great organization in Texas doing yeoman work to get the word out and oppose this outrage: the Texas Freedom Network, whose mission statement is to advance “a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.”

About the Texas Freedom Network:
Founded in 1995, the Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of more than 30,000 religious and community leaders. Based in Austin, the Texas Freedom Network acts as the state’s watchdog, monitoring far-right issues, organizations, money and leaders. The organization has been instrumental in defeating initiatives backed by the religious right in Texas, including private school vouchers, textbook censorship and faith-based deregulation. 

As the resource of record on the religious right in Texas, the Texas Freedom Network has become a trusted source for producers and reporters from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, National Journal, TIME, all major U.S. broadcast and cable news media, the BBC and the American Bar Association Journal. Texas Freedom Network spokespeople have appeared on ABC World News Tonight and Nightline, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s Today Show, Dateline NBC, FOX News and The O’Reilly Factor, 60 Minutes II, MSNBC, and National Public Radio.
Texas Freedom Network Outreach Coordinator Judie Niskala informed me that the “Just Educate” petition is TFN’s newly launched campaign to reform the Texas State Board of Education:
“As the only body monitoring and advocating at the SBOE in Texas, we feel it is important to not focus on one subject, but the overall dysfunction of this body. This petition will be used to demonstrate the widespread support for SBOE reform to the legislators during the next legislative cycle (unfortunately the Texas legislature only meets every other year, the next cycle will be January 2011).

Signing this petition will also add you to the SBOE Rapid Response team, which will keep you updated on relevant, timely action you can take. Being in Illinois, you will not be able to attend the next SBOE meeting for public testimony in May, but shortly the amendments and revisions will be online available for public comment. As soon as this happens TFN will send an alert and place information on how to comment on our website.

Finally, Texas Freedom Network will continue to educate members on the happenings at the board (our blog is a great way to remain up-to-date on the most recent goings-on), and we will continue to mobilize members when there are opportunities for public involvement. Most integral is to continue to keep what is happening in the public’s mind, so we can continue to put pressure on the Board. Due to public awareness, recent primary elections represented a major step forward for public education -- at least two of the members of the far-right faction will no longer be serving after the election in November. (find more information here.) TFN will be releasing a C3 voters guide for the general elections, to allow people to know where each candidate stands on the issue. It is through public awareness and pressure that we will be able to reform this board.”
Please sign the petition, join the organization, or subscribe for future information and updates. Texas Freedom Network is doing terrific and important work. You can contact TFN at:

Texas Freedom Network
P.O. Box 1624 // Austin , TX 78767

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Memo to Governor Rick Perry: Please Fulfill Your Promise to Lead the Texas Secession From the Union

Considering the recent rewriting of U.S. history in textbooks by right wing Christian and states’ rights fanatics on the Texas Board of Re-Education to, among other things, place Jefferson Davis on a par with Abraham Lincoln; delete Thomas Jefferson from a list of great Enlightenment thinkers; promote the falsehood that there is no wall of separation between church and state and that the Founders were not Deists but, instead, viewed America as a “Christian” nation, thus rendering our social studies curriculum into an ideological, Christian Right, Southern-centric political manifesto; and

Considering your clear, multiple and consistent statements favoring secession of Texas from the Union, that (a) “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot,” and (b) Texas has a right to secede based on the false historical premise that “when Texas entered the union in 1845 it was with the understanding it could pull out.”

(Not true, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission: Texas negotiated the power to divide into four additional states at some point if it wanted to but not the right to secede. Ah, but who’s fact-checking.)
We, the people of the Blue states and rational Red states, who oppose your schemes to politicize our children’s education, and will use every available legal means necessary to prevent this Texas poison from spreading beyond your borders, including court challenges and concerted multi-state campaigns to get our states off the Texas list,

Strongly urge you to cease-and-desist your second civil war against America, and fulfill your campaign pledge to Texan secessionists, i.e., making it your first priority to lead the movement for Texas to secede from the Union. And should your secessionist aims be thwarted by the courts or Obama’s evil socialists, ramming stimulus funds and healthcare reform down your liberty-loving, tyranny-hating, beer-guzzling throats,

You will have the solace of knowing there are unreconstructed Confederate allies in a far-off tropical land who are prepared to receive you with open arms, should you (happily, for us) decide to follow GOP Party Boss Rush Limbaugh’s advice, and leave the country forthwith. Rush will be in Costa Rica, the new playground for pedophiles, and a country with universal healthcare, but you; You will be heading further South, to that great collossus of South America.

Behold! The Confederados community in São Paulo, Brasil:
“ Actually we’re the most Southern, and only, really, truly unreconstructed Confederates that there are on Earth because we left before, right after the War, and we never pledged allegiance to the damn Yankee Flag!
The Confederados in Brasil

Brazil’s Gray Ghosts

Festa dos Confederados

Confederate Party in Brasil

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Teabaggers Mock Man With Parkinson's; Chris Matthews Rewrites History

This video, shot by the Columbus Dispatch in front of Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy's district office, includes a segment in which a man with Parkinson’s is mocked and scorned by Teabaggers, one of whom throws dollar bills in his face. Chris Matthews of Hardball, in fine fettle this day (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Chris!) offered the unfounded fantasy that Ronald Reagan “would have sat down to talk with this guy.”

Chris’s “Reagan Democrat” flirtations are not only annoying, but what’s worse, place him in the Texas Board of Re-Education fiction-over-fact camp. Chris’s promo says he’s a real tough interviewer who will notice “turbulence” and a “weakness” in the interviewees’ arguments, at which point he will pounce. Most of the time, though, I’ve seen him going over that metaphorical waterfall. He should have been tougher with that Texas Board member, the so-called “strict constructionist” who was cloyingly earnest, bemoaning the “trampling on the rights of the minority” while she had proceeded to do just that time and again. It’s not a question of “patterns” (the guy from the Dallas paper was woefully unprepared), it’s about not introducing falsehoods, such as the claim the Founding Fathers were Christians (why didn’t you ask her directly, Chris?) who did not intend there to be a “wall of separation” between church and state (Jefferson’s words) because it is not specified in the Constitution. Remember, Chris, that Board member said she was a “strict constructionist.” That’s CODE for, if it’s not in the Constitution, e.g., the separation of church and state, it doesn’t exist. Therefore, Jefferson is OUT.

That’s the bottom line. As for Ronald Reagan, the president who destroyed our nation’s industrial base and opened the door to the ascendancy of the religious extremists we see today rewriting our history in Texas, I am convinced he will go down in history as one of the worst, most destructive presidents ever. (That is, if our history is written by historians and not right wing hacks with a political and ideological agenda.) It’s one thing to exaggerate Reagan’s presidency (without the “a” to spell Don “SPEED IT UP” Regan) with false encomiums from the right, such as, he “won” the Cold War; it’s another to mythologize the man with nonsense, as Chris has done.

Here’s what I know, Chris: I have a friend who called Reagan Satan because his sister died of AIDS and Reagan did little for those afflicted with this horrible disease, much less even acknowledge it, mentioning AIDS by name only once during his entire presidency. As for your homily about him sitting down with the sick, these quotes come to mind:
“I'd like to harness their youthful energy with a strap.”--Concerning student demonstrations in California, 1966

“Welfare recipients are a faceless mass waiting for a handout.”—1966

“The time has come to stop being our brother's keeper.”--Concerning welfare budget cuts in California, 1967
Oh sure, most of these quotes were made during Reagan’s “Dark Period” as governor, not as the genial dunce who wrecked our country for generations, perhaps forever, destroyed our nation’s industrial base, depleted our middle class, and poisoned our politics with the extremism of the wingnuts. One good thing Reagan did: He radicalized Michael Moore, who was at Ground Zero, America’s rust belt, when the Reagan plagues of the 80s were unleashed on America’s working class.

Reagan didn’t change his stripes as president, he only got better speechwriters. And a cutthroat butler, Don Regan, the power behind the throne who bossed him around with astonishing disrespect, if not for the man, then for the office. This is a quote from Reagan, the president, in which he made light of AIDS:
“[M]aybe the Lord brought down this plague” because “illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”
This “Dark” Reagan that the Pollyanna-ish Chris Matthews, with his rose-tinted glasses, refuses to recognize would have certainly taken the side of the Teabaggers. Only in a slightly more dignified fashion, perhaps, which isn’t saying much.

This Is What Democrats Should have been Telling the Public All Along

This is from Rep. John B. Larson, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. These are the healthcare provisions that will take efect IMMEDIATELY UPON PASSAGE OF THE BILL. Why haven't the Democrats been driving these points home to the public sooner?
“As soon as health care passes, the American people will see immediate benefits. The legislation will:
  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Lower seniors prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee's dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.
By enacting these provisions right away, and others over time, we will be able to lower costs for everyone and give all Americans and small businesses more control over their health care choices.”

Quotable: Dennis Kucinich

“Given all the times I’ve voted against the President, going aboard Air Force One I thought proper attire was a parachute.”
Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, announcing this morning his decision to vote for the healthcare bill. Dennis flew on AF1 with the President on the way to a rally yesterday for healthcare in Strongsville, Ohio which is in Dennis's district. During the rally, when the President was introducing Congressman Kucinich, someone in the audience yelled out, “Vote YES!” The President laughed, turned to Mr. Kucinich, and said, “Did you hear that, Dennis?” Then he asked the audience member to repeat it . . . just in case.

Dennis Kucinich is the strongest proponent of single-payer in Congress. His opposition to the bill has always been principled and the most substantively critical on the Democratic side. But he recognizes this is a first step, and Congress will revisit this bill again and again to improve it, much as it did with Social Security.

Way to go, Dennis!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

W., the Texas Cheerleader: "Is Our Children Learning"?

Quotable: Limp Johnny Boehner and "Compassionate" Connie Mack

“There is no way to hide from the biggest vote they will ever cast.”
No shit, Sherlock. The House Republican Leader showing his penchant for stating the obvious. The Republicans’ concern for the well-being of Democrats who vote for healthcare reform is touching, but that is what elections are for. The President has every right, just as Reagan did, to get an up-or-down vote on his major policy initiative. There is always November.

Bring it on, TEABAGGERS!
“I feel sorry for you.”
Florida Congressman Connie Mack, to Democrats sitting across from him, after misrepresenting the effect of the healthcare bill on a woman suffering from breast cancer. Connie, save your crocodile sorrow for the thousands of women who die every year from breast cancer because they have no health insurance.

Monumentally repugnant JERK.

How Would You Like Dr. Frankenstein for Your Coroner?

This hilarious political attack ad takes the prize as the craziest of the bunch. It was from Dwight McKenna, running to unseat nine-time Orleans Parish, LA incumbent Frank Minyard by depicting him as Dr. Frankenstein harvesting organs with his loyal sidekick, Igor. (Is help really this hard to find with double-digit unemployment?) And how could the voters know they had nine times voted for the monster coroner? Is Orleans Parish Zombieland? Questions, questions . . .

Whoever came up with this ad will surely find work for the RNC, just in time for the mid-terms!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Says We Don't Have 50 Senate Votes for the Public Option

The public option has consistently polled as the most popular proposal of all the separate components of healthcare reform, which when polled separately get consistent support from the American people. On the Dark Side, the killer insurance industry has lobbied ferociously to keep the public option out of a final healthcare bill. It might be only a sliver, according to President Obama, but it will save hundreds of billions of dollars from the deficit. Isn’t it plain common sense that anything the insurance companies oppose so fiercely has to be good for consumers? The fact is, the votes are there:

So why is it so difficult to get an up-or-down vote on the public option? There are a couple of reasons and they may well intersect. One is that Nancy Pelosi’s headcount may be affected by blue dog DINOs who are shills for the insurance industry. The other is that the White House may have cut a deal with the insurance companies several months ago not to push for a public option. What is not clear is exactly what the White House expects to get in return?

The insurance industry lobbyists have descended “like locusts” on Capitol Hill trying to defeat this bill. Obviously, they would rather not have healthcare reform pass, but if they are going to be regulated, they sure as hell do not want the people to get a taste of HOW GREAT, COST EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT a Medicare-like healthcare option will be for Americans, because it will spell, if not the death, a great diminution of their influence. Late word from a NYT source is that it wasn’t the insurance companies the White House cut a deal with but the Hospitals associations because a public option would give the government more negotiating power on prices. The insurers continue their no-holds-barred opposition while the hospital associations have given their qualified support. Such is the world of Big Money lobbying.

The bottom line is, the public option is good public policy and would be great for consumers, but a threat to the bottom line of hospitals and insurers. That’s what it’s intended to do: foster more competition and efficiencies in the system, while lowering the costs for individuals.

If the Teabaggers Did Nirvana . . .

This is a musical tribute to the know-nothing tradition in American politics so bizarrely promulgated by the Teabaggers and ineptly exploited by the Republicans. This great parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic cuts close to the truth of the day:

What is this song all about?
Can't figure any lyrics out
How do the words to it go?
I wish you'd tell me, I don't know
Don't know, don't know, don't know, ooh no
Don't know, don't know, don't know...

Now I'm mumblin' and I'm screamin'
And I don't know what I'm singin'
Crank the volume, ears are bleedin'
I still don't know what I'm singin'
We're so loud and incoherent
Boy, this oughta bug your parents



It's unintelligible
I just can't get it through my skull
It's hard to bargle nawdle zouss
with all these marbles in my mouth
Don't know, don't know, don't know, ooh no
Don't know, don't know, don't know...

Well, we don't sound like Madonna
Here we are now, we're Nirvana
Sing distinctly? We don't wanna
Buy our album, we're Nirvana
A garage band from Seattle
Well it sure beats raisin' cattle



And I forgot the next verse
Oh well, I guess it pays to rehearse
The lyric sheet's so hard to find
What are the words, oh nevermind
Don't know, don't know, don't know, ooh no
Don't know, don't know, don't know...

Well, I'm yellin' and we're playin'
But I don't know what I'm sayin'
What's the message I'm conveyin'?
Can you tell me what I'm sayin'?
So have you got some idea?
Didn't think so
Well, I'll see ya
Sayonara, sayonawa
Ayonawa, hodinawa
Odinaya, yodinaya
Yaddayadda, yaaahyaaah

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quotable: Thomas Jefferson on Education (or Lack Thereof)

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

“Freedom [is] the first-born daughter of science.”
Thomas Jefferson, banished by historical revisionist Winston McLeroy Smith at the Ministry of Truth, a.k.a. the Texas Board of Re-Education.

Keith Olbermann's Dad has Died

Our condolences and thoughts go out to Keith Olbermann and his family on the passing of his father. Keith, who anchors Countdown on MSNBC, is one of the truly good guys in broadcast news and opinion journalism. His commentaries during the course of his father's illness on the need for healthcare reform were powerful and heartfelt. And when Keith promoted the free health clinics in several states with an outpouring of contributions from his audience, he did it without fanfare, contributing $30,000 out of his own pocket which he never publicized. We got to know Keith's mom and dad through the son's commentaries. He was proud of them and one sensed the parents had much to do with the good and generous person we know Keith to be.