Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do Republicans Have An Ulterior Motive for Attacking Obama on Olympics Bid?

I just have to wonder which of the following is true:

Are Republicans piling on in their criticism of Barack Obama’s personal appearance in Copenhagen this week at the 13th Olympic Congress because they just want to berate Obama over any old thing that he does? Or do Republicans have an ulterior motive for not wanting the 2016 Olympics games in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America?

Really, it has to be one or the other.

What harm is it, I ask, that Barack Obama invest some of the political capital that he has with the international scene and take advantage of some of the international goodwill that is currently being rained upon him, by helping to bring the Olympics to his home country?

Isn’t that one of his jobs? To help stimulate the American economy?

Ask anyone. Getting the Olympics to come to your area, let alone your country, is a huge economic advantage to the country that brings the Olympic torch to its designated Olympics stadium.

Everyone benefits.

I have friends that made a killing turning over their house to international visitors when the Olympics were held in LA in 1984. The whole area benefits in construction projects, employment and infrastructure improvements.

So really, it just couldn’t be that Republicans are actually against the President of the United States helping out the USOOC to bring the Olympics here. That would be a travesty. Republicans are after all, fair-minded and pro-business.

So what is it?

I had an idea today, after hearing which cities were in the final four:

Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio De Janeiro.

Now Tokyo is clearly overplaying their hand. It hosted the Olympics before in 1964, a mere 45 years ago. Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1932, ant it took them another 52 years to get it back again in 1984.

Madrid has its own problems. London will be the site of the 2012 Olympic Games, and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia. A Madrid win would mean that the Olympics are held in Europe for three times in a row, something that is very uncommon in Olympics history.

That cuts the field down to just two, with Rio de Janeiro at loggerheads with the Windy City.

Can it be, then, that the only reason Republicans don’t want the Olympic Games to come to America, to come to Chicago, is that they want them to go to Rio?

If so, why Rio?

Oh. Ohhhhhh…..

It’s that Governor Sanford thing, isn’t it?

Republican Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford got himself a real South American hottie, didn’t he? In Buenos Aires.

But wait, Buenos Aires isn’t Rio, is it?

Oh. Ohhhhh…

Rio isn’t Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baucus Committee Stops Public Option

Acting on the myth that it will take 60 Senate votes in order to pass a healthcare reform bill with a public option intact, Max Baucus’ Finance committee today turned aside two attempts to amend the Baucus Bill in include a public option.

From the Washington Post:

“After an amendment offered by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) was voted down 15 to 8, the committee voted 13 to 10 to reject a second public-option provision introduced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). The committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), voted against both politically volatile amendments, saying he feared that a bill including either one would not get the 60 votes it would need for passage by the full Senate.”

This is a myth. A myth that is being dispensed by conservative Democrats whose contributor base is limited by the low population of their states, but more than made up for by health insurance lobbyists who know how to spend their lucre.

Dr. Howard Dean, former chairman of the DNC has already indicated that this mythical barrier is no such thing. Just simply put, if the matter before the senate is a budgetary one, a motion to bring the matter to the senate floor does not require a 60-vote super majority.

It requires only 51 votes.

Dispelling that myth seems to be the matter at hand. Getting our bought and paid for moderate Democrats to “man up” and do the right thing, the thing that the latest CBS News poll says that 65% of all Americans demand, seems to be the matter at hand.

Now I have been told to call my US Senators and demand a vote for the public option. I’d rather not waste a dime on that. John Cornyn toes the neoconservative line and Kay Bailey can’t vote for a public option while her every vote is being watched, and reported on, by the Rick Perry ultrarightwing fanatic fringe.

I am after all, a realist.

But we have other irons in the fire. One I hope to report on very soon.

The other you can do right now.

Join the millions of Americans who are signing the TrueMajority petition at

Click here. Go and sign the petition that will tell these guys that the jig is up and the myth that they are spreading about needing 60 votes is no longer believed.

The Baucus Bill is a disaster waiting to happen. It gives the healthcare industry 40 million new customers with no guarantees that they will keep the costs down. And that’s the whole reason for healthcare reform: to keep the costs down.

Sign the petition. Let’s get this done.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Will America Add More Instructional Time in Public Schools?

Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education and onetime CEO of the Chicago Public School system says that American school children need to spend more time in school.

Said Duncan to an AP reporter:

“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here. I want to just level the playing field.”

And yes, there is some truth to that. According to worldwide statistics, the United States, with its average of 180 instructional days (36 weeks) seriously lags behind the number of instructional days in countries that it is in competition with.

But with one big difference.

The American school day is much longer on average, than school days in European and Asian countries. Schools may be open for 38 or 40 (or in the case of Denmark, 42) weeks in other countries, but the number of instructional hours per year is by and large lower than in America.

So the solution, apparently, is to extend the school day even more and case studies tend to support this. Charter schools, for instance:

“Charter schools are known for having longer school days or weeks or years. For example, kids in the KIPP network of 82 charter schools across the country go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than three hours longer than the typical day. They go to school every other Saturday and for three weeks in the summer. KIPP eighth-grade classes exceed their school district averages on state tests.”

Leaving out, perhaps, that the students at KIPP schools are volunteers. They voluntarily enroll in these schools knowing that the hours are much, much longer.

In other words, not the typical American school child.

I think people are missing the point. In this case more is not necessarily better. America is one of the world leaders in the length of the school day. Japan, despite having a longer instructional school year, has 200 fewer hours per year of instruction. Yet Japanese students outperform American students in standardized tests.

More is not better.

The problem is not instructional time. The problem is instructional quality. The problem is how a teacher is regarded in these various countries.

The problem is an attitude toward teachers that one size fits all. That any old teacher can teach any old subject seamlessly. And more to the point, because of this attitude, teachers are not well-regarded in America.

Quality teaching occurs when you have quality teachers, not poorly paid baby sitters.

One hand washes the other.

Calling Out a Lying Liar: John Boehner

The DNC has a new video spotlighting GOP Minority Leader John Boehner lying again and again about healthcare reform.

This is the guy who knows how to lie.

My congressman, Pete Olson, needs to take a lesson in how to deliver a well-planted lie. Instead Olson marches out a 7-year old whose mother thinks he wouldn’t have been born had she been enrolled on a government healthcare plan, otherwise known as “the public option.”

Olson uses the confusion of a well-meaning adult woman to make his point, hiding behind her ignorance you might say.

Boehner just lies with a straight face.

Take notice Pete. Now THAT’S how a Republican lies, and lies well.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

RPT Chair Tina Benkiser Resigns

Tina Benkiser will resign as Chair of the Republican Party of Texas at the end of the upcoming week. This is something that could have been predicted had anyone really cared to think about it. The Republican Party of Texas, however, is fast becoming a relic of its once omnipotent and omnipresent self.

Huge gains in the state House since Republicans took it over in 2001 have brought the House back from the brink of slow devolution. Harris County and Dallas County, once havens for the GOP are now dominated by Democratic office holders.

All of this, and more, have not escaped the notice of Republicans, and Benkiser actually faced opposition in her re-election, had she stood for re-election, in 2010.

Two Republicans, Tom Mechler and Mark McCaig have indicated that they wished to unseat Benkiser. Mechler pulled no punches in comments that accompanied his announcement that I found reprinted in The Lonestar Republican:

“Under her leadership we have lost what was once a solid majority in the Texas Legislature. That’s a failure in leadership. Having lost seats in the last two general elections, Republicans are now poised to lose our two-seat majority in the Texas House of Representatives if a serious correction is not taken prior to the 2010 general election. If we lose our majority, Republicans will be at a great disadvantage in the redistricting battle, which will occur after the 2010 census.”

Yep. They may be wrong-headed on every issue known to man, but they can’t be accused of being stupid.

So what is Tina going to do now? Well that has been announced as well.

She will become a senior staff advisor on Rick Perry’s re-election campaign.

This works on so many levels. Tina Benkiser, who once claimed that God Almighty Himself was chairman of the Republican Party of Texas – no, she really said that – and who once defended the unconstitutional claim of Tom DeLay that Republicans could replace him, or anyone for that matter on a ballot without them going to the trouble of a primary contest, Tina Benkiser is going to advise Rick Perry.

Thus solidifying Rick Perry’s ironfisted grip on the ultrarightwing lunatic secessionist fringe in the Lone Star State.

If I were Kay Bailey Hutchison right now, I would be doing handsprings down the aisles of the US Senate.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pete Olson: Getting Things Done In DC

Just when you think the voters in your district have sent another Do-Nothing Zero to congress, out comes the startling announcement that Pete Olson, my congressman, has actually done something this week in Washington DC.

To be specific, as mentioned in FortBendNow (because you can’t find a single mention of it at Olson’s congressional website), Pete Olson had an amendment included during a markup session meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with regard to H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, authorizing $10 billion for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2010, including $1.2 billion for acquisition of new vessels, aircraft and support systems under the Deepwater program.

What did Olson’s amendment do, you might ask? According to Olson, it increases the authority that the US Coast Guard has in dealing with boats that attempt to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States.

Said Olson:

“Each year, alien smugglers bring thousands of undocumented aliens to the U.S. flaunting our laws and jeopardizing our safety. The Coast Guard works tirelessly with border and customs officials to protect us. However, jurisdictional loopholes often leave smugglers free to violate our laws again. This amendment plugs that loophole and targets those with a reckless disregard for our laws and basic safety requirements.”

You could say that Olson’s amendment not only keeps our illegal aliens safe, but also out.

And it’s important to keep them safe because when they do get into the United States, and they will because employers snap them up quicker than ducks snarfle june bugs, they will be healthy and able to do a days’ work for sub-minimum wages.

This is quite an accomplishment, and local home builders like Bob Perry and his wife and children must be very happy these days with the money that they contributed to Olson’s campaign.

Note that this is an accomplishment that has far surpassed what was Pete Olson’s centerpiece legislation up to this time. His H.R. 1981, the Taxpayer Conscience Protection Act.

That’s our Pete Olson. Not only is he protecting the lives and health of our illegal aliens, he is protecting the American taxpayers’ collective conscience with regard to Medicaid payments to abortionists. Filed last April, Olson’s bill would require that states that make a Medicaid payment from federal funds “for any items or services furnished by an abortion provider” must provide a list of payments and their amounts, and post them on the internet.

In other words Olson’s bill is a modern form of putting abortion providers in public pillories.

Look at the language. “Any items or services” is just that. A healthcare provider who has in the past performed an abortion will have the Medicaid payment made to him posted on the Internet for, say, lancing a boil.

Oh yeah, this bill, Pete Olson’s centerpiece legislation, is due to go far and put Olson on the path to greatness.

So how is Olson’s centerpiece legislation faring at this point?

Well it was filed on April 20th, 2009 and was instantly referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the same day.

Where it has been languishing ever since.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Do Rick Perry and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Have In Common?

Ha! I thought that would get your attention.

But really, the Governor of Texas and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran do have a common trait.

They are both given to overgeneralization. In Ahmadinejad’s case, he just can’t help it: he’s a weasel. In Rick Perry’s case, he just can’t help it: he really means it.

Yes, in Ahmadinejad’s case it just makes him look like the obfuscating little weasel that he is. In Rick Perry’s case, it gets him in trouble with his compadres in DC.

Take Mahmoud’s speech to the UN yesterday. What is it with his use of the words “certain powers?” It sounds like the weak sister who wonders who it was that used his favorite coffee sweetener without asking his permission.

You know. You’ve all run into the guy who says this:
SOMEone used MY “Sweet and Low.” Now WHO could THAT have been, hmmmmmm?
Ahmadinejad, in his address to the UN yesterday kept mentioning certain countries or certain powers. Fact is, we all know what countries or powers he meant in reality: The United States of America.

“The lives, properties and rights of the people of Georgia and Ossetia and Abkhazia are victims of the tendencies and provocations of NATO and certain western powers, and the underhanded actions of the Zionists.”

“…a few bullying powers have sought to put hurdles in the way of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranian nation by exerting political and economic pressures against Iran, and also through threatening and pressuring the IAEA.”

But if you are still not sold that Ahmadinejad had a certain country in mind in his harangue at the UN yesterday, maybe this last one will leave no doubt:

“These are the same powers that produce new generations of lethal nuclear arms and possess stockpiles of nuclear weapons that no international organization is monitoring; and, the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were perpetrated by one of them.”

One of them?

Do I have to stop and look it up?

What a little weasel.

Speaking of weasels, what about what Governor Rick Perry is doing to his Republican colleagues in Washington, DC? It seems in his exuberance to paint his probable Republican opponent in next year’s gubernatorial primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison, in a false shade of “do-nothing politician” he has used too broad a brush.


In applying a liberal coat of tar on his brethren, he has caused his Republican colleagues in DC to yelp in protest.

Courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman:

“In a closed-door meeting Thursday in Washington with Perry chief of staff Ray Sullivan, several top aides to Texas Republican U.S. House members expressed anger over the language Perry is using as he tries to fend off a challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Perry often criticizes Hutchison in code by complaining about Washington.”

“Stoking their anger was a Sept. 14 fundraising letter in which Perry contrasts Texas' relatively healthy budget climate with the Washington model of ‘more government, pork barrel spending and fiscal ruin.’”

“But instead of just talking about Democratic congressional leaders or President Barack Obama, the letter calls out Republicans.”

“‘Let's be frank,’ the letter says. ‘Washington Republicans got us in this mess.’”

It’s as if Perry caught all Republican in his brush stroke. It’s as if Perry meant to use the words “certain Republicans” but ended up tarring the whole bunch.

And that’s not bad, but I bet you they have had just enough of that without getting it from the right wing of their own party.

Which brings me to my final thesis on Perry’s language.

Perhaps it is not a broad brush at all. Perhaps Perry meant what he meant and to heck with whomever it was in his own ultra right wing that got in the way. If you aren’t a Texas politician, he is saying, you don’t matter.

You are, in fact, the enemy.

And my oh my, what an appeal that kind of thinking must have to Texas Teabagging Secessionists.

Perry’s base.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

60 Again

With Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s appointment of Paul Kirk, longtime Ted Kennedy ally and supporter, and chairman of the board of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, we are back to a filibuster-proof 60 Democrats in the Senate.

And with Kirk’s known leanings in the area of healthcare reform, maybe we are a fraction closer to getting meaningful healthcare reform this year.

This is amazing progress. With a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts legislature actually hamstrung itself by voting to allow a US Senator to be replaced only by a special election.

A special election that could be held in January.

Healthcare reform couldn’t wait however, and the Massachusetts legislature pushed through a bill to reverse itself and let its governor, a Democrat now, appoint someone to serve out Teddy Kennedy’s term until a special election could be held.

Word has it that aides from the White House were on this like white on rice.

And now it’s done.

And we have 60 Democrats once again in the Senate.

Now, about that thing about Democrats acting like Democrats . . .

Maybe more on that at another time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pete Olson Still Can’t Find the “Yes” Button

From time to time I get an email alert on how my federal legislators voted on key votes in the House and Senate. This past weekend I received the latest and it held only mild surprise for me.

Kay Bailey Hutchison actually voted “Yes” for something.

Actually she sometimes does, and in doing so, splits (and therefore cancels) the Texas vote.

And that’s fine. We don’t need John Cornyn’s vote to count for anything, so having Kay Bailey cancel him out from time to time is a satisfactory outcome.

This time Kay voted Yes on the “Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010.”

Cornyn voted no along with 24 others – all Republicans.

What is this bill? It is HR 3288 passed in the House in July by a vote of 256 to 168 (and yes, Pete Olson voted “No”). A bill to:

  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Department of Transportation
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Federal Maritime Commission
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the National Transportation Safety Board
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, and
  • Make appropriations for FY2010 to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

In other words, to keep significant public services in our government working.

Kay Bailey voted “Yes”, Cornyn and his protégé Olson voted in Republican lockstep “No.”

Pete Olson’s voting decisions are simple.

He simply votes “No.”

He voted “No” to rebuke CongressRacistMan Joe Wilson for his unprecedented heckling of the President earlier this month.

He voted “No” to fund the “Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.” An act that appropriated funding to advance our technology in the development of “new vehicle technologies.” Because, as we all know, we have lots of oil and lots of money to buy foreign oil to feed our gas-hungry internal combustion engines.

And he voted “No” to fund the “Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009.” A bill to replace an antiquated educational funding program, the “Federal Family Education Loan Program” with a more robust and realistic program embodied in this bill which serves to, among other things, increase the number of Pell Grants to college students and to increase their annual maximum.

It’s been awhile, I guess, since Pete Olson was at a university. Tuition has gone up a bit since then.

But Pete voted “No”, just the same.

All of this just gives me pause. I haven’t heard of a credible Democratic candidate coming in to make CD-22 the next Democratic congressional district as of yet, and am getting a little impatient. CD-22 is ripe for a reversal in 2010, and I am just wondering whether anyone at the DCCC is aware of it yet.

If not, will someone please shake them awake?

Monday, September 21, 2009

16 Out of 30

Tom DeLay danced the Cha-Cha on national TV tonight.

I suppose it is the closest thing that Hot Tub Tom could come to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or the “Texas Two Step” (or the DC Side Step).

Since judging was solely on the performance of DeLay, it seems appropriate that he scored just a tad north of mediocre.

I agree with the score, by the way. But I have a two-tiered rating system. On his dancing ability, and some of those motions I did think passed for dancing, I thought of DeLay’s performance rated a 10. But on the other thing that he seemed to be working hard on, it looked to me like he was working very, very hard not to look too gay, an undertaking made all the more difficult by the shaking of that overwide 62-year old tush.

For that effort I give him a 22.

Average score then, 16, just like the panel.

Here is the number in all of its glory.

You have to wonder whether they were padding Tom’s score, though, because of his advanced years.

And the show's increased ratings due to the morbid curiosity of those like me who never watch this TV show, but wouldn’t miss watching The Hammer make a fool of himself again.

And I have to admit, this one surpassed his courtroom performance in 2006 when he sat in Judge Sam Sparks’ courtroom and snidely insisted that he had no idea where he would be living on Election Day.

The single piece of testimony that killed Tina Benkiser et al.’s chances at victory as Tom DeLay talked any Republican replacement right off the November ballot.

And that single piece of testimony landed Tom DeLay in the lofty position he holds today.

And I can’t believe he outscored George Hamilton’s kid.

Five News Programs in One Weekend: A Record

It should come as no surprise that the great communicator of the present generation, Barack Obama, accomplished a Guinness Moment this weekend, breaking all records for news program appearances on a single weekend day, Sunday.

Obama should go down as one of the most accessible presidents in American history, particularly coming off of the previous president, who held more meetings with the mesquite brush growing on his ranch in Crawford than any meeting with living breathing humans (let alone those from the 5th estate).


Not only did Barack Obama appear in the three news shows that I watch on Sunday morning, NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week and CNN’s State of the Union, he also showed up on CBS’ Face the Nation and Univision’s Al Punto.

Notably, Univision did not even solicit an interview with the president.

The White House asked them.

And to top it all off, Obama will return to David Letterman’s late night show tonight.

Now which program seems to be missing here? That’s five, after all.

Could it be . . . Fox News?

Dear God, they snubbed Fox News.

But then, the category was, after all, a news program and not an entertainment program, as we continually find Fox News to find itself habitually classified under.

But wait, isn’t David Letterman’s Late Night program an entertainment program? Yes, I guess that’s true. But the difference is, Letterman’s program is funny “ha-ha” not funny “odd and weird.”

So do you think that Fox News is taking this blatant affront to their legitimacy as a news program lying down? No way, no how. In fact, if you Google it you find that Fox News is the single most common result when you want to find out who is talking about Obama’s weekend news show blitz.

Fox’s Chris Wallace went out of his way to bemoan the fact that Obama didn’t want to give this crew the time of day. Obama likes associating with truth tellers, after all. Here is what Wallace had to say:

Wallace “…I think that Fox News Sunday is a truly fair
and balanced show . . .”

O’Reilly: “You’re not an ideological show at all . .

Wallace: “No, and . . .and it’s like they refused to take yes for an
answer. Ah . .eh.. there’s a kind of childishness or pettiness about it.”

O’Reilly: “It’s an immaturity that . . .if you don’t . . .if you don’t
hoe our line we’re just gonna [dismissive wave of hand] ice you.”

Here’s the rest of it:

I don’t know which metaphor strikes me as the most appropriate to characterize this take of Fox’s “Not in any way close to the news” news commentators on Obama’s much-needed slight of these creatures, these lying liars who deliver the lies of the dark side.

Is it this?

Or this?

I’m leaning toward the latter. That must have really hit them hard that the White House preferred, and actually approached, a Spanish language television network over Fox.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tom DeLay’s "Second Act" Premiers Tomorrow Night

I had to laugh when David Gregory, moderator for Meet the Press asked House Minority Leader John Boehner about whether he would follow in the “dancesteps” of former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay as the man we all used to call “The Hammer” prepares for his debut on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars tomorrow night.

From this morning’s MTP transcript:

MR. GREGORY: Finally, Leader Boehner, before you go, if you work hard, if you legislate, work with your colleagues, this can all be yours. Put it up on the screen. There he is, one of your predecessors, Tom DeLay, “Dancing with the Stars.” What a second act, huh?

REP. BOEHNER: I’ll pass.

MR. GREGORY: You’ll leave, you’ll leave the dancing to him?

REP. BOEHNER: All—it’s all his.

You had to see his face when he answered. Priceless. Clearly Boehner thinks that Tom DeLay has gone off the deep end in his latest project. A project that happily enough, premieres tomorrow night.

ABC is really hyping this, and DeLay is milking this for all it is worth.

Now, here is the problem. I am a Keith Olbermann fan and I don’t do TiVo. So I have a choice to make. Getting Olbermann’s take on the events of the weekend, or watching Tom DeLay make his foray into the world of looking completely gay.

An interesting turn of events if ever there was one.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fifteen Senators That Need a Lesson in “Providing for the…General Welfare of the United States”

The US Constitution, contrary to the opinions of the “Tenthers” out there who cite the 10th
Amendment as evidence that Congress has no right to act on healthcare legislation, includes healthcare reform in Article I Section 8, an enumeration of the powers and responsibilities of Congress. To wit:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

Click on “Wefare” for a definition. Yes, “health” is there.

However, there are fifteen US Senators who call themselves Democrats who have either vowed to oppose a “public option,” supported it with reservations, or have remained silent on where they stand on this pivotal issue.

Pivotal because it stands as the only thing that will truly reform healthcare in this country, and is the single one thing that Republicans, insurance lobbies, and the health insurance industry all oppose.

Who are these people, these fifteen, who put themselves and their campaign contributions ahead of the wishes of a majority of Americans?

We need to know who these people are because it is they, and not the Republicans, who are scheming to deny Americans their fondest desire, and at the same time plotting to bring down the greatest American presidency in a generation. So here they are, all 15 of them prioritized by the degree to which they do not support a public option. I include a mailing address and their office phone number and fax number. Email is iffy because some of them (like Lieberman) filter out email not from their state, but what the heck.

First, listed below are the “public option haters.” These are the true turncoats from small population states who have taken lots and lots of money from the healthcare industry:

Max Baucus (D - Montana)

511 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2651(Office)
Fax: (202) 224-9412

Email webpage:

Blanche Lincoln (D – Arkansas)

355 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-4843
Fax: (202) 228-1371

Email webpage:

Kent Conrad (D – North Dakota)

530 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-3403
Tel: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776

Email webpage:

Ben Nelson (D - Nebraska)

720 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-6551
Fax: (202) 228-0012

Email webpage:

Joe Lieberman (I - Connecticut)

706 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-4041
Fax: (202) 224-9750

Email webpage:

Mary Landrieu (D - Louisiana)

328 Hart Senate Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Tel: (202)224-5824
Fax: (202) 224-9735

Email webpage:

The rest of these I am calling the “fence sitters.” Those who either haven’t come down for or against the public option, or have qualified their support somehow, usually with the provision that the public option will be deficit-neutral – something that Barack Obama has publicly guaranteed (so why continue with the reservations? Only McCaskill is from the “Show Me State.”).

Claire McCaskill (D - Missouri)

Hart Senate Office Building, SH-717
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel: (202) 224-6154
Fax: (202) 228-6326

Email webpage:

Dianne Feinstein (D - California)

331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3841

Fax: (202) 228-3954

Email webpage:

Evan Bayh (D - Indiana)

131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-5623
Fax: (202) 228-1377

Email webpage:

Jon Tester (D - Montana)

724 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2604
Tel: (202) 224-2644
Fax: (202) 224-8594

Email webpage:

Mark Warner (D - Virginia)

459A Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Phone: (202) 224-2023
Fax: (202) 224-6295

Email webpage:

Mark Pryor (D - Arkansas)

55 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2353
Fax: (202) 228-0908

Email webpage:

Mark Begich (D - Alaska)

144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3004
Toll Free: (877) 501 - 6275
Fax: (202) 224-2354

Email webpage:

Thomas Carper (D - Delaware)

513 Hart Building

Washington, DC 20510

Tel: (202) 224-2441

Fax: (202) 228-2190

Email webpage:

Kay Hagan (D – North Carolina)

521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-6342
Fax: (202) 228-2563

Email webpage:

Let’s make this a “teachable moment” for these Senators. When a majority of Americans support a public option, these people need to sit up and take notice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Taking Your Religion Very, Very Seriously

They like to say that here in Texas people take their barbecue, and their religion, seriously. Now having sampled the former from one end of the state to the other, and having witnessed the exercise of the latter everywhere from a Texas church to a Texas state school board meeting room, I have heartily agreed.

Until today.

No, not about the barbecue. I still think that barbecue is the one thing that Texas does like nowhere else on the planet.

About religion. I now disagree that Texans take their religion seriously, because I now have a new scale to measure “religio-seriousness.”

Say what you will about the religion known as Islam, the one that Barack Obama is falsely accused of following by the lunatic rightwing fringe of America, the followers of Islam, Muslims, possess a level of religio-seriousness that cannot be surpassed.

Not even by the Methodists.

I say this now because of a story I read today at MSNBC. An amazing story.

Malaysia, you see, is known world-wide for its moderation in all things Islam. They are by all standards of measurement a tolerant state where Islam is practiced by a majority of its citizens. It is a diverse state, however, with lots of ethnic Chinese and Indians, much like the population that occupies that cosmopolitan island across the Strait of Johor, Singapore.

And unlike the Islamic Republics further to the west, Malaysia is not run by a government that promotes or requires one to practice in any one religion.

Religion in Malaysia is, as they say, a voluntary thing.

But in Malaysia, they have Sharia, or Islamic Law. And Islamic Law is enforced by government-run Sharia Courts. These courts have absolute rule over Muslims. Their rules are, as you may know, strict and violations of the rules are harshly dealt with.

Witness the case of Mohamad Shahrin Abdul Majid, and Nadiah Najat Hussin, young lovers, who were caught semi-clothed in their car in the preliminaries of getting nooky. These two were caught, tried and sentenced by a Sharia Court for engaging in sex before marriage. A crime punishable by a 5,000 ringgit fine and a caning.

A caning.

This is when they take your shoes off and hit the bottoms of your feet with a rattan cane several times. It’s pretty painful and can result in permanent or long term injury.

Now here is where it hurts the most: if you are an ethnic Chinese, an Indian, or one of the eleven million people in Malaysia who does not practice Islam, the Shariya Court has no jurisdiction over you. You can get all the nooky you want with absolutely no legal repercussions.

This is why I say that Muslims, especially the Muslims of Malaysia, take their religion very, very seriously. They subject themselves to a system of laws whose crimes are trivial in other cultures, and whose punishments are harsh beyond words.

The couple paid the fine, but they are trying to get a reprieve from the caning sentence, because, they say, they will be married soon.

This couple are some serious Muslims, I think. They are that serious. They are so serious about their religion that it probably didn’t even dawn on them that simply by renouncing Islam as their religious belief it takes them outside of the law. And a permanent reprieve from the cane.

Or does it? Gee I don’t know. If it doesn’t then I take it all back and simply have to suggest that Islam isn’t so much a religion with strict social customs, but a life sentence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Governor Dean: Healthcare Reform Without 60 Is Possible

I received an intriguing email message from Governor Howard Dean today. One that I thought I should pass on in case you didn’t. It's also on Facebook.

Now I am nowhere near an expert on this, and have to bow to others to show the way, but I have been hearing a back and forth on whether healthcare reform can be passed without the 60 Senate votes needed to halt a filibuster in the Senate, and move a bill to the floor for an up or down vote.

Some say that the healthcare reform bill being what it is, Senate rules require the 60 votes to invoke cloture and bring the bill, in whatever form it takes, up for a vote. Howard Dean cites new arguments that I haven’t heard before. Arguments that make a case for an interpretation of the rules that all is needed is a mere 51-vote majority.

Here is Dean’s argument, citing Steve Collander a contributing editor at the National Journal, contributing writer for Roll Call, and author of "The Guide to the Federal Budget" and “an expert on the subject.”

"The House-passed version of the 2010 budget resolution allows health care reform to be included in a reconciliation bill and, therefore, adopted in the Senate with 51 votes..."

“First, contrary to what some have been saying, reconciliation has become such a standard part of the budget process that using it for health care would be neither surprising nor precedent-setting. When they were in the majority, Republicans insisted that reconciliation was allowed by Senate rules and used it in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Back then, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who has been one of the biggest opponents of using reconciliation this year, made what in retrospect is an almost infamous floor speech about the appropriateness and legality of using reconciliation.”

“Second, health care reform will have a substantial impact on federal finances and so can't be said to be unrelated to the budget, which is one of the critical criteria for using reconciliation. In fact, given that at least two of the largest mandatory federal spending programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are health care programs; health care reform and reconciliation would seem to be a perfect fit.”

So really, as Judd Gregg has wisely shown us, you don’t have to be right in order to get something rammed passed a recalcitrant minority, you don’t even have to be fair.

All you have to be is in the majority and represent the hopes and desires of a majority of American voters.

Indiana Voter ID Law Struck Down . . . For Now

Here in Texas we have been watching as Indiana wrestles with its Voter ID law, which up until today was the law of the land in the Hoosier State. Up until today, voters in Indiana were made to provide some evidence that they were citizens of the United States and residents of Indiana.

Today an Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the Indiana law.

We in Texas are watching this because every time we have had a legislature working the past few sessions Republicans have attempted to force through a Voter ID bill of their own. In 2007 it passed in the State House and failed in the State Senate by one vote cast from a hospital bed occupied by Senator Mario Gallegos. A hospital bed wheeled into the Senate chamber for just such a purpose. In the legislative session just ended in late May, the Senate passed a rule allowing a less than 60% vote in order to bring a single bill to the Senate floor – that bill being the Voter ID bill. However, with near parity in the House this past year, it was the Democratic state reps with a thin margin of Republicans that blocked this heinous bill from passage.

So when a Voter ID bill comes under judicial review, we take notice.

In April 2008, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the Indiana law, finding that Indiana’s law is a reasonable reaction to the threat of voter fraud. Wrote Justice Stevens:

“The application of the statute to the vast majority of Indiana voters is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”

That notwithstanding, the League of Women Voters challenged the law under a new argument, the argument being a local one.

From the Indianapolis Star:

“The three-judge panel unanimously held that the requirement that voters present government-issued photo identification at the polls runs afoul of the Indiana Constitution's ‘Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause,’ which provides: ‘The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.’”

The argument goes that since the decision is a result of a judicial review of the law based on state-based claims, that the law flouts the state’s constitution, that the US Supreme Court cannot review the ruling of the Court of Appeals.

We’ll see.

First, all Indiana’s legislature has to do is alter the constitution to fix the things that the appeals court identified as being unconstitutional.

Such as requiring absentee voters also to provide proof of identity and requiring residents of a state-licensed care facility to provide proof identity, even though the polling place is in their care facility.

These were the two exceptions that were cited by the League of Women’s Voters that provided an “unequal privilege and immunity” in Indiana.

So really, this doesn’t do a thing for us in Texas. I am happy for the voters of Indiana, but await their retrogressive legislature to close the loophole on this.

I also suspect that the US Supreme Court will look askance on the view that this decision cannot be ruled on by the federal court, and therefore overturned. It is, after all, a court that was appointed by largely Republican presidents, and a court that has made federal intervention in state matters a matter of course. No matter what the Republicans say in public about states’ rights, it’s not about that at all.

It’s about who is in power.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pete Olson Heartily Agrees With Nancy Pelosi

I swear I thought it would never happen.

My congressman, Pete Olson (R – TX-22) has gone on public record as saying that he agrees with the House Majority Leader.

Well, it’s about darn time.

Having not voted, nor never will vote for this man, I find myself relieved, finally, that my representative in congress is in full agreement with Nancy Pelosi.

No, really, it’s here in FortBendNow:

“‘Last Thursday, the day after the President’s speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “…it was time to move on and discuss health care.” I could not agree more. We have important issues to debate and address in Congress’”

But wait now, is healthcare the thing that Pete Olson wants to sit down and discuss? Really? Or is it the issue that Pete Olson fervently hopes will produce a replay of the 1993-94 chain of events where President Clinton’s attempt to bring about healthcare reform died a slow painful death at the hands of a Republican minority along with their Democratic brothers-in-the-arms-of-the-insurance-lobby?

Because, really, how much has healthcare been argued on the House floor since the mildly bipartisan vote to repudiate the actions of Congressman Joe Wilson last week? How much?

How about nothing?

The only healthcare news to come out since Obama’s landmark (on so many levels) speech on healthcare reform last week is that Max Baucus’ “bipartisan healthcare reform bill” has been released to his committee with nary a single Republican co-sponsor.

In fact, what was the matter-at-hand that Pete Olson and his congress took up after the House resolution to wrap the knuckles of the Redneck Racist of South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District? Why only House Resolution 317 a bill that recognizes a region of the Midwest between Manhattan, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri as the “Kansas City Animal Health Corridor as the national center of the animal health industry.”

So, so much for setting aside these partisan remonstrations so that we can move on to the real burning issues of the day. Like Animal Health Corridors.

Oh, and how did my congressman, Pete Olson, vote on this bill, HR 317?

Why “No,” of course.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Joe “The Nut” Wilson According to His Own Wife

What is it about these wives of South Carolina politicians? The SC governor’s wife moved out of the governor’s mansion in reaction to her husband’s inclination toward “Hiking the Appalachian Trail,” and now SC congressman Joe Wilson’s own wife calls him a “Nut” for his outburst in congress last week.

No, I couldn’t believe it when I heard about it either, but it’s on You Tube.

I just had to extract the pertaining part for your edification and amusement.

The End of Civility in America

It has been coming for some time now. As an educator I have noticed the increase in tolerance for bad behavior among our children. Incivility has slowly and consistently increased as the tolerance for uncivil behavior has increased over time.

And now their parents may be taking a lesson from their children.

But for different reasons that lie at different ends of a spectrum.

At one end, we see that children are uncivil to each other because it is widely viewed as “being cool.”

At the other end we see two-year olds being uncivil to their parents in erupting in a temper tantrum simply in order to get some attention.

Where do we adults find ourselves in this spectrum? Unfortunately right around the latter, with the two-year olds.

Where adult incivility all began is up for debate, but where it became most apparent to me was during the town hall meetings of August, something that I have labeled the Angst of August. It was there that we saw the first obvious cases of adults behaving childishly.

Shouting down opposition.


Making wild false charges that they know to be inaccurate (this used to be called lying).

In the end, this was not to make a political point. Not to control the message. It was to get attention to your side.

To get the attention of the media.

And boy, oh boy did that ever work.

It worked so well that Congressman Joe Wilson (R – Racist Redneck) is now famous, and some would say infamous, for shouting “You lie” at his president as he was addressing a joint session of congress. He got hundreds of inches of press. He got to twitter about it and be quoted on TV over and over again. He got to be interviewed on Fixed News.

And he got a million dollars from racist rednecks from coast to coast.

Lesson: incivility succeeds.

So despite the House resolution to “disapprove” Joe Wilson’s action, a resolution that we now see got all Democratic congressmen to vote for it, less 12, and all Republicans to vote against it, less 7, Joe Wilson escapes virtually unscathed with a resolution of rebuke towards him falling very nearly along party lines.

And with all of that money, and all of that press.

Incivility succeeds.

Want more evidence that incivility is becoming the rule rather than the exception in our society?

What about the rapper Kanye West who interrupted the acceptance speech of Country singer Tanya Swift at the VMA awards the other night? This uncivil man dismissed the winner’s victory as a lie without using the “L” word. The lie being that “Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

Yes, he later apologized, but the apology was somewhat self-aggrandizing with him comparing himself to Ben Stiller’s character in Meet the Parents. Excuse me, but Ben Stiller’s character was always well-meaning and his actions constantly misinterpreted. This was not the case with West’s uncivil behavior. West was being a dirtbag and no one misinterpreted his meaning.

But guess what? Kanye West got to be on Jay Leno’s new comedy show because of his uncivil behavior.

He got some attention, just like a two-year old would in a temper tantrum.

What about tennis star Serena Williams? She took umbrage at a line judge’s call and laid into her with massive usage of that very bad word (fortunately you can’t really hear it in the clip I link to). Williams behaved badly and got lots of media coverage for it.

Perhaps she will get to do an AMEX commercial after she retires just like John McEnroe did.

Incivility succeeds. Incivility sells.

Incivility, I fear, is here to stay unless we ignore these media-greedy jerkwads and withhold our approval, our attention, and our dollars from them.