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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Maddow’

Obama Wins More Time to Repair, Lead America Forward

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Solid Victories for Progressive, Liberal Candidates, Reforms

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

“The task of perfecting our union moves forward”

“I have never been more hopeful about America. . . . I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. . . . 

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. . . . We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

Barack Obama, Chicago, Nov. 6, 2012

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“[H]ere is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens . . . who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. . . . I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. . . . The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address (1937)

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This Is Our Idea of “Morning in America”

Last night Barack Obama became only the second Democratic president since FDR (in 1936) to win a second term with more than 50 percent of the vote in both his elections.

In our humble opinion, a win for the Democrats is a win for the American people. Of course not every American person sees it that way, but when illness or disaster strikes, or food needs inspecting, or voting rights need protecting, it’s best to have a government managed by the party that fought for and established Medicare, Social Security, FEMA, the Voting Rights Act, and so on. The party that believes government can and should be a force for the public good. Not the only solution, but indispensable and more reliable than the profit sector.

And it is a good thing for the 47 percent (indeed, the 99 percent) that the man who said “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” is not going to be the next president of the United States. We do want to say, however, that Gov. Romney, after waiting nearly an hour and a half before calling the president to concede (Karl Rove live on Fox was not ready to give up on Ohio), gave an admirably gracious and dignified concession speech to his supporters in Boston (see photo below).

From the East Coast to the West, across the Rust Belt and Midwest, and in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, President Obama held ground he won in 2008. With a weak economy—nearly drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub by Republicans intent on strangling Obama’s every initiative—and under relentless attack from hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads by “dark money” conservative interests, he lost only two states he’d won in 2008: North Carolina and Indiana. The critical battleground states of Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada stayed blue. (See maps below). As of this writing the president’s electoral vote margin is about 100 (303 to 206), and his popular vote margin is roughly 3 million: 60.4 million to Romney’s 57.6 million. Florida is still counting.

Professor Warren Goes to Capitol Hill

Besides our elation with the president’s victory, in this year of a “war on women”—or at least appallingly callous attitudes and legislative hostility—we are delighted to welcome new senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.Dak.), and Mazie K. Hirono (Hawaii), and congratulate senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on their reelection. (More about women’s wins here and here.) The Senate races are not all decided, but the Democrats have gained at least one seat, and currently have a 55–45 majority, with Maine’s newly elected independent Angus King likely to caucus with the Dems. With more progressives in his ranks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking again about filibuster reform. Yes, please!

One of the best things about Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate is that, being so knowledgeable about financial institutions and law, and so committed to reform on behalf of protecting those who are not investment bankers, she will keep the discussion on a more serious and fact-based plane. It is especially sweet that the incumbent she defeated 54% to 46%, Scott Brown, was the senator most lavishly funded by Wall Street contributors. One of the MSNBC people last night (Chris Matthews?) said that Warren is the most intellectually substantive person elected to the U.S. Senate since the late Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). Not only that, but she’ll put a lot of energy and momentum into Wall Street and consumer protection reform, which has really only begun. Now Jon Stewart will really want to make out with her.

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Occupying the Street Is Not Enough

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

“Occupy” Dialogue Continues

“[S]imply being in a public place and voicing your opinion in and of itself doesn’t do anything politically. It is the prerequisite, I hope, for people getting together and voting and engaging things. . . . I welcome the [Occupy] Wall Street energy. . . . I agree with the general thrust of it. But it’s not self-executing. It has to be translated into political activity if it’s going to have the impact.”

—Rep. Barney Frank to Rachel Maddow

Last night Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the congressman who put the “Frank” in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, told Rachel Maddow that he would have welcomed the Occupy Wall Street energy two years ago when he and Chris Dodd were working to push the Wall Street reform bill through Congress and against the resistance of financial industry lobbyists. (Mr. Frank is a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee [2007–2011], and former senator Chris Dodd [D-Conn.] was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.)

Congressman Frank also made the point—and we want to emphasize what he said—that those who are protesting must also vote. In November 2010 many disaffected liberals stayed home from the polls—yes, contrary to our directions—and their absence helped a wave of conservatives to be swept into office.

I don’t know what the voting behavior is of all these people, but I’m a little bit unhappy when people didn’t vote last time blame me for the consequences of their not voting.

Mr. Frank’s remarks about protest not being enough echoed a point made repeatedly in a dialogue about Occupy Wall Street that has been taking place among readers of this blog.

Our Readers Weigh In

Three of the most reliably thoughtful contributors of comments here at LNW are David in Berkeley, Cousin Pat from Georgia (who lives in New Orleans), and Kevin in Milwaukee. (See David’s previous appearances here and here, and Pat’s here and here.) Readers of the Oct. 6 post “Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers [and] . . . America’s Middle Class” may have read in the comments a dialogue among Cousin Pat of Hurricane Radio, LNW, and Kevin in Milwaukee (also a cousin, to LNW staff). That dialogue, which can be read in full here, included these remarks:

Pat: “I’m not sold on the #OccupyStuff ‘movement’ as anything other than pure, cathartic spectacle. I’ll believe whatever this is is worthwhile when people are inspired to take back their local school boards, city councils, and political parties—moving onward to affect municipal and state policy.”

Kevin: “We were in Madison every weekend all winter/spring and we will be in the occupy efforts as they unfold. . . . We are now both on the executive board of our union; we attended leadership union training over the summer; we’ve knocked on doors for recall elections and have been to countless town hall and school board meetings throughout our area.”

“I’m hopeful about the Occupy actions . . .”

In reply, David in Berkeley wrote an extended piece that agrees in part with Pat and Kevin, with some further thoughts of his own. David’s remarks are printed below in full, and Pat and Kevin’s dialogue can be read here.

I think Pat raises a valid concern, especially since the energy from the Iraq and Afghanistan war demos were dispiriting in the long run because of the elites’ indifference and complete control over the mechanisms of power. Also, low-level civic involvement—sure, who could argue with that? Just look at how successful the right-wingers have been with that. I recall reading someplace that Ralph Reed once said something to the effect that he’d rather have a thousand local organizers than one senator, and look how effective the anti-abortion/anti-science movements have been with that paradigm. (And that doesn’t even take into account the extra-legal activities that the right-wingers have accomplished, such as voter theft.) In a hopeful scenario, maybe a fraction of the people participating in Occupy demos, teach-ins, etc. will be catalyzed into following the established routes to power. It’s important, I think, that not everyone has the same skills and talents, and that a movement has to have more than one prong: some people are cut out for street performance and others for the meeting room. Also, the last exchange between Pat and Kevin (go Kevin and family!) made me think that in different parts of the country, there are bound to be different needs and ways of accomplishing action, and that what might be needed on Louisiana might be really different than in Wisconsin.

I’m hopeful about the Occupy actions though for bunch of reasons. As [LNW] said, spectacle (and fun, my two cents) matters. There are teach-ins where atrophied words and ideas used to critique capitalism are being dusted off. There’s cooperation among many people who grew up during a forty-year period where collectivity/the commons has been demonized and ridiculed; and from what I’ve read it sounds like the use of “general assemblies” and “human megaphones” (which I really like) gives people a taste for non-hierarchical political participation, an alternative to the usual “barely comprehensible guy with a bullhorn or microphone telling people what to do” (and leading the same old stale chants). Maybe a non-traditional approach to politics will open up a space to “think different.” It sounds like smart decisions have been made about how to deal with the police, by making the point that the movement wants protect their jobs and pensions too (even though there will always be cops who just want to bust heads, unfortunately).

As for Pat’s point that the elites don’t care what the 99%’ers think and aren’t going to be shamed into changing their behavior: I agree, but I think something else might be at work besides shame. Specifically, I think the gathering movement might poke some holes in the sense of comfortable distance that the privileged have come to enjoy since Reagan’s ascendance. It might make some of them take notice that the consequences of their decisions re amassing increasing wealth and power are pissing large numbers of people off, and that means they too are going to have to change how they live in ways they might not want, as in increased security, further exclusion from people not of their class, etc. Maybe that might make a difference. In any case, just to be clear, I’m not encouraging any kind of intimidation or violence, and I’m glad that far the movements have been nonviolent and the police response not as brutal as it could be. I’m just speculating about how the human psyche may react to evidence of its own inhumanity.

Also, there’s a lot to say for the demos changing the vocabulary of public discourse. Last night, on our local Fox-affiliated channel 11 news broadcast, they reported on all three Occupy SF, Occupy SJ (San Jose) and Occupy Wall Street. If I recall correctly, the reporter used the terms “corporate corruption,” “corporate influence on the government,” and “growing economic inequality.” For a moment, I thought I might have accidentally switched the channel to Democracy Now!

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Composite photo by New York Times

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See also . . .

Rachel Maddow reports that Occupy protests took place in over 900 cities on 4 continents this past Saturday, Oct. 15. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s earnings rose 74% in 3rd quarter of 2011 to $3.8 billion.

We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr Archive

Occupy International: Occupy Wall Street Protests Go Global (slide show)

Right Here All Over” : a short film on Occupy Wall Street by Alex Mallis

Naomi Klein : “Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now” | Naomi Klein’s remarks to Occupants at Liberty Plaza on Thurs., Oct. 6

Nicholas Kristof (NYT) : “America’s ‘Primal Scream’ ”

Bryce Covert (New Deal 2.0) : “Why the 99 Percent is Crying Out

Just How Much Can the State Restrict a Peaceful Protest? | If the First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceful protest, why do peaceful protesters get arrested—and sometimes pepper-sprayed and beaten up? ProPublica takes a look at the legal precedents.

CEO empathy for Occupy Wall Street | A handful of financiers have broken ranks to support Occupy Wall Street, and some big business leaders are urging empathy as well.

2001 Bush Tax Cuts: Where the Deficit Began (July 2011, from the LNW archives)

Tyranny Disguised as Fiscal Discipline (March 2011: LNW archives)

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Mother Jones: “It’s the Inequality, Stupid” (March–April 2011)

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Republicans Secretly (Seriously) Like the Stimulus

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Begin here, President Obama: Create jobs by approving all G.O.P. requests for stimulus funds.

Here’s the best new idea we’ve heard in a long time (h/t to Rachel Maddow): When HuffPo’s Sam Stein reported that “Michele Bachmann Repeatedly Sought Stimulus, EPA, Other Government Funds,” Steve Benen of Washington Monthly thought of something politically savvy that could jump-start new job creation:

How about a new stimulus package focused on granting Republicans’ requests for public investments?

Here’s the pitch: have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, and let President Obama announce he’ll gladly fund all of the Republicans’ requests that have not yet been filled.

This is especially important when it comes to infrastructure, a sector in which GOP members have pleaded for more investment in their areas. When pressed, these same Republicans will offer an explanation that “sounds like something out of the mouth of a Keynesian economist, rather than the musings of a congressman who proudly touts his support from the Tea Party movement.”

So, how about it? If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent?

Steve Benen, this is brilliant. It could work.

Never Mind the Hypocrisy—Just Get It Started.

What Sam Stein found through a Freedom of Information Act request for federal records was that Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who poses as a fiscal conservative and has publicly denounced the “orgy” of federal spending and called the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “fantasy economics,” has asked the federal government for financial help for her district on at least 16 occasions. Well, we can’t blame her: she knows that federal spending does create jobs by funding projects to build roads and bridges, hire teachers and police officers, and so on. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (above) knows it, too. 

Steve Benen’s bright idea—and we should all push the White House (202-456-1111; comments@whitehouse.gov) and Congress to put this into action immediately—is to approve all the requests by congressional Republicans for federal funding of projects in their districts. Never mind the hypocrisy. This should come very easily to this president, who can’t seem to say no to Republicans anyway.

Obama should call in the press as he approves the projects in batches, day after day. He can use a big rubber stamp and say, “Yes to Republican Representative Bachmann who asked for funding for the Trunk Highway 36 bridge project over the St. Croix River to produce 1,400 new jobs. Approved. Yes to Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who asked for stimulus money for an ethanol plant to create 750 jobs. Approved . . .” And then, after illustrating the point day after day, move on to approve Democrats’ requests.

[ Click for PDFs of letters from Republican members of Congress citing job creation in requests for stimulus funds for their districts (Bachmann, Sessions, Moran). ]

‘S’ Is for Stimulus—But Call It Whatever You Want

On the Rachel Maddow Show, Steve Benen said that it doesn’t matter whether we use the term “stimulus” or “jobs program,” which Republicans hate, or whatever. Just do it.

If this is a list that Republicans came up with, saying these are things that they believe will create jobs in their own communities, their own districts, their own states, then at a minimum, if Democrats want to make these investments and create jobs, then just start here. Now, one might say, well, at that point, you might look at job opportunities in blue districts and blue states. but fine, we can get to that later. If we just want to . . . inject capital into the system, create jobs right away, we want to create demand in this economy, we can start with the list Republicans came up with and make an immediate difference. . . .

[Bachmann] is one of many who have requested public funds . . . but then publicly rail against public spending. . . . So, to a certain extent, she’s not unique. But at the same time, she is uniquely brazen. She . . . requested funding from the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, for her district despite the fact that she doesn’t believe the EPA should even exist, and she actually wants to eliminate the agency altogether. And so, . . . trying to communicate to Republicans the importance of these kinds of projects, Democrats are in a position to say, well, [if] even Michele Bachmann believes that all this public spending can create jobs and help the economy, then other Republicans can certainly go along because she’s to their right.

Don’t Wait for Congress to Act, Mr. President. FDR Established the WPA by Executive Order, Employed 8.5+ Million.

As we wrote to President Obama (and to Democratic members of Congress in similar letters) during the debt ceiling crisis in July:

The millions who voted for you are begging you to address the nation’s real crisis and launch an ambitious WPA-style jobs program and lower the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security to 55. That would restore public and investor confidence, and would invigorate this lame, sucking economy. If tax rates were fair, this wealthy nation could afford it. You could help make it happen. 

Your reelection would be less in doubt if you gave America’s 15+ million unemployed and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure a comprehensive WPA-style jobs program at least 10 times as aggressive as the ARRA stimulus: public works, transportation (not just high-speed rail), public housing, environmental conservation (think CCC), schools, hospitals. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t wait for Congress: he established the WPA in 1935 by executive order. You could do the same.

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See “After Voting to Kill Recovery, 110 GOP Lawmakers Tout Its Success, Ask for More Money” •  “Freshman Republicans Lobby Federal Agencies for Millions Amid Spending Critiques” • “Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View” • “Jindal Tours Louisiana Attacking ‘Washington Spending’ While Handing Out Jumbo-Sized Stimulus Checks” •  More links at Crooks and Liars’s coverage of The Rachel Maddow Show’s “They’re Not Embarrassed” • “They’re Not Embarrassed” video link

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Tyranny Disguised as Fiscal Discipline

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

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“. . . to secure these rights [including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . . whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it . . .”

“In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”Declaration of Independence

 

On the night of Weds. March 9, after weeks of massive opposition rallies and national attention, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the state senate pulled a legislative maneuver to pass a bill that strips the state’s public workers of the right of collective bargaining. Wisconsin’s teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public workers had held and cherished the right to bargain for improved working conditions since 1959. These workers agreed to the fiscal remedies Walker sought, but refused to surrender their right to collective bargaining. He forced his bill through anyway, by trickery. Ironically, it was on another March 9 that Congress passed the first piece of FDR’s New Deal legislation, the Emergency Banking Act of 1933.

There was no fiscal crisis in Wisconsin when Walker took office on Jan. 3. But there was a big deficit after his first legislative priority as governor, to give Wisconsin corporations some $140 million in tax breaks.

What makes Walker’s action most reprehensible is his absolute refusal to meet with his opponents or to listen to the tens of thousands of people in the streets objecting to his scheme for “fiscal repair.” Collective bargaining is a right that would only be taken away by a tyrant, and only by force and deception. (Former labor secretary Robert Reich calls it a coup d’etat.) In Walker’s refusal to meet with or listen to the people he was elected to govern, he violates the very principles of representative government.

“Conservative” Is Not the Word for Someone Like Scott Walker

In the fall of 2009 as the Tea Party movement was growing louder and more raucous, we posted a piece titled “Are ‘Conservatives’ Conservative? Are They Even American?” The obviously provocative title irritated a number of our gentle readers—ungentled them, you might say. We said the question was asked not about ordinary citizens, with whose distress we largely sympathize, but about “the elites, the elected officials who until recently held the White House and majorities in Congress, certain corporate executives and right-wing think tankers and pundits who identify themselves as conservatives.” (more…)

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Sad Farewell to “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

That is the full text of MSNBC’s official announcement of the abrupt cancellation of the network’s highest-rated show.

File Under “WTF?!”

Just about everyone seems surprised—even though Olbermann was briefly suspended in November after it was disclosed that without network approval he had contributed to the political campaigns of several Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2010 midterm elections (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shot in Tucson on Jan. 8). Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo, who was a guest on the program, titles his post “What the Hell Was That About?

I was just on in the opening segment of Olbermann tonight. And I get home and get this press release from NBC saying this was the last episode of Countdown. At first I figured it had to be a spoof email because, jeez, I was on and I didn’t have any sense that any other than a regular Friday evening show was on. But sure enough I pulled up the recording and now I’m watching his final sign off.

Comcast Purchase of NBC a “Disaster for Democracy”

The American press is vague as to the source of the decision—was it voluntary?—but Olbermann himself, in his brief but gracious farewell address, refers up front to “what I’ve been told, that this is the last edition of your show.” That’s pretty clear English to us. And, for more plain English, the Guardian (UK) says it was the network’s decision: “Keith Olbermann dropped by NBC: Keith Olbermann, the controversial MSNBC cable news host, has his contract abruptly terminated by parent company NBC.” Keith went on to thank his loyal audience:

My gratitude to you is boundless and if you think I’ve done any good here, imagine how it looked from this end. . . . This may be the only television program wherein the host was much more in awe of the audience than vice versa.

We tend to assume that network executives, whether or not they possess soul or conscience, are at least business-savvy. In this instance we pause to reconsider. Cancelling the highest-rated host, the anchor of the network’s prime time lineup, midway through a four-year contract? MSNBC denies any connection between the Countdown cancellation and the recently approved purchase of NBC Universal by Comcast (though not approved by Sen. Al Franken, a former NBC employee). Comcast, too, issued a statement denying any influence in the matter. Juan Cole points to the merger’s removal of Olbermann’s patron and protector Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC programming.

New York Times media reporter Bill Carter quotes law professor Marvin Ammori, a former adviser to the nonprofit group Free Press, who opposed the merger as bad for democracy:

Keith Olbermann’s announcement tonight, the very same week that the government blessed the Comcast-NBC merger, raises serious concern for anyone who cares about free speech. Comcast proved expert in shaking down the government to approve its merger. Comcast’s shakedown of NBC has just begun.

Taking Countdown’s 8:00 p.m. slot will be The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (possibly to be retitled as it’s moving from 10:00 p.m.). Will the ratings plummet? What is the rapport between O’Donnell and the very popular Rachel Maddow? The “toss” from Keith to Rachel has a casual, friendly tone; what’s the relationship going to be now? (Click here for Rachel’s brief remarks on Real Time with Bill Maher.) Lawrence O’Donnell is knowledgeable about politics, and telegenic, but as a host and as an interviewer he has frequently come across as bullying, overbearing, and lacking in the self-deprecating sense of humor that Keith Olbermann often displayed (though he too tends to come on strong when he’s hot under the collar).

So, we wonder, will it be “liberal business as usual” around MSNBC? Is this indeed only the beginning of a shakedown? Who will be the next to go? Will the others feel a chill and thought-police themselves? We do not expect Rachel Maddow, for one, to curb her enthusiasm for progressive causes.

“Good Night, and Good Luck”

We regret the departure, not only for Mr. Olbermann personally, but also for his many, many viewers—who showed their love in November in demanding that MSNBC immediately bring him back on the air—and for the good causes he promoted. We salute him for drawing attention to critical issues many others shied away from: Keith Olbermann was the sole voice on mainstream TV demanding to know what exactly happened in the fishy “reelection” of George W. Bush in 2004, particularly in Ohio and with the suspect Diebold electronic voting machines. He kept the pressure on the Bush administration’s illegitimate war in Iraq and the arrogance of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Republican party’s shady dealings political and financial, when no one else in the mainstream media was speaking up. As David Brock, founder of Media Matters for America, writes:

For nearly eight years, Countdown with Keith Olbermann led the charge against conservative misinformation in prime time. He was one of the few voices in the media willing to hold the Bush administration accountable and fight the right-wing smears against progressives and their policies.

Levees Not War also applauds Keith Olbermann for his promotion of the Free Health Clinics in New Orleans, Little Rock, and Kansas City organized by the National Association of Free Clinics. His efforts helped raise $2 million for the free clinics, and he always praised the viewing audience for their life-saving generosity.

Toward the end of his last night on Countdown, Olbermann read a short story by James Thurber, as he often does on Friday evenings. (He had read Thurber stories to his father late last year when he was dying in the hospital; Mr. Olbermann suggested that Keith read the stories to his TV audience, too.) Keith read “The Scotty Who Knew Too Much” (1940), which ends with the moral, “It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.”

Thank you, Keith Olbermann, for asking some of the hardest questions during some of the hardest times.

And good luck.

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A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

Not Good, But Could Have Been Worse

A party that governs well but communicates poorly was set back by a party that obstructs well but is more interested in holding power than in governing.

What could have been a hideous wipeout following a grotesque campaign season was instead a series of setbacks, strong disappointments, and some reliefs and bright spots. Among the setbacks we sadly count the Illinois and Pennsylvania senate races where the Democratic candidates came very close. Among the strong disappointments were the losses of progressives like Russ Feingold, Alan Grayson, and Tom Perriello. Ouch. But we were relieved by the victories of senate majority leader Harry Reid, California senator Barbara Boxer, and among the bright spots are the gubernatorial victories of Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California.

But the Democratic party is in serious trouble in the midsection of the country, with painful losses from Pennsylvania west to Wisconsin . . . Obama already is not strong in the South (which sometimes includes Florida), and that’s not likely to change. (Also disappointing was Charlie Melancon’s loss to David Vitter in Louisiana; Vitter ran against Obama, disregarding Melancon.) Obama and the Democratic party must get something in gear—something like employment, jobs programs, and a focused communications department—to regain support among the Rust Belt and Midwestern voters.

How to Interpret the Election?

Of course Republicans are claiming a mandate, but that’s ridiculous (and not at all supported by this CBS exit poll). We think the election results are more a matter of a sick economy (see below), Democrats’ failure to clearly explain and promote their accomplishments, and massive GOP and conservative negative advertising + 24/7 Fox News propaganda (aka the Republican Noise Machine). While Republicans insist the election results are a “referendum on Obama’s agenda” and “the voice of the American people,” let’s not forget that the GOP Tea Party candidates’ ads and secret, shadow groups’ attacks on Democrats were funded by millions of dollars from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Spending on congressional campaigns was expected to reach $4 billion. The GOP started campaigning around the inauguration; the Democrats, preoccupied with legislative accomplishments (see below), were late to the game. Further, remember that the so-called Tea Party, though it had grass-roots origins, has largely been co-opted and the Tea Party as it is now is not a people’s movement in the traditional sense: it is corporate-sponsored, establishment-driven. Ask Dick Armey and the billionaire Koch brothers. So much for “the voice of the American people.”

And “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Comparisons with the 1994 midterms (after Clinton’s first 18 months) are common, but the economy is far worse now, with unemployment officially at 9.6 percent (it’s actually much higher). A closer comparison—which Republicans don’t mention—would be 1982, after Reagan’s first 18 months, when the unemployment rate was about 10 percent: Democrats gained 27 seats, cementing their majority. In 1994 unemployment was about 5.6 percent. It is now about 9.6 percent, with some 15 million people out of work, and that’s only counting the people who have not given up in despair and not counting the under-employed (those working part-time instead of full-time). Reporter Robert Scheer says some 50 million Americans have either lost their homes through foreclosures or their home values are underwater: the amounts owed on their mortgages exceed the property’s market value. (We recommend Sheer’s new book, The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.)

Need we add that the Republicans have done nothing to help create jobs, but instead have blocked extensions of unemployment insurance, voted against tax breaks for small businesses—often voting against their own ideas—and massively resisted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus). They wanted to intensify the economic pain and thwart the president in order to regain power. This will be their strategy for the next two years as well. Gird your loins.

Much Accomplished, Much More to Be Done

This blog has complained possibly too much about what the president and the Democrats have not done. Perhaps most frustrating, though, is that the Democrats in Congress and the White House failed to communicate to the nation the astonishingly productive legislative record that they have accomplished over the past 21 months. With bill after bill, the Donkey kicked ass, but you’d never know it from them.

On Monday, Nov. 1, The Rachel Maddow Show produced a 15-minute segment highlighting the many accomplishments of the 111th Congress. The list is impressive—“the most legislatively productive 21 months in decades”—and we only wish the DNC had boasted far and wide about these bills. With more effective messaging (and a stronger focus on job creation, of course), the Dems could have countered the GOP distortions and rallied stronger base support and thus invigorated voter turnout.

Take a look at these achievements (and spread the good word):

  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help victims of pay discrimination—especially women—challenge unequal pay. Signed by President Obama January 29, 2009.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 expanded health insurance coverage to more than 4 million children and pregnant women. Signed by President Obama February 4, 2009.
  • Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (2009), giving about $6 billion over 5 years and increasing the number of full-time and part-time national service (AmeriCorps) volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000. Creates new programs focused on special areas like strengthening schools, improving health care for low-income communities, boosting energy efficiency and cleaning up parks, etc. Signed by President Obama April 21, 2009.
  • Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (2009) sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), described by Money magazine as “ best friend a credit card user ever had.” Credit Card Bill of Rights signed by President Obama May 22, 2009.
  • College student loan reform, March 2010: as part of the health care reform legislation, a provision “that would cut funding to private student lenders and redirect billions of dollars in expected savings into grants to needy students” (W.Post).
  • Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave FDA power to regulate tobacco. Signed by President Obama June 22, 2009.
  • Hate Crimes Prevention Act (aka Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act), made it a federal crime to commit assault based on victim’s gender, sexual orientation, etc. Signed by President Obama Oct. 28, 2009.
  • Car Allowance Rebate System (aka “Cash for Clunkers”): Begun in June 2009, and by August the auto industry was reporting strong sales—only about a half year after GM and Chrysler were bailed out by Washington. Boosted sales of safer and more fuel-efficient cars, helping clear the air and stimulating the economy.
  • Veterans benefited from the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, and the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The American Legion said “in our view the real successes [of the 111th Congress] were the passage of bills that affected nearly every veteran in America.”

All this is even before the big-ticket items of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka The Stimulus), the monumental (and incremental) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform: click here for healthcare.gov), and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010), which included establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, presently being (unofficially) headed by Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren.

(more…)

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Fake President Rachel Maddow’s Oval-Office-in-Her-Own-Head Address

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Getting Real with a Fake President

Superb, every word of it, except maybe the part at the very end about the White Sox and the Red Sox.

Click here for the full text, and click the photo above or here for the video. Read it and share it. Watch it and weep for joy. Serious energy policy and disaster response could be built on this—much more serious than what has taken place in the past two months.

I’m here to announce three major developments in the response to the BP Oil Disaster that continues, right now, to ravage the beloved Gulf Coast of the United States of America.

. . . the first development in this disaster that I am announcing tonight: Never again, will any company, anyone, be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling. . . . That will never happen again, as long as I am Fake President.

. . . tonight, as Fake President, I’m announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico, with a priority on protecting shoreline that can still be saved; shoreline that is vulnerable to oil that has not yet been hit. I have asked the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to assist me in the diplomatic side of this—in soliciting, greenlighting and expediting all international offers of help from experts in booming and skimming from all over the world. We will bring in the best experts and the best equipment from anywhere on Earth, to dramatically increase our efforts to get the oil out of the water, and off of the coast.

(more…)

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Rachel Maddow Reporting from Jean Lafitte National Park

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

When Rachel Maddow broadcast from the French Quarter the Friday night before the Super Bowl (how long ago that feels!), she surely did not imagine she would be back a few months later covering the hugest godawful environmental catastrophe this nation has ever seen. Since the Earth Day Blowout Rachel has been to Venice, Louisiana, down in the Birdfoot, as has her NBC comrade Brian Williams, and on Wednesday she broadcast from the west bank of New Orleans, with the city and the river behind her. Tonight (Thursday) she will broadcast from Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Today’s Lesson: Why Louisiana’s Wetlands Are Important

Rachel visited the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, about 15 miles from the Quarter, and spoke with park official David Muth and Dr. Larry McKinney, research director of the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M–Corpus Christi, about why coastal wetlands are important: not only for all the life within them but also because every 2.7 square miles reduces hurricane storm surge by about a foot. The swamps are a buffer for New Orleans and other human settlements in coastal Louisiana. But because the state is losing about 25 square miles every year, or 50 acres a day—1,900 square miles have disappeared in the past century—the 15-, 20-, and 25-foot storm surges that come with hurricanes grow more catastrophic every year. Parks official David Muth tells Rachel:

Our biggest concern is that as we enter hurricane season, when we have a storm in the Gulf, even if it doesn’t come ashore, it can push enormous amounts of water up into this estuary. And once that happens, then a lot of that oil has the potential to come much farther inland, even into a fresh water swamp like this than we might otherwise have thought possible.

We wrote a few weeks ago in some detail about how the oil slick threatens the vegetation that holds the wetlands together—the sea grass and cypresses whose roots hold the soil together and put the “land” in wetlands—and how the Oilpocalypse thus threatens the long-term survival of the Crescent City, long after it may wipe out the livelihoods of the shrimpers, oystermen, and fishermen along the Gulf Coast. We are grateful to MSNBC for sending Rachel and her crew, and to NBC for keeping environmental reporter Anne Thompson on the scene, and for sending, again and again, Brian Williams, whose affection for New Orleans and Louisiana is evident and, we hope, contagious. Thanks for keeping the spotlight on.

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