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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for February, 2010

Health Care Summit Shows Sharp Contrast in Political Philosophies

Friday, February 26th, 2010

We’ll soon have more to say about Thursday’s health care reform summit, but first wanted to share some good observations written by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post (a sharp, gifted young blogger-reporter who knows policy like a wonk but explains it in plain English). In a blog post titled “Sen. Lamar Alexander Explains Why There’ll Be No Compromise,” Klein observes:

At best, what you can say today is demonstrating is that there’s a sharp contrast in the philosophies on display: Democrats believe the federal government is capable of writing and implementing legislation that will take a big step forward on a hard problem. Republicans believe government doesn’t have that capability, and shouldn’t try. There’s no real compromise available between those two position, but they’re philosophies that the American people can choose between.

(This, by the way, is a good, clear way of saying from another angle what we’ve observed before about the parties’ different philosophies of governance, and shows why, if, say, you want public, government-directed investment in flood defense infrastructure or environmental protection, if you want public officials who just might believe in a social contract and a social safety net, you want to vote in as many Democrats—preferably progressive Democrats—as possible.)


Health Reform Chronicles: Reconciliation Is “Nuclear Option” When Democrats Do It

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Scare Tactics Unlimited: From “Death Panels” to “Nuclear Option”

On the eve of the health care reform summit convened today by President Obama, Republican senators, echoed by their chorus of Beck, Limbaugh, Drudge, et al., are smearing as a “nuclear option” the Senate Democrats’ potential strategy of passing health reform via budget reconciliation, a not uncommon procedure. Senators Kyl, Cornyn, and Hatch are lying, and they know it. Republicans are trying to alarm the public and intimidate the Democrats from using reconciliation because they know the Dems are going to push reform through with or without them. Reporters, news organizations should not let them get away with this mendacious blurring of two distinct phenomena.

As explained in a comment to a reader yesterday, the “nuclear option” denounced by Senators Biden and Obama in 2005 was not voting by budget reconciliation, but a Republican threat to totally obliterate the filibuster. Budget reconciliation, a perfectly rule-abiding process for passing legislation that reduces the deficit (that’s its original intent, since 1974), has been used 22 times since 1980, sixteen of which were led by Republicans, as with the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Reconciliation has also been used by Democrats to pass health reform legislation such as COBRA and S-CHIP. Reconciliation is explained further in this previous post, written at a less optimistic stage of the long process.


Mr. President, Press Senate for Public Option Through Reconciliation

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

An open letter to President Obama on the eve of the bipartisan health care reform summit:

February 24, 2010

Dear President Obama:

I am writing to you as an Organizing for America volunteer to thank you for calling Thursday’s health reform summit, getting the ball rolling again. I like your proposal that the government regulate excessive insurance premium increases—but would this be necessary if we had a non-private, single-payer option and real competition? We shouldn’t be stuck with an all-private, for-profit system. If you seriously support a cost-saving public option, why does your plan omit it? Why omit Medicare expansion? These would be the most popular and comprehensive reforms. Please, Mr. President, be bold for reform: push the Senate to pass a public option through reconciliation. The Democratic senators are timid, waiting for you to give directions. Crack the whip. You are popular; you are the leader. This is no time for defeatist loser-talk like Robert Gibbs’s in the press conference yesterday. “The votes aren’t there”? Bull. Phone the senators. That’s what OFA and I have been doing—but your calls carry a little more weight.


“Dr. No” Hearts Senate Gridlock

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Photo by Stephanie Ziobro

“I love gridlock. I think we’re better off when we’re gridlocked because we’re not passing things.” —Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK)

Commenting on this remark by the good doctor in a town hall meeting over the weekend, Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, said on Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

“There’s a crucial asymmetry in the disposition of Republican legislators and Democratic legislators. Democratic legislators—I’m generalizing, but on the whole, want to legislate, they want to pass legislation. They think that’s their job. Republican legislators don’t really want to legislate so much as they want to sort of funnel resources of the state into the hands of their backers and their clients, and they want to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. I mean, the old William F. Buckley quote is “standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’” That’s why all the things that tie up government, the filibuster, even if in the short term it favors one party or another, in the long term it favors the forces of reaction. Tom Coburn understands that well. I wish that all the Republican senators were as articulate in spelling that out.”

In this comment, Hayes elaborates well on an observation we’ve made before: what Republicans (the breed in power in Washington nowadays) take seriously is not governing but holding power, “power to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations, to privatize the functions of government that can’t be abolished outright, to weaken labor unions, and to give the oil industry and the military / security complex anything they want.”


Department of Corrections:
About That John Edwards Endorsement

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Mardi Gras has come and gone, and Ash Wednesday too, and now it is Lent: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Speaking of dust and repentance . . .

Two years ago we endorsed John Edwards for president. That was before we realized how far superior Barack Obama was (is), and before we read Heilemann and Halperin’s Game Change from beginning to end. (Click here for an excerpt.) Now, our endorsement got a bit of attention through Huffington Post (because we said “Democrats need a tough candidate who won’t hesitate to kick the Republicans in the balls”), but apparently the endorsement caused no irreversible damage. Still, we would like to issue a correction, an admission of error of character judgment.


Mardi Gras, Lombardi Gras

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

This is a Carnival where you don’t have to say “Happy Mardi Gras” (tho’ we do, anyway)—it simply is a happy Mardi Gras, and everyone’s been in a crazy happy zone for weeks. People are changing their middle names to WhoDat. Maybe it’s ’cause “Breesus Saves,” and the rest of the Saints do, too. And “Hey Shockey Way.” And then too there’s a palpable relief that a popular new mayor has been elected to bring in energy and action where lethargy, passivity, absentia in officio, and lame excuses have held sway for lo these many years.


One of our writers penned a history of Mardi Gras for a Macmillan encyclopedia a few years ago while living in Mid-City and bouncing between the parades of the Krewe du VieuxIsisEndymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, and the Society of Saint Anne parade through Bywater into the Quarter on Mardi Gras day . . . Here are some excerpts from that article:

Mardi Gras . . . which many assume is a one-day event, has roots deep in pagan rites of ancient Greece, and is the “climax day” of a whole season of festivities—balls, parties, parades—that begins on Twelfth Night, or Epiphany (also known as January 6). Although the festival is most commonly associated with the Crescent City, the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, in present-day Alabama, in the 1830s (except it was really New Year’s Eve). . . .


New Orleans’s Super Weekend

Monday, February 8th, 2010

We prayed for a one-two punch of good news, and the Saints and the voters delivered (helped no doubt by the prayers of the nuns and priests in Saints owner Tom Benson’s posse). It is a delicious feeling of rejuvenation only four short years after the storm left us feeling devastated, unsure of the future. Now the nation and the world too are rejoicing for New Orleans and the Saints—everybody loves an underdog—and that too is a sweet thing. Not to downplay the significance of the Super Bowl triumph, but the first victory, Mitch Landrieu’s in the mayoral race on Saturday (66% of the vote), may turn out to be the most enduring consequence of this Super Weekend. We shall see. (Karen Dalton Beninato tweeted, “The New Orleans mayoral election is now on Superbowl Eve while we dodge 8 parades to vote. Only in New Orleans.”) We wish the new mayor and the amazing team and all their fans the best of luck—we’re with you. We know the city will have a Carnival season like no other, more turbocharged with joie de vivre than perhaps any Mardi Gras there’s ever been. (Fat Tuesday is Feb. 16: What a delirious week this will be.)

•  See Oyster’s commentary on the mayor’s race at Your Right Hand Thief.

•  Clay at NOLA-dishu points out in “Saints, Race, and Moon” that it’s no exaggeration to say we wouldn’t have the Saints without Moon Landrieu and others like him. (This legacy of racial liberalism helps explain why Moon’s son won 63% of the black vote.)

Super Bowl XLIV in Pictures

Mitch Landrieu for Mayor of New Orleans

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Mitch Is the Man

New Orleanians, the best way to make the Saints lucky on Sunday in the Super Bowl is by casting your ballot early and often (encore, repetez!) for Mitchell J. Landrieu as mayor of the great City of New Orleans. This is also the best way to boost the city’s fortunes for four years (at least). We are indeed fortunate to have a candidate so thoroughly qualified, politically able, well liked, and, yes, ethical. Let’s make it a Super Weekend, a one-two punch, Saturday and Sunday. Who dat say dey gonna beat Mitch?

Among many admirable qualities in this New Orleans native (he grew up in Broadmoor, graduated from Jesuit, and earned his law degree at Loyola), one that particularly impresses us is the fact that as lieutenant governor he was an early and vigorous supporter of the America’s Wetland Conservation Corps: he pushed America’s Wetland to affiliate with AmeriCorps to combine AW’s conservation agenda with the youth public service program to make Louisiana a better, greener place. Mitch gets it, and it’s working. The AWCC is administered by the Louisiana Serve Commission in the office of the lieutenant governor. Our regular readers know that we have been pushing for a new Civilian (or Coastal) Conservation Corps for the urgent job of restoring the Louisiana coastline to serve as a critical buffer from hurricane storm surges. Levees are not enough. Read more about AWCC here, and our plan for a new CCC here (at LaCoastPost).

In addition to the highly coveted endorsement of this blog, Landrieu has been endorsed by the Times-PicayuneGambit Weekly, the Louisiana WeeklyNew Orleans CityBusiness, the New Orleans firefighters, and the Alliance for Good Government.