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Obama calls Republicans' bluff on health care reform

Today Obama spoke to the Governors about health care reform.

In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Obama said he backed legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from the law's mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017 as long as they could prove that they could find other ways to cover as many people as the original law would and at the same cost. The earlier date is when many of the act's central provisions take effect, including requirements that most individuals obtain health insurance and that employers of a certain size offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty.
This is obviously something they've been working on for awhile because today Secretary Sebelius also wrote about it on the White House Blog.

Steve Benen does a good job of summing up what's going on here.

So, how big a deal is this? It marks a fairly significant departure from the administration's status quo, but at its root, what we're seeing is the …

El Farol

The first time I heard this song I was watching those waves in the picture up above crash on the shores at Cabo San Lucas. The power of music is such that everything but my physical body is transported back to that place every time I hear it.

I could use a trip like that right about now.

The people of Wisconsin are not backing down!

If Governor Walker thought the people of Wisconsin would soon tire of this fight, I suspect he got a rude awakening yesterday when up to 100,000 people braved the snow and 17 degree temperatures to continue the protest.





Not only that...there were protests of support for Wisconsin workers all over the country yesterday.

As a lead-in to Saturday's news, there was an interesting development Friday night.

Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’
And they had a few things to say to the crowd and to Governor Walker.



This is not a budget issue. Its a civil rights issue. And we will defend your rights. Mr. Walker, if you are listening to me, let me tell you something. We know pretty well now who you work for. Let me tell you who we work for. We work fo…

Its the revenue, stupid!

From Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the IMF.

The United States faces some serious medium-term fiscal issues, but by any standard measure it does not face an immediate fiscal crisis. Overly indebted countries typically have a hard time financing themselves when the world becomes riskier — yet turmoil in the Middle East is pushing down the interest rates on United States government debt. We are still seen as a safe haven.

Nonetheless, leading commentators and politicians repeat the line “we’re broke” and argue that there is no alternative to immediate spending cuts at the national and state level.

Which view is correct? And what does this tell us about where our political system is heading?...

The most immediate problem is that our largest banks and closely related parts of the financial system blew themselves up in 2007-8. The ensuing recession and associated loss of tax revenue will end up increasing our government debt, as a percentage of gross domestic product, by around 40 …

Huckabee and the "nanny state"

According to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), America's poverty problem would be greatly reduced if single parents would simply tie the knot.


I'll leave it to others to call out the ways that Huckabee gets his facts wrong.

Instead I'd just like to point out that if the right wingers are going to go ballistic about Michelle Obama saying that we should eat our vegetables, what do you suppose they'll say about Huckabee telling us we should get married?

I'm waiting...

Obama's Long Game Revisited

For a while now, I've been talking about the fact that, in order to understand Obama, you have to be clear that he's not playing for short-term gain...he's playing a long game. Here's what he said about that himself.

So, my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there, what is helping people live out their lives; what is giving them more opportunity; what is growing the economy; what is making us more competitive. At any given juncture there are going to be times that my preferred option, what I am absolutely, positively sure is right, I can’t get done. And so then, my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or that way because I am keeping my eye on the long-term and the long fight. Not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long-term.
With our 24/7 news cycle and access to immediate information, those on the left and in the media tend to over-react to the times when Obama has to "tack a little bit this way …

Nobody Knows

Prison labor...yet another ridiculous budget reduction idea

From the New York Times:

Prison labor — making license plates, picking up litter — is nothing new, and nearly all states have such programs. But these days, officials are expanding the practice to combat cuts in federal financing and dwindling tax revenue, using prisoners to paint vehicles, clean courthouses, sweep campsites and perform many other services done before the recession by private contractors or government employees...

Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, introduced a bill last month to require all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week. Creating a national prison labor force has been a goal since he went to Congress in 1995, but it makes even more sense in this economy, he said.
OMG!!!

So lets ignore the fact that our prison population has increased by over 700% since the 1970's and simply capitalize on the growing opportunity for slave labor?????

Of course we wouldn't want to take the sane approach of saving $16.9 billion/year by cutting the number o…

Republicans pushing for a double-dip recession

I know that in lefty political circles, Goldman Sachs is practically the definition of evil. But there are perhaps times when it pays to listen to them.

This week they issued a report on what would happen if the House budget bill, cutting $62 billion in federal spending, was actually passed. Their prediction: GDP growth will be reduced by 1.5 to 2 percentage points later this year.

For some perspective on what that means, the Federal Reserve is predicting that under current budget assumptions, GDP growth in 2011 will be 3.4% to 3.9%, so we're talking cutting that in half. And that same report from the Feds predicted an unemployment rate of 8.8% to 9% under current policies. So if GDP is cut in half, unemployment will likely soar above 10%.

Its no wonder then, that Sen. Chuck Schumer has this to say about what the Republican budget proposal would do to the economy:

"House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession," Schumer said Wednesday in a statement…

Higher Ground

Wowza!

General Motors, which nearly collapsed from the weight of its debts two years ago before reorganizing in a government-sponsored bankruptcy, said on Thursday that it earned $4.7 billion in 2010, the most in more than a decade.

It was the first profitable year since 2004 for G.M., which became publicly traded in November, ending a string of years in which losses totaled about $90 billion...

As a result of its performance, G.M. said 45,000 union workers would receive profit-sharing checks averaging $4,300, the most ever.

Fight Outta You

Reality in graphs

When you hear about those "greedy Wisconsin teachers" making, on average, about $50,000 a year, here's a little something to ponder...



Americans tend to have a distorted picture of the reality of income distribution in this country.

A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.


And on the idea of "shared sacrifice," lets look at who's picking up the tab on taxes.



Do you suppose those drops in millionaire's and corporate taxes have anything to do with our budget deficits?

Nah, its all the fault of those greedy teachers. < snark >

"We're asking the people of Wisconsin to stand with us"

Please link/share/email/twitter...whatever!

"ONE world and under the same sky..."

My title are the words of a 21 year-old Egyptian named Muhammad Saladin Nusair in his blog post titled From Tahrir to Wisconsin. Muhammad is the young man in this picture.



Here's what he wrote about it yesterday:

Many people thought it’s something extraordinary or something that stands out. but I really want to say that me, and many other people, were raised this way. were taught that all human beings are brothers and sisters, were taught that we live in ONE world and under the same sky, so I don’t see what I did as something “abnormal” or “super cool”.

again, as I told many of you, we are all human beings. we shouldn’t let borders and differences separate us, we were made different to complete each other, to integrate and live together. If a human being doesn’t feel the pain of his fellow human beings then everything man created and established since the very beginning of his existence is in great danger.
Someone raised you very well Muhammad!!!!!!

Another word that expresses what…

Budgets are a statement of values

Anyone who has ever put together a budget - be it for a household, a business, or a unit of government - knows that they are statements about values. Even the basics like food, shelter and clothing come with value statements about how much we're willing to spend on them and how important the particulars are (ie, clothes from a second-hand store vs a shopping trip to Nordstroms).

Both Democrats and Republicans are showing their hands these days on what their priorities are when it comes to our federal budget. And nowhere is that more evident than in a small but telling bill sponsored by my Representative, Betty McCollum.

She thought we could save the $7 million the Army spends on sponsorship of NASCAR race teams. Given that the Navy and Marine Corp have dropped such ads because they were determined to be of little value, it seemed a reasonable proposal.

Not only did the majority of Republicans vote against this cost savings...she received threats of violence for even proposing it.

Women of Strength and Courage

In the end, Reps. Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) probably didn’t sway any votes by sharing their personal stories on the House floor on Thursday night. On Friday, 240 of 241 House Republicans voted to strip Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health care, of government funding.

Nevertheless, when Moore stood up to talk about being an 18-year-old with an unplanned pregnancy, and Speier described having a second-trimester abortion after a wanted pregnancy went wrong, the effect was electrifying. With their candor, the two congresswomen inspired women all over the country and pierced through the sanctimonious abstractions dominating the debate. At least half of women have an unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives, and nearly a third have an abortion. Yet even as politicians argue about these women’s lives and choices and futures, the women themselves remain faceless and voiceless. Moore and Speier changed that...

Several Republicans at…

The People of Wisconsin Fight Back

And they're getting a little help from some friends...

Happy Anniversary Recovery Act!

More here.

Last Thursday marked the two year anniversary of the passage of the Recovery Act. Michael Grunwald summarizes:

...the good news of the Recovery Act, which helped avoid a depression; reduced the unemployment rate by 2%; cut taxes for 95% of Americans; bailed out the states to prevent mass layoffs; funded more than 75,000 projects to upgrade roads, parks, sewers and just about everything else; and made unprecedented investments in renewable energy, health-information technology, broadband, the smart grid and much, much more — with no earmarks and virtually no fraud.
That summary begins to hint at why its so difficult to communicate how important the Recovery Act has been...its impact has been so far-reaching that its hard to put into a couple of sound bites.

Last fall, Grunwald wrote a fascinating article that focused on those unprecedented investments. Its a fascinating piece that digs a little deeper into this one area.

For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious en…

Rosie's Lullaby

Isn't she lovely?

Obama visiting Intel’s Science Talent Search in Hillsboro, Oregon

This one is personal

The Obama administration rescinded most of a federal regulation Friday designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds.

The Health and Human Services Department eliminated nearly the entire rule put into effect by the administration of President George W. Bush during his final days in office that was widely interpreted as allowing such workers to opt out of a broad range of medical services, such as providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B, treating gay men and lesbians and prescribing birth control to single women.
When I was 13 years old, I had some problems with a hormonal imbalance that meant my menstrual cycle was heavy and didn't stop once it started. This got so serious that I was hospitalized for blood transfusions and a D & C. Going forward, I was put on "the pill" to regulate my cycle.

I don't know if there were any alternatives to taking the pill that were available at the time…

Just a little dinner with a few friends...

From the White House:

The meeting is a part of our ongoing dialogue with the business community on how we can work together to win the future, strengthen our economy, support entrepreneurship, increasing our exports, and get the American people back to work. The President and the business leaders will discuss our shared goal of promoting American innovation, and discuss his commitment to new investments in research and development, education and clean energy."
Guest list:

John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Carol Bartz, president and CEO, Yahoo!
John Chambers, CEO and chairman, Cisco Systems
Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO, Oracle
Reed Hastings, CEO, NetFlix
John Hennessy, president, Stanford University
Steve Jobs, chairman and CEO, Apple
Art Levinson, chairman and former CEO, Genentech
Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google
Steve Westly, managing partner and founder, Westly Group
Mark Zuckerberg, founder, president and CEO, Face…

What do I do when I'm lost in the forest?

Stand still. The trees ahead
and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here.
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers.
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it you may come back again.
saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you.
You are surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

- Northwest Native American Tradition translated by David Wagoner

Some Perspective

After watching the leadership and participation of the women of Egypt in the recent protests, I was particularly disheartened to hear the story of the attacks on CBS reporter Lara Logan. The story bothered me so much that I wanted to avoid hearing about it for fear its telling would be used to diminish this profound moment in history. But I knew better, that's not the right response. We can't hide from the reality of what so often happens to women and expect it to ever stop.

A better way of approaching this is to listen to the solidarity the women of Egypt are offering to Logan.

The reaction here to the attack on Logan has been consternation. "Lara Logan, I apologize sincerely with all my heart," reads an online petition being circulated Thursday. "To every girl, woman, mother harassed, I apologize sincerely with all my heart. To my mother nation Egypt, I apologize sincerely with all my heart. And I promise you all that I will try the very best that I can to brin…

What counts?

Gross National Product measures neither the health of our children, the quality of their education, nor the joy of their play. It measures neither the beauty of our poetry, nor the strength of our marriages. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It measures neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our wit nor our courage, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worth living. It can tell us everything about our country, except those things that make us proud to be a part of it.

- Robert F. Kennedy

Priceless

Another great day in the White House.







The zen of deficit reduction

As we all know, today President Obama unveiled his 2012 budget, including over $1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. There is much gnashing of teeth about it all coming from both the left and the right.

There are miles to go before anything about this is settled. But for me, Ezra Klein provides some much needed perspective.

...if we decided to get serious about the deficit and let all of the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012 -- yes, including the cuts for the not-so-rich -- the reduction in the deficit would be vastly larger than anything envisioned in this budget. It's an odd turn of events, but for all that this budget, and the various Republican proposals, attempt to actually do for the deficit, the biggest single thing we could do would be to do, well, nothing: Let the Bush tax cuts expire and let the health-reform law and the associated Medicare cuts and excise tax get implemented as planned. Doing by not doing: That's the zen of deficit reduction. Somehow, …

Minutemen Leader Found Guilty of Murder

Last month I wrote about Brisenia Flores, the other 9 year-old murder victim in Pima County, Arizona. Today we learn that Shawna Forde, one of the founding members of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp (a border vigilante group), was found guilty of first degree murder in this case.

A Pima County jury convicted Shawna Forde today of two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Arivaca residents Raul Junior Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia.

The jury also convicted Forde of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Flores' wife, Gina Gonzalez, as well as related aggravated assault and robbery counts.

Gonzlez started crying as soon as the first guilty verdict, the killing of her daughter, was read just before noon in a packed courtroom at Pima County Superior Court.

The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days. Jurors will now be asked if the death penalty ought to be considered.
Check out Presente.org, a group of Latino/Latina bloggers who ra…

Et tu Newsweek?

The title of the lead story on Newsweek today by Niall Ferguson is Egypt: How Obama Blew It. That title went against how I view events of the last few weeks, so I thought I'd read it to see if there was a challenge to my own thinking that would help me understand what just happened. In the end...not so much.

Ferguson starts out by pointing out some mixed messages from the administration that many have noted and suggests that, in the process, "The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo." That mirrors some of the criticism we've been hearing, so I thought perhaps he would point out how this happened and its affects going forward.

But in the very next paragraph, he tips us off about where he's going with this:

Last week, while other commentators ran around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hyperventilating about what they saw as an Arab 1989, I flew to Tel Aviv for the annual Herzliya s…

Late for Your Life

No one knows where they belong
The search just goes on and on and on
For every day that ends up wrong
Another one's right
Call it chance or call it fate
Either one is cause to celebrate
Still the question begs why would you wait
And be late for your life

What about the children?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended proposed Republican budget cuts to popular domestic programs Sunday as necessary to maintaining fiscal health.

"No matter how popular sounding these programs are, they jeopardize our children’s future," the House Budget Committee chairman said on "Fox News Sunday."
Steve Benen's response says it all.

So, let me get this straight. In order to help protect the interests of our children, we have to cut Head Start, student loans, Title I grants (which help schools with kids who live in poverty), and nutritional aid for pregnant women and women with young children.

By making these cuts, Paul Ryan believes he's helping make children's futures brighter. Presumably, the House Budget Committee chairman also intends to teach kids about fire safety by handing them matches and lighter fluid, and encouraging them to play.

Indeed, as far as Ryan is concerned, we just can't afford Head Start, student loans, Title I grants, and nutrit…

Prevention of the unimaginable

Two-year old Emily was sexually assaulted and then killed in 2006 by her day-care provider's 13 year-old son. To try to put ourselves in the shoes of her parents, Lynne and Travis Johnson, is unimaginable. There just aren't words. But the two of them have taken the courageous stance of trying to do something about this so that no other parent ever has to experience the unimaginable.

For the last 5 years, they have worked with the Minnesota Legislature to pass what has become known as "Emily's Law." This year's version received a hearing last Thursday by the public safety committee. The issue the bill attempts to address is that the 13 year-old who committed the crime was tried in juvenile court and the Johnsons felt the sentence was too lenient. Current law in Minnesota is that, in order to be tried as an adult, the juvenile must be at least 14 years of age. One aspect of the bill would allow children as young as 10 to be tried as an adult for a "violent…

Power

All power comes from the barrel of imagination.
Al Giordano, February 10, 2011

What just happened in Egypt?

I spent most of yesterday watching the events unfold in Egypt. And last night, I witnessed the unfolding of conspiracy theories about those events from both the left and right wing factions that practically made my head explode. This included watching Glenn Beck be interviewed by O'Reilly on his theory that the communists, socialists, and islamists are working together to rule the world via caliphate to reading theories on the left about an Obama/Gates orchestrated military coup. Yes, its all that crazy.

But it seems that if we take our pre-coneived assumptions about the world as fact, and then use them to try to understand geopolitical events - we have the ability to read just about anything into current events.

The truth is, I have my own theories. They're no more distant from my own pre-concieved assumptions. But at least I'll own the fact that I really don't know what happened. None of us do. And perhaps we never will. But in the event that actual information becom…

The moral force of non-violence

Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence.

For in Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing -- but non-violence, moral force that bent the arch of history toward justice once more.

And while the sights and sound that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.

As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, "There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom."

Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square. And the entire world has taken note...

The word "Tahrir" means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us …

February 11th

This morning as I was digesting the information about Mubarak stepping down in Egypt and watching the jubilation of the citizens of that country, I started imaging the possibility of a free and open election - complete with scenes of long lines of people reveling in the culmination of a movement that finally gave them a voice. At that point, my mind wandered to similar scenes from South Africa in 1994. Remember watching this?



Imagine my surprise in being reminded that February 11th was also the date that changed things in South Africa. It came in 1990...



And now the same date sees the same kind of victory for the people of Egypt.

Sane Republican Watch

For some reason I am fascinated with Republicans that step outside the truly insane proposals and rhetoric we so often hear and - regardless of whether I agree with them or not - want to have a reasoned discussion. So I'd like to highlight a couple of examples.

First, there's this from Rep. Richard Hanna on the Republican approach to health care reform.

They've complained for two years about this health care bill. They've offered alternatives, but they're not alternatives that are in many ways viable. Well, now they have to put up the goods. They have to say 'here's what we're presenting, here's why it will work.'...

Let's see what they do. I say give them a chance. Let the Republican Party put up or shut up.

And then there's Rep. Sean Duffy on the same topic.

I don't believe that we should ... just do a straight-up repeal. My position during the campaign and today is, let's reform the reform or repeal and replace. And so, I wasn'…

Monsters

Life is a game of inches

Way to go Detroit!

The Water is Wide

The women of Egypt

The New York Times has this quote from 28 year-old Mariam Soleman:

I am not socialist, I am not a liberal, I am not an Islamist. I am an Egyptian woman, a regular woman rejecting injustice and corruption in my country.













Many are giving credit to 26 year-old Asmaa Mahfouz for inspiring the protests with this video.



From the NYT:

This was certainly not the first time a young activist used the Internet — later virtually shut down by the government — as a tool to organize and mobilize, but it departed from the convenient, familiar anonymity of online activism.

More than that, it was a woman who dared put a face to the message, unfazed by the possibility of arrest for her defiance. “Do not be afraid,” she said.

When Ms. Mahfouz posted this bold video, she said she worried about the reaction that it might generate in a society that expected women to behave in a more subdued and reserved manner.

“I felt that doing this video may be too big a step for me, but then I thought: For how much longer will…

From Egypt - a modern revolution

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight

Is Social Security privatization unconstitutional?

From Jonathan Cohn comes one of those things that you read and wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?"

The idea was to take Social Security, a mandatory public pension program, and turn it into a system of mandatory personal investment accounts...

Conservatives presumably thought privatization was constitutional; otherwise, they would not have worked so feverishly to enact it. But if the principle holds for old-age insurance, it ought to hold for medical insurance, too. In other words, if it’s ok for the government to make you pay for regulated private investments, then it should be ok for the government to make you pay for regulated private health insurance. Yet, as far as I can tell, the folks who spent all of those years promoting Social Security as an all-American, free market innovation are the same ones that now insist the Affordable Care Act is an unprecedented threat to liberty.

This is the kind of thing that gives me hope for Egypt

Christians protecting Muslims while they pray during protests in Egypt

About a month ago (and before the protests), we saw the reverse...Muslims protecting Christians and their slogan of “We either live together, or we die together.”

They give true meaning to...

Republicans: What's your alternative for Hillary St. Pierre?

Hillary's story:

With a court decision on Monday declaring the health care law unconstitutional and Republicans intent on repealing at least parts of it, thousands of Americans with major illnesses are facing the renewed prospect of losing their health insurance coverage.

The legislation put an end to lifetime limits on coverage for the first time, erasing the financial burdens, including personal bankruptcy, that had affected many ailing Americans.

For example, Hillary St. Pierre, a 28-year-old former registered nurse who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had expected to reach her insurance plan’s $2 million limit this year. Under the new law, the cap was eliminated when the policy she gets through her husband’s employer was renewed this year.

Ms. St. Pierre, who has already come close once before to losing her coverage because she had reached the plan’s maximum, says she does not know what she will do if the cap is reinstated. “I will be forced to stop treatment or to alter my treatment,” Ms.…

The Healer

StartUP America

One of the mistakes liberals make too often is to criticize businesses in one lump sum. We all know the problems related to the power of corporate America. And the risks of "too big to fail" are still being felt all over this country. But we need to recognize that when jobs are the number one issue - the vast majority of those come from businesses. So if we want jobs created, we need to find a way to encourage them to be developed.

For all their blustering about the "free enterprise system" and the value of competitiveness, the truth is that corporate America and their supporters in the Republican party try to do whatever is necessary to reduce competitiveness. One example of this will suffice...merger and acquisition have been the main hallmarks of a so-called "successful" strategy in corporate America. For example, does anyone else live in a major city where one airline is hubbed? Every move that company makes is to limit competition.

Its often the small …