Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Time for Attempting Bipartisanship is Over

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on September 1st, 2009

Despite his best intentions President Obama’s attempt at consensus and bipartisanship over health care reform is over. In order to achieve bipartisanship one needs a partner willing to embrace tmpphpHC3m8k[1]bipartisanship.  The Republicans have no interest in doing so. Defeating Obama is more their taste. It’s now time, it’s now well past time, for President Obama to fashion a Democratic bill, including the public option, if he hopes to have a health care reform bill at all. I admire the President’s attempt at consensus, but consensus cannot be the final end in itself, especially when something as critical as health care reform is concerned. If one has the votes, but lacks a partner, one must act alone, which is unfortunate, but it’s necessary all the same. What we haven’t seen is Obama, the fighter, and as in any political struggle sometimes fighting is all one has. In short, politics is war by other means. Ultimately, Obama will be judged by how well he can wage war over this definining. essential issue.

Have They NO Shame? The Radical Right’s Savage Attack on Ted Kennedy

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 29th, 2009

From Media Matters:

Media Matters: Storming Camelot: Sen. Kennedy’s death brings out worst from the right

Following Wednesday’s early-morning news that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy had lost his battle with brain cancer, Media Matters posted the following statement from president Eric Burns at 3:51 a.m. ET on the County Fair blog:

“Ted Kennedy was a true American statesman. The values that he so eloquently and tirelessly championed represent the best of our American ideals. He reached across the aisle to get hard work done but never sacrificed principle. Though he is gone, the dream will forever live on. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Vicki Kennedy, the Senator’s family, his loyal staff and the millions of lives he touched throughout his historic life and career.”

Far from letting Kennedy rest in peace, many media conservatives savagely attacked the Senate’s last liberal lion. Leading the charge was radio host Rush Limbaugh, who began his broadcast Wednesday morning eulogizing Kennedy by calling him “the lion of the Senate” before noting that “we were his prey.” Hardly finished, El Rushbo would go on to say that “Kennedy screwed up everything he touched.” He said Kennedy’s opposition to Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination was “the beginning of the dawn of the age of the current hate.” He claimed Kennedy “used the government to take money from people that work to give it to people that don’t work” and that “most of Senator Kennedy’s plans ended up damaging the people he seeks to help.” Finally, Limbaugh marveled at the fact that “the Constitution is still there, even after Ted Kennedy in the Senate for 52 [sic] years.” All that and more led MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Politico‘s Patrick Gavin to agree that “Limbaugh showed great restraint” in discussing Kennedy’s death. Can you imagine what Rush would have said had it not been for such “restraint?”

Limbaugh was hardly alone in his disgusting attacks on Kennedy. Radio host and Fox News political analyst Tammy Bruce kept it classy, claiming on Twitter that Fox News Sunday‘s Chris “Wallace noted the last great act of Kennedy’s career was to endorse [President] Obama. I agree: he left a woman to drown and now he’s left us to drown.”

Eric Sanger, a director at Premiere Radio Networks, ABC Radio/Citadel Media and The Sean Hannity Show, said on Facebook (emphasis added), “The irony is that the media is already positioning Ted as a champion for the little man against wealth and privilege. This piece of garbage was the poster child for wealth and privilege. Hopefully, this event will mark the end of this repugnant family and all the endless crap, entitlement, personal indulgences and collateral damage (Kopechne, Bessette, Bowman, Moxely, etc.).”

Wesley Pruden, a Washington Times columnist, wrote that Kennedy’s death was “a good career move” and that Democrats “are smiling through their tears,” while Andrew Breitbart, a fellow Times columnist, called Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard,” and a “prick” on Twitter, as noted by Politico. Riehl World View, a right-wing blog, came to Breitbart’s defense, claiming that liberals criticizing him were “hypocrites” because when Dick Cheney dies, they’re going to do the exact same thing. That’s right, liberals today are hypocrites because of what they might do in the future. Now that’s some crazy fortune-telling.

Fox News host Sean Hannity told his audience that “out of respect for his family,” he had decided not to “bring up Mary Jo Kopechne” or Kennedy’s “radical socialism.” Seriously.

When they weren’t busy attacking Kennedy’s legacy, media conservatives — like Fox News’ Laura Ingrahamwere attacking Democrats for purportedly attempting to use his passing to stifle debate and enact health care reform legislation, repeatedly calling this supposed tactic the “death card.” In a true episode of pot meets kettle, conservative media figures — like health care serial misinformer Betsy McCaughey — have used Kennedy’s death to attack health care reform, some even baselessly suggesting that if reform passes, elderly cancer patients — as Kennedy was — will be “denied” treatments or that their treatments will be “rationed.” Limbaugh said that “Ted Kennedy didn’t have to read a death book,” while Tom Marr, guest-hosting Lou Dobbs’ radio show, said under a public option, a “bureaucrat” would have told Kennedy, “77, brain tumor, bye-bye.”

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While Pattrick Buchanan intones about the “truce of God” on MSNBC pertaining to political quietude and respect for the passing of Senator Kennedy, the Radical Rights’ media savages haven’t the sense to postpone attacking the Senator until he is at least interred.  Is it the quest for fame, position, money, or downright meanness that motivates this hatred?  Whatever it is, it debases us all.

The Cause of His Life

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on August 27th, 2009

Ted Kennedy is gone.  Now is the time for Congress to enact meaningful health care reform, including a public option, as a tribute totmpphpN2Ylkc[1] the “Lion of the Senate.”  Last year, Senator Kennedy referred to health care reform as “the cause of my life.”  This was no exaggeration.  Kennedy ran on the issue of affordable health care in 1962, in his first run for the Senate.  Kennedy was instrumental in the passage of Medicare and Medicaid programs, both controversial programs that faced considerable Republican opposition at the time which have now become highly popular.  In 1980, in his famous “the dream will never die” speech at the Democratic National Convention, Kennedy announced that he would “continue to stand for national health insurance” because “the state of a family’s health should never depend on a family’s wealth.”  There would be no better tribute to a man who gave over 45 years of his life to championing the cause of the poor, the middle class and the disenfranchised, than for Congress to enact health care reform in Ted Kennedy’s name.

There is precedent for enacting major human rights legislation to honor a fallen senatorial comrade.  In 1875, Kennedy’s Bay State predecessor, the great anti-slavery advocate Senator Charles Sumner, lay on his death bed as he pleaded with his Senate colleagues to “enact my civil rights bill.”  Sumner’s colleagues in Congress responded by enacting the 1875 Civil Rights Act as a tribute to his lifelong battle against slavery and on behalf of civil rights.  The 1875 Act prohibited race discrimination in privately owned places of public accommodation.  (Historical note: The Supreme Court struck the 1875 Act down, necessitating the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which also passed with Ted Kennedy’s support)).

Like Sumner, Ted Kennedy worried about his life’s cause while on his death bed. From home, he continued to advocate for health care reform with his staff and colleagues. The week before he died, Kennedy repeated his request to the Massachusetts legislature to authorize the governor to appoint his successor instead of waiting until a special election filled his spot. Ted Kennedy knew that every vote would count in the Senate battle for health care reform.

So, members of Congress, it is up to you to realize Senator Ted Kennedy’s lifelong dream.  He deserves it, and so do we.

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on August 26th, 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has died.  He had already been re-elected as a senator from Massachusetts before I was born.  For me, he has always been a lion of the Senate.  He made some terribltmpphpzuNr4we decisions and some brilliant decisions in both his personal and political lives.  He dealt with great tragedy and great joy both in public and in private.  He caused great happiness for many and caused great pain for some.  Nonetheless, words are indequate to express the gratitude that America should feel for what Ted Kennedy did for this country, for how he made us think about how to make our country more perfect and for how he pushed us to be better.  Lord knows he had his flaws, but I always liked and admired Ted Kennedy.  May he rest in peace.

Here’s Hillary!

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 7th, 2009

From here.

“Hillary couldn’t help herself by laughing when CNN’s Fareed Zakaria told her that ‘Ambassador’ Bolton blasted her husband’s trip in North Korea. Gotta love Hillary! Her reaction was priceless.”

“If Obama walked on water, Bolton’d say he couldn’t swim.”


The Hysterical Reaction to Bill’s Diplomatic Success is Genuinely Hilarious

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 7th, 2009

Check out Bill Conason’s piece in Salon.com: “Like a seasonal flu, the verbal virus that is sometimes called Clinton derangement syndrome has strutmpphpKEmNubck again, beginning only moments after the 42nd president of the United States appeared on television screens around the world with the two journalists he had helped to rescue from prison in North Korea. And like certain viruses, the syndrome tends to hit hardest among a very specific segment of the population. Most Americans appear to be immune most of the time, as do the majority of human beings on the planet, so this pathology will probably never become a global pandemic.”  One needn’t be a big fan of Bill Clinton to have the courtesy and decency to give credit–how much is unknowable at this point–where credit is due. Moreover, the reactions of the likes of Pat Buchanan and John Bolton are ideological views unaccompanied by even a scintilla of empirical evidence. That’s the radical Right’s job, isn’t. React negatively no matter how preposterous the reactions are. I suppose during these hard times it’s good work if you can get it.

Another Lesson on Race in America

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on July 30th, 2009

Two weeks ago, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. got a lesson on race in America, and as a result, so have the rest of us.  A prominent Harvard scholar on race in Amer180px-Henry_Louis_Gates_Jrica, Professor Gates told NY Times Columnist Charles Blow that he has generally lived in “a cocoon of racial tolerance, enlightenment and reason.”  However, on the day that he returned from a trip to China and had trouble opening his front door, he became what Blow called “a member of the Club” – the 66% of Black men in America who told the New York Times that they felt they had been stopped by the police because of their race.  We don’t know whether Officer Crowley treated the professor differently because he was Black.  Officer Crowley might not even know.  Crowley teaches other officers how to avoid racial profiling, but can he avoid his own unsconcious feelings about race?  What we do know is that Professor Gates’ belief that he was treated differently because he was Black was entirely rational, given the history of race in America and in the Boston area.  Professor Gates writes about this history in his scholarship, and he teaches about it in his classes.  On that summer day, the academic became real for Professor Gates.

I vividly remember the day that the academic became real for me.  In law school in another New England city, I learned a lot about race in America from my classes and my African American classmates.  The spring of my second year, a white female and Black male friend and I looked to rent an apartment together.  My white female friend had made the appointment to see the apartment, but when we showed up with our Black friend, we were told the apartment was no longer available.  We went to lunch together and stared at each other blankly, asking, “Did that really happen?  Are we victims of discrimination?” The same thing happened at another apartment building that afternoon.  We later confirmed with friends that lived at both buildings that apartments were still available in both buildings.  We’ll never know for sure whether we were treated differently because my roommate was Black.  What we did know was that we had  been taught another lesson on race in America.

My experience, like that of Professor Gates and Officer Crowley, is typical of how people’s experiences are “colored” by racial differences.  Often, we don’t know whether our actions, or those of other people, are motivated by racial prejudice.  The lesson we can learn from Professor Gates is that race always matters – it is unrealistic to assume that it doesn’t.  What President Obama is trying to do today with his “beer summit” is what we all need to do – recognize that race influences all of us, talk about our differences, and try to understand each other.  When we can do that, then we will have indeed learned a positive lesson about race in America.

Thoughts on the Sotomayor Hearings

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on July 16th, 2009

When I wasotomayor.jpgs a first year student at Yale Law School, some of the upper level students organized a conference on “Women of Color and the Law.”  The speakers at this conference spoke about the failure of our law to adequately address the needs of women of color, and the role of women of color as lawyers.  The conference had a strong impact on me and my friends.  While in law school, we focused in our classes and our extracurricular activities on the law’s relationship to women of color and other people who have been historically disempowered in out society.  After law school, as a legal services lawyer in the South side of Chicago, I personally witnessed the failure of the law to address the needs of my clients, who were primarily women of color.  Now, there is a woman of color, Sonya Sotomayor, who is about to become a member of the top Court in our country.  I never would have imagined this moment when I was in law school, or when I was a practicing lawyer.

As far as I know, Sotomayor was not present at the Women of Color Conference.  It occurred years after she graduated from Yale.  However, during her hearings she has found herself discussing some of the issues addressed by the speakers at that meeting – the impact of a experience on how a person understands the law, and the importance of a judge mitigating his or her personal views when he or she is interpreting the law.  In a world dedicated to the myth that justice is blind (that is, that judges are not influenced by their backgrounds and experiences), her nuanced explanations are a tough sell.  Fortunately, she is maintaining her composure, and her strong record and the large Democratic majority in the Senate virtually insure that she will be confirmed.  I look forward to that day.

Sarah Palin and Quitting

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on July 8th, 2009

Regardless of what one thinks of Gov. Sarah Palin, she quit.  Quitting itself is not necessarily problematic if one has a good reason to do so.  It is unclear she has a good reason.  At least three legitimate reasons exist to quit a public office before one’s term has ended.  First, if one’s actions or health appear to make it impossible for the official to do the job the official was elected to do, quitting is legitimate.  Second, if something arises that fundamentally changes the basic agreement an official had with the voters who elected her, quitting is legitimate.  For example, if the official changes parties, quitting is legitimate.  Third, if the electorate appears to want the official to resign, quitting is legitimate.   The official arguably need not resign under any of these circumstances, but quitting under such circumstances is acceptable.

However, if the official quits to pursue some other task, the official ought to explain precisely why she is final.jpgquitting and ought to be able to move directly to that post-office task that precipitated the resignation.  Spending more time with family in the wake of a scandal, starting a new job at a think tank or going to rehab are all reasonable landing places for officials who quit.  The problem with Gov. Palin is that she simply appears to not want to do the job she was elected to do.  In her press conference, she appeared to say simply that she had better things to do than be governor of Alaska.   Palin’s attempt to tie her decision to quit to her decision to decline to run for a second term and thereby become a lame duck of choice was weak.  Being a lame duck hardly means that one cannot run a state effectively.  Virginia governors can only serve one term.  Of course, it would be nonsensical to suggest that the governor of Virginia could reasonably resign the day after being sworn in if he decides he has something better to do.

It would be interesting to talk to Gov. Palin’s son Track and ask him if, as Palin suggested, he really agreed that his mother should quit.  Let’s hope that Track Palin does not try to follow her lead.  If Track believes that he can resign from the Army and go home as soon as he decides that he will not re-enlist, he will be in for a rude awakening.

The “Public Option” and the Health of Our Nation

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on June 25th, 2009

As the health care reform debate shifts into high gear, we need to make sure that the reformers have the right priorities.  The fundamental issue before us is what is the purpose of our health care system – the health of the American people or the health of the private insurance companies?  Frankly, these two priorities are increasingly at odds with each other.  As Atul Gawande’s celebrated New Yorker piece reminds us, patients are best served, at the lowest cost, in locations where the medical culture is focused on the health of the patient instead of making a profit.  Because private insurance companies are for profit entities, they are institutionally poorly suited to best serve the needs of the patients.  This does not mean that all private health insurance companies are bad, of course, but it does explain why they are fighting the “public option” tooth and nail in this health care reform debate.  Their argument against the public option is that it is unfair to make private insurance companies compete with government provided health care.  Why?   Because the government can provide services at a lower cost so the competition would be unfair.  Are you kidding me?  All this argument proves is that the public option might hurt the private health insurance industry.

Currently the profits of private insurance companies account for 30% of the cost of our health care.  It’s time to face the fundamental question – how much does preserving the outrageous profits of the private health insurance companies matter?  Is it worth sacrificing access to health care at an affordable cost?  That’s really what’s at stake in the “public option” debate, and the answer to the question is obvious.  Interestingly, polls show that almost 80% of the American public supports a public option.  While Americans may distrust the government, they apparently distrust health insurance companies even more.  For the health of the nation, we need the public option.