Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who Killed Single Payer?

Senator Sanders (I-Vermont) secretly inserts ACTUAL single payer provision in the health reform bill

MeanMesa notices something "just under the horizon" which might present a true nightmare for the "we hate America" neo-con crowd in 2010.

Now, granted, the GOP has "modernized" its traditional (medieval) domestic policy ideology just a smidgeon in its ongoing efforts to break free from the on going train wreck. The old paradigm was an awkward extraction from the Book of Genesis which was used to "prove" that man kind was created in the first place to lower taxes. The new adjustment? That old single track fraud is now accompanied by a new, probably also Biblical, commitment to deny health care to poor people.

After all, how else could the neo-cons "keep" all of their "hard earned money?" Among the neo-con horde, there are those who have been "fooled" into thinking that they are rich. With wages utterly stagnant amid constantly rising costs of living for decades, -- since Ronnie Rayguns exploded middle class taxes in the '80's -- the grotesquely rich have depended on a barrage of talking points (issues of ideology simplified so much that hill billies and bigots are attracted to them) to convince even the most "credit challenged" that a.) they are actually rich, and b.) that their "riches" are being purloined relentlessly by sinister socialist schemes cooked up by Democrats.

Of course, such a menu of "day-old cat food" can only be sold to the seriously uninformed. Should any of the neo-con "cannon fodder" class actually investigate what has actually been going on, they would most likely be a little less manageable. In fact, probably a lot less manageable. Should they ever become informed -- as opposed to uninformed -- these stalwart, hypnotized "grass roots" neo-cons would probably redefine themselves as something more akin to starving Bolshevik riot mobs from Moscow's 1900's.

Well, if you are a billionaire, you would have not wasted much of your "cabana martini" time worrying about this unpleasant possibility. You've done the elitist version of due diligence. You've purchased the media. You've seen to it that folks such as Rush Limbaugh -- you know, folks who can speak good old American plain English to your carefully groomed base -- recklessly reframe the daily news to reinforce you oligarchic wet dreams day after monotonous day. So what could be a problem?

Between your comb-over troop of dirty shirt preachers, Southern Senators and drug addled talk show hosts, these dumbies remain amazingly eager to stand around in "grass roots" tea parties acting stupid. ("Okay Billy Bob, jest carry thu sign an' act mad. An y'all 'member -- NO INTERVIEWS! Them liberral's gonna trah t' trick you inta' lookin' lahk yew cain't 'splain nuthin. Beers on me when we git dun!")

The Fly in the (Billionaire) Ointment

Enter Senator Sanders. Unlike far too many of the "Democratic" Senators who have toughed out the entire health care "debate" hiding under their desks in hushed cell phone calls to their PCCC's (pharmaceutical corporation campaign contributors), Senator Sanders actually threw down the gauntlet. He inserted an amendment to the otherwise agonizingly "half-inflated balloon boy" Senate bill which would direct $10 billion dollars to the construction of regional health centers all around the nation.

Now, MeanMesa visitors, this is not to be confused with the brazen Senate "buy-off's" such as , for example, the $300 million slipped to Ben Nelson ("D?" - Nebraska) so his state would never have to pay its part of Medicaid bills or the dough -- this time $100 million -- Mary Landrieu ("D?" - Louisiana) got for casting her vote in favor of the bill. Those million dollar checks were what is called "state specific." That means that all those dollars would be spent only by the states which successfully, uh, extorted them out of the national treasury.

Anyone living anywhere else besides Nebraska or Louisiana gets nothing -- except the bill to pay for these bribes, of course.

Not so with the Sanders amendment. Not so at all! His regional health centers will be just that -- regional! That means that they will be built all over the country, providing subsidized health care -- especially preventative medicine -- to literally millions of Americans who need it. That means that there might probably be a new regional health center in your neighborhood!

Naturally, the old white men in the GOP immediately tried to torpedo his idea. "Wha' this here's nothin' else but SOCIALISM! Ef us rich whaht folk gotta' pay fer somethin' lahk this, why, our chillen' gonna' be slaves to the government! This here's so 'spensive thet there's gonna' be nuthin' but debt fo mah granchillen!"


Now let's look at the money for a minute.

Sanders plan calls for 10,000 regional centers. When we divide $10 billion dollars by 10,000 regional centers we get -- ah, subtract seven from four, carry the two -- $1 million dollars per health center. Remember, these aren't hospitals! These are nice, sensible, regional health centers providing nice, sensible local health care and preventative medicine. A million dollars per copy seems pretty reasonable. (The price tag on the whole health reform bill is around $900 billion.)

So far, so good. But what about the "debt slavery" Senator McChinless is worried about for his grandchildren?

Maybe this is a good place for some MeanMesa perspective. Senator McChinless and his penny pinching conservative crime friends had no problem whatsoever pumping literally trillions of dollars into the W's oil war in Iraq.

$10 billion is 1% of a single one of those Iraqi trillions.
The United States is currently spending $3 billion per week to sustain our military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, after a little higher mathematics, the question becomes quite understandable -- even for the information challenged. Would you rather have a regional health care center or another three weeks of war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

MeanMesa's compliments to Senator Sanders.

About 2009 war costs ...

About Ben Nelson's "vote money" ...

About Mary Landrieu's "vote money" ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beyond the Hyperbolic: 11 months of Obama

The liberal criticism of President Obama's record -- and reality.

MeanMesa continues to hear the irritating rush of utterly flaccid pseudo-liberal critics as they bewail the "deceptions" and "failures" constituting the Obama administration's performance to date. One would think that the first eleven months of this government have produced nothing more than a dismal string of half-hearted surrenders to the Right punctuated by far too many "pick-up" basketball games.


Any MeanMesa visitors with an inclination to join in with this unsettling "whining" had best be prepared to avoid the rather significant evidence to the contrary. "Avoid evidence to the contrary?" Let's take a look at exactly what that means. There have already been plenty of accounts of the administration's successes, so there will be little to be gained from any repeat of accomplishments. Instead, MeanMesa is interested in exploring the psychology of this troubling new "glacier in the potty" before we all sit on it any longer, bitching about how cold the seat has become.

A Matter of Long Term Memory Failure

Amazingly, even Liberals inclined to support the President are now entering into a crescendo of wave after wave of complaints. The most noticeable visibility of this phenomenon arrives in the MeanMesa kitchen via the progressive radio hosts. If one had only begin to follow the daily chatter of such folks as Ed Schultz, Mike Malloy, Thom Hartmann and even the usually objective Rachel Madow, and unavoidable conclusion would be that none of these voices was particularly happy with the performance of the President or his administration.

The comments? Speaking in the AM radio equivalent of a depressing stereophonic wail, the criticisms are typically based on disappointment with the schedule of correcting the disaster left by the autocracy in its withdrawal. The unemployed should be employed by now. The carbon emissions legislation should be on track for an Obama signature by now. Wall Street should be regulated by now. A health care reform bill astonishingly similar to precisely what all liberals were dreaming about should be in force by now.

The list of complaints goes on. Afghanistan is escalating when it should be winding down by now. The W's Church of Death in Iraq remains the grisly meat grinder it has always been when, instead, we should be out by now. The civil war in Iran should have already toppled the medieval terrorist clergy by now.

And perhaps the most chilling of all, the economy should be back to where it was just before the bubble exploded -- by now.

So, if this is a problem of Long Term Memory Failure, how long is Long Term?

Actually, not that long. Eleven months ago the single pressing question foremost in the minds of those interested enough to know what was going on was simply: "Is this the end of the Republic?"

Of course, there were lots of other reasonable questions lurking around the periphery, but only for the citizen interested enough in the country to have second thoughts about the legitimacy of a continuing exclusive obsession with his own fortune. The "big screen tv" and "new Malibu every two years" crowd didn't even bother to watch what scraps of news managed to trickle through the remnants of the media.

"Our credit score went back up to 761. My wife and I were overjoyed!"

One would, perhaps over generously, think that maybe this happy couple would remember that their 401K had just finished being gang raped. Had they been actually watching fifteen minutes of news once a week or possibly following a blog reportage, they might have even realized that the country was bankrupt, thoroughly looted by a few Americans at the top of the stack under cover of the autocrat's crime family.

Of course this "overjoyed" couple with the new credit rating were aware -- at some brief point along the path of their financial collapse -- that they had been screwed, but that "moment of clarity" apparently passed quietly far afield under the constant blithering about Obama's birth certificate, the moans and groans of the hill billies and bigots at the tea parties and the dire warnings of the worst remaining looters claiming that the Democrats will wreck the economy.

MeanMesa suspects that the "overjoyed" couple was actually so extremely fickle in their fleeting lack of political realism that their indifference to "events of the ground" paid its own fair wage -- no matter how cruel that might be in terms of their financial survival let alone their future plans. The psychological sensation of having been savagely stripped of half of all their assets for which they had labored hard and long must have been unpleasant indeed.

Still, all this never rose to a level of serverity which they couldn't conveniently handle exactly as they had handled all the other outrages and insults before. They simply forgot about it. And, once all that nerve racking worry was removed, the "overjoyed" couple found that they had time to bitch! No need to remember where all that money went! No need to remember who had their nest egg and why! No need to allow the memory of what had transpired in the last eight years to remain an explanation of their new, desperate poverty. Nope.

"Now that we have our credit score back up, we're going shopping. Maybe we'll think about political realities later."

"And then, maybe not. Selective memories and denial always worked before -- so, here we go -- off to Macy's!"

Mastering the Art of Being Uninformed

How in the world could our urbanite examples move along so comfortably with such irrational plans? The answer is fairly clear.

Long Term Memory Failure is exquisitely easier when there wasn't much in those lost memories in the first place.

Has any MeanMesa visitor ever heard a house guest utter "I don't want to watch the news. It just brings me down." or some other, equally curious phrase? Might such folks dream that, absent any information about what was happening in their country, no consequences could reach them if they simply avoided knowing about it?

The matter could be additionally lubricated by a over-riding self-calming cynicism, not an unexpected result based on the quality of news information reaching them. Of course, there would be no effort made or initiative taken to access any facts -- ignorance is bliss. Further, if the actuality of the matter remained conveniently confused and incomplete, anything particularly laborious or challenging about shelving the whole thing for Long Term Memory Failure would only be that much easier.

Why worry about one's life savings being suddenly missing when there are far more important matters at hand. "Important matters?" Of course.

For example, the President said that health care reform would be revenue neutral. The idiot Senator from "somewhere down South" said that it would plunge our grandchildren into economic slavery.

The President said that he intended to "get to the bottom" of the Nigerian lad who smuggled a bomb onto a US passenger jet on Christmas day. The half-witted neo-con Congressman sobers up long enough to say that the President has taken a lackadaisical approach to terrorism, nevermind that his outfit was in charge when 911 happened!

And that they were warned -- in writing -- that the attack was coming!

Now, these are only a couple of examples. The point here is, however, that such nonsense can be delivered for public consumption with a straight face! How can they do this? In the MeanMesa household, they can't, but it's fairly clear that the most reactionary forces in the country believe that they can sell this hogwash to enough uninformed citizens to make it worth their while to try it.

The neo-con media corporations are certainly not going to stop them. That would be integrity and commitment in delivering the news, the First Amendment, Free Press. Screw all of that, those boys are in it to sell toothpaste and wreck the country for their billionaire masters. America be damned! Snatch the profits!

So, What Has Obama Accomplished?

Well, the President -- as is trotted out perhaps over frequently -- inherited a country in a state of collapse. Yes, the economy was a train wreck, staggering under the Bush-Reagan deficits. Yes, the military was a train wreck after being consumed by the W's war for oil (the Iraq Hydrocarbon Treaty). Yes, the hill billies and bigots had been inflamed to a maximum craziness ("We want our country back!"). But, these were only symptoms of the most frightening aspect of what he inherited.

In the mind of a Constitutional scholar, the real threat was a structural one. Obama inherited a country where the richest had managed to almost take control of the government, where the Constitution (start with habeus corpus and plunge down hill from there...) was in tatters, where the Senate and the Treasury were owned by the Masters of Wall Street, where there were private armies of mercenaries walking around US cities with automatic rifles (Blackwater in New Orleans).

Now we come to what Obama has accomplished. Of course, there is a stream of legislative corrections, each one bearing the scars of Republican looting. Of course, there are international successes such as the closing of W's torture dungeon in Cuba and the withdrawal from W's war in Iraq. Of course, there are economic successes such as a lowering unemployment rate and avoiding the Great Depression of 2008. But none of these accomplishments really reveals the most serious successes of the first eleven months of the Obama administration.

What would those be?

MeanMesa's take on the matter is as follows:

The cockroaches are out in the light.

Day by day for the last eleven months, Americans have been carefully brought along to a new understanding of who exactly owns this country. Of course, that "ownership" is utterly illegitimate -- it has only gone on for so long thanks to Long Term Memory Failures and Mastering the Art of Being Uninformed.

No amount of "lazy anger," denial or lack of interest can camoflage the reality of what is emerging -- unstoppably -- into the light of day. Obama isn't the only one who has inherited something which is critically, foundationally not what we all thought it was. We all inherited that.

It is Childhood's End.

What we were convinced was a national democratic Republic turns out to be a thinly disguised oligarchy with wet dreams of becoming a permanent nobility of wealth. What we always thought was a representative government turns out to be a literal den of thieves, thinly disguised as sincere ideologues. What we thought were reasonable hopes for our future were subject to approval by our new, silent masters.

Obama could never stop this headlong destruction of American ideals until we -- the uninformed and the amnesiacs -- were carefully brought back to our senses. This has begun.

This is what Obama has accomplished in his first eleven months.

"Jest lahk them tea baggers done said last summer -- we plan to take our country back."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Note to MeanMesa From David Plouffe/OFA

By this time MeanMesa visitors have heard the Republican puppets of health insurance giants throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Senate health care reform legislation. For a brief moment, even MeanMesa was beginning to think that the whole shebang should just be thrown under the bus!

However, this is hardly the time to get pessimistic about what opportunities there actually are in what will be passed on the floor vote this Thursday morning. If you, kind visitor, have had a similar sinking feeling about "being screwed again," please look through the letter MeanMesa received from Organizing For America.

If there is any "straight talk" visible on the horizon amid the cacophony of lies and greed, this will probably be it. We support the passage of the Senate bill -- and we find MeanMesa in the admirable company of such men as Paul Krugman, Nobel winning economist, and Barney Sanders, independent Senator from Vermont. When we add Mr. Barack Obama to that already heady mix of forward thinking Americans, we're sold.

Count us in!

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

Organizing for America
Chad --

Any day now, health insurance reform will come up for a vote in the Senate.

We're hearing a lot about what's at stake with this vote for President Obama, the Democrats who are fighting alongside him, and the Republicans who have lined up in opposition.

But let's talk about what's really at stake for America. The Senate health reform bill will:

    -- Extend coverage to 31 million Americans, the largest expansion of coverage since the creation of Medicare.

    -- Ensure that you can choose your own doctor.

    -- Finally stop insurance companies from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

    -- Make sure you will never be charged exorbitant premiums on the basis of your age, health, or gender.

    -- Guarantee you will never lose your coverage just because you get sick or injured.

    -- Protect you from outrageous out-of-pocket expenditures by establishing lifetime and annual limits.

    -- Allow young people to stay on their parents' coverage until they're 26 years old.

    -- Create health insurance exchanges, or "one-stop shops" for individuals purchasing insurance, where insurance companies are forced to compete for new customers.

    -- Lower premiums for families, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office -- especially for struggling folks who will receive subsidies.

    -- Help small businesses provide health care coverage to their employees with tax credits and by allowing them to purchase coverage through the exchanges.

    -- Improve and strengthen Medicare by eliminating waste and fraud (without cutting basic benefits), beginning to close the Medicare Part D donut hole, and extending the life of the Medicare trust fund.

    -- Create jobs by reining in costs -- fostering competition, reducing waste and inefficiency, and starting to reward doctors and hospitals for quality, not quantity, of care.

    -- Cut the deficit by over $130 billion in the next 10 years.

It's a long list. But that's only because this bill represents the most significant health reform our nation has seen since the creation of Medicare.

And it's important that every American knows what's really at stake this holiday season.

So please pass this email along to friends, family, and neighbors today -- or click below to share this list on Facebook and Twitter, or print out a copy to share with others:

We wouldn't be this close to enacting these powerful reforms without all your hard work. Now, we're in the final stretch -- let's keep it up.

Thank you,

David Plouffe

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen Confusion?

The "Climate Summit:" What exactly did we expect?

First MeanMesa suggests that we simply eliminate the constant critcism of the President from the right-wing lunatics. Because their masters own the national media, those already irrelevant losers never have to actually compete for the national microphones -- all they need to do is simply keep talking, saying the same things to the same audience.


On the other hand, some more serious observers have also had little positive to say about the outcome of the Copenhagen meetings. It isn't difficult to see that these folks, while not particularly negative about specifics, remain fundamentally discouraged that more was not accomplished by the heads of state in the Denmark meeting.

MeanMesa finds itself confronted with an unsettling question. What could have happened in Copenhagen to encourage the sincere climate people to have had a more positive view?

A step seems to be missing. There don't really seem to be any workable proposals on the table! The "Climate Summit" cannot simply continue to be a open-ended explanation that the entire world is almost certainly screwed! That climatological conditions are degrading in serious ways day by day!

Al Gore pretty well accomplished this educational/warning phase of the work with his film and lectures. University professors have done their part in painting how bleak the picture may be. A few, mature governments have already taken some small preliminary steps to "clean up their own backyards."

The next step will signal Childhood's End. It will be accomplished when far more binding, concrete proposals about rectifying the situation begin to emerge. We will be able to see this because proposals of that nature will include commitments of a scope which signal real sacrifice. The days when we could continue to fool ourselves with the idea that correcting this mess would be painless are, most likely, distant memories.

If we, as planetary citizens, are actually prepared to continue to the next step, we should be seeing some rather sweeping proposals appear in our media -- ooops, maybe on the net. Our corporate media has abandoned us, again, on this issue. In fact, when we add to that suspicious silence the non-participation of our cynical politicians, the outlook gets even worse.

The "mistake" these sincere but disgruntled climate observers may be making is one of perspective. It seems that, when we consider them individually, each has his own "favorite cure" for what ails us. This leads many of them to act in ways similar to the useless, inactive politicians!

Too many of the environmentalists seem to be most interested in promoting their own solutions -- specific investments in which they have a common interest. When none of these are being selected for huge public money programs, they convince the rest of us that nothing effective is being done. MeanMesa isn't convinced. MeanMesa is confused.

In fact, the American promise to help out to the tune of billions of dollars provided to poor countries feeling the first bites of this calamity are probably a good idea, but -- well, is there anyone else out there who is curious about what kinds of things that money is supposed to support? Has anyone seen any convincing plans being made?

MeanMesa is, however, convinced that the program to save the planet should move forward. In fact, MeanMesa is actually convinced that neither the participants in the Copenhagen meeting or the dissatisfied environmentalists with their dismal comments have many good ideas about how to solve this!

It will be an incredibly large, incredibly expensive undertaking to reverse what we have done here.
The plan isn't drawing the necessary public support because there has not been enough planning to make tax payers comfortable that the project might ever possibly succeed. As far as the government goes, it still amounts to political cyanide.

Collapsing all this bad news to a single talking point, we can say that there has not been sufficient, credible MANAGEMENT applied so far. Instead of moving ahead to some believable management ideas, we seem to have gotten stuck on simply continuing to present more and more horrifying details about how dire the threat is becoming.

Enough fear mongering! Egad. You'd think we were Republicans or something!
They are so far out of the picture at this point, there is little reason to even discuss how they might help.

MeanMesa visitors interesting in examining the management and planning we should be investing in right about now, please read through "Managing Global Warming Solutions," a paper posted about 18 months ago on this blog. The link below will connect you to that posting.

Please note the exact title -- MANAGING Global Warming Solutions. This post speaks very little about precisely what those solutions might be, but a great deal about how we will MANAGE the development and implementation of a plan. It is time to begin collecting some serious data and making some serious plans for the program.

Confusion and bitching are probably not going to cut it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A New Idea: Talk To Me!

MeanMesa knows that there is no shortage of defeated resignation among citizens when they watch the Senate, time after time after time, debate matters which don't matter and then make deals with people who have no business dictating our lives. This situation will not be limited to what they have now successfully done to what used to be health care insurance reform -- it extends gleefully to banking regulation, cap and trade carbon legislation, Afghanistan, you name it.

The Senators are dancing on our check books. They are not embarrassed by their psychotic avarice. They care very little about what we might think of it. They have no intention to stop the practice.

They just keep looking at each other and, when there are no red faces or voices of Constitutional patriotism staring back, the mayhem gets even worse. More outrageous. More egregious. They have long since ceased considering what they might see on our faces.

In fact, all those far roaming, allegorical complaints about the absence of statesmanship among the denizens of that house of thieves grows more and more believable the longer we watch them. Is there no way to bring the Senate back to its far more noble tradition?

There might be.

We can begin by considering the popular definition of statesmanship. One ability included in the definition is debate. Statesmen should be persuasive debaters. For younger MeanMesa visitors who have never actually seen a debate, it runs like this. There is a proposition which is in contention between the sides of the debate, that is, an argument which has at least two possible conclusions.

The Traditional Meaning of Debate

The debate itself is an organized (there are rules and a structure which are enforced by a moderator...) chance for speakers from either side of the contended argument to try to persuade debate judges that they are "right" and the other guy, well, isn't. Of course, the debaters prepare for the session by studying all the information which might help them make their case and "cooking up" special parts of their arguments which they hope will be impressive to the judges.

One great benefit of debates when they are done this way is that everything comes out. The last thing one of the debaters wants is to be confronted by either some compelling information or something "cooked up" by his opponent. Because of this, debates are not solely decided on the validity of the information presented, but also on passion, the ability to think on one's feet (a feature which usually helps keep either side from outright lying...), confidence and speaking ability.

When all these traits are manifest on the floor of a debate, watch out because something interesting is about to happen.

The Senate's Meaning of Debate

Unhappily, there are debates and then, there are debates. When we see the grizzled face of a Senator on the News Hour, he will speak of "debate in the Senate." What he refers to is not very similar to what is described above. In the Senate, clerks and consultants have thrashed through every word of what will be said, fortressing the whole speech so not a single thing can become a "fish hook" for the other party. The resulting oration is usually a well greased, watered down mishmash with a couple of harmless "talking points" inserted here and there to satisfy the evening news.

All the really important communication does not rely on the "debate." It will be handled in back rooms with assistants and lobbyists. Lobbyists with checkbooks. The "floor debate" is intended for our consumption, even though no living human can endure much of what is offered. The only exception to this is that lobbyists can endure it. They will listen to see if their masters "got their money's worth."

Further, the Senators don't even speak to each other. They will all speak to a CHAIR which represents the President of the Senate. There is no "give and take" between Senators conducted anywhere that we might hear it. The "give and take" must be undertaken secretly -- usually in back rooms -- where bribery and corruption are not so embarrassing and no one outside the backroom can be certain about who was actually there.

That dismal picture is usually what is called "debate" in our United States Senate.

Other Interesting Senatorial Habits

When a Senator thinks about what we would ordinarily call a "debate judge," he will claim that his "debate" will be judged by the American citizens in his constituency. Now granted, any of us stupid enough to watch this old worm stagger through his prepared speech might emerge from the suffocating calamity with an opinion (about either the proposition or the Senator...), but there will be no "judging." The "judging" will be conducted when the Senate has a floor vote and all the other Senators -- who have also probably NOT listened to Old Senator Gas Bag's carefully crafted speech without "fish hooks" either -- will cast their ayes and nays as they have been instructed by their respective lobbyists.

When Senators appear on public media, they are allowed to say that a vast majority of the American people want precisely what the Senator wants them to want which usually turns out to be what their lobbyists want the Senator to want them to want. If that is a bit ponderous, then the theme has been accurately set!

For example, Senator McChinless from down south somewhere keeps saying that the American people don't want a public option in the health care insurance reform bill. Senator McChinless (he wears perfectly round eyeglasses...) knows that poll after poll says exactly the opposite, but he can continue to say over and over whatever he wants or whatever his lobbyists have told him to say.

And, Senator McChinless in the perfectly round glasses is not alone in this brazen prevaricating. Senator Botox Rat Face, also from down South somewhere, and Senator Happy Farmer from out in the midwest somewhere, all compete with each other to see who can say the most lies about "what the vast majority of Americans want." There are many others. The GOP has run out of any convincing ideas a decade ago, so these new "ideas" of theirs are presented over and over, even in the face of overwhelming contradicting evidence -- evidence that they are as unpopular with the electorate as unionized bed lice.

Ah, Satan's Garden of Human Delights is crowded with under-informed voters. The circus's center ring is orchestrated by Ohio's Orange Tan (not orangutan...) who eagerly recaps the lies of the others on his masters' wholly owned "news" networks.

Normally, such a bad habit would "catch up" to these wormy ScrewTapes sooner or later, but their masters have taken the precaution of purchasing the media. Because of this, all these liars can just "roar on ahead" as long as they please. Public sentiments mean nothing. Lobbyist checks mean everything.

But, this MeanMesa post is not about campaign finance reform. It's about debating.

This discussion would be remiss indeed if it neglected to mention the most favored Senate habit of all -- cloture. Cloture is the bastion of the filibuster. Without cloture, there can be no "debate" on the floor of the Senate. Conveniently, 60 of the Senate's 100 votes must be cast in favor at cloture hearings for proposed bills to reach the floor of the Senate for their subsequent "debate."

For example, in the matter of the health care reform bill, it is precisely this "cloture" which has required everything including the "kitchen sink" to be quietly negotiated away in hopes of avoiding a filibuster. The sagging fragment of what is left is now being blocked by the imposition of yet more arcane "Senate rules." When "cloture" is blocked, there can be no "debate." But wait, there wasn't really ever going to be be any "debate" anyway!

Now, there are those among us who believe that simply forcing the obstructionists to physically filibuster -- in other words, actually perform their "threat" -- would embarrass the miscreants enough to somewhat rectify the situation. MeanMesa doubts this. Republicans have taken great efforts to have "extra thick skin" and uninformed constituencies.

But what's left?

MeanMesa's Solution: Real Debates Where We Are the Judges

How would something like this actually work?

In the Senate there are clearly two identifiable "sides" at play in every case of proposed legislation. If our basic ideas both about the Senate and about debate are reasonable, those Senators should be happy to have an opportunity to "debate" the matter. This means actually debate, not the toothless masquerade we're accustomed to seeing on the Senate floor.

The rules of the Senate would remain in the Senate. No Senate rules would prevail in our new public debates -- they would be controlled by debate rules. The "sides" would be forced to argue their positions in oratorical combat with their opponents. They would be forced to say what those positions were and defend them. Constituents could watch these Senators hash out their best plans and ideas in a transparency beyond anything we have seen in our lifetimes.

Once the "gauntlet had been cast down," refusing to debate would be political suicide.

The voters watching the debate would have a chance to set their own opinions about what had been debated. If the voters viewing the debates concluded that one proposition was persuasive and then watched as the Senate enacted the opposite into law, voting choices would become obvious. Extremely obvious. Hopefully, frighteningly obvious!

The "sides" could challenge each other with "I dare you to stand in a public debate with this position of yours." The "sides" could agree on the precise proposition to be debated. No more artsy, clever "Gotcha" questions from over paid pundits! Real debates aren't "prompted" by a string of cutesy, trick questions. They are the battlegrounds for settling the proposition both "sides" agreed to debate. The winner captures the support of the voters.

Senate campaign "war chests" are based on the idea that we will vote for someone -- anyone -- if he can just buy enough television commercials, hence the reprehensible effect of lobbyist money. We can replace that old technique with real debates! Senator versus Senator, no holds barred, right on our television sets debating proposed Senate legislation, not simply promoting ill defined, gaseous generalities about "Change," "Peace," "Family Values," "Prosperity" or some other nonsense.

Yup. We're talking blood soaked specifics here. Let the sides select their speakers and take on the public option or single payer! Let the chosen orators support or disclaim increasing troop strengths in Afghanistan, spending stimulus money, regulating banks, capping carbon emissions or changing education policy. The mind-numbing cordiality of the Senate would be left in the Senate. The debate would be for the hearts and minds of the voters!

Real time!

The debates would no longer be a confusing act perpetrated under the out-of-date protection of the Senate. They would be acts of transparent democracy. Voter opinion -- not back room deals -- would become the final authority on matters such as "cloture" and "floor debates."

Centuries ago, the earliest democracies in ancient Greece and Imperial Rome were directed by exactly this approach. It is a tradition to which we should return. The reason ancient Athens attacked Macedonia was because Demosthenes convinced the Assembly! His Phillipics were so famous that we now find them in the Harvard Classics.

This reintroduction of active statesmanship would force the chosen Senators to present their arguments with clear statements, formal information and passion. The "majority of Americans want" crap would be instantly challenged if it were to be uttered in an active debate instead of the safe, painless isolation of a talk show interview. The statesmen would unavoidably emerge from the process. The hill billies, bigots, crooks and looters would be "sitting ducks" for the onslaught of the opposition, and we would have a chance to see all of it for ourselves.

Should this practice "catch on," even local elections would improve. Local candidates certainly would.

Cast in comparison with such great debaters as William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, this Senate sucks. MeanMesa is "done" with the lot of them.

It's going to be up to us to fix it.

Articles about what's going on in our Senate:
From BeltWay Blips (quoting Huffington Post)
and from Emory University, Stanton Abramson, The Emory Wheel:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health Care Hits Highland Park Apartments

A place most Senators will never see.

A quick tour of Highland Park Apartments

This otherwise nondescript setting is introduced here primarily because it is the Galactic Nerve Center of MeanMesa. The place stretches out to include eighty two-bedroom apartments. There are spacious grassy courtyards where the children play. A few giant trees from a better time in the past provide welcome shade during hot New Mexico summers.

The high desert winter finds most apartments with plastic sheeting covering the inside of the aging casement windows and residents wrapped warmly in sweat shirts and long underwear even when they are at home. MeanMesa's neighbors here are mostly concerned with jobs, schools and immigration matters. Apartments rent for $600 to $700 a month, depending on whether they have one outrageously small bathroom or two.

Highland Park is in Precinct 384. Intensive campaigning during the months prior to the 2008 election effectively delivered Highland Park votes to the Democrats and President Obama. People here do not usually rush home after work to watch the national news and most of them do not have inter net service in their homes. Almost every family is aware -- generally -- of the effort to reform health care insurance, but most Highland Park residents can't afford it and work in jobs which do not provide it.

Predictably, what the residents experience with their health care problems reflects a "survival mode" approach much more than some sort of "picky" debate about details. As a community, we are too busy to be the proletariat hordes of Les Miserable. We are also, probably, too poor.

Senate Health Care and Highland Park Apartments

So, does the "dump job" masquerading as the Senate bill puzzle us? Hardly. We're quite accustomed to being either ignored or screwed by the moneyed class of bought off Senators. In fact, opinions around here are now hoping for "ignored" over "screwed."

We've known all along that we were simply not rich enough to expect much relief. The part which remains on the table as a rather gloomy threat is the possibility that we will be forced to buy health insurance which doesn't really work from parasitic insurance corporations under some form of the new law. We couldn't afford it before, and we won't be able to afford it after, either.

MeanMesa made an informal, unscientific poll of what the neighbors were thinking. You know, a quick question or two at the dumpster or in the laundry room. We asked, "Where are we going on health care reform?"

Chuckling, they answered stoically, "We're going nowhere."

As is probably the case with millions of Americans in our income bracket, we are fairly well accustomed to being gang raped. We know that the choices are to have a "date" with an insurance company or a Doctor we can't afford. This dream isn't over, it never started.

Our New Mexico Senators -- both good Democrats -- have done everything they could to get this dead pony back on its feet, but we're a poor state filled with poor people. They know that we're a durable bunch, used to pretty much second class treatment. The way this is turning out is nothing new to us.

The "rich boys" like Lieberman and the other crooks on the Republican side of the aisle are killing 45,000 of us every year they are able to delay -- that's about ten times the number of citizens who were killed on 9/11, about ten times the number of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far. Stories about health care in Highland Park unscientifically substantiate this Harvard research number of 45,000 dead per year due to lack of health care insurance.

Here at MeanMesa headquarters, we have purchased the last prescription of an expensive (for us) drug for the year. Although we could probably get through the $55 per month co-pay, the thing grabs an additional $250 per month from our Medicare Part D plan. If we took it as prescribed, that is, all year round, it would tank our "doughnut hole," making all the other, cheaper prescriptions we take go to a "cash basis."

So, we take a "drug vacation" every year from January to July. We can handle this. Other folks around here have it lots worse. Oh, by the way. MeanMesa's Part D was not paid for by screaming neo-con ninnies. MeanMesa dutifully paid those premiums for years before retirement.

Highland Park's Conclusions about the Senate Bill

We are actually pretty understanding of the "difficult negotiations" going on behind closed doors in the Senate.

Democrats "negotiated" single payer down to "public option" and wound up with nothing.

Then they "negotiated" public option down to a modest increase in Medicare and wound up with nothing.

Then they "negotiated" Medicare changes into no changes and wound up with nothing.

Now, finally, they have "negotiated" nothing down to a law which will deliver us, whether we can afford it or not, into the hands of the health insurance gangsters.

We get it.

It would be inaccurate to say that folks like Highland Park residents are upset about what's happening to them.

We are infuriated. If anyone from the Senate is visiting MeanMesa, pay attention.


We will, most likely, remember this.

See you at the polls.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Caution, Conflict & Cultural Codependency

Analyzing the criticism of, well, EVERYTHING!

Egad! Critics like crickets! Literally clouds of critics have emerged from the shadows, all breathlessly repeating tiresome talking points of questionable origin, all asking rhetorical questions as if there were some kernel of originality in them. The "Cloud of Crickets" includes an unsettling array of previously progressive pundits and radio hosts of the ilk of Ron Reagan, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann and others, all willy nilly and hair aflame, mysteriously eager to rehash the drivel from the GOP again and again as if it were a matter of substance.

Obama's Afghanistan Strategy

criticized by 10,000 expert civilians with no "dog in the fight"

Aside from the dismal lack of originality, this strange appetite to join the chorus of lemmings puzzles MeanMesa. Nary a word of support or encouragement, it seems, can be spared for the President or the strategies. Only puerile outrage seems to meet the test of opinions negative enough that they are fit to be held. In the case of Afghanistan, the only grumbling accessions are driveling in from war-mongering Republicans -- many of whom sport handfuls of deferments from military service.

Notwithstanding, of course, that Obama continues to deliver on his campaign promises. Arrangements for the final extraction of US forces in Iraq have been scheduled, agreed upon by all parties and initiated. Unhappily, that was a few weeks ago -- far too long to count or, apparently, to persevere in the "marble in a mayonaise jar" mentality of these erstwhile liberals. Now, the only possible position, it seems, for a respectable progressive to hold is one of outrage that the President has not immediately withdrawn all forces from Afghanistan.

Yikes! So much for "stay the course." No mind. In a few days, dare we expect that these same forward thinking liberals will be chanting "cut and run" or "they hate our freedom" or some other such nonsense? Too many of us foolishly believed that all we ever really had to do was elect someone besides George Bush, that, once that change was accomplished, the entire world would lend every assistance to responsibly reversing all of his dreadful decisions which inserted us into these calamities in the first place.

To "ice the cake," the most psycho "hate America" Republicans have seeded the discussion with their own special toxin -- that was to be expected from the likes of them, but to have otherwise rational progressives take it up, plastering those nasty, half witted slogans like cheap wall paper across all the air waves? MeanMesa has actually "tuned out" some of these whimpering ninnies, a bit of a notable event given our habitual thirst for their normally progressive opinions.

Half-Baked, Half-Witted, Half-Truths about Afghanistan

You're Supposed to Take Seriously

1. "Our military doesn't know what the mission is. They don't know what they're doing over there."

Everyone in the United States military knows what they are doing. It's called "following orders." When anyone doesn't know what they're supposed to be doing, there are always the General Orders. Included in the General Orders is "Follow Orders."

In a theater of war, everyone knows pretty much why he is there and what he is supposed to be doing.

2. "Karzai can't be trusted to be a good partner in our counter insurgency operations. He is a crook."

Probably true, but this doesn't make the US mission in Afghanistan impossible. It only makes it harder. What would these loud mouthed whiners propose? Shoot the guy and replace him with someone from the CIA? Someone from the GOP?

Wars are like that. If you're in one, lots of better choices are simply not available. Armies are like that, too. They will do what they will do. Opinions from soft couches thousands of miles away mean disappointedly little.

3. "It will be just like Viet Nam or Iraq. It will be an endless war, and we will be hopelessly quagmired in it."

Take note: The Commander in Chief of the Afghanistan operation is Barack Obama. He has a pretty good reputation of taking things seriously and not being corrupt or thoughtless. Our national leadership during Viet Nam and Iraq was so dismally bad -- spelled p-o-l-i-t-i-c-a-l -- to have made us believe that we can never win anything anywhere. ever again. All the civilians who are afraid that this will happen again should try to remember that we have one hell of a smart President in charge and that 100,000 man American military army has one hell of a lot of fire power.

Ever notice that there is almost never any news about killing any enemies? The neo-con networks are locked on US casualties exclusively. No wonder no one thinks we can win.

To repeat the W's "Church of Death," you need a W. We have an Obama.

4. "Obama promised to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he's sending more troops. We're screwed. We've been lied to."

The W took the "down elevator" for eight years, sponsoring every kind of corrupt scandal he could dream up with his "crime family" cronies. Now, the elevator is going back up. Even though we realize that we started at the 1,245th basement level in January 2009, who in hell expected to be in the penthouse by this time? MeanMesa thinks Obama is "delivering the goods" even faster than he promised during the campaign.

There is apparently no speed of "delivering the goods" which can satisfy the "progressives'" codependent demand for no risk, no delay and complete control. Wha-a-a-a.

Grow up and get real. Apparently, there just didn't seem to be a war which could satisfy you.

5. "The Taliban can't be beaten. They hide among civilians and play dirty, blow stuff up, behead people. The war is too expensive."

The President will secure American interests in the region. The neo-cons keep harping about winning, hoping everyone has forgotten Iraq. News networks keep trotting out people like John McCain, pretending that they know something special about making war. Huh?

The critics keep wailing about deficits and costs hoping that everyone has forgotten about the $10,000,000,000,000 (ten trillion) hole the W thrashed through like an out of control crack head. Most of the bitchiest neo-cons were sitting in the Congress, nodding "yes," while the trucks full of cash headed for Texas. Most of the draft dodging war hawks are hoping that we have forgotten the half-witted Secretary of Defense who kept sending troops to Iraq without what they needed to fight.

The real appetite which is being revealed by all this "sincere concern" for the nation, is a monument to American Cultural Codependency. These allegedly "sincere" panty-waists want guarantees about everything! They think that we can accomplish everything we set out to accomplish without any risk whatsoever. If we apply stimulus to the economy, there should be total certainty that everything will return to normal in no time, If we send troops to Afghanistan, there must be a victory parade just like the one through Paris! If we lower carbon dioxide emissions by 5%, we must be able to see a concrete benefit! If that doesn't happen, it can only mean that everything isn't sufficiently under control!

These idiots don't even care what happens to the country -- they only want to stake out some turf for their defeatist complaints. Yuck.

Zowee! After all, Obama PROMISED US! Obama is trying to TRICK US! We're being LIED TO!

Don't get sick! MeanMesa thinks this might be contagious.

Compliments to the President. Keep going. We'll follow.

The "30 day" Filibuster and Other Dinosaurs from a Happier Past

What is it about politicians from Connecticut? Gosh, aside from being "home base" for a big bunch of health insurance gangsters, it always seemed to be a nice place.

Will Chanukah become Easter for the Bush Jr. Wanna-be? Egad! Maybe Lieberman, resurrected yet one more time as a health care obstructionist, should move to Texas, pretend to be a cowboy, get a hat and a cow and pretend to "fit in."

MeanMesa visits "Old Joe" Lieberman in a Past Life

(He ain't no Lazarus...)

Ah, 1994. What a year! MeanMesa can remember that old year. The world was very different then. Some of the people were different then, too.

To date this story, we can note a few historical events which were unfolding fifteen years ago, We can make a few quick comments about folks who were running things. What they were saying. What they were doing.

The Serbians, led by a few fellows who are now waltzing with cranky war crimes judges at the Hague, were violently shelling the largely undefended city of Sarajevo. The Rwandan Hutus and Tootsis were massacring each other in what turned out to be a historical genocidal slaughter. O.J. was arrested for the murder of his wife. Nelson Mandela, finally freed from an apartheid prison, was elected President of South Africa.

The neo-cons were busy, too. Sexually challenged crooks such as Newt Gingrich, Richard Armey and ex-exterminator, Tom DeLay, in the company of some friends who were even stinkier than those three, were cooking up the famous "Contract on America," an early "looting scheme" which would fully materialize after the GOP captured the House of Representatives.

However, sitting there in the back of the room was someone we might have recognized. That would have been "Old Joe" Lieberman. Interestingly, he was promoting a change to the filibuster regulation in the Senate.

Now, however out of character it might seem to a modern day, 2009 MeanMesa visitors, "Old Joe" was actually sponsoring a bill which would have shifted the time limit on filibusters to 30 days maximum. The idea in his old law wasn't all that out of line compared to the seemingly endless string of clap trap he is injecting into the discussion these days.

Now, however out of character it might seem to a modern day, 2009 MeanMesa visitors, "Old Joe" was actually sponsoring a bill which would have shifted the time limit on filibusters to 30 days maximum. The idea in his old law wasn't all that out of line compared to the seemingly endless string of clap trap he is injecting into the discussion these days.

For anyone interested, a simple Google search will turn up all sorts of stories concerning this. Rather than "reinvent the wheel," MeanMesa will post a copy from the Huffington Post here where all can see.

This article is written by Sam Stein, a very engaging Huffington Post reporter. It offers a nice, reasoned account of the entire affair along with a quote of what "Old Joe" said at the time. In the days when these words were news, the Republicans were preparing to take over, paving the way for yet another period of outrageous looting and other regressive forms of dismal mismanagement (the infamous Contract on America).

We must, however, also give "Old Joe" a break on his new loyalties. Connecticut is "full to the gunnels" of remarkably generous health insurance corporations who have been pumping campaign contributions into "Old Joe's" war chest like the Matanuska Glacier on a hot Alaskan day. Further, Mrs. Lieberman turns out to be sitting in a well positioned seat as a major health insurance lobbyist ("lobbyiestta?") raking in untold more thousands of dollars. Between the war chest contributions and the Missus, the Lieberman household is actually now, physically, mentally and spiritually unable to allow health care reform in any but the most toothless form escape "Old Joe's" filibuster threats.

Lieberman In '94: The Filibuster "Ails Washington" And Should Be Eliminated


Senator Joseph Lieberman's (I-Conn) threat to filibuster health care legislation that includes a public option for insurance coverage has sent minor shock waves throughout Washington.

Among Republicans, the Connecticut Independent inspired a round of cheers for another streak of political independence. Among progressives the question being asked is: How could one senator, through threat of filibuster, hold a historic reform process hostage?

It's a question Lieberman himself once asked. And it's a procedural ploy he once lamented.

Fifteen years ago, as a freshman Democrat, Lieberman actually worked to have the filibuster killed. He deemed the parliamentary maneuver "a dinosaur" that had become "a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today." And, in tandem with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), he introduced legislation that -- if it had been enacted -- would have made his current opposition to health care absolutely toothless.

After the congressional elections of 1994, in which the power of both chambers switched hands from Democrats to Republicans, Lieberman and Harkin made a rather bold move. Political obstructionism, the two said, had grown out of hand. And even though Democrats were now in the minority, if the Senate ever wanted to make legislative progress the rules needed to be revamped. On November 22, 1994, the senators held a press conference announcing their intention to drastically water down the power of the filibuster. Lieberman offered the following quotes (which, in today's context, seem utterly out of place for the now Connecticut Independent):

"[People] are fed up -- frustrated and fed up and angry about the way in which our government does not work, about the way in which we come down here and get into a lot of political games and seem to -- partisan tugs of war and forget why we're here, which is to serve the American people. And I think the filibuster has become not only in reality an obstacle to accomplishment here, but it also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today."
"But I do want to say that the Republicans were not the only perpetrators of filibuster gridlock, there were occasions when Democrats did it as well. And the long and the short of it is that the abuse of the filibuster was bipartisan and so its demise should be bipartisan as well."
"The whole process of individual senators being able to hold up legislation, which in a sense is an extension of the filibuster because the hold has been understood in one way to be a threat to filibuster -- it's just unfair."
"I'm very proud to be standing here with Tom as two Democrats saying that we're going to begin this fight, because we've just been stung by the filibuster for a period of years, and even though the tables have now turned, it doesn't make it right for us to use this instrument that we so vilified."

(MeanMesa added the text color to the Huffington content. The shade is "manure sienna.")

Lieberman concluded the conference by noting that his effort was an uphill battle. What he and Harkin wanted to do was to make it so that senators could delay the consideration of legislation, but not inevitably. The Senate would still need 60 votes on the first motion to end debate, (the cloture vote). But the next motion would require just 57 votes, the third motion 54 votes, and the fourth and final effort would need just 51 votes -- a simple majority. In all, roughly 25 days would elapse between the first and fourth vote.

"There's no question that there's going to be resistance," Lieberman predicted at the time. "I mean, we're asking individual members of the Senate to give up power, but if you give up a little bit of power yourself, you make the whole body more productive and better. And you all gain as a result of that."

But the resistance proved too strong. Lieberman and Harkin got their legislation to a vote. But it died on the Senate floor by a margin of 76 to 19. Every single Republican and a majority of Democrats voted to keep the procedural tool in their pockets, with the chamber's senior Democratic member -- West Virginia's Robert Byrd - leading the way.

"This issue is not going away," Harkin said after the vote.

He was correct. In the 15 years since then, the use of the filibuster has proliferated even further. There were, in 1994, just 39 cloture motions filed on the Senate floor. Last year, that number stood at 139. This year, meanwhile, Lieberman is threatening to add to those totals.

He was correct. In the 15 years since then, the use of the filibuster has proliferated even further. There were, in 1994, just 39 cloture motions filed on the Senate floor. Last year, that number stood at 139. This year, meanwhile, Lieberman is threatening to add to those totals.

"I've told Sen. [Harry] Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture," the senator said this past week. "I can't see a way in which I could vote for cloture on any bill that contained a creation of a government-operated-run insurance company."

Neither Lieberman nor Harkin's office returned a request for comment. Though, in a bit of irony, the two, have once again been brought together on the question of the appropriate use of a filibuster. Only this time, they're in opposition. On Thursday, Harkin was asked what he thought of Lieberman's threat to torpedo health care reform with a public plan (something Harkin adamantly supports).

"[Lieberman] still wants to be a part of the Democratic Party although he is a registered independent," the HELP Committee chair responded. "He wants to caucus with us and, of course, he enjoys his chairmanship of the [Homeland Security] committee because of the indulgence of the Democratic Caucus. So, I'm sure all of those things will cross his mind before the final vote," he said in a conference call with local reporters. HuffPost Reporting

Of course, "Old Joe" is not the only corrupt Senator intent on protecting his corporate sponsors at all costs, he is simply the most egregious.

Public opinion polls in "Old Joe's" home state of Connecticut show a whopping 70% plus in favor of health care insurance reform. On the other hand, 1/10 of 1% of "Old Joe's" Connecticut constituents are insurance executives -- those would be the ones with the check books.