Friday Talking Points [57] -- End Of Prohibition 75th Anniversary Edition

[ Posted Friday, December 5th, 2008 – 18:43 UTC ]

Brian Williams, NBC's talking head extraordinaire, is probably a decent guy, a guy with whom you could sit down and have a beer. [More on the alcohol subject at the end, I promise.] But that doesn't excuse something he said last night on Jay Leno's show.

And no, I'm not referring to his faulty math. If my ears didn't deceive me, I heard him say Obama won the election with a vote of 53 percent to 49 percent. Um... OK... "six out of five doctors" may recommend you think about those numbers a bit, Brian, before you quote them again.

While that was amusing, BriWi's other comment was not. He suggested -- not joking around, but with a straight face -- that we call our current economic crisis a name the Irish have used for decades to describe the Northern Ireland standoff: "The Troubles." This is incredibly insensitive and outrageous, because Williams is suggesting that we equate bailing out Wall Street and the car companies with a conflict which has, to date, cost about as many lives as 9/11. Since BriWi's not a Democrat, I can't give him a "Most Disappointing" award, so instead I will just award him a gigantic dunce cap. Instructions: put on head, sit in corner, and think hard about what you just said.


Speaking of bailing out Detroit, though (for the uninitiated, this is known as a "segue")...

It seems to me that, while more complex than one issue, there is a golden opportunity in the automakers' crisis. Part of the problem, all agree, is what is known as "legacy costs." These are (for those of you who are too young to realize that "401K" and "pension" are not the same things) costs for retired autoworkers -- for health care and pensions. Now, these things were promised to these workers by these companies, and were in fact hard-fought concessions the unions won decades ago. But now health care costs a fortune (it didn't, back then) and the car companies are screaming that they're going bankrupt (in part) because of them.

Well, what I say is: what better "test case" could we have for Obama's new health care plan? The automakers could be told "before Congress does anything else, we will put together a plan to move those legacy workers over to 'the same health care Congress gets' (as was promised in the campaign), thus freeing you of those costs." It wouldn't completely solve the problem, but it would be a good way to test out Obama's grand scheme on health care. The workers would get as good (or better) health care than they receive now, the government would take over the obligation, and the automakers could pay off this obligation to the government spread out over decades, if need be, rather than having to pay for it now. I can't accurately predict all the details of how they could work this out, but I do think the basic idea is sound, and Obama could use feedback from the people involved to make the sweeping health care plan even better, when it is finalized.

But then, this idea probably makes too much sense for the politicians to take it seriously.


OK, enough of that. Let's get on with the show, here, starting with this week's awards.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week was Hillary Clinton, who will be our new Secretary of State.

Love her or hate her, you've got to admit that Hillary has risen from the ashes of her campaign to a prominent power position in Washington -- more prominent than she would have had if she had just returned to the Senate.

OK, to be fully honest, I got this massively wrong a few weeks ago in a column I wrote about how the Clinton nomination wasn't a done deal, and may not actually happen. So I am eating a full plate of crow this week, and the dessert is to award Hillary Clinton the MIDOTW award for her phoenix-like rise in power.

I think Hillary has the capacity to be an absolutely great Secretary of State. I also think she has the capacity to royally screw up somehow. But then, I could say that about most politicians, so it's not exactly an attack against Clinton. Time will tell whether she shines or not as our country's chief foreign diplomat, and further MIDOTW or MDDOTW awards will be handed out accordingly. For now, though, she hasn't even started the job, so I refuse to speculate further.

But I have to say that in the past week, Hillary Clinton's appointment more than qualifies her as this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator Hillary Clinton on her Senate contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

The Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, if you listen to some segments of the blogosphere, was Dianne Feinstein. Now, I'm not exactly a fan of DiFi, but I had to disagree with this in yesterday's column. I take her at her word, for now, on the question of torture and the Army Field Manual.

Instead, we have a tie this week. One of our recipients earned his MDDOTW award for a gaffe, and one earned his for grandstanding just for the sake of grandstanding.

First, from the "And we were worried about Biden making gaffes?!?" file comes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Congress just finished and just opened their new "visitors' center," which (being a government project) was years late and cost more than twice what they said it would. Ahem. In any case, Reid's remarks on the impact of the new visitors' center were, shall we say, a wee bit inelegant.

Here are Reid's remarks, courtesy of Fox News.

"My staff has always said, 'Don't say this,' but I'm going to say it again because it's so descriptive because it's true," Reid said.

He referenced House Minority Leader John Boehner's comments about the long lines of tourists that stream into the Capitol complex, and said: "In the summertime, because (of) the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol."

As the crowd laughed, Reid said, "And that may be descriptive but it's true. Well, that is no longer going to be necessary."

C'mon, Harry, tell us how you really feel! I guess that now he's secured his leadership position for another year, Majority Leader Reid feels safe to let us know what he really thinks of the public. I have news for you, Harry. It's called "The People's House." You may work there, but you do not own it. We do.

Reid's comments prompted this reply from the letters section of the Las Vegas Review Journal, which also sums it up well.

Sen. Reid, as a visitor to the Senate and a history buff, I am insulted by your remarks. They clearly show you are not worthy of your position. Under your leadership, the Senate has been a farce, and when I am lucky enough to take my children on a tour of the Capitol someday, I will tell them the story of the ignorant Democratic leader who was happy that American taxpayers touring the Capitol finally could be walled off from senators by a new Visitor Center.

So much for government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Maybe if Sen. Reid was capable of doing any real work he might smell a little. It would be good for him.

You, Sen. Reid, are the one who stinks.

For this insulting remark, Harry Reid wins Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. For shame, Harry!

But we've got more silliness from Washington this week, so Harry will have to share the award. Because Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York has come up with the brilliant idea of getting a Constitutional Amendment passed so that Bush cannot pardon anyone he feels like in his waning days in office.

Now, this might sound like a good idea. But it's not. Not because of how it is written (it could be changed to say something like "presidents can't pardon between the election and the inauguration of the next president" and it would still be a bad idea). The pardon power is just about absolute, and is in the original text of the Constitution (which is why it needs an amendment to change). All presidents abuse it in their lame duck periods. Remember Marc Rich?

Nadler knows there isn't a snowball's chance in "how hot it gets here" (thank you, Senator Reid) that this has any hope of passing in time to achieve his goal of tying Bush's hands. A Constitutional Amendment, for those who need a refresher, needs to be passed by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, and then ratified by three-fourths of the states' legislatures. Does Nadler seriously think this is going to happen in the next few weeks (not even mentioning that the Christmas/New Year's break is in there)?

No, he does not. He knows it'll never pass, at least not in time to tie Bush's hands. Which means he is doing nothing but grandstanding. If he truly believes the Constitution needs amending for this purpose, he will wait until next year, and introduce it then, to tie the hands of his own party's Barack Obama. Because it is just not realistically possible to get it done to stop what Bush is about to do. So, for using this political stunt to get himself some media attention, Nadler earns his own Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact Senator Harry Reid on his Senate contact page and Representative Jerrold Nadler on his House contact page to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 57 (12/5/08)

No matter when it gets done, I could support a new law (or a new amendment) which stripped presidents from having the power to issue "midnight regulations," though. This practice is an ugly one, and one (of course) that Bush is using to the fullest extent. How about an amendment which stated that any rule or regulation issued after Election Day could be overturned by the incoming President with a stroke of the pen in his first week in office? That would seem to fit the bill.


   Bush's legacy

Because currently, the only pressure which exists to stop presidents from acting in this fashion is shame. That, and judicious use of the word "legacy," which is about all they worry about at this point. It probably won't work, but it's worth a try.

"President Bush seems intent on proving that his legacy will be as not just the worst president on the environment, not just the friendliest president Big Oil and Big Coal have ever had, not just the worst on imposing his religion on a woman's right to choose, but actually as the worst president in all of American history. Bush could have used the time he has left to make amends and provide an easy transition to President Obama's term, but instead he is governing as he has all along -- in the most partisan and corrupt way possible. His presidential 'legacy' is already six feet deep, and Bush is still shoveling like mad to make the hole deeper. January 20th can't come soon enough for me."


   Good one, Barney!

This really isn't even a talking point, so I hope you'll forgive me. But Barney Frank got off such a funny line the other day that I had to highlight it here. Frank is one of the few people who realize that when Obama and the media talk about "post-partisan" what they really sometimes mean is "watering down the Democratic position." But it wasn't so much what he said as how he put it to the Associated Press:

"It is a grave mistake to assume that parties are irrelevant to this process. My one difference with the president-elect, about whom I am very enthusiastic, is when he talks about being post-partisan. Having lived with this very right wing Republican group that runs the House most of the time, the notion of trying to deal with them as if we could be post-partisan gives me post-partisan depression."


   George Bush lies, media yawns

George Bush gave an interview to ABC's Charlie Gibson, who allowed him to (once again) tell an enormous whopper of a lie about how we came to be at war with Iraq. Bush has told this lie so many times that he has probably convinced himself it's true, but it really is the job of the media to point stuff like this out. I'm just saying, Charlie.

"President Bush continues to lie about how he went to war against Saddam Hussein. Just this past week he told Charlie Gibson, in response to being asked whether if the intelligence on Iraq had been correct on WMDs whether there would have been an Iraq war, and I quote: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld, unquote. This is just flat-out false. Gibson ignored this monstrous lie, but I did not. George Bush will exit his presidency the same way he began it -- by lying to himself, and lying to the American people."


   Maybe he didn't drink his Kool Aid that morning...

This one just writes itself. Check out the article if you don't believe me -- it's a positively jaw-dropping read.

"One of the leading voices on right-wing talk radio, Michael Medved, just wrote a stunning indictment of his own industry and conservatism. In it are such lines as, quote, a conservatism that connects with only a disgruntled, paranoid five percent of the public will wither and die, unquote; and where he warns those on the right that it is idiotic to wish that, quote, the GOP could become the first party in history to expand an already shrunken base by purging its membership, unquote. While this would be an enormous sea change if Republicans took him seriously, I think I'm going to bet that they don't, and that they continue to play to their disappearing base. I think it's a pretty safe bet, from what I've heard on right-wing talk radio."


   Al's chances

If Al Franken's team is correct in their assertion that after all votes are counted and the dust settles, that they will win the election by four votes out of around three million cast, this could be one for the record books.

"The Minnesota election between Al Franken and Norm Coleman could wind up being the closest election in Senate history. The current record, from the 1974 New Hampshire race between John Durkin and Louis Wyman came down to a difference (depending on which recount you believe) of ten votes, or just two votes. The Senate itself intervened, and a special election had to be called to sort it out. I'm not saying that's what is going to happen to the Franken/Coleman race, but I am saying we may not know who won for a while yet."


   For Christmas, I want...

From the intrepid Huffington Post reporters comes the story (complete with image of the invitation) of the Treasury Department holding its holiday party in... wait for it... the "Cash Room." Did somebody hire Marie Antoinette for "imagemaker" over at Treasury?

"I see that the Treasury Department is holding its holiday festivities in the 'Cash Room.' I guess Santa will show up with a gigantic bag of goodies. If you sit on his lap and tell him, 'I'm too big to fail,' then I guess he'll give you billions of dollars in your stocking. And don't worry, Santa will conveniently forget to check (once or twice) his Naughty/Nice List. Thanks for rubbing it in, Secretary Paulson."


   Altered states?

Or maybe I should call this one "holiday cheer." Ahem.

On this, the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition (the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified today, in 1933 -- the only amendment to have been ratified through state conventions rather than state legislatures), let us all thank Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah (!), the final three states necessary, who all ratified it on the same date. So here's to... um... Utah, for preserving the right to drink?

Something just doesn't sound right about that, but I checked the history books, and that's what it says....

Anyway, other intoxicating news this week came from the world of anthropology. Scientists found (or admitted they had found, who knows if a little more was... um... "experimentally destroyed" in the process) 789 grams of marijuana (that's one and three-quarters pounds, folks) in a burial site in the Gobi Desert. Seems like a fine time to bring up the subject of medical marijuana to me.

"Mankind has been using marijuana since before the Hippocratic Oath existed. More and more states are changing their laws to allow for medical use of marijuana. The biggest obstacle to these experiments in democracy is now the federal government. Seventy-five years ago, America threw out Prohibition. Today, I will strongly urge President Obama to consider supporting changing the designation of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, which will legally allow these states to regulate marijuana just like any other prescription medicine."


Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


3 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [57] -- End Of Prohibition 75th Anniversary Edition”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    First off, I’m just going to forget about the fact that you just went ahead and used ‘Biden’ and ‘gaffe’ in the same sentence and that you did so without the proviso that the implication, no matter how slight, that Biden is ------prone is not at all based in reality!

    I pardon you.


    And, on an unrelated note...

    The first time I went to Washington D.C. I fell in love with...the Metro!...and the Mall, all of the monuments, museums...everything, really.

    The last time I traveled there was to be a part of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Mass for Courage and Reconciliation held at his grave site. RFK Jr., MLK III, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and President Clinton were among the many speakers and Aretha Franklin sang. I remember it ended with the lighting of the candles and passing of the light to all of us who were there. I’ll never forget it.

    I sure would like to be there for this Inauguration, in person - if only to find an Obama/Biden button or something! But, I know I will feel like I was there while reading your personal accounts of the week. I’ll bet you’re getting excited already!

    So, I will be very happy to contribute toward the cost of your trip to what I am sure will be the most memorable Inauguration Day ever! I’m not so sure I want to sign up for a ‘PayPal’ account, though. I think the US money order route is the way I want to go with this so please email me the mailing address I should use.

    All the best!

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Elizabeth -

    Hey, c'mon, I was being nice to Biden!

    Heh heh. I have a friend who gave me a bunch of campaign buttons, I asked her to get me a Biden button if she ever saw one, I promise I'll send it to you if I get one.


    To answer your question, I know I need to go back and edit the donation page to make it clearer, but you CAN actually just use a credit card from PayPal's site. Their user interface is pretty clunky (it used to be a lot easier to use) but here are the basic steps:

    Click on Donate button on top right of any page on my site. This takes you to PayPal. It'll say Pamphleteering Press donation / (to let you know you're in the right place). Enter "donation total" and click "Update Total" button -- it won't let you do anything else until you do these steps.

    Whoops, I just tried it to test it, and they seem to have changed their user interface this week. Now I REALLY need to edit the donation instruction page!

    Anyway, it seems to have gotten easier. On the left, you should be able to enter your credit card info, for people without PayPal accounts. If you DON'T see the credit card info form, there may be a link (this is how it was last week) down on the bottom left which says something like "Continue donating with credit card" which you should click.

    One way or another, it's possible to use a simple credit card to donate.

    If you prefer sending a check or money order, click the "Email Chris" link on my top menu bar, and I will send you the snail mail address to send it to.

    And THANK YOU in advance for the donation! As I said on the donation page, I'm going to be there come hell or high water!



  3. [3] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Way to go Barney Frank! What a great quote. Non-partisan to a Republican means agreeing with Republicans.

    I think the only reason Democrats even claim to be post-partisan is to silence the conservative noise makers.

    Well, guess what? They're going to scream and whine anyways. They haven't stopped since the election. So this really doesn't seem like much of a negotiating chip. In other words, big surprise, conservative talk radio will scream "communist" and "socialist" and whatever-ist.

    According to the last election, though, fewer people are listening. So if the conservative media is going to whine, why not give them something to really whine about?

    Stepping down from soap box ...

    In other right-wing news, be careful about going to the capitol for the inauguration. According to my local right-wing radio station, there's going to be riots because so many people (read "black people") are going to be there.

    According to them, it's going to be worse than the Million Man March. (Strange, I don't recall any riots at the Million Man March.)

    So beware, Chris, of angry rioting Democrats!

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