Archive of Articles for October, 2009

Friday Talking Points [98] -- Newsiness

[ Posted Friday, October 16th, 2009 – 17:56 UTC ]

So, to honor (and blatantly rip off) Stephen Colbert, I'd like to introduce a new word to the American zeitgeist -- "newsiness." This term (which everyone should start using immediately, of course) is defined as: "An event or subject which the mainstream media determines to be newsworthy by plastering all over national television screens, but which is ultimately proven to be nothing of the kind." Furthermore, I'm going to peg the first story ever covered for its newsiness alone as O.J. Simpson cruising across L.A. in his white Ford Bronco. Since then, of course, there are simply too many stories full of newsiness (but not actual news) to even contemplate counting. Just turn on a cable TV station, and wait awhile -- pretty soon, another one will be along.

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Twenty Years Ago -- The "Big One" Of '89

[ Posted Thursday, October 15th, 2009 – 18:04 UTC ]

Now, there is no hard-and-fast rule about what constitutes a "big" quake, to say nothing of the (always-capitalized) "Big One." Generally, it is measured in how much damage the quake leaves behind. But any quake above 6.0, and/or any quake that lasts longer than three or four seconds, is (in my book, at least) a big quake.

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Halftime At The Healthcare Reform Superbowl

[ Posted Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 – 16:03 UTC ]

OK, people, that was a good half. We made some mistakes, we took some hits, but at the end of the half, we put five field goals up on the board. That's good enough for a first half, but we've got to score some touchdowns in the second half, or we're just not going to win this thing.

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Courting Snowe

[ Posted Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 – 16:16 UTC ]

While the passage of a healthcare reform bill through Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee is the big news today, the even bigger news is that Republican Senator Olympia Snowe voted for it, the only Republican so far to cross the aisle in support of Democratic efforts to pass a bill this year. While Snowe warned today that just because she's voting "yea" today, she might not do so on the final bill, depending on what it looks like. While this may not even matter in terms of getting a bill through, Snowe will now be known as Senator Bipartisan, since with her vote the claim can be made that it is "bipartisan legislation," but if Democrats lose her they won't be able to make this claim. But while courting Snowe for her vote on the Senate floor is the only way to accomplish this, Democrats should also consider courting Snowe on an even more important front: switching parties.

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Max Baucus Has Only Himself To Blame

[ Posted Monday, October 12th, 2009 – 15:28 UTC ]

The big news today on the healthcare reform front is the health insurance industry attacking such reform by releasing an industry-written report, one day before Senator Max Baucus' committee is (finally) scheduled to vote on their version of a healthcare reform bill. The report, from America's Health Insurance Plans (an industry group), has already been called a "hatchet job" by Democrats, because the industry is threatening to raise the average premium for health insurance by 110 percent -- more than doubling out-of-pocket costs for American families. A spokesman from the AARP shot back: "I really don't think [the AHIP report is] worth the paper it's written on." A spokesman for Senator Baucus fumed: "It's a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple."

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Friday Talking Points [97] -- Is Opt-Out The Answer?

[ Posted Friday, October 9th, 2009 – 17:59 UTC ]

I speak, of course, of the new healthcare reform compromise idea being batted about over in the Senate. Trying to build a bridge between the public-option-supporting Progressive Democrats and the fiscally-conscious Blue Dog Democrats was always going to be the Grand Compromise which had to be forged to pass a bill. Various ideas have been floated to build this Compromise Bridge (my metaphors seem to be getting all mixed up today), which all eventually collapsed into the metaphorical chasm below. The "trigger" option, where a public option would be in the law but wouldn't activate unless a "trigger" was pulled at some later date was probably the most-talked about plan prior to this, mostly because it was the favorite of the only Republican who actually may vote for healthcare reform in the Senate. The "co-op" plan, which will be in the bill Max Baucus' committee votes on (Um, guys? Weren't you supposed to have voted this week? I'm just saying...), has also been declared a non-starter.

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Talking About Afghanistan

[ Posted Thursday, October 8th, 2009 – 16:29 UTC ]

Still, the image remains. The media has apparently discovered that we have troops in Afghanistan. This may come as a shock to some, since the mainstream media (at least on television) have pretty much ignored this fact for around seven years now (so much so that Afghanistan became known as "the forgotten war" for a while). But the reporting on what President Obama is going to do next in Afghanistan has been so over-the-top in the past few weeks, it has astonished me (and I do not astonish easily, especially when it comes to the idiocy of the evening news). More stories have run on Afghanistan, I would be willing to venture, in the past two weeks than have run in the past two years.

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Republican Leaders Join In Honoring New Rotunda Statue Of Radical Socialist Woman

[ Posted Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 – 13:38 UTC ]

There are sins of commission in the way we're taught American history as children -- such as the fable about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree (which never actually happened). Then there are the much more prevalent sins of omission -- which conveniently gloss over the parts of American history which we have to "protect the children" from learning about. The reason I preface this column with such an observation is because a woman -- whose name we all know -- was honored today by the unveiling of her statue in the United States Capitol's Rotunda. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on hand for this ceremony, as was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But the astonishing thing (to me) was that Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner were also on hand, as well as the Republican governor of the very red state from whence this woman came. This state has honored the woman before, when it selected her to be their representation on their own state quarter. But the truly astonishing thing is that this woman not only helped found the A.C.L.U., but also was a radical and revolutionary Socialist, a fan of the Soviet Union and Lenin, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the "I.W.W.", or the "Wobblies"), and an ardent foe and critic of capitalism. Not the type of woman usually honored by Republicans, you might think. But, in a glaring sin of omission committed by history teachers across this great land (and repeated by politicians even now), the only story we all know about her is of the daunting odds she overcame in her childhood. We're all familiar with this shared story, but it abruptly ends when she becomes an adult. All the parts about the raging Socialist she later became are conveniently swept under the rug.

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Majority Of Populist Caucus Supports Public Plan

[ Posted Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 – 16:38 UTC ]

[Program Note: I'm reproducing a press release today, instead of writing a column, so I hope you'll forgive my laziness. But while it is tempting to take the salient facts and quotes from the press release and make it appear as if I dug this story out on my own, I think it's more honest just to reprint the press release itself. Some might call it mere stenography, but I'd prefer my readers to draw their own conclusions. Having said all that, below is the press release from Populist Caucus Chair Bruce Braley's office, followed by the text of the letter they signed their names to (complete with a list of those who signed it).]

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Obama Poll Watch [September 2009] -- Obama Halts His Slide

[ Posted Monday, October 5th, 2009 – 14:54 UTC ]

I say this because Obama has stopped his slide in the polls. The downward slope of his approval numbers came to a screeching halt, and instead began hovering above (but never dipping below) the 50 percent mark. Since then, they have wavered in the 50-55 point range -- not trending clearly upwards, but at least not trending clearly downwards, either. Better news for Obama fans is the fact that his disapproval numbers did actually reverse course, after hitting a mid-month peak, and have settled downwards from that point on.

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