Monthly Archives: March 2010

Scarface: You Know, For Kids

This video is a fake (in that it does not show an actual school play), but it is still funny…


House Votes

The House is currently voting on the Senate bill, and if the Democrats get to 216, they will then vote on the reconciliation amendments. Those amendements remove a lot of the unsavory aspects of the Senate bill, which include the favorable provisions to certain states.

The yeas are at 172 right now, with 65 Democrats still needing to vote. The members are given 15 minutes to vote but it doesn’t appear that the full 15 will be necessary. 183 yeas and 22 nays on the Democratic side. No republicans supporting thus far, and I doubt any of them will.

200 yeas with 6:30 left in the vote. Looks like I was wrong about the full 15 not being needed; there is under 3:30 left and 26 members have not yet voted.

9:45 – The 216th vote in favor of the bill has been cast. Pretty cool!

Now the bill is ready for the President’s signature and the House can vote on the reconciliation bill once this vote ends, which it will in less than a minute.

Final tally on the Senate bill: 219 yeas, 209 nays, with 34 Democrats voting nay and no Republicans voting yea.

Watch C-Span Now!

If you care about the health care debate and vote on the bill happening tonight, I would highly recommend watching C-Span today. It is incredible television and right now they are showing a taped interview with Rep. Devin Nunes from CA who is talking about the Democrats being a totalitarian regime and that it is silly to suggest the Republicans are acting in a partisan way.

In response to yesterday’s racial slurs directed at a couple of Congressman, he said this (paraphrasing): ‘Well that is what happens when you have a totalitarian government and people are free to express themselves.’ ASTOUNDING! He says these things and the interviewer does not even question his sanity. This guy epitomizes what has happened to some of our government and politics; it has become a breeding ground for ignorance and a complete lack of honesty and substance.

I honestly cannot believe we have someone in Congress who can say things like this and not even be called out for it. Come on C-Span, you should be better than CNN and all the other MSM sellouts!

UPDATE: He just said, “As much as we want insurance for everyone, it just cannot happen.” This guy is fascinating in his incoherence and insanity! This is the best reality show I have ever seen! I am just upset that I cannot call in (taped interview) and give this guy a piece of my mind.

2:08 (CT) – They are back on the floor debating and are discussing the special provisions like the “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase” (as the GOP calls them), but those provisions will not be included in the final bill.

2:30 – Loved this line from Rep. Scott (GA): ‘Opponents have said that we need to be aware of what will happen to us in November if we vote for this bill. But that is not the question: The question is what will happen to the American people if we do not vote for this bill.’

3:04 – Rep. Stupak (MI) is now holding his press conference. CNN just reported that President Obama will issue an executive order to provide “cover” for those Democrats who are leery of voting on the bill because of the Senate bill’s language on abortion. The bill does not allow federal funds to be used for abortion services as written, but because of how it is written some people are leery.

Stupak is speaking as I type and he is saying that an agreement has been reached to ensure no public funding for abortions are included in this bill. He just confirmed the executive order to “reinforce” their principle and though he has not said it explicitly, it appears he will be voting “Yay” tonight.

Rep. Kaptur (OH) is now speaking to something I wrote yesterday, which is that this bill will actually help reduce abortions by providing more quality and accessible healthcare. Thank you!

More Reps. speaking but it is clear they will be supporting the bill tonight. I think this means that the bill will pass. What a day.

8:55 – We are getting very close to the vote. Minority Leader Boehner and Speaker Pelosi will speak in the next few minutes and then the vote will commence. This is such an exciting moment and I think no matter where you stand in the debate, you cannot deny the historic nature of what we are witnessing. Pretty cool.

9:09 – Boehner is speaking now and is quite animated and pulling out all the hyperbolic stops. He and his Republican colleagues have kept a consistent theme today, which can be summarized as follows: This is the people’s house, the people do not want the bill, the bill will do all sorts of horrible things to us (playing up the fear like they always do), we are destroying our government with this bill, and we must therefore kill the bill.

It is hard for me to understand how most objective and reasonable people cannot observe not just today’s charade, but what the Republicans have pulled for the last year, and not come to the conclusion that their sole aim is to thwart the President in the hopes of bringing about his demise. That is why the attacks have been as ridiculous as they have been; that is why they’ve referred to reform as Obamacare all along, even though Obama had little to do with the bill until a few months ago; and that is why they have done everything they could to “threaten” wavering Democrats into voting against the bill. They know what it will mean for the Democrats and President Obama and how difficult it will be to campaign against a law that will benefit so many Americans.

9:15 – Pelosi is speaking now and asserts health care is an unalienable right and thanks Obama for his leadership (more political theatre). She seems to be selling the Democratic party and its policies to the American public right now; is March too early to start campaigning for this fall?

She is now selling the bill as a boon to our economy and a means to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid. I’ll be back for the final vote.

SBOE: Changing History One Textbook at a Time

The State Board of Education (SBOE) here in Texas has achieved something physicists and sci-fi geeks could only dream of: They have managed to go back in time and re-write history. Remarkably, they managed to do it without the aid of a time machine but with a pencil and an eraser.

The SBOE recently approved new curriculum standards affecting social studies textbooks that will have far-reaching effects. The reason is that because the state is so large, textbooks companies take their cues from us and most other states buy up the books prepared under our direction.

But getting to the crux of the issue, the new curriculum dramatically alters history. Let us start with one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who no longer exists. And speaking of the Founding Fathers, they apparently created this country as a Judeo-Christian nation founded on Christian, not democratic, principles. The Civil Rights movement, as it turns out, was not that influential and Joseph McCarthy was right all along. Oh, and Ronald Reagan saved us from Communism and gave us the best economy in the world (until the last couple of years I guess). Oh, and the contributions of Hispanics are not worthy of discussion, either, which is remarkable for a state that may be majority Hisplanic by 2015.

It is all there in the linked stories above, which I highly recommend you read.

This story is garnering a lot of national attention and rightly so. Many of the blogs I read had touched on it. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Andrew Sullivan, Paul Burka, and the Scientific American have all weighed in, just to name a few.

Burka’s post is interesting because he suggests that the SBOE’s vote and the ensuing controversy could be used to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White’s advantage against Rick “Watch the Hair” Perry. We are a long way from November and that remains to be seen, but White has already pounced on it and I hope he continues to do so.

It really is a travesty that our children will be taught material given not for its historical accuracy, relevance or intellectual substance, but because a handful of right-wing idealogues wanted their political views imposed in our schools and on our children.

48 Hrs. – Health Care

The next two days promise to be tense, exciting, and hopefully in the end, triumphant. The reconciliation bill was released earlier in the week and it got a big boost from the CBO. Perhaps the biggest boon to the bill’s chances of passing tomorrow is that it reduces the deficit more than the House and Senate bills would have in the first 10 years, and it further reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the subsequent 10 year period. In my view, deficit hawks will be hard-pressed to argue that this bill is not fiscally responsible.

Here is a handy page that compares the three bills so you can see some of the more important provisions. Spoiler alert: There is no public option and illegal immigrants are barred from participating in the exchanges with their own money. The latter is of great concern to the Hispanic Caucus and rightly so. Two very unfortunate provisions that I think will one day be corrected, but for now, I think liberals and progressives should get behind this bill.

Politically speaking, not passing the bill would be disastrous for Democrats and the President. But more importantly, the bill does do some very good things (insuring over 30 million people and prohibiting preexisting conditions as a bar to insurance, to name a couple) and I do think it would be a first step to a public option or single-payer system down the road.

Returning to the political merits, Republicans know that it would be much more damaging to them if this bill passes. Should it not be obvious given all their resistance throughout this process? Sure, they may gain some seats in Congress in November, but I would much rather campaign this fall defending voting for a bill that expands coverage, reduces costs, reduces the deficit, and creates an exchange for people to shop for insurance across state lines. The Republicans would have to campaign against the bill and all it does and that will be a hard sell if the Democrats do a good job of telling the public what they will get with the bill and what the Republicans want to take away. Basically, it MAY be good for the GOP in the short-term, but long-term their actions in this process and their votes against the bill will be very damaging.

I think Republicans know this and that is why they are doing everything they can to scare the wavering Democrats into voting against the bill manana. Any Democrat thinking of voting against the bill should not seriously think that they will not be tied to Obama, or the bill if it passes, in November and be in serious jeopardy of losing their seat anyway. If anything, they will be in greater danger because they will likely not have the support of Democrats in their districts and probably are not going to win any converts from the right either. Double whammy! This is a huge test for the Democrats, who collectively have shown very little spine throughout this process.

Let us hope that they stand up for something they have believed in for a generation and put the welfare of the American people above their political careers. A vote for this bill, if it passes, would be historic and could actually cement the legacies of those in Congress. These narcissts should jump at that opportunity! Ok, maybe I am being a bit harsh, but seriously, pass the damn bill!

UPDATE: I neglected to mention what may keep the bill from passing tomorrow: The abortion “debate”. Frankly, it is a non-issue to me in that Stupak’s opposition is unnecessary because the bill does not allow for federal funds to be used for abortion services. In addition, I have read a few studies this week that show that expanding coverage to more women and making that coverage more secure, as is the case in other industrialized nations with universal coverage or something close to it, has led to reduced abortions in those nations. In fact, those nations have lower abortion rates than we do.

But if studies in other countries are not good enough for you, then there is this article about a study done in Massachussetts that shows a decrease in abortion services since they passed health care reform similar to what is on the table in Washington now. If these people are serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in this country, then they should take a hard look at this study because making health care more accessible and affordable for women might do just that.

UPDATE #2: Getting closer. I meant to post this graph from the Washington Post earlier, which shows what votes are in play and just as interesting, it shows contributions from the health care industry and the percentage of uninsured constituents for each legislator. What struck me was the large number of legislators with 15% or more of their constituents being uninsured and who are still voting against the bill. I wish more than five people read this blog so they could see the graph; maybe more people would support the bill, though it should be said that support has been increasing over the last few weeks. Anyway, why doesn’t the MSM report information like that found on the graph? Infuriating but not surprising.

The NYT is keeping track of the votes, too.

Codifying Unconstitutionality

Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, ever the stalwarts of freedom and civil liberties in the U.S., have offered up a bill concerning interrogation and the rights of detainees. I hope this is simply a campaign ploy on both their parts to shore up support amongst their right-wing constituencies.

I know McCain is facing a primary challenge this fall from someone even further right then he has become. Like I said, maybe this is just a political ploy and neither Senator expects this bill to pass.

That said, it would not surprise me in the least if this bill is a sincere attempt by these two bitter has-beens at making into law some truly despicable assaults on our Constitutional rights.

First, the law would negate the need for a Miranda warning to be given to those deemed “unprivileged enemy belligerents” before interrogation. Those that can fall under this term can include U.S. citizens and anyone who provides “material support” to terrorist organizations. Fairly broad definition.

Second, the law would prohibit any federal funds to be used to try “unprivileged enemy belligerents” in U.S. civilian courts. Whether an individual is “unprivileged” depends on certain factors and is determined by a “high-value detainee interrogation group”, with final approval by the President. This does not give the president too much power to detain, not at all.

Finally, the proposed law states that anyone deemed an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”, including a U.S. citizen, may be held indefinitely without trial for as long as hostilities ensue. That’s right. If by some mistake or accident you are accused and found to be an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”, this law would prevent you from having your day in court.

The issue (as if there was just one) is that many of these terms are so broadly defined, and to say that someone can be held indefinitely during hostilities is a scary prospect when you consider terrorism is not a war that can one day be declared over. I am not trying to be melodramatic or scare anyone, but this is bordering on 1984 type stuff.

I wish I were making this up. I wish I could say that I had no doubts about this bill never becoming law. I wish I could say this was nothing to worry about. But to much has happened in the last nine years to preclude me from being so sure.

Sullivan has his short take here.

2nd Amendment

I heard or read recently that the NRA and other gun-rights advocates are fearful of President Obama’s desire to restrict their 2nd Amendment rights. What is unusual about this fear is that Obama has said nothing regarding his desire to do this, and has only expanded the rights of gun owners in this country.

This makes two things perfectly clear to me: Gun rights advocates are incredibly paranoid and incredibly misinformed. A troubling combination to be sure. This reminds me of when Obama made the comment about people clinging to their guns during the campaign and honestly, I still think there was a lot of truth to that. The story linked to above, in my view, confirms this even more. There is clearly a disconnect between Obama’s policies and the perceptions of the NRA and its members.

I honestly do not get the fuss over the 2nd Amendment. I am not a fan of guns but I do not have to own one and I do not care if someone who is qualified to own one chooses to. I stress the word “qualified”. What troubles me is people keeping guns in their homes or walking around in state parks with guns in their belt loop who have no real experience with guns. (Though I should say I do not know, from state to state, what requirements there are for owning a gun but I do know the requirements are pretty lax here in Texas.)

Anyway, this story about a superintendent firing a gun in school prompted this post. It also reminded me of the absurdity of states legalizing the carrying of firearms in cantinas! Starbucks has recently allowed patrons to carry firearms in some of their cafes, too. These are instances where 2nd Amendment hysteria has run amok. Are gun owners so insecure about their right to own a gun that they must display it in public any chance they get?

And it makes no difference to me that the guns are not supposed to be loaded in some instances. Leaving out the absurdity of wanting to walk around with an unloaded gun (presumably to send a “message” because what would be the point if it wasn’t loaded), as the superintendent story shows, some people will make mistakes and it will not be long before someone’s mistake leads to another person’s death.

And now, a Family Guy clip: