House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) announcement that the House will pass legislation repealing health insurers’ exemption from federal anti-trust legislation, elicited a standing ovation this morning at the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting. Language removing the exemption was originally part of the House health care bill and Pelosi hopes that passing the provision separately would recommit the party to health care and narrow the differences with the Senate bill, which did not include the repeal.
“It is time for us to end the unfair advantage insurance companies have over American families an that is why next week the House will act to repeal the special anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies,” Pelosi said.
In other words, the repeal is just the first step in restoring real competition to health insurance markets. Policy makers must pass real health care reform and do more to shift the FTC’s focus towards industries where there is the most consumer harm.
In a blog post yesterday, Republican strategist Eric Odom defended his tea party business strategy in response to Think Progress’ reporting on Tea Party Profiteers –- Republican consultants, political operatives, and others trying to take advantage of the tea party movement to make a profit and advance a special-interest agenda. To Odom, it is completely ethical for him and his business partners to “have created a means through which they can pay some bills through their activism”:
And even more absurd is the fact that some tea party activists within the “free market” movement are upset that some entrepreneurs have created a means through which they can pay some bills through their activism. [...] But more importantly, we as “free market” activists should applaud their work in writing these books and we should reward them with our pocket books, not balk at them for doing so.
Odom runs countless tea-party-themed websites around the country, many of them made to appear organic, or locally organized. Through his two for-profit companies, Strategic Activism, LLC and American Liberty Alliance, Odom is able to collect money from unknown sources while setting the agenda and the giving out marching orders for the tea party community forums he controls. As the AP reported, lobbyist Reid McMillian helped write the anti-health reform content for “Healthcare Horserace,” one of Odom’s many websites.
A longtime operative who made a career building what he described as Republican “stealth” “attack sites,” Odom recently proclaimed that the tea party movement should work exclusively to elect Republicans this year, writing, “the Republican Party must be our vessel in 2010.” Indeed, his business partner at Strategic Activism, Allen Fuller, runs a GOP public relations firm called Flat Creek Public Affairs where he helps to direct tea parties into volunteering and fundraising for Republican candidates.
Odom and his fellow profiteers are trying to pull off an elaborate scam. They posture as independents and activists, but they are truly Republican hacks, working largely for big business special interests. Instead of protesting the hegemony of an international corporation — as the original Boston tea party did against the London-based East India Company — they are helping to continue a Bush-era society where corporations like Goldman Sachs have unbridled power.
For instance, former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), another self-proclaimed tea party leader, rails against the Wall Street bailout and efforts to rebuild the foundations of the economy, even though his own lobbying firm represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bailouts. Armey, who is still paid a lobbyist salary of at least $550,00 a year, told the New York Times that although he does not believe in “death panels” or other “exaggerations,” he encourages others to spread falsehoods to advance his agenda. Armey’s willful lying is instructive for understanding the profiteers: in the most condescending way, they are exploiting the tea party movement to line their own pockets.
Are there any Powell conservatives left in the Senate?
A split within the conservative movement is becoming more and more apparent as the US and Russia come close to finalizing a new START treaty that will cut nuclear arsenals. The treaty has widespread and broad support from a long list of prominent Republican foreign policy figures (it is after all merely the extension of a treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan). Yet its future in the Senate is highly uncertain, as neoconservatives are starting to mobilize against its ratification.
But at the very same time that these forces have mobilized, so has the traditional and more established realist wing of the conservative foreign policy establishment – not just in support of START, but in support of the overall global effort to eliminate nuclear weapons. While the opponents of a START treaty have been on the fringes of past Republican administration’s, these figures contain many of the most prominent conservative foreign policy figures, including Secretaries of State and Defense Colin Powell, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Frank Carlucci, as well as Reagan National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and Condoleezza Rice’s State Department consigliere Philip Zelikow.
At issue here are two competing world views. On the one hand, there are the neocons like Bolton, that insist that the US should actually begin engaging in a new nuclear arms race to stop countries from thinking we are weak, as well as out of a bizarre notion that the Cold War never ended. This warped and hyper-paranoid perspective is the very vision that pushed the US to invade Iraq over fears of that a Saddam-initiated mushroom cloud was imminent. On the other hand, there are the realist conservatives like Powell and Kissinger, that argue that nuclear weapons have become militarily useless and that if nothing is done to eliminate nuclear weapons, the world will move quickly in the opposite direction toward a nuclear tipping point, in which proliferation cascades and which the threat of nuclear terrorism becomes ever more likely.
Hence, the ratification fight over START is not really one between progressives and conservatives. Progressives are in agreement with Republicans like Powell, Kissinger, and Schultz. Instead, the ratification fight is between conservatives. The ratification debate will expose the extent to which conservative politicians have become “neoconized,” as it will clarify where Senate conservatives stand – are they with John Bolton or are they with Colin Powell?
Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration.
I have a condescending attitude toward this op-ed. Of course I think my views are correct and based on fact and reason. If I thought my views weren’t correct and based on fact and reason, I would adopt different views—correct fact-and-reason based ones. Does Alexander really think that conservatives don’t think their views are correct? Does Alexander not think his own views are correct? Not based on fact? Not based on reason? I’m not sure it’s possible to be condescending enough to this op-ed.
Just because, a Friday-afternoon mixtape for all the ladies (and of course, all the cool guys out there, too):
1. ”Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves,” Annie Lennox & Aretha Franklin:
The awesomeness of this song cannot be underestimated. It’s a great reminder of how terrific Annie Lennox’s pipes are. She totally holds her own with Aretha here. To mix both metaphors and genres in a single sentence, any pop song that includes the phrase “the conscious liberation of the female state” and does not immediately descend into ridiculousness has me at hello. And the sexual implications of the song are not remotely subtle, which in this case, is a really good thing.
2. “Telephone,” Lady Gaga:
So, Beyonce may have expressed these themes more thoughtfully, or whatever, in “If I Were A Boy.” But you don’t need to imagine switching genders to know that sometimes, you need to go out, dance, drink, and not spend all night talking things over.
3. ”Girlfriend,” Lil’ Mama and Avril Lavigne:
When Avril Lavigne originally recorded this song, it was a fantastic example of girl-on-girl crime in pursuit of some man. With Lil’ Mama doing the verses (and pushing Avril out with the fantastically pushy interjection “Please, 8 bars and stop”) it becomes an assertion of female awesomeness that has nothing to do with tearing some other chick down. The line where she asserts her right to inherit the Notorious B.I.G.’s legacy, “So get it / Biggie / Mama / B-R-Double O-Klyn Drama,” is fantastic.
4. “What Are You Waiting For,” Gwen Stefani
Only the best song–and video–about conquering writers’ block ever. There have been a lot of times recently when I desperately wished I could go to a writers’ block clinic and spend a little time in Wonderland. ”Look at your watch now / You’re still a super-hot female / You’ve got a million dollar contract / And they’re all waiting on your hot track” is a fantastic exhortation, hitting on both the need for self-confidence, and the fact that whatever it is you’re stuck on, there are probably people who believe you can do it, and who need you to pull it together. That, and “Life is short, you’re capable,” which is just good common sense.
5. ”1980,” Estelle
Just a great, great song about developing an individual cultural canon, and discovering who you are in the process, with Estelle’s typically wry, smart, tart take on femininity. ”I touched Africa and came back darker,” and “sexy boys walking ’round showing interest / In what, I don’t know ’cause we all had flat chests” are sentiments that can coexist in the emotional universe of her songwriting, and it’s an absurdly good thing.
6. ”Glamorous,” Fergie
The increasing terribleness of the Black Eyed Peas (about which I really want to write more at some point) makes me sad, because it imposes a correspondingly increasing taboo on my love for Fergie. And I do really love her. She survived meth addiction and girl-band ridiculousity to become kind of tiny and funny and charming. This song is utterly low-key, and is further proof that Ludacris should only make guest appearances.
7. ”Biology,” Girls Aloud
One of the side effects of my Anglophilia is a love for ridiculous British pop (see: Williams, Robbie). Everything about “Biology” ought to be terrible. Nobody can really sing. The “biology” framework is sort of sexist and weird, even as the “comes back to bite your behind” primness of the lyrics is laughable. The song has these odd bridges all over the place. And yet it’s completely catchy.
8. ”Family Affair,” Mary J. Blige
I probably shouldn’t give Mary J. a pass on this song. It’s credited with popularizing the term “crunk.” A lot of the album it’s on is much, much better (“Flying Away,” which sounds like the flip side to Cee-Lo’s “All Day Love Affair” is great, and underlooked.) But much like “Biology” this song is an utterly irresistible anthem to having fun.
9. “Bad Influence,” Pink
I think it’s really important to have pop cultural images of girls who don’t always behave perfectly, but nonetheless are not supposed to be pathological. This song is a perfect example of that rare balance. She does a bit of this in “U + Ur Hand,” her anti-harassment-in-bars song that David Brooks hilariously misinterpreted as anti-romance, and prompted him to scold her for being “not in a Cole Porter frame of mind.” But “Bad Influence” is a great song, in a more expansive way, about partying on your own terms. When she sings “Alright ma’am / Calm down i know your son said he was in my house / He was the captain of the football team but i turned him out / He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last, to tone it down / This happens all the time / I’m a story to tell, the alibi / They wanna go home i asked them / It’s daylight (not night) / They might need a break from all the real life (get a life) / It gets to be too much sometimes,” she’s combining John Mayeresque high-school revenge fantasy and articulate party psychology all in one.
Yesterday, President Obama reiterated that the “next step” for health care reform is “a meeting where I’m sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats, sitting with health care experts and let’s just go through these bills.” “Their ideas, our ideas. Let’s just walk through them in a methodical way,” Obama said.
But during today’s press gaggle at the White House, Robert Gibbs said that Democrats have not actually scheduled any meetings with Republicans:
REPORTER: Any meetings in the works with Republicans?
GIBBS: I will point you to what he said with Republicans last Friday and in SOTU “in wanting to hear and see more ideas.” Nothing scheduled right now.
REPORTER: Would he like Pelosi to call for a vote?
GIBBS: They’re still working with Capitol Hill on the best way forward.
Some progressives have argued that the Senate health care bill already represents a compromise between Republican and Democratic ideas. They suggest that Republicans would not be willing to negotiate with Democrats in good faith and believe that passing the Senate health care bill, alongside a package of fixes using reconciliation, represents the best chance for achieving comprehensive health care reform before the end of the year.
On a recent conference call with reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said reconciliation represented the best way forward on reform and refused to discuss a ‘plan B’ for reform. Still, she insisted that “we will get the job done for the American people one way or another.”
But yesterday, Sanford flew to Washington to demand $300 million in stimulus money for education, the State newspaper reports:
Sanford, who spent much of last year fighting parts of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, now wants S.C. to have a piece of $4 billion in “Race to the Top” education money. [...]
Sanford met with [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan to learn more about a charter school program Duncan started in Chicago, said Ben Fox, the governor’s spokesman. Sanford also took the trip to urge Duncan to support more charter school grants, Fox said. [...]
Indeed, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said of Sanford’s trip: “I am pleased to see that the governor is finally taking an interest in South Carolina’s public schools.” “After going to court last year to prevent stimulus funds,” Clyburn added, “his meeting with Secretary Duncan appears to be the governor’s admission that the stimulus was not only necessary but effective.”
Sanford’s objection to taking stimulus education funding became especially poignant after eight-year-old South Carolinian Ty’Sheoma Bethea famously asked President Obama to fix her crumbling school. In June, the state Supreme Court finally ordered Sanford to take the $700 million and now, Bethea’s school is being rebuilt with $23.5 million of stimulus money.
Sanford’s opposition to taking the federal aid — which mirrored that of other high-profile GOP governors, like Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rick Perry (R-TX) — was viewed by many as an effort to lay the groundwork for a run for higher office. But after his affair dashed these hopes, Sanford seems to have gained a new interest doing what is right for his state’s students.
The Shelby Shakedown combined with the general “Scott Brown gives Republicans 41-59 majority” atmosphere seems to have finally brought the question of Senate procedure to the forefront of progressive politics. And since I’m well-known for my bad predictions, I would like to point out that this is one case of something I’ve been way ahead of the curve on. Here’s what I wrote for the Atlantic back in late 2008:
But Democrats were right to look on the nuclear option skeptically, and not because the proposed change was “reckless.” Rather, it didn’t go far enough. Every word the Republicans said about the nominees’ deserving an up-or-down vote was perfectly true—and their argument applies not just to judicial nominees, but to every other case in which the filibuster subverts the will of the majority.
Democrats no doubt see that more clearly today. Since 2006, when they won majorities in both the House and the Senate, their approval ratings have plummeted, in large part because moderates and liberals have noticed their inability to get much of anything done. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to blame “the obstructionism of the Republicans,” but realistically, one can hardly blame Senate Republicans for obstructing legislation they oppose. The fault lies not with the obstructionists, but with the procedural rule that facilitates obstruction. In short, with the filibuster—a dubious tradition that encourages senators to act as spoilers rather than legislators, and that has locked the political system into semipermanent paralysis by ensuring that important decisions are endlessly deferred. It should be done away with.
As Josh Marshall alludes what we’ve seen over the past 12 months is something like a “lost year” for the Obama administration in which they never really attempted to address this squarely. Instead, they accepted the rule of 60 and focused a lot of energy on Olympia Snowe and herding conservadems. But it’s not going to work. Normally in American history what you see is that procedural change and substantive change need to go hand-in-hand.