photo: u.s. senate
The majority Democrats are now at a point where the minority Republicans and a handful of turncoats from their own party are going to permit them to open debate on health care reform in the Senate. Is this really cause for celebration? With a Democrat in the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, this Democratic Party appears to be so weak that it’s barely able to open debate on a bill that nearly 60% of America wants? And this, after the country gave them their majority on a promise of change?
With one-third of the Senate and all of the House up for re-election next year they would be well-advised to get something meaningful done or it could lead to a political Dunkirk at the polls. It’s also possible that they could fail even if they succeed.
They could pass a bill with a public option that’s so watered down that it’s nearly meaningless. That may not be enough for those millions of Americans who voted for change. Real change, like a public option that squeezes the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries so hard that they are forced to lower their prices to more reasonable levels
One independent and a handful of what are being called “moderate” Democrats are standing in the way. The moderate Democrats in this case are actually conservatives and nothing short of Republicans posing as members of the Democratic Party, so lets call them “Republicrats.” Of course, this is an issue no one wants to address. They can’t take the turncoats on because they need these people to get their 60 votes and that will probably mean a compromise on the public option and that will mean watering down the bill.
The independent in this equation, smilin’ Joe Lieberman, has 64,000 constituents working for insurance companies back in his home state of Connecticut, so you can forget about him doing anything but taking the company line handed down by his corporate bosses.
Then there are the three Republicrats posing as Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas – who voted to open debate on the bill even though they say they have serious problems with it and want substantive changes. What changes?
It’s not single payer insurance (Medicare for all) that has them worried. Nor are they up in arms over simply allowing Americans to buy government-run insurance. No, their big hang up is with a provision that would allow Americans to buy government-run insurance only if and when their individual states decide to “opt-in” and allow it. It’s probably fair to assume that these three legislators are feeling a bit of pressure from 1) the health insurance and pharma industries that have contributed heavily to their campaigns and 2) the folks back home, older folks and Republicans in particular. And they need older voters and Republicans, if they want to stay in office.
For these three Dems then, it’s a question of keeping older voters and Republican constituents happy by maintaining the status quo. Seeing to it that the United States, one of the wealthiest nations on earth, remains the only industrialized nation without some form of meaningful universal health care. Or, they could take the high road and risk losing their jobs by voting for meaningful health care reform. In doing so, they would be supporting the majority of the people of the United States, their party and their President. It’s their self-interest vs. the best interest of their party the nation.
According to the Center for American Progress –“The Congressional Budget Office projects that the cost of a family premium under employer-provided health insurance will increase by approximately 70 percent (after inflation) in the next nine years. This cost growth will have cascading effects across the economy as businesses trim benefits and workers lose their coverage.”
The first step down the road to economic recovery may involve containing and controlling the cost of health care. It’s the charge the Democrats were put in office to carry out. If they fail to do so, with a compromise that keeps the Republicrats in the Senate happy but leads to a feeble public option or no public option at all, they will in all likelihood be punished at the polls and Mr. Obama will be forced to serve out the remainder of his term being regarded as the President who lost the fight for meaningful health care reform because he was unable to garner the support of his own party.
Interesting piece by Matea Gold in the Los Angeles Times on Brian Williams of NBC News showing his “lighter side.” Gold reports that William’s move to loosen up and put in appearances on “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” hasn’t done any damage to his ratings. The story includes a quote from the former president of NBC News, Lawrence Grossman, who notes that crossing over into entertainment is a departure from traditional news values.
“It was frowned upon for the news anchors — who are supposed to pull the country together in times of crisis — to be to flip,” Grossman said. “I think we tolerate a lot more of that now than back in the day when network news was the holy grail. But it still requires some discipline and some boundary lines.”
Remember Peter Jennings or Walter Cronkite crossing over and doing comedy bits? David Brinkley doin’ the old soft shoe? I’m pretty sure it never happened. Those who continue to act as advocates for credible journalism would undoubtedly condemn the mix of news with entertainment as being nothing more than a desperate grab for viewers at a time when network news ratings have taken a big slide.
I too am guilty of participating in this crossover from news to entertainment. Years ago I was offered a cameo in a “Columbo” movie on tv and I accepted. I was working in Hollywood, where taking a cameo in a movie or tv show was commonplace. I later turned down a role as a reporter in the movie “Volcano.” My reasoning for accepting one and rejecting the other was that an appearance in a classic show like “Columbo” (or what I believe will eventually be a classic) was of no damage to my reputation as a broadcast journalist. Showing up in a film about a Volcano blowing its top all over Wilshire Boulevard in West LA, would be a different matter entirely. Nevertheless, I’m probably in no position to be casting stones.
If the boundary that separates news from entertainment is becoming generally blurry, sometimes it’s being blown entirely away. Again from the Los Angeles Times, a story about one of its own. This time it’s entertainment reporter Dawn Chmielewski, who kicks up her heels doing a salsa number as a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars.” Okay, so the bit was staged so that the paper would be able to do a “first person” story that was not intended to go out over the air. Even with that, it was not so very long ago that the newspaper would not have allowed one of its reporters to cross over and become a part of the story. Now they’re not only giving it ink, they also provide a link so that people like me can embed a clip of Chmieleswki doing her thing on the show. Here it is, and whatever you may think of Chmielewski putting herself in the postion of a reporter becoming the story — the woman has more courage than I ever had.
The number of journalists murdered in Mexico, has hit a new high. From Ioan Grillo in GlobalPost:
“According to a tally by El Universal, the country’s top-selling newspaper, 12 reporters, photographers, editors and radio hosts have been slain this year — two more than in the previous worst year of 2006. The deaths — all of Mexicans working for local media — make the country the most dangerous for the trade in the Western hemisphere.
There have also been dozens of cases of journalists being threatened, beaten and having offices attacked with gunfire and grenades.”
I did a double take on this one in the LA Times:
“In an apparently cold-blooded attempt at smuggling, a Lomita man was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport this week with more than a dozen wriggling lizards strapped to his chest.
Michael Plank, 40, was detained by U.S. Customs agents after they discovered 15 live lizards stuffed into his money belt, officials with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said Friday.”
Although he comes down a bit too hard on the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, David Sirota’s piece on America turning into an “idiocracy” deserves consideration. Here’s a bit of it-
“The trend is deeply disturbing. It’s one thing for talk-show-host wannabe Sarah Palin or carnival-barking provocateur Glenn Beck to glamorize willful ignorance—that’s been the narcissistic act of celebrity court jesters since the dawn of history. But it’s an entirely different thing when hostility to intelligence and to the basic process of thinking itself emanates from the very professional thinkers who lead the nation’s intelligentsia.”
Here’s a link to the article in “Truthdig.”
The New York Times reports that one of the last great broadcast journalists standing, Bill Moyers, is leaving weekly tv.
According to the paper Moyers will “…end his Friday night public affairs show, “Bill Moyers Journal,” on April 30, 2010. That date will also be the last for “Now on PBS,” which has been canceled.
“I am 75 years old,” he said of the decision to end the series, which began in April 2007. The program has recently been having a “good run of it,” he added in a telephone interview on Friday, “so I feel it’s time.” He said he was not quitting television work, although he has no new projects planned.”
Here’s Moyers on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” posing an argument for single-payer health care.
Sarah Palin got on her bus and left without signing the books of a number of her admirers in Nobelsville, Indiana. Her fans, who had been standing in line for hours to see the woman they so admire, were not amused. Here’s the video-