Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keith Olbermann Commentary On Healthcare Reform and Rightwing Hatred, Hypocrisy, and Hysteria in the United States



Once again the courageous intellectual and political clarity, honesty, eloquence, depth, compassion, and profound moral authority of Keith Olbermann--one of the finest and most important political journalists of our time-- brilliantly cuts through ALL the bullshit, bigotry, and endless lies that pathetically passes for public discourse in American politics and society today. This commentary like all the many other tireless and incisive commentaries and relentless investigative journalistic work Olbermann has produced and delivered over the past decade shows us what a real major journalist performing at the very height of his/her analytical and critical power can do to actually educate, motivate, and LEAD in the ongoing struggle to get all Americans to honestly face and confront the truth of our lives and social/economic/cultural institutions. Thanks as always Keith for your inspiring contributions...


Transcript of Keith Olbermann's commentary --March 22, 2010

Finally as promised, a Special Comment in the wake of the passage of Health Care Reform and it’s a first step, there’s a lot wrong with it, but the penalty for not paying the fine for not buying the mandatory insurance has been reduced to nothing.

So, blessings nonetheless on those who took this first step, pat yourselves on the back, and, tomorrow morning, get back to work fixing what is still wrong with our American Health Care system. These remarks are about our political climate in the wake of the bill’s passage.

Eight days ago, a 16-year old kid picked up a courtesy phone at a store in Washington Township, New Jersey, and announced over the public address system, quote “Attention, WalMart customers: All black people leave the store now.” The boy has been arrested and charged with harassment and bias intimidation.

Two days ago, a Tea Party protestor shouted the “n” word at Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, one of the heroes of 20th Century America, and Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana and another shouted anti-gay slurs at Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

Capitol Hill Police confirm no arrests were made and there were no serious efforts to identify the vermin involved. Television, print, and radio news organizations will not be asked to turn over their tapes and images of the event, nor subpoenaed if necessary. This is not to dismiss what the 16-year old did in New Jersey.

But it would seem that what was shouted at the Congressmen merits at least as much investigation and hopefully as much prosecution. After all, it did occur inside the halls of Congress, a place at least as crowded as, and as sanctified as a WalMart.

In a backwards, sick-to-my-stomach way, I would like to thank whoever shouted at Mr. Lewis and Mr. Carson for proving my previous point. If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart, along with blind hatred, a total disinterest in the welfare of others, and a full-flowered, self-rationalizing refusal to accept the outcomes of elections, or the reality of Democracy, or of the narrowness of their minds and the equal narrowness of their public support.

On Saturday, that support came from evolutionary regressives as Michele Bachmann and Jon Voight. On a daily basis that support comes from the racists and homophobes of radio and television: the Michael Savages and the Rush Limbaughs. Shockingly, that support even came, on a specific basis, from another Congressman, Republican Devin Nunes of the California 21st.

“When you use totalitarian tactics, people, you know, begin to act crazy,” he said on C-SPAN. “And I think, you know, there’s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it.”

Congressman Nunes? You should resign. You have no business opening a door for a man like John Lewis, let alone serving alongside him. And if you shouldn’t resign for your endorsement, your encouragement, of the most vile, the most reprehensible, and the most outdated spewings of the lizard-brain of this country, you should resign because of your total disconnect from reality.

There have been no “totalitarian tactics,” Congressman. People, these few, sad, people, have begun to act crazy, because it has been the dedicated purpose, the sole method and sole function, of the Republican party, to entice them to act crazy.

Those shouts against the Congressmen, Mr. Nunes, were inspired not by what people like John Lewis have done in their lives. They have been inspired by what people like you have done in the last year.

And so the far right escalates the rhetoric and the level of threat, just a little more. And worse still, it escalates the level of delusion. The election of a Democratic president is socialism. The election of a black president is an international conspiracy. The enactment of any health care reform is an apocalypse. And the willful denial of reality by the leader of the minority party in Congress is the only truth.

A willful denial, incidentally, that includes the leader of the minority party in Congress ignoring the fact that his is the minority party, and that he represents the minority, and that despite having broken all the rules of decorum in place in this nation since the end of the Civil Warthat despite having played every trick — mean and low, despite having the limitless financial backing of one of the biggest cartels in the world, he and his cronies and the manufactured outrage of the Tea Party failed to derail Health Care Reform.

Failed Mr. Boehner. You lost. You blew it. “Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen,” you said last night just before the vote. The will and desire of your countrymen, Mr. Boehner?

If you’re one of the leaders of a party that in four years, coughed up the Senate Majority, coughed up the House Majority, coughed up the White House, coughed up Health Care Reform, and along the way ignored every poll, and every election result, I would think the “will and desires of your fellow countrymen” should be pretty damn clear by now: Your countrymen think your policies are of the past, and your tactics are of the gutter.

But Boehner’s teary “shame on you” over the tyranny of the vast majority taking a scrap back from the elite clueless minority — that’s just an isolated incident. Just as Congressman Neugebauer shouting “Baby-Killer” at, or ” It’s a Baby-Killer” during, Congressman Stupak’s laudable speech last night was just an isolated incident.

Just as the shouting of “n” words at Congressmen Lewis and Carson was just an isolated incident. Just as the spitting on Congressman Cleaver was just an isolated incident . Just as the abuse of Congressman Frank was just an isolated incident. Just as the ethnic slurs shouted at Congressman Rodriguez of Texas was just an isolated incident. Just as the oinking by Congressman Wilson during the President’s address was just an isolated incident.

Just as whatever’s next will be just an isolated incident. You know what they call it when you have a once-a-week series of isolated incidents? They call it two things. They call it a “pattern” and in the United States of 2010 they call it “The Republican Party.”

American political parties have disappeared before. They are never forced out by their rivals. They die by their own hands, because they did not know that the hatred or the myopia or the monomania they thought was still okay wasn’t okay, any more. And so I offer this olive branch to the defeated Republicans and Tea Partiers.

It is a cold olive branch, and scarred, and there aren’t many olives on it, but it still counts.You are rapidly moving from “The Party of No,” past “The Party Of No Conscience,” towards “The Party of No Relevancy.” You are behind the wheel of a political Toyota. And before the mid-terms, you will have been reduced to only being this generation’s home for the nuts.

You will be the Flat-Earthers, the Isolationists, the Segregationists, the John Birchers. Stop.

Certainly you must recognize the future is with the humane, the inclusive, the diverse— it is with America. Not the America of 1910, but the America of 2010. Discard this dangerous, separatist, elitist, backward-looking rhetoric, and you will be welcomed back into the political discourse of this nation. Continue with it, and you will destroy yourselves and whatever righteous causes you actually believe in, and on the way you will damage this country in ways and manners untold.

But even that damage will not be permanent. Faubus, and the MacNamara Brothers, and Bull Connor, and Lindbergh, and Joe McCarthy damaged this nation. We survived and they were swept away by history. You cannot destroy this country, no matter how hard you seem to be trying to nor can you destroy this country’s inexorable march towards the light.

The Belgian Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck once wrote that, quote, “at every cross-roads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10-thousand men to guard the past.” Last night those 10,000 men fell.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paul Krugman On National Helthcare Reform and the Vicious Demagoguery of the Republican Right


March 22, 2010


Fear Strikes Out

New York Times

NYT Editors' Note Appended

The day before Sunday’s health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: “Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”

And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation.

I’d argue that Mr. Gingrich is wrong about that: proposals to guarantee health insurance are often controversial before they go into effect — Ronald Reagan famously argued that Medicare would mean the end of American freedom — but always popular once enacted.

But that’s not the point I want to make today. Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)

And that cynicism has been the hallmark of the whole campaign against reform.

Yes, a few conservative policy intellectuals, after making a show of thinking hard about the issues, claimed to be disturbed by reform’s fiscal implications (but were strangely unmoved by the clean bill of fiscal health from the Congressional Budget Office) or to want stronger action on costs (even though this reform does more to tackle health care costs than any previous legislation). For the most part, however, opponents of reform didn’t even pretend to engage with the reality either of the existing health care system or of the moderate, centrist plan — very close in outline to the reform Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts — that Democrats were proposing.

Instead, the emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.

It wasn’t just the death panel smear. It was racial hate-mongering, like a piece in Investor’s Business Daily declaring that health reform is “affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.” It was wild claims about abortion funding. It was the insistence that there is something tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health care will be available when they need it, an assurance that older Americans have enjoyed ever since Lyndon Johnson — whom Mr. Gingrich considers a failed president — pushed Medicare through over the howls of conservatives.

And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.

This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.

New York Times Editors' Note: March 23, 2010

The Paul Krugman column on Monday, about the health care bill, quoted Newt Gingrich as saying that “Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation. The quotation originally appeared in The Washington Post, which reported after the column went to press that Mr. Gingrich said it referred to Johnson’s Great Society policies, not to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

March 23, 2010

Michael Moore and I Emphatically Agree: The National Healthcare Bill Sponsored by the President and the Democratic Party is NOT Genuine Reform!



As I and many other people have been saying over and over again for the past 8 months now the National Healthcare "Reform" bill sponsored by a heavily compromised President Obama and the hapless, incompetent, and utterly gutless Democratic Party is not merely bad/weak/pathetic legislation, it's a COMPLETE SHAM AND DISGRACE.

Needless to say I agree 100% with Michael Moore's comments below. There's absolutely no way to make this bill-- which is finally up for a final vote this weekend--sound or look even remotely defensible as genuine reform.

But the Obama administration and the Dems have painted themselves into such a corrupt and self destructive corner that the vicious lies and endless rightwing demagoguery of the thoroughly reactionary Republican Party opposition is now just a bizarro funhouse mirror reflection of the political and moral cowardice and abject opportunism of their legislative counterparts in neoliberal land...Tragedy and Farce in equal measure. Meanwhile: Guess who will continue to suffer at the monopolistic hands of the rapacious insurance and pharmaceutical companies even if this bill passes?...


The Pure Greed of Obama's Phony Health-Care Reform
by Michael Moore
March 17, 2010
The Daily Beast

Five more Democrats announced they will be voting against health care on Tuesday—leaving House opponents just 11 votes shy of the majority needed to kill the bill—but there’s one former “no” whom President Obama can now count on to say “yes”: Dennis Kucinich, who had previously opposed the bill from the left.

As House Democrats try to pass health-care reform, filmmaker Michael Moore calls their proposal a joke that is more about Wall Street profits than helping people.

It was amazing. Every story on the front page of Monday’s New York Times told the story of the Age of Greed during which a system known as capitalism is slowly, but surely, killing us:
Insurance company greed: "Millions Spent to Sway Democrats on Health Care"
War profiteers: "Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants"
There's no profit in repairing our infrastructure: "Repair Costs Daunting as Water Lines Crumble"
China, the bank: "China Uses Rules on Global Trade to Its Advantage"
You mean NAFTA didn't improve life in Mexico: "Two Drug Slayings in Mexico Rock US Consulate"
What happens when Big Food profits from hurting kids: "Forget Goofing Around: Recess Has New Boss

I wish the president and the Democratic leadership would just stand up and say, “We're sorry, America. We didn't get the job done you sent us here to do.”

There's now a daily parade of news like this—well, not really "news," more like the media division of large corporations shoving your face into the dirt that is your life. You already know the schools are a disaster and the war is a boon for the Halliburtons and a bust for you. You don't need a newspaper to tell you the roads and electrical lines and the local sewage plant is in miserable disrepair.

And by now you've figured out that you don't really have any say in this, that what we call the "democratic process" is mostly a sham, pretty words that get repeated in the hopes we will all still fall for it. But the fix is in and we don't fall for it anymore. Admit it: Wall Street owns "our" Congress lock, stock, and big barrel o' campaign cash. You want a say in this? Well, I don't see you on the Forbes 400, so shut the f@*& up and go fetch me another bottle of bubbly.

Within days, the House of Representatives will vote to pass the Senate health-care "reform" bill. This bill is a joke. It has NOTHING to do with "health-care reform." It has EVERYTHING to do with lining the pockets of the health insurance industry. It forces, by law, every American who isn't old or destitute to buy health insurance if their boss doesn't provide it. What company wouldn't love the government forcing the public to buy that company's product?! Imagine a bill that ordered every citizen to buy the extended warranty on all their appliances? Imagine a law that made it illegal not to own an iPhone? Or how 'bout I get a law passed that makes it compulsory for every American to go see my next movie? Woo-hoo! Who wouldn't love a sweet set-up like this windfall?

Well, the insurance companies—get this—don't like the Democrats' bill! That alone should be reason enough to vote for it.

Now, you would think these thieves would love this bill—but they are actually fighting it. Why? Because it doesn't give them ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of what they want. It only gives them... 90%! YOU SEE, pure greed demands all or nothing.

The insurance industry hates this bill because it puts a few minor restrictions on them. Six months after its passage they won't be able to deny children coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. How awful! Government interference! SOCIALISM!

But, hey, they'll still be able to deny these children's parents coverage until 2014! So if a parent gets sick and dies in the next four years, I'm sure someone will step in and raise these already-insured orphans.

And how big will the fines be if the insurance companies do deny someone coverage for having a pre-existing condition? Are you sitting down? A hundred dollars a day! That's it! So if you're the insurance company, and Judy is a customer of yours, and Judy needs an operation that will cost $100,000, what do you do? You take the fine! Let's say Judy lives another year after you've sentenced her to death, your $100-a-day fine will only cost you $36,500! That's a savings of $63,500! And trust me, my friends, that's EXACTLY what's going to happen.

There are some good things in this bill. Parents will be able to keep their children on their policy until the kids turn 26. A few things like that. So, yes, pass that.

But don't insult me and 300 million Americans by calling this "health-care reform." At least you've stopped calling it "universal health care." We will not have universal health care or anything close to it. I wish the president and the Democratic leadership would just stand up and say, "We're sorry, America. We didn't get the job done you sent us here to do. We're weak and scared and unable to communicate the simplest of messages to the American people. Therefore, our bill will guarantee that 12 million of you will still have NO health insurance. And that's because we have decided to leave the greedy, private insurance industry in charge of our system. Forgive us for this and for continuing to allow profit to be the determining factor as to whether a patient gets the help she or he needs." Please, Democrats—just say that—then pass this poor excuse of a bill.

Pass it because, if President Obama takes a fall on this one, I don't know if he'll be able to get back up. And then NOTHING will get done. We can't have that. (And thank you Dennis Kucinich for hanging in there right up to the end and being the only one out of the 435 members to speak the awful truth.)

On the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times, the dateline was, sadly, once again, "Flint, Michigan." The story was about how doctors are no longer accepting Medicaid patients. Which means tens of thousands of poor can no longer go to the doctor. Last year, the State of Michigan also prohibited doctors from accepting Medicaid patients who had anything wrong with their vision, their hearing, their feet or their teeth. In a 16-county area northwest of Flint, there will soon be not one single hospital that will allow you to give birth there if you're on Medicaid. The official unemployment rate in Flint is 27 percent (unofficially, closer to 40 percent).

This is an American tragedy. And, as I've warned you for years, this tsunami is heading your way—if it's not there already.

I've just turned on my new iPhone and it informs me that it has "apps" it would like to suggest I buy. One is called "Scanner." It will allow me to listen in on police scanners anywhere across the country. I buy the app. I see that the Flint police scanner is part of this. I turn it on out of curiosity. And this is what I hear, at one in the morning: A woman is being beaten by her husband... A home invasion is taking place ("16-year-old black male, wearing a white skull cap")... A child has been missing since noon today... Another woman is being beaten by her boyfriend... A diabetic, obese man is having trouble breathing and needs to be rushed to the hospital (there will be three more of these obese diabetics in the hours to come; the entire town is ill)... One more woman calling, screaming for help, "officers urged to use caution..."

...And on and on and on. This is what I have listened to before going to bed. I am filled with despair and helplessness as I hear my former neighbors crying out for help. I hate it. I have to turn it off. I start to cry. Thank you, iPhone. Thank you, Democrats. I'll sleep better knowing that you're looking out for all of us.

Michael Moore is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and author. He directed and produced Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Sicko. He has also written seven books, most recently, Mike’s Election Guide 2008.