As usual this week, there were several stories the mainstream media was obsessing over which I am just largely going to ignore. The most inane of these was, of course: "This just in! It gets hot in the summer! Who knew?!?" The most ridiculous one was the foofaroo over Rolling Stone using a photograph on its cover which many other media outlets had used for front-page stuff, but which somehow Rolling Stone wasn't supposed to use, for some inexplicable reason. Even though -- on the same cover -- they called the guy "a monster." Lots of out-of-context outrage ensued, including one call to buy the magazine and then burn it. Um, yeah, that'll show them! Just hand over your money, in protest!
There was one big story this week that even President Obama chimed in on, but I really feel that just about everything that could be said about the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case already has been said by a multitude of others (see: the entire rest of the media universe), already.
I guess the real prize in "media chasing shiny, shiny idiocy instead of reporting the news" this week, however, was the continuing coverage ("No news yet, but we're not going to let that get in the way of our continuing updates!") of a royal heir who is about to be born in Great Britain -- while all but ignoring the newsworthy thing the currently-reigning monarch actually did this week. With little fanfare and little fuss, the Queen signed the legalization of gay marriage in Britain. But you wouldn't know it, watching the teevee. Sigh.
Speaking of media idiocy, a television station in San Francisco broadcast an incredibly tasteless and racist bit about the deadly airline crash, and has yet to announce that anyone's been fired over the incident. How many editors or producers or, for that matter, human beings with a brain read that list of names, before it went on the air? All of them should be now looking for work, since it was so obvious that someone was punking them. Too bad Saturday Night Live is off for the summer, they would have had a field day with this one.
In other news you missed on television, the former leader of Mexico is teaming up to launch an international effort to legalize marijuana.
Pro-immigration Republicans seem to be getting ready to do battle during Town Hall Season next month, since the House has pretty much decided to punt on immigration until after August. This could get interesting, as the pros and the antis scream at each other all summer long.
New York released some very good news on Obamacare this week, while the House voted for the eleventy-zillionth time to repeal Obamacare. Since the vote (like all the others) was meaningless, New Yorkers who buy insurance on the open market will still be able to get a reduction of over fifty percent, starting this October. President Obama is starting to tout the successes of Obamacare, too, which will likely intensify as we get closer to the opening of the insurance exchanges later this year.
What else? Liz Cheney's running for Senate in Wyoming, which I actually applauded earlier this week. Oh, and there was some pretty big news in the Senate....
Which brings us to our awards portion of the program. While Elizabeth Warren provided an amusing takedown of some talking heads on CNBC, she then had to literally take down the clip from her website. She still deserves an Honorable Mention for attempting to educate the public, though.
But there was really only one obvious candidate this week for the coveted MIDOTW "Golden Backbone" award. Because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a very good week indeed. Monday, he held an extraordinary political meeting (meaning it was off the record) with 98 members of the Senate attending. Reid did not "blink." Instead, he told them he was fully prepared to use what has been called the "nuclear option" to move President Obama's non-judicial nominees forward, by changing the rules of the filibuster. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't budge, but a deal was struck behind McConnell's back by none other than John McCain. Choose your metaphor: McCain drank McConnell's milkshake, or maybe handed McConnell his ass, perhaps? However you choose to put it, the nuclear threat was averted, and Republicans agreed to let the nominees go forward -- starting gloriously with Richard Cordray becoming the first confirmed leader of the newly-formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans had vowed not to confirm anybody to this post, continuing their tantrum over the agency being created in the first place. So Cordray's confirmation was an enormous victory in a fight that has lasted over two years now.
For that alone, Harry Reid deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. But the fun didn't stop there. A bipartisan deal on student loans was reportedly struck as well, and will be voted on next week. Only about three or four weeks late, but hey, this is the Senate we're talking about. But breaking the logjam on appointments seems to have also broken the "obstruct everything forever" Republican strategy, which certainly gives some optimism for all the work they have left to do this year. OK, maybe not an overwhelming amount of optimism, but still: the weaker McConnell gets, the better.
Of course, for Democrats, this is the really good news making the conventional wisdom rounds on the Washington cocktail party circuit -- that Mitch McConnell is losing his grip on his own party's caucus. Nothing shows this more than the fact that during a meeting McConnell held in order to explain how the filibuster deal went down, Senator Bob Corker -- one of McConnell's fellow Republicans -- literally called "bullshit" on him.
So, all around, a pretty good week both for Democrats in general and for Harry Reid in particular. And for the Senate, as an institution. They're certainly looking better right now than the House, where John Boehner is currently twisting himself in knots in an attempt to explain why Congress isn't getting anything done, while The Huffington Post helpfully points out that this is right before they're going to take a month off and then return to work a strenuous nine whole days in September.
For getting his chamber to accomplish some things, and for showing the House how it's supposed to work, though, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Well done, Harry. The moral of the story is: this is the type of week you can enjoy again, if you continue to show some backbone when dealing with Republicans. Food for thought.
[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
While San Diego mayor Bob Filner is still hanging on to his job as tightly as he can hug it (so to speak), Nancy Pelosi was apparently horrified to hear him (accurately) described as her former colleague.
But in fresher disappointing news, Eliot Spitzer showed a stunning amount of hypocrisy this week. Now, in politics, there is a general rule. That rule states that when you use an issue as a weapon against an opponent in a campaign, you had better be squeaky-clean on the issue yourself. "Family values" types caught in sex scandals deserve a whole lot of scorn, to use but one example. Spitzer never was "holier than thou" on the issue, however, so his own sexcapades may possibly be forgiven by New York voters -- because there wasn't all that big an element of hypocrisy.
On the subject of tax returns, however, Spitzer deserves all the scorn he is now getting. Spitzer's opponent has released five years of tax returns to the public, and called on Spitzer to do the same. Spitzer was one of those who heavily criticized Mitt Romney for not releasing his tax returns publicly, a few years ago. But now that he made big bucks as a media darling, Eliot Spitzer doesn't feel it's appropriate to release his full tax returns. He did let reporters look at a heavily-edited and incomplete version of his last two years' taxes, but that's as far as Spitzer is now willing to go, it seems.
This is beyond disappointing -- it is nothing more than craven hypocrisy. Because you can't wield an issue like a bludgeon against others and then shrug and say it's not that important when it comes to yourself. It doesn't pass the smell test, sorry.
For not putting his tax returns where his mouth was, not so long ago, Eliot Spitzer is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.
[As a rule, we do not link to campaign websites, so you'll have to find Spitzer's contact information yourselves in order to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 265 (7/19/13)
Because we are getting close, as mentioned, to Town Hall Season, I thought it'd be a good week for Democrats to support Obama's renewed push to educate the public about the benefits of his signature legislation. The first four of these strike the same note, over and over, while the fifth is just pure snark for the fun of it. The last two veer off to other subjects, however.
Enjoy, and as always, use responsibly (heh).
This is a very basic talking point, but also a very necessary one. If you want people to support the program, first you need to specifically point out what it does for them. These connections may seem obvious, but there are many who haven't yet made them.
"Many people don't think Obamacare has even started yet. But while the last major piece -- the insurance exchanges -- won't begin until October, there are plenty of other things contained within the law which have already made a big difference to millions of Americans. For instance, over twenty million rebate checks have gone out to American consumers from their insurance companies in the past two years. The reason these rebates exist is Obamacare. Obamacare mandates that insurance companies are no longer allowed to have obscenely large profit margins. If they're charging too much, then money is returned to the consumers. Every recipient of those rebate checks should thank Obamacare for getting them in the mail, because without it, those checks would not exist."
Parents, thank Obamacare
Once again, point out the positive things which have already happened.
"Parents across the country -- millions upon millions of them -- have been able to keep their children on their health insurance policy up until age 25, instead of worrying about pre-existing conditions pricing them out of the marketplace. Every parent who has taken advantage of this to keep their children insured should thank Obamacare for allowing them to do so, because without it this would not have been possible. Ask any parent who has taken advantage of this whether it's a good thing or not -- they'll tell you."
Fade into history
This same theme should also be used to tout the upcoming benefits of Obamacare, as well.
"As America's children grow up and enter into the health insurance marketplace on their own, they will be the first generation who simply will not understand what the terms 'pre-existing condition' and 'lifetime cap' mean -- because they are about to become obsolete words. They'll never be denied insurance because they were sick once in the past, and they will never have to worry that after some arbitrary dollar amount is reached, they won't be insured or even insurable ever again in their lives. The very concept of 'pre-existing conditions' and 'lifetime caps' are -- later this year -- about to become a thing of the past for every American. They are about to fade from our consciousness and be consigned to the ashcan of history. That is an enormous change, and I thank the fact that Obamacare will remove these terms from the lexicon, personally."
This used to be a Republican tenet of their party's faith. Point this out.
"Obamacare's insurance exchanges were built around a simple concept that Republicans used to have unwavering faith in: marketplaces work. Competition works. It's a core belief of capitalism, in fact, which is why I scratch my head when they badmouth the concept now. In state after state, premiums will go down as different insurers have to compete on a level playing field. Insurance will be compared and purchased by consumers just like any other product -- on price and on its merits. These will be laid out for all to see in the exchanges. Such an exchange was signed into law by Mitt Romney, and seems to be working quite well in Massachusetts. In New York, prices are going to come down for individually-purchased insurance plans by at least fifty percent. Note, that's not 'up to fifty percent' or 'somewhat less than fifty percent for most people,' but at least fifty percent. Some will see their costs go down by seventy percent, in fact. And all of that is before you even calculate in the subsidies for low-income Americans. Competition works. Marketplaces work, when the playing field is level. Why don't Republicans believe in this anymore?"
The definition of insanity
OK, I'm certainly not the first one to use this, but it truly has gotten ridiculous.
"I see that the House of Representatives, rather than spending its time on something productive like voting on the Senate immigration bill, spent last week repealing Obamacare once again. Maybe in another few weeks, they'll repeal it for the 40th time and it'll be somehow better than the other 39 times they've done so. Maybe if they vote to repeal it another 40 or 50 times people will re-elect them, who knows? It does seem to be a classic case of doing something over and over and expecting a different result, though, doesn't it?"
Might as well paint with a broad brush, eh?
"It's not only on Obamacare that Republicans have suddenly become so anti-consumer. This week -- finally -- Harry Reid was able to break a two-year logjam in the Senate and get a head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau confirmed. Why have Republicans been blocking this confirmation so long? It is a mystery. They have stood squarely on the side of Wall Street and showed their utter disdain for Main Street by their actions. They didn't think the Bureau should even exist, and they thought they could block it from ever having a properly-confirmed leader. But who did this hurt, ultimately? Consumers. It's right there in the name of the Bureau, in fact. Republicans were incensed that the federal government should even try to do a single thing for American consumers, if it would force big banks to clearly explain their products. That's the 'principle' they fought so long for -- screwing the consumer. Why has the Republican Party become so anti-consumer? It's a mystery to me, personally."
Not since the "Bowles/Simpson" commission has the time been so ripe for a (cleaned up) use of these two initials.
"Of course, I can't repeat on a family program exactly what one Republican senator had to say about Mitch McConnell this week -- suffice it to say that Senator Bob Corker 'called BS' on his party's Senate leader. I found this story refreshing, especially after watching John McCain channel his inner maverick one last time on the filibuster deal struck with Democrats. I think it's important for Republicans to speak up and call 'BS' on where their party's leadership wants to take them in all sorts of situations. In fact, I'm hoping that this starts a trend among Republicans. I look forward to other examples of fed-up Republicans who just can't take the steaming piles of nonsense from their leaders anymore, and loudly and proudly call BS. I can't think of anything which could better improve the way Congress operates, in fact."
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