Let's take a break from politics, economics, and the daily grind and watch the beautiful video one Colin Rich made with limited means, unlimited imagination, a balloon, two cameras, and a parachute. Earth is a lovely place and his video reminds us of that.
Here's an excerpt from James Fallows at his Atlantic blog the other day— that I thought summed up nicely why, beyond all the caveats about how Health Care Reform, as presently constituted, falls far short of the mark, it matters:
...the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)... TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.
Henry Banta at the Nieman Watchdog blog has written an important piece on assessing the media's role in responding to the current economic mess we are in. It's must-reading and points to how we must demand more good coverage of smart economic thinking, especially now that the free markets/efficient markets mantra has led us to rack and ruin. Here's an excerpt:
What seems most difficult for the media to comprehend is that the economic collapse was an intellectual failure. It followed from an unquestioning faith in an economic theory that was simply wrong. It produced an economic policy that was explicitly grounded on false assumptions. But the nostrums of this failed policy have been the unquestioned basis of our economic policy for thirty years. They were translated into political mantras that were endlessly chanted by our political and economic leaders. The notion that they led us into a disaster has not sunk in to the public mind, much less that of the media. The media find it safer to avoid the basic economic issue and treat it all as a matter of politics. We have yet to hear David Gregory on Meet the Press, or any of his colleagues, ask a Republican leader how their current policies differ from those of George W. Bush or why we should expect them to produce different results.
OK... this could be a little ray of sunshine. Probably little is the operative word, but little is better than none. The Senate will bring a jobs bill to the floor soon. The best news is that Byron Dorgan will co-write the bill. He's got nothing to lose by saying what he really thinks, having stepped back from seeking re-election.
The $174 billion House bill would provide some relief, but not the large program needed. One can hope the Senate can come somewhere near that, but it will doubtless be stuck short of a huge effort to end our rampant unemployment. Look for some way to make this bill into a deficit-neutral scenario instead of in-your-face help for the jobless.
I guess Brad DeLong's Friday night was pretty dull, but it's all to our benefit this morning. His "Ten Economics Pieces Worth Reading: January 9, 2010" is a helpful scan through our current situation, financial reform, the commercial real estate bubble, big bank breakup proposals, the economics of the New Deal, China's stability, deficit reduction, and a few other things.
Personally, I didn't read anything last night, but did watch Bill Moyers Journal, which featured David Corn and Kevin Drum on financial reform (and why we'll not get any real reform). They laid out the basic reasons why Congress does Wall Street's bidding: money, money, and money. It's pretty hard to argue with their analysis when one considers how complex financial reform tends to be and how easy it is for financial firms to evade restrictions with a word change here and there— and a contribution here, there, and everywhere.
As a personal aside, I'm fascinated by how Kevin Drum has transformed into a Washington journalist in the seven or so years since I started reading his Left Coast "Calpundit" blog — and has even started wearing suits and ties. I'm not sure the sartorial changes are for the best, but it's great to see his work on magazine covers and network television (PBS is network television, right?).
In anticipation of tonight's speech by the President on Afghanistan, I'd like to add a source that should be able to deliver informed context on the war there, Thomas Ricks. Ricks was the WaPo's military correspondent through last year and writes a daily blog, Best Defense, for Foreign Policy.
I'd also like to point readers to Here and Far , a blog I follow by two journalists, Molly Birbaum and Matt Mabe. It's relatively new to BBD's blogroll (see a post on it here). Matt also happens to be serving in Afghanistan these days. While I doubt readers will get much policy speculation from Matt while he's over there, his posts from Afghanistan and Molly's from back home are from folks we need to keep in mind when we think of the war, our people in the middle of it. Both as soldier and as a soldier's supporter, Matt and Molly bring intelligent, thoughtful, and humane perspectives to the war and its cost. They're also terrific writers, which doesn't hurt.
Two of my colleagues at the other place I post, Buck
are based in Florida, the home of the dimpled chad. For a decade, we’ve
all been cringing when we hear they have an election down there. Will
they elect another member of the Bush family, or someone like Kathleen Harris,
unable to discern the difference between serving the Bushes and performing her
responsibility to voters? Perhaps they’d send us another a moral-majority
type like Mark Foley, leading one (creepy) life for himself and espousing
another very conservative set of rules for the rest of us? Who would
Floridians send to Washington next?
Well, thanks to Damozel and Deb, I’ve noticed that
they’ve now served up a refreshing Florida surprise down there in Congressman
Alan Grayson, a freshman Democrat from the Orlando area. Perhaps the
Sunshine State has spawned some real cultural changes over the last decade— and
we may all be better off for it. While most of the country is still
sending timid negotiators or know-nothing naysayers to the floor of the
Congress, Florida has delivered us a legislator who wants to focus attention on
some basic realities about the battle for progressive change.
When confronted with a Republican chorus of “start
over,” “no government in my healthcare,” and “let’s not rush into change,”
Grayson decided after eight months in Washington to fight fire with fire.
He stood up in the well of the House and called Republicans on the content of
their healthcare plans… or rather the total lack of any plan in their
obstructionism. He described the Republican plan in three parts:
1- Don’t Get Sick
2- If You DO Get Sick…
3- …Die Quickly
Many media pundits quickly criticized Grayson for
incivility and several Republicans took him literally, demanding hilariously to
know when he had heard any of them actually asking particular people to
die. But, in truth, Grayson exposed the incredible double-standard that’s
been at play in the healthcare debate, in which the Right simply calls the
President names— and then twists reform into descriptions of ‘death panels’ and
a looming Big Brother, while Democrats (with a few notable exceptions) turn
around and defensively parry these outrageous statements with gentle
rejoinders, charts, and graphs. The effect of this dynamic is to make
healthcare reform look unpopular and ultimately doomed, despite continued
grassroots support for a public option and for real change.
One thing I’ve learned living in New York: when the
people you’re fighting with stop fighting fair, you better take off the gloves
too, or you’re gonna be lying in the gutter soon, wishing you had.
Grayson has spent the last week responding to calls about his
attention-grabbing parody by citing just how dangerous it is to do nothing
about our broken healthcare system. It’s actually fatal to 4,400 people
every year. That’s right, people die in this country all the time because
they have no insurance. If we’re planning on waiting till every
Republican is happy with a compromise plan, many more Americans will die for
lack of health insurance—and that’s simply unacceptable, Grayson says.
Until now, the healthcare debate has featured
passion on the Right and mostly compromise, vacillation, and gentle persuasion
by reform proponents. Congressman Grayson has just pointed out that in
order to make change, it might be necessary to some people go away mad, so the
rest of us can move forward and make a better America. It’s way past time
for us be disengaged while the reactionaries and talk radio celebrities grab
headlines with pitchforks, placards, and shouldered shotguns. If we want
change, we better realize, as Grayson has, that it’s not gonna come easy, or
gently, but only with resolve and a willingness to fight ignorance with truth—
UPDATE— In the same vein as the post above, Paul Krugman writes today (Monday) in the NYTimes about thenew position of the Republican Party:attack anything that might look like success for the other side, no matter what ideological inconsistency might be necessary.Scorched Earth.The new black.
Nicholas Beaudrot at Donkeylicious has put together a flow
chart, based on a visualization by Chris Hayes, that helps keep the basics of the public option in perspective for the 200+ million Americans whom it will not affect in the slightest.Many of these people will be the same
people who are shouting about it at Town Halls across the country.
These are heady times for political bloggers and
journalists.The President is
daily breaking new ground, yesterday a bankruptcy restructuring of Chrysler,
today a possible Supreme Court opening, tomorrow, who knows?The changes wrought by the economic meltdown
and by a more progressive approach to dealing with it are extraordinary and are
rippling throughout the country. There’s so much to write about, some that’s
exciting and much that’s quite disturbing— from the staggering unemployment and
residential dislocation across the country to the potential for disaster in
developing nations now facing an unprecedented falloff in capitalfrom abroad.
The problem, both for journalists and for bloggers, is
that we’re all being hit hard by the economic meltdown ourselves, making the
act of writing into a financial drain on those we support.For my own part, I’m responsible for
salaries and for keeping up on overhead for office and equipment at my
documentary production company.For many journalists, their means of plying their trade, the newspapers
of America, are failing at a record rate.The bailouts of financial companies and the restructuring of automakers,
while tremendous fodder for discussion, are not replicated in our world of the
art and media of political and social subjects.
During the Great Depression, the US government hired many
of the best writers, filmmakers, and photographers of the era to document the
impact of the economic slide on the people of the country.The memorable and publicly owned photographs
of Walker Evans and Gordon Parks and the prose of the Federal Writer’s Project
were but a bit of the product of these programs Franklin Roosevelt’s
administration promulgated to keep not just America’s blue collar workers on
the job, but also America’s most prized intellects and artists.
Might it not now be another moment in American history for
the government to infuse the art and trade of comment and image with a bit of
public investment?The addition of
some money for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment
for the Humanities— even some small bit of capital to disburse to the thousands
of journalists, media makers, writers, and artists whose contribution to
memorializing our nation’s response to crisis will help guide the way into the
future.Perhaps we should think of
it as a stimulus for those who always look to find a way to contribute their
insights and visions, but who need just a small bit of support to leverage our
talents with the nonprofit community and to wrest further support from
individuals.The imprimatur of the
national endowments was once an important gateway for other funders to look
towards when supporting projects and artists.
Over the last few decades of conservative, market-oriented
politics, the once proud seed investments the US made in our public endowments
for art and the humanities have barely survived.Filmmakers and artists, writers, and media makers have
endured, but have only done so by utilizing the increasingly inexpensive means
of producing work: small and affordable cameras, the internet to publish on,
and other innovative technological means.The courage of American artists and the innovations that make American
writers available to us are not a limitless panecea, however.Some financial support is necessary in
order to make this work available to the American people— and by doing so, to
help rejuvenate the public discussion that comes of a lively American scene of
art and comment.
haven’t got much more to say on this at the moment.I need to go put some more CDs for sale on eBay and
advertise my edit suite online.But think about it.Maybe
we should write to our Congresspeople and insist that they remember us, too,
when they address the flotsam and jetsam of the meltdown.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Minnesota
for the Al Franken campaign.Under
the Franken tree (it’s a secular family celebration— I know, I know, Hanukah is
still in the air, but hey, don’t mess with my semi-musical lede), there’s a
very big present and it looks a lot like a Senate seat.While the big box under the evergreen
ornaments probably won’t be unwrapped until after some extra special judicial
wrangling into January or February, the shape of the seat itself is
increasingly clear under all the wrapping.
The Minnesota Supremes have now ruled in Franken's favor over a Coleman challenge. Oh, there will be more challenges, I know— over
unallocated votes from some 1,600 absentee ballots which were left uncounted
due to clerical errors (everyone agrees these can only help Franken), and also a challenge over some 130-150 votes the Colemanites believe to have been
double-counted, due to machine malfunctions.There will likely be at least one more major court
challenge—after all this is done.It may even be up to the US Senate to finally decide the credentials of
its last remaining unseated member from the November 2008 polls.
But Franken is ahead at the end of the canvassing board
count, by 47 or 48 votes, depending on your source.It’s now more likely than it has been throughout the
incredibly close ballot counting and recounting that, in the battle to unseat
Norm Coleman, Al Franken will emerge victorious— and take back a Senate seat
that was once occupied by the upper chamber’s most progressive member, Paul
What makes this extra-holiday-special for the Minnesota
Farmer Labor type Democrats is that Franken can finally feel the likely
possibility of success after a grinding six-year mission to take back the
seat.Former comedian and then
political talk host Franken began to think about celebrating this moment back
in 2002, after focusing his outrage on the lies perpetrated in the scurrilous
Rove-inspired, wingnut talk-show spread, fact-lite, accusation-heavy hatchet
job done on his lifelong friends in the late Senator Wellstone’s family and
among the Senator’s close associates.
It was the ruthlessness in way that Rove & Co. abused
the untimely death of Wellstone in a plane crash before the 2002 election that
seemed to have motivated Franken to leave behind a successful comedy career for
a more political life.
For those who don’t remember the specifics, Paul
Wellstone, always a real fighter for the poor, the underrepresented, those in
need, for rank and file labor, and the victims of aggression or ignorance, died
very shortly before the 2002 elections when his campaign plane, blinded by bad
weather, went down in the cold Minnesota autumn.His wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia, and several other
campaign workers, as well as the two pilots, died with him in the crash.Soon thereafter, because of an enormous
outpouring of tribute and grief from grassroots supporters, his memorial
service was moved to the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena and featured
a long stream of friends, allies, and recipients of Wellstone’s seemingly
endless generosity, many of whom spoke in memory of the
The entire three-hour celebration of Wellstone’s life had
the air of a progressive revival meeting, with a mix of political and personal
reminiscences (personally, I watched it all on C-Span). At one point, during the ceremony, the
presence of Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on the jumbotron
engendered a smattering of boos in the audience.Lott and Governor Jesse Ventura walked out of the memorial
in protest—and soon thereafter was born a campaign out of Rush Limbaugh’s radio
show and the usual wingnut corners to fight against Democrats “using
Wellstone’s death” to political advantage.
The spectacle of right-wingers, most of whom hadn’t
attended Wellstone’s service, and who had never given Wellstone personal
respect during his lifetime, capitalizing on the bad manners of a few of the
grieving members of a 20,000-strong crowd in order to gin up anger against
Democrats and progressives in the 2002 Senatorial campaign pissed off Al Franken.Franken, who had been at the memorial
himself and who had not been able to discern any inappropriate ruckus at the
time, was moved to fight back against the right wing noise machine.
Franken began his serious activism as a writer, radio
host, and eventually as a Minnesota Senatorial candidate in the years
since.His first book, Lies and
the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, told the Wellstone memorial story from his point
of view and also began his personal campaign to unmask his opponent, Norm
Coleman, as a political opportunist. Franken sacrificed economic opportunity in
the entertainment business to take on the unglamorous struggle to bring reality
and balance to the spin of American politics.Franken became the most popular of many citizen journalists
during the Bush era who waded into the maelstrom of post-9/11 reactionary fervor and
spoke truth to the powers that be.
Franken’s work since 2002 embodies the spirit of citizen
activism: to fight for the underrepresented in an period when the power of big
media and big corporate power ran relatively untrammeled.His work as the only big ticket on the
upstart Air America radio and as a progressive voice who challenged, by name
(Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh), many of the right-wing talk giants and their
concocted campaigns against individuals and groups because of religion or a
willingness to speak out was invaluable as an example.Franken gave a platform to many writers
from the blogosphere on his show before it became de rigeur to quote bloggers.
short, Franken became a real mensch in the progressive world.That he might now become a real thorn
in the side of the powerful in the Senate is welcome news indeed.Merry Chistmas!