Friday, March 26, 2010

Mopping Up Health Care

It's hard to blog on public policy right now, as there's a sort of news vacuum caused by the absence of health care (the House passed the slightly revised reconciliation bill a few hours ago). Now the networks are finally explaining what's in the bill, and anyone who watched Diane Sawyer the other night on ABC must be wondering what all the fuss was about-- everything she described sounded so, well, reasonable.

A few final memories: John Boehner saying that although people were angry at the Democrats and felt they weren't being listened to, violence is bad; a youngish protester in front of the Capitol saying that Obama wanted to take his private property, and he was not OK with that (can anyone even tell me what he's referring to?); the spectacle of someone who nearly sank the bill over his opposition to abortion being called a "baby-killer" (oh, sorry, the words "This bill is a..." didn't come through clearly, like the "a" in Neil Armstrong's "One small step for a man...").

Update: Well, it's getting less amusing. Rep. Stupak, the "baby-killer" mentioned above, has become one of the main foci of hatred. What is the world coming to when this guy is a hero? I guess it proves once again that no putatively good deed goes unpunished: If he had not made himself so prominent demanding changes to the abortion language in the House bill, if he had said that the Senate language was good enough for him, as it was for a zillion nuns and Catholic hospitals, people would be paying no more attention to him than to Rep. Himes (who?). Now the crazies feel like jilted lovers. For tape of some the comments made on his voicemail, go here. Interesting to note what is bleepworthy and what isn't at CBS. One of the words that comes out as a long bleep at CBS I heard elsewhere as "mother[bleep]". Also note "ass," in the fully anatomical sense, but "son of a [bleep]."

What is most discouraging about all this is the tepid, blaming-the-victim response of Republicans. I guess the new meta-theme of this blog will be our dysfunctional politics and what can be done about it. More soon. In the meantime, here's an e-mail I sent to Newt Gingrich, which I'm sure will solve the problem:

Dear Mr. Gingrich:
I always thought you had some personal integrity, so I am shocked and disappointed by your recent comments saying the Democrats are partly to blame for the threats and violence against them, and comparing them to remarks against Bush and Cheney. If someone said to you, "I hope you bleed out the ass and die," (as someone did to, of all people, Rep. Stupak), would you say, "Well, I was asking for that"? I don't think you would, nor should you. I think you have betrayed your responsibility as a political leader because you want the votes of the lunatic fringe. It doesn't seem to me hard to say, "We're all Americans, and we need to respect political opinions we disagree with." But evidently it's too hard for you. Shame on you.
  Howard Frant

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fairness to Republicans

It's been hard to find anything to defend about Republicans' role in the health care debate, what with "death panels," "government takeover" of health care, "socialized medicine," and general deceit. I am therefore pleased to be able to explain that the attack on vote-switching Florida Representative Suzanne Kosmas as a "space cadet" is less bizarrely personal than it appears. Her district includes the Kennedy Space Center, and she is a strong backer of manned space flight. Her constituents may even consider the term a compliment, though I doubt the Republicans intended it that way.

On the other hand, what's with The Last True Conservative, David Brooks? Last night on PBS, he was kvetching about the (pardon the expression) aborted Democratic plan to "deem" the Senate bill passed once the House passed a reconciliation bill. I can't for the life of me see any principle this violates; just the opposite. Why should House Democrats have to go on record as voting for a bill (the Senate bill) they don't like and don't intend to take effect, just to get around Republican obstructionism?  But Brooks is at least consistent on obstructionism: he's against attempts to restrict use of the filibuster. He appears to believe, erroneously, that it is either a Constitutional or a traditional part of legislating in the Senate. Not so; despite what you may have heard, the founders did not consider governmental paralysis a good thing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strict Construction

I just watched a video clip of Obama's now-famous remarks about the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address. Contrary to the claims of Chief Justice Roberts, I could detect neither "cheering" nor "hollering" in the reaction of Congress. Of course, he was there, but the trauma of this terrifying experience may have led his memory to embroider a bit. No pundit seems to have commented on this. I agree that hollering, along with turning cartwheels and firing guns in the air, are inappropriate for that venue.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What the Green Is Wearing

Proving that South Carolina is not the only source of unreconstructed silliness, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina has proposed taking Grant off the $50 bill and putting Reagan on. This idea has provoked a certain amount of hilarity, with suggestions including putting Reagan on a credit card. My own suggestion is to symbolize budget deficits by putting him on money with a hole in it. This might not be practical for bills, but the Chinese used to do it with coins, right?

To say the least, one can find more worthy candidates. James Madison, not only a dead president but America's greatest theorist of democracy, hasn't been on currency since we stopped making the $5,000 bill. Does anyone really want to argue that Reagan is greater than Madison? (McHenry finesses this problem by arguing that every generation needs its own heroes, meaning, I think, that he doesn't have any idea who those other guys were.) Or what about Republican maverick Theodore Roosevelt? Too controversial among Republicans; Tea Partiers view the presidency of TR, not FDR, as the beginning of the end of American liberty.

Some of the people on U.S. currency were not presidents at all, of course, notably Hamilton and Franklin. One could argue that Grant is there not as a president but as the other man who saved the Union. This is apparently still not a greatly honored achievement in North Carolina, though no one has yet suggested dumping Lincoln.

For that matter, why only politicians? Before the euro, the French franc had pictures of Saint-Exupery, Matisse, Eiffel and the Curies. Belgium had Magritte-- how cool is that? What's wrong with the idea of U.S. currency with pictures of Edison, Einstein, Mark Twain, Hemingway, Scott Joplin, Martha Graham?

This would have, I think, a small but useful effect on the American psyche, conveying the idea that the greatness of a nation is embodied not just in its statecraft but in its science, technology, and art. On the other hand, I'd be happy if people just knew a little about Hamilton and Madison. Not to mention Washington and Lincoln, those twin fathers of the February sale.