Netroots, President Obama, and the Democrats – a sad rocky relationship

This weekend had the annual Netroots Nation meeting in Las Vegas. I wasn’t able to attend in person but some of the programs were streamed on the Internet and I did watch some of the keynote speakers. While I do agree with the direction the Netroots take, I was disappointed in the speech by President Obama and appearance by Senator Harry Reid.

President Obama gave a surprise speech by video to the gathering. He again pointed out the legislative accomplishments and then acknowledge the rocky relationship the left has with him. He told the gathered people to hold him accountable.

The President, suffering among this crowd for not being as progressive as they’d hoped, said that he wants the Netroots to “keep making your voices heard, to keep holding me accountable, to keep up the fight.”

Obama said “change is hard … change is possible,” and ended with, “let’s finish what we’ve started.”

Obama In Surprise Message To Netroots: ‘Consider What We’ve Accomplished’ (VIDEO)

That bothered me because we have been trying to hold him accountable and he has blown us off or worse got his attack dogs like Rahm Emanuel to tell us pretty much to f*ck off.

So which is it. Does he want us to hold him accountable or to f*ck off.

I feel like I’m in a scene from a bad buddy cop movie and the President is playing “Good Cop” and his staff is playing “Bad Cop”. UGH!

The pundits have been complaining the President hasn’t been out banging the pots and pans about his agenda being passed and I think I know why. I think they know the bills – like Health Care reform (HCR) and financial reform – don’t mean anything to regular people outside of DC. HCR won’t really take effect until 2013 (one of the compromises that watered the bill down) and the financial reform didn’t punish the bankers that screwed our economy. You would think that any “victory” would have a ticker tape parade with a band and party favors but nope.

It’s as if the administration wasn’t surprised at getting limpy bills passed.

Then we come to Senator Harry Reid. I really wish he had been challenged and lost his primary because as Senate Leader he has been as effective as a wet sponge. He leads by using the 60 vote threshold even though the Democrats don’t have 60 votes. This makes him kiss the asses of the Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson) and allowing the Republicans to pocket filibuster bills and appointments they don’t like.

It seemed that the Netroots crowd treated him like a rock star.

The most cringe worthy moment came when Donald Choi gave Reid his West Point ring as a reminder of the bad “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy. Reid promised to keep the ring until the policy is removed. Someone should tell Choi not to expect his ring back because you won’t get 60 votes in the Senate to pass any bill removing DADT in 2010 or ever in the near future.

The repeal passed the House and is now pending in the Senate. Lawmakers hope to attach it to the Defense Authorization measure likely to be debated this fall, but in an election year where control of Congress is at stake, it’s unclear if the measure will make it.

Discharged Dan Choi To Harry Reid: ‘It’s Not About Me Anymore’ (VIDEO)

That’s what’s so sad. The Democrats pissed away their power these past two years. They had such great potential.

I am also mad because I have no alternative. I will have to hold my nose and keep these losers in office because the alternative – the GOP – is much worse. And the White House knows it.

All I can do is only support real Democrats who want to fight for what is right and don’t give a crap about the Republicans or Corporate America.


Big business is NOT our friend

I have been watching the events surrounding the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it reaffirms my philosophy that Big Business is NOT our friend.

I’m not a Marxist or advocate state ownership of business but I do feel that industry needs to be heavily regulated. Big businesses, left to their own devices, will screw us over in some form if we aren’t watching them like a hawk. The corporation only answers to their owners and shareholders. With some rare exceptions, benevolence from big business only exists if it doesn’t cost them very much money and if they benefit from it.

History is full of the damage and chaos when big business is left to run amok. The big example is the Crash of 1929. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 89 percent of its value by 1932 and put us into a depression that didn’t subside until the start of World War II. That was 12 years of massive unemployment and suffering.

We had the robber barons of the 19th century which included John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor and Andrew Carnegie. These guys were the Goldman Sachs and AIG of their day. Men like that were known for extensive use of child labor, deadly working conditions and strong arm tactics if workers complained.

Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” that exposed conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry and led to the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Now we seem to be returning to those days when you didn’t know if your food or medicine was safe. The food industry have worked for years to reduce the regulations in place.

More recent follies included the Savings and Loan crash in the 1980s and there was Black Monday in October 1987 when the stock market dropped 500 points or 22.6 percent of value. We’re still experiencing the damage from the crash in 2008 and the collapse of the housing loan market.

The BP oil spill isn’t the first or last example of big business raping our environment in the name of profits. Google “superfund” and you will find a lot of information on trashed environments that taxpayers paid to have cleaned up — places like Love Canal, Times Beach and smaller locations like old factories that found it was cheaper to dump their hazardous wastes on their property than to have it properly disposed.

The problem with “big business” is shown in little ways as well. Grocery chains don’t locate in low income areas so those people are forced to pay more for their food. Money and favorable policies meant to help family farms end up going to agriculture conglomerates like ConAgra. Wal-mart treats their employees so bad that many have to apply for food stamps and welfare to make ends meet.

What bothers me the most is most people let these things happen or look the other way. One reaction is that they would rather have a cheaper price than a company that acts ethically and responsibly. Big business isn’t the driver of the economy. The engine of our economy is small businesses— the mom and pop locally owned shops and services. Big business’ charity work comes from their advertising budget and most of their profit leaves the area and contributes nothing where they operate.

An obstacle to stopping this screw over is the government. Legislators in D.C. or in the states are bought and paid for by big bushiness in some way. Both Democrats and Republicans. If we want to return our country to the people we need to only vote for people who will refuse to be bought.

Unless that happens, things like the BP oil spill will continue.

*This article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of The Central Ohio Humanist*

Politicians should stop sucking Corporate nards

John Harwood of NBC gave a quote from anonymous White House source that was disparaging toward progressive bloggers. Those bloggers have been giving the current administration heat for some of their actions and policies that were opposite of what was promised during the 2008 campaign. My response to that quote is in the title of this post.

Progressive bloggers were in an uproar Sunday night after a White House “adviser,” speaking on condition of anonymity, urged them to “take off their pajamas” and get serious about politics.

NBC White House correspondent John Harwood relayed the quote during a segment he shot for Nightly News following a massive gay rights rally in Washington.

Bloggers Furious At White House For Anonymous Ridicule

Why progressives and every one should be fighting for the real Public Option

Last weekend, progressives got in an uproar over what appeared to be an attempt by the Obama administration to chuck the Public Option from the current health care reform plans. What I finally figured out is that Obama and the White House cut deals with the health care lobbies (hospitals, insurance, drug makers, and doctors) which caused them to change their idea of what “Public Option” was meant to be. It went from a separate, Medicare like, plan to one that would have subsidies given to private plan providers and no chance at negotiation on pricing. It would be just like the corporate welfare given to the pharmacy industry under the Medicare Part D plan passed during the Bush administration.

Over the weekend, President Obama referred to the public option as a “sliver” of health care reform, and Sebelius said the public option wasn’t essential reform’s success. Though the White House’s core position hasn’t changed, the intensity with which it supports the public option has varied over the last several weeks, and this weekend’s remarks were the first indication that the administration doesn’t even regard the public option as particularly crucial.

White House Strongly Denies It’s Given Up On The Public Option 

What I found out and why I liked the plan in the first place, was during the campaign, Senator Obama promised a separate public insurance plan that people could sign up for.

Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees; (2) create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses that want to purchase private health insurance directly; (3) require all employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan ; (4) mandate all children have health care coverage; (5) expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs; and (6) allow flexibility for state health reform plans.

(1) OBAMA’S PLAN TO COVER THE UNINSURED. Obama will make available a new national health plan which will give individuals the choice to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to federal employees. The new public plan will be open to individuals without access to group coverage through their workplace or current public programs. It will also be available to people who are self-employed and small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees.

Barack Obama’s Plan for a Healthy America

Basically the public option was a separate plan – similar to Medicare – where the Feds would make the rules and pay the bills. The only difference was that since it wasn’t Medicare one would need to pay a premium based on income.

Now today it seems the public option has been merged into the Insurance Exchange as one of many choices. The difference seems to be that it would be through a private insurance provider with the government paying them to provide the plan and you paying a premium based on income.

If that sounds familiar it is because it is the same model used when the pharmacy plan known as Medicare Part D was during the Bush administration. Insurance plans were given money to provide the plan, members paid for their drugs and a monthly premium. The other features included deductibles, a doughnut hole (where members had to pay 100% of the cost of their meds), and Medicare not being allowed to negotiate drug prices.

It seems like others see the same thing. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake wrote:

The PhRMA deal on July 8 says that there won’t be any drug price controls, and the next day, Blue Dogs Heath Shuler and Debbie Halvorson author a letter demanding — no drug price controls

The American Hospitals Association deal was signed on July 8. The hospitals want higher medicare reimbursement rates for rural providers. On July 15, the Blue Dogs threaten to block health care reform — if it doesn’t increase reimbursement rates to rural providers.

And suddenly, the hospitals are spending $12 million running positive ads about health care reform with PhRMA and the AMA.

Mike Allen said earlier this week that “this weekend’s comments by White House officials simply acknowledged the long-obvious reality that the idea of a government-run insurance plan was partly a bargaining chip.”

The White House never cared about getting Republican votes — it cared about keeping the Republicans from peeling off the dollars of stakeholders like PhRMA. Giving in to “Republican” demands was cover for writing shitty things into the bill that would keep the stakeholders happy. They didn’t need Republican votes, they never did, and they never truly cared. As long as the money stayed out of their campaign coffers, it was all good. 

The Baucus Caucus: PhRMA, Insurance, Hospitals and Rahm

So basically the reason why President Obama and the White House were shocked about the back lash is because Progressives, including myself, are expecting the original plan – a public plan that is a new and separate plan similar to Medicare. We don’t want an industry sell out that ends up lining the pockets of CEOs and screwing over members like the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D.