Monday, November 30, 2009

Open Letter to the President from Michael Moore

Dear President Obama,

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true -- that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).
So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea -- "Let's invade Afghanistan!" Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There's a reason they don't call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan's nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don't believe it, give the British a call. I'd have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev's number though. It's + 41 22 789 1662. I'm sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you're about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line -- and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn't have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush's Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you're doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you've said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone -- and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!"

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can't take it anymore. We can't take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don't you understand?

Don't be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn't be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can't change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can't be won over by abandoning the rest of us.
President Obama, it's time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don't need health care, we don't need jobs, we don't need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, 'cause we don't need them, either."

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that's what they'd do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish -- the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn't expect miracles. We didn't even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn't even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God's sake, stop.
Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON'T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother's son.

We're counting on you.

Michael Moore

P.S. There's still time to have your voice heard. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the President.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Bill Moyers Journal

Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall, photo by Robin Holland
Watch Video
Read Transcript
November 27, 2009

Dr. Jane Goodall is a familiar face to several generations around the globe. The young woman patiently seated near wild chimps in Africa first appeared in the pages of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC in the early 1960s. Her work with the chimps of Gombe National Park has been profiled in magazines, books, films and television documentaries numerous times in subsequent years. She is an inspiration to those generations who take her warnings about the state of the earth to heart:
I mean, isn't it great that high school students in some inner city area will greet me as I walk in, as though I were a pop star. That is so amazing. Because all that they've got out of what I've done is a message of hope. And the fact that our main message is "You make a difference every day. You matter. Your life is important."
Dr. Goodall now travels the world raising awareness about the dire situation facing the natural world — and many of its species. Her mission includes programs for communities in Africa to protect forests, create sustainable livelihoods and support health and education. The Jane Goodall Institute runs a global program to create a new generation of conservationists called Roots & Shoots.

>More about Roots & Shoots.

The Sand Hill Cranes

Jane Goodall found a heroic conservation story far from the Tanzanian forests — the plains of Nebraska.Jane the Crane There she participated in George Archibald's crane migration program. Archibald, founder of the International Crane Foundation, is credited with raising the population of 66 Whooping Cranes left in the wild to more than 350. His techniques include rearing cranes in human care, having human handlers wear crane costumes to avoid human imprinting and using ultra-light aircraft to lead cranes on migration flights. You can find out more from Operation Migration's journeys here.

>More about the battle to save endangered and threatened species.

>More about Jane Goodall's heroes.


Jane Goodall began her landmark study of chimpanzees in Tanzania in June 1960, under the mentorship of anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Her work at what was then called the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve would become the foundation of primatological research and redefine the relationship between humans and animals.Photo by Michael Neugebauer

One of Jane's most significant discoveries came in her first year at Gombe, when she saw chimps stripping leaves off stems to make the stems useful for fishing termites out of nearby mounds. This and subsequent observations of Gombe chimps making and using tools would force science to rethink the definition that separated man from other animals: "man the toolmaker." Jane also observed chimps hunting and eating bushpigs and other animals, disproving the widely held belief that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians.

Dr. Goodall defied scientific convention by giving the chimpanzees names instead of numbers and insisted on the validity of her observations that the chimps had distinct personalities, minds and emotions. She wrote of lasting chimpanzee family bonds. Through the years her work yielded surprising insights such as the discovery that chimps engage in a primitive kind of warfare.

Dr. Goodall established the Gombe Stream Research Center in 1965. Under the stewardship of Tanzanian field staff and other researchers, it continues Dr. Goodall's work today, making it one of the longest uninterrupted wildlife studies in existence.

In 1977, Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), which supports the Gombe work and other research, education and conservation and development programs. These include community-centered conservation efforts in Africa which provide local people with tools to build sustainable livelihoods while promoting regional conservation goals such as reforestation and an end to the illegal commercial bushmeat trade. JGI's Roots & Shoots program, which supports students from preschool through university in projects that benefit people, animals and the environment, today hosts about 8,000 groups in 96 countries.

Dr. Goodall travels an average 300 days per year, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, other environmental crises, and her reasons for hope that humankind will solve the problems it has imposed on the earth. She continually urges her audiences to recognize their personal responsibility and ability to effect change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism. Dr. Goodall's scores of honors include the Medal of Tanzania, the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, Japan's prestigious Kyoto Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 2003, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. In April 2002 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Dr. Goodall to serve as a United Nations "Messenger of Peace." In 2004, Prince Charles invested Dr. Goodall as a Dame of the British Empire, the female equivalent of knighthood. In 2006, Dr. Goodall received the and the French Legion of Honor, presented by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, as well as the UNESCO Gold Medal.

Dr. Goodall's list of publications is extensive, including two overviews of her work at Gombe - IN THE SHADOW OF MAN AND THROUGH A WINDOW - as well as two autobiographies in letters, the best-selling autobiography REASON FOR HOPE and many children's books. Her latest book is HOPE FOR ANIMALS AND THEIR WORLD: HOW ENDANGERED SPECIES ARE BEING RESCUED FROM THE BRINK. THE CHIMPANZEES OF GOMBE: PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR is recognized as the definitive work on chimpanzees and is the culmination of Jane Goodall's scientific career. Dr. Goodall has been the subject of numerous television documentaries and the film, JANE GOODALL'S WILD CHIMPANZEES (2002). In 2004, she was featured in two Discovery Channel Animal Planet specials-JANE GOODALL'S RETURN TO GOMBE and JANE GOODALL'S STATE OF THE GREAT APE.

Photo of Dr. Goodall in Gombe by Michael Neugebauer

Photo of Dr. Goodall at Crane Migration: Operation Migration

Saturday, November 28, 2009

From The New York Times:

Published: November 26, 2009

Should we use taxes to deter financial speculation? Yes, say top British officials, who oversee the City of London, one of the world’s two great banking centers. Other European governments agree — and they’re right.

Unfortunately, United States officials — especially Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary — are dead set against the proposal. Let’s hope they reconsider: a financial transactions tax is an idea whose time has come.

The dispute began back in August, when Adair Turner, Britain’s top financial regulator, called for a tax on financial transactions as a way to discourage “socially useless” activities. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, picked up on his proposal, which he presented at the Group of 20 meeting of leading economies this month.

Why is this a good idea? The Turner-Brown proposal is a modern version of an idea originally floated in 1972 by the late James Tobin, the Nobel-winning Yale economist. Tobin argued that currency speculation — money moving internationally to bet on fluctuations in exchange rates — was having a disruptive effect on the world economy. To reduce these disruptions, he called for a small tax on every exchange of currencies.

Such a tax would be a trivial expense for people engaged in foreign trade or long-term investment; but it would be a major disincentive for people trying to make a fast buck (or euro, or yen) by outguessing the markets over the course of a few days or weeks. It would, as Tobin said, “throw some sand in the well-greased wheels” of speculation.

Tobin’s idea went nowhere at the time. Later, much to his dismay, it became a favorite hobbyhorse of the anti-globalization left. But the Turner-Brown proposal, which would apply a “Tobin tax” to all financial transactions — not just those involving foreign currency — is very much in Tobin’s spirit. It would be a trivial expense for long-term investors, but it would deter much of the churning that now takes place in our hyperactive financial markets.

This would be a bad thing if financial hyperactivity were productive. But after the debacle of the past two years, there’s broad agreement — I’m tempted to say, agreement on the part of almost everyone not on the financial industry’s payroll — with Mr. Turner’s assertion that a lot of what Wall Street and the City do is “socially useless.” And a transactions tax could generate substantial revenue, helping alleviate fears about government deficits. What’s not to like?

The main argument made by opponents of a financial transactions tax is that it would be unworkable, because traders would find ways to avoid it. Some also argue that it wouldn’t do anything to deter the socially damaging behavior that caused our current crisis. But neither claim stands up to scrutiny.

On the claim that financial transactions can’t be taxed: modern trading is a highly centralized affair. Take, for example, Tobin’s original proposal to tax foreign exchange trades. How can you do this, when currency traders are located all over the world? The answer is, while traders are all over the place, a majority of their transactions are settled — i.e., payment is made — at a single London-based institution. This centralization keeps the cost of transactions low, which is what makes the huge volume of wheeling and dealing possible. It also, however, makes these transactions relatively easy to identify and tax.

What about the claim that a financial transactions tax doesn’t address the real problem? It’s true that a transactions tax wouldn’t have stopped lenders from making bad loans, or gullible investors from buying toxic waste backed by those loans. But, bad investments aren’t the whole story of the crisis. What turned those bad investments into catastrophe was the financial system’s excessive reliance on short-term money.

As Gary Gorton and Andrew Metrick of Yale have shown, by 2007 the United States banking system had become crucially dependent on “repo” transactions, in which financial institutions sell assets to investors while promising to buy them back after a short period — often a single day. Losses in subprime and other assets triggered a banking crisis because they undermined this system — there was a “run on repo.”

And a financial transactions tax, by discouraging reliance on ultra-short-run financing, would have made such a run much less likely. So contrary to what the skeptics say, such a tax would have helped prevent the current crisis — and could help us avoid a future replay.

Would a Tobin tax solve all our problems? Of course not. But it could be part of the process of shrinking our bloated financial sector. On this, as on other issues, the Obama administration needs to free its mind from Wall Street’s thrall.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Simple Solution to the Health Care Crisis

Medicare for All

When it comes to reforming America’s disastrous health care “system,” there are two issues that need to be considered: access and cost.
The so-called reform proposals being offered by the Obama White House, the House and the Senate, are failing on both counts, and deserve to die. No progressives should allow themselves to be suckered into promoting one or the other.
Here’s the problem. As long as the health insurance industry is permitted to be the primary paymaster, the cost of medical care will continue to soar, not least because the insurance industry is so concerned about minimizing its own outlays that it is forcing the system to devote nearly 30% of every health care dollar spent to administrative costs (compared to 3-4 percent for Medicare, and even less for single-payer systems like Canada’s), and because all the profit-motivated players in this game cheat and need to be monitored. That’s true whether there is a so-called “public option” government-run health insurance plan or not. Note that 30 percent of America’s $2.5-trillion health care bill per year is $750 billion a year, a sum which does absolutely nothing to make even one single person more healthy or less ill. Even if one were to assume that the lion’s share of those administrative expenses were only for the private-funded portion of America’s health care system, and for Medicare, the state-run but partly federally-funded portion that is famous for its paperwork mess, and the uninsured, who also consume a lot of paperwork when they do get treated at hospitals under mandated free-care provisions of at the expense of local governments, we’d be talking about 30% of $1.5 trillion, or about $450 billion going to administrative costs every year—still a staggering sum to be totally wasted in terms of patient care.
Medicare, the health program for the elderly and the disabled, and Medicaid, the federally and state-funded program that funds medical care for the poor, together cost some $850 billion a year. Add to that the $150 billion that hospitals and local governments spend annually to cover the uninsured poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid, and the $50 billion the federal government spends for veterans’ care. That’s just over $1 trillion in government spending to cover the health care of roughly half the population of the United States.

The rest of us—working people and our families—rely on private insurance, some of it paid for by employers, some by us, either as our share of the cost of company plans (growing every year), or as the deductible and co-pay portions of our medical bills. That privately- funded medical care costs us about $1.5 trillion a year—50% more than the government spends on the medical care for a roughly equal number of people. If you do the math, it turns out that we who rely on the private sector are spending about $10,000 per person per year on health care, either directly out of our own pockets, in the form of money our employers are paying into insurance plans for us—money that could otherwise be coming to us in the form of higher wages or lower-priced goods, or in taxes to cover the cost of treating the poor or uninsured.

What this means is that right off the bat, if the politicians in Washington were to simply thumb their noses at the insurance industry, and at the greedy docs and drug companies who are paying millions in legal bribes to protect their stake in the lucrative medical marketplace, and if they were to extended Medicare to all of us, we could immediately eliminate $500 billion from the nation’s collective medical bill, because that’s how much more cheaply Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are able to treat patients than the private sector. But the savings would be far more than that.

The cost of treating the uninsured--$150 billion a year—would be dramatically reduced, because it is currently almost entirely paying for emergency care at hospitals, the most expensive possible way to deliver medical care. My guess is that at least $100 billion would be saved simply by switching all those people over to Medicare, so they could walk into a doctor’s office for treatment instead of into an ER. The VA, with its separate government-owned and hugely bureaucratic hospital system, would become largely redundant if all veterans were simply treatable under Medicare, which would probably save a considerable portion of that $50 billion-per-year expense. Furthermore, by switching private-pay patients over to Medicare, most of the at least $450 billion a year currently wasted on administrative costs would be eliminated—a savings of perhaps $3-400 billion a year. While some of that would reflect the cost differential between privately-financed and Medicare-financed care, most is not. The main reason Medicare’s per-patient cost for care is much lower than for private-pay patients (who, remember, are younger and healthier on average than Medicare patients, and so should be cheaper to treat, not more expensive), is that Medicare sets out payment schedules for doctors and hospitals, and negotiates payments for medicines—all at much lower levels than do private insurers, who often just set reimbursement rates, and let their insured patients cover the difference out-of-pocket...or out of home equity loan.

Taking all these savings together, it’s a good guess, I would say, that by simply expanding Medicare to cover all Americans without exception, the nation as a whole could save upwards of $900 billion on its current $2.5 trillion annual medical bill.

Now that’s not to say such a change wouldn’t involve a tax increase. The current publicly-funded share of that $2.5 trillion bill is about $1 trillion, when you add together federal, state and local outlays, all funded by the taxpayer. An expanded Medicare that covered everyone would, by my reckoning, cost about $1.4 trillion, once all the costs were added, and the savings implemented, including lowered payments to doctors, hospitals and drug companies. So we’d have to cover an extra $400 billion a year through tax increases.

But before you tax-rebels freak out, remember: there would be no more local revenues going to pay for uninsured care at local hospitals, no more state taxes going to pay for Medicaid for medical care for the poor, no more out-of-pocket payments by families for co-pays and deductibles and non-covered out-of-pocket charges, or for the every-growing employee share of insurance premiums. And companies would no longer be paying anything for employee health insurance. The net gain to the average person, and to the employer, would be enormous.

That’s the point that the medical industry lobby conveniently ignores. It’s a point also conveniently ignored by the politicians that those lobbiests have bought in Washington and the White House, who only talk about the increased taxes that a single-payer government takeover of health care finance would entail, not about the savings.

And, to get back to the beginning of this article, there would no longer be the shameful situation of Americans going without access to medical care. Everyone would be on Medicare. And not one of the costly “reform” proposals being pushed through Congress today can boast that. Every proposed “reform” plan leaves tens of millions uninsured (which of course means they're on the public dime when they finally get sick enough to be hospitalized).

Note too that, under basic Medicare (as long as you don’t get suckered into one of those HMO privatization rip-offs like Humana and other insurance firms advertise), everyone gets to choose his or her own doctor and hospital. There is no gatekeeper system—another fake bugaboo raised by the health industry lobbyists.

With a universalization of Medicare, at one fell swoop, America would have a single-payer system—one that its elderly citizens already have, and by all accounts are very satisfied with—and one that would be substantially cheaper than what we have now.

For everyone (and I would say that every member of Congress should, as in Sweden's or Norway's parliament, have to get by on that same Medicare program, which would help assure its adequate funding and level of service into the future!).

Socialized medicine? Maybe, but it’s a socialism we already know. Call it “socialism with American characteristics,” if you like. Or to crib from a comment President Obama made to the fat cat docs at the American Medical Assn. convention recently, it’s a socialism that is “part of the American tradition.”

So, want to have some fun? Tell your congressional delegation to demand that the Congressional Budget Office, which just came up with an estimate that the Senate’s health “reform” bill would add $1.6 trillion in costs over 10 years, do a study of what expanding Medicare to all would cost, after netting out the savings to individuals and employers of having their insurance payments and out-of-pocket health expenses eliminated. And then tell them to support Michigan Congressman Rep. John Conyers' single-payer bill, HR 676, which would extend Medicare to one and all.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-area journalist. Author of “Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital Chains” (Bantam Books, 1992), his latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From Huffington Post:

The animals rights group PETA is known for its shock tactics and pushing the envelope with its ads. Past ads that networks refused to air include the "veggie sex" ad slated to run during the Superbowl, and Pamela Anderson's stripping airport cop video. This ad, however, doesn't use sex or naked people to make people squirm.
According to PETA's blog:
When we first submitted our newest commercial to NBC in the hopes of running it during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the station asked us to give more information about the cruelty behind turkey slaughter to back up the statements made in the ad. But even after we sent the network this New York Times article chronicling the grisly facts about turkey factory farming, it nixed the ad, claiming that "this commercial does not meet NBC Universal standards."


'Grace': PETA's Thanksgiving ad

Quick Poll

What do you think of PETA's latest Ad?

It certainly gets the point across. Well done!

This is a little graphic for the Thanksgiving Day parade. NBC was right to not air.

Glad they aren't using naked women to make their point.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Peddlers of Deception
by Jack Reeves

I despise the peddlers of deception
Who could say “to die is gain”
And cloak tragedy with delusion.

They call death “Friend”--
“A festival on the road to freedom”--
Confounding truth with lies.

Understanding neither life nor death,
These squalid panderers compromise with
The Enemy
And seat death at life’s right hand.

At death let no one console me
With pious absurdities
About someone dying in my stead,
Or disregard my dread with the empty myth:
“The best of all, God is with us.”

Have I the strength,
With clutched fist
I will curse that one,
And his friend, my enemy,
Who since inception has
Stalked my life!

My life’s deep pain
Is that each moment
Is born poisoned.
Each day I live
In my shroud;
At night, my bed a coffin.

I laugh at my own madness and
Hope that by embracing death
I shall bar its defeat in life.
“Plaudite, amici, comoedia finita est!”*

* Beethoven's last words
   ("Applaud, friends, the joke is over!")

Palin Supporters: Enthusiasm Informed by Ignorance

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the Daily Show:

"Socialism for the Rich and Capitalism for the Poor"

Referring to the hundreds of billions of government dollars that have been spent to keep banks from failing, Vice-president Biden quotes his grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan: "It's socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor."

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From The Washington Post

Time For Some Palintology

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I saw the other day that George W. Bush is raising money for his proposed policy institute at Southern Methodist University. I did some research and found out that there are something like 3,000 policy institutes, most of them hosting convocations about nothing much and issuing papers no one reads. I suggest therefore that Bush use his money to do something truly different and constructive -- establish the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin. My check is in the mail.

This is Palin Week -- days of interviews relating to the publication of her book, "Going Rogue." She will appear virtually everywhere, making her usual good impression, and there will be more talk about how she might run for president. Someone will point out that she is even scheduled soon to go to Iowa -- and you know what that means.

On the other hand, someone else will point out that the very week Palin is promoting her book, the current president is abroad attending meetings in Asia, including a visit with our Chinese bankers. Could those who fault Barack Obama for being callow and inexperienced imagine Palin meeting with the Chinese or, for that matter, conducting a protracted policy review about Afghanistan? As for Pakistan, South Korea, North Korea, the Middle East and, of course, the perplexing Georgian-Abkhazian conflict -- I don't think she is quite up to it all, some of those nations not being close to Alaska.

And this being the case, the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin should look into how she was chosen by John McCain as his vice presidential running mate -- and why McCain, given absolute proof of abominable judgment and the sort of sorry political opportunism he built a career decrying, has not repaired to a monastery and taken a vow of absolute silence because almost anything he has to say post-Palin has to be judged by his choice of her.

A further area of study ought to deal with the mind-set of McCain's former campaign aides who continue to criticize Palin for not turning out to be the mute puppet they had so hoped she would be. That she went rogue I have no doubt -- but this was only after they went stupid and helped pick her in the first place. They live in political ignominy for not resigning from the campaign when it counted.

The Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin might conclude that she represents the exact moment important Republicans gave up on democracy. She was clearly seen as an empty vessel who could be controlled by her intellectual betters. These include the editorial boards of the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal, neither of which would hire Palin to make an editorial judgment but both of which would be thrilled to see her as president of the United States. It does not bother these people in the least that the woman is a demagogue -- remember "death panels"? -- and not, on the face of it, very responsible. If she quit as governor of Alaska in the noble pursuit of money, might she quit as, say, vice president or president for the same reason? From what I hear, one can never be too rich.

I suppose, too, that the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin would issue oodles of papers on our celebrity age and how she, after all, is just another one. Like most celebrities, she is a vehicle for the sale of something: a book, a magazine, a TV program or a diet regime. This is essential, for we are a vast country without much industry and so we rely on the production of fame, which is what we now do best -- as cars and steel and 20 Mule Team Borax are all a distant memory.

Finally, the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin will mull what she represents. She has a phenomenal favorability rating among Republicans -- 76 percent -- who have a quite irrational belief that she would not make such a bad president. What they mean is that she will act out their resentments -- take an ax to the people and institutions they hate. The Palin Movement is fueled by high-octane bile, and it is worth watching and studying for these reasons alone.

[Fortunately, Republicans now make up less than 25% of the voting electorate]

It may be asking too much of Bush to put his money into something useful instead of the standard presidential monument of self-aggrandizement. This, though, is his chance: Study Sarah Palin. If she's a comer, then we're all goners.

From Healthy Child.Org

Sunday, November 15, 2009

From Truthout:

Court Rules CIA Did Not Violate Valerie Plame's First Amendment Rights

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

Valerie Plame discusses the leak of her
covert CIA status during an exclusive 
interview with Truthout in 2007. 
(Photo: Troy Page, truthout) 

By now, most people can admit to the fact that former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson had a decades long career with the spy agency before high-level officials in the Bush administration leaked her undercover status to reporters six years ago.

That is, most people except for Valerie Plame Wilson.

On Thursday,
the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled that the CIA did not violate Wilson’s First Amendment rights when it refused to allow the former covert CIA operative to reveal that she worked for the agency prior to 2002 in her memoir, “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.”

The ruling means that a chunk of Wilson's memoir will remain classified and she is still barred from acknowledging that she was employed by the agency prior to January 2002.

In fact, the appeals court's 55-page opinion noted that any references to Wilson's "possible pre-2002" employment with the CIA are "hypothetical" at best and "should not be understood to confirm or deny any information on that subject.”

Before her book was published, Wilson, who worked on counterproliferation issues related to Iraq and most recently Iran, submitted a copy of her manuscript to the CIA’s Publication Review Board, which heavily redacted the first 124 pages on grounds that the information Wilson revealed about her two-decade career as a spy before 2002 remained classified. [The passages the CIA objected to were published in her book, but were redacted.]

After her cover was blown, the CIA would only say that Valerie Wilson worked for the agency since January 1, 2002. The agency made it a point of stating that this disclosure "does not mean that the CIA acknowledges any other period of [her] employment, if any.”

Wilson and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, subsequently sued the CIA in 2007 saying the dates of Wilson’s had already been “officially disclosed” in an unclassified letter about retirement benefits sent to her on February 10, 2006. Wilson had retired from the agency a month earlier. The letter included the dates in which she was employed by the agency.

In January 2007, Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Washington), introduced the Valerie Plame Wilson Compensation Act, a bill that would have allowed the spy to receive early retirement benefits. In doing so, he placed the letter the CIA sent Wilson into the congressional record and noted Wilson’s "20 years of federal service.”

In August 2007, US District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones granted the CIA’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the February 10, 2006 letter mailed to Wilson, despite it being unclassified, did not amount to an official disclosure.

In her lawsuit, Wilson argued that the secrecy agreement should be set aside because Bush administration officials had already disclosed her identity to reporters. But the appeals court disagreed.

Wilson “remains bound by [the] terms [of a secrecy agreement she signed when she joined the agency], which do not include an exception permitting her to discuss information that remains classified provided that little or no harm would result."

The court’s unanimous ruling added that it was Wilson, not the CIA, who “permitted the information [about her work as a spy prior to 2002] to be revealed to the public." 

Although the CIA "may have been negligent in communicating personnel information to Ms. Wilson without proper classification, the information only became public when Ms. Wilson—knowing that the CIA was insisting on maintaining the secrecy of her service dates—nevertheless authorized a member of Congress to publish the CIA communication in the Congressional record,” the opinion states.

David B. Smallman, an attorney representing Valerie Wilson and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, said he might appeal appeals court ruling.

“There is a disconnect between the reality of what was going on in court and the reality of what was going on in the court of public opinion," Smallman said.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Katzman wrote a concurring opinion agreeing with the majority that, hypothetically speaking, Valerie Wilson’s pre-2002 work with the agency has never been officially declassified and as such the court does not have the power to “free Ms. Wilson from the secrecy agreement she signed.”

However, Judge Katzman said, "At the same time, I write to observe that the CIA's position in this litigation blinks reality in light of the unique facts of this case and the policies behind the doctrines at issue here.

“Indeed, the CIA's litigation posture may very well be counterproductive to its purposes” and “has served only to give credence to the perception that the February 10 Letter accurately set forth Ms. Wilson's dates of service,” Judge Katzman wrote.

Long-Running Scandal
The “Plame-gate” affair dates back to 2003 when Valerie Plame Wilson’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, went public with the fact that he had undertaken a fact-finding trip to Niger which had disproved President Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought to buy yellowcake uranium from the African nation.

As Wilson was going public with his knowledge of the Niger falsehood, Bush administration officials began leaking the fact that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and had a hand in arranging Wilson’s trip to Niger.

The leakers included Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, White House political adviser Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA employment was revealed in a July 14, 2003, article by right-wing columnist Robert Novak, effectively destroying her career. Two months later, a CIA complaint to the Justice Department sparked a criminal probe into the identity of the leakers.

Other administration officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Rove, also served as sources for journalists on Plame’s identity as a CIA officer.

Wilson, a diplomat who had served in Iraq and Africa, was selected by the CIA’s non-proliferation office, where Plame worked, to travel to Niger in early 2002 to examine the Iraq-yellowcake allegations. Wilson returned to the United States and reported to CIA officials that the claims appeared to have no merit, a finding that matched with inquiries from other U.S. officials.

Nevertheless, in January 2003, seeking to dramatize the need for invading Iraq, President Bush cited the Niger claims in his State of the Union speech. That set the stage for Wilson to begin criticizing the misuse of this intelligence. Initially, Wilson avoided giving all the details about his role but finally went fully public in a New York Times op-ed on July 6, 2003.

That, in turn, prompted an intensified White House campaign against Wilson leading to Novak’s article. With Plame's cover exposed and her spy network endangered, the CIA sought a criminal investigation into the leak.

Libby was convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to investigators about how he learned Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison. President George W. Bush, however, commuted his sentence.

Yet, even after Bush administration officials told reporters she was a covert spy, the CIA still refused to allow Wilson to write about her work prior to 2002.

“That Ms. Wilson’s service may have been cut short by the failure of others to respect the classified status of her employment may well have warranted investigation. But these circumstances do not absolve Ms. Wilson of her own secrecy obligations,” says the appeals court's opinion.

Wilson "cannot use her own unauthorized disclosure of classified information to challenge the agency's ability to maintain the information as classified," says the appellate court’s opinion, written by Judge Reena Raggi. "If Ms. Wilson were to state in her memoir, 'I was a CIA operative from date X,' then any discussion of her activities after that date ... would necessarily reveal CIA 'sources and methods,' information that lies at 'the heart of all intelligence operations.”

CIA Vindictiveness
In an interview with me exactly two years ago today, Valerie Wilson said despite the fact that portions of her memoir were blacked out she was still “thrilled to have a book” published. [Watch an exclusive interview we conducted with Valerie Wilson back in November 2007 at the bottom of this report.]

“Everyone else in the world has talked about this, spoken about me and finally I get to tell this story,” Plame said. She added that she and her publisher decided to sue the CIA because they felt the agency was moving into “censorship” and “First Amendment territory.”

“It wasn’t a question of protecting classified information,” Wilson said during our November 13, 2007 interview. “I’m a professional intelligence officer, I don’t want to jeopardize classified information. But it was clearly punitive in nature, the redactions, the black lines, which, by the way, my publisher decided to leave in so the reader has a good idea of how much the CIA thought was classified.”

She said that while the issues surrounding the redactions of her book was “only a small piece of the story” she believed it was an “important piece because it shows the continuation of a vindictiveness and a abuse of power by the [Bush administration] to go after its critics.”

"Fair Game," the movie based on Valerie Wilson's memoir, will hit theaters next year. The film stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

Two weeks ago, as reported by truthout, the Justice Department released a long-awaited transcript summarizing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s May 8, 2004 interview with Dick Cheney related to the former Vice President’s role in the leak.

Remarkably, Cheney professed on more than 70 occasions that he could not recall key events related to the leak of which he played a major role in, including one in which he personally told Libby, his former chief of staff, that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA before Novak revealed her identity. 

Jason Leopold is the Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, News Junkie, a memoir. Visit for a preview.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

President Obama's Speech at Fort Hood, Texas

President Obama delivered a short but eloquent speech at yesterday's memorial service for those killed at Fort Hood last week.

From the New York Times:

Virtuous Bankers? Really!?!

Published: November 11, 2009

The Great Vampire Squid has gotten religion.

In an interview with The Sunday Times of London, the cocky chief of Goldman Sachs said he understands that a lot of people are “mad and bent out of shape” at blood-sucking banks.
“I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer,” Lloyd Blankfein, the C.E.O., told the reporter John Arlidge.

But the little people who are boiling simply don’t understand. And Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, who unforgettably labeled Goldman “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” doesn’t understand.

Banks, Blankfein explained, are really serving the greater good.

“We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital,” he said. “Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It’s a virtuous cycle. We have a social purpose.”

When Arlidge asked whether it’s possible to make too much money, whether Goldman will ignore the people howling at the moon with rage and go on raking it in, getting richer than God, Blankfein grinned impishly and said he was “doing God’s work.”

Whether he knows it, he’s referring back to The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism — except, of course, the Calvinists would have been outraged by the banks’ vicious — not virtuous — cycle of greed and concupiscence.

Blankfein’s trickle-down catechism isn’t working. Now we have two economies. We have recovering banks while we have 10-plus percent unemployment and 17.5 percent underemployment. The gross thing about the Wall Street of the last decade is how much its success was not shared with society.

Goldmine Sachs, as it’s known, is out for Goldmine Sachs.

As many Americans continue to struggle, Goldman, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, banks that took government bailout money after throwing the entire world into crisis, have said they will dish out $30 billion in bonuses — up 60 percent from last year.

The saying used to be, whatever happens, the lawyers win. Now, it’s whatever happens, the bankers win.

Under pressure from regulators, who were trying to ensure that long-term performance was rewarded, the banks agreed to award more in stock, deferring cash payments.

But as The Times reported this week, the Goldman executives who got stock options instead of bonuses last year, at market lows, got a windfall — so it had nothing to do with bank employees’ performance.

“The company gave its general counsel, for example, 104,868 stock options and 14,117 shares in December, when the bank’s stock was around $78,” Louise Story wrote for The Times. “Now the bank’s shares have more than doubled in value, making that stock and option award worth nearly $12 million.”

As one former Goldman banker told Arlidge, the culture there is “completely money-obsessed. ... There’s always room — need — for more. If you are not getting a bigger house or a bigger boat, you’re falling behind. It’s an addiction.”

It’s an addiction that Washington has done little to quell. President Obama has not been strong on the issue, and Timothy Geithner coddles the wanton bankers whenever they freak out that they might not be able to put in their new pools next summer.

The bankers try to dismiss calls for regulation as populist ravings, but the insane inequity of it cannot be dismissed.

No sooner had the Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd announced his plan to overhaul financial regulation Tuesday than compensation experts declared it toothless.

The banks and their lobbyists wheedled concession after concession out of Washington and knocked down proposed inhibition after inhibition. Now the banks are laughing all the way to the bank.

“Saturday Night Live” was tougher on Goldman Sachs than the government, giving the firm flak about commandeering 200 doses of the swine flu vaccine — the same amount as Lenox Hill Hospital got — while so many at-risk Americans wait.

“Can you not read how mad people are at you?” demanded Amy Poehler. “When most people saw the headline ‘Goldman Sachs Gets Swine Flu Vaccine’ they were superhappy until they saw the word ‘vaccine.’ ”

Seth Meyers chimed in: “Also, Centers for Disease Control, you sent the vaccine to Wall Street before schools and hospitals? Really!?! Were you worried the swine flu might spread to the Hamptons and St. Barts? These are the least contagious people in the world. They don’t even touch their own car-door handles.”

And as far as doing God’s work, I think the bankers who took government money and then gave out obscene bonuses are the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple.

From the Velvet Revolution:

More Questions Raised About Death Of Bush Cyber Expert Mike Connell
Join Our Call For A Federal Criminal Investigation!

Eleven months ago, Bush IT guru Mike Connell was killed in a single engine plane crash shortly after being forced to testify in a civil deposition alleging fraud in the 2004 election. According to legal filings prior to the crash, Mr. Connell had received threats from Karl Rove and warnings not to talk. We have been covering this case in great detail at

Now in a new development, Mr. Connell’s wife and sister have spoken out together about their serious doubts that the crash was simply an accident. They disclosed that the FBI recently received a document from a black ops “assassination jackal” tipster who alleges that Mr. Connell’s plane was sabotaged while sitting at the airport prior to his last flight. Former ABC News reporter Rebecca Abrahams broke these developments Monday on The BRAD BLOG.

Today, we are renewing our call for a full federal investigation into the allegations of election fraud made against Mr. Connell, Karl Rove, Jeff Averbeck and other GOP conspirators, and expanding that call to include a criminal investigation into Connell's death. According to Mr. Connell’s his family, Mike’s best friend and confidant was none other than Barry Jackson, Karl Rove’s deputy and George Bush’s head of political strategies who was implicated in the White House email scandal. Stephen Spoonamore, a top expert in the field of cyber security, said last year that Mr. Connell had asked him how to permanently destroy White House emails.

There are many questions that need to be answered in this matter that can only be discovered by a criminal investigation with people called before a grand jury. You can help us notify the public of this under-reported story via ads in the broadcast media and press announcements with press releases and ads by donating here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kucinich: Why I Voted NO

Washington, Nov 7 -
After voting against H.R. 3962 - Affordable Health Care for America Act, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement:

“We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care.  We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are.  But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit.  That is our system.

“Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution.  They are driving up the cost of health care.  Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills.  The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%.  It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care.  Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick. 

“But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care.  In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers.  This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies — a bailout under a blue cross. 

“By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal.  The Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states “since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.”  Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that “money will start flowing in again” to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.

“During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back.  The “robust public option” which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million.  An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration.  Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

“Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy.  The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy -- in which most Americans live -- the recession is not over.  Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.  

“This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America’s manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care.   America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system.  As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care. 

“Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America’s businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.”

I totally agree with Representative Kucinich, though I may have voted for the bill in the end, hoping that one day we could pass a not-for-profit, single-payer health care bill.

Read what I wrote on Universal Health Care back in March of this year. 

What would have been your vote? Leave a comment.
The 39 Democrats who voted against the health insurance reform bill in the House are:

Rep. John Adler (NJ)
Rep. Jason Altmire (PA)
Rep. Brian Baird (WA)
Rep. John Barrow (GA)
Rep. John Boccieri (OH)
Rep. Dan Boren (OK)
Rep. Rick Boucher (VA)
Rep. Allen Boyd (FL)
Rep. Bobby Bright (AL)
Rep. Ben Chandler (KT)
Rep. Travis Childers (MS)
Rep. Artur Davis (AL)
Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN)
Rep. Chet Edwards (TX)
Rep. Bart Gordon (TN)
rep. Parker Griffith (AL)
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD)
Rep. Tim Holden (PA)
Rep. Larry Kissell (NC)
Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (FL)
Rep. Frank Kratovil (MD)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Rep. Jim Marshall (GA)
Rep. Betsy Markey (CO)
Rep. Eric Massa (NY)
Rep. Jim Matheson(UT)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC)
Rep. Michael McMahon (NY)
Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA)
Rep. Walt Minnick (ID)
Rep. Scott Murphy (NY)
Rep. Glenn Nye (VA)
Rep. Collin Peterson (MN)
Rep. Mike Ross (AR)
Rep. Heath Shuler (NC)
Rep. Ike Skelton (MO)
Rep. John Tanner (TN)
Rep. Gene Taylor (MS)
Rep. Harry Teague (NM)

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A blog about politics.

House Passes Health Care Reform

The House of Representatives tonight passed 220-215 sweeping $1.2 trillion health care reform legislation. The bill garnered the support of just one Republican, Joe Cao of Louisiana; 39 Democrats voted against it.

The vote, which looked uncertain even going into the House Rules Committee last night, came after the adoption 240-194 of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat ensuring that no money would go to funding abortions. Pro-choice groups expressed outrage over what they considered an assault on a woman's right to choose and progressives vowed to fight to remove the provision in conference with the Senate. “We've sought in the case of this common ground in many areas,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who personally was against the amendment though she brokered the deal to bring it to a vote, told reporters after passage. “We'll continue to seek common ground.”

The House punted on several contentious issues, such as limiting access of illegal immigrants to the so-called exchange that, if the bill is enacted into law, will be created to help expand coverage to the 50 million uninsured Americans. They also didn't address medical malpractice liability, an issue identified by President Obama in his special address of the Joint Session of Congress on health care reform, as an area of common ground with Republicans. The GOP, in fact, used their motion to recommit -- a proceedural vote the minority often uses to highlight specific problems with legislation -- to highlight the lack of liability reform of the system, a surprise as most Democrats expected them to focus on the immigration provisions. The move produced a tense – if amusing – moment during the debate when Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer, delivered the Democratic rebuttal. Republicans taunted him, yelling, “Trail lawyer!” A few of their own, though, couldn't help but laugh when Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican and a well known employer of several lawyers due to various legal woes, called out, “Line your pockets, ambulance chaser!”

The Republican alternative bill failed mostly along party lines by a vote of 176-258 with one Republican, Timothy Johnson of Illinois, voting Nay. Republicans nearly unilaterally condemned the vote as a “total government takeover of health care,” said Rep. John Shadegg, an Arizona Republican, in a statement. “This is a tragic day for all Americans, a day that will go down in infamy for anyone who believes in freedom, liberty and the future of our nation and its citizens,” he added. The sole vote for the bill came from Cao, a former Jesuit priest who represents a heavily Democratic district and who was leaned upon by the Catholic Bishops and the White House after the Stupak amendment passed.

Earlier in the day, Tea Party activists held a rally – the second this week – on the East lawn of the Capitol. This one was much smaller, though no less vocal than Thursday's theatrics. When asked if Dems could expect more protests when they head home tonight for a week's recess on honor of Veterans Day, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to Congress, pointed to today's small rally as evidence that the attention paid to far right opposition is fading. “They had a protest today and it didn't seem to scare anyone's vote tonight,” Van Hollen said.

President Obama, who made a rare Saturday trip to Capitol Hill to rally the caucus, called to congratulate Pelosi and the Democratic leadership after the vote. He also personally called several fence sitters thoughout the day. “I decided this afternoon that I'd vote for it,” said Rep. Dan Maffei, a New York Democrat who is facing a tough reelection at home. “It was going to be tough either way I voted… The president reassured me that [several of my issues] would be addressed going forward.”

Of the Democrats that voted Nay, most were from swing districts like Maffei. Though, at least one, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, voted against the bill from the left saying it didn't go far enough to reign in health insurers. “We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are,” Kucinich said in a statement. “But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem.”

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told reporters at the end of the night that the vote has been the toughest of his career, the climate change bill earlier this year a “distant second.” Pelosi, who brought down the gavel on final passage and was applauded, hugged and lauded by every Democrat – even those who voted against the bill, was more sanguine. “They're all a challenge in their own way, remember the stimulus, the budget, climate change?” she said, before walking into her offices to a thunderous round of applause just after midnight.

The bill now heads to the Senate where passage before the end of the year remains uncertain. House Dems, though, in a victory press conference, preened at their achievement. “We've done something people have been trying to do for more than 100 years,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “This is a great day.”

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