Is everyone tired of Villagers telling the president what to say in tonight's State of the Union speech? I know I am. It's almost unbearable, especially when they start whining about how divided government is, as if it's President Obama's job to make it better.
Bill Moyers asked for progressive suggestions for tonight's address, and he got some great answers. Here are my top three:
We are not making the best laws we can, and our children are going to pay the price in higher taxes and reduced benefits. Should we just throw up our hands in despair? Or should we roll up our sleeves and do something about it? My top priority for 2013 is political reform.
Diane Ravitch wants a challenge to out-educate and out-innovate other nations and put an end to vouchers and charter school initiatives. This one is my personal favorite.
Over the past four years, I have learned what we need to do. First, we must end the pressure on teachers to teach to the test. I have said it before and I will say it again: We want teachers to teach with creativity and passion. I call on states not to pay bonuses to teachers to produce higher test scores and to stop evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. We now realize that this causes teaching to the test. That must stop now. Of course, teachers should be evaluated, but they should be evaluated by other professionals, not by their students’ test scores.
Too much testing crushes creativity and innovation, and that’s why we must stop it — now.
The video is 30 minutes long, but so worth your time. Naomi Klein, whose semimal book The Shock Doctrine identified a pervasive and insidious tendency for the ruling elites to exploit disasters--both natural and manmade-- to push through legislation that the general populace won't fight because they are shell-shocked, points out that we have a disaster right now with Sandy that could enable the general populace to demand from the ruling elites legislation to deal with climate change. The Shock Doctrine in reverse, if you will. NAOMI KLEIN: Here you have a crisis that was created by a collision between heavy weather (which may or may not have been linked to climate change, but certainly it's what climate change looks like) colliding with weak infrastructure, because of years and years of neglect. And the free market solutions to this crisis are, "Let's just get rid of the public infrastructure altogether and drill for more oil, which is the root cause of climate change." So that's their shock doctrine. And I think it's time for a people's shock.
BILL MOYERS: People's shock?
NAOMI KLEIN: A people's shock, which actually we've had before, as you know, where, you know, if you think about 1929 and the market shock, and the way in which the public responded. They wanted to get at the root of the problem. And they wanted to get away from speculative finance and that's how we got some very good legislation passed in this country like Glass-Steagall, and much of the social safety net was born in that moment. Not by exploiting crisis to horde power for the few and to ram through policies that people don't want, but to build popular movements and to really deepen democracy.
We will never get consensus in Washington DC to enact legislation. The big dollar donations from oil and other energy industries make sure of that. But we can push now for them to make investments against the next Sandy, the next Katrina. We have the leverage and the moral high ground. It's time to move.
Hmm, might that old line about "given the choice between a real Republican and a fake one, voters will pick the real ones every time" apply here? This presidential race shouldn't be this tight -- and it wouldn't, if the Obama administration and the Democratic caucus hadn't ignored the pressing needs of the poor. Instead, they're worried about the kind of millionaires who see themselves as "battered wives":
The multimillion-dollar high-rise being built near his office, Bill Moyers said Friday, is evidence of the “new Gilded Age” running roughshod over the U.S., which he discussed with journalists Chrystia Freeland and Matt Taibbi.
The building will be built in New York, where Moyers said the income disparity among residents rivals that of a Third-World country. In spite of that, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have broached the subject in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign.
One reason for that, Freeland said, was that the notion runs counter to how the country has set up its economic system; the minute Obama even suggested that the rich pay more taxes brought on cries of “class warfare.”
“You know, there was an activist investor who sent an e-mail to his friends,” Freeland said. “The subject line is, ‘battered wives.’ And in the e-mail he compares himself and his fellow multi-millionaires to battered wives who are being beaten by the president. He actually uses those words.”
And while the rich fight to get richer, Taibbi said, the Democratic Party shifted toward not fighting for the poor like it used to, starting with increased fundraising pushes during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
“Economically, they began to side more and more with Wall Street and more and more with the very rich,” he said. “And they’ve, I think we’ve now reached the point where neither party really represents the very poor in the way that the Democrats maybe used to. And so, that there’s, that’s why, you know, you don’t see it in the debates, because neither party is really an advocate for that kind of left behind class anymore.”
This is from a recent interview with Bill Moyers on Richard Heffner's PBS show "The Open Mind," where he talks about how Americans can - and can't - change our politics:
MOYERS: … I, I honestly … I saw a poll the other day … 52% of the American people believe that both parties no longer reflect their interests. And I am part of that 52%. I can no more defend the Democratic Party than I can praise the Republican Party. I mean I don’t understand the weird things going on in the Republican Party. I do not understand this marriage of ideology and the language and, and, and the irrelevance, the immaturity of their political discourse, the sheer opposition that they set out to mount against Obama … that partly due …
But I do know why the Democratic Party is corrupted. They decided that they would go to the same sources of great wealth … corporations and others … and they are today in thrall to many of the same corporate and rich powers that the, the Republicans are.
We have two parties serving corporate business America and no party that serves … ideally … that serves the middle class or working people. And so I, I’m without a party, Dick. I know we always have to make some choices in election … you make a slight degree of … you’ve got to cast your vote so it’s this decision based on this differentiation.
But, as a whole, both parties are, are, are critical reasons for the crisis in our democracy.
Our democracy is dysfunctional. It isn’t working. It isn’t solving a single problem. The Senate might as well not be there.
It is … what it was a hundred years ago when David Graham Phillips, a great muckraker in the, in the vein of Upton Sinclair and Nellie Bly and others wrote a book called The Treason of the Senate. Well, the Senate has betrayed its Constitutional obligations. And so both parties today are contributing to the dysfunction of democracy.
That’s why I think we need … you know, I’m drawn … I’m not a radical, but I’m drawn to the Howard Zinns and the Ralph Naders and, and, and others because change from the outside.
It cannot come from within the two parties today. They are frozen, paralyzed, purchased. And so it’s got to come … Howard Zinn’s great message … and he was a flawed historian … he was … we know that from his life and his records. But he got this right. He said, “Do not look to your leaders to bring about change. Change comes only when people organize and fight from outside the system, when the change that they need … everybody he said … every ordinary people … every ordinary person should be a history maker”.
This is where the Occupy movement has made such a tremendous difference. It's brought economic inequality to the forefront, reminding our politicians they're supposed to be serving the 99%, not the people at the top. I'd have to credit the Occupiers for the fact that Democratic Supercommittee members held the line on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The Nation talks about a show I watched last Friday evening of LBJ's taped phone conversations and Bill Moyers' commentary. Highly recommended as a history lesson. And a warning.
One point of the program, he explained, was to offer viewers "an insight into the mind of one president facing the choice of whether or not to send more and more American soldiers to fight in a far-away and strange place."
But another point was to offer Obama and his aides a caution that only a few wise and worldly senators provided Johnson back in the mid-1960s -- chief among them Oregon's Wayne Morse, about whom Johnson says on one of the tapes: "outside Morse, everybody I talk to says you got to go in..."
Moyers was not making crude or casual analogies.
"Granted," he explained early on, "Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, Afghanistan is not Vietnam and this is now, not then. But listen and you will hear echoes and refrains that resonate today."
Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.
Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.
And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.
And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on (my em). And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.
We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Bill Moyers had an excellent panel discussion on the only true road to universal health care for our country. It's called: Single Payer Health Insurance.
Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Sidney Wolfe give a very easy explanation of what Single Payer health care means and also take us down memory lane when the fight first started. It's hard to understand President Obama on this issue. He has the bully pulpit and he has the votes for the most part since it won't take 60 votes to pass it, so why is he not in favor of single payer? Yes, I know, it will be tough to pass, but covering Americans with this plan would also save jobs, decrease personal bankruptcies incredibly and save Corporations billions of dollars on health care costs. Talk about a real stimulus. Anyway, back to Moyers.
Health care reform is coming. Both Congress and President Obama have made it a top priority, and many expect a bill by the fall. Now comes the tricky part — designing and funding a plan. President Obama has outlined broad goals, several competing plans have been introduced in the Congress, and the Republican party recently introduced its own plan.
But Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Sidney Wolfe tell Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that President Obama isn't considering a popular plan — single-payer. In a recent town-hall meeting in New Mexico, President Obama said switching to single-payer would be too disruptive.
The term "single-payer" generally means a system in which rather than having private, for-profit insurance companies, the government runs one large non-profit insurance organization. That organization pays all the doctor, drug and hospital bills — it is the "single-payer" of all medical bills. In most single-payer plans, every American would be enrolled and would pay into the fund through taxes...read on
It's an excellent video. It looks like they are trying to force us with a "public option" plan instead of real reform of health care. I'm still sorting out a lot of information on the health care problem, but some of us are working on an action soon.
And when you just go right to Big Insurance, the non-presidential candidates who got the biggest legalized bribes were the 7 senators who have been tasked with the job of killing single-payer:
Ben Nelson (DLC-NE- $1,196,799)
Max Baucus (DLC- MT- $1,184,113)
Joe Lieberman (DLC- CT- $1,036,302)
Arlen Specter (R-D- PA- $1,035,530)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY- $981,400)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY- $929,207)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA- $884,724)
We will be addressing the members of Congress very soon. Thank God for Bernie Sanders. Here's something positive at least.
Right now Sanders is pushing for an incubator program (5 states with single payer) to test it out and show how it works. The Progressive Caucus in the House is still insisting-- some would say tilting-- for a robust national plan that will lead to single payer.
Eighty liberal lawmakers, in a letter sent to House Democratic leaders Friday, forcefully demanded a “robust and affordable” new government-run health insurance plan be part of health care reform.
That would be the Progressive Caucus teaming up with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus trying to counterbalance the Blue Dogs who oppose a workable public option (although several moderate Blue Dogs freaked out and disassociated themselves from the GOP talking points that were touted as the Blue Dog position). Here's the statement from the Progressive Caucus:...read on
Watters makes a living startling enemies of his boss Bill O with a video camera and coming back with embarrassing footage that O'Reilly pretends is "news." But in an act of pure weeniness Watters refuses to discuss his work with anyone. We thought we had a good chance of finding him leaving his house for the office this morning, but not everyone can be a stalker extraordinaire like Watters.
A tipster has passed on info (or misinformation!) from a source inside Fox that says Watters is at his desk, and that his wife—a Gawker fan, according to a different tipster—is quite worked up over the visit.
Our team learned some valuable lessons: 1) a stakeout's best done on an empty bladder and 2) be sure to cover all possible exits. (If he's not still at home, we think he either slipped out when John and Richard went to the loo, or walked out a back way to the nearby train station.) Rookie mistakes happen. And, Jesse, your taunts only make us more determined. (Video available at Gawker site)
Aww....poor widdle Jesse. Those meanies at Gawker have him skulking and hiding like a frightened little kitten. How dare they show him what it's like to be ambushed. The nerve!
But Jesse, honey, you ain't seen nothing yet. We know you're going to be at Netroots Nation this August, no doubt hoping to find that proof of marching orders from George Soros. There's a whole bunch of us who will be there too--including John Amato--and just know, we're looking for you too.
This Bill Moyers interview is going viral so fast, I can't even keep up with it. And for a very good reason - former S&L regulator Bill Black explains exactly why the current banking bailout is a mistake. There's so much information, you simply have to read or watch the entire thing:
BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Are you saying that Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and others in the administration, with the banks, are engaged in a cover-up to keep us from knowing what went wrong?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.
BILL MOYERS: You are.
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely, because they are scared to death. All right? They're scared to death of a collapse. They're afraid that if they admit the truth, that many of the large banks are insolvent. They think Americans are a bunch of cowards, and that we'll run screaming to the exits. And we won't rely on deposit insurance. And, by the way, you can rely on deposit insurance. And it's foolishness. All right? Now, it may be worse than that. You can impute more cynical motives. But I think they are sincerely just panicked about, "We just can't let the big banks fail." That's wrong.
BILL MOYERS: But what might happen, at this point, if in fact they keep from us the true health of the banks?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, then the banks will, as they did in Japan, either stay enormously weak, or Treasury will be forced to increasingly absurd giveaways of taxpayer money. We've seen how horrific AIG -- and remember, they kept secrets from everyone.
Glenn Greenwald talked with Bill Moyers Friday night about the rule of law and how it was perverted by the Bush administration:
BILL MOYERS: To be fair, you make a strong case in here that we have to stand up to extremism but that we have to protect our own constitutional principles while we do. And as I read both of these books, it is the sense that out of this Manichean view there came this whole notion that you say is alien to America, this unitary executive powers of the presidency. Have I stated that right?
GLENN GREENWALD: You have. Let’s just quickly describe in the most dispassionate terms, as few of euphemisms, as possible, where we are and what has happened over the last eight years. We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.
We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they’ve done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we’re deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.
And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world’s population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.
What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.
They have license to break the law. That’s what we’re deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn’t be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they’ve broken. And I can’t think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.
It's disconcerting to me that we need to keep reiterating for Washington and the Beltway Punditocracy that the American people WANT for us to return to respecting the "rule of law" in this country. Was our vote not enough of a repudiation of the last eight years? Luckily for us, there are a few in DC and the media corps who DO get it. Right at the top of the list: Senator Russ Feingold and Bill Moyers. They sat down this weekend for a conversation on Feingold's hopes for the incoming administration and his desire to raise us out of the moral turpitude of the Bush administration.
Our founding fathers laid down a basic principle -- that we are a nation of laws and that no one, including the president, is above the law. From Guantanamo Bay and warrantless wiretapping to torture and excessive secrecy, the Bush administration has turned this principle on its head. The Constitution states that it and the laws of the United States are "the supreme Law of the Land." Yet, the current administration has claimed unprecedented powers as it has ignored or willfully misinterpreted the laws on the books.
While Americans’ decisive call for change this election was a clear repudiation of the Bush administration’s conduct, failing to act swiftly to reverse the damage could essentially legitimize that conduct and the extreme legal theories on which it was based. That is why it is critically important for President-elect Obama to unequivocally renounce President Bush’s extreme claims of executive authority.