Happy Birthday Michael Jackson!

29 08 2009

From Gothamist:

The King of Pop’s posthumous birthday celebration will go on as planned tomorrow in Prospect Park (after being moved from Fort Greene). We talked to the Parks Department and they’re currently putting up some fencing for the event, which will run from noon to 5 p.m. They say on top of deejays, a jumbotron and Marty Markowitz declaring it Michael Jackson Day in the borough, organizer Spike Lee will be overseeing the day. According to Bloomberg News, around 10,000 people are expected, and Lee put down $11,000 for a permit.

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I wish I was home in Brooklyn right now. If for nothing else, then to hear one of my favorite Jackson Five songs, “Enjoy Yourself.”


iPhone Ex-Girlfriend APP

29 08 2009

Umm….creppy, especially around the 34 second mark, but still hella funny.

[H/T: Oliver Willis]

R.I.P Ted Kennedy

26 08 2009

“My Land Boat”

24 08 2009


Laughing Our Way Out of Confusion about Health Care

23 08 2009

Donny Shaw at OpenCongress makes an excellent point about how the Daily Show with Jon Stewart often features segments with more probing discussion about issues than actual programs that purport to be news outlets.

Armed with the first 500 pages of the House health care bill (H.R. 3200) Betsy McCaughey, the first person to equate end-of-life planning with government-mandated euthanasia, went on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night to defend her position.

The show sort of underscores the anomaly of the health care debate in our country right now. This is comedy show where two people are having a fairly high-level discussion about actual legislative text, and the substance is compelling enough that it makes for good entertainment. There is a real desire to know what’s in the bill. Health care, obviously, is an especially important issue. But, also, I think the people that follow what happens in Congress are figuring out that there is a lot of misinformation standing in the way of having a smart debate of the bill, and they are trying to get the facts for themselves, which is fantastic.

I suppose its fantastic that the Daily Show decided to do such a segment, but its also an alarming indicator of how the disinformation out there is so pervasive that even after two months of ‘debate’ we are still remain confused about the substance of the proposal. And the fact that a comedian, even one as clever as Stewart, could provide a better 101 on the issue than many other programs should be considered an indictment of the failure of the television news media to inform and educate the public about a critical issue that could change the country for generations to come.

You can watch the segment here.

Fringe Form of Bipartisianship

23 08 2009

Frank Rich’s column in today’s NYT echoes much of the liberal left’s criticism of Obama curious approach to bipartisanship, including reaching out to Republicans that have cozied up to the fringe right. Case in point Chuck Grassely of Iowa who is the designated point man on negotiating the health care bill for Senate Republicans, but has shamelessly propagated the death panel rumor.

Money quote:

Even now the radicals are taking a nonviolent toll on the Obama presidency. Obama complains, not without reason, that the news media, led by cable television, exaggerate the ruckus at health care events. But why does he exaggerate the legitimacy and clout of opposition members of Congress who, whether through silence or outright endorsement, are surrendering to the nuts? Even Charles Grassley, the supposedly adult Iowa Republican who is the Senate point man for his party on health care, has now capitulated to the armed fringe by publicly parroting their “pull the plug on grandma” fear-mongering.

Part of me wonders how much of this dynamic is a natural by product of a dwindling Republican party rapidly becoming a regional party with supporters who so successfully shifted the debate to the right that GOP elected officials feel as if they have no choice to not just keep up, but get out in front of the lunacy. After all, if you have a supposedly national party with no viable strategy to reach out to moderates and centrist voters and candidates, then those currently in office will constantly try to build up their street cred among the base.

Meanwhile, the political environment will continue suffer from an increase in political polarization.

Of course, Frank Rich is not alone in his frustration with the President’s approach, but there are a number of things that one has to remember about Capitol Hill. One is while Republicans during the Bush years were more than eager to move legislation with little regard to how many Democrats supported it, a handful of Democrats in the Senate today will not vote for a bill unless its a bipartisian measure.  Usually, these are redstate Democrats that are hyper sensitive about being painted as raving lefties such as Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of Montana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Mary Landrieu of Louisana.

Many of these Democrats joined forces with the likes of Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins both from Maine, too pair down the one time $900 billion stimulus bill down to $787 billlion. In a chamber composed of 100 members you will only see these two women Republicans from Maine, who are already feeling intense pressure not to show any signs of capitulation, and maybe one more GOP Senator that will bargain with the Democrats on health care or confirming judges to the federal bench, or spending bills or a climate change and energy bill.

Dealing with Inconvenient Myths about Health Care

22 08 2009

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama said while he is glad to see “a vigorous debate about health insurance reform” he is expressed frustration about it being “dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.”

He cited “some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country” such as generous health coverage for undocumented workers, mandated payment for abortions, and the implementation of so-called death panels. None of which are actually in the bill.

This is not the first time the president felt the need to counter some of these myths. In his August 8th weekly address, Obama said criticized the spreading of “outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia, cut Medicaid, or bring about a government takeover of health care. That’s simply not true.”

At an August 11th New Hampshire town hall gathering on health care the president also said, “The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for “death panels” that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we’ve decided that we don’t — it’s too expensive to let her live anymore.”

If the president of the United States has to push back on these falsehoods so many times to get his message out one wonders if he might benefit from a different approach. I realize President Obama sees himself as a reconciler of sorts and a healer, a latter day Abraham Lincoln if you will.

“There are always those who oppose it, and those who use fear to block change,” he noted in his weekly address. “But what has always distinguished America is that when all the arguments have been heard, and all the concerns have been voiced, and the time comes to do what must be done, we rise above our differences, grasp each others’ hands, and march forward as one nation and one people, some of us Democrats, some of us Republicans, all of us Americans.”

But since the opposition is not looking for harmony, isn’t interested in civility, and won’t be satisfied with merely being listened to, perhaps he needs to deal with folks in the same way Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank confronted a LaRouche supporter named Rachel Brown at one of his own town halls this week. Brown specifically said was like Adolf Hilter’s T4 policy in Nazi Germany where people who were deemed incurably ill because of a chronic aliment or a disability or mentally disturbed or otherwise considered undesirable to national socialists was somehow the same thing as a provision in one of the health care bills, H.R. 3200, regarding end of life care, i.e. the infamous dealth panels.

This myth has been thoroughly debunked by the press and other experts.  Read the WaPo’s editorial on this issue for more detail on this distortion.

Rep. Frank’s said to Brown, who managed to compare Obama to Hitler at a recent town hall meeting, “It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.” He also added “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table, I have no interest in doing it.”

And at one point, Rep. Frank even rhetorically asked the LaRouche supporter “what planet do you live on?” As you may or may not know, the LaRouche group is a bunch of fringe lefties with socialist leanings with a peculiar penchant for conspiratorial thinking.

Watch the video:

Now I understand President Obama is under a different kind of pressure than Representative Frank has to contend with. Obama is a first year president trying not to fail and constantly mindful of his 2012 reelection bid. Frank, on the other hand, has a very secure Congressional seat, which he has held since 1981.

Whereas the president is still wrestling with how to be a principled uniter as he desperately tries to avoid alienating potential voters lest he himself be accused of being grossly intolerant and elitist, Frank often speaks his mind with little concern about who feigns offense. I understand that.

But at some point, the president has to be a lot more forceful in his condemnation of these baseless attacks otherwise they will continue to gain traction as the negotiations over the various bill become more involved. And the more that happens the easeir it will be for Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House and the Senate to push back against the president.