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A girl screams after seeing the feet of her dead brother in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. (AP)

A girl screams after seeing the feet of her dead brother in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. (AP)

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The scale of suffering in Haiti continues to mount. Dead in the streets. The trapped, dying. The battered living, hungry and thirsty three days after the earthquake of 7.0 that rocked the hemisphere’s poorest country. And relief planes circle, desperate to land.

In Washington this week, Wall Street chiefs testify just days before giant bonuses begin to arrive — again.

The White House and Congressional Democrats reach a deal on Cadillac health plans.

Mark McGwire concedes steroid use. Leno and Conan and Sarah Palin make waves on TV.

This hour, On Point: our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Guests:

Joining us from Washington is Zanny Minton Beddoes, global economics editor for The Economist.

Joining us from Albany, New York, is Debra Dickerson,  contributing writer for Mother Jones and author of “The End of Blackness” and “An American Story.”

And from Hanover, N.H., is Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic.

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  • Dee

    No wonder the Health Care deal has to be done ASAP: If the vote in Massachusetts on Tuesday goes to Cosmo Boy, the jig, as they say, is up in the US Senate. How fitting that the newest member of that once-august body (!) might be a former nude centerfold. Looks like our Whores-R-US Congress has started recruiting from the appropriate demographics. Bring on the Primaries!

  • George Potts

    Why is Bill Clinton, the special envoy to Haiti, in Boston campaigning for Martha Coakley, instead of working to help Haiti?

  • SomMom

    Scott Brown, like Mitt Romney before him, is running as a conservative masquerading as a moderate. He’s drawn parallels between his so-called stands and those of JFK and President Obama. He’s brought out his daughters to deny the truth that he sponsored legislation to allow healthcare workers the right to deny rape victims access to emergency contraception. He’s being supported by anti-abortion groups and Tea Party groups, while the Republican Party pretends he’s not one of theirs.

    Anyone reading this from Mass., please don’t drink this snake oil! We suffered under Romney; but if Brown is elected, the whole country will suffer, because he’ll not only jettison healthcare, he’ll hold up ALL Democratic legislation, and we’ll NEVER put the Bush/Cheney years behind us. He does not bring “hope and change,” as his spokesperson put it — he’d bring stalemate, deadlock, and devastation, and yes, he’d be out 3 years from now.

    And God bless the people of Haiti — I hope our aid will reach them quickly.

  • Jemimah

    I agree with the above passionate statement about Scott Brown. He’s not to be trusted. But on the discussion of the hour: am I missing something thinking that planes should be able to land in the Domincan Republic and get supplies and relief workers to Haiti?!? The border is like Boston and Cambridge, no??

  • Bob Brodsky

    It is hard to understand why, after Katrina, there is no readily available
    1. transportable aircraft control facility
    2. warehouses of bulldozers and cranes at airfields
    3. warehouses of food rations and water at airfields
    4. reserve staff available to fly and operate these things anywhere in the world (San Francisco, for example, after an earthquake
    5. police and fire response teams able to free staff for descend on disaster areas.

    What is it about OUR bureaucracies that hinders the formation of these things? Volunteerism, as we saw in the arrival of heavy construction equipment immediately after 9/11 and the instant organizing of emergency health systems (that weren’t needed) are terrific but not enough, obviously.

  • jeffe

    Brown looks like he’s going to win.
    Right now in some polls he has 60% and Coakley has 40%.

    This was her’s to lose and while it’s not over yet if this man wins, and I hope he does not, it will be her fault and the democratic party here in Massachusetts.

    The disaster in Haiti is so overwhelming. The thing is what will happen a few months from now.

    Look at New Orleans 5 years after, still a mess.

  • George Potts

    Haiti is Obama’s Katrina. But WBUR won’t put it on him like they did with Bush.

  • Rebecca Greene

    The reason why they cannot just drop stuff into Haiti by air is the same reason why the country has been in such dire straits for years. Gangs and politically connected people will grab the supplies by force and set up their own supply stations for their supporters or people who can pay and the poor and unconnected will be left destitute as usual

  • Lee

    I hate to criticize the responders as well, but I whole heartedly agree with Jack re; the “scenes” that will be created around “drops”

    My first thought after hearing about the ports is, “why not choppers, fueled from the Domican Republic or the cost of FLA?

  • BHA

    One word, OK two, to Limbaugh:
    BITE ME!

    What a pompous ignorant ass.

    And now Fox will have Sarah Palin to provide ‘balanced viewpoint’. Where is my barf bucket?

  • jeffe

    If the rescue effort does not get in gear as being discussed people will start to die of lack of water and contaminated water.

    What is going on here?

    I watched Good Morning America and they were on the ground at the airport in Port-au-Prince the day after the earthquake.

  • George Potts

    Clinton, the special envoy to Haiti, is in Boston campaigning for Kennedy’s senate seat.

    Obama, smartly, is avoiding Massachusetts, because he won’t help Coakley.

  • George Potts

    Why are bank bonuses being talked about in a show about Haiti???

  • BHA

    On the concept of having pallets of water ready to go.

    REALLY bad ROI. Even in plastic bottles, water isn’t ‘forever’. How often do we have disasters of this magnitude?

    What they need is a plan whereby they can buy hundreds of thousand (if necessary) water bottles and package them for parachute drop in a very short time.

  • BHA

    George, the show is generically “week in review”. Haiti just happens to be a BIG part of the news this week.

  • Lee

    I can understand there may be a crush of people to get food and water from air drops. But the Loadmaster who called said he can drop heavy equipment for temporary road construction and for pulling people out of rubble.

  • BHA

    Rebecca: “… Gangs and politically connected people …”

    That is why the drop master callers also mentioned paratroopers to guard the goods on the ground.

  • http://www.facebook.com/britneyland Britney Land

    Jan. 15th

    Guys! Besides the other obvious points of contention, the Limbaugh ref’ to ‘light-skinned v. dark-skinned blacks’ is in reference to Harry Reid comments and the new book ‘Game Change’. Whether it’s funny or not, isn’t really the point. It’s social/political satire, if tasteless in relation to Haiti. You should at least tip your listeners to the reference so they don’t go around spouting off mindless Media Matters talking points. Thanks.

    -B.

  • George Potts

    Obama’s Haiti is going to make Bush’s Katrina look like an incredible response.

    When are you liberals going to learn that bureaucrats just know how to ask for more money when they fail. They say, “Mistakes were made and this will never happen again.” Then they hire hack politicians in new positions where they do nothing, except when the next disaster happens they say, “Mistakes were made and this will never happen again.”

    You WBUR listeners will never learn.

  • BHA

    George: Bill Clinton was on the Haiti case, IN Haiti, Monday or Tuesday. His ‘help’ is not going to be with a shovel but in organizing and overseeing help. He doesn’t need to be ‘on it’ 24×7

  • http://www.katherinejackson.com Katherine Jackson

    WOULD SOMEBODY ON THE PROGRAM PLEASE TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO HEALTH CARE IF SCOTT BROWN WINS ON TUESDAY? IT LOOKS AS IF HE WILL! I”D VERY MUCH LIKE TO HEAR JACK BEATTY”S TAKE ON THIS!!

  • diversion

    Lipstick on a PIG! Wall St will find a way around this. Does anyone really think the largest banks in the world will accept losing profits and simply say, “Oh well?” They are ten steps ahead. The only answer to fix all this is breaking up the big banks, but the administration won’t go there. The furor over bank bonuses is a diversion to please the public.

  • George Potts

    I’m glad to see that he can do more than one thing at once. I think that it is a signal that Haiti is inconvenient at this time for him. He has more important things to do.

  • George Potts

    If Scott Brown wins, the health care plan will be better. It will be debated and bipartisan, not force fed to the American people.

  • DonaldB

    Britney, Rush may have used the terms because he heard them used in the Reed dust-up (promoted uniformly by Republicans or their sympathizers, but it is just another gratuitous insult to everyone who is not a “ditto head.”

  • http://ravenatyournextevent.com Greg L

    Wasn’t it insulting when JP Morgan’s Jayme Dimon announced that the company would donate $1 MILLION dollars to Haiti relief. Wow!

  • kye

    Tom, is it still pinko to acknowledge that now, the rick keep getting rich and the poor are getting poorer? In just one year when we have record unemployment, a fraction of 1 percent of the population just raked in bonuses that are larger than some small countries’ GDPs. Where did this money come from?

  • George Potts

    Goldman Sachs avoiding bankruptcy protected tax-favored deferred compensation plans of former Goldman Sachs executives.

    For example, a Goldman Sachs executive would make $10 million in a year. He/she would take $2 million in salary and defer $8 million. They would not have to pay taxes on the $8 million until they received it. If Goldman goes bankrupt, they get nothing.

  • Daniel Sack

    Don’t people read the real estate section in the New York Times. These bankers have mortgages to pay on $40 million condos and expensive vacation homes. How can they pay for this without large bonuses?

  • George Potts

    Daniel,

    What about these expensive House and Senate campaigns?

    Gotta pay to play.

  • jeffe

    Haiti is Obama’s Katrina. But WBUR won’t put it on him like they did with Bush.

    No it is not. Haiti is not part of the US. This is an international problem. While the US has the money and expertise to help a lot it is not the same thing.

    Shame on you for trying to make political hay out of a disaster. Bush deserved the criticism, he did nothing.

  • Louise

    Polls show that a majority of Americans want no part of “Obamacare”, but Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to do everything they can to force it down our throats.

  • SomMom

    George Potts wrote “If Scott Brown wins, the health care plan will be better. It will be debated and bipartisan, not force fed to the American people.”

    George, If Brown wins, there likely won’t be a new healthcare plan … for another 20 years. The plan is getting worse BECAUSE concessions are being made to conservatives to get it passed — so how would Brown make that different?
    Also, Brown would just end up blocking any progress on climate change, on charging a fee for Wall St firms that got taxpayer bailout $$ and are now giving fat bonuses to execs, and any other change that would try to undo the damage of the Bush/Cheney years.

  • DonaldB

    The only question is whether Obama has had enough time for his appointees to get the FEMA aspects of USAID group fully organized. That was the advantage Clinton had when his appointee did a fantastic job with FEMA that resulted in widely praised responses to the Florida hurricanes during his watch after the desultory performance under George H.W. Bush.

    I wish the health care plan could be better, but the longer it takes the worse it will get as the insurance companies insert their protections, which the Republicans, including Scott Brown, support. But we don’t know that the reconciliation process currently underway will not take some of the better parts of the House bill and throw out the worst of the Senate’s bill. We should not let ourselves get too cynical. I heard that Nelson (NB) was caught up short by Nebraska’s unenthusiastic response to his extortion of the Democrats. Maybe he won’t be so rigid on the final bill.

    But if Republicans were not so determined to try to deny Obama ANY success or falsely contaminate it in the public’s mind, they could have prevented the worst of the sausage making. But all they would propose were non-starter provisions that would weaken the health insurance availability and cost attributes of the bill.

  • Frank Rock

    It was no surprise that the host was unaware that union members have expensive health insurance plans. Today, Tom mentioned that he thought the so-called Cadillac health insurance plans were only for the CEOs. Tom would be surprised to learn that local and State public employees in many States enjoy very comprehensive and very expensive health insurance plans. I know non-managerial public sector employees who pay no co-pays and pay no health insurance premiums for their health insurance coverage. Now that a deal has been made among Obama, the dems , and the unions, I wonder where the 60 billion dollars in additional taxes that were to be raised through the taxes on the union health insurance plans will come from. There are more non-union taxpayers than union taxpayers. It is unfair for non-union taxpayers to be continually screwed by the dems, libs, and Obama. Any wonder why people are upset? November 2010 is coming. A new broom sweeps clean.

  • DonaldB

    Louise:

    Were you the Harry and Louise that shot down health insurance reform 16 years ago? Admittedly the “sausage making” bill-writing process can get unseemly, and this one exemplifies that, but if you look at the arm-twisting that Lyndon Johnson used to pass Medicare, you might take a more sanguine view. We all wish it was a more straightforward process, but everyone has slightly different ideas about how best to design the bill; and then there are those who just want NO bill.

    When Americans see the final bill, many will be disappointed that it did not do more, but I believe many will applaud what has been accomplished and will encourage the forces to go the rest of the way by fixing the worst compromises, if not immediately, in the near future.

  • Miro

    I was surprised there is no talk of limiting the interest rates that banks charge to lend out the interest-free money they get from the Fed. I would say that a 10% profit should be more than sufficient.

    I’m all for taxing the banks and stripping the bonus pigs of all their ill-gotten gains, but capping interest rates (we used to have laws against “usury”) would do far more for many more people. Why aren’t these kinds of ideas on the table?

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    The question was raised why Limbaugh accused Obama of only rushing to help Haiti because it would play well in domestic politics? Is this guest that clueless about Limbaugh’s game?

    To attack motives over policies is classic demonization. The intent in this case is to deny that Obama (or Democrats) are capable of ANY noble motives. Once this belief is firmly rooted in the minds of Rush’s braindead dittoheads, they become susceptible to the idea that ANY policy Obama supports MUST be opposed on principle. The other half of any successful demonization formula is that Rush needs to portray himself as having a monopoly on truth and virtue so anything he says… no matter how dishonest or reprehensible… is accepted at face value.

    Sadly the far Right in America is becoming increasing mislead by such cynical and virulent demagogues.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Louise wrote “Polls show that a majority of Americans want no part of “Obamacare”…”

    Yours is a disingenuous argument. As in 1993, the GOP is more concerned with stopping ANY heath care reform regardless of how desirable, hoping they can prevent generational loyalty to the Democrats as happened with the New Deal.

    It SHOULD be clear to all but low-information voters that there have been NUMEROUS health care reform proposals since last spring. So why is the Right calling them ALL ObamaCare?

    The label is purely a creation of propagandists on the Right and its intent is not to inform but confuse low information voters to act against their own self interest.

  • MB

    As Naomi Klein has pointed out on her blog, the Heritage Foundation has already rushed to take advantage of this natural disaster as they did Katrina. They and other free marketeers are going to try to structure the rebuilding to further impoverish the people of Haiti so that sweatshop owners can sell more cheap goods to Wal-Mart while paying even less to their employees.

    America’s record in Haiti is abysmal, from the numerous coups we backed in the 20th century to the all-expense paid trip to South Africa given to Aristide by the US Marines. Aid must be given through neutral NGOs based outside North America or the cycle will only accelerate toward a permanent Hell. Whether we choose to accept it or not, we will bear the responsibility for this.

    The paranoia that Haitians will immediately resort to violence if an American appears before them is simply not borne out by civilians who have been there. Check out Democracy Now’s broadcast yesterday for a firsthand report from a Seattle man who was there for the quake and has been helping in a clinic.

  • Michael T. Alogna

    SUBJECTS : HAITI is CREOLE for KATRINA. OUR READINESS IS CRITICAL
    (CHRISTMAS DAY is Dutch for 9/11)
    The Navy has Operation Plans (OPS PLANS) on their ships for landings on an amazing number of places. These are very detailed plans on not just the beaches etc but roads with access to beaches or are near them and lots more, EVEN demographics.
    Besides the military, this country has huge amounts of inactive heavy equipment right now. It has ships that can lift them. It has preloaded ships. It has heavy lift large aircraft with rear ramps from which they can drops Lots of cargo ( including vehicles) to their skilled teams and transport on the ground.

    HAITI IS 100 MILES FROM THE USA. IT SHOULD BE SWARMING WITH NAVY LANDING CRAFT OFF LOADING EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES. ITS SKIES SHOULD LOOK LIKE THE ISLAND IS BEING CARPET BOMBED. OBVIOUSLY, THESE CAPABILITIES COULD SUPPLY REMOTE AND CUT_OFF TOWNS.
    BODIES IN PILES BLOCKING THE STREETS, “SURVIVORS” CRYING FROM THE RUBBLE, 100 miles away.
    JESUS H. CHRIST, does the regime not have OPS PLANS for civilian team and military response to the inevitable California plate shift, the possible terrorist WMD on a seaport, some pesky asteroid ?

    I was in the “BROWN WATER” NAVY ( SWIFT BOATS & AMPHIBIOUS). I know what we have the capabilities to do.
    It is so sad that we have stumbled yet again.
    PLEASE DO AN ON POINT ON THIS. THANK YOU/ Michael T. Alogna

  • DonaldB

    Many of the 31 million workers with “Cadillac” health insurance plans are NOT union members. It may be true that union members have done better over the last three decades than the general worker, but they have given the work force better growth in productivity and NOT been fully rewarded for it, while those with the biggest income gained that by gambling with borrowed money and through some 6 million workers out of work!

    It is true that overspending on healthcare needs to be reduced, but look what happens when the Democrats propose some encouragement to reduce Medicare spending over 10 years: the Republicans yell that grandma won’t be able to get a life critical test (and THEY proposed equivalently bigger, less targeted cuts back in 1995, which brought the government to a halt when Clinton called their bluff!).

  • Natalie

    When was the last time the President did a full press conference? Mr. Sunshine and Transparency appears to be afraid of some unscripted, perhaps even tough, questions; and from his adoring fans in the WH press corps no less. He is a joke!

  • Ed

    Jack thinks the US is responsible for Haiti because it supported it’s former leaders. So therefore we have to tax Americans and rebuild Haiti to the tune of billions over serveral years.

    Classic Beatty. Haiti and Haitians have no responsibility of their own fate. Everything revolves around American perfidiousness. Even earthquakes.

    “So far from God, so close to the US.” Right. If Mexico didn’t border the US would it would be substantially poorer, like say, Venezuala.

  • jeffe

    Ed what do you propose we do? Ignore the plight of these people?

    If Bush or another republican was president do you really think the response would be any less?

  • Steve

    Perhaps one of the most obvious problems we face is overload. From the wars in the Middle East, Haiti, health care, the economy, Wall Street, to abortion and the Tea Party, we are snapped from issue to issue in the media, 24/7. How easy it will be for apathy to become a problem in the upcoming elections? Spending a lot of time being angry isn’t good for our physical or mental health. So how do we deal with this and still remain sane?

  • Ed

    Jeffe, I’m for helping them out. And no, I don’t think Bush’s response would be different from Obama’s nor should it be.

    What I was objecting to was the that Beatty seems to want to play the blame game with natural disasters.

    There is an earthquake in Haiti and the first thing Jack Beatty has to say is that the US supported corrupt leaders there. Therefore we are *obligated* to undo all the damage. This is just typical blame America liberalism. Beatty couldn’t look at this from any other angle if he tried, which he never would.

  • Michael

    “Why is Bill Clinton, the special envoy to Haiti, in Boston campaigning for Martha Coakley, instead of working to help Haiti?”

    This statement was repeated on the rightwing radio today over and over again by Michael Gram Jay Shevian, and Michelle Mcfee,. What they fail to mention is what Clinton said and did on Jan 13th

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/01/bill_clinton_on_haiti_we_need.html

    Before a massive earthquake struck Haiti, fortunes had begun looking brighter for the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Just last October, former President Bill Clinton was hosting a trade mission to Haiti, challenging international donors and investors to think big about the country’s potential for manufacturing and tourism.

    But a day after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the former president found himself pleading for money for the most basic tools of survival. “We need cash to buy water, food and first-aid supplies,” he told NPR’s Melissa Block.

    Clinton spoke from his New York office at the United Nations, where he and his colleagues were trying to assess the casualties among U.N. personnel in the collapse of the hotel that served as headquarters for the organization’s mission to Port-au-Prince.

    But even in the wake of a tragedy, the former president said that after the first few weeks of humanitarian rescue and relief work, he plans to go back to implementing a plan that he and others have been working on for more than a year.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122530936

    If one would have only Listen to talk radio one would think Clinton didn’t care or help, and put politics above the people of Haiti, amazing that it was extactly the same wording and propaganda repeated over and over again. Ruddie G. went to Mass to campagin for Scott Brown yet said nothing about what happen in Haiti

    I’m Sure this person will bring that up as well.?

  • Tom Haver

    It is time to take action. Take your money out of the banks! This we can do.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Icqrx0OimSs

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    This was her’s to lose and while it’s not over yet if this man wins, and I hope he does not, it will be her fault and the democratic party here in Massachusetts.

    I’m sorry, but why will it her her fault and not the fault of Massachusetts voters? They know what’s at stake WRT health care and a variety of social, economic, foreign-policy and environmental issues.

    If Brown wins it will be recorded that “liberal” Massachusetts elected a Republican conservative. And that no one held a gun to their head to make them do it.

  • Cynthia

    Hillary Clinton and others should stay out of there for the time being. They really can’t spare the tarmac.

    Also a warning: The other night I ‘googled’ the search terms, Clinton (as in bill the envoy), Haiti, Donate, and Paypal, clicked a link–that’s all, and my PC was immediately infected.

    And personally, I’d never send money to the Red Cross. Maybe Doctor’s Without Borders? Please check out your charities. I think there are charity watch groups out there.

  • Jon Stringer

    Jack Beatty’s weekly “blame America” far left rant is getting tiresome. Last week we are to blame for causing insane terrorists to target the US. This week it’s Haiti. What will it be next week?

  • Lance

    I hear what you are saying Jon. Some people might look at the aid the US is now providing Haiti, which is considerable, and commend the US. Some people look at it and find reason to scorn. Who spits in the face of army medical teams trying to heal the afflicted?

    Is there never a time to cast partisanship aside? Beatty himself has probably done nothing to aid the cause. So smug. So self righteous.

  • Michael

    The Mass Race is more about who the middle vote for than Tea Party supporters, Since These folks would have voted for Mr Brown anyways, and around 45% of the vote go to republicans who run for senate,congress, and the governors race.

    I voted absentee and recommend others do as well who may not be able to make it. I think because this race has become so close that many democrats who would have stayed home are now going to vote. Radio Boston had a show today with a shill for Mr Brown on repeating talking points and another guest talking about the ups and downs of both candidates. But many Absentee are being casted last i heard twice as much as in the primaries so we will see who wins.

    But what is funny the outside canidate Mr. Kennedy is more in line with the views of the tea party folks in reduce spending smaller government smaller military(woops) than The Republican Yet many if not all of these groups are throwing there weight behind Mr. Brown. (odd for a movement that says there against both republicans and democrats.

  • jeffe

    Louise China does not have a socialized health care system worth talking about. People pay for health care just like they do here.

    Peter it’s her fault because she took it for granted that she would win. She did not campaign hard at all. She coasted and Brown took advantage of it. Do you really think the voters are in the wrong here?
    Coakley had the nerve to think she could get away with this and the democratic machine here in Massachusetts obviously encouraged her.

    I live in Hyde Park and I don’t see any signs for her.
    I see a few fro Brown and that’s it. Not one person I talk to is going to vote for her. Most of the them are staying home which is bad for Coakley and good for Brown.

    Personally I don’t like or trust Brown, and will not be voting for him. I don’t like Coakley either but her platform is more in tune to what I believe in.
    Brown has endorsements from Tea Party groups and I find that real scary giving that some of them have members of white supremacist groups in them, which should set off a lot of warning bells about Scott Brown.

  • Alex

    I am not going to vote this time at all. Tired of voting for a less bad choice. Obama wants to govern from center, so let the “centrists” deliver votes to him, whoever they are. The country needs to get out of foreign wars and create a national health system. Democrats are not going to deliver either. So, to borrow from Louise: “adjos, chumps.”

  • Jamie

    I hope Jack Beatty knows that there are many of us who, far from finding him “blaming America,” are relieved when he is one of the few to bring in some history to the conversation – without it there is no context to understanding any situation.
    Lance, apparently you find bringing historical analysis, honesty, and compassion to be smug and self-righteous.” And obviously, you have no idea what Jack Beatty does “to aid the cause,” whatever that means. We do know that he consistently contributes informative comments on this show, which is all that is relevant here.
    Jon, if you think Jack Beatty is “far left,” well, you clearly have absolutely no idea what these terms mean. No one listening to this show or any other on wbur would think “far left!”

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Jon Stringer wrote: “Jack Beatty’s weekly “blame America” far left rant is getting tiresome. Last week we are to blame for causing insane terrorists to target the US.”

    Is this REALLY just some Leftist rant? If some nation invaded the US, or installed a puppet governments to steal our resources, I’m sure we both would find some way to strike back. Yet you seem oblivious to this natural reaction if we do this to other nations.

    The real problem here isn’t with Jack Beatty. It’s with those who believe the US can do no wrong or somehow believe that all the resources we consume, in this case oil, is an honest product of the “free market”. Or believe as Bush told us… “they hate us for our freedoms.

    It’s one thing to be comforted by delusions that the US is the eternal innocent. Just be aware that your beliefs make it possible for the US to continue such policies ultimately engendering even more blowback.

  • Janet

    Looks like the world turned their back on Hati and obama.

  • Lance

    “Lance, apparently you find bringing historical analysis, honesty, and compassion to be smug and self-righteous.””

    What historical analysis? I’m well aware of US interventionism in Haiti. Beatty was arguing that because of this history the US is obliged to engage in ‘nation building’ in Haiti. He didn’t argue for this, he just stated it, as if it was self evident. If you call that analysis, fine. I don’t.

    A *real* historical analysis would look at the recent and relevant case of ex president Aristide. The Clinton administration restored him to power after a military coup. That is, they thought they were acting on behalf of the democratic powers. And here’s how that went – Aristide’s regime became corrupt, lost popular support and was overthrown in 2004.And now Beatty wants us to engaing in nation building? What does he even mean by that?

    No mention, of course, was made of all the good things the US has done for Haiti. The fact that hundreds of thousand of Haitian refugees have been allowed to live here. The millions of dollars of aid Haitis’ received over decades. Where has all that aid gotten them btw?

    For Jack Beatty, simply blaming America for absolutely every problem Haiti has is good enough. I guess it’s good enough for you too Jamie. You could try to look a little deeper. Just saying.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Peter it’s her fault because she took it for granted that she would win. She did not campaign hard at all. She coasted and Brown took advantage of it. Do you really think the voters are in the wrong here?

    How can it be anyone but the voters? I’m a Massachusetts voter and I haven’t exactly had to break a sweat to learn about the candidates and their positions.

    And for any Massachusetts voter who’s been living under a rock, both candidates have been bombarding us for weeks. Since I don’t watch TV I’m normally blissfully shielded from all that fertilizer, but now I have to get a dog to bite the mailman: yesterday I received 5 (FIVE!) large campaign ads in the mail at my house where my wife and I live alone – 2 for Brown and 3 for Coakley.

    In a democracy voters alone are responsible for their choices – whether to vote, for whom to vote, whether to research the topics and candidates and where and how to research them. In a democracy there are no “the dog ate my homework” excuses!

    I’m fed up with people on the left AND the right who think voters are just mindless sheople who can’t make a decision for themselves. Even if Martha Coakely hadn’t spent a dime on ads and had to stay home and do her hair every night there was a campaign rally, it would still be up the Massachusetts voters to send Brown to the Senate.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Jon, if you think Jack Beatty is “far left,” well, you clearly have absolutely no idea what these terms mean.

    I disagree. In American terms he is far-left. And I say this as someone who tends to lean left on many issues.

    What most liberals and NPR listeners don’t “get” is just how conservative the US is. Of the major industrial democracies the US is unique. Abortion, gay-marriage, health insurance, Creationism, nationalistic jingoism, you name it – the US is unusual. How many other major western democracies have no socialist, communist, Green, or even a Social Democrat party with a standing presence in the national legislature? How many other major democracies would have gone through the kind of conniptions the US did over seeing Janet Jackson’s bare nipple for a fraction of a second?

    Look at the platform of David Cameron, for instance, and compare it to an average US Democrat!. Which is farther to the left? But Cameron is the leader of the Tories!.

    By WORLD political standards Jack’s views are perfectly moderate; by US standards he is freakishly far left.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Haiti is practically a textbook definition of “donor fatigue”. This is why it’s been so difficult to mobilize resources to help in the wake of this earthquake.

    Here’s article in the Economist from a year and a half ago:

    http://www.economist.com/world/americas/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14803147

    nd here’s one from the Seattle Times a year ago: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008641952_haiti18.html

    Haiti started off in history as a hellish slave pit, but so did many other places that have somehow risen above those circumstances. Just as no one knows why one person born in the ghetto turns into a college graduate end enters the middle class and another kid with the same beginning spends his life in and out of jail, the same mystery applies to nations.

    “Nation building” is the biggest myth of the post-WWII era. It’s been tried in countless places and failed in most of them. We have no science to explain why.

    “Donor fatigue” is a real problem all over the world as generous big-hearted people pour billions into failed societies dealing with both natural and manmade disasters, only to see it wasted, lost to corruption, or producing only a short upward blip in a relentlessly downward trend.

    There’s no intellectually-honest way to address the situation in now Haiti without acknowledging the donor fatigue problem and offering a credible solution to it.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Peter Nelson wrote: “What most liberals and NPR listeners don’t “get” is just how conservative the US is.”

    If government derives it’s just powers from the consent of the governed and elections are the way to measure that consent, then our system cannot guarantee us that morally legitimate government. Ours is a dysfunctional, if not braindead political system. The anti-democratic concept of state suffrage gives a mere 15% of the population 50% of the seats in the Senate. The Electoral College can impose on the nation a candidate REJECTED by the People. The anti-democratic Senate can install right wing judges and enter the US into foreign treaties. Our antiquated plurality election system filters out minority political viewpoints from the political debate in Washington. Our system amplifies the power of the citizens in small conservative states. Yet as a Progressive I can my conscience vote FOREVER and never get any representation for my views in Washington or Boston. In fact the system punishes those with minority viewpoints from trying to vote their conscience because all attempts to form third parties ultimately splits the vote and tosses elections to minority candidates. The result is our two-party system where both parties can debate endlessly within a rather narrow political spectrum. I believe our system is not just dysfunctional but intellectually braindead.

    Given this context… how can you make any general statements as you did above?

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Peter Nelson wrote: “By WORLD political standards Jack’s views are perfectly moderate; by US standards he is freakishly far left.”

    OK, you do get it… and I jumped to conclusions in my above post. I was thinking about all those polls where progressive issues also seem to have a solid majority here in the US.

    Yes, by international standards, the US is to the Right. But I have to wonder whether this is a function of the US soul or a by-product of our political system. One of our two main political parties has as its mission protecting wealth and power. It’s an agenda they can never admit to so to build a majority they are forced to look for single-issue voters who vote the classic guns, God, and gays. To keep this bizarre coalition together the GOP is forced to keep these issues in the forefront and this, plus the political system described in my post above, magnifies and reinforces the voice of these single issue voters.

  • Alex

    “One of our two main political parties has as its mission protecting wealth and power.”

    Protecting wealth and power is the mission of this country’s entire political system. This is why voting here is an exercise in futility.

  • jeffe

    Peter your wrong about this. Sending stuff in the mail is not campaigning. While Coakley went on vacation from Christmas and over the New Year period Brown was hitting the pavement. He went to Southey and knocked on doors.
    He stood out in the freezing weather shaking hands in front of Fenway park. This guy campaigned and he stayed on message. Coakley did nothing. Nothing at all.

    I’m not the only one saying this, just about every political journalist is saying this as well. She has not been campaigning until she woke up last week a suddenly realized that she could lose.

    Sure the voters have to decide, but they need to be sold on the candidate as well. If one candidate is making a huge effort and the other is not this makes an impression. People are also not happy with economy and the health care bill and this was Brown’s main message.

    You always blame the voters for some reason. Well I’m a voter how does his research and watches the debates and pays attention. Coakley has blown it, big time. If was not for the fact that Brown is an extreme right winger I would have voted for a moderate Republican. I’m an independent and I’m sick of the Democratic machine in the state of Massachusetts. They are corrupt, incompetent and take the voters for granted.

  • cory

    Ultrax,

    Enjoyed and appreciated your comment from 1243pm. A great way to describe the endemic shortcomings of our political system.

  • Jon Stringer

    In Jack Beatty’s simple world , all of the past problems domestically and in the world could be traced to the fact that Bush is evil and Republicans are worse . Sorry. Many people believed Obama’s claims of bipartisanship, fiscal seriousness, and centrism, and from day one got instead shady Cabinet nominations of tax cheats and lobbyists, indifference to congressional corruption as symbolized by Rangel and Dodd, a whiny monotony of “Bush did it” for a year , a 1000 page healthcare bill that no one understands despite repeated claims that the entire process would be transparent ( recall C-Span coverage), fiscal insanity, serial appeasement of enemies with conscious neglect of old allies, and on and on. No hope and less change.

    Recall all the talk that the world would love us again if only Bush left office. And Obama would “re-set ” the clock with our adversaries. If only world problems were that simple. Iran’s leaders, Venezuela’s Chavez and Russia’s Putin have only interpreted Obama’s goodwill gestures as weaknesses to be exploited.

    Finally , regarding next week’s Senate election. I couldn’t agree more with the comment that the Democratic machine in this state is “corrupt, incompetent and takes the voters for granted”. I’m an independent and fed up. Recall when the legislature thumbed its nose at the electorate by disregarding the income tax rollback proposition that passed several years ago. Recall when in 2004 the legislature changed the succession laws to deny the Republican governor the opportunity to select Kerry’s replacement if he had won the presidency. Now with Kennedy’s death they reverse the very law that Kennedy urged the state to pass. This kind of arrogance is what’s given a complete unknown like Scott Brown an opportunity to beat an otherwise decent person like Martha Coakley.

  • jeffe

    Jon that’s the interesting thing, this is Coakley’s to lose. I think Brown’s been playing to many sides of the conservative coin. On the one hand he welcomes Tea Party endorsement and on the other he denies he is as conservative as that, which seems to be a fabrication.

    He wont come out and say that he is against abortion even though he has been endorsed by a Right to Life organization. Brown has played it smart, I will give him that. If he wins, look for him to be a possible 2012 candidate in the presidential election.

  • jamie

    Peter,
    Even if it were true, what would be accomplished by calling Jack Beatty “far left,” other than to discourage people from listening to him? I took issue with Jon Stringer’s labeling Jack Beatty as “far-left” not only because it’s so absurd, but because even if you are correct in your assessment of just how conservative this country is, one of the ways to keep it that way is by using labels to frighten people, so that they will not even listen to someone who has been labeled “far-left,” or “socialist,” etc. It’s a tactic that has worked quite well for a very long time, and something that did not take hold in anywhere near the same extent in the other “major industrial democracies.”

    Perhaps you want to go along with this kind of red-baiting, but I don’t see it as anything but destructive in its capacity to keep people uninformed and scare into silence those who hold different views from your “conservative US.” Perhaps this “conservative” population is that way because they have been brainwashed into seeing things as “unpatriotic,” “communistic,” “leftist,” “pinko” etc. (as in “socialized medicine” [but is okay if it’s called medicare!], death panels, originally, even social security), while being kept in the dark about much of our history and the truth about who actually runs this country (despite our so-called elections), and then taught never to question, unless prepared to face the consequences of being labeled a leftist (see: McCarthyism).

    (You actually believe that by US standards Beatty is “freakishly” far left? – what then is, say, Amy Goodman, or Norman Solomon, or Robert McChesney, and many, many others who seem to have a lot of American listeners and readers?)

    Of course, UlTRAX is right (in this among many other posts): “The real problem here isn’t with Jack Beatty. It’s with those who believe the US can do no wrong…”

  • Jon Stringer

    Jamie,
    I for one do not believe the US can do no wrong. Witness this country’s history of racism , internment of Japanese during World War II,the McCarthy era, etc. On the other hand ,what other country has done more good for more people all over the world over the past 100years? And what other country has done more to confront its own problems and address them?

    Rest assured , people will listen to On Point no matter who Tom Ashbrook has as his analyst. I’ve been listening ever since Ashbrook first started on WBUR.It’s an excellent program but my beef with Beatty is that his views are so predictably left of center , almost programmatic. To his credit , he comes off as prepared , well-meaning and sincere. It’s just that I think he’s often woefully mistaken on those issues that matter most to me.

  • Louise

    Save the republic! Impeach Obama.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Alex wrote: “Protecting wealth and power is the mission of this country’s entire political system.”

    While there are still some stark differences between the parties, sadly, the Democrats… especially DLC corporate Dems, are susceptible to the allure of Big Money.

    The Democratic Party is braindead. It has no vision where it wants to take this nation in 10-20-50 years… and without vision, it won’t bother to develop a strategy. They are content to win elections… and if that’s through the implosion of the GOP… they are happy with that. They don’t see that by failing to stand for an push for Progressive ideas… they’ll never build a constituency for those ideas. The health care debacle is a perfect example. Instead of making the strong case for Single Payer and settling for the Public Option, Single Payer was off the table right from the beginning. It was as shameful as it was stupid in a political sense.

    The far Right, on the other hand, has had a strategy for the past 30-40 years to dismantle New Deal and Great Society programs. They intend to pack the federal judiciary with far Right ideologues. They have sabotaged the finances of government, and Democratic priorities as well, with irresponsible tax cuts. They have undermined unions both directly and through so-called “free trade” agreements. The GOP has managed to push the nation further to the Right… and without any overall vision of their own, the Democrats now often operate within an ideological system created by the Right. They lack the intellectual courage to even take on the Right’s big lies on tax cuts… even as the growing debt threatens some of their cherished programs.

  • Frank Rock

    So Tom, tell me why this is fair for the non-union workers in the country.

    Unions will dodge O’s health tax
    By CARL CAMPANILE

    Last Updated: 10:55 AM, January 15, 2010

    Posted: 2:49 AM, January 15, 2010

    Big Labor got some big love from President Obama and congressional Democrats yesterday after they agreed to exempt union workers from the whopping “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health-care plans until 2018.

    The sweetheart deal, hammered out behind closed doors, will save union employees at least $60 billion over the years involved, while others won’t be as lucky — they’ll have to cough up almost $90 billion.

    The 40 percent excise tax on what have come to be called “Cadillac” health-care plans would exempt collective-bargaining contracts covering government employees and other union members until Jan. 1, 2018.

    RICH LOWRY: ANOTHER RANK DEAL

    EDITORIAL: OBAMACARE’S LATEST BRIBE

    In another major concession to labor, the value of dental and vision plans would be exempt from the tax even after the deal expires in eight years, negotiators said.

    Under the plan to help fund health-care reform, the tax would kick in for plans valued at $8,900 or more for individuals and $24,000 or more for families.

    That’s slightly higher than the $8,500 and $23,000 thresholds in the bill passed by the Senate last month.

    The threshold will be even higher for certain plans with many older workers and women — a move to benefit unions with a high proportion of female membership, sources said.

    New York labor leaders — who had initially campaigned against the Cadillac tax, favoring instead a surcharge on the wealthy — said they are thrilled.

    “We can live with it. We have an agreement that nothing will be taxed until 2018,” crowed George Boncoraglio, regional president of the Civil Service Employees Association.

    Officials said the deal was thrashed out over more than 15 hours of negotiating at the White House that ended after midnight Wednesday.

    Powerful unions were well-represented around the bargaining table.

    Participants included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Andy Stern, head of Service Employees International Union; Anna Burger, head of Change to Win; and the leaders of unions representing teachers, government workers, food and commercial workers, and electricians.

    Stern has been among the most frequent visitors to the White House over the last year, showing up more than 20 times, according to logs.

    Originally, the Cadillac tax included in the Senate bill was estimated to raise $149 billion through 2019.

    But Trumka said the exemption would reduce that amount by $60 billion — money that negotiators will now have to find elsewhere, or reduce the coverage in the legislation.

    Boncoraglio said CSEA leaders were meeting in Albany — preparing to wage a major offensive against the tax — when their Washington lobbyist called and briefed them on the changes.

    Obama backs the Cadillac excise tax, citing economists who say it would drive down costs by encouraging insurance companies to offer employers and workers a chance to buy lower-cost health plans to avoid the levy.

    carl.campanile@nypost.com

    PRINT EMAIL SHARE
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    RSS Big Labor got some big love from President Obama and congressional Democrats yesterday after they agreed to exempt union workers from the whopping “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health-care plans until 2018.

    The sweetheart deal, hammered out behind closed doors, will save union employees at least $60 billion over the years involved, while others won’t be as lucky — they’ll have to cough up almost $90 billion.

    The 40 percent excise tax on what have come to be called “Cadillac” health-care plans would exempt collective-bargaining contracts covering government employees and other union members until Jan. 1, 2018.

    ABACAUSA.COM
    Barack Obama
    RICH LOWRY: ANOTHER RANK DEAL

    EDITORIAL: OBAMACARE’S LATEST BRIBE

    In another major concession to labor, the value of dental and vision plans would be exempt from the tax even after the deal expires in eight years, negotiators said.

    Under the plan to help fund health-care reform, the tax would kick in for plans valued at $8,900 or more for individuals and $24,000 or more for families.

    That’s slightly higher than the $8,500 and $23,000 thresholds in the bill passed by the Senate last month.

    The threshold will be even higher for certain plans with many older workers and women — a move to benefit unions with a high proportion of female membership, sources said.

    New York labor leaders — who had initially campaigned against the Cadillac tax, favoring instead a surcharge on the wealthy — said they are thrilled.

    “We can live with it. We have an agreement that nothing will be taxed until 2018,” crowed George Boncoraglio, regional president of the Civil Service Employees Association.

    Officials said the deal was thrashed out over more than 15 hours of negotiating at the White House that ended after midnight Wednesday.

    Powerful unions were well-represented around the bargaining table.

    Participants included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Andy Stern, head of Service Employees International Union; Anna Burger, head of Change to Win; and the leaders of unions representing teachers, government workers, food and commercial workers, and electricians.

    Stern has been among the most frequent visitors to the White House over the last year, showing up more than 20 times, according to logs.

    Originally, the Cadillac tax included in the Senate bill was estimated to raise $149 billion through 2019.

    But Trumka said the exemption would reduce that amount by $60 billion — money that negotiators will now have to find elsewhere, or reduce the coverage in the legislation.

    Boncoraglio said CSEA leaders were meeting in Albany — preparing to wage a major offensive against the tax — when their Washington lobbyist called and briefed them on the changes.

    Obama backs the Cadillac excise tax, citing economists who say it would drive down costs by encouraging insurance companies to offer employers and workers a chance to buy lower-cost health plans to avoid the levy.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Jon wrote: “And what other country has done more to confront its own problems and address them?”

    You seem oblivious to the blind spots in mainstream American thought. There are vast areas of problems that we can never address because collectively incapable of seeing them. For instance our political and electoral systems are incapable of producing morally legitimate government that treats each citizen’s vote as equal and permits citizens to vote their conscience and be guaranteed representation. Not even the so-called Democratic Party can face its internal contradiction that what they support is an un- and anti-democratic system. Our secular religion that places the Framers and the Constitution on a pedestal won’t permit it.

    And can we ever face the issues of just how inefficient the market system can be? We have a pharmaceutical sector that pisses away more money on profits to shareholders, promotion, high CEO pay, reinventing each other’s wheel, and trying find new variants of old drugs than in research for new life-saving drugs. How much needless death and suffering do these corporations cause because of this dysfunctional and wasteful economic model?

    I just don’t see the US as being a model of the self-correcting society. Issues such as the above are simply considered impermissible.

  • david

    A report from the Freedom House “Freedom in the World 2010″ states that we are in a freedom recession. The advocacy group says, “For the fourth consecutive year, more countries saw declines in political and civic rights than advances, the longest such period of deterioration in the 40 years of this cited report.”

    People, this is troublesome news for the world. I have seen over the last 40 years the threat on our freedom in America growing. Government is getting bigger and more intrusive into our lifes. The almost mob style govt. of “whose connected and who is is not connected” to those in power is scary. Both parties are more worried about power and keeping power than governing.

    A quote: “Congress does not draw to its halls those who love liberty. It draws those who love power.”

    This healthcare bill is not right for America, the more you learn about it, the more it scares me. If this bill is so great, it would stand on it’s own. Instead, closed door, backroom deals are being struck.
    Frank, listed many in his post.

    The Obama crowd is not concerned for your health, they are only concerned about power and passing laws that will insure they retain power. They will fill their ranks with puppets like, Nelson,Sanders, Levin, Landrieu and now Coakley.

    The lobbyists, unions, insurance co. and some very questionable others are all backing this Admin.

    Why you may ask? “POWER” and the American people will suffer dearly because of it. Taxes are going to go up for EVERYONE and the American dream will become something of the pass.

    By the way, I encourage everyone to give to help Haiti.

  • Alex

    “The Obama crowd is not concerned for your health, they are only concerned about power and passing laws that will insure they retain power.”

    If that’s the concern then you can’t really vote for anybody. I came to this country in 1996 and have had a chance to see the GOP in three different positions:

    (a) controlling Congress with the President from the opposing party;
    (b) controlling all branches of the government; and finally
    (c) being in a complete and utter minority.

    I have to say I really did not like them in any of these roles. From Gingrich to DeLay to Frist to … who is it now? Limbaugh? It was all about taking the power at any price and keeping it, the country be damned.

    P.S. Democrats have not been any better.

  • jamie

    Jon,
    While I appreciate your measured response, I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t explain your initial “far-left rant” description – which seems radically different from your last one: “predictably left of center.” And are people on the right not just as predictable, but you don’t find their views programmatic? And are they truly prepared, well-meaning and sincere, unlike Beatty, who only comes off as such? Perhaps you didn’t mean to imply anything there, but you certainly did mean to use the red-baiting language of “far-left.”
    Obviously there’s no issue about your thinking Beatty is mistaken, no doubt he and I would think you are mistaken. I, too, have been listening, actually since before Ashbrook, and I am not concerned about Ashbrook and his news analysts, I am directing my criticism at attempts like yours to avoid serious and honest discussion by resorting to cheap red-baiting – especially when you listed McCarthyism as one of the mistakes the US has made – why engage in the same tactics, if not to silence people who don’t agree with you?

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    David wrote: “The Obama crowd is not concerned for your health, they are only concerned about power and passing laws that will insure they retain power.”

    And the GOP is? Back in 93 the GOP developed a strategy to defeat Clinton’s heath care reforms NOT because they had a better plan. They simply feared that a new generation of Americans would become loyal to the Democrats as so many did after the New Deal. The GOP cynically placed giving Clinton a black eye over the health of millions of Americans.

    The same is true now. The GOP presided over a disaster but still can’t find the intellectual integrity to confront their own failings. All they care about is giving Obama a black eye and stopping any momentum he has in reshaping America. How can one tell if this is true? If the GOP wanted to have an honest debate, they would not rush to so many lies. After all what is the purpose of blatant lies like “death panels”? It’s to scare gullible low-information voters to support policies that are against their own interests but in the interests of the GOP. Such dishonesty is a sign of utter contempt for those being lied to.

    All that being said, I don’t like this bill. I think our health care system is a mess and would much prefer a Single Payer system. This bill has been watered down and it’s a big wet kiss to the insurance companies. It’s the sort of bill the GOP would love if they proposed it. While Obama has allowed political factors to interfere with his judgment, I can’t see how you can make the case that moving towards proving near universal health care is proof “Obama is not concerned for your health…” He’s just not doing it in a wasteful and inefficient manner.

  • ulTRAX

    Oops, the last sentence of my last post should have read “He’s just doing it in a wasteful and inefficient manner.”

  • Lance

    “I just don’t see the US as being a model of the self-correcting society. Issues such as the above are simply considered impermissible.”

    ulTrax. I’m not sure I agree or disagree with you. Can you be more specific? For example, is there an electoral model that you prefer to the US?

    If you can specifically point to another country that has a better process, fine. Lets talk about the altervatives. Personally, I don’t think any country has a perfect system.

  • jon Stringer

    Jamie,

    you engage in the very same labeling that you accuse me of being guilty of. I did not mean to engage in any ” cheap red baiting” as you describe it. If you’re fair, you’d admit that the left is just as guilty as the right in resorting to labeling and ad hominem attacks on anyone whose opinions they don’t share. My initial comments on Beatty reflected my utter frustration at having to listen once again to his predictably left of center views . I just wish other points of view were expressed by other responsible “news analysts” , such as a Charles Krauthammer.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    If government derives it’s just powers from the consent of the governed and elections are the way to measure that consent, then our system cannot guarantee us that morally legitimate government. Ours is a dysfunctional, if not braindead political system. The anti-democratic concept of state suffrage gives a mere 15% of the population 50% of the seats in the Senate. The Electoral College can impose on the nation a candidate REJECTED by the People. The anti-democratic Senate can install right wing judges and enter the US into foreign treaties.

    Are you suggesting that if we had a more representative system if would produce more progressive policies? What makes you think that if we had a more representative system it wouldn’t be even farther right than it is now?

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Peter your wrong about this. Sending stuff in the mail is not campaigning. While Coakley went on vacation from Christmas and over the New Year period Brown was hitting the pavement. He went to Southey and knocked on doors.
    He stood out in the freezing weather shaking hands in front of Fenway park. This guy campaigned and he stayed on message. Coakley did nothing. Nothing at all.

    I’m happy to admit that I wasn’t aware of this because it illustrates my point – I haven’t paid any attention to the campaign because the campaign is irrelevant. ALL you need to know is that there is a Senate race going on, that the election is on Tuesday, and which candidate best reflects your legislative preferences.

    Any candidate’s likely positions in the Senate or House may be discerned by their specific policy positions, their past voting record (if any), their general political philosophy, their party affiliation, and, perhaps most importantly, who their donors are. The ONLY benefit of a political campaign is that it forces the candidate to raise money, and by studying who the donors are we gain insight into how they will vote.

    The “campaign” itself is just a dog-and-pony show. It’s marketing and advertising. Would you buy a car or a restaurant meal or a beer or whatever based on the size of the company’s ad budget or whether there were big-busted hotties handing out free samples?

    If the people of Massachusetts elect someone on a basis other than how that candidate is likely to vote in the Senate then they deserve what they get. And unfortunately the rest of the country has to go along with it.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Lance asked: “ulTrax. I’m not sure I agree or disagree with you. Can you be more specific? For example, is there an electoral model that you prefer to the US?”

    Greetings Lance. Before talking about the solutions let’s look more at the problems. I wrote some articles about the defects in our system in some old blog posts

    http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html

    the last article here:

    http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_archive.html

    That being said I’d rather not talk about any specific nation but instead about political principals.

    Since I do believe in the principal set forth in the Declaration of Independence that government derives it JUST powers from the CONSENT of the governed, then I cannot but have issues with our federal system with its dysfunctional method of electing president and representatives. It simply violates some simple democratic principles that citizens should be able to vote their conscience and guaranteed some representation and that every citizen’s vote weighs the same. As I wrote earlier as a Progressive I can vote (and will be taxed) forever and under this system I’ll never get any representation for my beliefs. The votes of citizens for losing candidates simply don’t matter. I also have issues with arbitrary seniority rules in Congress that essentially grant more power to the constituents of some House and Senate members. I believe that it’s because our system is so dysfunctional that voting rates are so low. Working from memory, I believe we’re something like 160th in ranking of democratic nations. The 2008 election may have changed our ranking.

    That being said I also believe in checks and balances… and in democratic rule. (No I don’t believe in red herring argument that we’re a republic not a democracy. There’s nothing inherent in the concept of a republic that requires it to be un- or anti-democratic. Quite the opposite.) While I believe in majority rule with support for minority rights, having some institutional barriers to the passions of the moment is desirable.

    If elections are the tool to measure the consent of the governed, can our system do that? No. We should all know the problems or should. The EC can impose a candidate on the nation who was rejected by the people. Our antiquated first-past-the-post system can split majorities and allow minority candidates to win. Progressives, Libertarians, etc are not just denied representation… their beliefs are excluded from the political debate in Washington. This is why I call our system braindead. The marketplace of ideas just isn’t working in the halls of Congress.

    The solutions to these problems are fairly simple though the institutional and ideological hurdles in the US are daunting. First is proportional representation (PR). I’m not a federalist. I don’t believe in state suffrage because in reality states are not represented, citizens who live there are. The Senate is nothing more than a vote-weighting scheme that gives any citizen in Wyoming about 80x the power of any citizen in California. I’d like to see the Senate become a national body based in national elections. If Progressives and Libertarians each get 10% of the national vote… they each get 10% of the seats. This is the only way to break the grip of our two party system.

    Second, instant runoff voting solves the problem of majorities being split… and tossing the election to a minority candidate.

    Here’s a link to a decent source on PR:
    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/BeginnningReading/beginningreadings.htm

  • http://www,pnart.com Peter Nelson

    While there are still some stark differences between the parties, sadly, the Democrats… especially DLC corporate Dems, are susceptible to the allure of Big Money.

    I think “susceptible” is putting it mildly! I have previously suggested that liberals take a look at their darling Barney Frank’s funding sources. It greatly explains why we have had virtually no really significant financial industry reform following the recent financial calamity.

    Of course this applies to both parties, but the GOP is more out-in-the-open about being corporate shills backing the interests of the wealthy.

    There is great insight to be gained by studying websites like this: http://www.opencongress.org/money_trail
    . . . but I’ll bet not one voter in a THOUSAND can name his favorite candidate’s major funding sources. This despite the fact that funding is a better predictor of a politician’s voting behavior than anything they say in a campaign speech.

    And yet, as I indicated in my last post, it’s the VOTERS who demand this situation by requiring candidates to spend lavish amounts of money to get their attention. Voters will PUNISH any candidate who runs a low-budget campaign by not voting for them. The average cost of a Senate campaign is around $10 million, and, of course much higher in big states with multiple media markets like California and Texas. 85% of the money is spent on TV advertising. (source: CSPAN)

    And yet there is NOTHING a voter needs to make a decision that is not freely available on the web. As I said in my previous post, the only benefit of an expensive campaign is that it exposes funding sources which are the best predictor of legisltative behavior.

  • http://www,pnart.com Peter Nelson

    I’d like to see the Senate become a national body based in national elections. If Progressives and Libertarians each get 10% of the national vote… they each get 10% of the seats. This is the only way to break the grip of our two party system.

    I agree with this completely but I think it requires a more sophisticated voter that we are ever likely to have in the US. And also if you DID have sophisticated voters then almost every system can be gamed.

    And a disadvantage of the PR system you describe in your link appears to be that voters are voting for a party rather than an individual. This forces voters to waste time and energy paying attention to the inevitably murky and butt-kissing internal party politics rather than strictly paying attention to policy matters. I’m a serious policy wonk but I have zero interest in party politics – I’m not a member of any party and I never vote in primaries because I regard them to be party business.

    My ideal system is that we all vote directly on major legislation, but that’s even less realistic than PR because it forces everyone to be a policy wonk like me, and most Americans can’t even name the top 5 items in the federal budget, describe the Bill of Rights, or find Belgium on a map.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Peter asked: “Are you suggesting that if we had a more representative system if would produce more progressive policies? What makes you think that if we had a more representative system it wouldn’t be even farther right than it is now?”

    For all the various reasons I listed in my posts above, I think not. Our federal system inadvertently amplifies the voice of the Right. Just look how the course of US and world history changed for the worst when the EC installed Bush as president in 2000. Once in power, Bush could use the power of incumbency to further consolidate political gains, that is until through his arrogant stupidity the nation self-destructed. Money also works on behalf of the Right. Just look what the Koch family alone has done to change the direction of the nation. The Right also has a greater media infrastructure. The Right also has a vision and a strategy that they have relentlessly carried out these past 30 years or so.

    I believe the Right would NOT have made such gains if there was not such ideological disarray on the part of Democrats. As a party, they simply have no vision where they want to take this nation in 10-20-50 years. Without vision, they won’t propose and build a constituency for progressive programs. Without vision the Democrats begin to work more and more within the ideological framework created by the Right. Without vision Democrats can’t think strategically. They only focus on the next election cycle. The Democratic Party seems incapable of countering the major thrusts of the Right’s strategy… to stop the packing of the federal judiciary with Right wing ideologues, to stop the bankrupting of the Treasury with irresponsible tax cuts, etc. Democrats foolishly support policies such as NAFTA and GATT which undermine unions… one of the only counterweights to corporate power… then DLC Democrats start courting corporations as a replacement for union money. Progressives are perpetually stuck between a rock and a hard place. To form a third party splits the electorate and can

  • ulTRAX

    Oops again. I didn’t paste my entire post. Here’s the end:

    Progressives are perpetually stuck between a rock and a hard place. To form a third party splits the electorate and can throw elections to the GOP. Yet the Democratic Party offers nothing but the lesser of the evils.

  • jeffe

    Peter your wrong again. Scott Brown did not have a lot of money until recently and before that he hit the pavement.
    About 50% of the people who vote in Massachusetts are independents. I’m not sure if your answer is based on being fed up with the system or that you think voting is a waste if time. If you don’t vote in my opinion making judgment calls is kind of hypocritical, that’s my opinion.

  • jeffe

    The republicans and conservatives want to make government so inefficient just to prove it does not work. This is the agenda and 8 years of the Bush administration is proof enough of that. They want government to fail, that’s the point.

    I can’t think of any modern industrial country in the world that has this kind of political set up.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Jeffe wrote: “The republicans and conservatives want to make government so inefficient just to prove it does not work. This is the agenda and 8 years of the Bush administration is proof enough of that. They want government to fail, that’s the point.”

    And not just inefficient. Gone from the GOP are the fiscal conservatives of old. While they talk the same game in criticizing spending for any Democratic priorities, the GOP has since Reagan been increasingly hijacked by Rightists who want to sabotage revenues with irresponsible tax cuts. What do they care if in FY08 We The People pissed away some 451 BILLION on interest. Better that than using that money to fund any Democratic priorities. The Right learned long ago that they can’t win any debate to kill popular programs like Social Security so they took the stealth route… creating so much debt that it would put pressure on these programs.

    The Right also knows that such tax cuts and corporate giveaways like Medicare Part D bring home the bacon to the GOP’s main constituency. In the mean time they have nothing but contempt for its coalition of low information, single issue voters who they convince to vote against their own interest. They aren’t going anywhere. For some insight into this read What’s The Matter With Kansas.

    Source: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm

  • ulTRAX

    Here’s a link to the 2004 OnPoint show with Thomas Frank, the author of What’s The Matter With Kansas:

    http://www.onpointradio.org/2004/06/red-state-heartland-politics

    The question he addressed was how could Kansas have become such a bastion of far Right thinking when it’s being devastated by those very right-wing policies?

  • jamie

    Jon,
    I’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say that I engage in the same sort of labeling. Referring to “conservatives” or people on the right is hardly comparable to calling someone “far left,” or insisting that they are always “blaming America” when they are simply trying to look at what our role is in a given situation. I wouldn’t have taken issue with “left of center” or “progressive.” My point was only that, given the history of this country, being called “far-left” or something to that effect is done to cast doubt on someone’s “patriotism” and therefore to dismiss them as too radical to be taken seriously, at best, or suspected of being “anti-American,” and, therefore, potentially dangerous. The Palmer Raids, HUAC hearings, Red Channels, blacklisting of teachers, writers, etc., and whose legacy lives on, were not, as far as I know, concerned with “radicals” on the right – which is why I referred to it as red-baiting, which had the intention and, unfortunately, succeeded in scaring people into thinking those on the left were to be feared as people who wanted to “overthrow the government,” bomb-throwing anarchists, etc.

    As far as other points of view, I am surprised that you feel deprived – it seems to me that mainstream media is filled with analysts like Charles Krauthammer. It is the left whose views are rarely, if ever, allowed to be heard on mainstream media – even Phil Donahue was too much for msnbc, because despite (or maybe because of?) his high ratings, they didn’t like his anti-war and anti-bush guests, and for every “liberal” guest he had on the show, he had to have two “conservatives.” (“You could have the supporters of the President alone. And they would say why this war is important. You couldn’t have a dissenter alone.”) And that is just Phil Donahue, hardly a “radical;” it is hard to imagine hearing John Pilger, Robert Fisk or Allan Nairn, to name just a few, on mainstream radio or tv.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Progressives are perpetually stuck between a rock and a hard place. To form a third party splits the electorate and can throw elections to the GOP. Yet the Democratic Party offers nothing but the lesser of the evils.

    But why doesn’t the same thing apply to the Republicans? Bush, Rice, McCain, et al, are moderate compared to their Christian wacko wing. The Christian wacko’s are saying the same thing as the progressives – “if only we didn’t have to compromise with the moderates . . . ”

    I think the really interesting question is this: Why is the US the only major industrial democracy that has never been able to sustain more than two parties in the national legislature? There are all kinds of voting systems out there, including plenty of first-past-the-gate, winner-take-all systems that have 3, 4 or more parties in national legislature. But the US has NEVER been able to sustain that in modern history. Why?

    Many (but not all!) of the other systems are parliamentary and our system should be BETTER able to do it than a parliamentary system, because in the latter if no party has a majority they have to go through the messy and unstable process of a coalition government, whereas we elect our Executive separately.

    When you look at other voting and political systems around the world you can see how incredibly unusual it is to only sustain 2 parties and to keep it that way for almost 2 centuries!

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    The republicans and conservatives want to make government so inefficient just to prove it does not work. This is the agenda and 8 years of the Bush administration is proof enough of that. They want government to fail, that’s the point.

    I agree, but they make no secret of this – it’s plain to all that this is their agenda. That’s one reason I think that the US is conservative to its core – the GOP philosophy really does reflect the values of many people. I think progressives need to get out into the south or west more and meet more ordinary people.

    Do you think that all conservatives and Republicans already have great private health insurance and that’s why they oppose reform? If Bubba Jones loses his job at the mill, along with his insurance, THEN do you think he will support national health insurance? If he rolls his pickup with the stars-and-bars flag and “Impeach Obama” bumper sticker and sustains $400K of ICU, reconstructive surgery and physical therapy bills he STILL won’t support it! I have a whole branch of my family in N Carolina whose ONLY acceptable type of government health insurance is if you join the military.

    Remember the Bush tax cut for the rich? Statistically the strongest supporters of that legislation were poor whites – the ones least likely to benefit from it. Upper income people who stood to gain the most from it were much less supportive, and in some polls actually opposed to it.

  • Alex

    “Why is the US the only major industrial democracy that has never been able to sustain more than two parties in the national legislature?”

    I think it is because of the corporate source of political finance. When collective dip pockets put up billions for campaign finance, media opinion framing, think tanks, etc., they want to have tangible results. It is just more predictable that way. As a result, if you want to put, say, $100 Mil to finance an alternative candidate you will most likely lose your investment. Not a lot of people want to bet their money on a sure loser.

    There was one party that could have been viable, but you know what happened to it back 50 years ago.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    Peter your wrong again. Scott Brown did not have a lot of money until recently and before that he hit the pavement.

    Wrong about what? I never said anything about much Brown spent or when he hit the pavement.

    What I said is that a campaign is nothing but a dog-and-pony show and any politician who tries to do a low-budget (No TV ads, etc) campaign will be punished by the voters, because the voters DEMAND that you do those things to demonstrate your legitimacy to them.

    A voter can make far BETTER decisions by ignoring the campaign and studying the other resources I mentioned. The only political virtue a campaign has is that it exposes where a candidate seeks funding and statistically funding sources are THE best predictor of a politician’s legislative behavior.

    I’m not sure if your answer is based on being fed up with the system or that you think voting is a waste if time. If you don’t vote in my opinion making judgment calls is kind of hypocritical, that’s my opinion.

    Statistically it is a waste of time – the probability of your individual vote affecting the election outcome is WAY less than the probability of your winning the lottery – , but who said I’m not voting?

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    “Why is the US the only major industrial democracy that has never been able to sustain more than two parties in the national legislature?”

    I think it is because of the corporate source of political finance.

    You think corporations have been doing this since the early 1800′s?

    And plenty of other countries allow business interests to contribute money, so why doesn’t this happen there?

  • Alex

    “think corporations have been doing this since the early 1800’s?”

    I think business interests have been doing it from the earliest days. I am not just talking about financing candidates during a campaign. I am talking about financing the public opinion and framing the debate in terms of two opposing ideologies.

    “And plenty of other countries allow business interests to contribute money, so why doesn’t this happen there?”

    It may be a matter of degree. You know? Elsewhere, while business interests are allowed to CONTRIBUTE, they are not allowed to hijack the entire political system, as in, for instance, owning or controlling most of the media outlets, pay billions to lobbyists to write favorable laws, and so on.

    Or it may also be because of the legislative restrictions that do not allow two parties to monopolize the entire electoral field.

    I am just speculating here, but I think money is the most probable culprit.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    It may be a matter of degree. You know? Elsewhere, while business interests are allowed to CONTRIBUTE, they are not allowed to hijack the entire political system, as in, for instance, owning or controlling most of the media outlets, pay billions to lobbyists to write favorable laws, and so on.

    Then how do you explain, for example, Italy? Berlusconi personally controls far more of the media than anyone does in the US yet they have LOTS of political parties there.

    The US economic system, corporate model, election financing and political party structures have changed DRAMATICALLY since the early 19th century and yet we never seem to be able to sustain more than 2 parties, so I think there’s something more fundamental that’s different about US political culture.

  • jamie

    Lance,
    You wrote: “For Jack Beatty, simply blaming America for absolutely every problem Haiti has is good enough. I guess it’s good enough for you too Jamie. You could try to look a little deeper. Just saying.”

    And I’m just saying that Beatty was trying to bring in some history – granted, he didn’t have much time to cover much and perhaps it was too short for you to call it “analysis,” but he was attempting, in a format that by its nature abbreviates everything, to make a point about our involvement in Haiti – and “he just stated it” because that was all the time he had – did you hear him refuse to answer a question about his position? I didn’t hear Beatty blaming America for *every* problem Haiti has, he was simply bringing another element to the conversation about Haiti, in a very limited amount of time on a program not devoted to this one subject.

    Yeah, looking “a little deeper” is a good idea and you ought to do it: your version of what happened in Haiti is wrong, and for a *real* historical analysis, check out Randall Robinson’s book, An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President (yes, *kidnapped,* not overthrown), or his interview with Amy Goodman: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/15/bush_was_responsible_for_destroying_haitian

    I don’t know what Beatty meant by nation building, but since he mentioned it along with Afghanistan, perhaps he meant that we owed these countries some reparations for destroying them. All the good things the US has done for Haiti? Like I said, read Haiti’s history, and be sure to go back further than the last 20 years.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Just to clarify my position on voting- yes, I DO vote. I do so because I think that shared rituals and traditions enrich our lives and make them more colorful. In other words, for the same reason I celebrate Passover even though I don’t believe the story in Exodus, and the same reason I like to watch the Superbowl or the same reason I sing along with Broadway show tunes when I hear them on the Internet.

    But as I mentioned above, the chances of my (or your) vote affecting the outcome of a Senate or House race are statistically negligible. (I aced all my statistics and probability classes and I’ll be happy to take on anyone who challenges this assertion).

    The usual knee-jerk rejoinder to this is “but what if everyone believed their vote made no difference?”.

    “What if everyone …” arguments are nothing but rhetorical devices – they have no real-world significance where large numbers are involved. For example, I drive a Subaru Forester. What if everyone drove a Subaru Forester? It would put all the other car companies out of business, with massive economic impacts. I sold all my shares of Apple Computer (AAPL). What if everyone sold all their AAPL? It would drive Apple’s share price to zero. Et cetera. “What if everyone” arguments are meaningless because “everyone” is never going to do the thing in question.

    There are all sorts of reasons to vote – because it’s fun, because it makes you feel patriotic, because it’s a family ritual, because you want to set some sort of civic-minded example for your kids, because you want to show solidarity with other people of your political persuasion, and tons more. But if it’s a Senate or House race just don’t delude yourselves into thinking that your personal vote is going to make any difference. It won’t; it’s FAR below the statistical noise floor.

  • Alex

    There are three candidates at play right now. I will not vote Republican. My conscience as a citizen simply does not allow me to do so. I will not vote for a Democrat, either. I have voted for them three times out of the three I was eligible to vote in this Country and I have gotten nothing but a disappointment with their lack of a backbone. Two issues are paramount for me: (1) get out of the foreign wars and (2) create a national single-payer health care system. I have concluded that I may not rely on a Democrat to deliver on my priorities. What’s left? A libertarian. You know what? I may have considered this option except for one thing. Kennedy is going to loose. Peter, I am sure your expertise in statistics will confirm this conclusion. So? What is it that hangs on my vote this time around?

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Peter asked: “But why doesn’t the same thing apply to the Republicans? Bush, Rice, McCain, et al, are moderate compared to their Christian wacko wing.”

    You don’t think Bush was a wacko? Anyone so deluded that they believe God wanted them to be president should be disqualified from seeking office on mental health grounds. If there is a God, it’s clear S/He did not in any way favor his presidency. LOL

    Peter: “The US economic system, corporate model, election financing and political party structures have changed DRAMATICALLY since the early 19th century and yet we never seem to be able to sustain more than 2 parties, so I think there’s something more fundamental that’s different about US political culture.”

    Again I think the simplest answer here is the best: the two party system is entirely a by-product of our plurality election system. It creates significant disincentives to the formation of third parties because the so-called spoiler effect actually punishes voters who vote their conscience. What good is voting for president when the candidate rejected by the People can still be installed by the EC? This dysfunctional system eventually affects the political culture.

    Aside from the party faithful, many voters are trained to either vote the lesser of the evils, or stay home. I believe this is responsible for the pathetic voting numbers we have. We often focus on who gets what percentage of the vote. More revealing is the percentage of the voting age population (VAP) who votes.

    I put together some figures here:
    http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html

    US PRESIDENTIAL RACES and %VAP

    1972 55.2%
    1976 53.5%
    1980 52.6%
    1984 53.1%
    1988 50.1%
    1992 55.2%
    1996 47.2%
    2000 49.3%

    The so-called Reagan Revolution represented about 26% approval of the VAP. Off-year congressional elections average only 38% of the VAP. The so-called Republican Revolution of 94 represented the approval of only about 17% of the VAP. In this light, I think the moral legitimacy of our system must be called into question. But that’s political heresy… a topic that I don’t think even OnPoint would touch.

  • jeffe

    I celebrate Passover even though I don’t believe the story in Exodus Why? because you like matzoh and drinking awful Kosher wine? I was raised a Jew and we did this because it was part of my families deep religious beliefs system and tradition, one that I never took up.
    Hence I don’t celebrate Passover.

    Your right about our votes not counting, however a lot of people voted for Obama and he is now the president, go figure.

    By the way, a senator represents their state, so thinking that voting for them does nothing is not entirely correct is it. Ted Kennedy did a lot for this state did he not? So in my view my voting for him paid off as he did things I supported and seemed to do a pretty good job at representing the state of Massachusetts.

  • Nicholas

    Brown is a reaction against Obama and everything his messed up administration is trying to do to make this country weaker. Under Obama, we have seen deficits, debt, unemployment, and hopelessness rise dramatically. We have witnessed a tremendous power grab by the government as they try to take advantage of the people’s fear.

    Any other year, Brown wouldn’t even have had a chance and it says something very important about this country that he has made this as close as he has. Obama is a huge disappointment.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    So in my view my voting for him paid off as he did things I supported and seemed to do a pretty good job at representing the state of Massachusetts.

    My point is that he would have won even if you. personally, didn’t vote for him. As I said above, the statistical chances that your (or my) individual vote will ever affect the outcome of a House or Senate race are negligible. The time and gas it takes to drive to the polling station, wait in line, cast your vote, etc, cannot be justified by the actual impact it has on the election, so we have to justify it some other psychological way.

    WRT Passover, I like it because it’s a tradition. And besides, there are now excellent kosher wines available – there’s no need to bother with icky-sweet Manishewitz.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    Under Obama, we have seen deficits, debt, unemployment, and hopelessness rise dramatically. We have witnessed a tremendous power grab by the government as they try to take advantage of the people’s fear.

    …This just goes to show that being an NPR listener doesn’t require being well-informed.

    The deficits and debt rose as a result of Bush administration policies – first the tax cut, then TARP. (or did you forget that TARP was by Bush?)

    Unemployment rose also as a result of the Bush recession – it continued to rise after Obama took office because employment is a lagging economic indicator – you’re posting on economics policy without ever having taken even one, single, solitary economics course??! Would you make a comment here on racemic mixtures and molecule chirality without having ever studied chemistry? Then why do you embarrass yourself by doing the same thing on economics?

    And with regard to “taking advantage of people’s fear” – that’s exactly how the Bush administration got us into Iraq and pushed through all the wiretapping and other big-brother laws following 9/11. What has Obama done that even comes close to that?

    Stephen Colbert is right – reality has a liberal bias.

  • Marc

    I’ll be voting for Brown tomorrow. Several weeks ago, I was on the fence, but leaning towards Coakely. I didn’t like Brown’s support for the war and felt that a Republican victory would be a message that Obama’s increasing role if Afghanistan was supported by republicans.

    I lean to the fiscal conservative side of things, and I wasn’t happy with someone who so closely match Kennedy, but I figured I’d hold my nose and vote for her. What moved me over to Brown was the health care negotiations in Washington. They are completely without transparency and, from what I can see, continue the pattern of buying votes. Where’s the fairness of favoring unions over everyone else. Or one state over others. And since this is being done in the back room, what else have we given away to get this bill through.

    Then I thought of one of the next items on the agenda – immigration. How many people will be paid off to get this one through? And what happens when the 4 billion people of the world that are in poverty (that’s a guess, but Im sure there are billions) realize that if they just can get here, eventually, they’ll be granted amnesty.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    Again I think the simplest answer here is the best: the two party system is entirely a by-product of our plurality election system. It creates significant disincentives to the formation of third parties because the so-called spoiler effect actually punishes voters who vote their conscience.

    But other countries have first-past-the-gate winner-take-all systems too, yet they manage to sustain third and fourth parties. How do you explain this?

    What good is voting for president when the candidate rejected by the People can still be installed by the EC?

    But how would that explain why we don’t have third-parties in Congress? It doesn’t take much to win a House election and in a HUGE percentage of races House seats go uncontested. In many recent Massachusetts elections the House seat was uncontested by the GOP in about 40% of races. A determined, well-organized third party concentrating its meager resources in a handful of Congressional races should easily be able to win a big enough bloc of seats in the House to be legislative force to be reckoned with.

  • Lance

    Jamie, I read the Randall Robinson interview. I didn’t find anything in it that contradicted anything I said.
    He pointed out the problems that have occurred with US interventionism in Haiti. That’s exactly what I was getting at with the Aristide example. And Jack Beatty is calling for ‘Nation Building’? I don’t know what he means by it but it sounds like interventionism to me.

    “All the good things the US has done for Haiti? Like I said, read Haiti’s history, and be sure to go back further than the last 20 years.”

    Do you deny the hundreds of millions in aid that the US has given Haiti over the past several decades? Look it up. It really happened.

  • ulTRAX

    Peter wrote: “But other countries have first-past-the-gate winner-take-all systems too, yet they manage to sustain third and fourth parties. How do you explain this?”

    It is a valid question and I’m not up enough on comparative political systems to know what other variables are in play. There are not that many nations with first-past-the post plurality elections… and they’re typically rooted in the English system… Canada, Australia. This article might shed some light on the topic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law

    There is another phenomenon at work in the US. As soon as a third party shows any sign of success, those issues are stolen by one of the two major parties essentially draining support from that third party. In fact sometimes the two major parties steal from each other. Clinton’s triangulation stole some issues from the GOP like law enforcement and welfare reform… not to mention free trade. Here’s a link to an interesting article written in 02 by Jeffry Frankel:

    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/jfrankel/RepubDemoSwitchMIR-rSS.pdf

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    As soon as a third party shows any sign of success, those issues are stolen by one of the two major parties essentially draining support from that third party.

    But this only works to a point. Third parties like the LP, the Green’s, and the Socialists don’t just have issues (which, as you say, can be co-opted by the big parties) but they also have positions which are too extreme for the major parties to co-opt.

    However those positions are not too extreme for individual congressional districts. There are plenty of congressional districts which are extremely conservative, extremely anti-government (i.e., LP-ish), or extremely liberal which could conceivably elect a Representative from a third party. And many of these districts are vulnerable for the same reason – the incumbent is complacent because the other party doesn’t even bother to contest it, as we’ve seen in many Massachusetts races.

    But the LP, the Greens, and the Socialists don’t even try. All of them insist on wasting their meager resources running a Presidential slate, which is a totally quixotic quest. They also take some sort of perverse pride in running in a AS MANY races as they can instead of focussing their tiny resources where they might win. In short, they are only interested in grandstanding and playing the victim of “the system” instead of actually strategizing to win something!

    As we’ve seen in Italy, Israel and several other nations, even a small voting bloc with a half-dozen seats or so can punch above their weight if they are disciplined.

  • ulTRAX

    Peter wrote: “In short, they are only interested in grandstanding and playing the victim of “the system” instead of actually strategizing to win something!”

    The current system works against political minorities which are widely dispersed because while they may make up a sizable minority nationally, they can’t muster a majority in any given district. The current system forces political minorities to try and game the system to get a few crumbs. We saw a recent attempt when some far Rightists tried to organize a mass move to NH hoping to shape its vote. I think you are missing the point by fixating on what you consider the failings of these minority parties. Maybe they believe that the only way to get some press for their positions is to run for president. And it’s not as if there was a significant challenge from a third party in any congressional district the two parties would not react. And so if a third party wins a seat. How does that provide representation for all the other like souls in the other districts who can vote forever and never get any representation simply because in a winner take all system, their vote never count.

    I think the bigger question is what is it about our system that discourages citizen voting and that’s pretty clear. I’ve outlined it in my other posts.

  • ulTRAX

    Peter wrote: “However those positions are not too extreme for individual congressional districts.”

    And do you seriously believe that if a district went for a third party it would not be Gerrymandered to break up this pocket of third party voters?

    Districts can be rigged in a way where one party can win perhaps 70% of the seats with as little as 51% of the vote. This is what the Democrats did in Texas back in 91 and what Tom DeLay tried to do to favor the GOP with his own mid-term redistricting plan.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    And do you seriously believe that if a district went for a third party it would not be Gerrymandered to break up this pocket of third party voters?

    But we can change the way we assign voting districts if we want to. Several states have bills to end gerrymandering at various points in process. New York, California, Arizona, and Florida, are likely to end or curtail it over the next few years. California and Ohio already had referendums to do this in recent years which failed because the VOTERS rejected them, so we can’t just blame political backroom deals!

    And, again, look outside the US – In many countries they now have various neutral bodies to assign voting districts, but this came about after long struggles with the same problems we have here. For example the Boundary Commission in the UK wasn’t established until the late 1940′s, but they had multiple political parties before that. Likewise Canada didn’t ban gerrymandering until 1950, and that only in Manitoba. The rest of the country wasn’t free of it until the 1960′s. And in France gerrymandering charges continue to fly back and forth between the parties even today. As recently as last summer a big brouhaha blew up over claims of gerrymandering the various arrondissement of Paris. Yet somehow third parties exist.

    So I think your concerns about third-parties being gerrymandered to death, while valid, are speculative and there are lots of real-world examples from other countries showing that it’s not a kiss of death for 3rd parties.

    My point is that ending gerrymandering and having third and fourth parties are all possible in our current system if voters want them enough, and furthermore, they can be implemented locally – that is, one state can end gerrymandering all by itself, and one district can elect a Green or an LP all by itself.

    Alternative voting systems you advocate, like PR or elimination of the EC, both of which I would support, require Constitutional changes that make them pie-in-the-sky.

  • ulTRAX

    Peter wrote: “Alternative voting systems you advocate, like PR or elimination of the EC, both of which I would support, require Constitutional changes that make them pie-in-the-sky.”

    So then you admit that there are immense institutional hurdles to reform? Then why are you so intent on blaming third parties as if they have an even chance under our system? To that I would add immense ideological hurdles. For instance most Progressives in the US wear democracy on their sleeves as the Right does the flag. Yet in my experience few actually think our system needs any reforms past motor voter, or campaign finance reform.

    Yes… passing meaningful constitutional reform under our system is daunting. As I’ve stated in other posts, the formula for passage is anti-democratic and in theory can be blocked by a mere 3.2% of the population in the 12 smallest states. Which is why to dismiss it as pie-in-the-sky becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Progressives need to develop some long term strategy which includes NOT getting pulled back into the 2 party trap unless it serves some longer range goals. I posted some ideas back in 04 here:

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132×1316860

    As for Gerrymandering… yes I hope this is eliminated, but there are dangers like when some states try to “reform” their EC vote to be proportional while other states remain winner take all. In those states without those reforms, one party will still have an advantage. And in the end, ending Gerrymandering would end an abuse of a defective system… not reform our defective electoral system.

  • peter nelson

    I saw a link on a news aggregator that said “Bad news for Dem in new poll”. I just assumed it must be about the Massachusetts Senate race, but no, it’s a different Dem . . .

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/

    This health care bill is not very healthy for the Democrats.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    So then you admit that there are immense institutional hurdles to reform? Then why are you so intent on blaming third parties as if they have an even chance under our system?

    Because I provided examples of other places where third parties have thrived despite stuff like gerrymandering. So I don’t think the hurdles to third parties are immense; I think the hurdles to Constitutional reform are.

    The other reason I blame the third parties is because I follow them closely so I’ve seen how they work – they are NOT trying in any serious way to win seats! This is in sharp contrast to the third parties earlier this century in other countries where they actually set out to win elections in local districts, despite the best efforts of the entrenched powers.

    And most of the time they happily admit this – whether on the left or the right they will consistently tell you that their goal is not to get seats, but to “move the debate”. Anytime an issue, like health care or immigration, is adopted by a major party they take credit for it, regardless of what sort of pretzel logic they have to use to show that the issue would never have even been considered if it wasn’t for them.

    I think that American’s don’t “get” the idea of multiparty democracy for the same reason they can’t find Belgium on a map or speak a foreign language. Americans are the most insular people I’ve ever met – they have no idea what goes on outside their borders; they don’t travel much or take an interest in world affairs unless it involves a war or disaster.

    So, to Americans, two-and ONLY-two parties seems like a law of nature; multiple parties seem like wine at lunch, a good train system, or bare breasts at a public beach – just another crazy European affectation that they’ll never understand.

  • James

    It would be delusional to ignore how much worse things are now than they were a year ago. Does Obama deserve all the blame? Not all, but certainly the majority. He definitely gets all the blame for wasting opportunities given him and for consistently breaking promises made to the American people while satisfying the interests of his status quo backers.

    Those are the facts.

  • MIchael

    Brown Justifies Denying 9/11 Rescue Workers Aid: ‘We Had To Take Care Of Our Own Priorities First’

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/16/justify-denying-911aid/

    As the Plum Line reported yesterday, State Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate special election on Tuesday, voted on October 17, 2001 to deny financial aid to Red Cross rescue workers who had volunteered with 9/11 recovery efforts. As a state representative at the time, Brown was one out of only three legislators who had opposed the overwhelmingly bipartisan measure.

    At a campaign rally today in Hyannis, ThinkProgress caught up with Brown for comment on why he voted against the measure:

    TP: In 2001, you voted against 9/11 recovery workers, giving them aid, do you have any comment on this story?

    BROWN: Yes, it was a time when our budget was down. We had a lot of cuts unfortunately, and we had to take care of our own priorities first.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    It would be delusional to ignore how much worse things are now than they were a year ago. Does Obama deserve all the blame? Not all, but certainly the majority. He definitely gets all the blame for wasting opportunities given him and for consistently breaking promises made to the American people while satisfying the interests of his status quo backers.

    The biggest reason things are worse today is that unemployment is still high and that is an economic inevitability. Employment is a lagging indicator and that’s just the way it goes – no President has the power to change basic Economics 101. Unemployment will remain high for at least another year no matter WHAT the President does!

    All the other stuff you say is true – Obama broke all kinds of promises but they wouldn’t have made any difference to the employment situation.

    Also the lack of financial system reform has nothing to do with Obama – that’s Congress and the main roadblock to reform has been the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Barney Frank, whose biggest campaign contributors are from – guess where?? – the financial “services” industry!! I put services in quotes because I grew up the country where before they used artificial insemination for cattle, the way you bred new cattle was to start by having the bull “service” the cow . . .

  • James

    It’s more than unemployment which has doubled the past year. It’s debt, deficits, earmarks, lobbyists in the executive branch, collateral damage, military contractor presence, troop surges, pointless wars, H1N1 vaccine production estimates, Haiti response (Obama’s Katrina), the healthcare reform process, wall street bailouts/bonuses, unqualified appointments, party crashers, soft on terrorism, light on intelligence, broken promises, lies and deception, bigger government, less freedom, ……

  • ulTRAX

    Peter wrote: “The other reason I blame the third parties is because I follow them closely so I’ve seen how they work – they are NOT trying in any serious way to win seats!”

    Whether third parties measure up to your standards is pretty irrelevant to the bigger question whether our political system is un-/anti-democratic, dysfunctional, or even if it’s capable of providing morally legitimate representational government.

    So what if these third parties DID measure up to your standards? Would you THEN say a serious discussion on constitutional reforms should start? Or have you decided that while you believe in common sense democratic reforms that our system is virtually reform-proof and have given up on real reforms entirely? If not, then what are your ideas to reform the Constitution? That’s MY issue.

    I’m more interested in overcoming the entrenched institutional and ideological hurdles that prevent the US from moving towards reform rather than how third parties, who at best can only win a few crumbs, strategize in a political system where all the cards are stacked against them.

    And with that… I have to move on. I enjoyed our discussion.

  • Stacked

    “[i]The republicans and conservatives want to make government so inefficient just to prove it does not work. This is the agenda and 8 years of the Bush administration is proof enough of that. They want government to fail, that’s the point.

    I can’t think of any modern industrial country in the world that has this kind of political set up.

    Posted by jeffe, on January 17th, 2010 at 1:10 pm EST[/i]”

    So it’s a conspiracy! Also, every socialist nation in the world has been a failure, but that won’t mean it wouldn’t work here right? Socialism is dead buddy. It doesn’t work! It’s been proven time and time again. You sound like you want to overthrow the Government and install as Socialist/Communist dictatorship! That’s TREASON!

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Stacked wrote: “Also, every socialist nation in the world has been a failure, but that won’t mean it wouldn’t work here right? Socialism is dead buddy. It doesn’t work! It’s been proven time and time again.”

    “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
    And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
    Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
    And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” Acts 4:32.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+4%3A32-35&version=KJV

    Was this some crazed Marxist commune back in the 1960′s? No. THIS is how those who actually knew the historical Jesus believed was his message and who knew better!

    I wasn’t planning to come back to this thread but this needed a response.

    Socialism has become a meaningless term used by the Right to describe anything they think they can kill through name-calling. They know people like you have been trained all their life to respond to such buzzwords. Yet it’s as meaningless as the term ObamaCare used to describe all the conflicting bills in Congress. They can’t ALL be ObamaCare.

    Such labels are NOT designed to educate but to obfuscate. If there’s one lesson we all need to learn about US politics it is those who lie and mislead you really have nothing but contempt for you. They are trying to get you to act against your own self-interest.

    What IS Socialism? In the Marxist sense it’s the People owning the means of production. In the US it’s often redefined to mean any redistribution of wealth.

    But redistributing wealth is a key feature of our federalist system. Do you seriously believe Wyoming or Montana could have built their sections of the interstate highway system on their own?

    The Tax Foundation put out a chart of what states pay in federal taxes and which take in from federal spending. Alaska is the US’s 3ed biggest welfare state. In 2005 Alaska received $1.84 for every dollar they sent to Washington in taxes. Massachusetts got back only .82 cents. Ouch! California got back only .78 cents. http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/266.html

    Is Sarah Palin’s Alaska on the dole? You betcha! But not if you believe the image she puts forth. But then she’s been proven to be a liar over her claims about the Bridge To Nowhere. Add to that all those oil revenue dollars residents get. I don’t hear any Tea Baggers screaming about this “socialism” because the label is selectively… and cynically, applied.

    n the US there’s another perverse form of wealth transfer at work. It’s how corporations manipulate government to gain special favors. Just look at Medicare Part D. It was a big GOP wet kiss to the drug companies… and of course the GOP didn’t pay for it any more than they paid for any of Bush’s wars. Handouts to special interests MUST be sold to the gullible as matters of great principle. Just look at how we outspend most of the world for our military… yet we’re told there’s always some threat for for which we need to spend even more.

    Probably most scandalous there are intergenerational wealth redistribution. Since 1981 when Reagan first sabotaged the finances of government with irresponsible tax cuts, We The People have used up some $11.5 TRILLION in “services” WE have not paid for. Clearly, the Democrats under Clinton took this much more seriously than Bush2 who ran on protecting the surplus… then passed three rounds of irresponsible tax cuts for which he had to BORROW.

    I believe it was that reviled Leftist Noam Chomsky who called our system socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. Think long and hard about that.

    I don’t fault the Tea Baggers for their anger. But I think it’s being directed in the wrong direction. It’s the GOP and the corporate Democrats who have been selling out this nation to the highest bidder.

  • Brett

    jeffe,
    Apparently, Monsieur Stacked doesn’t know what the terms “Socialist” or “Communist” or “dictatorship” or “treason” even mean…At first I thought he was just parroting rhetoric he’s heard from Limbaugh or Hannity to achieve some kind of similar reaction as they desire, but his level of understanding is too limited to be even in the realm of attention-seeking behavior. It sounds more like a cry for help, really.

  • ulTRAX

    Just a bit more on the disparity between what the states tend to send to Washington and what they receive… here’s a map of FY2004 spending:
    http://www.taxfoundation.org/UserFiles/Image/Blog/ftsbs-large.jpg

    To quote the conservative Tax Foundation in their article “Why Do Some States Feast on Federal Spending, Not Others?”:

    “As you can see from the map, states that get the “worst deal”—that is, have the lowest ratio of federal spending to taxes paid—are generally high-income states either on the coasts or with robust urban areas (such as Illinois and Minnesota). Perhaps not coincidentally, these “donor” states also tend to vote for Democrat candidates in national elections. Similarly, many states that get the “best deal” are lower-income states in the mid-west and south with expansive rural areas that tend to vote Republican.”

    I know, it’s not entirely fair to generalize, but it’s interesting that the states most on the federal dole tend to vote Republican. But isn’t that a socialist redistribution of wealth? LOL

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    Now that Scott Brown has won Massachusetts I hope progressives will finally recognize what I’ve been saying is true – the US is a fundamentally more conservative culture than the US left is willing to acknowledge.

    Even the most “liberal” Democrats, like Obama and Frank and Pelosi are center-right by world standards – and in the pockets of big corporations to boot. As I pointed out above, what other countries call “conservative”, e.g., (Tory leader) David Cameron, would be flaming lefties by US standards.

    My progressive friends read Mother Jones and munch Endangered Species Chocolate, sip Peace Coffee, bike or take public transit to anti-war rallies and sing “Kumbaya” in Unitarian church basements, all the while telling themselves that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are fringe wacko’s.

    Guess again – it is we progressives who are the fringe, at least in the US. Blaming Coakely is delusional – Massachusetts voters knew exactly what was at stake and had a crystal-clear choice. They made their choice. It’s time for progressives to wake up and smell the (organic, shade-grown Fair Trade) coffee.

  • jeffe

    Peter, Coakley ran a bad campaign. That sure did not help. Turn out in the large cities such as Boston was not even close to the suburbs and the burbs took it.
    I mean she called Kurt Schelling a Yankee fan! Not very smart. She also does not drive a pick up truck.

    She was out gunned by this guy, and he also raised a ton of money using the Obama campaign strategy.
    I agree about the country being right wing and conservative. I never thought it was not. I also remember telling most of the people I know that Obama was a centrist like Bill Clinton. The thing is the health care bill or bills showed the country how screwed up our government is. From the backroom deals to the concessions to the very health care corporations that are the problem.

    The bottom line is it does not matter, I for one am begging to think that the democrat’s are incapable of leading. The republicans just want to destroy government to the point that it no longer functions. This country is going to now go back the republicans in a very big way. If Brown is mildly successful as a senator I can see him running for president in 2012. Of course he will have deal with Romney, but him being a Mormon will make Brown the likely favorite.

  • Alex

    Obama has made too many compromises and basically abandoned his base in less than a year. Why should I go vote for his agenda if he does not make an effort to fight for stuff. Health care reform is a joke, wars are still ongoing, bailouts for bankers, etc. Some people scream he is a socialist. I personally did not go to vote this time because he is nothing of the sort. He is just a big sell out.

  • jeffe

    Stacked have you ever heard of Grover Norquist? My statement is based on his philosophy. Not some weird left wing ideology.

    Also do you define socialist failures as countries such as Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Sweden? They pay slightly higher taxes than we do but they also have complete health care coverage, little or no fees for going to college or university, work less hours than we do and seem to be doing very well, thank you very much.

    I’m not advocating any of these countries as models for the USA, but one could hardly call these countries socialist, social democracies, yes socialist, no.

  • jeffe

    sorry typo, I for one am beginning to think that the democrat’s are incapable of leading.

  • George Potts

    Obamacare dies in referendum in Massachusetts.

  • ulTRAX

    George Potts wrote: “Obamacare dies in referendum in Massachusetts.”

    There was no referendum. And what would it be on? A health care plan similar to what Mass got under Romney?

    Only about 22% of those Mass citizens that COULD vote gave their approval to Brown. This was no revolution. Deal with it.

    Brown’s seat is only important because

    1: the Senate is an anti-democratic institution where a mere 15% of the US population now gets 50% of the seats. It amplifies the voice of the Right.

    2: Harry Reid is disgustingly spineless and should be replaced.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    Jeffe wrote to Stacked: “Also do you define socialist failures as countries such as Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Sweden? They pay slightly higher taxes than we do but they also have complete health care coverage, little or no fees for going to college or university, work less hours than we do and seem to be doing very well, thank you very much.”

    No sense in waiting for an answer. It’s clear that to Stacked socialism need not be defined. It’s just a label s/he can apply to anything s/he dislikes.

    S/he’ll never deal with the simple fact that our federal system is based on a redistribution of the wealth… between people between states, and even between generations. Will s/he bother to look at the numbers I posted from the CONSERVATIVE Tax Foundation?

    And Stacked will NEVER deal with the fact that both the Reagan and Bush2 tax cuts were funded with money BORROWED FROM OUR CHILDREN! After all what is a tax cut when we’re in debt? Future tax INCREASES plus interest.
    My experience with those determined to deny reality is that the harder you squeeze them with inconvenient facts, the more they become like quicksilver looking for any diversion.

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