Eliminate Filibuster Now: A "First 100 Days" of Year 2, Avoid Supreme Court Fight, Win 2010 Elections.

Police Lt.: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
Denham: No, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast (King Kong, 1933)

The filibuster will be eliminated this year. One, and possibly two, Justices will retire at the end of the term in June. There is a 100% guarantee that Republicans will filibuster anyone President Obama appoints, claiming approval should await the outcome of the November elections. The President has shown a belief, unsupported by events, to try to be acceptable at least to some Republicans so they will vote for him, in this case, his nominee.

They won't.

So, we will get a lukewarm nominee, and no Supreme Court Justice. The Republicans know theatre very well--that situation will be perceived as the pathetic end of a dysfunctional government.

At that point, Democrats will truly be in a no-win position. If they eliminate the filibuster at that time, for that single purpose, Republicans will have a couple of months right before the election to denounce the 'trickery' to get 'activist' Justices seated. Nonetheless, they will have to eliminate the filibuster then because not to do so would alienate all their constituencies, and guarantee a shellacking in the 2010 elections.

More importantly, Democrats will be in a no-win position because the government will have been dysfunctional for another year and, despite it being Republicans' fault, the Democrats will be blamed because they are in control. And, they have 59 votes, more than Republicans ever had when they rammed through their agenda, and ran the country into the ground.

So, why not recognize the inevitable? Eliminate the filibuster right now. Then, the Republicans' pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a "First Hundred Days" of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change:

1) A jobs bill that actually creates jobs;
2) Approve all the President's appointments, together, one vote.
3) A financial reform bill that incorporates Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection agency and (my hope) reinstitution of Glass-Steagall.
4) Healthcare reform incorporating Joe Lieberman's former love, buy-in to medicare for those 55 and older; and a public option; and a combination of taxing high-end plans + a surtax on the wealthy (House + Senate version).
5) Student loan reform
6) Energy tax and rebate (Senator Cantwell's proposal).

While the Republicans bellyache about being steamrollered, Democrats can pass the agenda for which the nation voted in 2008, but soured because of the dithering and dealmaking the existence of the filibuster created. Without the filibuster, no one would have had to talk to Joe Lieberman or Blanche Lincoln or Ben Nelson. [And, since no one would have had to talk to them, I bet they would have been more supportive!].

Without a filibuster, when the summer arrives, and the 1-2 Justices announce their retirements, the President can nominate really good people to the bench. One might suspect that the caliber of those people would be significantly higher than whom he might choose in the vain attempt to get Republican support.

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the President's success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

I am late to the "end the filibuster" movement because I worry about what Bush et al. might have done if there were no filibuster then. Social security would have been privatized--and decimated by the financial collapse. Stem cell research would have been totally outlawed (passed twice by the House).

But, I am willing to take those future chances, because the country and the world cannot await an even greater than 60-vote majority that Lyndon Johnson had in the 1960s that will never happen. Eliminating the filibuster means we have to deliver for the American people, and maintain constant vigilance against another radical rightwing takeover.

Although the President is not himself a "boomer", those who control the Congress are. Many of them had their hopes and dreams for a better America, and a safer and more just world, dashed when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was then hijacked by George W Bush.

This is their last chance. It starts with eliminating the filibuster.

Now.

 

A.W.O.L on Comcast/NBC Merger: Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz, Matthews

 

--I heard the news today, oh boy, About a lucky man who made the grade...He blew his mind out in a car, He didn't notice that the lights had changed..-- (Sgt Pepper, The Beatles, 1967)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 triggered a wave of media ownership consolidation.

You will, of course, remember the vigorous debate on that bill, recounted night-after-night on the major news programs, regaled even more on the "pundit" shows of the time, and consuming nearly all the air-time on the Sunday blabberfests? And , recall getting tired of 60 Minutes running this story week after week after week?

You don't remember?....well, not to worry, you are not suffering memory loss or suppressing a painful experience.

You do not remember it because the major networks and cable operators who stood to gain financially from this bad policy said virtually nothing about it. Their "independent" newsrooms reported next to nothing about it. There were no "round-tables" discussing its merits. I believe I recall ABC's Ted Koppel, who hosted Nightline that prided itself on covering stories in depth and without apology for ruffling feathers, being asked whether he supported the bill, and giving a rather lame "yes, it is valuable to my network" answer. If you knew about it at all, it was because you watched C-SPAN at some ungodly hour. [And, to be completely fair, Olbermann-Maddow-Schultz-Matthews were not on the air in 1996).

When it came to Citizens United--the recent decision by the Supreme Court that found the original intent of the Founders was to grant Constitutional personhood to corporations, creatures of the State--Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews were intensely concerned about its implications. They covered the case, the aftermath, and periodically follow-up with reports of Congressional efforts to blunt its effects or overturn it by Constitutional Amendment.

Enter, Comcast/NBC Universal. Comcast is the nation's largest cable operator, and NBC Universal one of the major content creators. Comcast wants to purchase NBC Universal from General Electric. MSNBC and CNBC are part of NBC Universal and would become owned by Comcast.

Where is the coverage Rachel? Ed? Olbermann? Matthews? Where is the outrage over increased media concentration and corporate control? Where is the exposé of Comcast's past egregious actions? (For a chronicle of those, see, e.g., Josh Silver's article,"Senator Franken Rips Into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts", February 5, 2010).

Just to provide a taste--Comcast opposes Net Neutrality, and has already tried to violate it on its own. It lavishes money on Members of Congress, and packs FCC hearing rooms with paid "supporters". Brian Roberts lied to Senator Franken right in his office about the FCC protecting consumers against price increases while his lawyers argued it was unconstitutional.

So where are Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz and Matthews? How can they, as they all rightly have, extol the virtues of a Wendell Potter (former insurance executive who outed his industry during the healthcare reform debate), and yet sit idly without investigating and reporting the dire implications of Comcast owning NBC Universal?

The deafening silence from this quartet is all the testimony needed to show why this merger is...very bad news, indeed. . 

The Simple Way to Pass the Jobs Bill with "Bipartisan" Support

"Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, threw a bum a dime, didn't you?"--Bob Dylan

A bipartisan jobs bill can be passed, quickly, without any need to talk, plead, cajole or make deals with Republicans or recalcitrant Democrats. That is, if the Democratic leadership had even a scintilla of guile that they have yet to display.

Nearly a year ago James Boyce and I suggested ("Will John Boehner Really Say 'Thanks But No Thanks' To Stimulus Funds?", February 19, 2009) that Republicans in the House who had voted against the stimulus plan be challenged on the House floor to declare whether they wanted any of the money in their districts -- with the Democratic majority willing to support whatever their decision was. It was a way, after the vote, of calling their bluff.

Since that time, as the President pointed out at their conference meeting, the very same people who voted against it, showed up at ribbon cutting ceremonies in their districts basking in the glory of a project and jobs that the stimulus bill had funded.

This time, why wait until after the bill -- bruised, revised and made less effective, begging for votes -- makes it through Congress? Instead, write into the bill that the money for jobs, and the tax credits, everything possible that can be geographically limited, will only be spent in districts whose Members of Congress support it, and only in states where at least one of their Senators voted for it.

Of course there will be wailing and moaning by Members and Senators whose lies and hypocrisy will, finally, be exposed. It will be couched in "buying votes" language.

Really? Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put a hold on all President Obama's appointees unless he gets $45B to projects in his state. Another Republican Senator held up one of the President's nominees until he got money for a building in his state (Kansas). They all put earmarks for their districts and states into bills.

Moreover, the Republicans claim that these jobs bills do not work anyhow. So, one could retort, why the wailing and moaning...according to these people, no jobs are lost since the programs do not work.

With these provisions, the jobs bill can pass quickly -- indeed, the Senate can use reconciliation so there will not even be a filibuster. The wailing and moaning will continue for a week, and then the media will move to another story. In the meantime the jobs bill will pass, and Republicans (and Democrats) who vote against it will have to answer to their states and districts as to why none of the jobs are coming to them.

Or, more likely, "bipartisanship" shall magically flower ahead of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.

 

 

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