Insight. Antics.

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Another Saturday Night.

In Politics on November 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Making it impossible for his colleagues to enjoy a prix-fixe dinner before the theater, Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled his vote for 8pm on Saturday on whether to begin debating the health care reform bill that he has unveiled to the Senate. It passed, by the minimum margin.

Since an average of 3,750 people die daily traced back to a lack of insurance, giving up a Saturday here and there seems a tiny price to pay. I suspect Sam Cooke and Cat Stevens (both singers of this piece’s namesake) would agree.

This vote contributes to Reid’s goal of getting this bill passed by Christmas. Not for nothing, but if he can fast track it by another week, maybe he can sneak in a vote while Joe Lieberman is lighting the Hanukkah candles.

Whatever happens, the current situation can’t keep up much longer: all of these shots of Senate Democrats fawning over each other, smiling knowingly at each other are too eerily reminiscent of Frodo and Sam’s yearnings at the end of Lord of the Rings.

There were a few late-breaking holdouts that caused anxiety for Reid in the centrist camp. Word broke Friday that Ben Nelson (D-NE) would vote for proceeding with debate, but Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wouldn’t reveal what her vote was until the morning of the vote. In addition, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was an enigma until midday Saturday. They all broke in Reid’s favor for this round. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreary Forecast.

In Economy, Energy, Politics on November 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

World Leaders in Singapore for the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on 11/14/09 - Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

You might be under the impression that there is now, at long last, worldwide consensus towards taking swift, bold action against climate change, by reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to renewable energies. Y’know, a reactive rallying cry in this post-Katrina, post-Australia flood, Day After Tomorrow age.

Indeed. This weekend, while at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, world leaders (seen above in their brightest kung fu practice attire) reached a momentous, exciting outcome: they will not reach a deal this year.

Yes, in Singapore, the word came down that the sweeping, binding agreement they intended to reach at the U. N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, with a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, is DOA.

Not with that attitude! Come on, guys, it’s game time!

(The fact sheet they released avoided all of this of course. And, this news renders what President Obama said at APEC on the subject pretty empty.)

Apparently, APEC is not known for much in the way of substance. So, this news has really bolstered its relevance!

What’s most disheartening of all? It’s mostly our fault! Congress’ inability to pass climate and energy legislation has sent typhoons of political paralysis across the oceans. The House passed a relatively robust bill in June, but Ol’ Unreliable Senate has not. Thanks for letting us down again.

Another morsel of glee: the Senate isn’t expected to get into the nitty-gritty of a debate until 2010. And from there, it’s only two years until the Mayan apocalypse!
Read the rest of this entry »

Senate: Old And Busted. House: New Hotness.

In Politics on November 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Screen Grab of House Floor Vote for Health Care Reform on 11/7/09 - Associated Press

Maybe it passed because Obama came by to give dashing septuagenarian and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) a good luck kiss on the forehead before the big game. Or because Anthony Weiner (D-NY) dropped his hardline Medicare-based public option crusade. Or maybe it passed because the House doesn’t suck.

It’s far from perfect, far from being a vote limited to health care, and far too long: compare its Tolstoy epic-like 1,990 pages to the original Social Security Act’s more novella-like 64. Alas, such is the nature of sausage-making.

By now we all know that on a busy, “nice little Saturday,” the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill. In June, it also passed climate change legislation. Of course, neither of these bills is law yet, because of the languid pace of that familiar upper house, the Senate. (And because the president would need to subsequently sign them.) Nonetheless, it strikes me as ironic that the House, over four times the size of the Senate and with a few extra members on the fringes of normalcy, often proves to be a more nimble body.

I had always thought of the Senate as the more esteemed and wiser of our nifty bicameral legislature (courtesy of sly dog James Madison), and in many ways that’s true. But its members are, on average, older and more behind the times.

I had always thought of the Senate as the “real” Congress, where the big stuff gets done by household names, your McCains and Dodds and Rockefellers. Lately, it’s a chain of old men playing Red Rover who won’t let any laws come on over.

Through the fall the Senate has shown itself to be underwhelming. Its slothy pace and esoteric procedures are the legislative frustration equivalent of a reality show that drags out the elimination round announcement through three commercial cliffhangers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Morning After.

In Politics on November 4, 2009 at 11:13 am


In the wake of last night’s elections results, a few things come to mind:

This was no Super Tuesday: Sorry MSNBC, but 2 East Coast gubernatorial races and a house race so far up north in New York that it has more Canadians voting than any other bloc do not a super day make. This was more like a nor’easter of charismatic-less candidates. Except for the name Scozzafozza. Its Italian phonetic glee makes you want to throw caution to the wind and dig into some penne a la vodka, while watching Fozzie Bear on a TV Land Muppet Show rerun.

Coattails are overrated: Obama didn’t affect these elections. These races for governor appear to have been about issues on the ground. In New Jersey, incumbent Jon Corzine is highly unpopular. There are a lot of reasons why this may be: for instance, he presides over the highest property taxes levied in the history of the state and has a Wall Street pedigree at a bad time to be known for that. Plus, he didn’t wear a seat belt. In Virginia, the GOP’s Bob McDonnell won handily with a focus on local issues and kitchen table common sense. He didn’t spend his time ragging on Obama. The Washington Post validated that choice persuasively with an incisive and revealing poll: 70% of Virginia voters said Obama would not be a factor in their decision, and those who said he would were split evenly between the Democrat and the Republican. So, no net effect. Read the rest of this entry »