Archive for March 2010
First, Wolf Hall is damn good so far—it starts off quickly and is very well written.
And the GOP is happy to oblige. Steve Benen:
We’ve seen ample evidence in recent months that the public was turned off by the process of reforming the health care system. Whether these concerns were well grounded or not is a separate question, but the frustration has obviously been real.
Gallup, for example, published this result today:
Regardless of whether you favored or opposed the health care legislation passed this week, do you think the methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used to get enough legislation — were [they] an abuse of power, or were [they] an appropriate use of power by the party that controls the majority in Congress?
Abuse of power 53%
Appropriate use of power 40%
No opinion 7%
Substantively, this is bizarre. The "methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used" were entirely legitimate and above-board. Reform went through the committee process, had floor debates, passed both chambers, etc. There was literally nothing that constituted an "abuse of power." Some of the side deals were unsavory, but (a) the deals were ultimately removed by Democratic lawmakers; and (b) the deals were entirely consistent with the way Congress has operated for more than 200 years.
Democrats promised voters they’d pass health care reform, they worked on health care reform for more than a year, and then they voted for it. That’s not "abuse," it’s "a governing majority fulfilling its campaign promises."
So, what explains the poll results? Greg Sargent’s take sounds right to me: "This suggests, I think, that the claim by Republicans and conservatives that Dems were going to ‘ram’ the bill through Congress via dictatorial fiat really succeeded in riling up people up a great deal — even though Republicans repeatedly used the reconciliation tactic themselves to pass ambitious legislation…. Moral of the story: Message discipline works."
Does it ever. Republicans, in all likelihood, knew full well there was nothing untoward about a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate approving health care reform. But they kept hammering away at their message — GOP lawmakers decried the "sleazy" and "abusive" process, and conservative pundits echoed the sentiment. Mainstream outlets, obliged to pass along reports of debates, regardless of merit, covered the sausage-making process at a granular level, offering procedural coverage in a way that probably has no precedent in American history.
Casual news consumers, who don’t generally care about legislative procedures, were no doubt left with the impression that Dems were handling the process the wrong way. After all, that’s what "everyone is talking about." They heard "something about this on the news."
Fortunately, this will fade, and the public can start caring more about policy than process. But in the meantime, poll results like these are frustrating.
It is happening on April Fool’s Day, but it is no joke. The Organic Consumers Association, upon whose Advisory Board I serve, is picketing chef Alice Waters‘ world famous Chez Panisse Restaurant, Cafe and Foundation offices in Berkeley, California, over the noon hour on April 1, 2010. The protest is a direct result of the growing controversy in the Bay Area where the City of San Francisco, through its Public Utilities Commission, has been giving away and selling thousands of tons a year of toxic sewage sludge to be put on farms and gardens. The nasty entropic stuff, filled with a potential stew of thousands of chemicals and microbes, has even been bagged by the PUC as "organic compost" and used by unsuspecting victims who would never have intentionally put sewage sludge on their home or school gardens.
What has this got to do with Alice Waters and Chez Panisse? Francesca Vietor, the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, whose mission is to promote Edible Schoolyard organic gardens, is also the Vice President of the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC is refusing to permanently end their sludge give away, nor agreeing to clean up the gardens already contaminated with the sewage sludge, as the Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety have asked.
Ronnie Cummins, the director of the OCA, sent Alice Waters a letter on March 23 asking her to speak out strongly against growing food in sewage sludge. On March 30 Alice refused. Cummins letter to Waters reads in part:
"Considering that the sludge was given to several local schools for use on their educational gardens, your work with the Edible Schoolyard should especially elicit your concern. This is certainly in direct opposition to the standards that Chez Panisse Foundation and the Edible Schoolyard encourage and uphold. It seems to us a clear conflict of interest that Francesca Vietor should serve as both the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Vice President of the PUC. In light of your dedication to non-GMO foods, would you have the Vice President of Monsanto as your Executive Director? The two do not seem much dissimilar as both work for organizations that compromise the integrity of the movement for which you are both a pioneer and a leading voice."
Alice Waters responded:
And at the library I (finally) picked up Wolf Hall, on which I put a hold weeks ago. Patience rewarded.
A modest amount of groceries, including green garlic and spring onions. I love this season. Also summer. Also fall. And winter’s not bad.
A well-loved tradition falls to the modern love of convenience and not having to learn things. Thanks to The Eldest for letting me know the grim news.
From the Center for American Progress in an email:
Since the health care debate began over a year ago, Republicans and their conservative allies have relied on distortions, fabrications, and outright lies in their attempt to kill reform. There were the alleged death panels that would "pull the plug on grandma"; the false claim that doctors would leave their profession if reform passed; and, of course, the myth that reform is a socialist "government takeover" of the health care system. As President Obama correctly noted yesterday, the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bears resemblance to health reform bills proposed by Republicans in the past, so distortions were necessary to perpetuate the narrative that reform would ruin the health care system and harm the country. Now that health care reform is a reality, the right has moved on to a coordinated repeal campaign, and 14 state attorneys general have filed suit against the Act, falsely claiming it is unconstitutional. New myths have also emerged, distorting what the country will look like after the implementation of the health bill and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) that passed with it. Each of the old myths has been debunked, and these new ones are simply more distortions in attempt to mislead the American people.