Friday, May 15, 2009


Sometimes listening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can be torture. It is right now as she tries to explain what the CIA did or did not tell her about torture policy or practice. She says that she was not briefed about actual use. The Republicans are trying to make a big deal about her supposed knowledge of the use of torture. However, what difference does it make?

Torture is a crime. It is a violation of our treaty obligations. We engaged in torture. The only question is who should be held to account and to what extent.

Whether Ms. Pelosi knew of actual or only intended use is of no consequence. Whatever the Republicans think she should have done about torture applies in either case.

Too bad all of this distracts from the important Obama agenda items such as health care reform and economic and energy issues. But as the Republicans push this diversion, thinking that somehow inaction by Pelosi excuses their defense of torture, they are just prolonging their losing strategy of defending actions that are against American values and against the law.

Monday, May 11, 2009


The White House Correspondents' Dinner has generated much comment about the performance of the speakers.

First, we have President Obama, who got great reviews and little criticism. I agree, but with a quibble and a comment. His delivery, his timing, and his material were top notch. My quibble is that he was too much of a stand up comedian. Better a more general talk leavened with humor and a few great lines.

Comment. I loved his lines about Rahm's difficulty with "Mother" being followed with the word "Day", and about Hillary's warm greeting immediately upon her return from Mexico. But I thought his comment about Cheney was undignafied for him; better it should come from Wanda Sykes.

Wanda - Her wish for Limbaugh's death was over the line, but most of her material was quite good. I particularly liked her caution to Sarah Palin about her last minute pull out from this event.


President Obama received a 100th day present of sorts as Pennsylvania's moderate Republican Senator, Arlen Spector, announced that he is joining the Democratic party. In theory this gets him closer to the 60 votes needed to forestall a Senate filibuster.

Senator Spector is no stranger to switching sides. He started in Philadelphia politics as a Democrat, switching to Republican when District Attorney there. More recently, after opposing the Bush warrantless wiretapping he did an about face on the issue, betraying those who praised him for protecting civil liberties.

Spector's defection makes the Republican's big tent look more like a pup tent.

Although his support is never certain, The Democrats will undoubtedly welcome Spector into their party. However, it is unlikely that they will ever bestow on him the Congeniality Award.u

In fact, many Democrats are already experiencing Buyer's Remorse. Mr Spector has already voted against President Obama's budget and Democratic supported legislation allowing bankruptcy courts to help beleaguered homeowners.


Sometimes I wonder why I'm so addicted to political news and commentary. Almost every time a Republican is talking, I get angry or upset. And I don't listen to right wing talk radio, mostly tuning into outlets such as NPR and MSNBC.

Take, for example, the effort to improve our deficient health care system. I've always said that makng good access to health care dependent on where you work is crazy. And we need much more preventative care. And it's all too expensive. But the Republicans oppose any effort to fashion an option to provide a government solution, like Medicare, which is efficient and effective.

So a Republican Senator comes on and rails about the evil of "putting a government bureaucrat between a patient and the doctor." Better an insurance company functionary? Should the right to health care be only through a profit making enterprise?

The Senator complained that Medicare pays providers so little that they refuse Medicare patients. Well, I've been using Medicare for 15 years and never had a problem finding a provider. Nor have I ever encountered a government bureaucrat standing between me and my doctor.

Desperately afraid of competing with an efficient government-run health care option, the private insurance companies have now offered to reduce rates and to submit to federal government regulation. Looks like a red herring to me. How long before they raise rates? How long before they try to weaken regulation? And from experience we know how well governmental oversight works.