The Joe Problem

I started thinking about the Democrats Joe Lieberman problem back when the President (who was really new then and trying to play nice) gave his blessing to allowing Joe, a McCain and other Republicans supporter, back into the Democratic Senate caucus.  They also let him be the Chair of the Homeland Security committee.  So now why is Joe going to vote with the Republicans to let them filibuster the health care bill.  He claims he is opposed to the public option and worried about the deficit.

The other night Rachael Maddow had an interesting piece about Joe and Birch Bayh.  Yesterday, Bayh flipped flopped around, but in the end said he will vote with the Democrats to let Health Care Reform come to the floor of the Senate.  I hope he was scared of the ads that reform supporters would be running showing his wife on the board of directors of Wellpoint and graphs of how much money they made from the insurance companies. 

But Joe is a different problem.  As Nate Silver writes

The reason this is a little scary for Democrats is because the usual things that serve to motivate a Congressman don’t seem to motivate Joe Lieberman.

Would voting to filibuster the Democrats’ health care bill (if it contains a decent public option) endear Lieberman to his constituents? No; Connecticutians favor the public option 64-31.

Would it make his path to re-election easier? No, because it would virtually assure that Lieberman faces a vigorous and well-funded challenge from a credible, capital-D Democrat, and polls show him losing such a match-up badly.

Would it buy him more power in the Senate? No, because Democrats would have every reason to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

Is Lieberman’s stance intended to placate the special interests in his state? Perhaps this is part of it — there are a lot of insurance companies in Connecticut — but Lieberman is generally not one of the more sold-out Senators, ranking 75th out of the 100-member chamber in the percentage of his fundraising that comes from corporate PACs.

So what does Harry Reid need to do?  Stroke Joe’s ego more?  Buy him a puppy as Nate Silver suggests?  And how many times does Reid do this?  Back to Nate

The other way that this is damaging to Democrats, of course, is that it may embolden an Evan Bayh or a Blanche Lincoln or a Ben Nelson to adopt Lieberman’s stance. None of these guys want to be the lone Democratic member to filibuster — but it’s much easier to defray individual responsibility on a procedural vote against your party when you have someone else joining you.

But while a Nelson or a Lincoln is liable to have a fairly rational set of concerns — basically, they want to ensure they get re-elected — it’s tough to bargain with people like Lieberman who are a little crazy. In certain ways, he resembles nothing so much as one of those rogue, third-bit Middle Eastern dictators that he’s so often carping about, capable of creating great anxiety with relatively little expenditure of resources, and taking equal pleasure in watching his friends and enemies sweat.

In other word:  Joe Lieberman is not rational and is more than a little nuts.  And he must be feeling great because his, little Joe Lieberman, is standing single handedly in the way of what is looking like an acceptable health care bill.

World Series

So the Phillies are off to a good start and I’ll be pulling for Pedro (the former Red Sox ace) to help the Phillies win tonight.  There is a theory that Sox fans are watching the series hoping that the Phillies can beat the Yankees, that if the Phillies were playing the Angels we wouldn’t care so much.  Could be true.  But as Tony Mazzarotti wrote in today’s Boston Globe

The transformation of Rasheed Wallace is complete, the enemy of the people now serving as the man of the hour. As seamlessly as Wallace has joined the Celtics on the floor this season, he made a similarly fluid entry last night in his first home game at TD Garden.

In Boston, Rasheed now dresses in white.

“I didn’t know if the fans wanted to keep it personal and still call me those names or what,” Wallace mused in the wake of the Celtics’ 92-59 annihilation of the outmanned, overmatched and outclassed Charlotte Bobcats. “It was cool though.”

Cool, indeed. Cool as Wallace entered the game to chants of Sheeeeeeeeeeeeed with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter, cool as Wallace drilled his first two shots, both 3–pointers, helping the Celtics build a 22-11 lead in the opening quarter. Cool even as Wallace dressed in front of his locker following the game, when he donned a black sweat jacket bearing the name and logo of the Philadelphia Phillies, as sure a sign as any that he has embraced Boston as firmly as Boston already has embraced him.

‘Sheed, it seems, plays by the same rules many of you do. If he is not necessarily rooting for the Red Sox, he is at least rooting for whoever is playing the Yankees.

The Celtics, by the way, are 2-0.

So to Red Sox fans, the New York Yankees are still the evil empire.

But why is today October 29 and just the 2nd game of the Series is being played tonight?  The answer is in provided by Tyler Kepner in a New York Times story from last Sunday.  Some of the reasons are:

¶When baseball scheduled the World Baseball Classic for March 2009, the players wanted two more weeks of spring training games after its conclusion. So pushing the Classic later would have further delayed the start of the regular season, and the players would not have been ready if it had started sooner.

¶The calendar did not help. Except for the Sunday night opener, the schedule always begins on a Monday, and the first Monday of April 2009 was the sixth. Teams do not want to start the season with a weekend series, because they already draw well on weekends. Opening on a Monday allows teams to sell out a weekday game that would otherwise be a hard sell.

¶The idea of starting the regular season in late March and playing only in warm-weather cities and domes is considered too problematic to be realistic. If both teams in New York and Chicago open on the road, that means overlapping home dates later. And the teams in warm-weather cities and domes would complain about losing dates for later in the season, when they can sell more tickets than they can in late March and early April.

¶The idea of shortening the regular season from 162 games is unrealistic, because teams would not willingly give away moneymaking home dates.

So you have a combination of greed and the quirks of the calendar that will have fans in New York and Philadelphia freezing in their seats.  And another thing:  Why no day games?

Moving closer to Health Care Reform

Everyone on the Sunday talk shows yesterday optined that the health care reform effort was moving closer to passage. 

“We’re entering the final stage, and everyone is maneuvering to get the best possible deal,” said Drew E. Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “The odds of passing legislation are steadily moving up.”

The final bill will not be perfect, but I believe it will contain a public option of some kind.  The other big questions are financing  and affordability.  The reason I think the bill will have a public option is because a friend my husband  was talking to the other morning supports one.  He is not a political activist, tends to be conservative, and is a veteran.  He talked about the rise in premiums he had experienced and the fact that vets have now come to understand that they won’t lose their coverage under VA – or have to pay for it – but that others will gain  the kind of health care they have.  He thinks this is a good thing.  And the opinion polls show others are moving his way.

I think there will be an opt out provision for the states, but, unlike the stimulus funding, the governors will not be able to “refuse” to implement the reforms at all.  I think it will end up will a 3 to 5 year trial period after which a state could opt out or a similar period during which the insurance companies in a state would have to lower premiums or they would have to become part of the government provided health care.

There are a lot of details to negotiate.  Like how to pay for reform.  We will have to see if the President has, in the end, provided the weapon to defeat the bill .  Is his 900 Billion cap going to mean a bad bill or no bill?

Howard Dean has a great feature on his health care reform webpage.  The vote tracker allow one to sort for public option supporters.  Dean, like President Obama, is not supporting a particular bill, but iw helping to keep an eye on the votes in support of the public option.  His latest count is 218 house votes and 51 in the Senate.  We need to work on those undecideds in the House, but it appears that if all Democratic caucus members vote against the filibuster, the Senate can then pass a bill with a public option.  Go to his list and filter for undecided Democrats and if your Congressperson or Senator is on the list, give them a call.

Even John McCain now thinks Congress will pass a bill with some kind of public option.

“I think the Democrats have the votes, and in the House, Blue Dogs bark but never bite,” Mr. McCain said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” using the nickname for conservative Democrats . “So I don’t think they have a problem over in the House side. In the Senate I think the Democrats are very aware that they don’t want a repeat of the Clinton failure in 1994. So I think it’s very likely they will get something through. But it’s not clear to me what it is.”

The Democrats need to forget the Republicans and get the votes in the party.  Even Senator Ben Nelson appears to be moving toward support of some type of public option.

The remaining big pitfall is abortion and whether the bill has a provision to pay for the procedure under the public option.  Right now, I have to say that will be a compromise point and reproductive choice will remain a choice only for those that can afford a choice.

Built to Last?

I’m probably being snarky because the Red Sox aren’t still playing and the Yankees are, but it appears that the New Yankee Stadium has issues.

According to an article in the New York Times

The concrete pedestrian ramps at the brand-new $1.5 billion city-subsidized Yankee Stadium have been troubled by cracks, and the team is seeking to determine whether the problems were caused by the installation, the design, the concrete or other factors, according to several people briefed on the problems.

The Yankees have hired an engineering company to take samples from the ramps — they ascend from field level to the stadium’s upper tiers, carrying thousands of people each game — to determine the cause and the extent of the problems as the team finishes its first season in the new stadium and prepares for what could be its first World Series there.

A spokeswoman for the team, Alice McGillion, called the cracks “cosmetic,” saying that they posed no safety issues because they did not affect the structural integrity of the ramps. She characterized the work to repair the problems as “routine remediation,” which she said was “usual in this kind of building or in any other building.”

“There is no evidence that there is any issue or problem with concrete or any material in the building,” she said.

Several people briefed on the problems said, however, that they would cost several million dollars to fix. The cracks, some as much as an inch wide and several feet long, are visible on the slate-gray walkways. Those with knowledge of the defects spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did others, because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Sorry, Alice.  I don’t think I want to be around when a fan stubs a toe in a crack, falls and gets injured.

This being New York, there are questions about mob involvement and all, but the bottom line is

The Testwell [the company that tested the concrete] indictment, unsealed last October, charged that the company failed to perform some strength tests and billed clients for work that was never done at the stadium and roughly 100 other projects, including the Freedom Tower. When the charges were announced by the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, city officials said the structures were believed to be safe, but might deteriorate sooner than expected.

Not built to last.

Not  like Fenway which was built in 1912.

In 2002 the Red Sox were sold to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. Prior to the sale of the team, there had been discussion of building a new Fenway Park. This ballpark was planned to have the same distinct features of Fenway Park, but with more modern and up to date amenities. However, the current owners of the Red Sox are committed to preserving and improving Fenway Park for the foreseeable future.

I can’t find the quote, but the team announced this spring they were done with renovation fro now and that Fenway should be good now for another hundred years.  Doesn’t sound like the New Yankee Stadium will make it that long.

Is 2010 really going to be Republican?

[Please note that this was supposed to have been published on October 20,but I think I forgot to hit publish.  So “yesterday” is Monday the 19th of October.]

Yesterday I posted some poll figures from the Pew Research Center.  This morning Chris Cillizza has some new Washington Post polls in his Morning Fix.

Republicans in Washington can barely contain their glee at the turn of President Obama‘s political fortunes in the first nine months of the year but a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests the GOP still faces serious perception problems in the eyes of the American public.

Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decisions for America’s future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence.

Among independent voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008 and congressional Democrats in 2006, the numbers for Republicans on the confidence questions were even more worse. Just 17 percent of independents expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decision while 83 percent said they did not have that confidence.

(While Obama’s numbers on the confidence question weren’t amazing — 49 percent confident/50 percent not confident — they were far stronger than those for Republicans.)

These numbers don’t lead me to a Republican takeover of Congress next year.  And as many, including Paul Krugman, point out:  The Republicans have yet to define any positive positions on issues.  Except being for more troops in Afghanistan which most Americans are now skeptical about.  The winning formula still isn’t there.

Election Chatter

It appears that while Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon have made the mayoral race here in Boston interesting, Thomas Menino, who has been Mayor for 16 years, will win again.  This is according to polls out over the weekend.  The debate tonight between Menino and Flaherty should be the final deciding factor.  As far as City Council goes, there are a number of interesting folks running – most of them young.  Hard to predict the 4 at-large winners.

Jon Corzine is likely to get reelected in New Jersey.  But the Democratic candidate in Virginia, Creigh Deeds, is likely to lose despite the Washington Post endorsement.  His opponent is Bob McDonnell is what I would call a right-wing religious nutcase who has written about a woman’s place.

If you live in Virginia and you’re planning to vote for governor in November, if you happen to be between ages 18 and 44 and you also just happen to be a woman, gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds has something he’d like to talk to you about.

It has to do with a certain graduate school thesis written by Deeds’s opponent, Robert F. McDonnell, in 1989. McDonnell wrote about how to use public policy to strengthen the traditional family and said that working women and feminism were “detrimental” to the family.

While this provided a surge for Deeds in September, it doesn’t look as if the surge is holding.  Of course, I know from having lived in Virginia working state government is like being on a roller coaster:  Democratic governors seems to care for state workers (and for Virginians who need their services) while Republicans do not.  And the Virginia electorate seems to need periodic reminders about how bad governors like George Allen are for the Commonwealth.

But the most interesting election news is the Pew Research Center poll about Obama.  A few days ago, Paul Krugman had an interesting post about the midterm (2010) elections.  I think most experts believe that the Democrats  will lose some seats, but not control of either the House or Senate.  

Lots of buzz about the possibility that 2010 will be another 1994, with the triumphant conservative majority sweeping back into its rightful place of power. And of course, anything is possible.

But the signs really don’t point to that.

You can obsess, if you like, about the generic Congressional ballot — but historical patterns suggest that this ballot is meaningless at this early date.

If we look at Obama’s personal position, it seems to have stabilized — and as the Pew people point out, he’s in relatively good shape:


DESCRIPTIONPew Research Center


And there’s one more thing which I think matters: Republicans don’t have anything positive to sell.

I think the Republicans are being too optimistic and the Democrats a little gun shy.  The Democrats should move on, pass health care reform with a public option and give people a meaningful reason to vote for them.

The President as Nobel Laureate

I’ve been following all the stories about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  From imagining what he said when told ( bad word is likely) to Maureen Dowd’s conversation between Bill Clinton and George W. to the calls to give it back to the hysteria on the right to the disbelief on the left and a lot in between.

President Obama reacted to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in the White House Rose Garden on Friday morning.

This picture from the New York Times shows the President making his statement about winning:  He will go to Norway to accept and he will give the money to charity.  And, yes, he was just like the rest of us, surprised.

While conservatives rather predictably expressed disbelief and disparaged the prize and the president, there also are many Democrats and those on the left who were scratching their heads early this morning. Nearly all agree it’s a rather stunning award for someone who hasn’t been in the presidency even a year, coupled with two wars, an economic downside, the Iranian threat as well as the intractable Mideast problems.

Two of the most interesting comments the collected on the Caucus blog are from Robert Krebs and John McCain.

Several people pointed to an article by Robert Krebs in Foreign Policy magazine last July, in which he argued that the Nobel peace committee’s intentions are always partisan:

And for good reason: The Nobel Peace Prize’s aims are expressly political. The Nobel committee seeks to change the world through the prize’s very conferral, and, unlike its fellow prizes, the peace prize goes well beyond recognizing past accomplishments. As Francis Sejersted, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the 1990s, once proudly admitted, “The prize … is not only for past achievement. … The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

“Oh, I’m sure that the president is very honored to receive this award,” Mr. McCain said. “And Nobel Committee, I can’t divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we’re proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.

 ”But the best comment is from Calvin Trillin in his “Three Possible Explanations from the Nobel Committee”

Don’t be surprised. Don’t gasp. Don’t faint.
We’ve simply said, “George Bush he ain’t.”

The prize diplomacy can reap’ll
Prevent this guy from bombing people.

Since Henry Kissinger has won,
You know that this is all in fun.

Thank you, Calvin.

The Justice of the Peace Who Breaks the Law

I first read this story in the Boston Globe yesterday and was struck speechless with astonishment.  According to the AP story

 A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Which part of the story is most racist?  The refusal to marry interracial couples or the fact that he thinks he isn’t a racist because he lets black people use his bathroom – and is proud of both.  Bardwell is convinced that interracial marriages don’t last and they hurt the kids.

In 2007, MSNBC ran a story about interracial marriage that disproves most of what Bardwell believes. 

The charisma king of the 2008 presidential field. The world’s best golfer. The captain of the New York Yankees. Besides superstardom, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter have another common bond: Each is the child of an interracial marriage.For most of U.S. history, in most communities, such unions were taboo.

It was only 40 years ago — on June 12, 1967 — that the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites. The decision also overturned similar bans in 15 other states.

That case was Loving v. Virginia.  The couple in question had grown up in a small rural community in Virginia where the black and white children often associated with each other and were friends.  The Lovings had known each other since childhood. And despite all the frustrations and obstacles, their marriage lasted through their lifetimes.

Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America’s 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race.

Interracial marriage is not always an easy path.  My grandmothers both recognized that it was unlikely that either of their granddaughters would marry other Japanese  Americans and they were right.  Others of their generation went to great lengths to get their daughters to “marry in the race”, often without success.  One family I knew as a child moved from Philadelphia to California where there were more Japanese American men for their daughter to meet; she married a white sailor she met in San Diego.

What Justice of the Peace Bardwell does is not only unconstitutional, but according to Louisiana laws he is required to any couple who meets the requirements.

According to the clerk of court’s office, application for a marriage license must be made three days before the ceremony because there is a 72-hour waiting period. The applicants are asked if they have previously been married. If so, they must show how the marriage ended, such as divorce.

Other than that, all they need is a birth certificate and Social Security card
The license fee is $35, and the license must be signed by a Louisiana minister, justice of the peace or judge. The original is returned to the clerk’s office.

He claims to have denied only a few couples and when he does so refers them to another Justice of the Peace.  This is supposed to make it all right.

The couple who were denied, Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, intend to file a discrimination complaint.  May they prevail and have a long and happy marriage.  May Justice of the Peace Bardwell retire very  soon.

Nan Robertson

I’m sure there will be many words written about Nan Robertson and her personal struggles with toxic shock and alcoholism, but I read today about her death with a tinge of sadness.  Nan Robertson is responsible for what may be my only appearance (other than as a comentator on blogs) in the New York Times.

It was Miami 1972.  I a proud McGovern delegate to the Democratic National Convention.  She stopped me as I was making my way onto the floor and asked if she could interview me for a story about what women were wearing at the convention.  Mind you, I’ve never been a fashionista, but I was young and flattered.   I don’t have the link to that old article, but I have a copy. (Page 48, July 12, 1972)

Maya Hasegawa, a 25-year-old, tiny delegate from Richmond, Va, had suited up in a tank top and pants, with sunglasses perched atop her glossy locks.  “I’ve been marching since I was 13 years old,” she said proudly, “I’ve been very active in the peace and civil rights movements.”

And there is a picture of me, too – a head shot.  Everyone I know was excited.  And she spelled my name correctly which made my family happy.

She didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize for writing that paragraph about me, she won for her New York Times Magazine article about toxic shock which she suffer in 1981 .

The article unsparingly described the author’s swift, brutal encounter with the illness, which resulted in the partial amputation of eight fingers:
I went dancing the night before in a black velvet Paris gown, on one of those evenings that was the glamour of New York epitomized. I was blissfully asleep at 3 A.M.

“Twenty-four hours later, I lay dying, my fingers and legs darkening with gangrene.”

But I admired her book The Girls in the Balcony most of all. 

Ms. Robertson, who after a grueling rehabilitation was able to resume her career, wrote two books. The first, “Getting Better: Inside Alcoholics Anonymous” (Morrow, 1988), was both a history of the organization and a narrative of the author’s recovery from alcoholism. The second, “The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men, and The New York Times” (Random House, 1992), was in part about the suit brought by female employees against the newspaper in 1974.

Reviewing “The Girls in the Balcony” in The New York Times Book Review, Arlie Russell Hochschild called it a “warm, salty, wisecracking book.”

In 1963, Ms. Robertson began a decade as a reporter in the Washington bureau of The Times, where, as she said in an interview many years later, her de facto job description was to cover the “first lady, her children and their dogs.” Her years in Washington would furnish her with the title of “The Girls in the Balcony,” a reference to the cramped, second-story space in the National Press Club to which female journalists were then relegated.

“The Girls in the Balcony” was an account of the events surrounding Elizabeth Boylan et al. v. The New York Times, a federal class-action suit filed on behalf of 550 women at The Times over inequities including pay, assignments and advancement. (Ms. Robertson was not among the seven named plaintiffs in the suit.) In 1978, the suit was settled out of court for $350,000, with The Times agreeing to an affirmative-action plan.

(Nan Robertson in 1982 at the Times.)

Nan Roberton may have been sent to cover fashion at the 1972 Convention and give me a monment of fame, but she will be remembered by me  for very much more than that.

The “Recovery”

It is just before 6 am and I logged on to the New York Times.  Two headlines say it all:

“Federal Pay Czar Tries Again to Trim A.I.G. Bonuses”  and  “Still on the Job, But Making Only Half as Much”

The first story is about the difficulties in getting A.I.G to reduce or not pay $198 million to employees of the trading unit.  The same unit that is part of the cause of this recession.

But the Treasury’s special master for compensation, Kenneth Feinberg, is running into legal hurdles because those bonuses fall outside new rules against bonus payments at companies receiving government assistance. The bonus agreements at issue were struck before last year’s emergency rescues by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, and thus are not directly covered by the new rules.

The problem is a recurring one. A.I.G. payments early this year to the same employees elicited public outrage, though government officials said then that they had little legal authority to rescind pre-existing contracts.

The second story is about people who still have jobs, but have taken deep pay cuts and/or demotions in pay grade to keep their jobs.

In recent decades, layoffs were the standard procedure for shrinking labor costs. Reducing the wages of those who remained on the job was considered demoralizing and risky: the best workers would jump to another employer. But now pay cuts, sometimes the result of downgrades in rank or shortened workweeks, are occurring more frequently than at any time since the Great Depression.

State workers in Georgia are taking home smaller paychecks. So are the tens of thousands of employees in California’s public university system. The steel company Nucor and the technology giant Hewlett-Packard have embraced the practice. So have several airlines and many small businesses.

Let’s face it.  AIG is not solely responsible for the economic crisis.  Many of the rest of us were also riding high and spending beyond our means. The couple in the paycut story is an example.  Both seem to have their self esteem tied up in the amount of money they make. 

But most of the rest of the world must now scale back while a company which played a large role in the collapse still gives out bonuses.  Makes you wonder.  Hope the bonus recipients save the money for their rainy day.