I was so wrong about capitalism vs. healthcare!

[TRIGGER WARNING: several f-bombs, one m-f bomb, graphic depictions of opulence.]

Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall the long and sordid tale of how the entire lower West side of Manhattan ended up without a single hospital bed (see e.g. here, here, here, here and here). I often write about the deadly cruelty, inefficiency, cost and jaw-dropping stupidity of our for-profit health care system here in the U.S. of A., and I won’t repeat that here. Suffice it to say that St. Vincent’s, our neighborhood hospital, was just one more predictable casualty. At least ten New York City hospitals have closed since 2006; others remain on life support.

The fact is that wealthy real estate developers pretty much run this town, and the politicians they own are more than happy to help. The closing of St. Vincent’s was eagerly aided and abetted by a raft of corrupt, neoliberal shitweasels in every branch of state and city government—for example, the hospital emerged from bankruptcy court with its impossible debt obligations 100% intact—whereupon the well-connected Rudin family immediately picked up the property for a song. Perhaps no one was more helpful to this process than former city council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, the Robin to Michael Bloomberg’s Batman—except that this metaphor really should be about some kind of Bizarro World Robin Hood. How else to describe Quinn proudly taking credit for the destruction of a 161-year old charity hospital with a Level I trauma center smack in the middle of her own district—the primary admitting hospital for victims of the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001 and survivors of the Titanic in 1912—in favor of a billion dollar luxury condo development?

I’d like to think it cost Quinn the mayor’s race. During the campaign, she stupidly showed up at a health care rally on the site of the former St. Vincent’s, and was loudly booed. Putting aside for a moment the public health aspects of closing a full-service hospital, many local businesses that catered to the daily influx of visitors and staff (e.g. florists, restaurants, pharmacies, coffee shops) swiftly went under—and that’s to say nothing of job losses at the hospital itself in a rapidly consolidating health care market. A particularly rich moment occurred in July when Quinn was speaking at a campaign event: one of her staffers passed out, and it took more than 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene. She was flabbergasted and appalled, complaining bitterly the whole time. What a joke. Except it’s not fucking funny.

Here is a map that shows the hospitals closest to where I am presently sitting, as well as the site of the former St. Vincents:

hospitalmap

greenwichlanesite

Construction at former St. Vincent’s.

If those distances seem negligible to you, you have never been in New York City during morning or evening rush hours, when the UN is in session, or when our neoliberal shitweasel president is in town back-slapping the banksters on a job well done and/or undermining our liberal congresscritters. Meanwhile, city and fire department officials are busy ensuring that no EMS transit times are made public, as they once routinely were. There can be only one reason for that: those numbers are not good. At this link (@ 1:06) you can see a Beth Israel Hospital ambulance stuck in traffic on 7th Avenue, directly in front of the former entrance to St. Vincent’s emergency room.

But never mind all of that, people, because today I bring you absolutely fantastic news. After walking by the construction site, I actually remembered when I got home to go online and look at the Rudin development’s website! And I am here to tell you: I was so, so wrong about all of this. My silly protest signs, speeches at zoning meetings, signatures on petitions, emails and phone calls to politicians and my impassioned screeds on the subject now just make me look foolish.

My sign.Iris’s dumbass protest sign.
Occupy St. Vincent’s, Oct. 27, 2011.
(Jeezus. How embarrassing.)

For as it turns out, hundreds of thousands of residents going without a single nearby hospital bed, trauma unit, emergency room or surgery facility is but a pittance to pay in exchange for something so…so… magnificent. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: The Greenwich Lane,”a collection of five unique addresses and five townhouses nestled together in the West Village.”

greenwichlanerenderingAs you can see from this gorgeous rendering, the gleaming towers of floor-to-ceiling glass will provide a stunning visual counterpoint to the surrounding low-rise buildings emblematic of this historic neighborhood. But that’s not even the best part. Nope: the best part is the enormous private garden, billed as “the heart of the community”—although technically speaking, the actual community will have no access to it whatsoever. But never mind that. Just look at it!

greenwichlanegarden

A formal garden with a reflecting pool passes into a birch allée with limestone benches, followed by a more sheltered area with a contemplative, trellised pavilion. The garden offers not only the pleasures of a natural landscape; but also, with all of its plantings, it fulfills an important role in creating a healthier microclimate for the buildings, filtering the air and beneficially restoring more trees to the neighborhood.

And just maybe, if some of these trees eventually grow tall enough, people in the neighborhood might be able to see the very tops of them! OMFG swoon!

But I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the “principal amenities” surrounding the garden that really put the place over the top:

  • A dedicated fitness floor with state-of-the-art training, yoga, golf, and wellness rooms, as well as a 25-meter pool.
  • A suite of social and entertaining rooms overlooking the central garden, including a private lounge, a dramatic dining room, and a fully outfitted guest chef’s kitchen.
  • A separate catering kitchen for larger events.
  • A private screening room seating 22 with a private wet bar.
  • A light-filled and sheltered children’s playroom with views of the garden.
  • 24-hour attended lobbies, with services including storage for grocery, wine, and flower deliveries, on-site resident managers, complete porter staff, and handymen.
  • An underground private parking garage.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, before you ask, I believe it’s safe to assume there are oversized parking spaces large enough to accommodate the vintage Rolls.

greenwichlanepoolThe envisioned 25 meter pool + gym on the dedicated fitness floor.
(!!!)

This probably goes without saying, but: “As designed by Thomas O’Brien, these handsome spaces bring to mind the cachet of an Old World private club.” Including, probably, the parking garage. Here you can see a little movie wherein this very same Thomas O’Brien d00d ‘splains his unique vision, which looks an awful lot like last year’s Restoration Hardware catalog, but what do I know? (Wait, I know last year’s Restoration Hardware catalog, cover to cover. Hmmm.) Anyway:

It’s also this incredibly unique thing that rises above—in a very nice way—and you look downtown, South and West, over all of this protected, wonderful architecture that is the West Village.

Indeed! Why on earth would anyone want to live in all of this protected, wonderful architecture when instead one can peer down upon it—preferably, I assume, through a $3000 faux-vintage 19th century telescope from Restoration Hardware?

RHtelescope$3000 faux-vintage 19th century telescope from Restoration Hardware.
(On sale now for only $2395, because last year’s catalog hello?)

Also, Thomas O’Brien apparently forgot to mention it, but the views to the south also take in the Freedom Tower Penis, on the very site of the former World Trade Center.

penistowerView down 7th Avenue of the Freedom Penis.
Ejaculating FREEDOM, motherfuckers.

The bad news is that there are only a very limited number of units still available at these low pre-construction prices:

Building

Res.#

Bedrooms

/Baths

 Int.Sq.Ft.

/Ext.Sq.Ft.

  Price

Floor Plan

140 W. 12th St. M-1 2 2 / 1 2408 $5,550,000 VIEW
302 4 4 / 1 3088 $8,610,000 VIEW
150 W. 12th St. 3 E. 5 5 / 1 4187 732 $12,450,000 VIEW
4 W. 1 1 / 1 1465 255 $3,850,000 VIEW
7 W. 2 2 / 1 2079 $6,100,000 VIEW
160 W. 12th St. 36 2 2 / - 1583 $4,195,000 VIEW
45 1 1 / - 892 $2,170,000 VIEW
47 2 2 / 1 1737 $4,380,000 VIEW
58 3 3 / 1 2450 $6,900,000 VIEW
64 4 4 / 1 2818 153 $8,570,000 VIEW
72 2 2 / 1 2040 $5,740,000 VIEW
85 1 1 / 1 1166 $3,450,000 VIEW
86 3 3 / 1 2524 $7,350,000 VIEW
108 3 3 / 1 2455 $7,950,000 VIEW
155 W. 11th St. 4L 1 1 / - 758 $2,050,000 VIEW
4C 2 2 / 1 1934 $5,620,000 VIEW
4B 2 2 / 1 1670 68 $5,050,000 VIEW
6D 2 2 / - 1515 $5,275,000 VIEW
7A 4 4 / 1 3687 44 $14,500,000 VIEW
8B 3 3 / 1 2383 153 $7,650,000 VIEW
10C 2 2 / 1 1938 $6,710,000 VIEW
11A 4 4 / 1 3951 44 $17,525,000 VIEW
145 W. 11th St. 7 5 4 / 1 4537 83 $18,250,000 VIEW

The Palace, naturally, will be putting in a generous offer at once, so as not to lose out on this amazing opportunity. OMG I CANNOT PICK MY FAVORITE!!!11!!! (LOL #firstworldproblems, I know right?)

Now I ask you: Could there be anything our neighborhood needs more urgently than this fine establishment in our midst, and the several menial jobs that will be created in order to maintain it? And the fine upstanding citizens dwelling here at least part of the year will contribute literally oodles of tip money to the local delivery people. We can only hope that neither our new neighbors nor their (no doubt charming and adorable!) children ever suffer any ill health or injury on the premises. Because if that should happen, they’re just as fucked as the rest of us.

When mockery fails us: the case of professional liberals.

Lately we’ve seen a good deal of mockery emanating from various Democratic pundits over the “success” of Obamacare. Over 7 million people signed up! Hahaha, Republicans! YOU LOSE!

What.

Did everyone suddenly forget that the ACA is a terrible, fundamentally conservative paradigm, with deep Republican roots in both Romneycare and The Heritage Foundation? Sure, Republican efforts to block and repeal their own policies make them look like petty buffoons. What else is new? But gloating Democrats are arguably worse: we are witnessing the entrenchment of for-profit healthcare perniciously framed as a successful, liberal model. FAIL.

But okay, let’s assume I’m just some lefty kook (moi?) who is wrong about the delicious awesomesauce that is Obamacare. The U.S. population is about 308,745,538. A new Gallup poll pegs the rate of uninsured Americans at 15.6%, or 48,164,303. Yes, 7 million people signing up is still 7 million people. Yay for 7 million people with access to “affordable” healthcare! But with nearly 50 million people left uninsured and most of the rest tethered to bloodletting insurers, by what metric, exactly, is Obamacare a great success story worth crowing over?

And yet we have Joan McCarter at DailyKos taunting Republicans over the aforementioned Gallup poll under the headline “The uninsured rate is lowest since 2008.” That’s right: pre-Obamacare, before America’s Owners crashed the global economy, the uninsured rate was lower. McCarter even posted this helpful graph from Gallup:

gallupcoverageWell, she sure showed them, amirite? A whole 2.5% drop from its peak, and almost as low as 2008, before Obama was elected! VICTORY!

Then we’ve got Andy Borowitz, beloved lefty satirist, relentlessly mocking Republicans over the ACA in The New Yorker:

Boehner: “I Don’t Want to Live in a World Where Seven Million People Get Affordable Health Care”

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—A riveting scene unfolded in Congress today as a tearful Speaker John Boehner took to the floor of the House to tell his colleagues, “I don’t want to live in a world where seven million people get affordable health care.”

Tears streaming down his cheeks, Rep. Boehner appeared unable to maintain his composure as he delivered a speech interrupted by blubbering and sharp intakes of breath.

“What kind of a world is it where anyone can go on the Internet and get health care they can afford?” he said. “Not a world I’d care to live in, or leave to my children.”

As we Professional Mockers™ all know, mocking John Boehner is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. No, really: you can just quote practically anything he says, and your work is done. What’s troubling here is not Andy Borowitz phoning it in, but the underlying assumption that we can declare success with nearly 50 million Americans remaining uninsured and most of the rest beholden to for-profit insurers. (Note, too, the none-too-subtle classism. No Andy, we do not in fact live in a country where “anyone can go on the Internet” to get health care they can afford.)

A few days before that, Borowitz took a shot at another easy target:

Issa Subpoenas Seven Million Americans Who Signed Up for Obamacare

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Accusing them of involvement in “a widespread conspiracy to save President Obama’s failed health-care program,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) today subpoenaed the approximately seven million Americans who have signed up for Obamacare so far.

Arguing that the impressive enrollment numbers “don’t pass the smell test,” the House Oversight Committee chairman told reporters, “Any rational person would come to the same conclusion that I have: namely, that this is a well-orchestrated conspiracy of seven million people trying to make Obamacare look good.”

In case you missed it, the message is “the impressive enrollment numbers.” The joke doesn’t work without it. Perhaps instead, we might have had Issa subpoena the millions who are still uninsured? After all, Republicans are cynical enough to pull a stunt like that, notwithstanding that if they had their way the numbers would be even worse. But that wouldn’t be carrying water for the Grand Lefty Triumph that is the ACA, now would it?

As if we were not dazzled enough by his incisive political wit, Borowitz also went after the easiest target of all time:

President’s Announcement of Health-Care Numbers Angers Opponents of Math

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Tuesday’s announcement by President Obama that 7.1 million people have signed up for Obamacare set off a firestorm of controversy among opponents of math in the U.S. Congress.

Representative Michele Bachmann, a leading member of the anti-math caucus, told reporters, “Throughout the debate on Obamacare, there has been a tacit agreement to leave math out of it. Today, President Obama broke that agreement.”

Hahaha, Michele Bachmann, anti-math caucus, geddit? Hilarious—except for the tiny problem that the math does not make the case for Obamacare.

But the worst by far is Paul Krugman, esteemed liberal economist. Writing in the pages of the venerable New York Times this week, he continues to peddle the same bald-faced lie he has long been repeating: namely, that the president and Democrats had only two choices, Obamacare or immediate single-payer (i.e. nothing).

If it had been politically possible, extending Medicare to everyone would have been technically easy.

But it wasn’t politically possible, for a couple of reasons. One was the power of the insurance industry, which couldn’t be cut out of the loop if you wanted health reform this decade. Another was the fact that the 170 million Americans receiving health insurance through employers are generally satisfied with their coverage, and any plan replacing that coverage with something new and unknown was a nonstarter.

So health reform had to be run largely through private insurers, and be an add-on to the existing system rather than a complete replacement.

Remember, kids: since we can’t have Medicare for everyone right now, we must therefore entrench the insurance companies that provide absolutely nothing that the U.S. government cannot provide cheaper and more efficiently. Q.E.D. And we shall call this “reform!” And while we’re at it, let’s also block drug reimportation from countries where they’re cheaper (which is all of them), and prohibit the government from using its enormous purchasing power to negotiate better prices. What are you, a communist?

Of course Krugman is right that an immediate leap to single-payer was not politically feasible—but no one ever said it was. However, a public option/Medicare buy-in most certainly was. The idea was popular with the public, Nancy Pelosi delivered a House bill with a public option intact, and the entire Medicare infrastructure already exists. Unlike the ACA, it would have created a genuine path to single-payer, and put some real pressure on the Free Market™ to deliver better health care at lower prices. And this discussion occurred in the wake of the bank bailouts, when it would have been trivially easy for Democrats to frame a health care “reform” bill without a public option as the corporate giveaway that it is. But Krugman never mentions any of that. At the time, he was writing inexcusable broadsides entitled “Pass The Bill”, wherein the fact that the president had already secretly sold out the public option while disingenuously pretending otherwise merited no mention. To this day, Paul Krugman continues to whitewash history in favor of this blatantly false narrative.

He helpfully adds:

So my advice to reform supporters is, go ahead and celebrate. Oh, and feel free to ridicule right-wingers who confidently predicted doom.

Thanks, Paul.

I have nothing but bottomless contempt for these professional “liberals.” They do far more harm than good by selectively weaving threads of history into pretty lies, and worst of all, spewing imitation-lefty-flavored sauce all over rotten right-wing policies.

Behold: your liberal media.

Beware mockery deployed in the service of the status quo, my friends. It’s a powerful tool, and in the wrong hands it can be downright insidious. I don’t know how many times I have to say this: we must only use our mockery superpowers for good.

When panty sniffers get sniffed.

Via WaPo this morning comes a hilarious story, headlined Feinstein: CIA searched Intelligence Committee computers.

Dianne Feinstein (D-epraved), is the head of the Senate Intelligence [sic] Committee, and one of the fiercest defenders of our bloated defense budget, lawless imperialist wars, and our sprawling and unaccountable surveillance state. The reason for such depravity on the Senator’s part is hardly a secret. Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall that Feinstein is married to one Richard C. Blum, a fabulously wealthy investment banker with substantial stakes in companies that do business with the U.S. government. For example, consider URS Corp, which in 2002 bought EG&G, a “leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military.” After Mr. Blum’s company took over EG&G, it subsequently won a $600 million defense contract. You see, it is not illegal for congresscritters to self-deal or trade on inside information, like it is for nearly everyone else. I’m sure you get the picture—and it ain’t pretty.

Anyway:

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday publicly accused the CIA of secretly removing documents from computers used by her panel to investigate the agency’s controversial interrogation program, saying that the action represented the kind of interference lawmakers had long sought to avoid.

So the CIA (or NSA, or FBI, or DHS, or some other agency no one’s even heard of—take your pick) hacked into the computers of the congressional committee specifically charged with that agency’s oversight, and removed documents therefrom.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said during a Senate floor speech that she was speaking out “reluctantly” and only after trying to resolve news of the improper search of committee computers “in a discreet and respectful way.”

Translation: “I have endorsed U.S. government lawlessness for decades and let you fuckers do anything and everything you wanted created a monster, and now it gets turned on me? Me? I AM SO SHOCKED WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING OMG.”

The action apparently marks the first time a U.S. intelligence agency has accessed congressional computers and would seem to be a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Well, why not? Both political parties have eagerly violated nearly every other constitutional principle. Why stop at the Fourth Amendment? And I would bet the entire Palace treasury that it is most certainly not the first time a U.S. intelligence agency has accessed congressional computers. Please.

Feinstein said she wanted to speak in order to clarify the situation.

Right, because we can always count on powerful politicians like Dianne Feinstein to “clarify” things for us. LOL.

Sez one commenter at WaPo: “Brownshirts are complaining about the SS they created.”

Precisely.

Another commenter, however, is badly misinformed: “The CIA / executive branch removing files from the Senate / legislative branch is the definition of treason. The US is 1 inch away from a palace guards coup. it may have already occured.”

That is just an irresponsible claim. The Fierce Palace Guard™ has not engaged in any coup, nor does she show any interest whatsoever in even entertaining such a notion.

palaceguardFierce Palace Guard™, on duty.

I will of course keep a very close eye on her, and promptly report any hint of treasonous activity to…well, to my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™, I guess. For all practical purposes it’s the same as reporting it to congress, federal law enforcement or the CIA. Hell, they’ll probably know it before I will.

Is this a great country or what.

LMAO DNC.

notarepublican“Not a Republican.” Jeezus.

Behold the inspiring message and logo art—one of three truly powerful designs in Arial font—that the DNC (Democratic National Committee) would really like you to vote on before they print up car magnets or some shit.

As Loyal Readers™ may recall, the DNC is presently chaired by one Debbie Wasserman Schultz. A few years ago, the conservative Florida congresswoman was handpicked to head the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program, a job that consisted entirely of targeting Republican-held districts across the country that were potentially within reach for Democrats. How did Ms. Wasserman fare on her assignment? She protected three right-wing Florida Republicans and publicly sabotaged the campaigns of the three Democrats running against them. The Democratic donor backlash was so fierce that finally, after a lot of hemming and hawing, the DCCC had to fire her from its “Red to Blue” program. So the party leadership (Steve Israel*) gave her a promotion: she now heads the DNC.

I sure hope it’s not to late for entries into this important contest, because I have some great ideas myself.

NAR1NOT A CHILD RAPIST. Ⓓ

NAR2NOT A REPUBLICAN. WHERE ARE MY COOKIES? Ⓓ

NAR4NOT A THREAT TO WALL STREET. Ⓓ

NAR3NOT A LIBERAL. Ⓓ

NAR7NOT 4 PEACE. Ⓓ

NAR5NOT A PROBLEM FOR DEFENSE CONTRACTORS. Ⓓ

NAR6NOT A REPUBLICAN. WE JUST VOTE LIKE ‘EM. Ⓓ

I could go on (and on and on…) but I fear I might asphyxiate myself laughing.

As a writer at Daily Kos(!) notes:

Democrats: Because, hey, at least we’re not Republicans.

Lesser evilism as party messaging and strategy.

Hahaha.

__________
*Back in 2005, Steve Israel, presently Chair of the DCCC, along with his BFF Illinois Republican congresscritter Tim Johnson, co-founded the Center Aisle Caucus (or “caca,” as I call it). Caca claims roughly sixty members, although the number is impossible to verify because membership is sooper seekrit. Caca members fancy themselves “defiant centrists” (or “conservatives,” as I call them). This would be terrible enough considering how far to the right the so-called “center” has drifted. But it’s really much worse than that: caca members observe an unwritten bylaw to never engage in political campaigns against other caca members. If sixty members is an accurate count, that takes roughly thirty congressional races right off the table for the Dems, courtesy of… the chair of the DCCC.

Sad, sad day for Alan Grayson fans.

[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of allegations of domestic violence.]

Before I start drinking today because I am not yet able to process—much less coherently write about—the news of Congressman Alan Grayson being accused of violently assaulting his wife (the couple recently separated), I just want to download some thoughts here. 

All the facts are not in yet. But regardless of the truth or falsity of these serious allegations, this is a sad, sad day for Alan Grayson fans. And a very good day for shitweasels like Fox “News” and Nicholas Ruiz III.

I had not previously known that the congressman and his wife separated in January, or if I was aware it did not register: frankly it’s none of anyone’s concern but his and his family’s. With all the gossipy conjecture and repulsive panty sniffing swirling around the story, however, I am sorry to say that my own mind apparently could not help but spin a few wild and wildly irresponsible conjectures of its own: namely, that if there were an affair or sexual indiscretion at the root of the Graysons’ breakup, it was a deliberate setup—not by Republicans, but by the DCCC.

This would have no bearing on the domestic violence allegations, of course. Just contemplating all of this has left me as triggered as I am heartbroken.

Everyone in the entire Grayson universe—Ms. Grayson, the couple’s children, extended family, close friends, and the congressman himself—has our deepest sympathies at this difficult time. Family breakups are gut-wrenching and horrendous, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. To endure any of this under the searing spotlight of a 24/7 media shitstorm… well, if you’re looking for me I’ll be at the bar sobbing into my drink.

Iris and the Governors.

Once upon a time, Your Humble Monarch™ made a very nice living as The Priestess of PowerPoint™ at various and sundry high-powered New York City law firms. One day, she returned from a lunch break to find people scrambling madly around an office near her desk. “Hey,” said her supervisor, “You’re assisting George Pataki now.”

WHAT.

George Pataki is a retired governor of New York State. A retired Republican governor of New York State. He had just become a partner at the firm, and his long-time assistant would not be joining him for a month or so. Iris gamely accepted her new assignment—after all, she needed a day gig to pay for her glorious Palace on Perry Street. Governor Pataki (FYI it is proper form to address former governors by the honorific title “Governor.” I had to look that up.) turned out to be a rather pleasant man to work with. He was affable, appreciative, and actually kind of fun. He spent the rest of his first day calling up a bunch of Big Willies in local, state and national government to announce that for the first time in his life he had a real job, and absolutely no idea what he was doing. “Iris?” he would call from his desk. “How do I dial out on this phone again?” And again. (And again.)

We soon parted ways, and I moved on to another firm. One day I returned from my lunch break to the astonishing news that I would now be working with yet another retired Republican governor. I will just note that I quit that job very shortly thereafter, and leave it at that. (My mother taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all. Oh, who am I kidding. My mother gave me crap advice. This blog would never exist if I listened to her. The truth is I just do not want to think about that d00d ever again.)

Which brings us to yesterday, and the bizarre occasion of my crossing paths with yet another governor. This one was a Democrat, and I would not be assigned to work with him. But I just might volunteer.

__________

Sitting at a gleaming marble conference table at a swanky midtown law firm where I am presently a client*, I found myself face to face with one Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland. O’Malley is term-limited from seeking reelection, and is presently exploring a run for the White House. I attended the meeting as an invited guest.

Readers may recall that my mother lives in Maryland; I grew up in the general vicinity, and I still spend a lot of time there. But I was not particularly well-informed about Maryland politics and needed to do some research before I met him. Having done so, I am now pleased to present the complete Palace dossier.

omalley2Martin Joseph O’Malley
with requisite flag pin.

Baltimore City Councilor: 1991-1999.
Mayor of Baltimore: 1999-2007.
Governor or Maryland: 2007-present.

PERSONAL.

Born:  Washington, DC, January 18, 1963.
Family:   Wife: Katie; 4 Children: Grace, Tara, William, Jack. Father was an Air Force bombardier in WWII, and became an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Religion:   Catholic.
Education:   Catholic University of America (graduated 1985); University of Maryland School of Law (J.D. 1988).

He met his wife Catherine “Katie” Curran in 1986 when they were both in law school: he was working on Barbara Mikulski’s U.S. Senate campaign and she was working on her father’s campaign for Attorney General of Maryland. She is currently a District Court judge, and thus barred from political campaigning.

Governor O’Malley is also a guitarist and singer/songwriter, active in several bands in the Baltimore/DC area since the early 1980s. Since 1988 he has been the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of his own Celtic rock band “O’Malley’s March.” He cites among his influences The Pogues.

omalley4This man wants to be the President.
It’s kind of awesome.

POLITICAL.

At a National Governors Association meeting last year, O’Malley said he was laying “the framework” for a presidential run. He has also said that if Hillary Clinton runs he will not run against her.

As governor he managed to raise gas taxes (!) to pay for infrastructure projects, and held state college tuition essentially flat while other states have seen tuition rates soar. Under his tenure crime has gone down and public schools have ranked extraordinarily high. O’Malley spearheaded the drive for marriage equality, and in 2012 Maryland became the first U.S. state to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples by popular vote. Maryland has had the #1 ranking for innovation and entrepreneurship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for two years straight, and claims the fastest rate of job growth in the region.

O’Malley credits these accomplishments to both a disciplined method of accountability and a non-hierarchical view of governance. When he learned of New York City’s novel approach to measuring crime statistics and allocating police resources (CompStat), O’Malley applied similar data-driven analyses to government agencies and programs across the board. Instead of discussing performance assessments with bureaucrats only at yearly budget meetings, O’Malley and his top aides meet with agency managers every two weeks to analyze data, assess progress, address problems and set targets. No, they do not hit every one. But the approach has led to enormous cost savings, newfound efficiencies, reductions in overtime and absenteeism, and unprecedented collaboration among agencies. “We’ve moved from a traditional, spoils-based system of patronage politics to a results-based system of performance politics,” O’Malley has said.

He thinks this is the future of governance: tech-savvy, transparent, reality-driven. I, on the other hand, think “the traditional spoils-based system of patronage politics” comprising the federal government and the permanent power factions in DC will not exactly take kindly to any of this. At all. They will fight tooth and nail for those spoils, and for the corrupt and unsustainable system that delivers them.

But it is O’Malley’s broader vision that I found particularly interesting. He noted that the old-schoolers of previous generations are fixated on outmoded hierarchical paradigms, e.g. trickle-down economics and authoritarian institutional structures. (I have written at length on the problem of hierarchy so I won’t digress here.) In O’Malley’s view, the ideal model is instead collaborative: not a pyramid with few on top, but a circle on its side, with everyone in it.

He’s been called a “technocratic soul paired with one of the most progressive records of any governor in the country.”

In other words, Martin O’Malley is a bona fide liberal.

omalleyivpchart

ON THE ISSUES.

Abortion rights. O’Malley is pro-choice and supports federal funding for abortion. Maryland has an A rating from NARAL.

Church/State. Here is a telling snapshot:

O’Malley voiced his support for a bill considered by the General Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. O’Malley, a Catholic, was urged by the Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin O’Brien not to support the bill in a private letter sent two days before O’Malley voiced his support. “I am well aware that the recent events in New York have intensified pressure on you to lend your active support to legislation to redefine marriage,” O’Brien wrote. “As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society.” O’Malley responded, “I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as Governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about, and to administer the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same-sex couples, you and I disagree.”

[*applause*]

Climate. “Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is”… “It is physics, pure and simple”… “Maryland might not be able to change what people in India or China do with respect to climate. We can, however, use the prospect of a carbon constrained world as the means to invent a more prosperous future, and to drive innovation, education, industry, jobs, and growth.” (Source.)

omalley1

Does YOUR president do this? NO I DON’T THINK SO.

Capital punishment. Long-time opponent. As governor he signed legislation repealing it, and has said he would consider commuting the sentences of the five prisoners remaining on death row to life imprisonment “on a case by case basis.” Early in his first term he also closed down a notoriously awful and violent prison.

Poverty. During his last year in office O’Malley is lobbying to raise Maryland’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016, framing his argument as a way to “strengthen the middle class, help working mothers and spark economic growth.”

Guns. Pressed for and signed significant new gun regulations into law in 2013. The NRA hates him.

Here are his campaign funding records. (A lot of trade union support.)

CONCERNS.

omalley5

“I got your fossil fuel tax break RIGHT HERE.”

The conservative Democratic leadership. O’Malley had a high profile primetime speaking slot on the second night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention… which indicates at least some support from the craptastic, corrupt, conservative Democratic leadership. Of course O’Malley cannot possibly make a serious run without their backing; I just wonder what he may have to do in exchange for it. Steve Israel as Veep? Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as chief of staff? *BARF*

Messaging. He does not have tight soundbites in response to direct questions; instead he takes the approach of a patient explainer. Think: Al Gore. Only hawt. That said, this occasion was part of a series of candid meetings with potential supporters, not a media appearance: between now and an official campaign launch, he will hopefully crystallize his responses. His messaging needs to be clear, coherent and consistent—even, or perhaps especially, when obfuscation is necessary.

Katie. It is difficult to envision any successful presidential campaign without the ubiquitous presence of a candidate’s spouse, and a partner who is a District Court judge and therefore barred from campaigning is a liability. On the other hand, should she resign her judgeship, this accomplished woman who has dedicated her career to public service will instantly find herself under an intense and undeservedly brutal spotlight by an unscrupulous media and political operatives. I’m not just talking about her hair and wardrobe choices here either, but her judicial decisions. O’Malley’s opponents (including Democrats) will not hesitate for one second to warp whatever fodder they can find to paint her in a way that reflects badly on her, and by extension on her husband. Of course they can (and most certainly will) do that even if she remains a judge, but the farther she is from the campaign spotlight the less impact and interest such tactics are likely to generate. I have no doubt that she would be a major asset to O’Malley’s campaign, my concern is that her lengthy public record also makes her uniquely vulnerable. It’s infuriating, it’s unfair, but it’s a fact.

Image and tone. Although O’Malley comes off as smart and capable, he needs a more fiery presence and populist stance to appeal to disparate swaths of Democratic voters in key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Recall that before the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton would eventually channel successfully her inner “scrappy fighter” persona, but by then it was too late in the game to gather enough momentum to beat Barack Obama. O’Malley is exceptionally good looking and fit, but he does not exude the personal charisma of, say, Bill Clinton. In short, and with the caveat that he will need to walk the line carefully: more rock star, less wonk.

omalley3The Governor of Maryland at his own inauguration
actually playing “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.

Earnestness. No one gets to be a two-term mayor of a major East Coast city and a two-term state governor before age fifty without knowing a thing or two about the dark arts of politics. And as Loyal Readers™ well know, it behooves us to ignore every single word politicians ever say, and instead let only their actions speak for them. Whatever his weaknesses as a candidate may be, O’Malley’s got a pretty solid track record to run on in terms of pragmatic government reforms. The “problem,” if it can be called that, is that Martin O’Malley just might be as sincere about good government and reform as he appears to be. If so, the aforementioned Democratic weasels will eat him alive.

__________

I chatted with the governor about my connections to Maryland. “Are you a lawyer?” he asked me.

“No,” I said. “I’m a political blogger. Can I get a picture with you?”

“Sure. Wait. Are you going to write nice things about me?”

“Hahaha. You’ll just have to wait and see.”

He happily posed for some pictures. “What’s your blog called?”

“I’d rather not say.”

*blink*

I thanked him, shook his hand, and wished him luck.

A few minutes later I was busy exchanging contact information with someone. “I’m worried about that blogger,” I heard O’Malley say on his way out the door.

“Hahaha!” I cackled. I’m pretty sure he heard me: I have a distinctive voice, and, I am told, an even more distinctive laugh.

You know what? I like that he’s worried about “that blogger.” Government officials should have something to fear from the citizenry they are elected to serve (and from a truly adversarial press for that matter) but I’m afraid that ship has long sailed. In an era of total communications surveillance, militarized police forces and a culture degraded by permanent war, that necessary and healthy fear dynamic runs in precisely the wrong direction. It is sweetly ironic that the more candidates and public officials worry about the opinion of a lefty blogger, the less they actually have to fear from one.

iris&martinomalleyIris and her new BFF Governor Martin O’Malley.

__________

* No, I am sorry to inform you that I am not a law firm client because I got arrested for finally fulfilling my life-long dream of mooning Antonin Scalia. Alas.

Sounds about right.

 

House approves spending measure, sending it to the Senate

…the spending bill easily passed the House 359 to 67 with broad support from both Republicans and Democrats. The omnibus measure moves next to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily before heading to President Obama for his signature.

The agreement unveiled late Monday restores federal spending to levels set in the final years of the George W. Bush administration, restores about $20 billion in funding to the Pentagon budget but mandates more spending cuts at domestic agencies.

Priorities: Congress has them.

Why stop there?

[TRIGGER WARNING: hostility to agency; brief description of graphic violence; the links in the section about South America lead to sites containing violent images and/or graphic descriptions of violence, including sexual violence; well-deserved f-bombs + s-bombs.]

____________

I recently wrote a piece entitled This is your water on conservatives about the West Virginia water crisis. It got some nice traction on Twitter, so I figure why stop there?

This is your body on conservatives.

marlise&matteomunoz

Marlise Munoz and her son, Mateo.
(PHOTO: Lynne Machado)

For those who may be under the mistaken impression that I make exaggerated claims when I say that the Forced Birth Brigades are depraved woman-hating shitbags who view pregnant people as subhuman incubators, meet Marlise Munoz. On the morning of November 26, her husband Erick found his wife unconscious on their kitchen floor. She was pronounced clinically brain dead at the hospital; she had suffered a pulmonary embolism and her brain had received no oxygen for an extensive period of time. Both paramedics, Erick and Marlise understood better than most people exactly what “life support” means. According to Erick and Marlise’s parents, she had made it crystal clear that in such a tragic situation she would not want any artificial measures keeping her alive.

But Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child, and Texas has a “pregnancy exclusion” law. This means that unlike any other human adult, a pregnant woman may not have life support withdrawn according to her own wishes and those of her family. To this day—although she is technically dead—Marlise’s body is being kept minimally functioning by artificial means in order to sustain the fetus. (It may also occur to my astute Loyal Readers™ that if Marlise’s brain was without oxygen for a significant period of time, so was the developing fetus. No one presently knows the ramifications of that.) Her husband is now suing the hospital, which may take months or even years to resolve.

This is not a Catholic hospital, and similar laws are on the books in 31 states. Only in one state—Pennsylvania—will the state itself pick up the exorbitant tab for its enslavement of dead or dying women in hospitals in order to harvest their fetuses. Katherine Taylor and Lynn Paltrow over at RH Reality Check wryly put it: “Apparently, in some circles, objections to government-supported health care disappears if the money serves the dual purpose of sustaining fetal life and denying women their rights.” See also this report of arrests, detentions, forced medical interventions, criminal charges and other actions taken by states to deprive pregnant women of their human rights (pdf).

The only right pregnant people have in any conservative context is the “right” to be treated like subhuman incubators and breeding sows. If you share this view, of course, you can expect nothing from me but my deepest, abiding contempt.

This is your state on conservatives.

Here is a 46 minute sci-fi fantasy thriller that paints a horrifying view of a dystopic future where a bunch of scheming and entitled right-wing shitweasels engineer the takeover of every single part of a state’s government. Oh wait, no. It’s actually a documentary by Bill Moyers about present-day North Carolina. My bad.

[h/t SJ]

This is your world on conservatives.

plunder(I hesitated to post this image because I am unsure of its provenance,
and will take it down immediately upon request of the copyright holder.)

That is a pretty good graphic depiction of Western imperialism, and the entirely predictable outcome of right-wing, rapacious capitalism presently dominating the world and led by the United States government and those whose interests it serves. One thing it doesn’t illustrate, however, is the blood-soaked methods used to achieve that outcome. Consider Colombia, our closest ally in South America, where we have been meddling and supporting the killing of poor people for decades. Even before the Colombia Free Trade Agreement was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October of 2011, people in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura began experiencing a brutally sadistic campaign of violence, torture and intimidation at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries, often in the presence of local police and with the support of the Colombian army. Their aim was the eradication of thousands of some of the world’s poorest people in order to make room for construction of the expanding port. The violence has only worsened since the trade agreement went into effect. It also compounded the already accelerating land grab by Big Agra and mining interests—which is pretty much the entire point of the exercise in the first place (the country is also oil-rich). A U.S. House of Representatives report has since noted:

“[w]hile Buenaventura is a strategic hub for international commerce, the riches of this growing global economy fomented by the U.S.-Colombia [Free Trade Agreement] mainly pass through Buenaventura and do not integrate or benefit the local Afro-Colombian population…[s]ixty-three percent of Buenaventura’s residents who are Afro-Colombian live under the poverty line, and unemployment is 64 percent.”

With nearly 5 million internally displaced people (and growing), Colombia is now the number one country in the world for internal displacements. Indigenous people and Afro-Colombians are disproportionately victims. A prominent human rights advocate in the region wrote to the U.S. embassador, calling the situation in Buenaventura a “permanent genocide”:

…where the neighborhoods and the Community Councils around the port are being invaded by paramilitaries supported or tolerated by the armed forces. They cut people in pieces with horrifying cruelty throwing the body parts in to the sea, if any of them dare to resist the megaproject for the new port. This included the expulsion of people living in the poorest areas and it includes the expropriation of the plots of garbage dumps where these people, in the midst of their misery, have over decades tried to survive.

Of course Buenaventura is just one city, in one country, where the U.S. government and those it serves are having their way. Nick Alexandrov writes of a Guatemalan peasant woman who in 1984 explained to author-activist Kevin Danaher exactly what’s up. He was visiting her country “shortly after School of the Americas alumnus Ríos Montt had completed his genocidal tear through the countryside.”

The woman, Danaher writes, “told us that soldiers had come to her home one night and hacked her husband to death, right in front of her and her three children;” the man “was a subversive,” in the military’s eyes, “because he was helping other peasants learn how to raise rabbits as a source of food and money.” Danaher struggled to understand the connection between this effort at self-sufficiency, and the brutal end its advocate met. “Look,” the widow explained, “the plantations down along the coast that grow export crops are owned by generals and rich men who control the government. A big part of their profit comes from the fact that we peasants are so poor we are forced to migrate to the plantations each year and work for miserable wages in order to survive.”  Were she and other Guatemalan peasants to become self-reliant, they “would never work on the plantations again”—an indication of the severe threat rabbit-raising posed.

This woman’s remarks indicated who Washington’s real enemy was in Guatemala, and throughout the world. The U.S. government was not opposed merely to “Communists,” real or imagined, during the Cold War, and in Colombia its policies have helped ruin—or end—the lives of millions of destitute individuals.

All of which is to say that American citizens are beyond redemption to the extent they believe that either the U.S. government or those on whose behalf it operates give one single flying fuck about democracy or human rights anywhere in the world—including here.

Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate. -Bertrand Russell

So in short—and as usual—FUCK YOU, CONSERVATIVES.

palacefuckyouEveryone else: have a nice day.

palacehappyface

BREAKING: Palace demotes Nicholas Ruiz III from “not awesome” to “epic doucheweasel.”

ruizdoucheweaselLoyal Readers™ may recall my disappointing exchange of missives last year with one Nicholas Ruiz III, who had been running as a Democrat to replace Republican John Mica. After an initially pleasant and cordial exchange in which I clarified my objection to a sexist trope he had used in criticizing Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, he went all condescending mansplainy pompous @$$hole on us. My last message to him ended this way:

The arrogance and blindness you exhibit is so painfully, boringly typical, I am quite confident that should you be elected to Congress you’ll fit right in with those establishment Democrats you so scorn.

It turns out this assessment was spot-on.

Yesterday, we received an astonishing missive from Howie Klein on behalf of Blue America:

I got a terse note from Nick Ruiz that he is switching districts and won’t be trying to replace reactionary Republican John Mica, but that he’ll be trying to replace the single best congressman in the entire country, Alan Grayson. I was flabbergasted. At first I thought someone must have hacked his e-mail account. Unfortunately, not. Obviously, we removed him from the Blue America endorsement list. He has every right to run a primary in any district he wants. But all the money Blue America donors gave him was to help him replace John Mica.

I also sent him a note asking him to return the contributions I had personally given him and the $1,000 PAC check Blue America had sent him. As far as I can tell, at least so far, his obligation to return the money is just moral, not legal. If there are any Blue America members who would like to ask him to return contributions, his e-mail address is: nruiz@intertheory.org/

Personally, I’m going to chalk this up to a lesson learned… and send a personal contribution to Alan Grayson. Yesterday Alan was working harder than anyone in Congress to stop the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said is:

“Fundamentally irrational. The U.S. trade deficit has been $350 billion, or more, every single year since 2000. So-called ‘free trade’ has fundamentally imbalanced the U.S. economy. What we’re doing is haggling over how to make that worse. This ‘Fast Track’ legislation is a fast track to $1 trillion annual trade deficits, the total elimination of our manufacturing base, and wage slavery for every American worker.”

Any other Members of Congress telling the truth like that? This year, Grayson has been widely regarded the single most effective Member! Let’s make sure he stays right where he is. You can contribute to his campaign here.
We are all in this together,
Howie, for Digby, John and the Blue America team
[emphasis in original.]

The Palace hereby officially announces the demotion of Nicholas Ruiz III from his previous status of “not awesome” to “epic doucheweasel.”

I smell the distinct stench of the DCCC in all of this, of course. The Democratic leadership despises Alan Grayson precisely because he is an actual liberal (and an effective one at that)—in the same way that I despise the Democratic leadership because they are actual conservatives (and corrupt ones at that). But running a primary against Alan Grayson? Seriously? Let’s just say it’s not bloody likely that he’ll be challenging Grayson from the left.

The good news for Grayson is that if he just gives him enough rope, Ruiz will almost certainly hang himself—and spectacularly. That’s what epic doucheweasels do.

Shut up Paul Krugman.

[CONTENT NOTE: profanity.]

Via Loyal Subject™ SJ cometh a link to a Paul Krugman post at truthout entitled “US Health Reform Keeps Insurance Companies in the Mix, No Matter the Cost.” Not for the first time, he lays out a false dichotomy between single-payer and the ACA:

Obamacare is not complicated because government social insurance programs have to be complicated: Neither Social Security nor Medicare is complex in structure…it’s complicated because political constraints made a straightforward single-payer system unachievable.

So… the implementation problems aren’t revealing problems with the idea of social insurance; they’re revealing the price we pay for insisting on keeping insurance companies in the mix, when they serve little useful purpose.

Does this mean that liberals should have insisted on single-payer or nothing? No. Single-payer wasn’t going to happen — partly because of the insurance lobby’s power, partly because voters wouldn’t have gone for a system that took away their existing coverage and replaced it with the unknown. Yes, Obamacare is a somewhat awkward kludge, but if that’s what it took to cover the uninsured, so be it.

I am not impressed with Krugman on this subject. At all. I was going to write about it a month ago when he ran this op-ed in the Times, once again beating the stuffing out of his ridiculous strawman of “Obamacare-vs.-single-payer, i.e. nothing.” As if the public option (Medicare buy-in) wasn’t something many people were pushing for, and in my opinion would have been included in the ACA had Obama backed it instead of secretly selling it out early on.

It was popular with the public. It provided a real alternative to for-profit insurance companies, which nearly everyone hates except Republicans, Joe Lieberman and his healthcare lobbyist wife. It would have put real pressure on these companies to reform their unconscionable practices. The entire system’s infrastructure already exists.

The public option was the compromise, between single-payer and locking in the for-profit health system we have for at least a generation. I’m sorry, but a modest Medicaid expansion and a mandate for everyone else to enrich private insurance companies should have been flat-out unacceptable. In the wake of the bank bailouts, it would have been a piece of cake for Democrats to frame any bill without a public option as the corporate handout that it is. Nancy Pelosi delivered a House bill with a public option, yet strangely, it was DOA in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Harry Reid could have stripped Lieberman of his precious chairmanship to pressure him to back off the public option, but he didn’t do that. Reid could have killed the filibuster (which he recently did) and thus would have had the votes to pass the House bill by a simple majority. But he didn’t do that either. Why? Because Joe Lieberman and a handful of conservadems were doing President Obama’s bidding by blocking the public option in the Senate. And at the same time, Krugman was carrying water for these DINOs by writing columns entitled “Pass The Bill” and shit like this:

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by.

Gee, that’s a really great point, Paul. But aside from the modest Medicaid expansion, the ACA is not a social insurance program. It’s a corporate giveaway. Paul Krugman knows this, he was instrumental in pushing for its passage, and now he has the nerve to pretend it was always back and white, either/or, single-payer vs. Obamacare, this or nothing.

I have come to detest professional liberals. They do far more harm than good by selectively spinning history into lies, and worst of all, putting a lefty-flavored sauce on right-wing policies. And while I generally like Krugman’s writing on Keynesian economics, he is just way out of his depth here.

So just shut up about the ACA and single-payer Paul Krugman, because either you’re willfully bullshitting your readers or you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.