Friday, June 25, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A case for Alternative Energy, Biodiesel

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been ongoing now for 66 days. The amount of oil spilled is now estimated at 67 to 127 million gallons of oil, by far the largest US oil spill and coming close, using the upper bound estimate, to becoming the worlds largest accidental oil spill, second only behind the IXTOC-1 spill also in the Gulf of Mexico (Saddam Hussein’s army purposely released around 400 million gallons of oil when retreating out of Kuwait, easily topping the list of largest oil spills in history, but the Deepwater and IXTOC-1 spills were obviously accidental).

Is it worth the risk of another disaster like this occurring to continue offshore drilling? I will now attempt to answer this question with numbers and facts rather than with ideals and speculation.

First of all, how much oil, currently, does the US get from deepwater wells? The US produced about 97.6 million barrels of oil in 2009 from offshore drilling, which includes deep water offshore drilling. The total crude oil produced in the US was about 2 billion barrels, so offshore drilling contributed 5% of the total oil that the US produced. However, if you look at the amount of oil we import, export, as well as produce, then you see that crude oil from offshore drilling was about 1.8% of total crude oil consumed or stored in the US in 2009 (see calculations and references at the bottom). So, almost two percent of the oil in the US comes from offshore drilling. That is not an insignificant number and may actually increase in the future with more oil drilling.

If we cut out 2% of US oil production can we continue life as usual? The answer is, emphatically, yes. We have seen what effect it has on short-term oil prices: absolutely nothing, in fact the prices have gone down in the three months since the oil spill. If demand were suddenly so much greater then you would expect prices to go up proportionally. Though, of course, the price of crude oil isn’t necessarily tied directly to demand so we should look at anther statistic.

Let’s look at biodiesel. The production capacity of biodiesel in the US was estimated to be 2.69 billion gallons or 62 million barrels of pure diesel. Of course this is not actually being produced at the moment in the US but it is a possibility. Though the prices would be fairly high for these bio-products it would at least be able to easily compensate for any lost crude oil. If the government used $10 billion of the $20 billion escrow account to fund current biodiesel companies, that are capable of mass production, to kick production into high gear and get things moving then we could easily surpass the amount of lost crude from offshore drill with domestic diesel. Using the estimate that one barrel of crude oil produces 20 gallons of motor oil and 7 gallons of diesel that puts the total number of barrels of diesel fuel from offshore diesel at 16,278 barrels of diesel fuel, which is far, far, less than the upper limit of biodiesel fuel production predicted. The reason that biodiesel does not currently have larger market is because the cost per barrel of crude is low enough that it is not competitive, but if the US increased taxes on oil companies (or just got rid of their subsidies, which are somewhere around $15 to $35 billion annually!) and used the money for biodiesel production subsidies then we could easily ban offshore drilling altogether with no effect on the usage of oil in the US.

Unfortunately, diesel fuel cannot be used in all engines, just diesel engines. Most trucks and construction equipment that require heavy loads or a large amount of torque use diesel fuel. Lower power engines such as cars do not require that kind of energy and can use motor oil. If most diesel engines were required to run on biodiesel then the crude oil taken from land could be refined so as to produce more motor oil for cars instead of diesel fuel, thus making up for the lack of motor oil coming from offshore drilling.

So, I have shown one option that makes offshore drilling unnecessary and keeps the US operating completely normally. Biodiesel is an easy, proven, alternative to the dangers of offshore drilling and therefore that option should at least be tried before allowing for the possibility of another environmental disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill. Most biodiesel also has the added benefit of being a carbon neutral source of energy, in that it requires as much CO2 from the air to create it as is produced after the fuel is burned—two birds with one stone—seems like an easy decision to me.

[Update: Below is a comment on this post by an industry scientist working for a leader in biodiesel production in the US, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met (my dad!). His research uses genetically engineered yeast to produce diesel fuel.]

“Your analysis is sound, but the situation is more complicated because biodiesel is only for diesel engines (so only a small fraction of cars and no airplanes) [this post has now been updated to attempt to take this into account]. Crude oil can be converted to fuels that work in any engine. As long as there is a high demand for gasoline, there is an economic incentive to drill for crude wherever it is. Deep water drilling will only be stopped with laws, and those laws can only apply near the country that passes those laws. We may be able to stop deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but not elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, as long as we have a Senate, such laws will probably never get passed anyway. It’s a crazy world out there.


In 2009, total US production of crude from land and sea was 2,035,797 barrels. Offshore drilling accounted for 97,669 barrels. That means that 4.8% of US crude oil production in 2009 was from offshore drilling. The US also imported 3,307,058 barrels and exported 15,985 barrels. So a total of 3,307,058+2,035,797-15,985 = 5,326,870 was either used or stored in the US. So 1.8% is the percentage of crude oil versus all crude oil sources in the US.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Threat to Democracy

The health care reform debate in the United States brought a primary question about democracy to the forefront: “Does a democratic state have a responsibility to guarantee its citizens a basic level of well being?”

The opposition decided that civil liberties and health care were mutually exclusive. Providing 46.3 million people [1] with healthcare constituted a fundamental denial of all Americans’ individual rights. Proponents of the health care bill fought back. They argued that no one in the United States should be forced into financial ruin because of a medical condition. The government needed to regulate maniacal health insurance agencies.

Both sides extolled American democracy.

Both sides also belied reality. Democracy in the United States is not as robust as it might seem. Since 1978, only about half of eligible voters in the United States voted in elections.[2] In 2006, a national survey asked Americans to rate their satisfaction with how democracy is working on a scale of 0 to 10—nearly half gave it a rating of 5 or below. [3] Despite this, Americans remain confident that democracy is superior to any other form of government.

But American confidence in democracy does not match experience, at least not in the Americas. In Latin America, countries are asking a slightly revised version of the United States’ question: “Can a democratic state guarantee its citizens a basic level of well being?”

Latin America has had two decades of free elections, high inequality, and uneven access to basic services. Most governments in Latin America respect civil liberties and political rights. [4] However, for a good many people in these countries, living in a democracy does not mean having access to good education, job opportunities, or even clean water and reliable electricity. Many governments’ social spending favors the rich, with the poorest fifth receiving less than their fair share. [5] Governments spend lots of money on higher education that rich kids get for free, but neglect primary schools that serve mostly poor and low-income children. [6] Nearly half of the region’s workers are in the informal sector, which are often low-quality, low-productivity jobs that offer little or no chance of upward mobility. [7] Wealthy neighborhoods pay for private generators, while poor communities who pay for city services experience rolling blackouts. Constitutional referendums in Venezuela and Ecuador as well as the political schism in Honduras are just three examples that show that, when push comes to shove, respecting civil liberties and political rights is not enough for democracy to survive.

The deterioration in security, increasing disregard for democratic institutions, and surge in violent civil unrest in many Latin American countries are clear indicators that democracy is in trouble. The same is true for the United States. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. [8] The United States performs well below average on student achievement tests in math and science. [8] We trail other developed nations in environmental preservation and alternate energy. In 2005, we watched as one of our cities drowned in a hurricane we knew was coming, because infrastructure failed. Our bridges and highways are increasingly falling below standards. [10] As of 2009, over 300,000 Americans were in danger of losing their homes. [11] We are already the most unequal industrialized nation in the world. [12] Gaps in incomes continue to grow, and our middle-class continues to shrink. [13]

Latin America is the canary in the democracy mine. Latin American governments have failed to ensure a basic well being for their citizens, and now citizens in several countries are opting out of democracy. Our accolades notwithstanding, half of Americans in the United States don’t invest any time or energy in our democracy. If we continue to avoid common sense, and entertain the Republican ideology of refusing to ensure our citizens’ well being, we shouldn’t be surprised when apathy towards democracy turns to rejection.

[1] US Census Bureau 2008
[2] 45% to 63% US Census Bureau
[5] ECLAC Social Panorama 2007
[12] World Development Indicators, World Bank

Monday, March 8, 2010

Peace, Love, and Happiness...

I came across this video via BoingBoing of people in a New York subway line singing along to Hey Jude. It brought a big smile to my face and I really wish I had been there. It also brought up a couple thoughts on what the democratic party could be doing better, which I'll share after the video.

People really want to belong to something, to feel apart of a group, or feel like they are helping to benefit the greater good of human life. Think of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti: people all over the US started text messaging money to the relief effort, democrats and republicans alike. They wanted to be apart of the movement to help those in need, and even something as small as a text message made them feel as if they were apart of that bigger group.

The democrats have not done a good job of maintaining that feeling of togetherness that was so strong when Obama was elected. Over the course of a year the spirit of the democrats has dwindled. Most democrats still believe that expanded healthcare is important, that global warming is one of the most important issues that humans will ever face, that banks and financial institutions should be regulated to better protect the assets of everyone, and that civil liberties and human rights need to be better protected—but most people simply don't feel apart of the effort to make this change anymore. When Obama was running for election people felt that by campaigning and voting for him they were helping the causes that they believed in so strongly, but now the people aren't involved, they have to let congress do all the work and it seems as if no work is getting done. At the very least the ideas that were so ferociously fought for during the election campaign are being diluted into meaningless bills that no longer represent what the people originally wanted.

There is a disconnect from the government. We need to change that. We need a way to make people feel more involved with their government again. Just like the Teabagger party for the republicans, the democrats need something to rally around. If we could organize large demonstrations to show how many people really do support health care reform, and at the same time organize the people who believe global warming is a problem, and bank regulation, etc., imagine the numbers of people that would show up. We need to rally around our core values as democrats and we need it to be very public, and very positive. Think of the huge demonstrations against the Iraq war, they were a rallying point for those of us who felt we couldn't do anything else, and they helped to energize the party; we won majorities in the house and senate in 2006, and a super majority in the senate in 2008 along with the president. When people see that their beliefs are accepted by many other people they feel energized to get up and do something, to voice their opinions and make real change. Now that we see how stagnant our congress is, even with as large a majority as we have, we need to stand up and voice our opinions very publicly to let them know: we are still here, we still believe in the core values of the democratic party, and we want you to do something about it now that you can.

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts has reinvigorated the democrats in congress because they no longer have their magic 60 senate votes. His election, while overall bad news for democrats, has actually helped the health care reform debate because it has caused people to get passionate again about the party. Again there is that feeling that we need to get out and do something to make sure we don't lose this debate, as well as show the republicans that they cannot stop all legislation through filibuster—more than 3/5ths of the country wants these reforms to happen. It's time we started to show the rest of the people who aren't as enthusiastic yet that their beliefs are still valid, and that there are a lot of other people out there who have the same beliefs. If we can do that then maybe we can even get the reconciliation package to include a public option. It may be too late for a major push for health care reform for this year but there are still lots of other ways that we can improve this country, and getting people excited enough to voice their opinions, to show up to rallies, talk to friends and family, and call or write their senators is the first step to making it all happen.

A simple song like Hey Jude has the power to get people together to sing along and feel apart of something bigger than themselves. Can we as democrats find that note that resonates with the people well enough to bring us all together to fight for what we really believe is the right way forward for America?

Update: More public inspiration from song in the subways of NYC (again via BoingBoing)! In this video: Alice Tan Ridley, the mother of the academy award nominee Gabourey Sidibe from Precious, sings I will Survive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Selling Reconciliation

Last weeks’ health care summit was a sight to see. Democrats and Republicans discussed their positions on health care and insurance policies at length and in-depth. The main pre-scripted messages of both parties got hammered through (Republicans: “Let’s start over”, and Democrats: “We agree on so many things”), but in the midst of this there was an intelligent, frank conversation that included open, honest and polite disagreement. Anyone who believes that nothing has changed in Washington since President Obama’s election is wrong. This type of conversation never, EVER, would have happened during the Bush years.

However, what was the real impact of this summit? It’s not clear. This summit could be remembered as a turning point in Mr. Obama’s presidency or just another failed attempt at bi-partisanship. How this summit is remembered will depend entirely on whether or not Democrats manage to pass a health care bill. While many Americans claim to care about bi-partisanship, the attempt of bi-partisanship may be forgotten but the effects of a health care bill will live on. Thus, passing a health care bill is the most important thing for Democrats to do. I believe that if Democrats fail to pass health care they will jeopardize their majority in both houses. Furthermore, they will lose the enthusiasm of so many of the young voters who turned out for Mr. Obama a little over a year ago.

I believe that the push for bi-partisanship in the health care summit was genuine. However, at the same time, he was also realistic. In his closing remarks, he acknowledged the position many Republicans are in:

“And the truth of the matter is that politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans to want to do anything. I mean, we can debate what our various constituencies think. I know that -- I don't need a poll to know that most of Republican voters are opposed to this bill and might be opposed to the kind of compromise we could craft. It would be very hard for you politically to do this.”

He continued:

So the question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something?

And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and some make decisions, and then that's what elections are for.”

And of course, by “decisions” Mr. Obama was talking about reconciliation. The house just needs to pass the Senate bill, and then with a simple majority the Senate can accept changes through the reconciliation process.

Last year, both the House and the Senate passed health care bills. At this point, the House and Senate leaders would get together, come to some compromise, and then the compromised bill would come back to the House and the Senate and both would have to vote to pass the agreed upon bill. With the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, it became clear to everyone that this could no longer happen. Senator Brown vowed to be the 41st vote needed to filibuster the health care bill.

This election was made possible by a great number of events, but as discussed in this blog before, a MAIN issue was that the Democrats just didn’t sell their health care bill well. Polls continue to show that people support the individual aspects of the democrat’s health care bill, but claim not to support the bill itself (

Having the President’s version of health care reform out will help democrats sell this better since there will be one bill that the democrats can talk about. But more important than selling the health care bill now, will be selling it once it is passed. So how do we get there?

The Democrats need to sell reconciliation. Selling reconciliation is necessary to get Democrats to use reconciliation. And the sell should be this: The Senate already passed the health care bill. If it is true that the public option is being dropped then the changes to the Senate Bill will be minor. In fact, most of the changes would be minor improvements to the healthcare bill – all of which could easily be sold to the public (like dropping the “Nebraska Deal”). Reconciliation will not be used to push through legislation that didn’t get a 60 vote majority. It won’t be used to push non-health care legislation through (like education reform, or non-healthcare related tax increases or cuts). Reconciliation will simply be used to finalize a bill already passed by the Senate.

Global Warming: Caused by Humans

I spent a long time poring over articles and trying to compile a list of relevant scientific data that shows the overwhelming evidence that man-made global warming is happening, and I wanted to represent it in such a way that non-science geeks like myself could understand. But as it turns out I’m not the first to try and do this—big surprise! After finding the below video about global warming science, via MyDD, I decided to forgo researching anymore and decided maybe I should go into the science a little bit. This video has it all, please enjoy:

I would like to clarify one point in greater detail that the video just didn’t have time to go into, and that is the idea that greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere are derived from human use of fossil fuel. In the video they mention that the isotopes of carbon that are detected in the air indicate that the large increase of CO2 in our atmosphere over the last hundred years or so originate from fossil fuel rather than from volcanic eruptions or any other natural process: "the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas, has a different chemical signature than living animals and plants". I would like to go into some more detail here and turn the conversation a bit more towards the science behind how we know where the carbon comes from.

There are three main types of carbon, carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14 that are all present naturally in our atmosphere and we breathe them in with every single breath. Carbon-14 is very important for figuring out the age of materials that are up to about 70,000 years old but since fossil fuels come from the dinosaur ages, starting about 65 million years ago, we will forget about carbon-14 for now. Carbon-12 is by far the most abundant (98%) type of carbon in the atmosphere (and universe) and this is because it is the most stable form of carbon. There is much less carbon-13 in the atmosphere but there is enough to be easily detectable. The only difference between carbon-12 and carbon-13 is that carbon-13 has one more neutron in it’s nucleus (12 + 1, amazing!) which makes it slightly heavier than carbon-12 and why they can be distinguished using a technique called mass spectrometry. The mass difference between the two types of carbon is very import for understanding where the CO2 in the atmosphere comes from.

During photosynthesis a plant takes in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and with the help of sunlight converts it into sugar that it can use for energy. Most of the CO2 molecules contain carbon-12, because it is the most abundant, but a small percentage contains carbon-13. Well, it turns out that, through very complex physics, that plants tend to prefer the lighter, more abundant carbon-12 than they do the slightly heavier carbon-13. So if you take a plant and analyze the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 you will find that there is a higher ratio of carbon-12 in the plant than there is in the air. As we know, fossil fuels are simply plants that died many millions of years ago and their rotting remains slowly turned into what we know as oil. Oil has the same ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 that plants do. If we then take a look back through history by measuring the amount of carbon-13 found in tree rings and ice core samples we find that the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 has been about the same for nearly 10,000 years. However, within the last 100 years there has been a very significant increase in carbon-12. This increase indicates that the fossil fuels are being burned and released into the atmosphere thus increasing the carbon-12 content without affecting the carbon-13 content, thus changing the ratio that has stayed constant for so many thousands of years. There is no other explanation than fossil fuel burning for the increase in carbon-12 in the atmosphere in the last 100 years because, as far as we know, there is no other significant source of CO2 that contains a higher ratio of carbon-12 to -13 than that from plant or fossil fuel burning.

This still leaves the question as to how much CO2 can actually increase the temperature of the planet. At this point however it is unequivocal that humans are the main cause of the increase in CO2 to the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Citizens United vs Democracy

In late January we witnessed the biggest blow to the United States’ political system in generations. And no, it wasn’t the election of Scott Brown. On January 21st, the Supreme Court announced their decision on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) – agreeing (5-4) with Citizens United, that bans on corporate contributions or expenditure to campaigns was unconstitutional because it was a ban on corporate speech, and thus a violation of the first amendment. Liberals and Conservatives alike ought to take immediate action – and ideas to limit the impact of this ruling are needed.

First, some very quick background.

Citizens United created “Hillary: The Movie”, a feature film length attack ad that aimed to convince any who watched it that Hillary Clinton is unfit for office. This was to be aired immediately before the democratic primaries took place. However, §441b of McCain-Feingold (officially called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) states that “[i]t is unlawful for any national bank, or any corporation organized by authority of any law of Congress, to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election to any political office or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office…”

So, placing this movie directly before the democratic primary was illegal. The movie didn’t air, and instead has been working its way up the federal court system, landing on the Supreme Courts’ docket in 2009. The court ruled (5-4) that “Section 441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is … a ban on speech. Meaning, §441b violates the first amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. Corporations and unions are now allowed to spend, without limit, money on political ads and campaigns designed to influence the public at any point during an election cycle (previously there was a ban on ads within 30 days of an election). While this ruling applies equally to corporations and unions, the real danger is the corporations – who can drastically outspend Unions.

There is good reason to be concerned about this. The Citizens United ruling elevates the power of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. This ruling comes at a time when it is crystal clear that large corporations have far too much power in Washington already. Up until now, corporations that wanted to get directly involved with campaigning had to create political action committees (PACs). PACs, by law, are funded by individual donations. In corporations, these are usually funded by personal donation made by managers and key stakeholders. However, the Citizens United v. FEC ruling will now allows these interests to contribute corporate profits to campaign efforts. Often these profits are gained by people who do not share the same political opinion as the organization their money is going to. Think of the irony: a health insurance company, making a profit by refusing medical payments to those that they “insure” (pre-existing condition…), uses this profit to lobby against health insurance reform that would allow those they “insure” to get treated for their illness.

Oh right, and there is one more thing: this ruling allows foreign corporations to spend to influence elections as much as it allows US corporations.

It’s time for congress to take direct action. The Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has started holding hearings to explore ways of the impact Citizens United v. FEC, and to pass legislation doing so by Election Day 2010 (and Senator Sherrod Brown recently proposed legislation – see below). Some proposed steps, like mandating that campaign ads by corporations or unions disclose who is funding the ads, are a start. But we need to do more than that. Let’s start with a few ideas.

Tax the hell out of them!

Admittedly, this is my favorite idea. Putting a 100-500% or so tax on these types of ads would discourage corporations from using corporate profits. The taxes gained could be used to pay down national debt, or better yet, be part of a clean election fund – directed at giving candidates public financing to help keep those who choose public financing on a relatively level playing field with those who don’t.

There is a problem though … this is unconstitutional. Taxing speech in order to silence speech is certainly unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court ruled that a ban on corporate expenditures to campaigns is a ban on speech, it is reasonable that they would interpret a tax explicitly directed at limiting this activity as a tax directed at limiting speech. So, we need some more ideas.

Corporate Disclosure/Transparency

One of the first ideas I’ve heard is requiring statements in any campaign advertisement to report who paid for it. The simplest version of this would be announcements similar to the “This message brought to you by the Exxon Mobile Corporation”. We could even require CEOs to appear in any corporate financed advertising giving this message, just as we require political candidates to appear in their ads expressing their approval of the ads message. But most CEOs aren’t recognizable by the public, so this would do little in the way of transparency. Personally, I don’t think a message like this – put at either the beginning or the end of a commercial attack ad - will do much to minimize the impact of these campaign advertisements. Most people believe what they hear – especially if it’s said over and over again.

Candidate Disclosure/Transparency

Disclosure shouldn’t be limited to corporations. As mentioned, this ruling not only allows corporations to produce campaign ads using corporate profits at any time during the campaign cycle, but it also allows corporations to donate directly to a candidate’s campaign. Candidates that except corporate money should have to disclose, as clearly as possible, that they have. Whatever a candidate spends these campaign donations on, it should be disclosed that these came from corporate donations that would have previously been banned under the Campaign Reform Act of 2002. If the donations went in to their general campaign fund, this message should be on every ad or document they produce for their campaign.

Shareholder and Consumer Democracy

On Tuesday, the first witnesses testified in front of the Senate rules committee. Two proposals were made (the two that follow), which I think would take us in the right direction.

Heather Gerken, a Yale Law School Professor who specializes in election and constitutional law, points out that “the problem here is not American democracy, but shareholder democracy … Citizen’s united vindicated the right for corporations to speak and share holders are the corporation.” By requiring a majority of the shareholders to sign off on specific political positions, or to require a majority to vote to endorse specific candidates, there would be a genuine procedural roadblock to corporations further influencing our political system.

This is a great start. But I believe it should go a little further. Shareholders make their profits off of the public buying their corporation’s goods or services. I believe that there should be some sort of disclosure to their customers. Corporations should be required to post information about what political ads/campaigns their profits have funded. This will give them some accountability, not only to their shareholders, but to the public. I don’t think this would necessarily have a tremendous effect, but this sort of disclosure to the public would provide a disincentive and would allow those who care to shop with their politics.

Regulating some “speech”

Congress does have the power to prohibit some political spending. They can do this by having certain requirements with industries that they do business with. This wouldn’t be a ban on speech, since corporations are not required to do any business with the US government. This narrow ban, suggested by Edward Foley of Mertz Law School, could include banks which the US government bailed out, corporations contracting with the defense department, any insurance agency the federal government uses (e.g., through employee health insurance), public utility companies, and any corporation considered too big to fail. I would add to this, by suggesting a 10 year ban on a corporation doing business with the government if they used corporate profits to affect a campaign. This would provide a powerful disincentive for any of the larger corporations that does business with, or may ever want to do business with, the federal government. States could implement similar laws for State governments.

As mention, Senator Sherrod Brown introduced the “Citizens Right to Know Act”. This act contains a number of the ideas expressed above, including shareholder approval and corporate transparency. This bill has not been made publically available yet, but I’m afraid it doesn’t go far enough. However, passing this bill would not prevent congress from further legislation down the line. For that, we’ll need more ideas.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The issue Democrats MUST own

This partisan article and analysis by Nate Silver of a non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation article makes it clear that while the "Health Care Reform Bill" isn't popular, just about every aspect of health care reform included in the bill is very popular. However, by and large the components of the bill are poorly understood. This implies the problem with health care reform isn't the popularity of all of the concepts: It's the sale!

I guess anyone who has bought a car knows that some people can sell cancer while others can't sell immortality. There's a substantial difference between sales and product, and once the sale is finished there's nothing but results to effect the opinion. While the Democrats have completely lost control of the issue from a sales point of view, they still control a set of reforms that are incredibly popular. It's essential that they get through these reforms, after which point people aren't going to be affected by the lies perpetrated by the opposition, and lies by and large are what they have. Instead the Democrats will own a solution that means no one in America will ever need to worry that they or their family will ever be denied insurance again.

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week -- George Patton

Friday, January 22, 2010

Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football

It's a broken record really. Every time the Democrats think they have control of anything, the Republicans pick up the proverbial football and the Dems are left rolling around on their backs! Honestly, does Harry Reid think that when the rolls are reversed... and they will be... the Republicans are going to support the Democrats' right to filibuster? If he does believe that, he's a fool! First, the Democrats won't be so disrespectful to procedure filibuster every vote. And when they do decide to filibuster, the Republicans will kill the filibuster with threats or by bringing it to the floor under reconciliation rules. Remember the gang of 14 and the nuclear option? When Bill Frist showed some leadership? No? Well apparently Harry Reid doesn't either. Harry Reid and the football
Let's be clear: the message sent in Massachusetts was:

"We won't support weakness, show some chutzpah! We sent Obama and a 60 seat Democratic majority in the Senate to Washington to do the people's business, and YOU have shown you can't get it done!"

I live in MA. I voted for Coakley, but I held my nose to do it. She was as out of touch with the citizens of the state as is possible. Let's be clear that the MA Democratic establishment failed miserably by supporting her as the candidate. However, The message also makes it clear that there is no such thing as a safe seat in the US! Throughout the last year, polls have made it evident that Americans wanted health care reform, but the waning polls show they don't want constant bickering. They want LEADERSHIP and completion. This means doing things in spite of the the Republicans, who have decided that they will not let anything pass. This means FIGHTING instead of letting the Republicans define President Obama's Waterloo. This means showing the American people that Democrats CAN DO the people's business. And this means getting to work IMMEDIATELY. There are 10 months to show Americans what leadership is. The Republicans have invented a new weapon, the universal filibuster. Since 2006, when the Republicans lost control of the Senate, they have increased the use of the filibuster many fold. They don't keep it in the holster until times of need, they use it constantly. Every vote requires cloture. This is a new technique in the Senate. Nothing novel here, we all know this.

What I don't get is why Harry Reid lets this happen? Is he just afraid to confront his caucus? Well, he doesn't need to protect just the blue dogs anymore, he needs to protect EVERY Senator, because WE won't send back ANYONE who can't work for our citizens.

The Democrats in the Senate have an 18 seat majority today. 18 seat majority out of 100 seats!!! This isn't small! If they want to keep their jobs, they need to kill the universal filibuster. Harry Reid needs to bring legislation to the floor, let them filibuster it and let them talk until Republicans start dropping dead from talking. HE NEEDS TO MAKE THEM FILIBUSTER!!! Harry Reid is from Nevada, according to his autobiography The Good Fight he's from a town of gamblers and prostitutes... Well if this is the case, shouldn't he know when to call a gambler's bluff???

Today the Democratic caucus has a choice. The choice is either:

A) Listen to Fox News, the Wall St. Journal, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and the establishment right when they say "See, Americans don't want reform, slow down!"


B) Remember that Barack Obama and the 111th Congress rode a wave of anger at the failed policies of George W. Bush and voted for change. Give them that change, and show some decisiveness in the process!

Americans like it when our leaders show balls!!! No offense meant by using this term, but it's the best description in the English language. If Harry Reid wants healthcare done, than he needs to make it THE PRIORITY, and stop the business of the senate until the filibuster ends, and he needs to do it with a serious bill that will maybe only get 50 votes. The filibuster doesn't exist to stop the work of the senate, so Harry Reid needs make it clear that if Senate business is stalled, it's being stalled by those filibustering, not by him. Every bill brought to the floor deserves an up or down vote, and the filibuster exists to delay the vote, not kill it. He needs to remind Republicans what they actually are supposed to do to filibuster, and make them talk without sleep until they start to drop.

If you agree with me, I'd like to implore you to contact your Representative and Senators, and tell them to do the work of the people, and stop messing around. I don't care if you live in a blue state, I live in the bluest of blue states... tell them they can't take your vote for granted. As Scott Brown shows, no seat is safe. This is empowering. This is our weapon. THEY MUST DO OUR WORK!

Tell every congressman you can that they can stop the Republicans, they can do the work. Instead of letting Lucy and the Republicans pull the ball out from in front of our feet, it's time to show them who controls the ball(s).