the literary flair of matt bai

October 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Then came the 2007 car crash that kept him submerged in an induced coma for 11 days, followed the next year by the crash on Wall Street, which had much the same effect on the state’s economy

-Bai on Corzine in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine

Fired Up and Ready to Kick His A**

October 22, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Politico reports today that the West Wing is “fired up” this morning after getting wind of Cheney’s remarks at the Center for Security Policy Wednesday night.

“The White House must stop dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger. Make no mistake: Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.”

Gibbs has already torn into Cheney at a WH press conference today.  But, aside from the fact that Cheney and Bush let a proposal to increase troops in Afghanistan sit on their desks for 8 months, isn’t the sheer act of publically second guessing your current Commander-in-Chief doing just that — emboldening the enemy?

Maybe Cheney should take notes from a once reviled Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.  In an interview on Charlie Rose with director Errol Morris shortly before McNamara died, the former Secretary of Defense, under much pressure from Rose and Morris, refrained from commenting or critiquing the way the Bush administration was handling the war in Iraq.  An exasperated Rose even called McNamara’s refusals to weigh in on the war debate “silly”.  McNamara maintained that weighing in or showing public criticism would embolden the enemy.

Watch the full interview here…really fascinating and gets pretty uncomfortable around 14:30!

Open Thread

September 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Clearly, not of any political significance, but is this not a slap in the face to the Williams’ sisters? One Dominant, Americans Sow Seeds of Renewal

Update: I emailed Greg Bishop about the headline, it’s been changed to : “American Men Looking for  a Rebound”

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

September 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Unbelievable.  Maria Bartiromo asks 44-year old Anthony Weiner if Medicare is so good, why don’t you have it? Is it me, or does Maria sound like she’s reciting, word for word, today’s Republican talking point?  First, CNBC misleads the country about the health of the economy.  Now, healthcare reform?  Wow.  And for the record, I visited my grandparents in Rochester, New York this weekend.  They’ve been in and out of the hospital a lot this year.  I asked them how they felt about Medicare, expecting a lukewarm response.  They said they were very satisfied and pleased with the care.

August 14, 2009 at 11:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“the hole they stitched up in Glenn Beck’s ass hasn’t healed enough for him to stop talking out of it.”

Interviews from the streets of London: how Brits feel about their national health service (NHS)

August 8, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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It’s Getting Ugly

August 7, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just received a MoveOn.org blast email ticking off the latest attacks from the anti-reform crowd:

  • Last night in Tampa, Florida, a town hall meeting erupted into violence, with the police being called to break up fist fights and shoving matches
  • A Texas Democrat was shouted down by right-wing hecklers, many of whom admitted they didn’t even live in his district
  • One North Carolina representative announced he wouldn’t be holding any town-hall meetings after his office began receiving death threats
  • And in Maryland, protesters hung a Democratic congressman in effigy to oppose health-care reform.

My Experience with NHS

August 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

I’m working on another man on the street interview from London…asking Brits what they think of NHS (the UK’s national health service) and if they would prefer the US healthcare system instead.  Of the responses I’ve been able to get on camera so far, they are overwhelmingly positive.  So positive, in fact, that my report may end up sounding a bit one-sided, which is not my intention.  Now, I fear the conservative commenter wrath that will inevitably ensue on YouTube (ugh).  Anyway, while I continue to work on interviews and editing, I figured I could add some of my own experience with NHS since I moved to London.  Like most Americans exposed to anti-socialist rants on the poor quality of socialized healthcare, I was a bit wary and skeptical.   Would I be waiting in line for hours?  Could I trust the quality of care? Would the system be unnavigable and complicated?  Fortunately, my experience was quite the contrary.

Before leaving New York I had one week where I would be uninsured.  I took the risk figuring it was only a week and resolving to look both ways before carefully crossing the street.  The day after I finished at MSNBC, ending all claims to benefits, I received a call from my doctor that I would need an emergency procedure on a health condition I had been monitoring for about 13 months.  The procedure and the lab results would cost me over $800.  If they had only called a day earlier, I would have still been covered under my GE benefits.  Now I was paying almost $1,000 out of pocket.  The timing could not have been worse.  Anyway,  I got this procedure done and my US doctor advised me to get a GP set up right away in London who would then help me sort out the next steps for my second, follow-up operation.

When I got to the UK, I found that my local clinic was about a 6 minute walk from my flat.  I made an appointment in person (you can make them over the phone as well) and received a confirmation letter in the mail a few days later.  On the day of the appointment which was around 10 am, I walked to my clinic.  Most clinics have a computerized touch screen check-in.  You just punch in your date of birth and a message appears telling you that your doctor has been alerted of your arrival.  I sat in the waiting room for about 5 minutes before my doctor, not a nurse, came out to greet me.  He took me back to his office where he immediately began creating a computerized file on my health background, asking me questions about my last procedure and typing everything into my new record.   He forwarded that information on to the specialist I had to see for my follow up operation and advised me that I would be receiving the date and time of my next appointment in the mail shortly.  I then asked him about possibly seeing someone to talk to about moving to a new country and dealing with the stress of this health condition.  Instead of my doctor giving me a list of local therapists to call myself, he rang up a colleague to see if she had free time.  He arranged for a trial session on the spot.

A few days later I received the appointment time and date for my operation in the mail at a hospital a few blocks from my workplace.  The wait time there was a bit longer, perhaps 20-25 minutes.  The operaton lasted slightly longer than the one back home, but the doctor and nurse were incredibly friendly, and on the whole, the experience was a lot more pleasant than my October operation.  I’m fine now and have (just recently) paid off the $700 bill from nearly a year ago.

I’ll be honest, it feels a bit weird to open up about my health on this blog, but I felt it was important to share this after reading and watching some of the anti-healthcare reform initiatives spreading back home.  The system is efficient, provides satisfactory care and it’s FREE.  Totaling up everything I’ve had done since my arrival here, I probably would have had to pay around $2,000 back home, which explains the positive feedback from my man on the street interviews.  It’s hard to slag off a system that’s virtually free (all prescriptions are £6 and birth control is free).  Now, I don’t expect to convert any anti-reformers out there, but I do hope this post dispels at least some of the misconceptions  about government-run healthcare.

Stay tuned for the man on the street video…hope you enjoy it!

Maddow Smack Down

August 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Wow, just wow.   Rachel Maddow delivered a blistering investigative report on healthcare reform lies last night: what’s being said, who’s behind it, and how these exploitative, manufactured deceptions are being spread.   Best line: “This is what these groups do…they’re experts at fake grass roots campaigns that promote corporate interests.”  It’s pretty kick ass, take a look:

And give it up to Mike Yarvitz who researched and produced the segment…well done Yarvi!

Naomi Klein, did we watch the same election?

July 31, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Ok, I need to unload on Naomi Klein’s column in the Guardian today.  Normally,  I really like Klein and appreciate her thorough and unique analysis.  But, the fundamentals of her latest argument on the Sarah Palin movement and what it means for American capitalism are anything but strong.

She asks :

…consider for a moment: what if [the bailout] actually works, what if the financial sector is saved and the economy returns to the course it was on before the crisis struck? Is that what we want? And what would that world look like? The answer is that it would look like Sarah Palin…

Think about it, Sarah Palin stepped on to the world stage as vice-presidential candidate on 29 August 2008 at a McCain campaign rally. Two weeks later, on 15 September, Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering the global financial meltdown.

So in a way Palin was the last clear expression of capitalism-as-usual before everything went south…

The problem with this argument is timeline and perception.  Palin wasn’t the last healthy expression of capitalism-as-usual because the system had been in freefall for months before Palin ever stepped on the scene.  Look at the timeline from early 2008:

From Wikipedia:

January 2–21 2008 : January 2008 stock market downturn.

January 24 2008: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announces that 2007 had the largest drop in existing home sales in 25 years, and “the first price decline in many, many years and possibly going back to the Great Depression.”

March 14 2008: Bear Stearns gets Fed funding as shares plummet.

March 16 2008: Bear Stearns is acquired for $2 a share by JPMorgan Chase in a fire sale avoiding bankruptcy. The deal is backed by the Federal Reserve, providing up to $30B to cover possible Bear Stearn losses.

June 19 2008: Ex-Bear Stearns fund managers arrested by the FBI for their allegedly fraudulent role in the subprime mortgage collapse. The managers purportedly misrepresented the fiscal health of their funds to investors publicly while privately withdrawing their own money.

September 7 2008 : Federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which at that point owned or guaranteed about half of the U.S.’s $12 trillion mortgage market, effectively nationalizing them. This causes panic because almost every home mortgage lender and Wall Street bank relied on them to facilitate the mortgage market and investors worldwide owned $5.2 trillion of debt securities backed by them.

September 14 2008: Merrill Lynch is sold to Bank of America amidst fears of a liquidity crisis and Lehman Brothers collapse.

September 15 2008: Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy protection.

By Klein’s account, you would think Sarah’s system was a healthy one that failed in a freak accident just 2 weeks after her nomination. Rather, the health of our economic system was on life support, gasping for air, long before McCain and his sidekick were confidently declaring the fundamentals of our economy were strong.

Klein acknowledges that McCain and Palin’s optimistic view of the economy were lies:

“This is the most comforting and dangerous lie that there is: the lie that perpetual, unending growth is possible on our finite planet. And we have to remember that this message was incredibly popular in those first two weeks, before Lehman collapsed. Despite Bush’s record, Palin and McCain were pulling ahead. And if it weren’t for the financial crisis, and for the fact that Obama started connecting with working-class voters by putting deregulation and trickle-down economics on trial, they might have actually won.”

Um, did we not watch the same election?  This is the most off base, revisionist explanation of the last 2 months of the 2008 election I’ve seen yet.  And it’s another example of how some in the media cherry pick and shoehorn historical events to fit their line of argument.  Palin didn’t represent or inspire a movement of followers because they full-heartedly supported McCain’s platform.  If you look at the poll data, those who were asked if their vote was more a vote for McCain or a vote AGAINST Obama, said theirs was a vote against Obama.  I think Palin’s influence was inflated by the media because she reinvigorated a ticket desperate for some flair and excitement. She gave the media the horserace they had been routing for.

Also, never in the election could one reasonably argue that McCain was pulling ahead despite Bush’s record.  Just look at the list of the national polls going back to March 2008, showing the head to head match up between Obama and McCain.  Obama commands a clear lead in the majority of national polls from March to the end of the election.  McCain enjoyed a small and short bounce after the RNC and the Palin nomination.  That’s reflected in  AP and Ipsos polls in early September.  CNN had them tied. But that bounce faded by around September 12-16. And, it’s important to note that that bump started to fade just before McCain’s infamous “fundamentals of our economy are strong” line.  Also, if you look at the type of ads Obama’s campaign ran in the last two months, they painted McCain as a politician in lockstep with the policies of George W. Bush. McCain and Palin never “pulled ahead” despite Bush’s record.  It was because of him and Obama’s capitalization of that poor record that McCain and Palin failed.

To Klein’s main point that now is the opportunity to reform our financial system to one that does not necessitate bailouts in the future, I agree.  It’s the flawed evidence she uses to make this point that I had to address.

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