Thursday, December 31, 2009

Radio update - KVEC-AM this afternoon

Unless you've already started celebrating, let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year's Eve. I hope 2010 is a better year - your best, ever.

Just a programming note: I'll be joining Dave Congalton a little later this afternoon (4:05 p.m. PST) on KVEC 920 AM. If you're not in the listening area, you can tune in via the station's website. The show is a call-in program, so feel free to ring us up and add your two cents' (or more) worth.

Dave Congalton.

We'll be discussing Rush Limbaugh's recent health concerns, what the future of radio (and politics) looks like with/without him, and the media and politics in general.

Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh update: There is no word yet concerning additional tests that were run on Limbaugh today. I did, however, receive the official statement/release (below) from my PR contact at the hospital where he is right now.


December 31, 2009

Media Contacts:
Cedric Yamanaka
Director of Corporate Communications

N. Makana Shook
Corporate Communications Coordinator

The Queen’s Medical Center Provides Update on Rush Limbaugh

HONOLULU — Rush Limbaugh was admitted to The Queen’s Medical Center on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 after suffering chest pains. He is being treated today, continues to rest comfortably, and remains in good spirits.
Mr. Limbaugh appreciates the prayers and well wishes of his many fans and supporters. He will continue to provide updates on his website,

# # #

The Queen’s Medical Center is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, acute care medical facility accredited by The Joint Commission. The facility houses 505 acute beds and 28 sub-acute beds and is widely known for its programs in cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, orthopaedics, surgery, emergency medicine and trauma, and behavioral medicine. Queen’s is home to a number of residency programs offered in conjunction with the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. Queen’s has achieved Magnet® status – the highest institutional honor for hospital excellence – from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Magnet recognition is held by less than five percent of hospitals in the United States. Queen’s is the first hospital in Hawai‘i to achieve Magnet status.

Rush Limbaugh - the next chapter?

"El Rushbo"...

As you read this, Rush Limbaugh - perhaps the loudest, boldest and best-known voice on the right side of the political aisle - is resting in a Honolulu hospital room after being stricken with chest pains during his golf outing on Wednesday.

I know it sounds like a bit tin-foil hat-wearing, conspiracy theory stuff but I wouldn't doubt it if some time in the not-too-distant future we hear Mr. Limbaugh is retiring for "health reasons" (hence the photo of Gary Cooper below as Lou Gehrig). btw...I'm not inferring that there's anything to do with ALS...the disease that knocked down Gehrig.

Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in "Pride of the Yankees"...

From the Associated Press: "Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh was taken to a hospital after suffering chest pains and was resting comfortably Wednesday, his radio program said in a statement."

According to Honolulu television station KITV, "Paramedics responded to the call at 2:41 p.m. at the Kahala Hotel and Resort. Rush LimbaughLimbaugh, 58, suffered from chest pains, sources said. Limbaugh was sitting in a chair in his ninth-floor hotel room at the Kahala when emergency crews arrived, sources said. He told medical crews that he was taking medication for a back problem, sources said. Paramedics treated him and took him to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition. He will not be released from the hospital on Wednesday night, sources said."

Early reports had Limbaugh being listed in serious condition but those could not be confirmed.
I reached spokespeople at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu earlier this evening. They would not comment on Limbaugh being a patient or about his condition.

According to a statement released by Kit Carson, Limbaugh's chief of staff (for his radio show), "Rush was admitted to and is resting comfortably in a Honolulu hospital today after suffering chest pains."

We'll see what the days and weeks bring. Needless to say, the most formidable media personality of the last several decades - and political force majeure - moves through his next round of recovery.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dispatches from our foreign desks...

Our foreign desks...

Coulda, shoulda, woulda – at least one person in the administration is admitting there were failures.

Portrait of the terrorist as a young man...

There were signs.

They’re “shocked! Shocked, I tell you. Shocked.”

Oh, and the Saudis are pretty shocked, too.

So stop me if you heard this one before…an al Qaeda operative goes up to a guy at the airport and asks, “How do I blow up an airliner?” The guy at the ticket counter says, “Practice, practice, practice.”

The tools of his trade - the Crotch Bomber's undies...(photo:

Thanks to the Crotch Bomber, it looks like those plans to empty out Gitmo just got a whole lot tougher.

“Hundreds of al-Qaeda militants are planning terror attacks from Yemen, the country’s Foreign Minister said today.” Oh, joy. (h/t: The Times Online)

Speaking of Yemen (and I was), it probably doesn’t have much longer.

Is the time of the Mullahs coming to an end? I’m glad to see the president finally said something about it.

This is what democracy looks like...

Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution? Let’s hope so.

Just in case anyone was wondering: yes, Iran is still looking to unload some raw U.

According to U.S. intelligence sources, “Time is running out in Afghanistan.”

The drug war in Mexico – it’s getting worse.

The body count in Mexico continues to climb...

Thank goodness we have Hugo Chavez to set us straight.

For those of you with Bliss Index™ secret decoder rings, here’s your bonus message: I had an exchange with an intelligence expert this evening regarding Yemen. His special bit of information – “Wait till the news comes out that Obama's White House was dragging its feet on authorizing action by [Joint Special Operations Command] in Yemen.” As he notes, “Should be fun.”

Yemen - the next rathole...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tonight's radio show: the bombing attempt's aftermath

The attempted bombing of the Delta/Northwest airliner in Detroit on Christmas day will be the subject of tonight’s roundtable on The John Batchelor Show. I’ll be joining John and fellow guests Larry Johnson (No Quarter) and Craig Unger (Vanity Fair) at 7 p.m. PST for the discussion. You can listen to the show at KSFO-AM 560 San Francisco/Northern California, WABC-AM 77 NY, WMAL-AM 630 Washington, D.C., and on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio. If you’re not in one of the listening areas, you can tune-in via any of those stations’ websites.

See you on the radio!

Detroit Terror - BREAKING NEWS (Update 2:30 pm PST)

From the Associated Press - BREAKING:

WASHINGTON — The Associated Press has learned that a second Nigerian man has been taken into custody aboard a jetliner in Detroit after locking himself in the airliner's bathroom.
A law enforcement official tells the AP that the incident took place aboard the same Northwest flight that was attacked on Christmas Day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident was ongoing. A Delta spokeswoman says all 256 passengers have been safely taken off the plane. Delta operates the Northwest flight.

UPDATE - According to the New York Times: DETROIT — A Nigerian man who became ill on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit — the same flight involved in Friday’s terrorism attempt — triggered a security alert at Detroit Metropolitcan Airport after the pilots requested emergency assistance upon landing, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Sunday. The department said that the response to Sunday’s incident, which included informing President Obama, was “an abundance of caution.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Detroit Terror Plot - Day 2

Disaster averted in Detroit...

It's been a whole day since 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national bragging of ties with al Qaeda, attempted to bring down a Delta/Northwest Airlines flight landing in Detroit.

Thanks to the clear-headed, quick thinking of Jasper Schuringa, a filmmaker from Amsterdam who subdued the alleged terrorist, the explosives Abdulmutallab tried to detonate on board Northwest Airlines flight 253 failed to properly detonate.

The would-be terrorist was held by passengers and crew and held until he could be taken into custody (photo/report below). Today, a federal judge told Abdulmutallabtold he was charged with trying to blow up the Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read the charges in a conference room on Saturday at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, where Abdulmutallab is being treated for burns.

Byron York at The Washington Examiner writes, "The Obama White House has been aggressive in its press outreach regarding the Northwest Airlines terrorist incident. Some of the earliest stories on accused terrorist Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to set off an explosive device on board Northwest Flight 253 were sourced to the White House, and White House officials were quick to label the incident an 'attempted act of terrorism.' The White House wants the public to know that President Obama, on vacation at a luxurious oceanfront home in Hawaii, has received conference call updates and is keeping close tabs on the situation."

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Federal authorities have called on airlines and airports around the world to tighten security measures, including frisking all passengers headed to the U.S., performing additional searches and limiting passenger movements during the latter part of a flight."

A report at sites "Growing evidence that the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a commercial airliner as it landed in Detroit Friday spent time in Yemen and may have been fitted with customized, explosive-laden clothing there." also notes that the attempt "could complicate the U.S. government’s efforts to send home more than 80 Yemeni prisoners currently at Guantanamo Bay."

Add Yemen: Howard Altman over at The Daily Beast writes that “An al-Qaeda magazine published a how-to article in Yemen outlining the same terror techniques that marked the attempted Christmas Day bombing."

Since the flubbed bombing, little has changed at most U.S. airports but security measures have greatly increased at foreign airports with flights inbound to American locations. "Travelers taking international flights to the United States on Saturday faced pat-down searches, new limits on carry-on luggage and more thorough screening at airport checkpoints.Federal authorities have called on airlines and airports around the world to tighten security measures, including frisking all passengers headed to the U.S., performing additional searches and limiting passenger movements during the latter part of a flight." (h/t: Los Angeles Times)

On John Batchelor's nightly broadcast tonight, "Douglas Laird, retired Northwest Airlines security director, and Larry Johnson of No Quarter, explained that no airport security extant is correct to apprehend what is presumed to be the mode used by the suspect at Amsterdam's airport, where the suspect passed through three first-rate screenings. What would defeat the mode is a body scan machine, which are not in use. Possibly a full body pat down, but not necessarily. The body scan is not practical because of cost per machine (more than $250k each); and the full pat down is not practical because of time, unless you also permit profiling. In sum, the suspect defeated all the screens between Lagos, Nigeria and wheels down at Detroit airport."

While U.S. airports have yet to make significant, "visible" changes, some immediate differences may soon be in effect on flights. According to the New York Times, "Federal officials on Saturday imposed new restrictions on travelers that could...limit the ability of international passengers to move about an airplane."

What's next? "The Obama team [is] now faced with walking backward the man's route...what airports and when, who passed him through, how he was connected to an inbound USA flight?"

These questions and more - along with their answers - are sure to come in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Radio show tonight - late notice!

Late notice: I know you’re busy recovering from Christmas festivities, but I’ll be on The John Batchelor Show around 9:05 p.m. PST tonight to discuss news surrounding the attempted bombing of the Delta Airlines flight in Detroit yesterday. You can listen to the show on WABC-AM 77 NYC, WMAL-AM 630 Washington, D.C., and... on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio. If you’re not in one of the listening areas, you can tune-in via those stations’ websites. And as always...thanks for listening (or not).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

For my money - aside from the original Christmas message* - this one is tops:

The crew of Apollo 8 (Dec. 21, 1968) wishing their fellow Earthlings a Merry Christmas...

*The Christmas Story - from the Gospel of Luke

Luke 2:1-20
Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
5 in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
6 And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8-14
And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;
11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Luke 2:15-20
And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

From my family to you and your loved ones...Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog bonus - "Saving for a rainy day"

My latest op-ed over at -

Saving for a rainy day
December 23, 2009 12:30 pm

"We have become 99 percent money mad. The method of living at home modestly and within our income, laying a little by systematically for the proverbial rainy day which is due to come, can almost be listed among the lost arts."George Washington Carver

The kind of common fiscal sense Mr. Carver talked about seems increasingly harder to come by these days. Not just in everyday life, but even more so in places of power – like Sacramento. In short, that kind of common sense has, unfortunately, become commonly uncommon.

Once the envy of the rest of our nation, California has turned into a punch line. Sure, in Copenhagen last week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger boasted of California having the eighth largest economy – in the world – but each new economic report or forecast suggests the state’s economy is sliding backward.

This didn’t happen overnight. Several decades ago, Sacramento became an important center of power when the legislature and its staffs went full-time, essentially turning pro. Many believed the state government’s evolution was late in coming and that an increasingly important economy like California’s needed real oversight and control. Others, however, mark the changeover as the beginning of the end. As the years passed and the state’s coffers swelled, the legislature came to be regarded as beneficent rulers doling out seemingly endless supplies of cash and favors.

But the times they have a changed.

Take a look at just about any in-state poll and you’ll find there is almost uniform disdain for the Capitol Building’s denizens. While partisan bickering is responsible for a great deal of the gridlock and resulting voter anger, there also is a sense among the populace that California’s elected officials have let them down – in a very big way. In a story that echoes the fate of many of the prospectors who came searching for “gold in them thar hills,” found it and then lost fortunes to wine/women/song, the Golden State’s leaders are increasingly viewed as having squandered a literal trove of treasure in just a short time, taking us from boom to bust.

So as California slips deeper into debt, cuts more programs and is forced to limit available public resources, the citizenry is scratching its collective head and wondering, Why didn’t the smart guys plan for this mess? Where’s the contingency plan? Where are the “rainy day” funds?
I’ll tell you what happened: the smart guys were too busy spending rainy day money to come up with a contingency plan. I know, I witnessed it first-hand – a number of times.

Just one example of this occurred not long ago during the Boom Years when I was working for the state. Several times each year, we would make our holy pilgrimages to Sacramento with our requests for funding and budget support. One year in particular, a group of colleagues and I were in a well-known legislator’s office explaining Our Great Need.

During our spokesperson’s “ask,” the lawmaker began to yawn. “Oh, sorry about that,” he said. “We were up very late last night, working.” I thought that was admirable and asked, “Were you working on some last-minute budget items?” He just laughed at me. Then he said, “No, no…we were trying to figure out where to spend all the money.” (There was about a $5 billion surplus in the treasury at that time.) I thought for a minute and replied, “Wait – you were working hard to spend the surplus? How much did the legislature put aside in a rainy day fund?” He just looked at me for a moment and then he laughed again. “Rainy day? Are you kidding me? We’ve got so much money that we’re having a hard time finding places to spend it all – and it’s going to keep coming.”

Look, I’m no economics expert but I took my parents’ advice back when they handed me my first piggy bank and admonished me put some aside for lean times. Seriously – who hasn’t heard that? Even if the last econ class you had was in high school, hardly a day goes by without hearing a news reporter or finance expert talk about the up-and-down nature of economics (i.e.: cycles). How could a group of people who hold sway over our tax revenues, many of whom are well-schooled in finance/economics and have whole agencies devoted to keeping an eye on our dough, not have thought the pendulum would eventually swing back the other way?

Admittedly, even the most frugal states are having a tough time dealing with the national/global economic recession. The national job loss rate exceeds an average of 10 percent; home foreclosure figures continue to hover in/near double digits; and only a few businesses show long-term prospects for a full recovery. But California – the wealthiest, most diverse and politically powerful state in the union – has been hobbled beyond imagination by the downturn: we have some of the highest unemployment, underemployment and home/mortgage foreclosure rates in the United States.

Would a rainy day fund and a contingency plan have helped the state dodge a bullet? Probably not. The damage from the recession, however, the short- and long-term impacts might have been significantly mitigated if the pols in Sacramento had not turned into drunken sailors on shore leave with billions of our dollars at their disposal.

It’s not like California is without any history when it comes to fiscal sanity. Former Gov. George “Duke” Deukmejian (R) picked up his nickname “the Iron Duke” in part due to his conservative fiscal policies in the 1980s, much maligned by Democrats, which included setting aside a $1 billion “prudent reserve” in a state budget that was much smaller than it is today. By the time he handed the reigns over to fellow Republican Pete Wilson in the 1990s, an economic downturn burned through most of the reserve, leaving Wilson to cobble together a combination of budget cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. A string of natural disasters during Wilson’s term also was a drain on state resources. Nevertheless, Wilson did hammer out a compromise with the Democrat-dominated Legislature. Wilson, a former legislator (as was Deukmejian), understood the mechanics of legislative comity and created the famed “Gang of Five” meetings with the leaders of the Senate and the Assembly to get consensus on the difficult budget choices. It’s hard to imagine that type of “get things done” attitude in today’s polarized Legislature dominated by termed-out ideologues not the least bit interested in a quaint term like “compromise.”

Because of these ongoing budget impasses, the deepening debt and a host of other problems connected to the legislature’s shortcomings, there is growing movement in California to convene a constitutional convention that organizers hope will give the state a bit of a restart. As part of that effort, some hope a new attitude toward spending will emerge. What would help California even more would be a new attitude toward saving.

Jeff Bliss is a communications consultant and political analyst based in the Bay Area.

What a difference between then and now!

“What a difference a day makes.” – Dinah Washington

More like, “what a difference a year makes.”

After all, it’s been more than a year since Washington turned over and it’s interesting to see how things have changed.

Candidate Barack Obama, then: My plan "[o]ffers a public health insurance option" President Obama, now: "I didn't campaign on the public option."

Then: health care/insurance reform is job No. 1! Now: nothing is more important than jobs and the economy!

Then: “We have a mandate to pass healthcare reform. We will do this because America wants this done!” Now: “I don’t care if the majority of Americans oppose want this bill!”

NY Times, then: "Death panels" are a silly, silly lie. NY Times, now: “Weighing Medical Costs of End-of-Life Care.”

Massachusetts politician, then: “Err, ah, err, ah…bring me another Chivas and let's pass health care reform.” Massachusetts politician, now: “Er, ah, bring me another tube of Crest and some bail money.”

Nurses, then: “We need this health bill!” Nurses, now: “This is the worst thing, ever!”

Then: “George W. Bush most-loathed president – ever.” Now: “We have a new winner!”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Festivus for the Rest of Us!

It's December 23rd and you know what that means - it's Festivus!

On this special day we celebrate with the Five Pillars of Festivus:

Here at The Bliss Index, we're always thinking of you...

Is the Reid-Pelosi-Obamacare bill DOA?

Why the Reid-Pelosi-Obama health insurance bill will be struck down (providing the conservative side of the U.S. Supreme Court can stay alive).

Insurance Stocks Rise on News of Health Care Deal; What's It Mean? “As of 11 a.m. Eastern time [yesterday], stocks for the six largest publicly-traded health insurance companies [rose] by an average 4.49 percent, as weighted by their market capitalization. As the S&P 500 index had gained 1.09 percent as of 11 AM, these stocks have overperformed the market by 3.40 percent. Although some of the gain may reflect unrelated good news in the health sector, it is safe to assume that most of the improvement in prices [reflect] the Senate's health care bill passing.” (h/t:

Cutting deals: Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says of the dealmaking it took to get the bill – “There are 100 senators here and I don’t know that there’s a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that isn’t important to them,” Reid said. “If they don’t have something in it important to them then it doesn’t speak well of them.” There’s statesmanship for you.

Senate majority scold Harry Reid (D-Casinos)...

So it is political: From The Foundry - “While the President’s most ardent supporters are trying to explain to each other why the benefits of the bill do not start until 2014, they are openly admitting that Obama’s deficit busting claims are complete fiction:

  • The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “The delay is a budget trick, an attempt to lower the 10-year cost of the bill at the expense of the very people we’re trying to help.”
  • Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum: “I’m pretty sure the 2014 date is mostly due to budget finagling. This stuff can’t be done overnight, but I’ll bet most of it could be implemented within 12 months, and it could certainly be implemented within 24.”
  • Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall: “My impression is that some of the delays are there because it makes the budgetary accounting work better in terms of deficit neutrality. And I know the Dems would likely lose critical support without being able to show that the overall bill actually lowers the deficit. But if that’s the main reason, I suspect the legislative authors may be too clever by half since they may be slitting the bill’s and perhaps their own throats in the process.”

Can you say, “backlash?”

He'll have many more questions to answer in the months (and years) to come...

Add backlash: Now appearing in the dictionary with a photo of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)? Seems his constituents have had a belly full and are now giving him an ear’s-worth

Last add backlash: Could Sen. Christopher “I’m a friend of the mortgage industry” Dodd (D-Conn.) be looking forward to future payback from voters, too? (For so many reasons, let’s hope so.) “A $100 million item for construction of a university hospital was inserted in the Senate health care bill at the request of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who faces a difficult re-election campaign, his office said Sunday night.” (h/t: Washington Post)

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Payoffs)...

How popular is Obamacare out here beyond the Beltway? According to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, “As the Senate prepares to vote on health care reform, American voters ‘mostly disapprove’ of the plan 53 - 36 percent and disapprove 56 - 38 percent of President Barack Obama's handling of the health care issue.”

Say aloha to those vacation plans!

Our man in Hawai'i...

Radio appearance alert: I'll be on The John Batchelor Show tonight at 8:50 p.m. PST, reporting on happenings - political and otherwise - in the west. You can listen to the show on WABC-AM 77 NYC, WMAL-AM 630 Washington, D.C., and on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio (throughout the universe). If you’re not in one of the listening areas, you can tune-in via those stations’ websites. See you on the radio!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It is done.

They did it.

It came down to a vote straight along party lines: 60-40 (which further underscores the importance of every political race – big and small; it also shows how important - and long – President Barack Obama’s coattails were in the last election). In short, we are now on the road to Nationalized Health Care.

According to the New York Times, “The vote was 60 to 40 — a tally that is expected to be repeated four times as further procedural hurdles are cleared in the days ahead, and then once more in a dramatic, if predictable, finale tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.”

The battle raged in the nation’s Capitol as forces of light and darkness worked far into the night on the most significant health care/insurance reform bill to ever make its way through Congress.

Burning the midnight oil...

Just months ago, Republicans swore that this would be Obama’s Waterloo. Now, with the weather outside the Capitol building cold and snowy and the GOP in the Capitol but unable to do anything with it, it seems more like the Republicans’ own version of the French invasion of Russia of 1812.

Napoleon couldn't do anything in another important capitol, either...

It was all made possible because Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) threw in with his fellow Dems, promising his filibuster-breaking vote in exchange for some big money for his state. According the Washington Post: ‘Nelson secured full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Other states must pay a small portion of the additional cost. He won concessions for qualifying nonprofit insurers and for Medigap providers from a new insurance tax. He also was able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts.” (h/

“Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) declared, ‘This process is not legislation. This process is corruption,’ referring to the last-minute flurry of dealmaking that enabled Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House to lock in the 60 votes needed to approve the legislation.”(h/

The man of the moment: Ben Nelson...

This, of course, means an Obama signing party in the not-too-distant future as well as a host of additional questions and/or problems. Some things to consider:

Be careful what you wish for, pt. 1: “Poor Barack Obama. All he wanted for Christmas was a health-care reform bill -- and all he got was a lousy insurance industry bailout that few can love.”

Be careful what you wish for, pt. 2: Is the Democrats’ likely “paper-thin” margin of victory actually a Pyrrhic victory? (And the conservative pundits aren’t the only ones who feel this way.) Plenty of “progressives” are hopping mad about the final version and blame Obama for it. Over at Newsweek, Robert Samuelson goes so far to say, “Barack Obama's quest for historic health care legislation has turned into a parody of leadership.”


“According to the American Medical Association’s National Health Insurer Report Card for 2008, the government’s health plan, Medicare, denied medical claims at nearly double the average for private insurers.”

Nelson wasn’t the only one who was bought-off. That old, principled socialist from Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders – got a payout, too. He didn’t get the Single Payer system he dreamed of but he did get some other favors.

Megan McArdle points out in her blog over at The Atlantic: “No bill this large has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote, or even anything close to a straight party-line vote. No bill this unpopular has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote. We're in a new political world.”

As is true in many legislative efforts, there’s a lot of back scratching going on in D.C. right now. Votes are being traded for favors…and the favors are many.

If it really is a win, then who loses? (The GOP is hoping this bill is the straw that breaks the senior senator from Nevada’s back. Even his hometown paper is poking at him.)

Add Nelson: Some big names in Nebraska are none too pleased.

Well if Joe says so: According to the most well-spoken Vice President since Dan Quayle, the health care, er, insurance reform bill is something that “represents the culmination of a struggle begun by Theodore Roosevelt nearly a century ago to make health care reform a reality.” Forgive me if I’m being nit-picky here, but I thought I heard the president back in his speech a few months ago say the effort started about 50-plus years ago. I’ve heard everyone from Harry Truman (Dems, of course) credited with trying to move this effort along.

Ending on a bit of “rosy” news from Reuters: “Revised Senate health bill cuts deficit: CBO: The revised healthcare overhaul in the Senate would cut the federal deficit by $132 billion over 10 years, non-partisan budget analysts said on Saturday. The Congressional Budget Office also said the bill as revised by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid would have coverage costs of $871 billion over 10 years. Both figures meet President Barack Obama's goal of cutting the deficit and having a total cost of about $900 billion over 10 years. The rosy report card could help the proposal gain support.” Only that much? What terrific news! Just remember to stay well.

What hath Reid wrought?

"Avatar" - a terrific film and a great leap forward in filmmaking

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of “Avatar,” James Cameron’s first feature film since his blockbuster, “Titanic.”

It was eye-opening (and jaw-dropping) for so many reasons. Frankly, I was more than a tad surprised. I had seen trailers for the film and thought it looked as flat as the story seemed. Then, at the preview in Las Vegas (for Autodesk, the design software company that played a significant role in bringing “Avatar” to life), co-producer Jon Landau shared a series of clips – in 3D – that blew the audience away.

While I thought the story still seemed a tad thin, I found the 3D experience – which immerses the viewer in a way no film ever has – breathtaking. It left me wanting more.

And more I got.

I caught a 3D showing of “Avatar” today and I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever watched (and felt a part of).

I won’t detail the plot or even argue the intent of Cameron’s film (which he wrote and directed). Let me just say that from start to finish, it was One. Big. Wow. What’s more, the story worked. It contained some aspects that seemed very “Cameron-ish,” but aside from a few caricatures here and there, it was exciting and fresh.

As a wise man said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and perhaps there is nowhere it is truer than Hollywood. So as you watch “Avatar,” you do get the feeling you’ve lived through parts of it before. It had touches of “Dances with Wolves,” “Last of the Mohicans” and a host of anti-colonial movies. Yet Cameron and his team were able to make a film that was familiar yet fantastic (in every sense).

What Cameron has done, besides deliver what will undoubtedly be The Next Big Blockbuster, is to change the way films will/can be made. He created a world that is so beautiful and wondrous an seemingly real that you really do wish you could be there to see it in-person.

There are a number of criteria that make for a successful film: the acting has to be natural; the images memorable; the sound penetrating; and the story engaging. What’s more, a truly great film must cause the viewer to get lost in the picture. In other words, you have to forget you’re watching a movie and feel you’re a part of it.

Cameron’s “Avatar” succeeds on all these levels and more. Most importantly, viewers of his latest film don’t just lose themselves in it – they become one with it.

James Cameron...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday's just full of fun...

You tell 'em, Dave...

With my typical objectivity in place, any trace of an agenda swept out the door, and a sense of wonder (and self-satisfaction), I am proud to present the Friday night wrap-up of stories you’ll only find here – unless you go to the site where they were originally published and read them there.

Where’s David Lee Roth (above) when you need him? According to Dear Leader (below), “We are on the precipice”…really? Might as well jump!

This will not end well (so to speak): Iranian forces take over Iraq oil well. (I’m told by a very informed source that this is nothing more than a “paycheck beef.”)

Iranian Cyber Army takes over Twitter with less than 140 characters.

A French court says, “Google this.”

Just what we need: another set of tinpot dictators (aka: murderous thugs) giving us the finger.

I'm not so sure dictators deserve a smile...

Ironic news item of the day? – Madame Speaker Pelosi’s global warming junket cut short…due to snowstorm.

New nickname: the Ice Queen...

That popping sound you hear…I hope it’s not as loud as it looks it’ll be.

First, there was The Bridge to Nowhere. Now we’ve got “The Road to Nowhere.” By the way, where is Nowhere?

The Bridge on the River Kwai was sorta nowhere...

Finally, from the San Francisco Chronicle- “Christian Scientists and prayer coverage: Group wants the new health care bill to include spiritual healing.” I suppose Marvin Gaye supporters will want their brand of healing, too.

Would this would be the single "playa" option...

Listen in...

Come Sunday night you'll no doubt be thinking to yourself: "Do I solve the global Climate Change Crisis® (a wholly owned subsidiary of Al Gore, Inc.™) or do I listen to the radio?"

The answer is to - obviously - turn on your radio from 8 – 8:30 p.m. PST and listen to another edition of The John Batchelor Show. As part of the weekly political roundtable, my fellow panelists and I will discuss the events and news of the week. You can listen to the show at KSFO-AM 560 San Francisco/Northern California, WABC-AM 77 NY, WMAL-AM 630 Washington, D.C., and on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio (throughout the known and unknown universe).

If you’re not in one of the listening areas, you can tune-in via any of those stations’ websites. See you on the radio!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A little infighting never hurt anyone, right?

Just another day at DNC headquarters?

Al Franken (D-Minn) shuts down Joe Lieberman (D-Conn). Nothing like a little in-house squabbling, eh?

The esteemed U.S. Senator from Minnesota...

The guy who is taking all the heat these days...

Who was White House spokeshole Robert Gibbs talking about when he said this? – “I don't think any rational person would say killing the bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point." Was it, a.) the GOP leadership; b.) Rush Limbaugh; c.) Dick Cheney; or, d.) the former head of the Democratic National Committee and former Dem presidential candidate Howard Dean…? (If you picked d. Howard Dean, you win.)

The Scream Machine unleashed - again...

I can’t believe those dolts are attacking the president, again! Wait – what?...They’re liberals?
This is interesting – a Democrat lauding George W. Bush’s leadership and decrying his own party’s lack of such...and the U.S. Americans...

What if they held a fight and only one side showed? Well, now they’re fighting...each other.

Here's to the winners...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Men behaving “dumbly”

Today/tonight, we bring you an odd collection of "Man Not At His Finest."

Do not taunt the TV host...

Mr. Twenty-Seven-Percenter: That’s our governor!

That's right - keep smiling. Someone has to...

I’m so glad we spent all that time extending a hand to the mullahs…so they could slap it.

Since reaching out to Iran has worked so spectacularly well, don’t you think we should do the same with North Korea?

Lil' Kim...

I guess it was none of their business(es), either.

There’s one word for these chiselers…but I can’t use it here.

You know that Copenhagen Climate Conference? You know how a bunch of famous people showed up to protest warm weather? You know how they’re all really, really mad about people who drive big cars or live in big houses that spew pollution? You know how Prince Charles went there to lend his support? You know how he flew there in a big, private jet? You know how it has a huge, huge carbon footprint? You know?

The only thing bigger than his teeth? His carbon footprint, naturally...

Add Copenhagen: Al Gore and the Associated Press…busted.

Last add Copenhagen: What does it say when even the Russians are pointing a finger at you?

Busted - again...

Apparently, he wanted to vote on it before he understood it.

Reportedly, there are companies that won’t hire Americans – in America.

How do you spell U.S. Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer’s last name? Easy: schmuck.

Schmuck Schumer...

This is what happens when the inmates run the asylum.

Who would have the gall to tell its lawyers not to cooperate with a U.S. Civil Rights Commission investigation? The Department of Justice, that’s who. Wait, what?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Radio heads-up

If wondering what to do with a spare chunk of time tomorrow night (Tues., Dec. 15), here’s a suggestion – turn on your radio (or Internet listening device - thank you, Al Gore!) at 8:50 p.m. PST.

John Batchelor...

I’ll be on The John Batchelor Show, reporting on happenings - political and otherwise - in the west.

All thanks to He Who Invented the Internet™...

You can listen to the show on WABC-AM 77 NYC, WMAL-AM 630 Washington, D.C., and on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio (throughout the universe). If you’re not in one of the listening areas, you can tune-in via those stations’ websites.
See you on the radio!