Health care reform slouches toward a Senate vote

Health care seems to be wending and winding its way to reform, what with a 1 a.m. vote for cloture on the debate and with further procedural votes progressing throughout the day today, all leading to what the New York Times calls the “finale,” dramatically scheduled for Christmas Eve, in which the Senate will vote on its version of the health care reform bill. (Robert Pear of the Times digs into the bill and discovers what appear to be massive pork barrel proposals that specifically benefit senators who had previously been on the fence about the bill.)

If there is one thing that’s becoming clear, it’s the the final version of the bill will entirely satisfy absolutely nobody, but Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken nonetheless are trying to remain upbeat about the whole deal; neither really succeed but do offer qualified support. Tom Scheck from Minnesota Public Radio quotes both, with Klobuchar saying, “This final package includes many provisions that I’ve fought to include for months,” while Franken says, “I don’t want to oversell what this bill will do, but I am confident it will make some very important improvements in people’s lives.

One of the big potential losses in the revised bill is a public option and, in a related story, Scheck reports that the group Progressive Change Campaign Committee is considering applying pressure to Franken to get it back in. Its logic: “If Al Franken and other progressive senators threatened to block a bad bill, President Obama would face a choice: Strong-arm Lieberman and Nelson to support the final bill, which has huge popular support OR strong-arm progressives into supporting a bill with 33% support. The smart choice is obvious. But it’s up to progressive senators to force that choice.”

As mainstream media seem on the precipice of collapse, you’ll sometimes hear claims that bloggers will leap in to fill that gap. Given the state of Minnesota’s blogging community, it might mean the future of news will consist mostly of photos reblogged from the Internet (mostly of cats), food blogging, partisan micturation contests, and reposted videos of whatever band played on David Letterman the previous evening. But at least media criticism will still be with us, and it will be fightier than ever, if the flame war that erupted between bloggers Ed Kohler (of The Deets) and Luke Hellier (of Minnesota Democrats Exposed) is any indication.

The whole thing started when Hellier published a piece about the Minneapolis Police Federation running an ad critical of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Kohler took Hellier to task in the comments section for what he saw as a purposeful misstatement of facts, and then the whole thing sort of exploded on Twitter, lovingly detailed in posts by Kohler that include such titles as “Is Luke Hellier Lying or Stupid?“, “Luke Hellier’s Credibility Falls Further” and “Luke Hellier’s Lie about 2002 vs 2009 Minneapolis Crime Stats.” Where is McCain in all this, pleading for comity?

Speaking of which, there is a follow-up to McCain’s Senate floor chastisement of Al Franken last week. As you might remember, Franken cut short Joe Lieberman on the subject of health care reform, and later cited time constraints. This visibly perterbed John McCain, who complained that in the entire time he had served in the Senate, he didn’t recall ever having seen that happen before. Well, as it turns out, according to Think Progress, he should have remembered one incident — during the Gulf War debate, when Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton requested more time to speak and was shut down — by John McCain. MediaMatters looks into the subject and discovers that senators are refused requests for additional time quite frequently.

“It’s a mouth dropper,” says a spokesperson for Second Chance Rescue in a story published on the FOX9 site, and it is: A cat was found glued to a Minnesota highway. Fortunately, before an errant vehicle did any damage, a Minnesota couple rescued him, so special kudos go to FOX9 for presenting a story that causes you to lose faith in humanity at the start and then reclaim it at the end.

Thanks to Minnesota Daily Planet, who republished a story from a few weeks ago that might have slipped under the radar. The Circle published a report and analysis by Madeline Baran that demonstrates that sexual trafficking of American Indian women is alarmingly widespread, drawing from a September report from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, which details the overwhelming percentage of Indian women whom they surveyed who are pressed into sex work, often before age 18. Wait, did somebody say “alarmingly” and “overwhelming”? Because what Baran’s analysis demonstrates is that there is very little alarm or sense of being overwhelmed on an institutional basis; instead, these women’s experiences tend to be treated as a criminal matter, with the women as criminals.

In sports: The Vikings want a new stadium, and consultants to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission presented a proposal last week. It’s a beaut too, as described by the Associated Press: sliding roof and “soaring windows.” They said it was relatively cheap, too, coming in at only about $870 million. But how to pay for it, how to pay for it? It doesn’t sound as though Gov. Tim Pawlenty is interested in helping out much: The AP says he’s pretty firm about not raising or diverting taxes for a new stadium. The whole thing has put Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman into a slow burn. He sums up the situation: “This unfortunate clash of greed and need has created a ticklish situation for the politicians and the stadium elves, all of whom are required to appear as if they are aware of the larger needs of the state while trying to clear the track for a grandiose, publicly financed stadium to replace the publicly financed stadium we already have.”

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Erik Hare on 12/21/2009 - 12:24 pm.

    It’s interesting that you should focus on two blogs that, by measures of traffic, are not particularly well read. Yes, I know, the dust-ups create a lot of buzz and links back and forth – but the alexa rankings suggest that their readership is not more than a few thousand people for the deets and probably less than 1000 for MDE.

    An editorial in, say, the Bemidji Pioneer is going to be read by more people online, let alone all their print copies. There are also many humble blogs that generate more traffic than the two that got into the war. But that’s not nearly as fun as a festival of insults being exchanged, is it?

  2. Submitted by Max Sparber on 12/21/2009 - 12:43 pm.

    Well, it’s not merely a matter of the number of eyes that see a post, but also the content and the impact of a post. Both The Deets and Minnesota Democrats Exposed tend to have posts that are pretty impactful, so, regardless of how many actual readers they have, they are still worth looking at.

    But, beyond that, yeah, the flame war was what caught my attention.

  3. Submitted by Erik Hare on 12/21/2009 - 02:04 pm.

    Impactful? I think that’s a word that needs a bit of explanation, especially in the context used.

    It seems to me that most of this stuff is Fairyland – if everyone ignored it, it would become invisible. Why isn’t it ignored? Why is it, to use your word, “impactful”?

  4. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 12/21/2009 - 03:15 pm.

    Max, if the Strib and PiPress fold, I would expect folks like you to fill in the void long before us worn out bloggers do. Frankly, monitoring the sins of our tiresome old media has worn most of us bloggers out.

    Remember, when the newspapers die (and I don’t think they will, not entirely), reporters will emerge from the building intact. Reporting won’t die, but the ability of corporations to edit journalism into pap will be diminished considerably.

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