Friday, December 17, 2010

No Laughing Matter

Last night's Daily Show was must-see tv journalism and certainly no joke. On his last show before the holiday break, Jon Stewart devoted nearly the entire episode to taking the Senate--particularly the GOP--to task for making health care for 9/11 first-responders a political football. Stewart sometimes gets too self-righteous for even my taste, but in this case, he was totally justified.

In this first segment, Stewart explains the issue and takes the major networks to task for not covering it:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
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In the second, even more heart-wrenching, segment, Stewart interviewed four 9/11 first-reponders now suffering from debilitating illnesses who can't believe the Senate won't help them, or that some Senators have the gall evoke Jesus Christ as their reason for not doing so:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
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I called my Senator about this issue, which is something I rarely do. I find the whole thing entirely unbelievable and deeply sad. Can anyone with a better grasp of the process explain to me any good reason for this? Is the issue more complicated than Stewart made it sound, or are politics really that cynical?

UPDATE: Merry fucking Christmas.

UPDATE: The NY Times gives credit where it's due.


Blogger Patrick said...

My view of this fiasco may be a bit slanted, but it makes my blood boil. I get so angry words fail me.

12/17/2010 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Bren said...

Dan, you're giving the GOP way too much credit. Why do you expect them to have a good reason for screwing people over with their holistic obstructionism? Stewart put it best in his interview with Huckabee - the Democrats blew it by not making this into a huge news story. Yet another reason to hate both sides and disengage further from our broken system.... bummer.

12/17/2010 11:27 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

The best explanation I could come up with for Republicans being this evil and Democrats failing to call them out for it is that the "tax loophole" the bill supposedly closes is extremely important to the corporations who pretty much own both parties (and the major networks). Conspiracy theory? Maybe, but it makes more sense than any other explanation.

12/17/2010 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard a few times about this supposed "tax loophole" but can't find any details about it online (not surprising, considering the lack of coverage that the 9/11 bill fiasco has received). My first reaction is that I don't trust vague references to "tax loopholes." My second is that TANSTAAFL.

Could someone enlighten me?

12/17/2010 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12/17/2010 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Emily T. said...

TANSTAAFL stands for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," a slogan in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which makes libertarianism look as good as Aslan's Christianity.

12/17/2010 12:46 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I don't know anything about Robert A. Heinlein's book, but I'm pretty sure that TANSTAAFL is a basic principle in modern economics. I remember learning it in high school.

. . . and thinking: "what a stupid and convoluted way to express an obvious concept!"

12/17/2010 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:55 here. Sorry about throwing that acronym out there. Basically, I was saying that everything comes at a cost. While I agree that paying 9/11 first responders' medical bills should be extremely high priority, I question whether it's fair to say that the money is just sitting there, waiting to be spent.

Again, my apologies.

12/17/2010 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not waiting to be spent, it's already been earmarked to send bunker busting bombs to Israel.

12/17/2010 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those bunkers aren't gonna bust themselves...

12/17/2010 3:17 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

12/17/2010 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senate passed DADT repeal.

12/18/2010 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Bren said...

well played, Toney.

12/18/2010 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's all politics from how i see it:

one, the repub party pretends to take the moral/fiscal high ground by refusing to vote for cloture on any bill until all federal appropriations bills are passed and tax hikes are halted (dems see the bill's payment plan as closing a corporate tax loophole, repubs see it as a tax hike). (dems no doubt will play similar procedural games when they are back in the minority in the house)

two, philosophically republicans hate anything that smacks of entitlement.

three, how many repubs have constituents who are 9/11 first responders? looking at the political makeup of greater NYC, not a whole lot, so there's no real local pressure for repubs to vote for the bill

but, it looks like the bill may get a second go-around

12/19/2010 7:49 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ok, now I am even more pissed off. It's one thing for Republicans to take some principled moral stand against ALL bills until their stupid tax cuts get extended, but reading 7:49's link, it seems like they actually oppose this bill on its own terms. That's like twice as evil. It means--even setting their ultimatum aside--they would still rather see 9/11 workers die than suffer any corporate tax increase. Awesome.

12/20/2010 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Employer registration has opened for Spring OCIP and you can now view the employers who have registered so far. ... You will only be able to view the employers that have indicated an interest in your class year."

When I go to the OCI link, I see nobody listed. I guess that means nobody indicated an interest in my class year. Not that I'm surpised, but it's ironically amusing.

12/20/2010 1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to have the same command of irony as Alanis Morissette.

12/20/2010 9:53 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Uh oh, somebody called the irony police.

12/20/2010 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is the issue more complicated than Stewart made it sound?"

Always the case.

"Or are politics really that cynical?"

Always the case.

12/20/2010 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

news reports suggest that prof l*u is one of the four judges that won't be brought up on a vote, in exchange for bringing up a bunch of others. does anyone know what this means long term?

12/20/2010 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are an ideologue who was blatantly manipulated by Mr. Stewart. I'm sorry if this comes across as ad hominem but you've called people "evil" so I think that bridge has been crossed.

Check your assumptions. This bill was introduced in early 2009 in a democratic congress and apparently was not important enough to push to the forefront until now? Note that it has been defeated several times and has been a political football for many many months. Both parties have been playing with it.

You're also assuming that just because it's 9/11-related it must be important. Lots of people don't have health care. Very few 9/11 first responders lack health care. There are individual sad cases but these don't necessarily make good national policy.

What's really cynical is the way the authors of this bill pay for it with a democratic pet project closing corporate tax "loopholes". This is the worst way to budget: 1) take an emotional issue 2) use it to push forward a program which may or may not be necessary and 3) tie its payment to an unpopular constituency. Talk about cynical.

This doesn't mean that the Republicans are right, it just means that you can't take something like this out of context.

12/20/2010 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also important to point out that the scientific basis of 9/11 sickness--the theory that particles inhaled during the response cause multiple myeloma--is far from settled. It's insensitive to point this out but we're talking about a hand full of people among the 30,000 or so responders. We won't know for a while whether there's any truth to any of this.

12/20/2010 4:32 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

4:12, you make some good points and some not-so-good points. I'll try to respond to them in turn.

1) I didn't call anyone evil. I called opposing this bill an evil act, which I still feel it is.

2) I am not an idealogue. I posted the videos because they provoked an emotional reaction in me, and I sought more information from the generally pretty well educated pool of people who read this blog.

3) I didn't make any "assumptions." In fact, the purpose of this post was to better understand the reasons for this, since I thought it couldn't possibly be as clear cut as Stewart made it sound. When 7:49 pointed out the actual reasons, I was even more appalled, since I don't think allowing companies to operate in tax havens is justifiable on its own--even without setting it against healthcare for 9/11 workers.

4) Who is making a national policy? A bill designed to aid 9/11 workers is, I assume, only directed at 9/11 workers. Thus, the "individual sad cases" you acknowledge are the cases the bill addresses.

5) "What's really cynical is the way the authors of this bill pay for it with a democratic pet project closing corporate tax "loopholes". This is the worst way to budget: 1) take an emotional issue 2) use it to push forward a program which may or may not be necessary and 3) tie its payment to an unpopular constituency. Talk about cynical."

That is a valid point, and it's well taken. It still doesn't change my mind, though. A measure like this is going to provoke emotions no matter what you tie it to (that's kind of the thing about important issues), and it has to be paid for somehow. Limiting the benefits of tax havens seems like a pretty good way to do it.

12/20/2010 5:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

4:12, I kind of disagree. I mean, do you really think the democrats are the guilty party when it comes to using 9/11 as the rhetorical engine for unrelated and (potentially) unnecessary policy? I don’t.

4:32, I know I have my own set of prejudices on this particular issue and I’m sure they cloud my judgment, but I really, really disagree with your conclusion. I agree the science isn’t certain. I agree there is likely some fraud afoot. But (to me) that does not mean our government should refuse all funding. We have spent far, far more money delivering medical care to Iraqi and Afghani civilians than it would cost to take care of what you admitted was only a “handful of people” among the 9/11 responders.

I do not at all think it is “insensitive” to question the validity of some of the medical claims, but I do think it was utterly ridiculous for the republicans to stake out this drop in the bucket as if it was going to bankrupt the government by turning us into a welfare state. If the republicans were serious about curbing abuse of government programs, they would sponsor legislation to curb Medicare fraud – an industry that rips off taxpayers to the tune of $60 billion each year.

Given that context, how the hell can someone be callous enough to deny medical care to people who crawled around in the dust of the twin towers looking for bodies and THEN turn around and pretend to be the party of patriots?

There are a whole lot of reasons to be disgusted with the way the democrats are handling their last three months in Congress, and that absolutely includes the 9/11 health bill. But that doesn’t mean that what the republicans did to the 9/11 health bill was principled, just, or wise. Speaking only for myself, I found it disgusting.

12/20/2010 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few key points:

1) This so-called "loophole" is hotly-debated as to whether or not it is a loophole. The stated goal is to provide offsets which other offer our companies to minimize disincentives to locate here. You can debate whether it does this (and smart people do), but to accept without inquiry that the credit (which was ultimately removed) was a loophole is ignorant. I guarantee Dan know *NOTHING* about the substance of the alleged "loophole."

2) The issue here is not primarily healthcare but compensation. Bloomberg already pushed through a program where almost all city worker first responders qualify for lifetime disability (which includes health care).

3) With respect to Dan allegedly not calling republicans evil, I point to his 11:34 comment: "Republicans being this evil." Try this with your significant other: "I didn't say you were a bi*ch, you were just *being* a bi*ch." I think you need to change your comment or acknowledge you said it.

12/20/2010 5:58 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ah, I forgot I said that. I guess that is kind of calling Republicans evil. I mean, specific Republicans in this specific circumstance--not all Republicans all the time. But yeah, fair enough. Acknowledged!

12/20/2010 6:49 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Also 5:58, I have never pretended to know anything more about the "tax loophole" than anyone else. I have repeatedly asked for more information about it on this very post. Do you have that information? If not, then stop acting like it. Until I get enough information to convince me that leaving things as they are is worth denying health care to 9/11 workers, I'm going to go ahead and stick with my position. In the meantime, I think the burden of proof is on you.

12/20/2010 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In any event, it looks like this passed.

12/22/2010 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone remind me when Fall grades typically show up?

12/22/2010 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some are already out. The rest will trickle in through mid-January.

12/22/2010 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year most of mine rolled in during the first week of the new year.

12/23/2010 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and here's an article crediting Stewart with the bill's passage

12/27/2010 3:39 PM  

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