Investigative Journalism that is as
Radical as Reality Itself.

The Baucus Excuse

by DAVE LINDORFF

Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities.  I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall.  The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels.  The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.

Finally there was this enormous, impossibly long fart of incredible volume and duration. This was followed by a long sigh of relief and an awful stench.

We men in the rest room all looked at each other, shrugging and stifling laughs. A few of us couldn’t contain ourselves and actually burst out laughing.

There was a shuffle in the stall, and the latch was turned. We couldn’t resist. Everyone turned to see who had just produced such a prodigious noise and odor, expecting to see some huge, ponderous guy lumber out. Instead, a shrivled little old man left the booth, nodded silently at the rest of us, and exited the room.

I’m reminded of this incident by the recent efforts in Congress to produce a health care reform bill—especially of the efforts in Sen. Max Baucus’s Senate Finance Committee, which yesterday, after weeks of allegedly painful negotiating among the so-called Gang of Six—three conservative Democrats and three Republicans—and several weeks more of discussions among members of the whole committee, produced a bill that essentially leaves us with the status quo, except with some rather smelly additions, such as a mandate that the uninsured and unemployed buy some crummy health insurance plan offered by the private health insurers or face a stiff fine by the IRS.

If the stench of corruption from the legal bribes of the insurance industry lobby were not so vile and pervasive, we would all be rolling in the aisles at the tiny fart produced by all that straining and pushing on the part of Sen. Baucus (D-Montana) and his Finance Committee colleagues.

Of course, it’s not over yet. Once both houses of Congress have voted to approve the bills that have emerged from committee in House and Senate, there will be another session on the pot—this time in a secret conference committee, where members of the leadership of both houses will negotiate to come up with a single bill to send back to their respective houses for an up-or-down vote.

It can be safely predicted that the final legislation will resemble much more the Senate version than the House version, because Senate Democrats long ago surrendered control of that body to the minority Republicans by accepting the so-called Rule of 60, whereby any Republican can simply threaten to filibuster a piece of legislation and the Democrats will immediately take it back and hack off any offending piece of it to ensure that either all Democrats will vote for it, or that one or two allegedly sane Republicans will join the majority of Democrats, thus making a filibuster impossible.

Not once since at least 2006, when Democrats took over the Senate, has the Senate Democratic leadership demanded that all Democrats in that body support a bill or face retaliation, in the form of lost committee assignments or sabotage of a bill important to local constituents—the kind of thing that Republicans have done with their members for years.

Indeed, Democrats seem to like the imaginary Rule of 60, as it gives them a ready excuse to never have to actually do anything progressive, as demanded by their electoral base.

And so, whether it’s health care reform, financial industry regulation and reform, climate change legislation, civil liberties, investigations into torture and war crimes, or ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,  Congress has come to resemble a French railway station lavatory, with committees grunting away in the stalls behind closed doors, while a little old lady in the corner collects change from the visitors who regularly come in to take a piss and monitor the proceedings.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

July 07, 2015
Bruce K. Gagnon
Sanders Bullshit Meter Goes Off the Charts in Portland, Maine
ANDRE VLTCHEK
In Ecuador, Fight for Mankind; In Greece, Fight for Greece!
Nile Bowie
Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Trails Behind China’s Development Vision
Binoy Kampmark
Warrior Economist: the Varoufakis Legacy
Shamus Cooke
Unions Must Act Now to Survive Supreme Court Deathblow
Dave Lindorff
The Greek People Have Voted ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail
Mateo Pimentel
The Pope’s Letter: Neoliberalism and Fukushima
Raouf Halaby
Beware Those Who Speak With Forked Tongues
Ron Jacobs
The Grateful Dead: The Ship of the Sun Bids Farewell
Jonathan Cook
Hasbara Industry: Why Israel’s Army of Spin-Doctors is Doomed to Defeat
Rev. William Alberts
Charleston: a Reality Check on Racism in America
Ellen Brown
A Franciscan Alternative: the People’s Pope and a People’s Bank?
Colin Todhunter
The Warped World of the GMO Lobbyist
John Wight
Who Will Join With Greece?
W. T. Whitney
Colombia’s Fensuagro Union is Revolutionary, Persecuted, and Undaunted
Mel Gurtov
Keep It in the Ground, Obama
July 06, 2015
MICHAEL HUDSON
Greece Rejects the Troika
Steve Hendricks
Will FIFA’s World Cup Sexism Ever Die?
Binoy Kampmark
Oxi in Greece
Gareth Porter
How US Spin on Access to Iranian Sites has Distorted the Issue
Peter Bach
ISIL and Ramadan in the Rag
Paul Craig Roberts
A Rebuke to EU-Imposed Austerity
Quincy Saul
The View from Mount Olympus
Robert Hunziker
Looking Inside Fukushima Prefecture
Norman Pollack
Capitalism’s Self-Revealing Practices
ADRIENNE PINE, RICHARD JOHNSTON, FIONA WILMOT, et al.
Seven Reasons to Scrap the USA’s $1 Billion Aid Package to Central America
Linn Washington Jr.
Storm Smashes Chris Christie’s Presidential Candidacy
Benjamin Willis
US and Cuba: What Remains to be Done?
Robert David Steele
The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes
Joan Roelofs
Whatever Happened to Eastern European Communism?
David Macaray
Could Justice Scalia Be the One to Rescue Labor?
Weekend Edition
July 3-5, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Pentagon’s “2015 Strategy” For Ruling the World
Jason Hirthler
Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg
Rob Urie
Greece and Global Class War
DIMITRIS KONSTANTAKOPOULOS
The Future of Greece Without Illusions
Jerry Lembcke
Nobody Spat on American GIs!
Stavros Mavroudeas
The Greek Referendum and the Tasks of the Left
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Ecuador Fights for Survival – Against its Elites
David Rosen
White Skin Crisis
Andrew Levine
Dumping on Dixie Again
Richard Pithouse
Charleston (It’s Not Over)
Arun Gupta
What Does It Mean to Call Dylann Roof a “Terrorist”?
Michael Welton
The Tragedy of Harper’s Canada
Brendan McQuade
The Right Wing Resurgence and the Problem of Terrorism
Chris Floyd
Heritage and Hokum in Rebel Banner Row