We at harikari have written much about guns, gun control, and the need to enact laws that make it more difficult for criminals and mentally unsound people to purchase guns. After the Newtown tragedy, Americans seemed to have had enough of the bullying by the NRA and they called for the expansion of mandatory background checks for nearly all gun-sale transactions. The Manchin-Toomey background-check bill was supported by nearly 90% of Americans. Polls show that a majority of Americans also supported a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

On Wednesday a bill to expand background checks was filibustered by Republicans, so it needed 60 votes to move forward. The senate voted for the bill 54-46. Yes, a clear majority of senators voted to move forward with the background-check bill but because of the Republican filibuster, the bill was killed. The senate also voted “down” the amendment to limit the capacity of ammunition clips 54-46.

90% of Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and 90% of Republicans voted against the bill that 90% of Americans supported.

For some smart commentary about how undemocratic the senate is and how the arguments of gun-control opponents are intellectually unsound, watch these two excellent segments from Thursday’s edition of The Daily Show.

First Jon,

and now John…

I turned on my TV this morning hoping last night’s episode of The Daily Show was available on demand, and it was. Not only was it available, but it was uncensored. WTF? Yes, there were no bleeps in the opening segment titled “Chaos on Bullshit Mountain.” And I must say it’s one of the best segments I’ve seen on the show. It starts about 2:25 into this video…

…and continues with this one…

…and ends with:

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit don’t stink. If they have success, they built it. If they failed, the government ruined it for them. If they get a break, they deserved it. If you get a break, it’s a handout and an entitlement. It’s a baffling willfully blind cognitive dissonance best summed up by their head coach in what is perhaps my favorite sound bite of all time: Craig T. Nelson, “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”

Enjoy. (No guarantee that the videos will remain uncensored.)

Speaking of corporations, Mitt Romney killed many of them, and that makes him a serial killer.

“So is Mitt Romney a serial killer? I don’t know. But that question’s out there now.” – Stephen Colbert

It’s good to see that the Citizens United decision is finally being put to good use.

After you’ve finished battling stampeding, pepper spraying Black Friday shoppers in search of the best shopping deals you can find, take some time out to celebrate Evacuation Day. Here’s Sarah Vowell on The Daily Show to give you the details of this post-Thanksgiving holiday.

Today I did something I rarely do.  I watched Bill O’Reilly’s show, but only because Jon Stewart was on as a guest to debate Bill about the “wisdom of Obama inviting Common to the White House” for a poetry reading.

The theme of The Factor was racism, and for the first 25 minutes Bill rudely interrupted everyone he spoke to before they could complete their answers to his questions. O’Reilly is a bully and I really can’t stand him for more than a few minutes, but I hung in there until the Stewart segment.  Watch.

Stewart caught O’Reilly in a trap when he pointed out how Bono, Springsteen, and Dylan had all written songs about people they believed were wrongly convicted of murder.  Should they all be banned from the White House? Those three are white, and so is Johnny Cash who Stewart used as an example on his show last week, The songs by Springsteen, Cash, Bono, and Dylan don’t define their whole body of work and neither do the Common songs that O’Reilly criticized.  But Common is black.  I think you all get the picture.

In part two of the interview Stewart was asked if he was president, which poets would he invite to the White House.  He says he wouldn’t, and makes the point that Bill is making a big deal about nothing.  He suggests they both work together to do someting about a real cop-killing problem:  assault rifles.   He’d like to see them banned.

O’Reilly says to go to his site to vote for who you think won the debate.  I could not find the poll.  Bill probably took it down because he was losing so bad.

Update 1: I found the poll on his site billoreilly.com.  You can go vote there on the survey page.

Update 2: The poll has been closed and the results are in.  Jon Stewart by a landslide.

72,145 votes were cast and 79% thought Jon Stewart had the stronger argument.  The graphics of the result are set up like an electoral map.  Jon’s states are red and Bill’s would be yellow if he had won any states.  His most favorable state was Wyoming where he received 37% of the vote.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as explained by Paul Krugman in a blog post yesterday:

The other route [as opposed to government provided insurance] is the one Mitt Romney took in Massachusetts, and the Democrats took nationally, combining regulation and subsidies to get everyone covered. The strategy has three parts:

– Community rating: insurers must offer the same policies to everyone

– Mandates: everyone must buy insurance, so healthy people can’t opt out

– Subsidies to lower-income families, so everyone can afford to buy that required insurance.

All three legs of the stool are essential. In particular, you can’t manage without the mandate; if healthy people opt out, and especially if they opt back in when they get sick, the death spiral will undo the whole thing.

It’s not really all that complicated. And as a way of getting everyone insured, it works – several European countries have systems more or less along these lines, and Massachusetts is up to 98 percent coverage.

It’s a bit of a Rube Goldberg device, a sort of indirect way of simulating single-payer. But it’s better than leaving tens of millions of Americans uninsured – and it also establishes the principle of universal coverage, which one can hope will lead to a better system over time. In particular, there may yet be a chance – not soon, but eventually — to reintroduce a public option, allowing people to bypass private insurers, and potentially leading in the long run to a simpler system.

Why are House Republicans so adamantly opposed to the law?  The number one reason is because it might work, and that would be bad for them because it wasn’t their idea, even though it kind of was since it was modeled after Mitt Romney’s plan for Massachusetts.  And number two is they absolutely despise the public option, and they want to nip the whole universal healthcare idea in the bud before we get anywhere near to implementing an affordable government-run alternative to greedy insurance companies.

So what we get this week from the puerile majority party is some political theater starring the Weeper of the House with his comically large gavel in hand presiding over a House vote on the “Job-Killing Health Care Act.” Yes, that really is the name of the bill. (Isn’t it great to have the adults back in charge of the House?)  They call it that even though independent experts say it does no such thing, and what the CBO actually said in the report referenced by the Republicans was:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount—roughly half a percent—primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.

Or as Jon Stewart points out, the reduction in labor predicted by the CBO would be:

…due to older workers being able to retire earlier because they don’t have to worry about their healthcare, and others voluntarily leaving the workforce or reducing their hours.  So it is job killing in the sense that getting more sleep at night is “awake killing.”

There might even be a few Republicans who actually know the truth and would like to vote against Boehner’s silly bill, but they won’t.  If they did, Boehner would single them out as “dead men” (see two posts down) and make sure that they received no help from their party when they are up for re-election.

If you want to read some more analysis on the Republicans’ anti-healthcare reform agenda, please scroll down five posts and read “Republicans are Mindless on Healthcare” by N.J. Barnes.

Jon Stewart is an angry man.  He’s angered by Republican senators who are filibustering the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 that was passed by the House.  (It should be no surprise to you that Mr. Weepy Boehner voted against it.)   The bill would provide funds for medical care needed by the 9/11 first responders who are seriously ill and dying from the shit they inhaled while working at Ground Zero.

The entire December 16, 2010 edition of The Daily Show is about the Republican filibuster.  The opening segment exposes Republicans for what they are:  Obstructionists who seem to exist for only one cause – to protect the rich from having their taxes raised for any reason.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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The second segment is an interview with four first responders who are all sick and dying from diseases they contracted while working on September 11th or during the year-long cleanup that followed.  All four were disgusted with the likes of Senator John Kyl (the biggest prick in the Senate) and Senator Mitch McConnell (second by a hair) who led their party in filibustering the bill, and whined about how senators shouldn’t have to work between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  The firemen who put on their gear and headed to the Twin Towers on September 11th and would willingly respond to an emergency on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, if they were healthy enough to do so (they aren’t), weren’t too impressed by Senator Kyl’s vacation worries.

The third segment is an interview with Mike Huckabee who starts out just a little bit defensive of his party, but ultimately agrees with Jon.  He too thinks the Republicans in the Senate are terribly wrong.  Jon asks him why Fox/9-11 News isn’t all over the story and making a big noise about it like they did about the “Ground Zero” mosque.  Huckabee doesn’t give him the answer we all know is true:  Fox hasn’t broadcast much about the story because that would require them to be critical of their party.  If the criticism doesn’t involve Democrats, they don’t want any part of it.

So, if you missed it, please watch the whole show.

If Jon Stewart mixed just the right amount of anger and derision in his show, then the three major news networks that ignored the story will all be talking about it on Friday morning.

President Barack Obama appeared on The Daily Show last night for an interview that took up the entire extended broadcast. 

Jon Stewart and President Obama got along well as expected, and Jon did ask Obama some difficult questions.  Most of Obama’s responses were a defense of his record during his first nineteen months in office, and I thought he did a great job making his case that “Change you can believe in” doesn’t happen overnight.  He says it takes time (no argument here) and the Democrats are making progress in spite of the Republicans’ stalling tactics.

I did find it a little strange that not once during the whole show was there any talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I guess this time around “it’s about the economy, stupid,” and who controls it.

I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that Jon Stewart is the first interviewer of a sitting president to address the president as “Dude.”

If you haven’t watched the show, you can watch the rerun today on TV, or you can watch it here on your computer.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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And for those of you who like to read these things, well thanks to the Lincoln Madison blog, there is a complete transcript available.

Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:

Obama: You know, look: when I won and we started the transition, and we looked at what was happening in the economy, a whole bunch of my political folks came up and said, “You know what: enjoy this now, because two years from now, folks are gonna be frustrated.” And that is in fact what’s happened. When you’ve got 9.6% unemployment, when folks are seeing their homes under water, when the economy is growing but is still not growing as fast as it needs to to make up for the 8 million jobs that were lost — yup, folks are gonna be frustrated, and that’s gonna reflect itself in the political environment. But, having said that, I look over the last 18 months and I say, we prevented a second Great Depression, we’ve stabilized the economy — an economy that was shrinking is now growing — we’ve got 9 months of consecutive private-sector job growth, we have passed historic healthcare reform, historic financial regulatory reform, we have done things that some folks don’t even know about —

Stewart: What have you done that we don’t know about? [laughter] Are you planning a surprise party for us? “Filled with jobs and healthcare!”

Obama: When you look at what we’ve done in terms of making sure that — before we even passed healthcare, 4 million kids got health insurance that didn’t have it before, through the children’s health insurance program [cheers], expanded national service more than at any time since the beginning of the Peace Corps, made sure that credit card companies couldn’t jack up your rates without notice — over and over again, we have moved forward an agenda that is making a difference in people’s lives each and every day. Now, is it enough? No. And so I expect, and I think most Democrats out there expect, that people want to see more progress.

Stewart: — he took a rifle and he shot the “Cap and Trade” bill. And I thought, “Oh, gosh, the Republicans are so — oh, that’s a Democrat?? Oh, that’s interesting.” Have you convinced your own party that the legislative progress has been enough, and how do you feel about their reaction to it?

Obama: Look: let me say this about members of Congress —

Stewart: Are you gonna curse?

Obama: No, I’m not gonna curse. [laughter] I know a lot of folks feel frustrated about Congress, about how it operates, the bickering, the weird rules, the filibusters, all that stuff. But the fact is that there are a bunch of folks who, during the course of this year, took really tough votes, that they knew were bad politics, because they thought they were the right things to do.

Stewart: It feels like some of the reforms that have passed, like healthcare, have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt. And I thought that —

Obama: That I think is fair — here’s what I think is fair: that, over the last two years, in an emergency situation —

Stewart: Right.

Obama:— our basic attitude was, We’ve gotta get some things done, in some cases quickly, that are — in order to do that, basically worked with the process as opposed to transformed the process — and there’s no doubt that that frustrated folks. It frustrates me. Look: I would love not to have a 60-vote requirement — which is not in the Constitution, but is in the Senate rules right now — that apply to everything we do, so I can’t get a Deputy Secretary of Treasury in the middle of a financial crisis because somebody’s holding it up and is filibustering the appointment. …

Obama: If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the healthcare system, that point is true.

Stewart: [laughs] When you put it that way, it seems so petty!

Stewart: Welcome back to the show President Barack Obama. [audience cheers and applause] You expressed some frustration with those on the Left who are still feeling dissatisfied. Do you think in any way the expectation was something that maybe even you and your campaign created? Were people being naïve, in the sense of — I remember very clearly you said, “We can’t expect different results with the same people.”

Obama: Right.

Stewart: And I remember when you hired Larry Summers [laughter] — I remember thinking, “Well, that seems like the exact same person,” and why would you — so, in some respects, I get your frustration with this idea that, “Well, geez, are you never satisfied?” but again, the expectation, I think, was Audacity, going in there and really rooting out a corrupt system. And so the sense is, has reality of what hit you in the face when you first stepped in, caused you to back down from some of the more visionary — like bringing in a guy like Larry Summers, like —

Obama: First of all, if you look at how we have handled this financial crisis —

Stewart: Right.

Obama:— if you had told me two years ago that we’re gonna be able to stabilize the system, stabilize the stock market, stabilize the economy, and by the way at the end of this thing it’ll cost less than 1% of GDP where the S&L crisis cost us 2½% of our entire economy for a much smaller crisis, I’d say, “We’ll take that,” because we saved taxpayers a whole lot of money. And, in fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job trying to figure out how to —

Stewart: You don’t want to use that phrase, dude. [laughs]

Obama: Pun intended.