New Year's Day

WASHINGTON--Normal human beings--let's call them real Americans--cannot understand why, 10 months after President Obama's inauguration, Congress is still tied down in a procedural torture chamber trying to pass the health care bill Obama promised in his campaign. Last year, the voters gave him the largest popular vote margin won by a presidential candidate in 20 years. They gave Democrats their largest Senate majority since 1976 and their largest House majority since 1992. Obama didn't just offer bromides about hope and change. He made quite specific pledges.

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At this point, I’m not sure which has become more tiresome: Roland Emmerich’s penchant for emotionally overwrought end-of-the-world pictures or his penchant for giving said pictures time-specific titles. With the exception of Godzilla, which advertised its subject with forthright specificity, his titles have exhibited a peculiar insistence on emphasizing the when at the expense of the what: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and now 2012.

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It’s been almost a hundred years since progressives began the campaign to make health care a right. And never before has the campaign come this far. Five congressional committees have now had their say about health care reform. And, as of Tuesday afternoon, all five have said “aye.” At this point, passage and enactment of health care reform seems not just likely but very likely.

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How Liberal Despair Is Hurting Health Care Reform, by Jonathan Chait Can Democrats Actually Pay for Health Care Reform?, by Jonathan Cohn How Irving Kristol Came to Embrace What He Once Feared, by Damon Linker The Two Most Distorted Words in the Political Dictionary: ‘Bipartisan’ and ‘Centrist’, by E.J.

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Gezunt, Parnoseh, Nachus

I received a Jewish New Year e-mail card with the greeting gezunt, parnoseh, nachus. It is not a poetic greeting. But it refers to essentials: 1. health; 2. livelihood; and 3. well, I'm having trouble picking on an adequate translation for the last of the three.   Other mayvonim (experts) fix on "pride." Yes, but it's not quite right. And certainly not without the awkward Anglo-Yiddish preface "shepping." To shep is to draw from the deepest of emotional wells. So you see why you can't really shep pride.

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Stage Fright

These days, as politicians tend to furiously distance themselves from the Iraq war, it's hard to remember back to 2003, when everyone wanted a piece of it. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz weren't the only ones, after all, itching to give Iraq an ideological makeover. Some celebs seemed disappointed they had missed the chance to lead the invasion themselves, and, after Saddam Hussein's statue fell, more than 50 of them poured over the border with the USO. Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped the troops' adrenaline with a screening of Terminator 3.

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Rebel Quelled

Scott McClellan walked into the White House briefing room Tuesday with the solemn expression of a man about to deliver some very important presidential news. And, indeed, he had an update on a crisis the president of the United States was monitoring: the miners trapped in Upshur County, West Virginia. "The president continues to be kept informed about the situation," McClellan reported. "He was briefed this morning." McClellan made clear that all of the Bush administration's resources were being mobilized.

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Smoke Signals

Hiding out somewhere in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden must be a happy man. U.S. officials have identified him as the principal suspect in the disasters visited upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And there are several reasons why. First, the operation required recruits sufficiently well-motivated that they were prepared to commit suicide. Bin Laden's group, Al Qaeda ("the base"), employed suicide bombers in the 1998 attacks against two U.S. embassies in Africa and in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen eleven months ago.

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Cruel to be Kind

Rudolph William Luis Giuliani is not the most likable man in America. He is a divider, not a uniter. He demonizes anyone who disagrees with him as "idiotic" or "crazy" or "silly" or "dangerous" or "jerky" (and quite often as "very, very idiotic," or "very, very jerky"). He is a beady-eyed bully, a ruthless egomaniac, a world-class control freak. He informed the media that he was separating from his wife before he informed his wife. He ousted his star police commissioner for getting too much good publicity.

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