Matt Yglesias misses Ted Kennedy's presence in the healthcare reform debate:

I’m confident that were he still alive, he’d be saying what Sherrod Brown and Jay Rockefeller are saying — namely that when a deal like this is on the table, you say yes, pretend to like Joe Lieberman, get the thing done, do some good for the American people, and move on to other priorities. But he’s not alive. And I can’t prove that’s what he’d say. So we’re left instead with other folks like Brown and Rockefeller or just don’t have the same high profile or credibility needed to help sell people on this arrangement.

One of Kennedy's great regrets in life was not figuring out a way to cut a deal with Richard Nixon over his proposal to provide universal healthcare in 1971.  He changed his mind in 1973 and came close to reaching agreement with Nixon, but by then AMA opposition combined with the distraction of Watergate took it off the table, not to return for another two decades.  Steven Pearlstein provides a capsule summary here.

So you really hardly have to guess here.  Kennedy had vivid personal memories of rejecting a healthcare deal because it wasn't good enough, and then watching the moment pass and having reform die utterly. If he were alive today, there's no question that he'd be fighting to pass the current bill, warts and all.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent provides a different take from Kennedy historian Adam Clymer:

Rather, Clymer says, Kennedy’s regret was that the differences between both parties were unbridgeable, making agreement impossible and losing a historic opportunity — not that his side had failed to give up enough to get that agreement.

“Kennedy was sorry that they didn’t reach an agreement” and that both sides “never reached closure,” Clymer told our reporter, Amanda Erickson. He dismissed the idea that Kennedy regretted not giving up enough: “That’s not the same thing at all.”

Duly noted, though this is actually a fairly nuanced difference of interpretation.  In any case, the differences Kennedy had with Nixon were far greater than the gaps we're trying to bridge today.  I don't think there's any doubt he would have supported the current deal.

James Inhofe swooped into Copenhagen on Thursday for very important meetings ... with the media.

The Oklahoma Republcan and strident climate change denier made himself available to the thousands of reporters gathered at the Bella Center in an attempt to "make sure that nobody is laboring under the misconception that the US Senate is going to do something" about climate change, he said. "There's not a chance in the world" that the Senate is going to pass a bill, the upper chamber's self-appointed spokesperson added. "I believe that we in the United States owe it to the other countries to be well informed, to know what the intentions of the United States are," he said. "I just want you guys to have a shot at the truth, because you're not getting it from other people."

The former chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committeee (he said he "probably will be again after the next mid-term election") had previously planned to bring an entire "Truth Squad" of GOP lawmakers to the climate summit. But in the end all he brought was himself and a gaggle of press handlers who told each reporter in the room that the senator was in town and later delivered a printed copy of his talking points. Inhofe thoughtfully gave his remarks in the press filing center, so that plenty of reporters would be able to cover his talk.

Unfortunately, delegates at Copenhagen will not get a chance to hear him. Inhofe only spent two hours on the scene—and at least a quarter of that time in the press room. He has to get back for votes in the Senate he said, as well as a debate on climate on CNN's "Situation Room" with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-author of the House cap-and-trade bill.

With more than 45,000 people gathered in Copenhage for a summit on how to address a problem he doesn't think is real, one wonders exactly who he thinks is responsible for this grand hoax. "It started in the United Nations," he said, but "the ones who really grab a hold of this in the United States are the Hollywood elite." If that's true, I've missed all the celebs—other than California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who made an appearance here earlier this week. Mostly the conference is filled with diplomats, policy wonks, earnest activists, and tired reporters.

Surrounded by a giant scrum of international reporters, the senator mostly used the forum to repeat his assertions that climate change is a huge hoax, and that the recent "ClimateGate" flap is proof that he has been right all along about this. (No one outside the ranks of climate change denialists seems to have reached that conclusion). Inhofe made multiple references to a speech he gave on the Senate floor in 2003, urging reporters to revisit it.

Questioned about his schedule for his two-hour visit, Inhofe mentioned that he had "already had a couple meetings with some people here." But when asked who those meetings were with, he replied, "It's not significant."

Almost half of unemployed workers in the United States experience mental-health problems. Some 40 percent of those with children say their kids show “behavioral changes.” One-quarter have lost their homes or are close to it. One-quarter receive food stamps. What Tuesday’s New York Times poll didn’t mention are the social implications. Here's what your neighborhood can expect if the job situation isn't addressed:

More homeless — 19 out of 25 cities saw an average 12 percent rise in homelessness from November 2008 through this past October. "We're seeing a new trend and I would expect the number to rise substantially," Nan Roman, president of the Washington-based National Alliance to End Homelessness, told Reuters.

More homeless mentally ill — 20 to 25 percent of the 700,000-plus homeless people living on the street are thought to have a serious mental illness. Expect homelessness to exacerbate mental health issues—like severe depression—linked to job losses.

More people on Medicaid — States estimate that Medicaid enrollment will rise 6.6 percent over current level as a result of the recession. Enrollment grew by a state average of 5.4 percent in 2009, the highest rate in six years.

More children on Medicaid receiving antipsychotics for displaying “behavioral changes” — See Drugging the Poor.

More people frequenting predatory payday lenders — See San Francisco's New Spin on Payday Loans.

This vicious poverty cycle may seem too daunting to tackle—where to begin?—but in these writings, Kevin Drum and James Ridgeway offer long-term solutions for some of the problems this new slew of poor and their communities potentially face. Spoiler alert: The remedy involves progressive taxes for social services.
 

Some 184 evergreen wreaths were placed at the Pentagon Memorial, one for each victim killed there in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. (army.mil.)

Need To Read: December 17, 2009

Today's must reads:

Get more stuff like this: Follow Mother Jones on twitter! You can check out what we are tweeting and follow the staff of @MotherJones with one click.

 

Editor's Note: A weekly roundup from our friends over at TreeHugger. Enjoy!

Whose Summit? Our Summit! Bella Center Erupts in Protest (Slideshow)

NGO access to the Bella Center has been all but cut off. Friends of the Earth and Avaaz had their accreditation revoked. Nnimmo Bassey, head of FOE Intl, was ejected from the venue. The day before Climate Justice Action's Tadzio Müller was arrested preemptively on charges of inciting unrest. This morning marches descended on the Bella Center from locations in central Copenhagen. A bit before noon a group inside the venue began marching outside to meet them. They were turned back at the end of police truncheons.

Will the Biggest Success of COP15 be an Anti-Deforestation Deal?

With expectations getting lowered all over the place, the future of any truly productive results uncertain, and peaceful protests rising up with greater force—and police using force to beat them back—the legacy of the COP15 climate talks is entirely up in the air. Right now, many feel that the most successful results of the talks may come in the form of a finalized, global anti-deforestation deal.

The Five Best States to be an Animal Abuser

The the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has just release a new report that looks at the best and worst U.S. states when it comes to the legal protection of animals against abuse and cruelty. The comparative analysis tells us what are the best states, but also, what are the "best states to be an animal abuser" (their words). What are those 5 states?

Brutal Use of Force on Peaceful Climate Protesters Caught on Tape

With plenty of coverage focusing on all the protests and demonstrations going on in Copenhagen, it's easy to lose track of the fact that the vast, vast majority of these have been peaceful. But, as this video reveals, the Danish Politti aren't so inclined to take it easy. This pretty brutal use of force was caught on camera, and was employed to push back nonviolent climate protesters.

How History's Biggest Climate Change March Almost Got Lost in the Media Smog

If you were at last Saturday's climate change march—what's being billed as the biggest rally against climate change in history, you would know like much of the rest of the sideline activity in this cozy city, it was mainly about hope, play and compassionate concern. By the time the march ended—with a civil candlelight vigil outside the Bella Center—the greatest violence was registered only in a few broken windows at the foreign ministry. That didn't matter to the mass media, which jumped at the chance to cast the march in tones borrowed from Seattle or Quebec City. That chance came when hundreds of police in full riot gear surrounded hundreds of demonstrators in a pre-emptive strike that resulted in nearly 1,000 arrests of mainly innocent people, only 4 charges, and an untold number of eye-grabbing photos.

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is an Eco-Rock Star - Brings Down the House in Copenhagen

"History shows us the power of peaceful protest," Nasheed said. "From the civil rights movement, to Gandhi's Quit India campaign; non-violent protest can create change. Protest worked in the struggle for democracy in the Maldives." Nasheed is the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives. He continued, "My message to you is to continue the protests. Continue after Copenhagen. Continue despite the odds. And eventually, together, we will reach that crucial number: Three - five - oh." Here's the full text of his moving speech.

Over at the Blue Marble blog, MoJo and our collaborators are deep into the second week of climate talks in Copenhagen. And things are getting messy. While the US hasn't exactly been a climate hero, our friendly neighbors to the north have emerged as climate's enemy #1: Canada has negotiated so hard for soft emissions targets that the Yes Men pranksters targeted them earlier this week. And it's about to get worse: On Tuesday, leaked documents from the Harper administration indicated that the nation is considering even weaker emission reduction targets for fossil fuel industries.

Meanwhile, the world's poorest nations have been fighting for a binding treaty. Will it happen? A recent Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans support signing such a treaty, while thirty-eight percent give it a thumbs down. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't about to let all the uncertainty get to him. In fact, he thinks the conference has been a resounding success

Plus: Comedian Eugene Mirman skulks around the Bella Center, makes new friends, and even makes a local apologize for the loud dance music played in all the restaurants in Copenhagen.

Read more breaking news from Copenhagen here.

Holiday Fundraising

Hey, it's fundraising time again!  Can you feel the excitement?

I'll keep it short: running a magazine, a website, and four separate blogs is expensive.  Real journalism always is.  But the recession is affecting us the same as everyone else, and we're running a few dollars short this year.  So we're trying to raise $50,000 before we kick off 2010, and twenty or thirty bucks from a few hundred of my readers can get us a good part of the way there.

So that's the pitch: if you like the blog, if you like the magazine, if you like our brand of journalism, help us out if you can.  Don't starve the cats to do it, but if you can afford 10 or 25 or 50 dollars to keep us going, click here to contribute.  Or go here to contribute via PayPal.  It's quick, secure, and tax deductible.  Thanks!

Congressional Kabuki

McClatchy reports that Obama is on his own when it comes to selling his caucus on expansion of the war in Afghanistan:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that it's up to President Barack Obama to persuade reluctant Democrats to fund his Afghanistan troop buildup — his most important foreign policy initiative — because she has no plans to do so herself.

....That, coupled with lukewarm public support — in the latest Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, only 51 percent of the respondents said they support the surge — suggests that support for the administration's Afghan policy is brittle, at best.

Needless to say, this is just kabuki.  Republicans will all vote for the expansion, which means that Obama only needs a few dozen Democratic votes, which he'll get easily.  Pelosi knows perfectly well that this is a cost-free protest on her part, and so does Obama.

A lot of people, and many countries, think we can solve our emissions problems by adopting more nuclear power. Fast and easy, right?

More like slow and deadly. With a capital C.

"C" for Chernobyl: site of the worst nuclear accident in history nearly a quarter of a century ago. That wretched city inadvertently became the perfect Frankenstein laboratory for studying the long-term behavior of radiation in the wild.

Guess what? Wild radiation doesn't act like a domesticated beast whatsoever.

Despite the passage of 23 years, normalcy is not returning to Chernobyl nearly as fast as predicted, according to Wired Science, reporting from the AGU meeting in San Francisco.

Specifically, the cesium 137 in Chernobyl's soils isn’t decaying as fast as its 30-year half-life. Or as fast as we once thought it might based on theoretically accelerated dispersal rates in the wild. The ecological half-life of strontium is proving shorter than its physical half-life, with natural dispersion diluting the radioactive material faster. But not so for cesium.

Nastiest of all, no one knows why.

And so the idea that Ukraine could repopulate the Chernobyl dead zone in "only" 180 to 320 years is proving pure fantasy. And since the physical properties of cesium haven’t changed, researchers suspect an environmental explanation. Is new cesium blowing across the soil from hotter locations closer to the accident? Is it migrating through the soil from deep in the ground? Or, WTF, you can almost hear the researchers saying.

Nuclear power a solution? Nuclear power needs a solution.