In his address to Congress, President Barack Obama quoted a letter that Senator Ted Kennedy wrote him after he learned he was soon to die. It's worth reading the whole note:

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,

Ted

It really is too bad that Kennedy won't be at the signing ceremony. And, yes, I am assuming there will be one.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

Scott Payne of the League of Ordinary Gentlemen has posted an interview with me about how the political blogosphere has evolved over the past seven years.  If this seems like the most gruesome topic possible, don't click the link.  Do not click the link.  If it sounds like a decent excuse to avoid work for a few minutes, however, go ahead.  Click away.  It's short, and Scott had the good taste to illustrate it with the best photograph ever taken of me.

Can we please please please not talk about Joe Wilson anymore?  Haven't we glorified enough assholes already this summer?  Via email, Bruce Bartlett says probably not:

No doubt, right wing publishers like Regnery and Crown will be beating down Wilson's door today to sign a book deal that will put him at the top of the New York Times bestseller list along with drivel from the likes of Michelle Malkin, who has probably already started writing her biography of Wilson, titled, "The Man Who Spoke the Truth."  By the end of the day a Wilson for President web site will be fully functioning if it isn't already.  Watch for the announcement on Glenn Beck’s show this afternoon.

OK, but we don't have to talk about it.  Instead, let's talk about this:

The U.S. Census Bureau said the number of uninsured Americans increased in 2008 to 46.3 million, compared to 45.7 million in 2007.

The poverty rate also increased to 13.2%, and the median family income declined to $50,303.  These are all worth far more discussion than the mentally unbalanced antics of yet another GOP congressman.

The Census Bureau did a big data dump this morning, releasing its findings on poverty, income and health insurance coverage from 2008. The results aren't pretty, but there is some good news: The number of uninsured children has fallen from 8.1 million in 2007 to 7.3 million in 2008. Despite the recession, the number of uninsured children in the U.S. is the lowest it's been since 1987, a success largely attributable to the federal SCHIP program (whose expansion was twice vetoed by President Bush and heavily opposed by Republicans in Congress). But the rest of the report is truly dismal. The highlights:

The number of people without health insurance jumped from 45.7 million to 46.3 million. The number of people who get insurance from employers is still falling, while 87.4 million people got health insurance from the government, up from 83 million in 2007.

The official poverty rate jumped from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 last year, leaving nearly 40 million people in dire straits. That's the highest it's been since 1997. In a telling sign about the recession, the poverty rate among married-couple families is up significantly, jumping from 4.9 percent to 5.5 percent in 2008, while single parents remained steadily poor. And 19 percent of kids under 18 were living below the poverty line in 2008, up a full point from the previous year.

Finally, real median income tanked, falling 2.6 percent for white households and a whopping 5.6 percent for Hispanic families. People in the South took an especially bad beating, with median incomes there falling nearly 5 percent. No wonder those Southern Republicans are so pissed off.

 

 

Blue Marble-worthy stories from our other blogs, and around the net.

Health and Taxes: A tax reform vet gives his take on the healthcare debacle.

BPA Ban?: California is voting on banning bisephenol A from baby bottles. [LA Times]

Smart Human Tricks: Sen. Franken has an incredible geographic mind, draws nearly perfect map of US free-hand.

Single White Male: A new study shows who jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge, and ponders why. [San Francisco Chronicle]

 

A U.S. Soldier talks to a civilian at the control point outside a medical facility before a combined medical mission with Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, Sept. 1, 2009. The U.S. Soldiers are assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Benjamin Boren.)

Today's must reads think Barack Obama is a LIAR!

  • "My Advice Is He Apologize Immediately" (WaPo)
  • David Corn: Obama's Speech: The Doctor Is In (MoJo)
  • E.J. Dionne: Obama Fires Back On Health Care Reform (WaPo)
  • Jim Ridgeway: Good Speech, Muddled Politics (MoJo)
  • We're Really Not Kidding: The Supreme Court Is Probably Going to Allow Unlimited Corporate Donations In Federal Elections (MoJo)
  • US Says Iran Has Ability To "Expedite" Nuke (NYT)
  • Black Sea Port a Flashpoint for Georgia and Russia (NYT)
  • Google Plans to Help Newspapers Charge for Content (NYT/Bits Blog)
  • Great War Reporting From McClatchy's Jonathan Landay (McClatchy)
  • What Birthers Believe (YouTube)
  • GOP Lawmaker's Graphic Sex-Bragging Caught On Tape (TPM)
  • How Medicare Is Communist—Really! (The Economist)

I post items like these throughout the day on twitter. You should follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Joe Wilson's most recent tweet: (Monday)

Happy Labor Day! Wonderful parade at Chapin, many people called out to oppose Obamacare which I assured them would be relayed tomorrow to DC.

(To view cartoon in a larger format, go here.)

Here's something to chew on.  Market Sentinel, a British firm "specialising in online conversation monitoring and analytics," has canvassed the online media world to see who's most influential in the American healthcare debate.  As a proxy, the issue they surveyed was whether Britain's NHS was a good model for the U.S. to follow.

Their findings: The outlets most favorable toward the NHS are the Guardian and the New York Times.  The least favorable are IBD, the Telegraph, and Fox News.  The most influential medium is Twitter.  The least influential is the liberal blogosphere.

That's bad news for us bloggers.  On the other hand, is Twitter really the most influential medium out there?  Seriously?  And in what way is the UK Conservative Party influential in an American debate about healthcare?  For that matter, does trawling the web for references to the NHS really tell us anything at all about how Obama is doing on healthcare anyway?

In any case, I'm stumped by their conclusion that this chart shows that Obama "has lost the argument online."  Looks about even to me.  And color me a wee bit skeptical of their methodology: "We crawl the internet looking for pages which are about the topic, then we track mutual references between people, institutions, entities mentioned in the context.  The resulting structure gives us a mathematically verifiable measurement of 'authority' in the context."  You betcha.

But what I really want to know is whether Twitter is genuinely the most influential online medium in the healthcare debate.  Does that count Chuck Grassley's tweets?  If so, somebody please just shoot me now.  Western civilization is doomed.

UPDATE: Some good points about this from Tim F. over at Balloon Juice.  Comparing all of Twitter to individual outlets makes Twitter look a lot more influential than it really is.  And if blogs are nearly as influential as the Washington Post and the New York Times, as the graph suggests, that's actually pretty good news for the blogosphere, isn't it?

You'd have thought that a California Assemblyman being caught on tape bragging about spanking and sexing not one but two lobbyists would have been the most embarrassing GOP gaffe of the day.

You would be wrong. Because South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson did him one better when he shouted "You Lie." At the President.  During a nationally televised live speech. Before a joint session of Congress. The look of genuine horror that passes over Pelosi's face pretty much says it all. A new low.

Folks in the Twittersphere are tageting Wilson (@congjoewilson ) with calls and petitions. Senator John McCain told Larry King Wilson should apologize immediately. And this conservative thinks Wilson should be censured, at least.

So it's going to be interesting to see how this plays outside of the punditocracy. Have our politics gotten so nasty that calling the president a liar before congress is just so much small beer? Or is this a Rick Lazio moment (that is: able to upset center-right voters so much that they throw their weight behind the other guy. Or in Lazio's case, gal.)

We'll see. Meanwhile, Dana Goldstein of the American Prospect tweeted that while she finds Joe Wilson "unhinged," she's ok with him shouting out, if it means that Congress will start acting more like the UK's rowdy Parliament, something that, wait for it, John McCain advocates! (h/t NPR's David Folkenflick).

I love a good Parliamentary tussle, but to my mind the difference between that and Wilson's eruption is a world of wit, and occasional wisdom, away. Furthermore, Slate's June Thomas notes that you can't use the L-word (different one) at PMQ (prime minister questions?). "If you do, speaker sternly asks the member to withdraw. Some euphemisms for lying OK."

Fabling? Canarding?

Update: Wilson issued an apology. Also, he called Rahm Emanuel to personally apologize. Safe to say he got an earful.

Update II: Focus groups of armed with those dial things show a strong backlash against GOP tactics during speech, especially Wilson's outburst. So you can be sure he's getting an earful from the Rahm of the right, too.

Update III: Via Gawker's fun Wilson wrap-up (turns out his real name is Addison), folks have used ActBlue to give Wilson's opponent @ $40K and counting...Holy [deleted], that's jumped to almost $80 K in under an hour...By morning it was @$140K. Now $200K+. Safe to say rate of about $10K an hour...

Update VI: Via @junethomas, more terms you can't hurl in Parliment: "The specific terms to which the Speaker has objected over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, stoolpigeon, swine, and traitor." 

Update V: joewilsonisyourpreexistingcondition.com (keep refreshing)

Clara Jeffery is Co-editor of Mother Jones. You can read more of her stories here and follow her on Twitter here. And don't miss what David Corn, Kevin Drum, and Jim Ridgeway have to say about Obama's speech.