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Changing tunes? Just a couple weeks ago, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said health care reform legislation would not be viable in the House without a strong public option. Now he says it might squeeze by even if it guarantees no public option at all.



"I think anything like a trigger would be a retreat from the idea of getting cost savings in this bill. We might be able to pass it. It might be able to get through Congress. But it won't accomplish what the President and the American people say they need, which is cost reductions, immediately.

At one point, over 60 House progressives said they'd balk at such an idea--enough to doom the overall bill. Is that number going down?

The White House has released a pair of public service announcements on the importance of education, tying into President Obama's upcoming back-to-school message next week -- the one that right-wingers are attacking as an example of socialist indoctrination.

Here's the first one, with Obama saying he wouldn't have been at his inauguration ceremony, if he hadn't been at his graduation ceremony first:



There's also another PSA featuring a bunch of popular NASCAR drivers, a sport we usually associate with the Republican-leaning parts of America. Check it out after the jump.

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Despite several indications that the White House will ultimately not go to bat for a public option, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he's seen no signs that the White House will change course--but if they do, he's not budging.

"I know that the White House is debating it internally," Brown said in an interview with TPMDC. "But Congress is writing the bill, the President's not."

"The White House should not take progressives for granted," an animated Brown told me. "It's not just the conservatives he needs to be in the fold. It's the progressives who've been in the vineyards fighting for reform for years."

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Nevada state Republican chairwoman Sue Lowden, who has been viewed as a potential 2010 opponent for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has now taken a concrete step towards running: She has announced that she is resigning as state party chair, in order to explore a campaign.

"I've always said that it's one thing to complain, yet entirely different to get in the ring," Lowden said. "Both as a state senator and as party chairman, I have always been willing to put my words to action."

Two recent independent polls have put Lowden ahead of Reid for the general election. Mason-Dixon has put her ahead by 45%-40%, and Daily Kos/Research 2000 gives her a lead of 44%-41%. Lowden faces a Republican primary against Danny Tarkanian, a former UNLV basketball star who has previously run unsuccessfully for state Senate and Nevada Secretary of State.

It's the question we all want the answer to: How many fingers does William J. Rice have?

Earlier the AP, citing a hospital spokesperson, reported that after a pro-health care reform protester bit off the anti-reform Rice's pinky at a health reform rally in California last night, it was reattached at the nearby Los Robles Hospital -- and paid for by Medicare.

Then Rice went on Fox earlier this hour and told Neil Cavuto that his severed pinky wasn't reattached at all. He said he was told that because of "the bacteria involved in a human bite, the chances of it surviving a reattachment were almost zero."

We just got the same hospital spokesperson the AP talked to -- Kris Caraway-Bowman -- on the phone. So what's the verdict?

Rice's pinky was not reattached. He went home without it last night.

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Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are laying down a new mark. Though President Obama appears to be laying the groundwork to scrap the public option, and progressives are pessimistic about his upcoming health care speech before Congress, the CPC is digging in on its earlier vow to block health care legislation that does not include a public option, setting the stage for a potential rift in the Democratic party.

"We look forward to meeting with you regarding retaining a robust public option in any final health reform bill and request that that meeting take place as soon as possible," they wrote in a letter to Obama today. "Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates--not negotiated rates--is unacceptable."

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An opera, with the lyrics taken directly from the transcripts of the Alberto Gonzales hearings on the U.S. attorney scandal, will be performed this weekend in Philadelphia.

The "Gonzales Cantata," playing at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, is a 40-minute work made up of songs such as "I Don't Recall," "You Don't Recall," "What Is One To Think," and "This Is Not About Alberto Gonzales."



You can listen to all the songs on the opera's Drudge Report-themed web site. The piece was written by Melissa Dunphy when she was an undergrad at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

"This is not a partisan piece. ... It's about a man who made some mistakes and is facing the music. It's also an exploration of how a man could so brazenly politicize the Department of Justice without really standing up for the reasons he went into politics in the first place," Dunphy told the Wall Street Journal.

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In the wake of objections by many on the right against President Obama's upcoming address to schoolchildren -- reminding them on the first day of school about the importance of education, and telling them to work hard -- many schools across the country are dealing with objections from parents who don't want their children exposed to such a harmful, socialist message.

"I don't recall ever having a sitting president addressing schoolchildren," said Andrew Palomo, the father of a student in suburban Chicago. "For major events, maybe, but not the first day of school. The whole thing makes me angry as an American."

It should be noted that Obama's address isn't really a new thing, though -- and furthermore, the subject matter of Obama's address is pretty tame compared to past Republican presidents. As DailyKosTV points out, George H.W. Bush gave an address on education policy -- not just education itself as a virtue -- to American classrooms in late 1991. And Media Matters notes that a lame-duck Ronald Reagan spoke via TV to schoolchildren in 1988, and promoted tax cuts during the course of the discussion.

So let's check out some other examples of outrage.

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Supporters of action on climate change are still working to make hay out of those forged letters, sent by a Washington lobbying firm opposing a recent climate change bill.

The National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, American Progress Action Fund, the NAACP and the AAUW, a women's rights group, have set up a "hotline" where callers can leave tips about forged letters and other suspected trickery by industry lobbyists, reports The Hill.

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The anti-reform finger biting victim wouldn't speak to us here at TPM. But he would speak to FNC's Neil Cavuto just moments ago.

William J. Rice, 65, verified much of the story we've pieced together today. The pro-reform biter -- who Rice called "a deranged individual" -- had words with Rice at a small anti-reform demonstration across the street from a large pro-reform rally in southern California last night.

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