Thursday, September 3, 2009

Attempting to out-arson an arsonist (no, not about the Station fire)...

Erza Klein asks the question I've been asking all the last two weeks:

Matt Yglesias, explaining the tactical thinking of liberals who want to draw a line in the sand over the public option, writes, "If you become known as the guys who are always willing to be reasonable and fold while the Blue Dogs are the guys who are happy to let the world burn unless someone kisses your ring, then in the short-term your reasonableness will let some things get done but over the long-term you’ll get squeezed out."

This seems a bit like a firefighter attempting to out-arson an arsonist. The reason the Blue Dogs have a reputation for being happy to let the world burn is that they really, really, really are willing to let the world burn, let health care fail, let cap-and-trade die, let Iraq grind on. The reason liberals have a reputation for not wanting to let the world burn is that all the anti-burn initiatives under discussion are, in fact, items from their agenda. They really, really, really don't want the world to burn. It's possible they'll be able to do it once. But what happens then? The Blue Dogs, now distancing themselves from a party that seems to be plummeting in the polls, will happily abandon cap-and-trade, because that's their preferred position anyway. Will the liberals? What if we need another stimulus? The Blue Dogs don't want to support that bill. Attracting them will require all manner of concessions, if it's possible at all. Will the liberals kill that, too?

What, in other words, is the endgame of this strategy? The hope seems to be that Rahm Emanuel turns his attention to beating Blue Dogs, rather than liberals, into line. Maybe. But what makes people think that's possible? What's his actual leverage against vulnerable Democrats voting for initiatives their voters don't obviously support in districts Barack Obama didn't win at a time when the president is no longer popular?

There's no successful model for blunting the power of centrists to write -- or kill -- the final compromise. President after president has found himself foiled by congressional centrists. George W. Bush never truly managed to bring Susan Collins, George Voinovich, or Olympia Snowe to heel. His tax cuts were smaller than he wanted, his Medicare expansion was pricier than conservatives liked, and his attempt to privatize Social Security was batted back. Bill Clinton fared little better. The hardest votes are the people who don't fundamentally want to vote for your agenda, not the people who do. And those are always the votes you get last.

The outcome of this strategy, then, seems to be that the Democratic Party pretty much collapses into infighting and fails to pass its top priorities and loses a bunch of seats in the next election. The media explains that the liberal Nancy Pelosi and her liberal House Democrats caused the electoral disaster, or that Democrats couldn't agree on an agenda. Long term, I'm not sure who that helps.

Which gets back to the original question: Can you beat the Blue Dogs at their own game of final-stage obstruction? The reason they've chosen that game, after all, is because their incentives are well aligned to win it. Liberals need another game. Maybe it's primary challenges. That strategy has certainly worked against Arlen Specter, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Grassley. Liberal groups certainly have the money to mount five or six high-profile challenges a season. Maybe it's procedural changes meant to weaken the power of centrists. Maybe it's something else. Maybe it's all of these things. But it's hard to imagine that liberals will ever beat the Blue Dogs at their own game. The likelier outcome is that everybody loses.

The reason Erza's article was because I was checking out Nate Silver:

Ezra Klein is right about this: it's a legitimately tough decision for a Blue Dog as to whether to support health care or not. About two-thirds of Blue Dog Democrats voted against the health care packages as they were making their way out of the House tri-committee. They are not bluffing. Blue Dogs are not going to be persuaded by threats which imply that progressives would be willing to cause health care reform to fail -- that might have worked two months ago, when the health care bill had better numbers, but it has now become unpopular enough that they are probably largely indifferent to this possibility. Instead, they're going to be persuaded by evidence that the public option will make health care reform more popular in their districts: either directly (as with these polls showing that the public option itself is popular) or indirectly (by promoting cost-control). But to take an issue where public opinion is in your favor and to turn it into an ideological litmus test when you're facing an increasingly stiff headwind is almost certainly a mistake.

Problem is, no one on the Progressive side seems to be listening.

1994, and the "Compromise" that almost was...

Professor Brad DeLong, remembers:

Therefore, we in the Treasury thought that sometime—probably in the second quarter of 1994—Bentsen's personal policy staff would start feeling out Dole's personal policy staff on the issue. Then President Clinton would invite Sen. Dole to a private Oval Office meeting, after which Clinton would tell the cameras that the health-care legislative process had gotten bogged down and that he was seeking Sen. Dole's wise counsel to break the logjam.

Dole would then announce the Dole Compromise. This would provide the nation with desperately needed health-care reform. And it would provide Sen. Dole with a capstone achievement to a senate career that had been too often misspent spinning his wheels and backtracking.

As we all know, that scenario never happened. The Republican congressional delegation believed that President Clinton was in some sense illegitimate—Mr. 43%—having been elected only because Ross Perot hated George H.W. Bush and sabotaged his reelection. It was their business, they thought, to make Clinton's presidency appear a failure. And Sen. Dole, they said, needed to understand that his path to the Republican nomination and the White House lay not in sharing credit with Clinton for health-care reform but instead in advancing the Republican project of making Clinton's presidency appear a failure by blocking every single White House initiative they could.

Well, we all know how well 1996 turned out for Dole and the GOP.

Does anyone sense any McCain in all this?

And the lesson from all this?

The really interesting question is: What are America's senators now thinking, in the privacy of their vacation retreats or in the pandemonium of "town halls," about this ancient history? I have drawn what I think are appropriate lessons from it. First, Democratic senators do themselves no good either in the next world or in this when they block sensible initiatives from Democratic presidents. (But what lessons are Democrats Landrieu, Nelson, and Lincoln drawing?) Second, Republican senators do themselves no good either in this world or in the next when they block sensible initiatives from Democratic presidents. (But what lessons are Republicans Grassley, Voinovich, and Hatch drawing?)

Is Stevens set to retire?

Apparently, he's hired only one clerk, and that could be a tea-leaf...

WaPo: Newsflash...believe it or not, George Bush Compromised, too...

From Erza Klein:

The Bush Record of Tax Cuts, Failure and Betrayal

I'm not sure what good it does for progressives to delude themselves about Bush's success in passing pure domestic policy initiatives that easily overcame the opposition of Republican moderates, but the reality is that he saw his initiatives watered down at every turn.

Bush initially sought a $1.6 trillion tax cut. The votes didn't exist. So the price tag was reduced to $1.35 trillion, and since a filibuster looked unbreakable, the bill went through the budget reconciliation process, which meant that its deficit-increasing provisions — that is to say, most all of it — would sunset in 2010. For that reason, much of that bill evaporates this year. Interestingly, Olympia Snowe advocated a "trigger" option that year, too, which would have revoked the tax cuts if the budget surpluses were beneath expectations.

The 2003 tax cuts were trimmed from more than $700 billion to about $300 billion by a coalition of Senate moderates. Social Security privatization was, of course, quickly abandoned. Medicare Part D was loathed by many House conservatives. Tellingly, Dick Armey wrote an op-ed opposing it, and Tom DeLay had such trouble passing it over conservative objections that the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the tactics he used to pass it.

There's a sort of comfort in believing that George W. Bush got everything he wanted, because it suggests that if liberals could only emulate his tactics, they too could get everything they want. But Bush's domestic policy was appalling to most conservatives. His tax cuts were a victory, but he never matched them with spending cuts. No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and McCain-Feingold looked a lot more like liberal efforts to increase the welfare state than anything the Heritage Foundation would produce. Ted Kennedy, in fact, was a key mover in each of those bills, though he voted against the final version of the Medicare expansion. Social Security Privatization was a bust.

The Bush White House was very good at leveraging 9/11 to ensure congressional support for Middle East adventurism, but they didn't crack the code unlocking a compliant Congress for a hard-line conservative agenda. That's why most conservatives think their domestic policy was a mixture of tax cuts, failures and betrayals, and they're right about that. The problems posed by the Senate are part of the system, not specific to a particular party.

WaPo: Loundon County, out...

This country's ability to fix itself, rests solely in our desire to get itself fixed. With crap like this, I'm not seeing it.

Loudoun County school officials have decided not to air President Obama's back-to-school speech, scheduled for next Tuesday, and other area school systems are still uncertain how they will handle the address, which some parents are calling an inappropriate political intrusion into the school day.

TPM: Pinky victim will not be charged...

...even though he, you know...started it.

"He's more a victim at this point," [Capt. Ross Bonfiglio told TPM's Ben Frumin], even though "he was admittedly the primary aggressor."

"Nothing's black and white in a case like this," he said, noting that proportion can matter just as much as the order of events.

"If [bite victim, William J. Rice] was the initial aggressor and the guy cut his head off, it doesn't mean it was justified."

TPM: We're resorting to assault???

Oh boy. Coming after the Miami Times story, refering to an incident in Florida, something has also happened out here in L.A. (actually way out in Ventura County...very Conservative Country), only this time it was the Pro-Reform person assaulting the Anti-Reform person.

A KTLA report from a health care rally near Los Angeles last night may not include gun-toting protesters, but it does describe another sort of weapon: teeth. As in, a pro-reform protester used his teeth to bite off the finger of an anti-reformer.

According to KTLA, a group of anti-health care reform protesters set up across the street from about 100 pro-reform demonstrators at a rally. Apparently, a pro-reformer walking through the anti-reform group to join the rest of his gang got into an altercation with a 65-year-old man who was on the anti-health care team.

What happened next is not entirely clear. The initial report from KTLA, citing an unnamed witness, said the man who got his finger bitten off was walking through the anti-reform group to get to the pro-reform side and punched someone from the anti-reform side, who responded by biting off the pro-reformer's pinky.

UPDATE 2:03pm, Pacific: Pinky Man, hereafter indentified as William J. Rice, apparently threw the first punch.

Oh, and he had Medicare.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WaPo: Erza Klein on the Endgame...or the beginning of the endgame.

Two camps in the White House. One, focus on the package. Make it as universal as possible. These would be the policy people. Two, focus on getting the sucker passed. These would be the political people.

Let the games begin.

This is health-care reform's endgame, or close to it. Next Wednesday, Barack Obama will give a prime-time address before both houses of Congress. But that's not all he's giving Congress. The administration is going to put a plan down on paper. The question is what it will say.

Conversations with a number of White House officials make it clear that, at this point, even they don't know. The argument was raging as recently as last night, and appears to have hardened into two main camps. Both camps agree that the cost of the bill has to come down. The question is how much, and what can be sacrificed.

The first camp could be called "universal-lite." They're focused on preserving the basic shape of the bill. They think a universal plan is necessary for a number of reasons: For one thing, the insurance market regulations don't work without universality, as you can't really ask insurers to offer standard prices if the healthy and the young don't have to enter the system. For another, it will be easier to change subsidies or improve the benefit package down the road if the initial offerings prove inadequate. New numbers are easier than new features. Creating a robust structure is the most important thing. This camp seems to be largely headed by the policy people.

The second camp is not universal at all. This camp believes the bill needs to be scaled back sharply in order to ensure passage. Covering 20 million people isn't as good as covering 40 million people, but it's a whole lot better than letting the bill fall apart and covering no one at all. It's also a success of some sort, and it gives you something to build on. What that sacrifices in terms of structure it gains in terms of political appeal. This camp is largely headed by members of the political team.

Both camps accept that the administration's proposal will be less generous than what has emerged from either the HELP or House Committees. The question, it seems, is how much less generous.

The answer appears to hinge on Sen. Olympia Snowe. "I'm a Snowe-ite," joked one official. Her instincts on health care have proven quite a bit more liberal than those of many Democrats. In the Gang of Six meetings, she joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman in focusing on affordability and coverage — putting her, in practice, somewhat to the left of Conrad and Baucus. The problem is that Snowe is scared to be the sole Republican supporting this bill, not to mention the Republican who ensures the passage of this bill. The reprisals within her caucus could be tremendous.

If Snowe drops off the bill, using the budget reconciliation process will probably be a necessity. The bill then goes through Sen. Kent Conrad's Budget Committee, giving him much more power over the product. The absence of any Republicans repels at least a couple of conservative Democrats. Passage becomes much less certain, which means a scaled-back bill becomes much more likely. This is the irony of the health-care endgame: The bill becomes much more conservative if it loses its final Republican.

MSNBC: Chuck Todd interviews Axe (VIDEO)

David Axelrod (Axe) previews, however slightly, the President's Sept. 9th speech.

The Public Option? The President's position hasn't changed. He's maintaining its a part of the Health Insurance Exchange. It's not the entirety of the plan. It's there to promote competition.

"We feel strongly we need to introduce competition and choice..."

Bipartisanship? We're eager to work with anyone who wants to work with us.

How bad was August. It was less bad than you (newsmedia) guys seem to think.

Anything you want to back off on, because of August? Principles remain the same, and on that there can be no compromise.

Reconciliation? Wednesday isn't about a procedural discussion. It's laying out what we need to do.

My feeling is that one or two minutes of this interview will be broadcast on tonight's NBC Evening News. Just in case it is only one or two minutes, here's the whole thing:

TPM: So much for the Florida GOP

Honestly, is this really what you want? Is this really what the state of even non-political discourse should be?

I stand by what I said, and what Dan Savage said. There are Conservatives in this country fostering a level of discourse designed to result in the assassination of the President. When the head of the Florida GOP is encouraging parents to shield their children...from this:

The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.

Yeah. Terrifying stuff, that.

So what does Katie Gordon, Press Secretary for the Florida Republican Party have to say in response?

Well, I know that a lot of the President's ideas don't reflect my values and don't reflect the values that I would be teaching my children. And to be quite honest, there are a lot of the President's ideas that I wouldn't want my children discussing in a public school. It's not appropriate, the place for that is in the home.

The Florida GOP is convinced that the President's speech is nothing more than an indoctrination program for our youth.

This is from the press release by Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer.

As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.


While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.

If this is where we're at...

Miami Herald: They're resorting to assault...

From the Miami Herald:

A 65-year-old man rallying in favor of healthcare reform was knocked to the ground by a man who disagreed with the call for a government-run health plan outside of a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce meeting headlined by Sen. Bill Nelson.

Luis Perrero of Coral Gables was standing among about 40 Democratic activists and union workers when a man in a Ford pick-up truck pulled up to the rally at Jungle Island and began arguing with the crowd. The man, who only gave his first name as Raul, said Perrero called him a Spanish curse word. He punched Perrero in the face. Perrero fell to the ground and lay motionless for a few minutes.

And so it begins...

People have been wondering when the President's going on the attack, re: Health Care.

Well, September 9th, the President will address a joint Session of Congress.

How's that?

Even the Wall Street Journal...

Even the Wall Street Journal, whose news reporters are top notch, while their Editorial Page writers give tea-baggers a bad name:


U.S. Economy Gets Lift From Stimulus


Government efforts to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy appear to be helping the U.S. climb out of the worst recession in decades.

But there's little agreement about which programs are having the biggest impact. Some economists argue that efforts such as the Federal Reserve's aggressive buying of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities, as well as government efforts to shore up banks, are providing a bigger boost than the administration's $787 billion stimulus package.

The U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of improvement, with many economists asserting the worst is past and data pointing to stronger-than-expected growth. On Tuesday, data showed manufacturing grew in August for the first time in more than a year. "There's a method to the madness. We're getting out of this," said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight.

Much of the stimulus spending is just beginning to trickle through the economy, with spending expected to peak sometime later this year or in early 2010. The government has funneled about $60 billion of the $288 billion in promised tax cuts to U.S. households, while about $84 billion of the $499 billion in spending has been paid. About $200 billion has been promised to certain projects, such as infrastructure and energy projects.

Economists say the money out the door -- combined with the expectation of additional funds flowing soon -- is fueling growth above where it would have been without any government action.

Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter -- something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus.

Right you stand behind this??

Below, you'll find a compilation audio, courtesy of Crooks and Liars, of Pastor Steven Anderson rambling on about a variety of subjects, but the key for this website is the part where he directly advocates and prays for the death of Barack Obama.

Yeah, God appointed him to destroy this country for the wickedness of the United States of America. God appointed him because that's what our country has turned into. That's who we deserve as a president.

But let me tell you something: I don't love Barack Obama. I don't respect Barack Obama. I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight. Because he needs to recompense, he needs to reap what he's sown.

You see, any Christian will tell you that someone who commits murder should get the death penalty. Because that's what it says in Genesis Chapter 9, that's what it says in the Mosaic Law, that's what it teaches us throughout the Bible. 'Who so sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.' 'From the image of God created he Man.'

And when Barack Obama is gonna push his partial birth abortion, his salty saline solution abortion, hey, he deserves to be punished for what he's done. I'm not going to pray for God to bless Barack Obama. This is my prayer tonight to Barack Obama.

...Now, look, if somebody wants me, it somebody twisted my arm and tells me to pray for Barack Obama, this is what I'm going to pray, because this is the only prayer that applies to him: 'Break his teeth, O God, in his mouth. You know, as a snail which melteth, let him pass away. Like the untimely birth of a woman, that he thinks -- he calls it a woman's right to choose, you know, he thinks it's so wonderful. He ought to be aborted. It ought to be, 'Abort Obama.'

He continues:

Let me tell you something: Barack Obama has wrought lewdness in America. America has become lewd. What does lewd mean? L-E-W-D? [Pause] Obscene. Right? Dirty. Filthy. Homosexuality. Promiscuity. All of the -- everything that's on the billboard, the TV. Sensuality. Lewdness! We don't even know what lewdness means anymore! We're just surrounded by it, inundated with it!

... And yet you're going to tell me that I'm supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things -- you're gonna tell me I'm supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he's in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nope. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that's what I'm going to pray. And you say, 'Are you just saying that?' No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.

You say, 'Why would you do that?' That our country could be saved.

It's a fair question to ask at this point, if you are of a Conservative Persuasion, if you are a Republican, if you just don't like the President, do you stand behind this kind of rhetoric??

Okay fine. Odds are, you don't. Then why are you silent??

Going back eight years, I'll admit, I loathed President Bush. I hated his freakin' guts...but at no time did I pray or advocate for his death, or any sort of harm to come to his family.


I wanted to kick his ass at the ballot box.

I put up what stories I can find showing Republicans standing up this kind of stuff because frankly, I want to encourage more of it. But I got to tell you, it's kinda rare. It's disturbingly rare.

It's time to start calling this for what it is. It's time to face to facts. There are a number of Religious leaders, a number of Politicians, and certainly a number of Television Hosts (Glenn Beck comes immediately to mind), that are frankly trying to get the President killed.

I'd like to thank Dan Savage, who appeared on last night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and became the first white person I know of to say this publicly, on national TV. He says so at the 7:13 mark.

Dan is good people, and really fine journalist. He's was also the first journalist (much less, a Gay American) to come out an say that African-Americans were not to blame for the passage of California Prop. 8.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Root: Obama's Right Mistake...

Finally, a breath of fresh air, courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Bobo at The

Obama's Right Mistake
If everybody is mad at the president he must be doing all the right wrong things.

By: Lawrence Bobo
Posted: September 2, 2009 at 6:56 AM

President Barack Obama is being pilloried from all sides. The far left doesn’t understand why corporate America and Wall Street bankers have not yet been rendered penniless by the government. What remains of the so-called Clinton left can’t understand why anyone would have a civil conversation with a Republican. The independents and a dwindling number of thinking Republicans hear the continuous roar of criticism and are beginning to assume that, heck, there sure is a lot of smoke; therefore, there must be a fire. And the far right, of course, is locked in a blood-chilling howl of undying outrage at the fact that the president of the United States is not just a Democrat, but he’s an African American, too.

Through it all, Obama has persisted in the effort to be reasoned, to be bipartisan, and to do the work of the American people in a manner worthy of respect. If commentators like David Brooks are to be believed, Obama’s mistake is tilting too far to the left and losing the middle. If commentators like Paul Krugman are to be believed, Obama’s mistake is trying to do business with Republicans in the first place, and thus poorly serving his broad core constituency.

I don’t think either position is quite right. If Obama has made a mistake it has been, to borrow the title of writer Walter Mosley’s recent book, “the right mistake.” In general, Obama’s first months sought to fashion public policies the value of which all the American people can see and understand. Specifically with regard to the recent massive health care reform effort, he tried to keep Republicans in the tent to fashion a plan that Americans across the political spectrum can embrace. If this effort is failing, it is not because it was misguided or improper to make the attempt.

The deeper charge is that political naiveté and weakness are the real dilemmas now confronting Obama’s health care reform effort. Without attempting to parse every aspect of the evolving legislation, let me say that the real problem here is much simpler. It involves a noxious combination of a failed media, political extremists on the right and a seemingly natural inclination for vicious internal fighting on the left. The end result is stagnation at a moment when we as a nation can least afford it.

Of the three problems, the failures of the media irk me the most. Journalists do have an obligation to report “the news.” They must also strive to do so in a manner that is as free as possible of bias. This stricture, however, does not relieve the media of an equal obligation to show good judgment. The absurd and alarmist claims made by critics of the Obama health care reform plans were too long treated as serious charges. Moreover, the readiness to transmit to the world the image of Obama with Hitler’s mustache and to seriously treat claims that he is a “socialist,” or now, according to the bigot Rush Limbaugh, a “fascist,” border on the criminally reckless.

More important for me, Obama is the quintessential cosmopolite. He is the community organizer; the small ‘d’ democrat, the natural born bridge-builder, the true avatar of tolerance, civility and affirmation of common humanity. That American news media have played a largely passive role as extremists depict him as a Hitlerian proto-fascist is a shame that will not soon be undone. A truly pathetic performance all around by our major media outlets.

This brings me to the right-wing extremists. These people lost a free and fair election. Obama is right to sense that their hold on American politics will continue to diminish. Part of the “right mistake” here is for Obama to continue to hold out the hope and possibility of bipartisanship in order to reveal just how irrational, counterproductive, extreme and arguably dangerous many of the forces now driving the Republican Party have become. The moment reminds me less of the Clinton era’s failed health care reform effort and more of Newt Gingrich’s undoing as he sought to shut down the federal government. Clinton wisely let Gingrich’s destructive strategy play out. And it did so, thankfully, to Gingrich’s eventual undoing.

We all just spent several days extolling the career and accomplishments of the late Massachusetts senator, Ted Kennedy. He was the keeper of the liberal flame in American politics and yet managed regularly to work with Republicans on legislation that advanced his political commitments. There is much concern that the coming battle for successful health care reform will be much harder without his presence and the type of leadership he long provided.

And yet we don’t hear from the left that Kennedy failed his principles or core constituencies by having been such an effective bipartisan legislator. It puzzles and disappoints me that Obama faces such charges for attempting the same thing.

To be sure, the president has taken some unsure steps and committed some real errors in the handling of this issue. I share the view from some critics that Obama must now step out more strongly and clearly (and one hopes persuasively) with his message on health care reform. The moment for letting others carry the message is behind us. The president must take ownership of this issue and of the direction in which he wants this discussion to head.

As for Obama’s critics on the left, it may well be the case that the Republican Party is so thoroughly in the grip of extremists that “deal making” is impossible. I’m not convinced we’re quite at that point yet. For now, those on the left would do well to recognize the need to support Obama in this moment and in this particular fight rather than add to the embarrassing cacophony of self-indulgent critics.

Indeed, let me go a step farther and offer the modest proposal that those on the left recognize Obama as their best and finest hope, the keeper of the flame in our time, as Ted Kennedy did with his endorsement during the 2008 campaign. The effort at bipartisanship on health care reform may be nearing its end. But the fealty Obama has shown to creating such an ideological- and political party-spanning reach for a major policy change is in every respect the right mistake.

Lawrence Bobo is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.

WaPo: Noam Schreiber on Obama trying to be moderate and de-centralized...and how it doesn't matter

Courtesy Erza Klein (is it becoming obvious I read in clumps?), who posts a little ditty from Noam Schreiber (Editor of the New Republic).

David Brooks (on the "Obama Slide") apparently was wondering why Obama doesn't try to find a less "centralized" approach to his proposals.

Noam responded:

Do Obama's policies — both enacted and proposed — centralize power in Washington? Of course. No one who's fired up a television or Internet connection these last eight months could disagree. But the question is: relative to what? In almost every case I can think of, the administration has opted for a less-centralized approach to pursuing its goals than some obvious alternatives. Solving the bank crisis? Obama endorsed a convoluted asset-purchase plan rather than nationalization. Health care? True, the White House supports an exchange to cover people who don't get health care through their employers, and it prefers to see a public insurance option. But it wants to keep the employer-based system intact and shuns a single-payer plan, much less anything resembling a British-style government-run system. The environment? Obama supports cap-and-trade, which allows companies to distribute the burden of limiting carbon emissions amongst themselves according to which ones can do it most efficiently. The centralized alternative would have been a one-size-fits-all mandate from Washington.

All of these things do increase the role of government in the economy. But once you concede that the problems need to be addressed, there isn't much of an alternative. And Obama's approaches are pretty scrupulous about not increasing that role more than necessary, which seems to be the whole conceit. Sure, you could do these things in marginally less centralized ways. But, as Brooks concedes, that probably won't matter PR-wise, since, "Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does." So the idea that there's some less-centralized way of achieving Obama's goals that would be much more popular politically — which Brooks suggests — seems pretty unlikely to me.

Top ten reasons to support Health Insurance Reform...

I got this from Erza Klein's site on the Washington Post. The organization that cooked it up is called Families USA, a (surprise surprise) pro Health Insurance Reform Organization. They're responsbile for the following ad, which I've seen here and there on California Basic Cable, and elsewhere:

One of the reasons I put this up, instead of just linking to it, is that it's a PDF.

Mr. Klein notes that the Public Option, isn't number one this list. (It's way down there at number five).

1) A major expansion of Medicaid coverage—fully federally funded—for millions of low-income working families who currently fall through the cracks.

2) A regulated marketplace that clamps down on insurance company abuses so people can no longer be denied coverage.

3) Requirements that insurance companies spend more of the premium dollars they collect on patient care.

4) Sliding-scale subsidies so middle-class, working families can afford the coverage they need to keep their families healthy.

5) A strong public plan option that will provide choice, stability, and an honest yardstick to keep costs down.

6) Limits on out-of-pocket spending, giving Americans real health security and peace of mind.

7) Much-needed relief for small businesses so they can afford to offer coverage to their employees.

8) Improvements to Medicare that will help seniors and people with disabilities afford their drugs and their cost-sharing.

9) Better access to coverage for uninsured children so they can get the care they need

10) Long overdue steps to modernize the system, improve the quality of care provided, and curb unnecessary spending so our American health care system delivers the best possible care.

HuffPo: Actual sanity...from the right??

Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. But there it is.

Still...from a guy named Jon Henke, working at a site called The Next Right:

In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being "so far removed from common sense" and later said "We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner."

The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration. For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) - an otherwise respectable group that does important work - uses the WND email list. They should stop.

HuffPo: Maria Bartiromo is a stone cold idiot. Not only is she morally bankrupt, she's an idiot as well.

Earlier today, MSNBC's Carlos Watson hosted Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo for a discussion on health care.

At one point, Bartiromo was critical of the government-managed health care system in the United Kingdom. "How do I know the quality [of health care in the United States] is not going to suffer" with a public option? she asked.

Rep. Weiner reminded her that there already is government-managed health care in the United States -- namely, Medicare, the system created for Americans 65 years and older -- and that patients with Medicare report very high satisfaction rates.

Bartiromo's response to this argument was a true head-scratcher. In a mocking tone, she pressed the congressman: "How come you don't use it [Medicare]? You don't have it. How come you don't have it?"

Rep. Weiner, who turns 45 this week, tried to walk Bartiromo through it. "Because I'm not 65." But she was insistent. "Yeah... c'mon!" she exclaimed, laughing incredulously.

Huffington Post, of course, has the Video, which has to be seen to be believed.

They let her on the Air? Seriously?

Hell, they let her use kitchen utensils??

UPDATE: 2:57pm Pacific. Here's the video from Think Progress

TPM: The Perils of Reconcilliation...


As Senate leaders begin work on a Democrat-only health care bill, they're finding themselves confronted with an unexpected irony: Though the caucus has reached an uneasy consensus around a public option that's modeled in many ways after a private insurer, it may be necessary to make the public option more liberal, and thus, more politically radioactive, if it's to overcome a number of unique procedural hurdles.

This is the needle Democrats may have to thread if they want a public option, and at the same time, want to bypass a Republican filibuster. And the key for them will be keeping conservative Democrats on board.

"A very robust public option that scores significant savings would presumably be easy to justify doing through reconciliation," says a Senate Democratic aide. "But it is still being studied whether other, more moderate versions of a public option could pass parliamentary muster."

According to Martin Paone, a legislative expert who's helping Democrats map out legislative strategy, a more robust public option--one that sets low prices, and provides cheap, subsidized insurance to low- and middle-class consumers--would have an easier time surviving the procedural demands of the so-called reconciliation process. However, he cautions that the cost of subsidies "will have to be offset and if [the health care plan] loses money beyond will have to be sunsetted."

And there the irony continues: Some experts, including on Capitol Hill, believe that a more robust public option will generate crucial savings needed to keep health care reform in the black--and thus prevent it from expiring. But though that may solve the procedural problems, conservative Democrats have balked at the idea creating such a momentous government program, and if they defected in great numbers, they could imperil the entire reform package

It's a very technical conundrum with huge policy ramifications. So it's not surprising that Republicans are on to it, and preparing for war.

The story continues at Talking Points Memo.

Glenn Greenwald's defense of himself...

This is Glenn Greenwald's defense of yesterday's actions.

I'm sorry, but I'm not buying. Legally, he may be correct, but ethically??

However reprehensible Joe Klein's thoughts and statements were and are (they're certainly not polite), he still has a right to them. He still has a right to keep them private, if he so chooses. He still has a right to even a basic understanding of privacy. Is Glenn Greenwald really going to act as sole artiber, sole judge and jury to determine what should and shouldn't be held private? Apparently he is.

And in the end, no matter what Greenwald says Joe Klein wasn't discussing or setting Policy, which we as a collective group of citizenry have a right to know. One Journalists personal opinions about another? Is there really a "public interest" in knowing this? Especially when the Journalist being insulted is the apparently has sole determination of what the "public interest" apparently is?

This is no different that me and a bunch of friends getting together, and Glenn Greenwald or someone else reaching into the middle of that conversation with a tape recorder (secretly) and collecting our private thoughts and insights, then publishing them because he thought they were in the public interest. Sorry, this is the act of a scumbag. This is why I don't trust Greenwald, I don't trust his acolytes online, and look with building suspicion with those who solicit his opinions. I'm talking about you, Bill Moyers.

Klein's complaint that "twice in the past month, [his] private communications have been splashed about the internet" is revealing. The first incident was when he went to a beach party, spat a slew of insults (I'm not only a "civil liberties absolutist" but also "evil") in front of a group of people, all while speaking with an individual he didn't know but who happened to be a prolific and excellent blog commenter, sometimes blogger and I.F. Stone's granddaughter. She then wrote about what he said in a very widely-linked post. That's who Klein, in yesterday's post, bizarrely called a "rather pathetic woman acolyte of Greenwald's."

The second incident happened yesterday. Klein belongs to "Journolist," a secret online club where several hundred liberal journalists, pundits, bloggers, editors, policy experts and the like gather to discuss various matters, all organized by The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. It includes some of the most influential people in the profession. I'm not a member and never have been. Yesterday morning, one of the participants (whose identity I don't know) emailed me to advise me that Joe Klein was sending out extremely insulting and derogatory emails to the entire group about me, and forwarded that email discussion to me, telling me he thought it was wrong that I was being repeatedly attacked by Klein in front of hundreds of people -- including many people who are my colleagues and peers -- without my knowledge and without being able to defend myself. He told me I could do whatever I thought was best with what he sent. I then posted some of those emails on a site I use to post documents, and briefly mentioned it on Twitter. That -- a political rant in front of strangers on a beach and an insult fest sent to hundreds of journalists -- are the ostensibly "private communications" to which Klein is referring.

I don't think there's anything wrong at all with journalists emailing one other to discuss various political issues as they do on Journolist. Journalists, like everyone else, are entitled to have private conversations, and privacy can facilitate more candid discussions. But when hundreds of highly influential opinion-makers gather to talk about politics, that is a matter of public interest. If participants in that discussion agree to keep the discussions confidential, they should abide by that. But the rest of the world isn't bound to honor that secrecy. That's what journalism and leaks are about: disclosing and publishing other people's secrets that are a matter of public interest. That's what journalists do all the time, or at least should do: inform the public what powerful people are saying and doing in "private." Unless you're Tim Russert, you don't need "permission" or "authorization" to publish what you learn. Beyond that, the very idea that someone has the right to attack and insult someone who isn't present in front of hundreds of people -- and then demand that the entire world, including the target of the attacks, honor that discussion as secret and private, that the target has no right to publicize it or respond -- is ludicrous beyond words.

Monday, August 31, 2009

"It is liberating, however, to finally shed the dead weight of Grassley's know-nothingism and cowardice." (VIDEO)

From Joe Klein:

Looks like the charade of including Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi in the health care negotiations is over. It is not impossible that other Republicans who are not Senators from Maine can be located to support health care reform. But it's also entirely possible that the Republicans will continue their kamikaze ways and oppose a reform that is likely to prove very popular with the American public when it's enacted (which is why, in truth, the GOP nihilists oppose it).

There are still some real problems the legislation is facing, especially if the rougher edges of the House bill--insufficient attention to cost controls, the public option--aren't sanded down. More than a few Democratic Senators and Representatives are going to have to summon a bit of courage to vote for any form of health reform, especially those from moderate to conservative states (like Arkansas where 55% prefer Rush Limbaugh's vision of America to Barack Obama's, according to a recent poll). But it should be possible to find a more plausible funding source now, like the President's wise proposal that tax deductions for the wealthy be limited to the same rate as paid by the middle class. My guess is that the final bill will enable the Democratic caucus to be fairly united on this, and that a few Republicans will join in--and that we will have health care reform this year. It is liberating, however, to finally shed the dead weight of Grassley's know-nothingism and cowardice.

From the White House, today:

Erza Klein of the Washington Post:

The question of whether Grassley wants to compromise on health care is increasingly being overtaken by the reality that Grassley is not leaving himself political room to compromise on health care. He is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama's health-care reform effort. It is not clear how he could pivot to save it, even if he wanted to do so. And given the unique role Grassley occupies as the senior partner in Max Baucus's bipartisan process, the bare-knuckled partisanship of Grassley's letter does not suggest that his political team is readying itself to sell a compromise.

For once, insanity that's not coming from Texas...

Courtesy of the University of Toledo:

UT College Republicans are compiling a list of liberal professors who they claimed have a bias against conservative students.

The list will include professors who students say have let their political views interfere with the way they interact with students in the classroom.

UT College Republicans President Matt Rubin, a junior majoring in political science and public administration, said the list is not an attempt to bash professors who have liberal ideas, but instead, it is an attempt to speak out for students who may have been victims of the bias, which was then reflected in their grade.

Time: Joe Klein vs. Glenn Greenwald.

Listen, I acknowledge that I'm a bit of an anomaly, I'm a Liberal who can't stand Glenn Greenwald. Sorry. I think he's an impratical a-hole, an armchair leftist, if you will.

Well imagine my surprise when I see this blogposting from the Kos at his midday open thread. I'll summarize, while quoting it exactly:

Joe Klein, Asshole.

Ooookay, I says to myself. What'd Joe do now?

I click on the link (where it says asshole), and prepared to open up whatever Time Magazine column to see what the deal is.

Only I'm not opening up Time Magazine's webpage, I'm opening up something called UT Documents. (And I have no idea what UT stands for.)

Now, clearly UT Documents a site (it's even using the same template as good ol' Fort McHenry here). I think it's run by Glenn Greenwald. I say that because is his name and bio is up top.

And what follows that is a running email exchange between Joe Klein and Glenn Greenwald.


Now, Glenn holds himself to the highest Journalistic standards. Well, acutally, he spends a lot of time demanding others hold to these high Journalistic standards. So my first question is, did he let Joe Klein know he was going to publish this email exchange?

A disclosure of this nature isn't subject to flexible journalistic standards, which Glenn is apparently now displaying. Either he told Joe or he didn't. If he didn't, not cool. Not cool at all.

I just checked, and Glenn's last posting was August 30th, 2009. Yesterday. And as I've posted before...that posting about D.C. Nepotism was bang on target.

So, as I said...not cool at all.

Joe Klein (not surprisingly) concurs:

Twice in the past month, my private communications have been splashed about the internet. That such a thing would happen is unfortunate, and dishonorable, but sadly inevitable, I suppose. I ignored the first case, in which a rather pathetic woman acolyte of Greenwald's published a hyperbolic account of a conversation I had with her at a beach picnic on Cape Cod. Now, Greenwald himself has published private emails of mine that were part of a conversation taking place on a list-serve. In one of those emails, I say that Greenwald "cares not a whit for America's national security."

Oh my God, Glenn. You've put me in the position of having to defend über-insider Joe Klein. Think about that.

For the past several years, Greenwald has conducted a persistent, malicious campaign to distort who I am and where I stand. He is a mean-spirited, graceless bully. During that time, I have never seen him write a positive sentence about the US military, which has transformed itself dramatically for the better since Rumsfeld's departure (indeed, he ridiculed me when I reported that the situation in Anbar Province was turning around in 2007). I have never seen him acknowledge that the work of the clandestine service—performed disgracefully by the CIA during the early Bush years—is an absolute necessity in a world where terrorists have the capability to attack us at any time, in almost any place. Nor have I seen [him] acknowledge that such a threat exists, nor make a single positive suggestion about how to confront that threat in ways that might conform to his views. Therefore, I have seen no evidence that he cares one whit about the national security of the United States. It is not hyperbole, it is a fact.

In the end Joe does summarize his feelings about Glenn Greenwald. Oddly, they reflect my own (for the most part):

I am not a religious reader of Greenwald--he does go on, and on--and it's possible that I missed extensive posts in which he praises the Armed Forces or makes positive suggestions about how to track possible communications between terrorists abroad and their confederates here. But I sort of doubt that. What I have seen from him, ad nauseum, are intemperate attacks in which he questions the character of--no, it's worse than that: he slimes--anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

I agree with Greenwald on some things, and appreciate his insights on others. But he is a thoroughly dishonorable person--as he proved by releasing my private emails--and, when it comes to his oft-trumpeted belief in the right to privacy, a stone hypocrite as well.

I'm sorry if this offends people who are fans of Glenn Greenwald. But my problem isn't really what he complains's how he complains. It's how he draws lines in the sand, its Joe put it...he attacks anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him. He doesn't try to probe, understand, negotiate or...reason; all does is attack. This is a pattern with him.

And in this case, like Joe said, he seems to have added hypocrisy to the list.

Nate Silver: And since we're on the subject...

Nate from the same article as before:

The thing is, though, that Obama's approval rating haven fallen to 50 percent is not particularly newsworthy. There's no reason that a drop from 51 percent to 50 percent, or from 50 percent to 49 percent, means anything particularly more than a drop from 58 percent to 57 percent, or from 37 percent to 36 percent.

First of all, although I'm on record as being quite pessimistic about what's liable to happen to the Democrats in 2010, odds are that Obama's approval will have to be somewhat worse than 50 percent for the Democrats to lose the House. The relationship between Presidential approval and his party's fate at the midterm elections is quite linear. An approval rating of 50 percent would typically be associated with a loss of about 26 seats:

The Democrats, however, currently have a 78-seat advantage in the House, meaning that it would take a 39-seat loss for them to lose control of the chamber. The over-under for how unpopular Obama would have to be in order to be more likely than not to cost his party those seats is not 50 percent -- it's probably more like 42 percent. Now, certainly, there's some margin for uncertainty there: Dwight Eisenhower's Republicans, in '58, lost nearly 50 seats even though his approval was in the high 50's. But the point is, there's nothing particularly magical about Obama being above or below 50.

Likewise, Obama can probably afford an approval rating below 50 percent and still be a favorite to win re-election in 2012. George W. Bush won in 2004 with an approval rating of 48 percent, and Harry Truman won in what was considered a huge upset in 1948 with an approval number that had last been tested at 39 percent, although that poll was several months old at the time of the election.

Nate Silver: Fox Hell...

Nate Silver on his experience with Fox and Friends this morning:

As for that interview, incidentally, it was one of the more aggravating experiences that I've had in my brief "career" in politics. The host misread his teleprompter (that's the generous interpretation), introducing me as someone who had correctly predicted "29 out of 50" states last November, and then recited a series of pre-spun questions, seeming flummoxed afterward that I hadn't agreed verbatim with his talking points and complaining aloud that the very smart conservative who was supposed to have been on the panel with me (a last-minute cancellation) hadn't been there (to "balance" me, I suppose). Then as I was leaving the studio past a huge trailer serving Johnsonville Brats, they launched into a segment about Britney Spears and Alzhemier's. There was just no pretense of trying to do anything even vaguely resembling the news. I'm not reflexively anti-FOX; in fact, I'd had a couple of good experiences last year on Shepherd Smith and on their business channel. But as for their morning program: Wow. I've never met people more terrified of what might happen if they actually tried to engage in a rational discussion.

Salon: D.C. Nepotism

I'm not a Glenn Greenwald fan, but this was funny.

They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from.

Media Matters: Excuse me?!?!?

Racist Glenn Beck, today:

They think they -- and they -- they -- you know what? At this point, gang, I'm not sure, they may be able to because they are so far ahead of us. They know what they're dealing against; most of America does not yet. Most of America doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. There is a coup going on. There is a stealing of America, and the way it is done, it has been done through the -- the guise of an election, but they lied to us the entire time.

Let's be honest. Rather than let a black man be elected President, we are being subjected to rhetoric like this.


New term...Tenthers.

We've had Birthers (those who don't believe the President was born in the United States, or worse yet, those who don't believe Hawaii is a state). We've had Deathers (those who believe in the so-called Death Panels, i.e. Sarah Palin). And now we have...Tenthers.

What are Tenthers, exactly?

If you believe that the Tenth Amendment forbids ALL spending programs and ALL regulations on the part of the Federal Government, then you sir and/or ma'am...are a Tenther.

Indeed, while "birther" conspiracy theorists dominate the airwaves with tales of a mystical Kenyan baby smuggled into Hawaii just days after his birth, these "tenther" constitutionalists offer a theory that is no less radical but infinitely more dangerous.

Tentherism, in a nutshell, proclaims that New Deal-era reformers led an unlawful coup against the "True Constitution," exploiting Depression-born desperation to expand the federal government's powers beyond recognition. Under the tenther constitution, Barack Obama's health-care reform is forbidden, as is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The federal minimum wage is a crime against state sovereignty; the federal ban on workplace discrimination and whites-only lunch counters is an unlawful encroachment on local businesses.

Tenthers divine all this from the brief language of the 10th Amendment, which provides that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In layman's terms, this simply means that the Constitution contains an itemized list of federal powers -- such as the power to regulate interstate commerce or establish post offices or make war on foreign nations -- and anything not contained in that list is beyond Congress' authority.

The tenther constitution, however, reads each of these powers very narrowly -- too narrowly, it turns out, to permit much of the progress of the last century. As the nation emerges from the worst economic downturn in three generations, the tenthers would strip away the very reforms and economic regulations that beat back the Great Depression, and they would hamstring any attempt to enact new progressive legislation.

TPM: Oh, Secret Service...

Chris Broughton, the Chris B. from previous stories, the African-American right wing Terrorist who brought an AR-15 rifle and a handgun to an Arizona Obama rally earlier this month, says he "concurs" with his fundamentalist pastor's prayer for President Obama "to die and go to hell."

Just as a tip to the Secret Service, there's more work for you to do.

HuffPo: Jawdropper of an Ad (VIDEO)

Republican goes after a Republican in support of the Public Option:

In going after one of the key Republican negotiators in the Senate their goal is twofold: To exert a political price for opposing President Obama's agenda and to persuade Democrats that Grassley is not negotiating in good faith.

To deliver the message, PCCC and DFA have an ideal narrator. Kevin Shilling of Greenfield, Iowa, starts the ad by noting that he "voted for Reagan, Nixon, George W. Bush and Senator Chuck Grassley too."

"I served my country for over 24 years in the army," he says. "I've talked to friends and neighbors around Iowa and one thing is clear. No matter what the politicians in Washington D.C. say, Democrats and Republicans back home want the public insurance option."

"I voted for Senator Grassley in the past," Shilling adds. "But when Grassley takes over $2 million from the big health and insurance industries that oppose reform and then says he won't give Iowans the choice of a public option, I have to ask: Senator, whose side are you on?"