Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Gee, can you blame him??
As a child in Armenia, Henry Gasparian witnessed firsthand the horrors of Nazi Germany. Two uncles were killed, his father wounded and a brother starved to death during the German invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union. So when Gasparian, 70, of Edmonds, saw a poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache near the entrance to the Edmonds Farmers Market on Sept. 5, he admits that his reaction was "personal and emotional."
He tried to grab the fliers being passed out by supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, a perennial presidential candidate who has likened Obama's health-care proposals to the Nazi extermination of Jews and other "undesirables."
Two young LaRouche supporters told police that Gasparian repeatedly pushed them and grabbed one of their arms. Gasparian said it was they who first pushed him.
Now Gasparian is charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in Edmonds Municipal Court for what he describes as an attempt by "an old man to say you cannot insult the president with this outrageous campaign."
He wished us good luck in football (against the MTSU Blue Raiders for pity's sake), and said he might rub Testudo's nose.
Forgive the Low-Def feed...apparently...someone at Maryland didn't spring for HD Cameras.
Any comments there, Dad?
UPDATE: 3:54pm Pacific: This is from the Washington Post story, which explains the President's momentary "what's going on there" confusion in the first half of the speech:
The crowd was overwhelmingly friendly to the president -- Obama interrupted his speech to reply, "I love you too," to one person in the audience who had called out to him -- but one heckler caused Obama to briefly pause and ask what the commotion was. The protester was in the back of the arena, however, and the president continued talking. When security officers escorted the man out, the rest of the audience stood and cheered.
No explanation as to why MSNBC chose to edit the speech with that dissolve in the middle.
But Baucus now has a legitimacy problem. A dealmaker needs credibility and respect on both sides, and Baucus has lost it. The Democrats on his committee don't trust his instincts or his core commitments or his legislative skill. Nor do the Democrats outside his committee. They feel he gave away too much in return for not just too little, but nothing at all. That means the Republicans on his committee have further reason to distrust his ability to make a deal, because restive Democrats are going to want to change his bill. Meanwhile, House Democrats are enraged that he left them to suffer through August, and have little interest in passing a bipartisan compromise that doesn't come with any Republican votes.
Attacking Baucus, in fact, has become an applause line for liberals: Gerald McEntee, president of the powerful AFCSME union, responded to Baucus's proposal by leading delegates at the AFL-CIO's annual convention in a chant of "bulls**t." The blog response hasn't been much better.
Indeed, the only group that does seem happy with Baucus, or at least relatively forgiving of him, is the White House. They think he tried to get bipartisan support, and though failure was regrettable and delaying the August deadline was damaging, the effort had enough potential upside that it was worth trying. At the very least, it exposed Republicans as unwilling to cooperate, and demonstrated that Democrats had indeed been willing to reach out. They're also very happy he's given them a framework that CBO has scored as not only deficit-neutral, but deficit-improving.
But that leaves Baucus with little evident power at this juncture. Even within his committee, it's not obvious he can secure the votes of the liberals, and if he does, he almost certainly sacrifices Snowe. That means the White House and the Senate leadership are going to play the primary role in both offering concessions and guaranteeing their preservation in the process. The bill remains in Max Baucus's committee, but at this point, it's largely out of his hands.
I actually find Grassley's behavior throughout all this a bit shocking. Grassley's friendship with Baucus is long and deep. And he has made Baucus look like a weak, ineffectual fool. He has absolutely hung him out to dry.
Baucus assumed enormous personal risk to try and secure Grassley's support. He formed the "Gang of Six," infuriating the other members of his committee. He blew through the White House's August deadline, angering Senate Democrats and harming the White House. He compromised on a raft of liberal priorities, infuriating the Democratic base. And he got ... nothing.
Less than nothing, in fact. Grassley went on TV to trash the Democratic bills and proclaim that he was closed to an actual compromise. He let Baucus end the process with a compromised bill and not a single vote of confidence from his Republican colleagues. He made Baucus look like a knave. If there was any evidence that Grassley hated Baucus and wished him ill, it would count as one of the truly masterful political defenestrations in recent decades.
But I love the Murdoch Street Journal's opening paragraphs on this:
Protesters who attended Saturday’s Tea Party rally in Washington found a new reason to be upset: Apparently they are unhappy with the level of service provided by the subway system.
Rep. Kevin Brady asked for an explanation of why the government-run subway system didn’t, in his view, adequately prepare for this past weekend’s rally to protest government spending and government services.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
JONATHAN ALTER: Well, I think he‘s right. Not in every case. It‘s very important to say that many—maybe most people who oppose President Obama do not do so on the basis of race.
But clearly, a significant number, there is a—for a significant number, there‘s a racial factor. And I think you have to include Joe Wilson in that. If you look at his background, he was one of the big advocates of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. He thought that it was wrong for Strom Thurmond‘s illegitimate daughter to come forward because it was something to be ashamed of.
RACHEL MADDOW: He said it was a smear, right?
JONATHAN ALTER: And—so there is some indication—I think Maureen Dowd was right that when he said “You lie,” it was almost like, “You lie, boy.” It does fit a certain pattern of southern racism in this particular case.
But it‘s important not to extrapolate that out to all criticism of the president. It clearly has added an intensity to this, though. If you‘re disagreeing with health care policy, this level of anger has to come from someplace deep and ugly and in our—in our history and that, of course, race is the great stain on our history.
The co-ops have never been a satisfying alternative to the public option. But the version in Baucus's bill isn't even a satisfying alternative to the co-op option. It's a neutered version of the co-op idea, which was in turn a neutered version of the public option.
The co-ops are on the state level, with each state pretty much required to have one. The 50 co-ops can then band together to leverage their national purchasing power. Sounds good, right? Sort of.
The co-ops can only compete in the small group and individual markets. That is to say, if the co-ops prove effective, and The Washington Post would like to offer co-op coverage as an option to its workers, it can't. The co-ops are not allowed to contract with large employers, which is to say, they can't compete with private insurers in the largest market, and they can't get the purchasing power that would come from a serious foothold among corporate customers.
Not only is their size restricted, so too is what they can do with their size. The co-ops can band together to increase their purchasing power, but they can't set national payment rates for their members, a la Medicare. As I understand it, they have to bargain with each provider and drug manufacturer and hospital and so forth separately, meaning they're denied one of the main advantages of size. The insurance industry is, in other words, being protected from not just public competition, but co-op competition.
Yeah, this idea is dead on arrival.
A student on a Belleville West High School bus was beaten for his choice of seat, not because he was white, according to a witness and police. "The incident appears now to be more about a couple of bullies on a bus dictating where people sit," said Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax, who originally said Monday's attack may have been racially motivated. D'Vante Lott, 16, said he was on the bus and witnessed the attack by the two black students. The victim walked onto the bus, looking for an open seat, but students kept turning him down, as D'Vante said happened often with this student. But Monday, the victim apparently tired of asking for a seat, D'Vante said, moved one student's book-bag off a seat, and just sat down.
Let me ask the same question Sullivan asked: Where's the retraction from Limbaugh and Malkin?
Max Baucus will release the Chairman's Mark -- the official first draft of his bill -- later today. But things are not going according to plan. He's got a bill full of the compromises meant to attract Republican support, but no Republican support. Not even Olympia Snowe, at this point, has committed to backing the bill.
Meanwhile, the framework has conceded enough to the GOP that it's also losing Democratic support, including that of Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Finance Committee's Health Care Subcommittee. And Rockefeller says that four to six Democrats on the committee feel similarly. Baucus is thus caught between a rock and a hard place. The absence of any Republican support makes it hard for him to justify his compromises. And his compromises make it hard for the Democrats on the committee to support his bill.
Nate Silver (oh, and I just have to add the title for this one):
Baucus Compromise Bill Draws Enthusiastic Support of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
Negotiations are funny things. Sometimes the scariest moments come when you're closest to a settlement, as all sides feel emboldened to take the last opportunity to demonstrate resolve. Leverage in a negotiation is not necessarily a zero-sum affair, since nobody has any leverage if there's no hope to reach an agreement. So some of this maneuvering, perhaps, is a reflection of the bill moving closer to passage and not further away.
But let's be clear -- some of this is Baucus's chickens coming home to roost. When you make a unilateral decision to negotiate with only five other people from a 23-person committee and 100-person Senate, and two of those five people have clear electoral disincentives against supporting any plan that you might come up with, the negotiations are liable to end in failure far more often than not. The flurry of on-the-record statements against Baucus's reform plans -- not "leaks", not trial balloons -- points toward a defective process.
And that may suit Democrats just fine. There are at least three other starting points for a final showdown over health care: the House Tri-Committee bill, the Senate HELP bill, and possibly also the White's House's statement of principles, some of which remain vaguely defined. Many of the objections raised to BaucusCare would necessarily apply to one or more of those bills too -- but they'd appear to be starting from no worse a position than Baucus's plan itself.
And finally, Andrew Sullivan:
The pattern is now clear: the imperative to play the political game has won on the right. The longer-term pattern is just as clear: a faction of congressional Democrats sometimes backed Bush on his initiatives (such as his tax cuts). No one in the Congressional Limbaugh-run GOP will back anything this president does. Not only that; they will assault him, race-bait him and insult him in a continuous reel of populist bile.
It seems to me that the GOP was once recognizable as a human personality. It had an id; but it also had a series of responsible egos - Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush I and, to some extent, Bush II; and it had a super-ego - some kind of conscience that made it think of the broader society over partisan warfare. What we've seen in the last few years is the removal of both ego and super-ego.
And, Andrew adds:
I suspect we will see a few more twists and turns on this yet - and even a left-liberal revival.
Well, in the words of the current President...yes we can.
And best of all, that left-liberal revival can only mean one thing.
We're down to four options, on containing the ever rising costs of Health Care Premiums:
1) The Public Option
2) The Public Option - with a Trigger
Right now, No. 4 is the only one off the table. One of the quiet games the President has played, and in this case played very well, is repeating in his speech of September 9th, in his Rally in Minnesota, and on 60 Minutes: I will not compromise on some means to contain costs.
The President on Sept. 9th:
It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated - by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end - and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another nonprofit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.
The President on 60 Minutes:
Look, I have tried as much as possible in the plan that we've designed to make sure that the best ideas are out there. I have no interest in having a bill get passed that fails. That doesn't work. You know, I intend to be President for a while, and once this bill passes, I own it. And if people look and say, "You know what? This hasn't reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25 percent, insurance companies are still jerking me around," I'm the one who's going to be held responsible.
To paraphrase: "Insurance Premium costs are going up way too fast. We need a way to check them. My way is the Public Option. If you find that unacceptable, fine. Come up with a plan of your own, but make no mistake...there will be a mechanism to check costs in this Health Care bill."
As crazy as it is to say, right now, of those four options, the Public Option, is starting to rocket back to the top of the heap again.
Susan Collins has said no to Public Option, and Public Option with a trigger, and seems to be talking herself right out of the discussion. She seems to be a no vote at this point.
Olympia is game enough for a trigger, but doesn't want to be the only Republican voting for the bill. She's also going to vote no (as it stands) on the Baucus Bill, which renders her pretty much useless as well.
And every other Republican is acting like...well, the way Andrew Sullivan just described.
The only option left to get anything passed out of the Senate is going to Reconciliation, and to get a bill passed with Reconciliation, means that the money saving provisions of the Health Care Bill will have to be strengthened.
And one of the biggest money saving provisions...believe it or not...is the Public Option.
The CBO has scored the Health Care Plans cheaper with a Public Option than without one.
Time to start paying special attention to the Parliamentarian of the Senate, and the Byrd Rule.
This is where I think we're headed at this hour. Health Care Reform with an actual, robust Public Option, passed by Reconcilation. Granted, it will sunset in five years (thank you, Kent Conrad, you useless sack of...), but I dare the Republicans to try and take it away once its passed.
There is still the possibility of a No. 5 Option, but no one knows what that is.
One of the ideas I have, as a No. 5 is a straight cap on Premiums. We as Americans say, that's it. Insurance Companies can only charge X amount per month, that's it. If you go out of business as a result...tough @#$%.
(Like the Insurance Companies have shown so much concern for Americans going into Bankruptcy to pay for their weak-tea product.)
A Premium cap would sure as hell contain costs. Of course the Free Market Conservatives will howl and bitch, but...we can turn around at that point and remind them, we tried a Free Market solution...it was called the Public Option, and y'all said no.
And thus we come to the irony of our situation, by drawing a line in the sand to stop the Public Option, the GOP might wind up making it far, far stronger.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Kaiser Family Foundation's latest Employer Benefits Survey is out, and they've got some numbers worth remembering.
The average cost of a family health insurance policy in 2009 was $13,375.
Over the past ten years, premiums have increased by 131 percent, while wages have grown 38 percent and inflation has grown 28 percent.
If health-care costs grow as fast as they have over the past five years, the average premium for a family policy in 2019 will be $24,180. If they grow as fast as they have over the past 10 years, premiums in 2019 will average $30,803.No one quite knows when, or how, the system will crumble. But make no mistake. At this rate of increase, it will, eventually, crumble. Want more numbers? They're here.
I'm currently a Kaiser Member here in California, having the premiums paid for by my company. When I first got dropped off of my Dad's Cobra waaaay back in the early-mid nineties, I joined because it was the cheapest...at $140 dollars a month, which I though at the time was insane.
Last year, I went checking it again, and it was $260 dollars a month.
Yeah, like the President said...this is unsustainable.
[32 year old Josh] Hendrickson showed up to the event with a Glock in a holster, and a Kel Tec 380 -- known for its light weight and "manageable recoil" -- in his back pocket. The local police and the Secret Service question Hendrickson after seeing the outline of a gun in his camo shirt, he said.
But, Hendrickson told the Star-Tribune he was not inspired by the gun-toters who showed up to Obama events in August. He just wanted to make the same point they wanted to make: "The Second Amendment isn't suspended just because the president's in town."
Hendrickson then revealed to the Strib reporter that he recently got out of jail.
Monday, September 14, 2009
You know, I didn‘t listen to Rush today, Keith, but here in Washington, I did listen to some African-American talk radio. There‘s another phenomenon out there, which is, in black America, they are noticing that the very first president in the television age to be heckled, the first president to suffer a heckling in that situation is the first black president. That has not gone unnoticed. There is a very particular offense being taken in the African-American community tonight.
While the implication that Mr. O'Donnell spoke of was already well known in the black community, going back to the campaign in fact, it's still a good to see it being noticed in the white community as well.
But Mr. O'Donnell did not stop there.
He continued on Friday Nights (Sept. 11, 2009) Countdown, along the same lines, with an assist from Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune:
O‘DONNELL: And finally, Clarence, tell us, how does it land in the black community when a southern white congressman heckles the first black president of the United States in an address to Congress?
PAGE: Well, it doesn‘t sit well, as you well might imagine. I mean, it was interesting to see the cameras swing over. Look at the picture of Joe Wilson there that was caught in action and what you see, one white guy in a suit surrounded by white guys in suits.
I mean, as much as people say, well, race doesn‘t matter and I don‘t see race, blah blah blah, hey, Republican leaders can‘t be so naive that they don‘t see that that‘s not the kind of image that they want to put forth at a time they‘re trying to broaden their appeal.
So this is something that, as far as African-Americans are concerned, and a lot of other people—I've had more white people come to me saying, wasn‘t that outrageous, what happened? Don‘t you think that‘s racist? It‘s really quite remarkable.
I‘ve told several friends, well, welcome to my world, you know. I get accused of seeing things through a lens of race, but that‘s kind of the way African-Americans have learned the hard way to see developments in America.
And you have to wonder, the first time somebody has called the president a liar to his face in a joint session, it had to be the black president.
While Laurence O'Donnell stopped there...it hasn't stopped there.
Barry Obama of the post-’60s Hawaiian ’hood did not live through the major racial struggles in American history. Maybe he had a problem relating to his white basketball coach or catching a cab in New York, but he never got beaten up for being black.
Now he’s at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension. Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.
For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.
Glenn Greenwald, of course, think race isn't that much of a factor. (Which is why I continue to think he's a self-serving moron).
Other than the fact that Obama's race intensifies the hatred in some precincts, nothing that the Right is doing now is new. This is who they are and what they do -- and that's been true for many years, for decades. Even the allegedly "unprecedented" behavior at Obama's speech isn't really unprecedented; although nobody yelled "you lie," Republicans routinely booed and heckled Clinton when he spoke to Congress because they didn't think he was legitimately the President (only for Ted Koppel to claim that it was something "no one at this table has ever heard before" when Democrats, in 2005, booed Bush's Social Security privatization proposal during a speech to Congress).
Ta-Nehisi Coates, partially responding to Glenn Greenwald. (Oh, and yes...he's black, as if you couldn't tell).
If we concede, as most reasonable people do, that racism is a factor--not the factor but a factor--in resistance to Obama, then in fact, what we've seen this year is, by the very nature of an Obama presidency, unprecedented. Put simply, we've seen the crazy-tax, of which race is a portion, before. But we've never seen the crazy-tax intensified by race. We have not seen it accompanied by watermelon jokes, by Congressmen referring to him as boy, by clucking heads claiming that the president "has exposed himself as someone with a deep-seated hated of white people." We've never seen the whitey tape, before.
There's a tendency to lump anti-black racism in with all the serious problems presented when you try to make a democracy work. There is always a danger of becoming single-minded, of bringing to bear a myopic analysis which sees one thing in everything. Moreover, watermelon jokes are a long way from red-lining, and in seeing how far we've come, the temptation is to dismiss how far we have to go. But from a black perspective, it's a temptation you can ill-afford. Racism cost us dollars a half-century ago. Today it costs us quarters--but it still costs.
Don't let the grinding familiarity of Obama blind you to the profound times we live in, and the work that's still left to do. We've never had a black president before. This is without precedent. We've also never had anti-Semitic white supremacists shooting up the Holocaust Museum. This, too, is unprecedented.
At the same time, what we must do now goes beyond just these reforms. For what took place one year ago was not merely a failure of regulation or legislation; it was not merely a failure of oversight or foresight. It was a failure of responsibility that allowed Washington to become a place where problems - including structural problems in our financial system - were ignored rather than solved. It was a failure of responsibility that led homebuyers and derivative traders alike to take reckless risks they couldn't afford. It was a collective failure of responsibility in Washington, on Wall Street, and across America that led to the near-collapse of our financial system one year ago.
Restoring a willingness to take responsibility - even when it is hard - is at the heart of what we must do. Here on Wall Street, you have a responsibility. The reforms I've laid out will pass and these changes will become law. But one of the most important ways to rebuild the system stronger than before is to rebuild trust stronger than before - and you do not have to wait for a new law to do that. You don't have to wait to use plain language in your dealings with consumers. You don't have to wait to put the 2009 bonuses of your senior executives up for a shareholder vote. You don't have to wait for a law to overhaul your pay system so that folks are rewarded for long-term performance instead of short-term gains.
The fact is, many of the firms that are now returning to prosperity owe a debt to the American people. Though they were not the cause of the crisis, American taxpayers through their government took extraordinary action to stabilize the financial industry. They shouldered the burden of the bailout and they are still bearing the burden of the fallout - in lost jobs, lost homes and lost opportunities. It is neither right nor responsible after you've recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system, and a more broadly shared prosperity.
So I want to urge you to demonstrate that you take this obligation to heart. To put greater effort into helping families who need their mortgages modified under my administration's homeownership plan. To help small business owners who desperately need loans and who are bearing the brunt of the decline in available credit. To help communities that would benefit from the financing you could provide, or the community development institutions you could support. To come up with creative approaches to improve financial education and to bring banking to those who live and work entirely outside the banking system. And, of course, to embrace serious financial reform, not fight it.
I didn’t wander down to the Capitol and National Mall on Saturday because I’m nursing a bum ankle from a spill I took playing pickup hoops. But I wish had been able to go, and I further wish I had developed even a crude survey instrument to administer to protesters. What I would have asked them is one, simple question, “Whom did you support in last year’s Republican primaries?”
My suspicion is there would be an unusually high number of people replying, "Ron Paul."
...strip away the angry rhetoric and easily-mocked signs to listen to what people are complaining about--and, perhaps more tellingly, what they are not complaining about--and the protesters sound eerily Paulesque. They are complaining about government intrusion: oppressive use of government (czars!), too much intervention in personal lives and markets (death panels!), long-term debt obligations (where will the money come from?!), and the proper role of the federal government (it's all so unconstitutional!)--that is, they fret that Obama is going to destroy America and American values from within. What the vast majority do not seem to be complaining about, so far as I can tell, is how the Administration is fighting and managing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or its overall security and intelligence posture--that is, they don't seem too worried that Obama is going to let America be destroyed from the outside.
Granted, a plausible explanation for a general absence of defense or foreign policy critiques is that the national conversation right now is focused squarely on health care coverage, deficits and debt, and domestic policy more generally. It may well be that if I poked a Saturday protester in DC he or she would have had something critical to say about Obama’s foreign and defense policies, too. Still, it's interesting to consider the possibility that the town halls of Summer 2009 are a rekindled version of Ron Paul rallies in 2007 and 2008. And one of the reasons I suspect this is the nature of the fervor itself--its tenor, its intensity, its certainty, and especially its language.
Actually, I disagree with Nate on one part. A lot of these people do think the President is out to hand over the country to the Terrorists.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Watch CBS Videos Online
KROFT: Before you made this speech, there was a sense clearly in the press and among people in Washington that this program was in trouble.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.
KROFT: That the healthcare reform was in trouble.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.
KROFT: Do you think that you do you think you changed some minds? Do you think you picked up some votes this week?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, here's a conversation I had with one of my advisors early on in this process. He said, "I've been in this town a long time. I think this is the year we're going to get healthcare done. But I guarantee you this will be pronounced dead at least four or five times before we finally get a bill passed." And so in some ways we anticipated this was just going to be difficult. Look, you're talking about one-sixth of the economy. You've got a whole range of special interests out there that are profiting from the current system and don't want to see it change. You've got a continuing habit of polarization inside of Washington that's hard to break.
And so we knew this was going to be hard. And I think what is true is that as Congress moves forward with all its legislation, the sausage making process got a lot of people confused. They didn't know which bill was which and what the program was. It was important for me to provide some clarity. And as a consequence of the speech that I gave, I think now more people understand what the bill's about. I think there's still going to be some vigorous debate. I think there's still a lot of hard work to get to get done. But I think at least it focused people's attention on why this is so important and what exactly we're trying to do.