Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Fireside chat for January 23, 2010

The President talks about his first year fighting against special interests and barring lobbyists from his Administration, as well as the fight to come in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision.

Friday, January 22, 2010

President Obama's Economics and Speech (with a little Health Reform) from Elyria, Ohio (VIDEO)

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Update: Jan. 25, 2010: 5:14pm:. I got the new feed from the YouTube Channel. It includes the Q&A.

Get some... (VIDEO)

The point is well made...

The Myth of Corporate Omniscience...

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment last night discussed at length the Supreme Court’s supremely bad decision to open the floodgates to Corporate Money into the Political Process. While I think the decision was ridiculous on its face, and harmful to the good of the country, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. Why?

Because the Corporations…of which you are so rightly a feared…are going to @#$% it up.

Not might @#$% it up…they will @#$% it up.

I work for a Corporation. I work what you would call a Mega Corporation, one of the largest in America, if not the World. I won’t tell you which one, but I will give you a hint.

People keep talking about too big to fail…well howzabout too big too function? That’s us in a nutshell.

The idea of International Corporations being all knowing, all seeing and thus omniscientis just a damn joke. They can barely handle their own business, much less anyone else’s.

That’s not to say they’re not going to try…but they will always waste time and money in the process...always.

Let me repeat an example I made on TPM Blogs yesterday: the decision to save money, by cutting jobs in IT Support, but laying off a bunch of people in America, and outsourcing those Poland.

It @#$% you…not.

First, the idea of me having a problem in America…calling some dude in Poland to explain my problem...having him or her barely understand the problem...then having said same dude (or dude-ette) call America again to fix that same problem is...

You can’t write comedy this golden.

And let’s not even get into the issue of the language barrier. While, I'm certain that there is a sizeable chunk of the Polish population with good English skills odds are they’ve already been hired to phone bank somewhere (or God forbid were so good, they were promoted off the phones). You’re running this Polish IT Company, you suddenly need to hire a bunch more people…now you have to cull from the B Team of English Speakers. Your new hires step in and start screwing up Service Requests, slowing things down because the people who made the requests can’t get their work done, and--

--okay, I’ll stop.

The point is that a bunch of people on the ground...who don’t work in offices…who, like me, work in cubicles, knew this was a bad idea from jump. It’s not just the fact that we knew some of the people in Corporate IT, we did…they were friends of ours. It’s not just the fact we use to pick up a phone, and someone you knew would come bounding across the street and fix the damn problem. We knew that sooner or later the BigWigs were going to decide this isn’t going to work, and they’d pull the plug anyway and try to hire everyone back. In the meantime, a lot of lives were changed, a lot of money was wasted, and a bad idea that shouldn’t have been enacted…was enacted anyway because it looked good on the bottom line.

This is what you should be afraid of. Not Corporate Omniscience ruling your life like Big Brother, but Corporate Idiocy making a mess of it like the Marx Brothers.

I bear no illusions. The Court's decision was damn dangerous. They’re going to try to get what they want, when they want, and how they want it. They are going to succeed in a lot of cases…but not all. And even in those cases where they do succeed, the odds are they’re going to screw it up for them as they will the rest of us. All manner of resistance launched against this decision is right and should be enacted.

But just don’t be afraid.

Don’t assume the world’s coming to an end. It’s not.

(I’m still trying to figure out what Keith meant when he kept semi-joking about being yanked off the air at any second. Uhhh, he does realize he works for a Corporation right now, right? I mean, if NBC/Universal wanted him off the air tonight, it could do it.)

And let me suggest another strategy for future use against our Corporate Overlords.

How about pitting them against each another?

Another part of the myth of Corporate Omniscience is that they’re all working in fascistic concert with each other. Bull. There are 13 separate companies (not divisions mind you, actual distinct companies) where I work and we don’t work well with each other, must less anyone else.

Remember, Ford Motor is tacking on $1500 dollars to the price of every vehicle it rolls out for Health Care for its employees. You don’t think Ford Motor doesn’t hate the Health Insurance Industry? Now, Ford Motor spends way too much time taking this anger on its employees, but what if they would be convinced to take it out on United Health Care?

Just something to think about.

Andrew Sullivan: Now, Fight!

Bear in mind that its a Conservative who's writing this.

From this morning's Atlantic online. (And bear in mind Andrew was never a fan of HCR in the first place, and still supported Obama):

Now, Fight:

The seismic events of the last few days ends, in some respects, the phony war of the first year of Obama's presidency. As is the case in truly fracturing democracies, the opposition simply does not and cannot accept the fact that it is out of power. The incoherence of the opposition to Obama - that he is both Jimmy Carter and Adolf Hitler, as Stephen Colbert pointed out last night - reveals the irrationality of the hate. It began immediately on the FNC/RNC right. And the ferocity of the campaign against Obama, the sheer dickishness of the GOP and its acolytes, the total oppositionism to everything he has done and indeed anything he might do... suggests that any hope for some kind of cooperation from this rump is impossible.

But the truth is that these forces have also been so passionate, so extreme, and so energized that in a country reeling from a recession, the narrative - a false, paranoid, nutty narrative - has taken root in the minds of some independents. Obama, under-estimating the extremism of his opponents, has focused on actually addressing the problems we face. And the rest of us, crucially, have sat back and watched and complained and carped when we didn't get everything we want. We can keep on carping if we want to. But it seems to me that continuing that - as HuffPo et al. appear to be doing - is objectively siding with the forces of profound reaction right now.

Don't get me wrong. Criticism is still vital. I'm not going to give up on advocating marriage equality or a carbon tax, rather than cap and trade, or for an independent investigation of Bush era war crimes. I think pushing Obama to a more populist position on banks is well and good. But given the alternative, I am going to step up my support of this president in the face of what he is confronting, even when he is not exactly doing everything I want. In my view, you should too.

Look at what we are facing right now: a take-no-prisoners right, empowered by a massive new wave of corporate money unleashed by the Supreme Court, able to wield a 41 seat minority to oppose anything Obama wants, setting up a cycle of failure for a president whom they can then pillory at the polls, and unrepentant about near-dictatorial powers for the presidency, and the routinization of torture in the American government. These forces cannot be appeased. They simply have to be confronted.

I do not believe in some massive turn left or faux-populism that Obama cannot characterologically embody. I do not think ramming the healthcare reform bill through before Brown is seated is good politics. I still believe that Obama should embrace a major assault on long-term debt and make that a center-piece of his SOTU next week.

But I have come around to thinking that the one huge mistake right now would be to surrender the Senate health reform bill.

The dust should indeed settle. But it is absurd that one special election should upend a clear campaign promise, a year of work, and a necessary start on a critical reform without which we hurtle toward bankruptcy even more quickly.

More to the point, politics is also about morale and will as well as reason and moderation. I believe Obama has been both reasoned and moderate and civil in navigating between the Democratic Congress and the embittered, mutinous GOP. I don't think his tone should change. But I do think that any surrender on health now would be a betrayal of his entire campaign. I don't think the Senate bill is perfect; but it's far far better than nothing. And not passing it means not passing anything and surrendering to forces that are as proto-fascist as any we have seen in recent times.

This is about more than health reform and we have to see it in that context. This is about a cynical nihilist attempt to break this presidency before it has had a chance to do what we elected it to do by a landslide vote. It is an attempt to destroy a majority's morale, to break a president's foreign policy autonomy, to prevent engagement in the Middle East peace process, to stop action on climate change, to restore torture, to increase tensions with the Muslim world, to launch a war on Iran. We cannot delude ourselves that if Obama fails, this is not the alternative. It is.

And we have to re-engage as powerfully as we did in the campaign to fight back against these now emboldened forces of reaction. I think this is true not just for the sake of the country but also for the sake of the GOP. The nihilist obstructionism and rhetoric they have embraced makes constitutional democracy close to impossible. Their total lack of any workable alternatives to dire problems is a form of degeneracy we have to avoid empowering.

So fight, Mr President. And to the House Democrats who won't go along with the only way to salvage health reform: this is the only sure-fire way you will lose in November. If you pass this bill, you may also go down in this climate. But you will have done something you can be proud of. Politics cannot always be about narrow self-interest. If it always is, nothing important can get done.

Do your duty. And grow some. Fight back. Explain why you're right. Tell the liberals they can always come back later to reform the bill. Just get this passed.

Comedy Central's Busy Night (VIDEO)

Well, first Jon made fun of America's inability to handle rational discourse...

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...then he ripped on Keith Olbermann for the tone of his Special Comments:

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Funny thing, I remember Keith saying that the Network wanted him to do a Special Comment every night. His reply was: "Well, they wouldn't be very special then, would they?"

Guess what he's doing now? A "Comment" every night.

And finally, our old pal Colbert:

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mitch McConnell...wants Health Care pass?!?!? (He typed, dazed and confused) was that again??

This is from Laurence O'Donnell, regularly of MSNBC, formerly of the West Wing, and a regular guest blogger on Huffington Post. (Fine! Fine! I'm not a fan of Huffington Post, but I like Laurence, thus...)
Let's remember, even though Laurence has gone Hollywood and all (writing West Wing, acting in Big Love), he was Chief of Staff to the Senate Finance Committee for a bunch of years. So understanding the intricacies of the Senate is definitely in his purview.

So, Laurence's opinion on Senate matters is always valued. At least, it is by me.

Thus, these two paragraphs really got my attention:

In Washington, where everyone is desperate to know what's happening behind closed doors, all you have to do to keep something secret is do it out in the open, preferably on C-Span. Mitch McConnell did exactly that when he entered a unanimous consent agreement with Harry Reid about how to proceed on the health care bill. McConnell knew that agreement was going to make it impossible for Republicans to amend the bill and would put it on a fast track toward passage.

McConnell accepted an agreement brilliantly designed by Reid that required 60 votes to pass an amendment. McConnell did that without anyone noticing anything odd after a year of saturation coverage of the importance of 60 votes in the Senate. Everyone outside the Senate now thinks it takes 60 votes to do anything. Not amendments. Amendments pass by a simple majority, 51 votes. Amendments are usually debated for a couple of minutes or hours or days, then voted on. Once in a while, a 60-vote cloture motion is needed to end debate on an amendment. What McConnell agreed to was an implicit cloture motion in every vote on every amendment, thereby completely surrendering the minority's real power. In all my years in the Senate, I never saw a leader make such a mistake. If it was a mistake.

Reid's motivation was simple. Getting this agreement with McConnell made it so that Reid's version of Senate HCR was going to be the final Senate version of HCR. There would be no surprises from anyone...(including unfortunately a good Prescription Drugs Amendment by the retiring Byron Dorgan...but Sen. Dorgan said on the Randi Rhodes show he can get that passed anyway.)

Oh, this was a pretty important graph as well:

And now the strategy becomes clear: Repeal it! That is the Republican Party battle cry for the 2010 election. Repealing Obamacare is going to be the centerpiece of their campaign to take back the House and Senate. But how can you repeal it if they don't pass it. Hence, Mitch McConnell's enabling.



Just...gathering myself here...

If the 2010 strategy is to run on a repeal of Health Care Reform, this may go down as one of the dumbest excercises in political history.

Why? Right now, whether I'd like to admit or not (and I really don't) the President is reeling a bit. I don't think he's in any danger of losing re-elect in 2012, but could we see a major, major cut into the Democratic majority in 2010? Most certainly. In fact, history tells us that's exactly what's going to happen...

But if the GOP runs on a total repeal of Health Care. I'm sorry, but that's tone deaf to the point of being insulting to people who are tone deaf.

Last I checked (and this is an area where I disagree with Laurence), the Unions were onboard with the Excise Tax now. They got it delayed enough to where they're still willing to run turnout for Democrats.

While we of the Liberal creed have certainly had our arguments over HCR (Health Care Reform) -- I only do this because I note I have a follower...who's not Dad or Heidi. Yay! -- even if the Senate Version of the bill were to pass as is, no one from the Democratic side is gonna want to repeal the sucker.

Amend the living hell out of it, yes. Hell, even I'm for that. But repeal?

Sen. Mitch McChinless (Stephanie Miller reference) actually thinks that running on a platform in defense and support of Insurance Companies is a winner in 2010.

It may actually keep the Democratic Majorties right where they are.

Unless, that's the plan, to let the Democrats run wild for two more years, and get the people even sicker of them, then they'll--

Okay, my head's hurting. I'll stop.

But still, stoopid, STOOPID idea.