Friday, January 29, 2010

With all due respect to Karen Tumulty...

I posted a question on the reply board to Karen Tumulty's recent piece on Doris Kearns Goodwin worthless (in my mind) idea to "make 'em filibuster". Ms Tumulty was good enough to answer. Thus I happily apologize for calling her a moron earlier.

That being said, I still think she's dead-ass wrong, and I'm not sure what world she's living in.

I shall endeavor to recreate the exchange I had on the board:

ADMIRALMPJ (which would be me):


Explain to me where Senators get to stand up and talk, when these bills are getting killed and/or yanked during cloture votes?

Explain to me how Ryan Grim's article is inaccurate. Simply saying it is, is at best disingenuous. If you have a point, make it.


What almost always happens in the face of a Fake Filibuster is that the Majority (in this case, Democratic) leadership concedes defeat and takes its own bill down. What they would have to do (as Byrd did on campaign finance in 1988) is refuse to take the bill off the floor, and then put a quorum (51 senators) on the floor, so that the filibuster-er can't "suggest the absence of a quorum."

This is how you get around this problem suggested in the Huffpost piece:

As both Reid's memo and Dove explain, only one Republican would need to monitor the Senate floor. If the majority party tried to move to a vote, he could simply say, "I suggest the absence of a quorum."


Again, you may ultimately lose (as Byrd did), but you do get a chance to expose obstructionism for what it is. For the record, I felt this way when the Republicans were in charge, too. My first beat in Washington was Capitol Hill, and I have a lot of admiration for the legislative process. Unfortunately, as years have gone by, I have noticed that fewer and fewer legislators do.



What you wrote is clearer, but I still need one more thing clarified:

So, the Senate puts up HCR. It fails on a Cloture vote, lets say 51-49. It's not yanked by Reid, we do what Byrd did, and we being a process where we keep 51 Senators on the floor, waiting for what? A moment where there isn't quorum? That's what I wasn't clear on.


If you really think that the public is behind you, and really wants the legislation that is being blocked, you go out and make the case for it. And then you trust the voters (here's the Mr. Smith model, though he was the filibuster-er, but you get what I mean...) to put pressure on the people who are blocking it. The point here is to make your case, and trust that if you are right, the other guys are going to feel the heat.

I see what she's talking about. There is something you can do, but I (little more respectfully this time) still vehemently disagree with her.

Even Karen admits that there isn't a way forward should you stick to your guns as she suggests. While I would love to see the visuals of Republicans (and more than a few Democrats) blocking reform, the simple fact of the matter is if you (the Pro Reform side) stick to your guns and the antis stick to theirs...the Legislation dies anyway. In a results oriented culture...last I checked that still counts as a loss.

I subscribe to the central Nancy Pelosi basic philosophy. You have a bill. You whip the votes . Once you have the numbers on your side, you have a vote. I think that's how even the Senate is operating

I'm not a big fan of losing noble battles...which is were I diverge from a lot of my fellow progressives. Karen Tumulty's ideas, and thus Doris Kearn Goodwin's ideas, and Governor Ed Rendell's ideas do provide compelling visuals, they do put the Republicans and Conservadems on the spot...

...but they don't produce a damn bill.

Answering the Beige One...

This deals with another blog (the Savvy, The Extreme, the Idealist) I occasionally post on. It might sound repetitive to my three regular readers.

There was a quote in the beige one’s recent post that got my attention and I wanted to answer:

Mr. President, during the State of the Union address, you said that you didn’t choose to tackle the health care reform issue just to get a legislative victory under your belt. I believe you, but can you tell me how taking someone that is unemployed, or maybe is employed, but still can’t afford decent health insurance and making them buy some kind of policy from the very insurance companies that have screwed us in the past; how is this not capitulation? How do you go from the Public Option (and you did campaign on the Public Option) to trigger plans and not see that as dispiriting for the people who voted for you?

I must call up a post I made on here earlier today:

Reforming Health Care is more complicated than what the beige one is making it out to be in his statement. This is why the Democratic solution doesn't fit on an effing bumper sticker. Short of ripping everything up and installing a Single Payer Plan (which is my preferred choice – but good luck getting the votes for that in either chamber), you’re going to be surprised at what choices you have to do reform the system.

And by the way, I’ll get to the beige one’s unemployed dude in a minute. But to debate his point, I have to go to the beginning.

First, you start off with the concept of Universal Coverage. At its core, this is what we all want. Of course, since you want everyone to have access to the system, you have start with ending the ban on pre-existing conditions. This is just basic. Everyone loves this. It polls great.

But, if you end the ban of pre-existing conditions, what happens? Well, sick people who couldn’t previously get insurance will jump into the system, and healthy people will leave figuring (at this point correctly) that they can just buy insurance when they need it (i.e. when they're sick). If that happens, Insurance rates don't just rise, they skyrocket. (Krugman referred to this as an Insurance Death Spiral). If everyone in the Insurance Pool is pulling money out of the system, the Industry can't cover all the costs.

Not won’t, can’t.

So, to keep the healthy people in the system, thus keeping costs low, you have to force the Healthy People to buy insurance (yes, force). This is called a mandate, which everyone hates, and polls terrible.

The mandate is not Insurance putting a gun to our heads, and demanding our healthy citizens. This is just how Insurance works (Auto, Home, what have you). It’s all about managing risk. You have multiple Healthy people putting money into the system covering the one Sick person who takes money out. Doing that keeps our rates lower (though not non-existent). One day, those Healthy People will get sick themselves, but there will be other Healthy people covering them, so the cycle goes on.

Now, if people are made to by insurance, well...some of those people aren't going to be able to afford it (like The beige one’s unemployed guy), so you need to have subsidies to help those who can't pay for this crap, or increased access to Medicaid to do the same. Once you've taken that step, you pretty much have the bills that are wandering their way through Congress.

The lack of a Public Option is a loss, but there are parts of Europe (I think the Netherlands, hardly a bastion of Conservative thought) that have similar systems but don't have Public Plans. It's not a disaster if Health Care Reform doesn't have one. It's just infinitely better with one. It’s not pretty. It’s nowhere in the same good neighborhood of Single Payer (the best and truly cheapest way to fix Health Care), but given the fact that Health Care Costs will double in ten years, it’s our best shot.

And might I remind the beige one a little something about his unemployed guy. Sickness cannot tell, nor does not care when someone don’t have a paying job. If he or his family gets sick while he’s unemployed, he’s screwed, and the rest of us are going to have to cover him. At least with even the crappier Senate plan, he has options, like Medicaid.

This is also a basic sketch of the Massachusetts Plan, which also wasn’t popular when it passed, but try taking it away from them now.

All that mess...was just for one issue: Health Care Reform. Imagine that, multiplied a thousand times (given the thousand problems we have) where every Federal dollar spent has a lobby attached to it.

If I have a complaint about my fellow progressives, it is that they’re spending a lot of time with their heads up their arses, thinking everything is simple. “If he just did this, everything would work…”

No it won’t.

Leadership is never simple. Certainly not as simple as Liberals make it out to be.

And comparing everything to the New Deal?

My fellow Liberals may be many things, but experts on Roosevelt they ain’t (particularly at the Huffington Post where they quote the New Deal like it was the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain. Too bad none of them seem to a book on the the New Deal.)

I’ve been working on a project set in the Depression so I’ve been reading nothing but Depression stuff for the last year and a half. And let me tell you, the New Deal was horribly, horribly compromised from jump. In fact Norman Thomas (Socialist Party leader and Dennis Kucinich of his day, once compared the New Deal “cough drop for a case of pneumonia.” African-Americans were suspiciously left out of a lot of New Deal Programs. Farm Workers were cut out of the National Labor Relations Act just as sharecroppers were going on strike. FDR had a more favorable Congress (with an even bigger majority), but even then they bickered and guffawed about every little damn thing. The Supreme Court struck down a lot of the initiatives from the 100 Days, being about as ethical as the current Roberts Court. There were fears of open armed rebellion, not in the south, but in fuckin’ Iowa. And oh yeah, unemployment was at 25%, almost triple what it is now.

Roosevelt got some things he wanted, some things he didn’t. (He was, it is often forgotten against the creation of the FDIC). You have to look at the whole picture, and not just your imagined corner of it. It is the overall metric of FDR's Presidency that we judge him on, and judge him rightly. It has to be the same standard for Obama, or otherwise the Progressive movement is more full of shit than I feared.

Time: Karen Tumulty is a bit of a moron, too...

Time's Karen Tumulty is full of shit, in talking about making the GOP stand up and filibuster:

Also, though some reports have suggested that it is no longer possible to do this under the Senate rules, this is not true. It simply requires the majority to muster enough will and discipline to keep a quorum on the floor. Here's an account of how it worked as recently as 1988. Making them filibuster doesn't guarantee that the majority prevails, but it does require the minority to put up or, literally, shut up.

Yeah. Simply saying its not true makes it so.

I listed out the reasons why what Doris (apparently Ed Rendell) and now Karen are saying is bullshit. (In summary: yhe problem is not the filibuster, it is the cloture vote. Legislation is being killed or yanked during cloture, before Senators get a chance to stand up, speak and try to bring the hall to a screeching halt. Someone needs to tell me where in history did Senators ever stand and talk when the cloture votes, especially when they'regoing down along party lines. It would have helped if it was Karen or Doris, but everyone's too busy being smartasses.)

But if you're going to rip down what Ryan Grim wrote back in 2009 (which Karen called "not true"), howzabout explaining why its not true? Simply saying so doesn't exactly tell me why. I made my points. Why can't Karen.

Yet another new image...

Feeling good. Feeling defiant. Thus, a new banner image.

President Obama at the GOP House Retreat in Baltimore, MD (VIDEO)

Some folks are comparing this to "Question Time" in the U.K. Parliament (TPM did, too). But don't be fooled, Obama got in a few shots.

I'm using C-SPAN Video...for now. As soon as I can get something better, I'll update this posting. (And yes, the constant noise of Republicans eating got on my damn nerves, too.

UPDATE: 4:47pm, Pacific: Finally nabbed the video from the White House, which is much larger, much clearer...and frankly much more stable than the C-SPAN feed. They're still not good at embedding.

And the dinner noises still drive me crazy.

President Obama and Vice President Biden's Town Hall in Tampa, Florida (VIDEO)

"It's amazing the crowds I draw..."

President Obama, joined by Vice President Biden, announces $8 billion in Recovery Act funding for high-speed rail projects that will provide faster, more energy-efficient travel between cities and create new jobs for American workers. The announcement came during a Town Hall meeting in Tampa, FL.

Depressingly accurate (VIDEO)

Charlie Booker of the BBC rips apart TV Journalism.

Wonderful news...Part 2

Because it's Kansas, I'm shocked...but Scott Roeder, the man who killed (murdered...assassinated) Abortion Doctor George Tiller has been convicted.

Usually, I can managed a "yay" at the bottom of posts like these...but Dr. Tiller is still dead. His family is still mourning his loss, and the killer who sought to prevent abortions being provided in Kansas may ultimately get his way.

It's Yitzhak Rabin's assassination all over again, but granted on a much smaller scale.

Wonderful news...Part 1

GDP running hot-hot-hot, at 5.7%, fastest pace in six years.

This sure as hell wasn't cash for clunkers.

Obama has saved the overall. Economy. Period. End of discussion. But in a very important way, no big deal. Now, he's got to save the jobs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What the hell was that, Comedy Central??

Watching Comedy Central tonight was painful. Both interviews, Jon's with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen's interview with David Gergen were clueless. I've never seen either show this dumb before.

Though in truth, David Gergen was the problem in Colbert. Health Care is dead? I get this from the King of the Villagers?

And Jon's interview with Doris? I don't know who was more out of his depth. Jon or Doris (because she's supposed to be the expert, I'm leaning Doris).

This is not about them not liking the speech. In truth, both of them were favorable towards the speech, but want to see some action. That's a fair comment.

But, they also @#$%ed up some basic facts...facts I'm amazed that they @#$%ed up.

It boiled down to two errors: one Doris's, one Jon's.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

In discussing the Filibuster...specifically Goodwin's repeated demands for the Democrats to make the Republicans stand up and filibuster, drink nothing but milk and water, force them not to go to the bathroom, etc...was so wrong it made me wonder what she'd been doing for the last six months.

(And as an aside, I wretch every time she brings up LBJ. That's not an expertise thing. She knows LBJ quite well...too well, from what I understand. But it's just a rumor, so lets move on.)

She does know that legislation isn't getting killed by filibuster, but by cloture vote, right? I mean, this is kinda common knowledge.

The Senate rules are simple...though stoopid. The Senate in the course of passing a bill has...I think three cloture votes to end debate and proceed to a final vote. (Yes, these rules are arcane, but it's why I keep saying the Senate sucks). These cloture votes are traditionally just procedure, a check-box to move onto the next stage. There's nothing partisan about them, you're just agreeing to have a vote.

...but that was then.

Now, the Cloture Vote has been weaponized. It's been turned into a tool to block legislation. Don't laugh, I think it was the Democrats who weaponized it. The Cloture vote is now the substitute filibuster, and best of don't have to stand or keep talking to kill legislation. You just don't let it come to a vote, and the legislation just...dies.

It's still being called a filibuster, but it's really not. Thus it's thought of as a filibuster, and people complain about the Dems letting the GOP abuse it. I thought, given her relationship with LBJ, Doris was a little more familiar with how the Senate works. I shouldn't know more about the Senate rules than she does.

So whenever I hear people (like Doris) say we should just make Republicans stand up and filibuster these bills, it's all I can do to keep from laughing at them.

Doris, I ain't laughing at. I thought she knew better.

So, that was the major error. There was also a minor one.

Jon said that Obama needed to boil down Health Care to four basic things. "Oh yeah, Obama just should say one, blah, two, blah, three, blah, and four, blah..."

(Sorry, it's early in the morning. Comedy Central didn't put up the video last night, and so now I'm at work...wanting to squeeze this in before No time for a transcript. That's why I posted the video.)

Needless to say, Jon's four ideas would...kinda raise Insurance premiums.\

Actually, his ideas would take 'em to the moon, Alice, TOO THE MOON!

This is why reforming Health Care is more complicated than people think. This is why our solution doesn't fit on an effing bumper sticker. Short of ripping everything up and installing a Single Payer Plan (my preferred choice) this is what you gotta do.

You want Universal Coverage? Of course, you start with ending the ban on pre-existing conditions so everyone can get into the system. But, if you end the ban of pre-existing conditions, sick people will jump into the system, and healthy people will leave figuring (at this point correctly) that they can just buy insurance when they need it (i.e. when they're sick). If that happens, Insurance rates don't just rise, they skyrocket. If everyone in the Insurance Pool is pulling money out of the system, the Industry can't cover all the costs. (I can type a short paragraph on the basics of insurance and risk...but honestly, do you me want to go there?? Didn't think so.)

So, to keep the healthy people in the system, thus keeping costs low, you have to force them to buy insurance...which is called a mandate, which everyone hates. (But it's worked, so far, in Massachusetts.)

Now, if people are made to by insurance, well...some of those people aren't going to be able to afford it, so you need to have subsidies to help those who can't pay for the crap. And once you've taken that step, you pretty much have the bills coming through Congress.

Thank you, Paul Krugman for that explanation...but his is

Okay, if Jon wants simple, I'll give him simple. If we do nothing, Health Care Costs double in ten years.

There. (Imagine me smacking my hands clean.)

That's all I have to say about tonight's shows. The basic idea Jon suggested that Obama needs better communication is spot on. Hell, didn't the President say that himself?

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.

Look, I don't expect Jon to be a policy expert. He's a comedian first. But, he waded into the policy end of the pool, and its fair he get called out on it for being...frankly...wrong.

I love Jon. I love Doris. I love Stephen.

They just had a bad night.

David Gergen, I can do without.

I’m for change, he was telling the assembled members of Congress. What about you?

I've had my disagreements with Eugene in the past (getting rid of the D.C. Gun ban, are you kidding me??) but he nailed this one:

The conventional wisdom was wrong, as usual. Some in the punditocracy expected President Obama to tack toward the center, others expected him to run to the bosom of the Democratic Party’s liberal base. He did neither. By the end of his State of the Union address, when he summed up the whole speech in three words -- “I don’t quit” -- you had to take him at his word.

The president’s message was simple: He’s not going to zig or zag to boost his poll numbers. He knows the financial bailout was unpopular, but it was necessary. He knows many people didn’t like the stimulus bill, but it was necessary. He knows his own party won’t cheer a three-year spending freeze, but he sees it as the right thing to do. He knows health-care reform ran into a political “buzzsaw,” but he demands that Congress push ahead.

There were no fall-off-your-chair surprises in Obama’s speech, but many people might have been surprised by the style in which he delivered it. Obama didn’t sound like a president buffeted and beleaguered by the political fates. He sounded determined, patient, forceful, good-humored, at times even mischievous. He looked relaxed and in control. For the first few minutes, the applause was strictly partisan -- Democrats rising to clap, Republicans sitting on their hands. Toward the end, Republicans were often springing to their feet, too. Maybe they lost themselves in the moment.

Or maybe the Republicans -- and the Democrats, too -- realized that Obama was speaking over their heads to a nation that is fed up with “Washington” and “government” and “partisanship.” For the first time in months, it seemed to me, Obama reconnected with the language and themes that got him elected.

I’m for change, he was telling the assembled members of Congress. What about you?

"Who's activist now, @#$%??" (VIDEO)

Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) criticized the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission to overturn precedent and strike down limits to corporate financing of political advertisements in campaigns.

Leahy’s remarks at the 2:36 Mark. He deviated a little from his prepared remarks. Instead of calling him misguided and wrong, he all but said Justice Alito was a liar...but did it in polite Senate speak.


Thus, I present the amended transcript here for you to enjoy.

Now, only six years after upholding 100 years of precedent a thin majority of the Supreme Court, made possible by President Bush’s appointment of Justice Alito, has thrown out important parts of the law and they’ve run roughshod over a long line of longstanding Court precedent. Mr. President, this is a threat to the rule of law. It overrules congressional efforts to keep powerful, moneyed interests from swamping individuals’ voices and interests.

Now in his confirmation hearing Justice Alito, I might say under oath, testified that the role of the Supreme Court is a limited role. It has to do what it’s supposed to do vigilantly, but it also has to be equally vigilant about not stepping over the bounds and invading the authority of Congress. That was then, when he was seeking confirmation. This is now. And as Justice Stevens’ dissent makes clear, the narrow majority of the Justices, including Justice Alito, substituted their own preferences for those of the duly-elected Congress, despite a hundred years of their own Supreme Court precedents.

This helps...Part 3

This has been a freakin' busy day, mostly because the State of the Union tends to produce a lot of news around it.

Screw Mary Landrieu, Al Franken has got it goin' on:

"I think we all thought this gathering today would be a celebration," he said. "Well, it may not be a celebration, but it's not a funeral either," he said.

From that moment, Franken called for those present to keep fighting for the cause and not to give up so close to victory.

"The opponents of reform have found their bumper sticker, their slogan, their rallying cry, it's one word: No. You can read that on a bumper," Franken told the members of Families USA, drawing laughs. "Our bumper sticker has — it's just way too many words. And it says, "'Continued on next bumper sticker.'"

While Franken acknowledged there were some parts of the Senate bill he does not agree with, he said that called for the House to pass it, with the understanding that Congress would then "fix" the bill through the process of budget reconciliation which only needs a simple majority.

"We have to stop letting perfect be the enemy of the merely very good. And I believe that the bill we passed in the Senate is a very good foundation on which to build," he said. He highlighted several "very good" aspects of the Senate bill, including his medical-loss ratio provisions, which would require that 85 percent of premiums be spent on actual health care costs, not profits and overhead.

Franken acknowledged that the Democratic loss in the U.S Senate race in Massachusetts was a setback, but reiterated Obama's words in the State of the Union speech Wednesday night that this is not the time to give up.

"If they did anything, it helped remind us of why we're doing this in the first place. They reminded us of how hard it is, how truly hard it is, to bring about big change in America. And they reminded us of what we're up against. And they reminded us about how close we are to the biggest health care victory in half a century."

Statement's like Mary Landrieu's are why she's going to lose in November, and frankly...won't be missed.

"Hard Times Come Again No More..." (VIDEO)

Mary J. Blige's killer, killer performance at the Hope For Haiti Now concert.

Don't forget to keep giving!

TPM: "Single-Payer Health Care Approved By California Senate"

Don't worry, the Debtinator will screw it up.

MAs, MFAs and PhDs for Obama!

According to Gallup, we love the guy!

According to Gallup, I really got his back! (See the last paragraph).

This helps...Part 2

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-DA, talkin' willpower:

I've said to my colleagues, go in the door. The door's locked? Go to the gate. The gate's locked? Climb over the fence. It's too high? Pole vault in. That doesn't work? Parachute in. We have to get this done for the American people one way or another.

This helps...Part 1

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NB), talkin' reconcilliation:

“If Republican colleagues are serious about fixing our health care system and want to avoid using the reconciliation process, then I will go to the negotiating table with them,” Senator Nelson said. “If Republican senators join me at the table, we can use bipartisanship for health reform rather than use reconciliation, which needs only 50 votes to approve legislation.

“All it takes is one Republican to come forward, put partisanship aside, and work on behalf of those that do not have or cannot afford health insurance,” Nelson added. “Working together, we can fight to ensure health reform relies on our private market system, rather than the government to reduce the cost of health care and deliver better care for millions of Americans.

“Reconciliation has never been my preference for moving legislation. Instead, I always prefer the regular order process that allows full and open debate, many amendments and an opportunity for broad bipartisanship. That can be achieved, if Republican colleagues come to the negotiating table with their ideas and proposals,” Nelson said.

Ben Bernanke Reconfirmed 70-30


I know some of y'all out there have doubts, should bear in mind that the man is an actual expert on the Economics of the Great Depression. He did a crappy job under Bush, but honestly, consider that President's agenda. Bush was a President who did not believe in accountability, regulation or Government for that matter. Is it any surprise the Economy nearly tanked?

For those of you with doubts, I refer you back to this interview from back in March. It let me know there was a man behind this job, told he that he got it, and was worth keeping least with a President who believes in accountability, regulation and Government.

Let me count the ways the Senate sucks…

…at least, according to the President. These are actual passages from last night's State of the Union:

We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities -- and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.

Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. They will. People are out of work. They're hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.
Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes.

To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

Can we finally put to rest this meme that Obama favors his old Senate colleagues over the House?

He all but screamed from the podium: Senate, GET OFF YOUR ASS!!!

..and you still suck.

The Senate still sucks...

I call your attention to a specific portion of last night’s State of the Union Address:

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we'll still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.

Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.

Well, the good news is that this very afternoon, the Senate finally passed Pay-Go, allowing it to be sent to the President’s desk.

The bad news is, it was a 60-40 Party Line vote.

This party line vote, includes such alleged deficit hawks as John McCain and Olympia Snowe, both of whom voted for PayGo under Bush 43, but voted against it now.

Four Republican senators who opposed the measure on Thursday voted for nearly an identical measure in 2006.

That list includes Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both moderates from Maine, George Voinovich, the retiring Senator from Ohio, and John McCain, the party's standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential elections.
What prompted the four to switch isn't entirely clear. The respective pieces of legislation are not that far apart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office confirmed.

It’s pretty damn clear to me. The Republicans are still committed to failure, specifically they want to make sure this President fails. That's all that matters, that's all they'll ever vote for...even the so-called moderates. They've calculated that political interest outweighs country.

(This is also why I'm pessimistic of any strategy by the House to send a comprehensive Health Bill back to the Senate. If Republicans aren't willing to vote for something as common-sense as PayGo, what hope is there that they'll cross the aisle for Health Care Reform?)

Now, interestingly Senator Elect Scott Brown (R-MA) has said that he might vote along Democratic lines in some cases. Well, that’s obvious, because it’s his @#$ if he doesn’t. He’s going to be running again in 2012. He’s running in a state that Obama’ll carry by 10-20 points (yes, even now). He’s running in a Presidential Election cycle, where turnout will be far, far, far higher than it was this January. If he has any hope of re-election, he needs to blunt the passions of the opposition (me). Voting even occasionally Democratic does that.

On the other hand, how he would have voted for PayGo is a mystery.

I also need to take a moment and point out (as Randi Rhodes pointed out this afternoon) that the House passed their PayGo back in July. It just took the Senate six months more to the do the same.

Thanks again, Senate. You still suck. (Ironically, this was one of the messages of the State of the Union).

The President's State of the Union Address of January 27th, 2010 (VIDEO)

The Bubble Cuts Both Ways…

The Bubble. The mysterious object that floats over and around all Presidents, cutting him off from all thought, all sanity, all objection. (Think old episodes of “the Prisoner” only harder to get through...)

There’s something to this concept, but in the end I think it’s more of a “mental” bubble than an actual one.

One of the surprises coming out of last nights highly successful (at least to me) State of the Union Address, is that an CBS Instant Poll (and y’all know how much I loooove instant stuff) gave the President 83% Approval for his policy proposals.

That’s a whopper of a number. Even I, Mr. Sunshine, was expecting at most the high sixties. But more polling is sure to come later today, and I expect it to be mostly positive.

What happened last night, to paraphrase the West Wing yet again, is that people were reminded why they like the President so much. (Sorry, I can repeat that line in sign-language…regular West Wing watchers will know what I mean). I think another reason for the (presumed) polling success of the speech, is the that the people felt like they were heard last night. The people got through the “bubble” and got through to the President. The polling should reflect that:

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -- immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana; Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.

At the same time, I would like to respectfully remind my fellow citizens that the bubble cuts both ways. That sometimes (actually a lot of times) what the President says to the people doesn’t get through to them.

Ahhh, remember all those times the President said that turning around the economy “was going to be tough”, and that “it took us a long time to get into this mess, and its going to take us a long time to get out of it”, and he was going to “make mistakes”??

It was like the American people heard that. Let that sink in for about two days, and then started asking “WHY HAVEN’T YOU FIXED THE ECONOMY, YET?!?!?” They also seemed shocked that the President made a few mistakes along the way.

By way of example let me present you a quote from last night’s speech, specifically on America’s Foreign Policy:

As we have for over sixty years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.

Now, I took that quote as a statement on America’s role in the world, and why its important to stay involved, and more importantly, reminding America that even in these tough times, doling out Foreign Aid was pretty damn important, and has important consequences.

Juan Cole, who’s forgotten more about the Middle East than I will ever know, took it another way:

The attempt to position the US military occupation of Afghanistan and the sabre-rattling and threatened sanctions against Iran as somehow beneficial to women in those countries is a continuation of Bush administration rhetoric that is unworthy of Obama. These themes may appeal to the Mavis Leno faction of American feminists, but are unconnected to Afghan and Iranian women's lived reality. The position of women in Afghanistan is better now than under the Taliban, but the new Afghanistan is still an Islamic republic, and president Karzai pandered for votes among the Shiite Hazaras by allowing Shiite law to operate among them on personal status issues, rather than national law. One implication of this step is that Hazara women are now liable to marital rape. So this is the liberation the Obama administration is bringing Afghan women? Moreover, Obama's escalation of the war will have a negative impact on women and families caught in the crossfire. It is a foolish argument to make because so easily disproven.

I’m not trying to dismiss the concerns Dr. Cole is making, but…that’s not the point President Obama was making in that phase of the speech. America is spending money, money it could be argued, is best spent in areas of domestic concern right now. He needed to stand up and say: “Hey, I know this money isn’t being spent here, but it’s going to do long term good around the world, and its going to make us friends that we’re going to need into the future."

What Dr. Cole does here is telescope everything through the lens of his particular field of expertise, and in no small way, crowding out all the other information therein. I don’t want to call it disingenuous. It's not. It’s a natural enough habit (particularly for University Professors -- yeah, I'm talking to you, Dad), but it doesn’t provide a fair reading of the speech.

We also have the usual critics and pontificators rambling on and on. Dana Milbank thought it was long detailed and tepid. Marc Halperin was baffled by it. How Mark Halperin isn’t baffled by spelling his name correctly eludes me, but someone appointed Mark Halperin an expert on Politics. Someone ought to clue the Mainsteam Media that that person was Mark Halperin. Ross Douthat thinks if Obama keeps going this direction, he’s going to lose reelection. But…Douthat’s an asshat, so…

But there were people who got it, and absorbed it in the way I thought (and Obama hoped) it would be absorbed…

Joe Klein:

It was a terrific performance. He almost seemed to be having fun up there; he delivered the speech in a free, almost informal manner. It was easily digestible, user-friendly...but it was also a fighting speech. Certainly, he stuck the needle time and again into the hides of the recalcitrant elephants in the room. It started early in the speech when he recounted the numerous tax cuts that had been passed in the past year as part of his much-distorted Stimulus Plan, to applause from Democrats and silence from Republicans, and he ad-libbed, staring at the Republican side of the room, "I thought I'd get some applause on that one."

Andrew Sullivan:

This was the president I supported and still support and will support because he alone is calling us away from the cynicism, the ideology, the rhetorical poison, and the red-blue divide that keep us from the reform we desperately need.

Josh Marshall:

Listening to this litany, I'm reminded how Republicans are on the wrong side -- just politically, let alone on policy -- of most signature issues in a populist economic moment. I think there were zero Republicans standing up on any part of Obama's financial reform agenda -- something that polls exceedingly well in addition to being good public policy.

I’ll admit it. I got most of these highlights from Andrew’s blog, but they’re some of my favorite writers, and they all saw it pretty much as I did.

Then there was Chris Matthews...forgetting the President was black.


As I mentioned before, I sure as hell didn’t forget the President was Black. I can’t. I’m black. I see the way he’s attacked, and I can’t forget.

But Chris? Really? You want to go there??

I could say a lot at this point, but TaNeishi Coates said it first, and better:

I think it's worth noting that Chris Matthews wasn't trying to take a shot at anybody. I also think it's worth noting that he was attempting to compliment Obama and say something positive about what he's done for race relations. (See Matthews' clarification here.) But I think it's most worth noting that "I forgot Obama was black"--in all its iterations--is something that white people should stop saying, if only because it's really dishonest.

One way to think about this is to flip the frame. Around these parts, we've been known, from time to time, to chat about the NFL. We've also been known to chat about the intricacies of beer. If you hang around you'll notice that there are no shortage of women in these discussions. Having read a particularly smart take on Brett Favre, or having received a good recommendations on a particular IPA, it would not be a compliment for me to say, "Wow, I forgot you were a woman." Indeed, it would be pretty offensive.

The problems is three-fold. First, it takes my necessarily limited, and necessarily blinkered, experience with the fairer sex and builds it into a shibboleth of invented truth. Then it takes that invented truth as a fair standard by which I can measure one's "woman-ness." So if football and beer don't fit into my standard, I stop seeing the person as a woman. Finally instead of admitting that my invented truth is the problem, I put the onus on the woman. Hence the claim "I forgot you were a woman," as opposed to "I just realized my invented truth was wrong."

Ditto for Chris Matthews. The "I forgot Obama was black" sentiment allows the speaker the comfort of accepting, even lauding, a black person without interrogating their invented truth. It allows the speaker a luxurious ignorance--you get to name people (this is what black is) even when you don't know people. In fact, Chris Matthews didn't forget Barack Obama was black. Chris Matthews forgot that Chris Matthews was white.

I'm put back in the mind of the The Wire, when Slim Charles tells Avon that it really doesn't matter that our wars are based on a lie. Once we're fighting, we fight on that lie until the end. I would submit that a significant number of white people in this country, can not stop fighting on the lie. They can't cop to the fact that they really have no standing to speak on Obama's relationship to blackness, because they know so little about black people. It's always hard to say, "I don't know." But no one else can say it for you.

More racism...yay!

Courtesy of TPM. Looks like a new Tea Party Emailer just got sent out:

Chris Matthews may have forgotten he was black. I sure as hell didn't, and neither did these clowns.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More evidence pointing to "Thank you, Jesus..."

Rep. Lynn Wooseley, a Progressive Rep. who's been getting on my nerves lately, has finally struck the right (and overdue) note:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told ABC News in an interview that she’s “absolutely” certain that a health care bill will pass, but added that it’s “only a beginning.”

“The day this bill passes, and if it doesn’t have a public option in it, I’m introducing my public option bill,” said Woolsey, D-Calif. “On to the next.”

Bingo! This is what House Progressives should be doing. This is what Tom Harkin said a couple of weeks (months?) ago. With the passage of even the crappier Senate Bill, Health Care turns from a one a decade discussion to a yearly discussion. "How are we going to improve the Bill this year?"

“Once you break the [special interest] stranglehold and you get the architecture in place, then it is not a massive reform to change this or add this or modify that,” he said. “My hope is that we move ahead on this and as reforms are in place, people will begin to say, ‘Gee, I didn’t realize that was what they were talking about.’ As more and more of these reforms take place, people will say that this is good, but we need something else, to change this or do that.

“In the future, amending it and changing it isn’t going to be as tough as passing it in the first place. We amend Medicare and Social Security all the time. We are changing rates, fixing this, doing this to make sure that they are viable. That’s what we will do in health care. I’m absolutely convinced of it.”

And there is one other thing Harkin is convinced will eventually come to pass: A public option.

“At some point in the near future, and I don’t know exactly how long it is going to be, we are going to have some sort of a public option out there,” he said. “We might not get it in this bill, but it will come in as the years go by and as people begin to look at insurance companies and how much they are charging. I have no doubt in my mind that we are going to have to go to some kind of a public option, some type of a single-payer type system to bring the costs down. When the administrative costs of Medicare is somewhere around the 3 percent range, but the administrative costs of the private insurance companies are in the 15 percent range, there is a lot of money that can be saved by going to a better system such as a single-payer or a public option-type system.”

Fine by me. More (and quicker) Public Option, the better...

Thank you, sweet Jesus...maybe.

It's been a mixed up hour or so, in regards to the Congressional Democrats who (allegedly) want Health Care Reform.

Yesterday, we had word (courtesy of TPM) that the House was prepared to go with Plan B, in effect passing the Senate version of the bill, coupled with a Senate promise to amend the bill to the House's liking via reconciliation.

Leading Democrats in the House still insist that "all options are on the table" to move ahead on health care. But for the first time since last Tuesday's special election in Massachusetts, it's clear that they're coalescing around the most widely discussed option: moving ahead with the Senate bill once it's clear that it will be changed through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Before they can move ahead, they need the Senate to make some real headway on their end of the bargain--and they're not getting the signs they need.

Fine, this is what I wanted since the New Year. Failing all else,and seeing what appears to me to be 41 solid "No" votes in the Senate, this would appear to be the only track available.

But no...

Politico then came out with a story that set my hair on fire. That Nancy was considering a two track solution, in effect passing the stuff we all like (like the ban on pre-existing conditions), and holding a comprehensive bill to the end with the stuff we might not (like the individual mandate). Never mind that the two items have to be paired together or Health Care costs will skyrocket...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday floated the idea of a two-track plan for health care reform — with Congress pursuing easier-to-pass incremental changes now and comprehensive reform later.

That last phrase being the "hair on fire part". It actually prompted immediate calls to the Speaker's Office and my own Congressman Adam Schiff.

Still, in the very next paragraph she was quoted as saying:

“We believe that it’s possible to have comprehensive health care reform as we go forward, but at the same time, it can be on another track where some things can just be passed outside of that legislation, and we’ll be doing both,” Pelosi said in an interview with POLITICO.

Which doesn't quite match up to what was summarized (by the ever un-trustworthy Poltico) before.

TPM seemed to back this same story up this afternoon.

"We can work on a comprehensive bill...we've got to figure out what the process is, who goes first, and whether the Senate goes first or second it doesn't matter but the fact remains that it could take a couple weeks for them to debate on the floor," the aide said. "While we're doing that: What else can we do in the meantime?"

"This is just an example," the aide went on, "but the anti-trust exemption isn't in the Senate bill. So that couldn't be added through reconciliation. So the House could pass a couple of smaller things that can pass as freestanding items, and can't be added through reconciliation."

But now, the National Journal is reporting that Nancy has the votes for Health Care, in effect going back to Plan B.

Offering Democrats a potential means to revive their top domestic priority, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flatly predicted Wednesday afternoon that she could muster enough votes to pass the Senate version of health care reform if the upper chamber agreed to adjust the bill through the reconciliation process.

Speaking to columnists just hours before President Obama's first State of the Union Address, Pelosi said that if the Senate used the reconciliation process to revise elements of the legislation unacceptable to her members, the House could approve such a two-track approach. "What I'm saying to you is the Senate bill, stand-alone, I don't see any chance of it [passing the House]," she said. "Reconciliation resolving some of the issues: then we can pass this thing."

So I don't know what the hell is going on right now. Sounds like to me, this last quote from the National Journal was the same thing as Politico got...but Politico decided to spin it their own special way.

"Progressives vs. the President"

I'm turning onto Huffington Post less and less as the days wear on. Bob Cesca is a lonely voice out there...

Stating the obvious by way of a preface, the goal of the progressive movement is to, of course, move government further to the left and thereby achieve progressive policies. The argument right now is about how best to achieve this goal in the context of the current political landscape. I've always thought that a successful progressive movement involved three things: an ongoing marginalizing of the far-right; arguing for progressive policies; and promoting and encouraging the careers of politicians and organizations that are best equipped to help pass progressive legislation.

With that in mind, one of the many reasons why I endorsed, voted for and still support President Obama is because I strongly believe that he's perhaps the only American politician equipped to move the nation in a distinctly leftward direction from within the context of the Oval Office. But at no time have I ever held any delusions that he was some kind of progressive superhero -- a Kucinich or Sanders or Dean with a better jump shot and Jon Favreau on the payroll.

While Barack Obama is, in fact, a liberal, he's not necessarily a progressive who fits squarely into the progressive movement's wheelhouse.

But he's close.

I've always believed that he would be, and currently is, the most liberal president in a generation -- if not since FDR. Furthermore, he's uniquely equipped with the talents to sell it. Who else, off the top of your head, has the presidential right stuff while also being as relatively left-leaning as Barack Obama? I'm talking about the complete package here. Loyal family man, well-above-average intelligence, sense of humor, dynamic personality, legendary oratory skills, political instincts, the knack for managing chaos and possessing a fundamentally liberal world view. (Say nothing of the historical nature of his presidency.)

All that said, he's not perfect. I don't know anyone who's suggesting he is. He's made a variety of miscalculations in his first year, and he'll surely make more mistakes as his first term continues to roll out. Some of the mistakes are only mistakes in that they don't entirely line up with progressive priorities; some of the mistakes are political errors regardless of policy.

Here's where everything begins to fall apart in terms of the anti-Obama left. How do we best call out these mistakes? What does accountability look like?

Some very prominent members of the progressive movement have taken a punitive approach, not only towards the president but even towards allegedly disloyal progressive members of Congress. You've read all of the various descriptions of this movement. The kill-billers. Activists and writers who have a penchant for suggesting that the president is too similar to George W. Bush. Some have promoted the idea of pressuring Bernie Sanders with a primary opponent, while others have suggested that maybe progressive Democrats in the House should return their donations as punishment for (eventually) voting for health care reform without a public option. Some have attempted to team up with wingnuts like Grover Norquist and Dick Armey's tea party movement to attack the administration, as if this will somehow help progressivism.

"This thing's coming out an inch at a time, and there's still a mile to go..."

Last night on Countdown, I thought Keith went a little overboard in his comparisons of the Landrieu Watergate. I thought this was odd, since Keith had recently admitted that he had been a little over the top on recent shows...

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But now, instead it seems...he may have been onto something...

Granted, Andrew Breitbart paying one of the Mary Landrieu "burglars" (we might as well call them that) may be nothing. But as of last night, I thought this was O'Keefe's ego getting out of control and doing something stupid...but doing it on his own.

But now, we have to ask...what did Breitbart know...and when did he know it? Did he authorize these actions? Did he play any part in these actions?

And, of course, was someone paying him?

You can bet the Federal Marshals are going to be asking him these questions in the next 24 hours.

"This thing's coming out an inch at a time, and there's still a mile to go..." it comes...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Look...

New look. I needed a way to widen the posts, and found one on them internets.

Widen the posts, widen the blog...and thus I need a new image.

Let me know if I need a better quote. Seemed right for the times.

TPM: "Okay, Well One of Us Has Jumped the Shark, Anyway"

My favorite poster at Talking Points Memo strikes again, the Commenter Formerly Known As NC Steve.

Jared Bernstein on the Freeze... (VIDEO)

From the White House blog:

First, an important note on timing. No one is arguing that we should take our foot off the accelerator today, when the economic recovery remains fragile and job growth has yet to return. In fact, you’ll hear from the President tomorrow night about measures we should undertake right away to jumpstart job creation. In his words and deeds, the President has made clear that recovery comes first. But that doesn’t mean we should wait to start changing the same bad habits in Washington that left a $1.3 trillion deficit on our doorstep when we entered office in January 2009, especially when we can do so without cutting back on our jobs agenda.

Second, a little background on freeze-eology: there are two ways to do a freeze like this: (1) an across-the-board freeze on every program outside of national security; and (2) a surgical approach where overall totals are frozen but some individual programs go up and others go down. In short, a hatchet versus a scalpel.

During the campaign, you may recall that John McCain touted option 1 – the hatchet approach of an across-the-board freeze.

The President was critical of that approach then, and we would be critical of it now. It’s not what we’re proposing. To the contrary, the entire theory of the President’s proposed freeze is to dial up the stuff that will support job growth and innovation while dialing down the stuff that doesn’t. Under our plan, some discretionary spending will go up; some will go down. That’s a big difference from a hatchet.

This particular selection came from Ezra, and he has some rebuttal.

Jared was also on with Rachel Maddow.

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To be honest, while I respect Rachel's obvious concern about the President repeating FDR's mistake of 1937, it's also obvious she doesn't know squat (or at least has selective memory about) FDR's first hundred days...where, on the basis of a Campaign promise he cut the Federal Budget as he implemented the New Deal, including:

40% cuts to veterans' benefits and cuts in overall military spending. He removed 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and slashed benefits for the remainder. Protests erupted, led by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Roosevelt held his ground, but when the angry veterans formed a coalition with Senator Huey Long and passed a huge bonus bill over his veto, he was defeated. He succeeded in cutting federal salaries and the military and naval budgets. He reduced spending on research and education.

What FDR did was far, far, far more drastic than what the President was doing. FDR's mistake was trying to re-balance the budget too fast. It didn't work.

I'm not sure this is going to work either, but I see what the President's thinking. I'm just saying that it could.

But isn't it interesting that the President's Spending Freeze is scheduled to happen at the same time Bush's Tax Cuts are supposed to sunset...


Let me write my own fantasy headline...

Conservative Activist Douchebag hoisted by own petard.


Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Yes, I'm aping Andrew Sullivan's blog, but sooo wanted to type that.

But the Blogs agree. Get off your damn ass and pass the bill.

I repeat what I said on FB: Having your thumb up yer @#$ is not a political position.

Okay, I understand the whole picture...(as far as the Spending Freeze goes)...

Bondad (while also not thrilled with the idea of the spending freeze) clued me in on the last detail I was missing:

There is the possibility that he is playing to the bond market in an attempt to keep interest rates lower.


He also posted pretty much what I'd learned from Noam Scheiber:

“A lot of our caucus won’t like it but I don’t think we have any choice,” said an adviser to Congressional Democratic leaders, who would only speak on condition of anonymity about internal party deliberations. “After Massachusetts and all the polls about independents’ abandoning us for being fiscally irresponsible, we can’t afford to be spending more than Obama.”

Okay, so let's see what we've got. (I feel like I've scribbled this all down on various napkins, and now I have to pull them together...)

So it may have the added benefit of good Politics and possibly good policy...


Obama is proposing this Spending Freeze in order to keep the confidence of the Bond Traders, so that they will help keep Interest Rates low.

You want to keep interest rates low in order to keep the wheels greased for personal spending.

Personal spending means, you and me having a lower interest rate on our damned credit cards will encourage us to buy that Playstation 3, or Canon EOS-7D Camera.

That in turn helps the Best Buy guy with his salary, which will, in turn, allow him to afford a night out on the town to eat at...well, say...Michael's Bar and Grill, which he leaves Heidi and tip, and so on and so on...

Okay, get that. It's not a bad idea in an of itself, but this grand notion, as said before, needs to be tied to a job package so that other people, besides the Best Buy guy can...say go to Michael's spend money and help pay Heidi's salary (and, of course, leave her a big tip).

Yes, dear...I'm making sure to stress that last part.

So, it would really help if the Congress would pass a whopper of a jobs package.

And according to the Washington Post, the Senate is letting us not passing a $100-$200 Million dollar jobs package...but aiming at $80.

Thanks U.S. Senate.

You still suck.