Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fireside chat for November 13, 2010 (VIDEO)

The President explains his push for exporting American goods in Asia, and urges Congress to address earmarks as a signal of fiscal reform.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rachel Maddow's Unedited Interview with Jon "I have the boubons" Stewart (VIDEO)

Jon was sick, so for about the first ten minutes, he's off his game. But he warms up as time goes on, and he did not throw up once during the interview. Kudos!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Greg Sargent on Compromise...and how Americans...all protestations aside, really don't believe in it.

Greg followed up his overview piece on the Tax Cuts with another really, really, good piece on "Compromise", and how Americans, all their protestations aside, really don't believe in it:

CBS News has a new poll out finding that huge majorities of Americans want Obama and Republicans to "compromise," rather than hold out for what they believe in. This echoes what we keep being told about the midterm elections: It proves the American people want the two parties to "work together to get things done."

Let's stipulate at the outset that these types of statements don't have any meaning in the real world. People differ on what constitutes compromise to begin with, viewing it through the prism of what they want.

And remember that thing I wrote about the President always keeping his powder dry for a battle that never seems to happen? Greg puts it more bluntly:

People don't give leaders points for occupying some sort of precious moral high ground that comes with being more compromising than the other side. People give leaders points for delivering what they want, which of course varies wildly from one constituency to another. One party, it seems, understands this far better than the other one does.

Greg Sargent @ThePlumLineGS has the best overview of the Tax Cuts cave/maybe cave so far...

Now this is solid reporting. Things get messy. Reporter sits down, and bangs out a piece to clear it up:

Yesterday, Axelrod seemed to concede to HuffPo that Dems would probably not be able to extend the middle class cuts permanently and would have to extend both temporarily, because it's the only way of ensuring that the middle class cuts don't expire. "We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said. "The world of what it takes to get this done."

In subsequently statements, Axelrod and White House comm director Dan Pfeiffer strongly denied that this amounted to giving in, adamantly asserted that the White House position had not changed, and repeated the call for a middle class tax cut extension.

But neither Axelrod's statement nor Pfeiffer's statement reiterated Obama's call for making the middle class cuts permanent, a demand that has been at the core of the White House's brinkmanship with Republicans. This is the crux of the issue right now -- whether the White House will stick with that goal, or not.

The key word is "permanent". The President's position is that since he's giving up the permanance of the Middle Class Tax Cuts, and the Republicans are also giving up permanance of their Tax Cuts for the rich, a compromise has been achieved.

In the real world, we call this punting.

I'd still veto the whole thing. Why participate in the GOP's fiscal fraudulence?

As much as I love the President, I gotta say, he seems to always want to keep his powder dry for a later fight that never happens because he's still working to keep his powder dry.

Anyway, this Greg Sargent piece meets my standard of good reporting. I learned something I didn't know before. Thus, news is produced. (You can learn something from this, Huffington Post).

Guess who agrees we with me that the Huffington Post committed an act of non-journalism?

Well, Huffington Post interviewee David Axelrod for one:

There is not one bit of news here. I simply re-stated what POTUS and Robert have been saying. Our two strong principles are that we need to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, but we can't afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy.

That last bit was the one part that made me feel better.  He drew a bit fat underline under "we can't afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy".

And White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer chimed in:

The story is overwritten. Nothing has changed from what the President said last week. We believe we need to extend the middle class tax cuts, we cannot afford to borrow 700 billion to pay for extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and we are open to compromise and are looking forward to talking to the Congressional leadership next week to discuss how to move forward. Full Stop, period, end of sentence.

Even the Washington Post's Greg Sargent is skeptical, but like me, he thinks this bad deal is where we're headed.

I'm not sure this amounts to the White House giving in quite yet, but it seems to suggest that's where things are headed. The White House wanted a permanent extension for the middle class cuts and a temporary extension of the high end ones. But Republicans have refused any effort to "decouple" the two categories, insisting on extending both for the same duration, in order to avoid having to push for extending just the tax cuts for the rich later.

This does seem typical of the White House pattern. Leak a story that has bad implications for the White House. Deny, deny, deny the story. Then go ahead with what the original story said anyway.

It's also possible, just possible, that the White House hasn't decided what they're going to do yet.  As I've said in the past, when they decide to move, the move with blinding speed.  It's getting to that stage that can take a while.

As always, it's all about the clicks.

The Huffington Post finds a way to break absolutely no news at all...

I've never been a big fan of Howard Fineman, but I was at least hoping that his journalistic ethos would rub off on the Click-addicts at the Huffington Post.

No such luck.

Here's the Headline:

White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts

And here's the relevant section:

But there is just such a change on taxes.

Although the president "took the position he felt was the right position" -- favoring a continuation of the cuts only for families earning up to $250,000 -- Axelrod portrayed this "optimal" stance as unrealistic in the lame-duck Congress that begins next week.

For one, time is not on the administration's side. All of the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts. The Republicans in effect "built in tax increases," Axelrod said. And separating out different categories of tax cuts now -- extending some without extending others -- is politically unrealistic and procedurally difficult, he added.

"We don't want that tax increase to go forward for the middle class," he said, which means the administration will have to accept them all for some as yet unspecified period of time. "But plainly, what we can't do is permanently extend these high income taxes."

In other words, the White House won't risk being blamed for raising taxes on the middle class even though, arguably, it is the GOP's refusal to separate the categories that has put Obama in this bind. The only condition, at least initially, seems to be that the tax-cuts-for-the wealthy not be extended "permanently."

What does that mean?

Well, not a lot, and a lot closer to nothing at all. This is the same thing we've been hearing about for, literally, months now. Don't wanna extend the Tax cuts for the Rich. Will probably wind up temporarily extending Tax Cuts for the rich in order to get Tax cuts for Middle Class.

Now, I don't like it...but it's not news.

Huffington Post? Call me when you break something.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Hill: Did the Deficit Commission just call for a second look at the Public Option?

First caught (at least in my mind) by Kos on his Twitter account.

The answer is simple: Yes they have:

In their report, Bowles and Simpson urged Congress to set a global target for total federal health expenditures after 2020 and to review costs every two years to keep the growth of healthcare spending in line with the increase of gross domestic product plus 1 percent.

If costs exceed targets, the fiscal commission’s draft proposal would require the president to submit to Congress reforms such as the public option to lower spending.

The chairmen’s proposal calls for consideration of “a robust public option” among other reforms such as an overhaul of the fee-for-service system; an increase in healthcare premiums; a premium support system for Medicare; and strengthened authority for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which under current law will be empowered to restrict Medicare payments beginning in 2015.


The Deficit Commission Non-Report: Reactions from the left, and the right

This was a pre-leak, a way to control media reactions to the Deficit Commission (of which there have been many) that are not in line with the reactions the Deficit Commission wants us to have, but remember:

It is not the commission's report. And here is the second most important fact to remember: The commission itself does not have any actual power. So what we're looking at is a discussion draft of a proposal to balance the budget authored by two people who don't have a vote in either the House or the Senate.

That was Ezra Klein.

This is also Ezra Klein:

It's worth taking a moment to consider how we got here: The fiscal commission we have is not the fiscal commission we were supposed to have. The fiscal commission we were supposed to have was the brainchild of Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, the two senior members of the Senate Budget Committee. "The inability of the regular legislative process to meaningfully act on [the deficit] couldn't be clearer," they wrote. Their proposal would have set up a commission dominated by members of Congress and able to fast-track its consensus recommendations through the congressional process -- no delays, no amendments. But that proposal was filibustered in the Senate, mainly by Republicans who worried it would end in tax increases.

I want to highlight this bit (also from Ezra):

Perhaps the oddest feature of the report from the co-chairs of the deficit commission is its cap on the amount of revenues the federal government can raise. It would've been one thing to propose a tax plan bringing revenues up to 21 percent of GDP -- we were at 18.5 percent in 2007 -- but instead, the co-chairs say that revenues shouldn't be allowed to go above 21 percent of GDP.

This actually angers me because this is how California completely screwed itself over the last two years. In our obsession to keep taxes from going up, we hit a genuine crisis we've voted away half the weapons from our arsenal to deal with it.

California called it Prop. 13.

Then there's Andrew Sullivan:

I've quickly scanned the Simpson-Bowles draft proposal and find it extremely encouraging. It really does hit what the Dish regards as key themes for a new fiscal order: 1986-style tax reform (largely removing deductions and lowering rates); serious defense retrenchment; focusing social security on the truly needy and raising the retirement age; hard cost-controls in Medicare; a real populist attack on government waste.

It reads like the manifesto the Tea Party never published. Every detail needs thinking through and debate. Much of it is way over my head in terms of the specifics of government programs and the ability to cut them. But the core proposal is honest, real, and vital. I recommend you download and read both documents.

If I were the president, I would embrace this and urge passage of these proposals as the key domestic objective of his next two years in office. If I were the GOP, intent not on politics but on restraining spending and the debt, I would make this a joint endeavor. If I were the Tea Party, I would leap at this as a way past the old two parties toward fiscal sanity.

What did I just say about Pundits being obsessed with the perfection of their own ideas??

I'm sorry, but Andrew's obsession with cutting our social safety net is one of the areas where I think he's got his head up his ass. He's still in love with Thatcher's England for pity's sake.

I respect Andrew on many issues, but he can really kiss my ass with his idea that this could be Obama's core legacy.

Yeah, its your core issue and have zero chance of being affected by the massive cuts you want.

I'm continually amazed by American's capacity to endure the suffering of someone else.

And finally, Paul Krugman:

OK, let’s say goodbye to the deficit commission. If you’re sincerely worried about the US fiscal future — and there’s good reason to be — you don’t propose a plan that involves large cuts in income taxes. Even if those cuts are offset by supposed elimination of tax breaks elsewhere, balancing the budget is hard enough without giving out a lot of goodies — goodies that fairly obviously, even without having the details, would go largely to the very affluent.

I'm not sure what I think yet, but I can go along with this (back to Ezra again):

Some of it I like, some of it I don't like, and some of it I need to think more about.

In the end, isn't that the reaction a Commission on anything is supposed to enact?

Glenn Greenwald vs. Lawrence O'Donnell (or why Glenn Greenwald's ideas are going to keep costing us elections) (VIDEO)

This blog has a long-standing loathing of Glenn Greenwald. After all, he's the only person in America who truly understands the Constitution (just ask him).

For me, he's an insufferable prig. He's a know-it-all who disregards anything anyone else says who disagrees with him. Now, this is something we usually castigate Republicans for, but we celebrate it (for some reason) in jerks like Greenwald.

Now following up their conversation from a couple of days ago,you're going to get 12 minutes why I can't stand the guy.

He loves him some him, don't he?  Did he stop to take a breath even once?  He seemed to follow the Palin strategy of filling the air with words.

And thus we have the one thing that no matter your party affiliation, we can all agree on, matter their ideology are idiots, because their ideology and their ideas are the only things that matter to them.

When I was a supporter of Barack Obama's in 2008, I favored his Health Care plan over Hillary's because Hillary's had a Mandate, and Barack's didn't.

Turns out, I was wrongMandates are what's needed to keep costs down, otherwise you get into something called an Insurance Death Spiral.  Fortunately, the President changed his mind.  Reading up on the matter, so did I.

Now, the difference between me and Glenn Greenwald?  I just told you I was wrong.  Glenn never will.

Glenn Greenwald really doesn't care what the hell happened in 2010. He doesn't care how Congressional Districts work.  He doesn't care that Conservative Democrats will win in more Conservative Districts.  He doesn't care about this stuff, because for him it's ideology first, last and always.  Ideology before Country, ideology before fact.

Over and over again, he tells us that if the masses just heard our superior Liberal ideas, and if Democrats sold them with enough conviction, we'd win every time.

...or...maybe the people have heard our Liberal ideas (which I still love) and simply don't like them.  And no matter how hard we sell them our Liberal ideas, they're not going to change their minds.  So instead of throwing up our hands and turning the perfect into the enemy of the good, we compromise, get the best deal we can, and move the needle a little closer to where we think it needs to be.

Last I checked, that was called...Democracy.  And yes, it can be an ugly-ass process.  But Glenn can't be bothered with Democracy or compromise.  That's too much like hard work, or...legislating or (gasp) being an actual leader...

Hey, I like actual Government-run Socialized Medicine.  But you know, I also know how to count.

At no point does the thought even enter Glenn's head that some of his ideas are just flat out bull@#$%.  When confronted with facts like "that idealized Congress you speak of never existed" he just repeats the same point he made two minutes ago.

He's got his ideas.  He's stickin' to 'em.  Facts be damned.

How is this son of a bitch different from any Teabagger I equally despise?!?

You know, I got an idea.  Let's take Glenn's ideas and Lawrence's ideas of what a Political candidate should be, let 'em each run their own campaigns, but do it in the middle of say...Idaho and see who wins the Democratic nomination.

Not the election, just the Democratic nomination.

Doesn't have to be Idaho, it could be in working-class Ohio, hard-scrabble Massachusetts, the Central part of California...otherwise blue states where folks tend to vote red more often than not.

Sure, Glenn could Nancy Pelosi's District...or anywhere in Manhattan or the West Side of Los Angeles, the same way if I play football against a bunch of third-graders, I'd probably whup up on 'em.

But put me in with the NFLers, and see how long I'd last.  (Hell, I wouldn't last against a bunch of High Schoolers...)

Likewise, put Glenn in an area where his ideology isn't so popular, and see how well he does.

Glenn is going to keep losing us elections.  Fortunately, the only way he can hurt if we listen to him.

Lawrence O'Donnell: "We should not allow this country to live in fear of a word [Socialism]" (VIDEO)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steve Benen reminds us that Nancy Pelosi used to be damn good at this job

There's been a lot of strum and drang, particularly from the New York Times, over whether Nancy Pelosi should, once again, be House Minority Leader. Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly dug into the archives, and found an article from May of 2006, highlighting just how good Nancy was in that role.

In the winter of 2005, Bush unveiled his Social Security privatization plan, the domestic centerpiece of his second term. The president invested a tremendous amount of personal political capital in the effort, featuring it in his 2005 State of the Union address and holding carefully choreographed town meetings to simulate public support for the idea.

Most of the press corps expected the debate to be a painful defeat for Democrats. Not only were moderates predicted to jump ship and join with Republicans to support the president's plan, but Social Security -- one of the foundational blocks of the New Deal social compact -- would be irrevocably changed. But then a funny thing happened. Reid and Pelosi managed to keep the members of their caucuses united in opposition. Day after day they launched coordinated attacks on Bush's "risky" proposal. Without a single Democrat willing to sign on and give a bipartisanship veneer of credibility, the private accounts plan slowly came to be seen by voters for what it was: another piece of GOP flimflam.

As the privatization ship began sinking, Republicans challenged Democrats to develop their own plan, and when none was forthcoming, pundits whacked the minority party for being without ideas. But not putting forth a plan was the plan. It meant that once the bottom fell out on public support for Bush's effort -- which it did by early summer -- Democrats couldn't be pressured to work with Republicans to form a compromise proposal. It was a brilliant tactical maneuver that resulted in a defeat at least as decisive as the Republicans' successful effort to kill Clinton's health-care plan.

Steve has more. Still, as good as that sounds, it also sounds a lot like the same plan the GOP used to perfection to regain power.

"[Health Care Reform] cost [the Democrats] their majority, and it was worth it

Will Saletan, one of my least favorite writers at Slate, really nails something that disaffected Democrats should remember about Health Care Reform:

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements.

Will Republicans revisit health care? Sure. Will they enact some changes to the program? Yes, and Democrats will help them. Every program needs revisions. Republicans will get other things, too: business tax breaks, education reform, more nuclear power, and a crackdown on earmarks. These are issues on which both parties can agree. Which is why, if you're a Democrat, you deal with them after you've lost your majority—not before.

It's funny, in a twisted way, to read all the post-election complaints that Democrats lost because they thought only of themselves. Even the chief operating officer of the party's leading think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Obama failed to convince Americans "that he knows their jobs are as important as his." That's too bad, because Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies proved just the opposite. They risked their jobs—and in many cases lost them—to pass the health care bill. The elections were a painful defeat, and you can argue that the bill was misguided. But Democrats didn't lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.

Even Lawrence O'Donnell covered "What the @#$ has Obama done so far??"

Hey, I spotted it first!

Actually, Andrew Sullivan spotted it first.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Keith's Statement to Countdown Fans...

It's very funny. You go looking for the Keith Olbermann's released statement, and you only can see parts of it in the various articles released here and there.

"A Statement to the Viewers of Countdown"

It actually took an hour or two before the statement was even linked to the Times story.

I wouldn't characterize this as a slamming of NBC, but I wouldn't call the wording gentle. If you're used to Keith's writing style, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to you. He laid out what happened. He didn't pull any punches, but he didn't twist any knives either.

The thorniest part of the missive was his saying that he was assured no suspension was going to happen...and then it happening anyway. I get the feeling that the story isn't over yet, and the next move, whatever it going to be Keith's...and it's going to involve Lawyers.

Keith, for the record, this may be why Jon and Stephen said that the media sucks.

President Obama's complete 60 Minutes Interview for November 7, 2010 (VIDEO)

The opening part from the edited version of this interview pissed me off quite a bit. I think Steve Kroft was slinging a significant amount of bull@#$%. Polls consistently showed that jobs and the economy were the number one concern of voters on Tuesday, not the President's "Liberal Governing Philosophy."

It made me think of the line from "The Insider" where Mike Wallace is blasting Eric Kluster of CBS News:

Who told you your incompetent little fingers had the requisite skills to edit me!

It's clear that they don't have the requisite skills to even edit the President.

Watch at least the first couple minutes of this interview, and compare it to the unedited version below. As always, the differences are stark.

My problem with the opening batch of the edited version was that it approached the "Liberalism meme" not as a possible point of view on the election, but as accepted fact. He all but said "Voters rejected your Liberalism out of hand, why can't you accept that fact?"

"Well, gee Steve. Why can you accept that like most reporters, you're a lazy bastard."

Of course, that answer is probably why I'm not the President.

And what's this nonsense?

KROFT: The political landscape has changed. I mean, how do you plan to govern? President Clinton found himself in a very, very similar circumstance. And he reacted by pivoting to the middle, turning to the middle. And was successful at it. Is that what you're gonna do?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I when I . . . .

KROFT: You have to, don't you?

Have to? No, he doesn't "have to". He's probably going to, but since the Voters did not send him that message, he doesn't "have to".

Again, if Unemployment had fallen to 7 or 8%, do you really think the GOP would have had a leg to stand on? Do you think the House would have ever been in danger of flipping?

Here is the whole 70 minute interview. The Transcript is available here.

CBS News' embedding has a history of being unreliable. If the video doesn't work, click here.