Friday, October 30, 2009

Train of Thought Lounge: Thriller

In addition to being appropriate due to the MJ theme at tonight's Palace Halloween party, this is probably the greatest music video of all time.

Only Thing Left for Skins Fans To Do: Stay Home

I know it's long, long overdue, but it's time for me break my silence regarding the utter travesty that is the 2009 Washington Redskins. As bad as things have become recently, it's been hard for me to find a unique perspective to add to what has been an overwhelmingly negative backlash from fans and media alike to the mismanagement of this team by Dan Snyder. It may sound shortsighted to say this, as I haven't really been alive for that long, but this is undoubtedly the lowest point in my lifetime of Redskins' fandom.

Yes, lower than starting 0-7 in 1998. Lower even than going 3-13 in 1993, two years removed from winning Super Bowl XXVI. That is because even though the Redskins fielded some horrible teams throughout the 90's, the franchise still resembled somewhat of an actual football organization.

Therein lies the problem with this season; the Redskins are no longer an organization, we are a dictatorship. I don't have time to go over all the reasons that Dan Snyder is an egomanaical, self-interested, cold individual. Again, I know I'm young, but even I thought I'd seen it all until he actually banned fans from carrying signs into games.

With this being the bye week, I'll take this opportunity to announce that I'm officially done with the Redskins this season. I'm through with them. At least, as they are currently constructed. This past Monday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was the first game I can remember which I didn't feel any emotion at any point. Win or lose, I really would not have felt anything. Each time the Eagles scored (usually in spectacular fashion), I felt absolutely nothing.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm renouncing my fandom; I will forever root for the Washington Redskins football team to win. However, I'm declaring this season over and urging all of my fellow Skins fans to do the same until major change is enacted within the team's structure. So here is my plea: as hard as it may be to do, just stay home. Please do not support Snyder's egotistical regime any longer. I want to see empty seats throughout FedEx Field. Anything less will fail to register any significant message.

Watching this version of the Redskins is like watching a loved one die. There is so little you can actually control to help the situation improve, except helplessly watch as things get worse. The only difference, aside from the obvious fact that football is just a game & isn't life or death, is that there is one thing we can do as fans.

Just stay home.

Evan Bayh's Principled Stand Against Health Care Reform

He's just far too much of a centrist to support the public option. Yep, nothing to see here...

Yesterday, Sen. Evan Bayh joined his colleague Joe Lieberman in suggesting that he may oppose health-care reform, citing concerns about the deficit. Bayh has long been one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus. But is his stance also affected by the fact that his wife has reportedly earned at least $2 million over the last six years as a member of the board of a major health insurer?

Susan Bayh's affiliation with Indianapolis-based WellPoint isn't news. But a new report on TheStreet digs into the details. It also finds that last year, Susan Bayh sat on four other corporate boards, in addition to WellPoint's. She received over $656,0000 in cash and stock for all her board work, around half of which came from WellPoint.

As the site puts it: "Susan Bayh's corporate directorships provide a significant chunk of the Bayh family income."

It's also worth noting that Susan Bayh was a mid-level attorney at Eli Lilly before joining WellPoint's board in 1998, while her husband was governor. That suggests that the company, at least, may have felt that her value lay more in the access she offered to Evan Bayh than in her own accomplishments.

The report also notes that Susan Bayh tends to sell her stock in WellPoint very quickly, has never held stock in the company for longer than a year, and currently owns no shares. According to TheStreet, that suggests that her concern is less with the company's long-term stock price -- as might be expected for a member for the company's board -- and more with the opportunity to make money quickly and cash out.

Train of Thought Field Trip: Peace Prize Resistance

In honor of Halloween we’re going to leave the usual Field Trip spots in favor of a place far scarier… ResistNet. Also in honor of Halloween we’re going to get their reactions to Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. There are sane reasons to not be entirely thrilled by that decision- things like “hey, I’m not sure if he really has done much to advance peace,” and on the other hand there are insane reasons. Guess which one we’re going to find on ResistNet! Write your answer down somewhere and we’ll compare after reading their posts.

Pamela’s post is a good one to start on because it gets us back into the ResistNet norm of long, rambling, incoherent posts right off the bat:

Wonder what that cost his backer....wonder what it's going to cost us in the long run? Can it get any more ridiculous than this. What kinda kool-aid are they drinking! It's all very clear that this whole circus was planned and set in motion a very long time ago and they (bho's backers) knew they would have to pull out all the stops to try and make him look good. Do they really think the American People are that stupid (obviously) they knew he would not have made it at all if the People were correctly informed and the race was run honestly.
Does she think the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by “the American People” or is she still ranting about the 2008 election? Again, write down your answer on a piece of paper and we’ll discuss it later. Herbert L Ring Jr was thunderstruck by the announcement, and soon he starts invoking you-know-who:

While taking my youngest granddaughter to the bus stop this morning @ 7:30, an announcement came over the radio that literally had me shaking. The announcer said "PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS JUST AWARDED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE". Can someone please tell me how one man can have so many believeing every word he says? Lately I have been watching the History Channel who's subject has been centering on the ANTICHRIST. Go to their archives, people, and watch what the experts are saying. Then tell me what your opinion is about Mr Obama relative to that subject. It's not just an issue that the people of the United States were mesmerized by his talk, it appears now that the world has fallen for it. If never before, we MUST rise up and be stronger than ever
Just another day on the internet, casually trying to advance the idea that Obama might be the anti-Christ. Worried Grammie stops by to say that Obama might not be the anti-Christ- he may just be ‘the precursor.’

I'm not yet convinced he's the antichrist. I've done months of research on these thugs and there are powerful, filthy rich elitists behind this destruction of this country, who have been following a plan for decades. The thug in chief has been groomed for many years to be the one to finally take down America. If you're read the End Times series by Tim LaHaye, you can see where things are falling in place - I'm just not sure if he's the antichrist or the precursor. It's time to research who was on the nominating committee and who rendered the final decision and then start connecting the dots.
John M is the life of the party:

sorry, pretty sophmoric, but all I can think of to say is barf and puke.
Sophomoric posts are soon put to an end by the return of Worried Grammie, who has been googling up a storm in the name of crazy research:

I am doing research - I want to know who nominated him, how he was elected, and what the connection between those people and the Illuminati, Bilderbergs, etc. is. Last night I found a connection between Blackstone Group (Chicago), who bought out Busch Enterprises yesterday - Busch Gardens, Seaworld and 8 other parks - Blackstone is connected to Bilderberg. Wonder why they want to own all of these amusement parks!!
Instead of laughing Grammie out of the thread, Melinda starts to make some more brilliant connections:

Because in an amusement park there is a lot of scrap iron available in tearing one of these things down . That and the property is prime real estate usually , or perhaps it is they want to change the names and the rides to ( One world order theme parks , enjoy your ride to hell ) .
John P. sums it up pretty well:

This just sucks.
Texas Nell finally says His name, risking bringing the wrath of the Dark Lord down on this thread:

I'd love to know how George Soros is involved in BO being awarded "the prize"...wonder who Soros bought so BO could, once again, look like the Messiah. WAKE UP, WORLD. FOR PETE'S SAKE, WAKE UP!!!!!
Melinda comes back to make up a bunch of stuff about Soros and say that they should “get rid” of him:

Nell, get rid of Soros and you cure a lot of problems , This Animal dug the gold fillings out of the peoples mouths the Nazis gassed before burning them . He wasn't ordered to ,he just wanted to ,and he reported those who had excellent dental work to go first . He also sold out Israel to the Arabs during the six day war ,without the grace of God Israel would have lost that Battle because of George.
Soros is the lowest excuse for Human excrement on this Planet .
Trust me, you do not want to be on SusanConstant’s list:

Sweden is now on my naughty list...

HEY! SWEDEN! You became an enemy of the lawful US government known as We The People and if you so much as take one red cent from us under the guise of foreign aid or goodwill? You got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do! Go shoot yourself in the other foot, will ya?
Honoring our president?! Explain yourself, country next to the country that gave Obama a peace prize! She continues:

The people on the committee are farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr left extremists and always vote in some wack a do person to suit their own agenda. Basically this award is a joke.

But just as others, I almost through up my wheaties this morning over this.
You threw up your Wheaties because this award ruined the ‘everyone in the world hates Obama’ narrative the right has been desperately trying to develop during the last few months. Also, I’m literally laughing out loud at the idea that Obama is far left, leftist, or basically anything other than milquetoast corporatist.

Cowboy Jim rides into the thread towards the end and gives it something special:

This Black ASS has done absolutely NOTHING since he was supposedly elected and I as a Vietnam Veteran having served 22 months in combat can tell ALL of this Great Nation that we enjoy and admire each and every day HE IS ONE HELL OF A LIAR! This award of Peace Prize ONLY DEMINISHES the premise of the award to it's LOWEST LEVELS! I am now beginning to HATE this man and if anyone anywhere does not like my opinion they can also go shove it up therir peverbial butt!
ResistNet: pretty much the spookiest place on the internet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Motives behind Corporate Whore's Corporate Whoring Remain Unclear

In case you were wondering who was excited about Joe Lieberman's douchery...

(image via Thinkprogress)

Not that this is surprising, it would just be nice if the press made this the focus of their coverage rather than going along with his plea for attention. Or they could have gone with this angle:

Following Lieberman's threat to filibuster a public option, every paper played up the story of how the "centrists" are now rebelling. Watch out, the centrists are coming! "Centrists unsure about Reid's public option," the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Let's get real. These holdouts are not centrist Democrats; they are corporate Democrats, which should be an oxymoron. They'll do whatever the healthcare industry wants and use their red state constituents as an excuse to do so. Only Lieberman is from Connecticut, one of the bluest states in the country. So what's his excuse?

Well, some rather large insurance companies reside in Connecticut and, as Joe Conason points out, Lieberman's wife just so happens to have been a drug industry lobbyist for Hill & Knowlton. Conason reports:

"Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster."

Calling these people "centrists" has always been one of my pet peeves. While the media can't call them whores or douche bags like some assholes do, pointing out extremely obvious conflicts of interest would be nice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

But He's With Us On Everything But The War!

Someone wasn't getting enough attention:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told reporters today that he would in fact filibuster any health care bill he doesn't agree with--and right now, he doesn't agree with the public option proposal making its way through the Senate.

"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."

Hey Democrats, it's not like we didn't warn you...

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Status They’re Trying To Keep Quo

It looks like the magic of the unfettered Invisible Hand isn’t doing such a great job of keeping prices down:

The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $505
billion and $850 billion every year, the report
from Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare
analytics at Thomson Reuters, found.

"America's healthcare system is indeed
hemorrhaging billions of dollars, and the
opportunities to slow the fiscal bleeding are
substantial," the report reads.

"The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion
is wasted annually. That's one-third of the
nation's healthcare bill," Kelley said in a
$700 billion, not bad! There’s a whole lot of additional healthcare you could provide with that much, or we could go with vastly lowered premiums, or maybe we could split the difference. ThinkProgress has more about how much money simply disappears into the insurance companies:

Within the context of companies’ revenues,
insurers skim off 15-20 percent of premium dollars
for administrative costs and profits… Moreover, a
report by Families USA found that “insurers in the
individual market sometimes maintain medical loss
ratios of only 60%, retaining 40% of premium dollars
for administration, marketing and profit.”

The top five earning insurance companies averaged
profits of $1.56 billion in 2008 and reported
spending an average of “more than 18 percent of
their revenues on marketing, administration, and
profits.” That year, CEO compensation for these
companies ranged from $3 million to $24 million.”
While their companies are rescinding coverage and denying care for preexisting conditions, some CEOs are walking away with as much as $24 million?! Gee, I hope healthcare reform doesn’t hit them too hard- won’t someone please think about the plight of the health insurance millionaire?

Harry Reid For The Win

Great News.

As Chris Bowers says, this changes the conversation from "will there be a public option?" to "what type of public option?".


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced what we've been reporting today - the merged health care bill will include a public option allowing states to opt-out.

"Under this concept states will be able to determine whether the public option works best for them," Reid told reporters. He said it was the "fairest" way to go.

Reid (D-NV) said after "countless hours" of talking to his caucus, there is a "strong consensus" for this plan. He said he will not submit a plan with a triggered public option to the Congressional Budget Office.

"As we've gone through this process, I've concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators. Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with an opt out provision for states," Reid said.

Reid said he was "disappointed" the public option had "frightened" Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) but that he hoped she would "come back to the Washington in 2013 as a tourist rather than a Senator."

"I spoke to Olympia on Friday...and at this stage she does not like the public option of any kind. And so, I told her that she'd definitely outlasted her importance both as a part of these negotiations and more generally as a Senator. I also told the President that if he liked her so much that maybe they should get just get fucking married and stop wasting our time making her feel good about herself."

Reid also responded to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's reported anger at the death of his "triggers" proposal. Reid said he could "suck it", and that "he should stop trying to kill progressive policy with crappy ideas that no one is willing to support."

Reid then stepped away from the podium and appeared to point to his crotch in a series of vulgar gestures before he exited the stage yelling a string of obscenities towards the assembled press corps.

Way to go Harry! With talk like that you may win reelection after all!

Train of Thought Lounge: Them Crooked Vultures

Arriving a few days late, but just in time to coincide with 'New Fang,' the first studio version of any Them Crooked Vultures song. Sadly they uploaded it to youtube without using the high-quality settings, but it still beats the videos taken from phone cameras.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Proposal

Have you ever whined about the madcap excesses of those crazy environmentalists, or waxed poetic about the evils of regulations and the havoc they wreak on mild-mannered businesses? Move to China.

On paper, at least, there are plenty of protections. But the lack of enforcement and the inability to organize has left regulation and environmentalism functionally absent from most of China. There are certainly some beautiful places left in the country- here are some pictures I took this summer after teaching my last class in Wuhan (note that it was the rainy season on southwestern Yunnan where I took these pictures, so you’ll have to take my word that the clouds in the pictures are actually clouds):

But the places pictured here are a far cry from the reality that most of the Chinese population lives in- a reality that looks more like something from the Year Zero album art. It’s a country fuelled mostly by coal plants, where the electricity they produce is then sent straight to giant manufacturing centers which belch out black smoke 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Chinese photographer Lu Guang has spent decades documenting the horrors of unregulated factories doing whatever they want in the name of making a fast buck (yuan, actually, I guess). Here are some of his pictures:

The rest are here, along with explanations about the story behind each picture. More than half of the series is devoted to the people who live next to these factories or alongside these rivers and have to deal with all the consequences of this unchecked pollution- serious health problems abound. This is definitely something China is going to have to deal with at some point- the longer they put it off, the higher the toll will rise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dumbest Strategy In The History Of The World

It looks like we're gonna have to carry Obama over the finish line whether he likes it or not:

Multiple sources tell TPMDC that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is very close to rounding up 60 members in support of a public option with an opt out clause, and are continuing to push skeptical members. But they also say that the White House is pushing back against the idea, in a bid to retain the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"They're skeptical of opt out and are generally deferential to the Snowe strategy that involves the trigger," said one source close to negotiations between the Senate and the White HOuse. "they're certainly not calming moderate's concerns on opt out."

This new development, which casts the White House as an opponent of all but the most watered down form of public option, is likely to yield backlash from progressives, especially those in the House who have been pushing for a more maximal version of reform.

It also suggests for perhaps the first time that the White House's supposed hands off approach that ostensibly allowed the two chambers in Congress to craft their own bill has been discarded.

High level White House officials have floated the trigger idea a number of times, and it seems they continue to do so, even at this, crucial stage of the health care reform process, when their involvement is greatest. That has senators who support the public option concerned.

I repeat myself enough on this subject, so this is what I wrote one week ago yesterday:
There absolutely NO REASON we should be catering to the whims of Olympia Snowe on any piece of legislation. If she supports the bill, that's great. If she opposes a good bill and proceeds to lose in 2012, that's even better.

We don't need her vote, we don't need her to give cover for the White House's crappy ideas and we sure as hell don't need to give her cover on a vote that helps her stay in the senate.

If we get a good bill, people will say Obama passed good health care reform and he will benefit politically. If we get a crappy bill that forces people to buy shitty insurance, people will blame Obama and he will take the hit politically. One of those options will occur no matter what Olympia Snowe does or how much David Broader bows at your feet.
A willingness to destroy health care reform for the vote of single worthless republican senator! It's a strategy so mind blowingly stupid you couldn't make it up if you tried!

Being A Terrible Party Has Consequences

Republican voices are so adamant in their claims to represent a “silent majority” that occasionally this lie could be mistaken for the truth. Luckily there’s a ton of polling data to refute that coming out these days. How is being the Party of No Ideas working out for them?

“The Post-ABC News poll this week found that only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. Only 19 percent had confidence in congressional Republicans "to make the right decisions for the country's future.”

Ouch. Well we keep hearing about how Americans have soundly rejected Obama, so his numbers must be in the single digits or something…

“Obama scored 49 percent.”

Not exactly great, but it sure beats having numbers lower than the ones George Bush was getting at the end of his second term. How about that great Republican new hope, Sarah Palin? The wingnuts love her, while the entire nation saw how pivotal she was in securing victory for McCain.

"Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for the
Republican gubernatorial candidates running in
the two most closely watched campaigns in the
country this fall, but neither seems to want her

Less than a month before voters go to the polls,
it appears increasingly clear that the former
Alaska governor, vice-presidential nominee and
conservative favorite will not appear on behalf
of either New Jersey’s Chris Christie or
Virginia’s Bob McDonnell.

“The governor offered her assistance with both
races,” said Palin adviser Meg Stapleton. “The
ball is in their court.”

Neither GOP campaign wanted to discuss why they
didn’t want Palin in the state — to say so would
offend the conservative base that both Christie
and McDonnell are counting on, not just to vote
for them but to also volunteer time in the crucial
final weeks of the election."
I was hoping that more candidates would embrace her and ruin their own campaigns, but I guess having everyone awkwardly avoid her for fear of getting Palined (to consign yourself to defeat by forsaking all moderates and independents in favor of the far right) is also pretty funny.

There are a lot of reasons for why 2010 could be a good year for Republicans. If they keep up with this infighting and a complete absence of new ideas, though, anything is possible.

T. Boone Pickens Demands Oil For His Sacrifice

I'm always a bit surprised at how honest some people are about their pro-imperialist beliefs:

T. Boone Pickens told Congress on Wednesday that U.S. energy companies are “entitled” to some of Iraq’s crude because of the large number of American troops that lost their lives fighting in the country and the U.S. taxpayer money spent in Iraq.

Boone, speaking to the newly formed Congressional Natural Gas Caucus, complained that the Iraqi government has awarded contracts to foreign companies, particularly Chinese firms, to develop Iraq’s vast reserves while American companies have mostly been shut out.

“They’re opening them (oil fields) up to other companies all over the world … We’re entitled to it,” Pickens said of Iraq’s oil. “Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars.”

Not Exactly Surprising

You mean they didn't listen to the President's sternly worded letter? (via atrios)

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc.’s highest paid executives in the unit blamed for pushing the insurer to the brink of collapse haven’t returned bonuses as they’d promised, according to the Obama administration.

Four of five managers in AIG’s Financial Products unit that are under the jurisdiction of pay master Kenneth Feinberg didn’t make good on pledges to return the bonuses as of August, Feinberg said in documents released yesterday. The fifth employee hadn’t made any promise, Feinberg said.

“The performance of AIG Financial Products has contributed significantly to the deterioration in AIG’s financial health,” Feinberg said. Compensation proposed by AIG for the staff doesn’t “adequately reflect the role of AIG Financial Products” in the decline of the insurer, he said.

AIG, which received a $182.3 billion U.S. government bailout, ignited a backlash after giving about $165 million in March to its derivatives staff.President Barack Obama called the bonuses an “outrage.” The New York-based insurer said the pay was needed to keep staff to unwind money-losing derivative trades that regulators said could destabilize the global financial system.

No one could have seen this coming.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Great Moments in Journalism

After writing an article with several bullshit claims, Time magazine's Jay Newton-Small responds with this:
I presented both sides of the story. I'll leave it to columnists and readers to draw their own conclusions on who had the best case.
(Bangs head on desk)
I believe quite firmly that the proliferation of Huffington Posts, Matt Drudges and other slanted news is what's killing our profession. If you are looking for news with an opinion, that's great. But I think news should be about representing both sides; striving for balance and fairness. Unfortunately, reliably unbiased news is harder and harder to come by these days because news agencies are trying to cater to people like you: people who prefer to view the world through one lens or another but rarely both.



White House To Cut Executive Pay At Bailed Out Firms

Great News:

WASHINGTON — Responding to the furor over executive pay at companies bailed out with taxpayer money, the Obama administration will order the firms that received the most aid to slash compensation to their highest-paid employees, an official involved in the decision said on Wednesday.

The plan, for the 25 top earners at seven companies that received exceptional help, will on average cut total compensation this year by about 50 percent. The companies are Citigroup, Bank of America, American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers.

Some executives, like the top traders at A.I.G., will face tight limits on their pay. In addition, the top-paid employees at all the affected companies will face new limits on their perks.

The plan will also change the form of the pay to align the personal interests of the executives with the longer-term financial health of the companies. For instance, the cash portion of the executives’ salaries will be slashed on average by 90 percent, and the rest will be replaced by stock that cannot be sold for years.
Equally commendable is the fact that Obama's pay czar made these decisions on his own, and didn't even have to tell them to Obama before he went public. Well done all around.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pelosi For The Win

This is what standing up for real health care reform looks like: (open left)

Following tonight's meeting of the Democratic House caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ready to bring a health care bill with the "robust" public option (currently defined as a public option with Medicare +5% rates) to the floor of the House.

From The Hill:

Pelosi to bring public option backed by liberals to floor pending caucus approval

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has chosen to put the public option favored by the liberal wing of her party in the healthcare bill that goes to the House floor, pending agreement later Tuesday night by the full caucus, according to two House sources.

Leaders are planning to roll out the bill next week, and are hoping to vote the first week in November.

The plan, called the "robust" option or "Medicare Plus 5" in the jargon that has emerged on Capitol Hill, ties provider reimbursement rates to Medicare, adding 5 percent.(...)

[T]he liberal option saves the most money, according to congressional analysts, by competing with those companies and driving down premiums. A Democratic leadership source said the leaders have received an analysis that shows that both forms of the public option reduce healthcare costs across a 20-year time frame.

This is an enormous step forward for the public option campaign. If the House passes a health care reform bill with the Medicare +5% public option, which now appears likely, the chances of a public option of some sort ending up in the final bill skyrocket.

By going with the stronger, Medicare +5% public option gives the House negotiating room in the Senate for a weaker public option--negotiated rates, Schumer's "level playing field," or the opt-out--to emerge in the final bill. If the House goes into conference committee with a weaker public option, they will have less room to negotiate with the Senate.

Now, if the Senate brings the opt-out public option to the conference committee--and Ben Nelson is now openly supporting the opt-out--the debate won't be whether or not to have a public option, but what kind of public option will end up in the final bill.

The end game of the Blue Dogs and Douche Caucus members are passionately arguing for a more expensive bill would be pretty spectacular.

Huge props to Pelosi for pulling this off.

Cause and Effect

Four months of this:

Obama Not Demanding Public Option Be Part of Health Care Reform, Aides Say

AP - WASHINGTON - The White House will not commit to health care legislation that would cap insurance premiums or tax benefits, taking a wait-and-see approach as congressional negotiators seek a deal, advisers said Sunday.

President Barack Obama will not demand that a final bill include a government-run plan as a way of driving down costs through competition, though that's his preference, they said.

"There will be compromise. There will be legislation, and it will achieve our goals: helping people who have insurance get more security, more accountability for the insurance industry, helping people who don't have insurance get insurance they can afford, and lowering the overall cost of the system," aide David Axelrod said.

Asked on ABC's "This Week" if Obama would sign a bill that ended the antitrust exemption for the insurance industry and allow caps on premiums, Axelrod said, "We'll see what Congress does."

... Leads to this:
Top Aide: It's Time For The White House To Take Stand On Public Option
TPM - Last week, at a meeting between Senate health care principals and Obama administration officials, the White House basically told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid it would be leaving most of the big legislative decisions on reform to him. This week, Reid is faced with an onslaught from pressure groups, including labor and the grassroots, demanding that he include the public option in the health care bill he brings to the floor.

In a sign that Reid may be willing to acquiesce, if only the White House helps him whip the caucus into shape, a top Capitol Hill aide tells me "Right now, we don't have 60 Democratic Senators in lockstep with one another on the public option...we need the president to send a strong signal to those in the room negotiating the merger, that the public option is, really, what he wants in the final bill."

This weekend, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett reiterated the White House's non-committal stance on the public option. The aide's plea for more White House involvement suggests non-committal statements like Jarrett's are insufficient to save the day for public option in the Senate's bill.

When you say you "support" the public option, but don't make it an essential element of the bill, this is what happens.

I know some of you think I've been to hard on Obama, but this is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that if the public option makes it into the final health care bill it will be in spite of his efforts, not because of them.

When you strongly support elements of the bill (like he has done with the universal mandate and no pre-existing conditions), they get cemented into the bill and Douche caucus senators come to terms with the fact that they'll have to support them. When you say you support something but don't deem it a deal-breaker and then do nothing else to actually support it, that shows the Douche caucus senators that you're open to dropping it and gives them room to oppose it.

There is no "principled opposition" to the public option among conservative Democrats. They do the same song and dance every single time:

Step 1: Pick an issue where they can look like they're to the right of the rest of the party and grandstand on it.

Step 2: Make loud noises until it's dropped so they can go home and claim victory.

When you say the public option isn't essential, that's where they draw their battle lines. They may be screaming assholes, but they aren't completely brain dead. They know better than to go the mat opposing something that the politically popular President (and leader of their party) has deemed essential to his biggest legislative priority.

But when you leave them to their own devices, they will be douche bags.

They can't help it, it's all they know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

White House Angered by Support For Obama's Health Care Plan

Just a reminder that the Administration understands how to apply pressure, it's just that they never seem to do it to the right people:

McEntee led workers in chanting a barnyard epithet to describe Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus’s health care bill, which would levy a new tax on expensive health care plans. He published an op-ed in U.S.A. Today warning, in terms that could be used against Democrats in the midterms, that the plan could tax the middle class and cost workers their health care. And he blew off a plea from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and published an open letter promising to “oppose” legislation that contained the tax – published over the objections, several labor officials said, of other union presidents whose names appeared on the letter.

"We have had just about enough of his gratuitous slaps,” said a senior White House official Friday, calling the politically charged language “outrageous and unacceptable” from an ally — even from one that had, the official noted, devoted substantial resources to health care efforts.

“He’s doing his members a real disservice,” said the official, who said that while all other labor leaders had been careful to keep their opposition to elements of health care proposals modulated and largely inside the tent, McEntee was “beyond the pale.”

And just what exactly is "outrageous and unacceptable", "doing his members a disservice" and "beyond the pale"?

Expecting President Obama to fight for Candidate Obama's health care plan.

Jon Walker:

Looking back at Obama’s campaign health care plan, it is shocking how many promises he broke without a fight. Obama promised:

  • A new national health exchange open to all Americans
  • A new public plan available to all Americans to compete with private insurance
  • An employer mandate to provide health insurance
  • A minimum medical loss ratio for insurance companies
  • To allow people to import cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe
  • To repeal the ban that prevents the government from directly negotiating with drug companies

Note none of these promise are part of the Senate Finance Committee bill. Obama has made no effort to fight for the inclusion of some of these (public option, employer mandate, minimum medical loss ratio) and months ago even made secret deals vowing to actively work to kill drug re-importation and direct drug price negotiation.

During the election Obama actively campaigned against two policies. One was the individual mandate favored by Hillary Clinton (and the health insurance industry) and the other was a tax on employer-provided health insurance which was also supported by John McCain. These two issues are now part of the Baucus bill. Since taking office, Obama has spent dramatically more time and political capital fighting hard to include these two provisions that he opposed than he has spent trying to include top progressive/labor union priorities that he supported, like the public option.

And in a double whammy, during a series of secret back room deals (breaking his promise for complete and open transparency) he has promised different industries he will actively oppose the very ideas he once claimed to champion, drug re-importation, and direct drug price negotiation.

The question is who is gratuitously slapping whom? Is it the Obama administration, which with repeated broken promises stabbed labor unions in the back? Or is it McEntee for simply calling bullshit when he sees it?

Gerry McEntee and the rest of the progressive community are fighting for Barack Obama's Health Care Plan.

What plan is Barack Obama fighting for?

The Public Option: Hated By Literally Every American

Towards the end of the 2008 campaign cycle there was a curious phenomenon that could be seen among liberals and conservatives. The enormous pro-Obama threads in Debate and Discussion were jam-packed with liberals who were sure that Obama was going to lose, people who feverishly interpreted every statistically-insignificant change in the polls as incontrovertible proof that the end was nigh. This was despite the fact that Obama had held a considerable lead over McCain ever since Hillary conceded, with the brief exception of a few days after the Palin reveal. In contrast, conservative forums were constantly posting exuberant celebratory threads, welcoming what they reckoned would be a Republican landslide victory. Consistent polling evidence to the contrary was dismissed entirely in favor of fantasizing about the glory of a Palin presidency- excuse me, vice-presidency.

Initially it’s easy to chalk this up to the 2000 and 2004 elections. 2000 came down to a handful of votes in one swing state, and then ultimately to a handful of judges in DC. 2004 was a Democratic disaster from start to finish. Why wouldn’t liberals be wary of even the most assured success, when Democrats have shown over and over that they’re capable of somehow losing despite every advantage? But if this is the explanation, then 2006 should have changed everything. The GOP was smashed in both the House and Senate, much to the surprise of Republicans across the country. Their pundits hadn’t prepared them for the possibility of seeing their party swept out of Congress in such a dramatic fashion. Coming off the heels of 2006, shouldn’t Republicans have been a bit more sober about their chances? And why were Obama supporters so sure that a slip from a 9% lead to an 8.9% lead was a sure sign of electoral doom?

I’m not aware of any definitive answers there- I’ve seen people propose that it’s due to different group dynamics, or that the real reason is rooted in neurobiology. Neither claim seems totally satisfying. Personally, I suspect some of it has to do with the extent to which Republicans control many of the debates in contemporary American politics. The thing that got me thinking about this today was one of the many editorial cartoons that have weighed in on healthcare reform recently:

This one is hardly a fluke- cartoonists have been recycling this same cartoon for months. GOVERNMENT-RUN SOCIALIST HEALTHCARE is always seen killing or being killed by Uncle Sam/ noble elephants/ an anonymous everyman. This one makes it very obvious, but most of them in some way imply that this SOCIALIST HEALTHCARE ABOMINATION is something that Obama is forcing on an unwilling public. Public opinion killed reform, eh? A curious statement when you consider the popularity of the public option. As per WaPo:

On the issue that has been a flash point in the
national debate, 57 percent of all Americans now
favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent
are opposed. Support has risen since mid-August,
when a bare majority, 52 percent, said they
favored it.

If run by the states and available only to those
who lack affordable private options, support for
a public plan jumps to 76 percent. Under those
circumstances, even a majority of Republicans, 56
percent, would be supportive, about double their
level of support without such a limitation.
Despite the millions of dollars health insurance companies have been spending to attack the public option, it started with a (small) majority and has become more popular as time has passed. This is pretty remarkable, considering how the debate has gone: the White House spent months staying largely silent or even dismissive of the public option, while insurance companies and their paid advocates among the Blue Dogs and Republicans loudly denounced it. Republican pundits have played their usual part in propagandizing the issue: the TeaBaggers seem to think that the American people have unanimously rejected B. HUSSEIN Obama and his attempt to kill the elderly whilst firebombing hospitals. Are we seeing shades of October 2008, which they spent gloating about the impending defeat that voters were surely going to deliver to the Democratic Party?

The Republicans are currently in a greatly-deserved state of political irrelevancy. Meaningful reform is going to depend on what the Democrats come up with, which makes it extremely frustrating to see them watering it down to appease Republicans and Blue Dogs. The Blue Dogs are being particularly intolerable here- some are still insisting that they can’t support the public option because they fear voter backlash back in their districts. Polls showing that the public option is popular in their own districts hasn’t made any impression on the Blue Dogs, which couldn’t possibly have anything to do with how much money health insurance companies have thrown at them.

It’s certainly possible that these donations are entirely responsible for the stances Blue Dogs are taking- surely their staff members have alerted them to the dangers of rejecting the public option and scuttling reform. As Bowers put it:

If no health care legislation passes, and
Democrats lose seats as a result, Blue Dogs are
the people who will lose the seats, not
Progressives. Even if Klein is correct and
Democrats lose a bunch of seats because
Progressives blocked it, Blue Dogs are actually
the ones who will bear the brunt of those losses.
As such, Blue Dogs have more to lose if health
care fails to pass than Progressives.

If another Republican wave really is coming, Blue
Dogs will be the first Democrats to lose.

Their willingness to put their careers on the line by making unpopular and stupid decisions is what makes me wonder if the Blue Dogs have bought into the ongoing narrative that has such a strong grip on America- that no matter what the polls say, liberal politicians and liberal legislation are out of step with the voters.

Perhaps it does all come down to contributions from insurers and pharmacy corporations, but I have a hard time concluding that popular wisdom and the flood of counterfactual commentary about the public option hasn’t played some role in getting us to where we are today. Because so much of the discussion is taking places behind closed doors on the Hill or in fact-resistant right-wing echo chambers it’s also hard to see what role the public can play in supporting the public option. Maybe progressives should pretend to vehemently oppose the public option, throwing the entire debate out of equilibrium and potentially forcing conservatives and the Blue Dogs to support it out of rote habit?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blanche Lincoln 2010: Can't Someone Else Do it?

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Sen. Blanche Lincoln says business and labor groups, not lawmakers, should be the ones to work out a compromise on a union organizing bill.

Lincoln said that she still opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and doesn't think the legislation should be considered while lawmakers are dealing with health care and other issues. Business groups have opposed the act because it would allow employees to unionize by signing cards instead of holding secret ballot elections.

Democratic lawmakers are working on a compromise version of the bill that may remove the so-called "card check" provision. Lincoln said any compromise would need to come from business and labor groups.

Lincoln spoke at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas annual meeting in Little Rock.
Clearly big business will "come together" with organized labor and restore the same rights that they have methodically destroyed from existence over the past 30 years. I actually heard Senator Lincoln say this same thing during a lobby visit several months back and assumed she was just rambling. Nope, apparently she really is so clueless that decided to make this idiocy one of her main talking points on the Employee Free Choice Act.

And aside from the mind blowing stupidity of that comment, there's nothing like a LAWMAKER deciding that she isn't in the business of MAKING LAWS. With firm convictions like this, how can she lose?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Glenn Beck Insanity Theater, Part 1

I keep running into incredible youtubes of Glenn Beck doing something insane but not really having enough material to justify posting them. Today this changes with a new, presumably ongoing, type of post: the Glenn Beck Insanity Theater.

It would be pretty easy to fill this blog with dozens of posts every day about the latest thing said by Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Michelle Malkin, but other sites do that way better than we ever will. Beck is different, though- there's an element of unhinged psychosis to his show that makes it like watching a right-wing performance artist or a crazier, yet serious, Colbert. Clearly there's a debate about how serious he is, with his past in morning zoo radio shows and his ever-changing political views standing against the emotional performances he makes and the crowds of teabaggers who believe every word of it.

You can depend on Limbaugh to say something heinous- that's his job. On the other hand, Beck is frequently inoffensive just due to how little sense he makes. Check out the clip that finally inspired me to start a regular Beck-watching bit:

I... what is happening there?! He's moved to tears by a commercial in which a bizarre child offers a football player some coke?! Even if he was serious, and make no mistake that his fans think he is, what does any of it mean? No point has been made, no concrete statements have been offered, he just mentioned a bunch of things and made a bizarre hypothetical scenario about how your parents used to be angry at you... and he did this all whilst crying. Are his viewers nodding at home, appreciating the sage wisdom imparted by his tears and commercial choices?

Welcome to the Glenn Beck Insanity Theater. I have no answers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekend Trip to the Hoosier State

DCJonesy, LSouth, Jaypop and myself will be heading to Indiana this weekend to visit friend of the Train (also a loyal reader, google analytics don't lie!) and occasional commenter D.

Posting by me will be light, but I may update the twitter if it seems like a good idea.

Have a great weekend, especially JN who reaches 25 bells this Saturday!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

All Hail President Snowe

NY Times: (via Ezra Klein)
Mr. Reid will gather the group in his office on the second floor of the Capitol on Wednesday for its first official meeting. The group includes Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and the Finance Committee chairman; Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who was acting chairman of the HELP committee when it passed its health care bill; and representatives of the White House.
Great! That's everyone, both committee chairs and the white house.

Actually scratch that last part. Let's invite a completely irrelevant Republican who doesn't believe in real health care reform for no fucking reason whatsoever!

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said that Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, the lone Republican on the Finance Committee to vote in favor of the bill, would be invited to future sessions. And Mr. Manley said the Democratic leader was prepared to go to substantial lengths to keep Ms. Snowe’s support.

“He is prepared to do what he can to keep her on board while putting together a bill that can get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster,” Mr. Manley said.

A Bill that can get 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster? Gee, for that to happen you’d need to ELECT 60 DEMOCRATS TO THE SENATE.

Rather than bringing her in as a completely meaningless 61st vote, maybe she’s there to support what the vast majority of Maine’s residents want:
Earlier in the day, Snowe tackled the most divisive issue still on the table: creation of a government insurance plan that would compete with private ones.

While emphasizing that she still opposes the so-called public option, Snowe said on CBS TV that she could foresee a government-run plan that would "kick in" if private insurers failed to live up to expectations that they keep premiums in check.

"I think the government would have a disproportionate advantage" in the event of a government-run option, Snowe acknowledged. At the same time, she added, "I want to make sure the insurance industry performs, and that's why we eliminate many egregious practices.”

So she's there to support triggers that designed to kill the public option. Fantastic.

It's good to know that both she and Rahm Emanuel will use these meetings to promote an idea that FUCKING NOBODY WANTS.

There absolutely NO REASON we should be catering to the whims of Olympia Snowe on any piece of legislation. If she supports the bill, that's great. If she opposes a good bill and proceeds to lose in 2012, that's even better.

We don't need her vote, we don't need her to give cover for the White House's crappy ideas and we sure as hell don't need to give her cover on a vote that helps her stay in the senate.

If we get a good bill, people will say Obama passed good health care reform and he will benefit politically. If we get a crappy bill that forces people to buy shitty insurance, people will blame Obama and he will take the hit politically. One of those options will occur no matter what Olympia Snowe does or how much David Broader bows at your feet.

Passing health care reform is hard enough as it is, and you don't get bonus points by gaining the approval of irrelevant Republican senators. If for no other reason than for the sake of my own sanity, can we please make this bullshit stop?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If Gay Rights Supporters March In Washington, Do They Make A Sound?

Last month the media spent a few days in a state of shock and awe after tens of thousands of conservatives showed up in DC to yell about stuff and misspell signs about Obama simultaneously being Hitler, Stalin, Marx, the Anti-Christ, Muslim, and A Black Guy. Last weekend tens of thousands of people showed up to support gay rights- so, where was the media this time? Naturally this question hinges on Fox, which spent months hyping the 9/12 march and was camped out on the Capitol all day to keep people whipped up into an appropriately picturesque frenzy. The Daily Show puts it in perspective pretty well:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Queer and Loathing in D.C.
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

"What Up" - Michael Steele

The GOP has completed its digital pièce de résistance- GOP Faces, their new homepage. The odd name comes from one page where they ask you to upload your picture and tell them "why you are a Republican." I guess it's as puzzling to them as it is to us.

Another highlight is a new blog written by Chairman Steele, where the first entry was titled:

Haha yes, "what up" to you as well Mr. Steele. I guess they rejected this early piece of concept art for the site:

Expect to see blog posts from more GOP insiders over the next few days, such as:

"Sup? -- by John Boehner"

"How you doin'? -- by Mitch McConnell"

"Eeeeeyyyyy! -- by Dick Cheney"

"Yo. -- by Jim DeMint"

"Aw yeah buddy! -- by John McCain"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On To The Smoke Filled Back Room!

The Baucus bill passed the Finance committee 14-9, with Olympia Snowe as the only Republican voting in favor. As MCJoan explains, this could be a very dangerous development for supporters of real reform:
By voting yes, Snowe remains relevant--the Baucus bill passes with that shiny "bipartisan" sheen that seems still to matter to in Washington. But don't forget that she has her finger on the "trigger"--her trigger that would kill the public option. As BTD says, she's kept the Baucus bill alive, and through it the best chance of a making what now seems inevitable--reform of some kind--as watered down as possible.
And now the negotiations begin:
The Senate Finance Committee’s passage of a health reform bill marks the end of the committee process, but only the beginning of the longer journey to passage. Starting tomorrow, Harry Reid, Max Baucus, Chris Dodd and one or two representatives from the White House will meet in Reid’s office to hammer out the details of merging the two bills.
Both Harry Reid and Obama have signaled in the past that they're willing to do almost anything to keep Snowe on board to give it the label of "bipartisan support". Doing anything to appease Snowe is completely insane as I've said many times here, but I worry that her meaningless vote will be used as a justification to make the combined bill crappier than it would have been otherwise.

In the negotiations over the Senate bill Dodd will support the public option, Baucus will oppose it, and Reid or Obama are the unknowns. It's time to find out which side they're on.

One Out Of Three Americans...

... believe that the Republican Party is negotiating in good faith on health care reform.

From Quinnipiac:

Voters trust Obama more than Republicans 47 - 31 percent to handle health care;
Voters 53 - 25 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party;
Only 29 percent think Republicans on Capitol Hill are acting in good faith

Who are these people?! Republicans are openly gloating about their efforts to stall and delay this legislation. The much-vaunted "Republican Plan"- copies of which were waved at President Obama during his address to Congress- turned out to be stacks of blank paper. Other Republicans have been very honest about who's pulling the strings: Michael Steele, Paul Ryan, and Bobby Jindal have all admitted that they oppose a public option because private insurers couldn't possibly compete with a model which isn't designed to take all your money while giving you as little as possible in return. They aren't going to negotiate with Democrats on any meaningful level, because useful reform is by necessity going to have a good chance of cutting into corporate profits somewhere along the line.

By the end of his term, George Bush was pulling in numbers in the low twenties. How is it that there are more people who think Republicans are actually engaging the Democrats?! I would think that even the TeaBagging set would say no to that one, although clearly they would approve of Republican using bullshitting tactics to delay our 'march into socialism' or whatever they think is happening.


Promises, Promises

Barack Obama just promised us that if he becomes president, he's going to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and get ENDA passed. It was a bit surreal. I'm sitting at a fundraiser for the No on 1 effort in Maine (that Obama didn't even bother to mention), and we were all just speechless (actually, hardly speechless - and I thought yelling at the TV was long since over). Obama repeated his campaign promises. That was it.

What's particularly disturbing is how President Obama contradicts himself, and his own administration, when talking to a gay crowd. The president claimed that he's for treating gay couples just like married couples. Then why is he against letting gay couples marry? The president claimed that it doesn't matter if we're at war and working on health care and lots of other important issues, we must forget ahead on gay civil rights. Then why is Obama's own administration putting out the talking point that they can't move ahead on gay rights until the wars are over, until health care is over, until Obama has less on his plate? Even General Jones last week said we can't do DADT because we're at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But President Obama claimed today that precisely because we're at war it is important to lift the ban now.

I think this point at the end really hits it on the head:
All in all, the evening was a disappointment, but not unexpected. President Obama doesn't do controversy, and we, my friends, are controversy.
Between the talk of pushing back EFCA to protect congress from "tough votes", or willingness to ditch the public option and anything good from the health care bill to make it bipartisan, the White House has a really unfortunate habit of viewing things through David Broader colored glasses.

And as long as the administration is wedded to that brand of "conventional wisdom" on political issues such as these that it's hard to see much movement on gay rights for the time being.

The message seems to be that we won't have Don't Ask Don't Tell by 2017. And that's great as long as you're not one of the 200+ service members who have been discharged since Obama took office. Repeating campaign pledges probably doesn't have much of an effect on them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Calling Out Fox News

The White House drops some truth bombs:

WASHINGTON -- After months of low-grade rhetorical combat with Fox News, the White House finally declared all-out war this weekend.

"It really is not a news network at this point," White House communications director Anita Dunn told CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday.

. . .

But still, Dunn's blunt language on Sunday took things to a new level. "They're widely viewed as, you know, part of the Republican Party," she said. "Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." Even the captions the network uses to headline its stories, Dunn said, are slanted.

Marginalizing Fox News is an important goal for the progressive movement in the long term, and it's great to see this being done at the highest levels.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Train of Thought Lounge: Shyne

In honor of his release from prison earlier this week:

They Gave Obama What?!

Maybe the Norwegian Nobel Committee just couldn’t find anyone who actually deserved it, or maybe they woke up this morning and decided to dedicate this award to trolling American conservatives. Either way, heads are exploding on this side of the Atlantic with the news that Obama has been given a Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps he postponed his meeting with the Dalai Lama until after he received one so that they could clink their medals together in India?

Actually, after hearing about how bewildered foreigners are by our inexplicably crazy conservative movement, I’m willing to accept that they may have done it just to hear the reaction from Limbaugh, Beck, Free Republic, and company. Patashu, a poster on Laissez's Fair, has another explanation that might be more convincing:

"the noble prize committee looked into their crystal ball, and shuddered at the terror that mccain/palin would have caused..."

Or maybe it really is just an award given to someone for not being George W. Bush- if that’s the case, I eagerly await mine.

Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize


Saying it's a call to action is good, I just wish it didn't come on the eve of potentially adding more troops to the war in Afghanistan.

Escalating a war with an extremely questionable mission should probably be a non starter for this award, but it's not like they they applied those standards when they gave it to Henry Kissinger.

I'm also thinking that regardless of the admittedly dubious merits, it's probably worth it for how much it's pissing off conservatives and Hillary Clinton.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Put Her In Her Place"

Stay classy, NRCC:

The GOP congressional campaign committee sent out a fundraising appeal today calling Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal to put Nancy Pelosi "in her place" over the war in Afghanistan.

The NRCC email accused Pelosi of "backpedaling" on support for the war "amidst increasing criticism from the radical left." Pelosi recently said liberal support for the troop increases McChrystal has advocated could be "difficult" to obtain.

NRCC communications director Ken Spain, quoted in the fundraising email: ""Nancy Pelosi continues to make party politics a higher priority than our national security. Rather than listening to a four-star general's assessments on Afghanistan, General Pelosi somehow believes she is better suited to craft our country's military policy."

"Taxpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place," the email concludes.

Get it? Get it? She's a woman! It's not her place! Get it? Get it?

30 Republican Senators Pander to the Pro Gang Rape Lobby

Al Franken is already kicking ass:
Today, the amendment offered by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to stop funding defense contractors who deny assault victims their day in court passed the United States Senate by a vote of 68 - 30

Last Thursday, Sen. Franken introduced an amendment (S.2588) to the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Bill that would restrict funding to defense contractors who commit employees to mandatory binding arbitration in the case of sexual assault. The legislation, endorsed by 61 women’s, labor and public interest groups, was inspired by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who watched the vote from the Senate gallery today.

Jones was a 19-yr-old employee of defense contractor KBR (formerly a Halliburton subsidiary) stationed in Iraq who was gang raped by her co-workers and imprisoned in a shipping container when she tried to report the crime. Her father and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.), worked together to secure her safe return to the United States, but once she was home, she learned a fine-print clause in her KBR contract banned her from taking her case to court, instead forcing her into an “arbitration” process that would be run by KBR itself. Just today, Halliburton filed a petition for a rehearing en banc in the 5th Circuit Court, which means that Jamie’s fight is far from over.

And here are your pro gang rape senators:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Ladies and Gentlemen, your modern day Republican party!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dalai Lama Wants to Dance, Obama Just Wants to Shuffle

Last week I mentioned my confusion regarding the way Obama is doing his job- he seems determined to mix in a little bit of bad news with every good item, and vice versa. His love of compromise apparently extends into compromising on issues literally no one wants to see compromised. The Dalai Lama visit seems to be a timely example.

Instead of meeting with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Washington, as the last three presidents have done, Obama has lightly snubbed him by choosing to meet in Dharamsala instead after a November trip to Beijing. The justification being given for this is that Obama doesn’t want to anger the Chinese before this November visit. If keeping the Communist Party of China happy is the name of the game, why is Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama at all? Chinese commentators and officials will bloviate just as furiously about the post-Beijing photo-op as they would have at one done today, and after that they'll get on with their lives. Indeed, the only thing we know with any certainty from history is that the Chinese government is evidently unwilling to forsake so much as one yuan of trade over a meeting with the mostly powerless Lama. Did China start a mutually-destructive trade Armageddon over his meeting with Bush, or Clinton, or the other Bush?

The Post article mentions that Gibbs provided a more detailed explanation: a happier China is, in their view, more likely to willingly discuss Tibetan issues with the US. Perhaps they’re right; but I don’t see one semi-spurned meeting overturning decades of curt, meaningless replies from Beijing on the subject. In the meantime Obama has opened himself to criticism from both the left and the right, with legitimately distressed human rights groups partnered with Republicans who know an opportunity for taking potshots when they see it.

While I was reading some of the reactions to the Dalai Lama’s visit this morning I found this report about the 2008 Tibetan Riots on the International Campaign for Tibet website. The report documents the initial events in Lhasa, and then details the myriad protests and fights that followed across the ethnically Tibetan regions of China. It was somewhat hard to tell where they were talking about because they use mostly Tibetan place names instead of the Chinese renditions I had seen on my trip through Amdo, the northeastern edge of Tibet. Things got weird when I saw this picture of monks, nomads, and townspeople gathering outside a religious school that was the center of one dispute between Tibetans and government forces in one small town during the riots:

I had to take a look through the pictures from my trip to make sure- I have a picture of myself taken in front of the same (now closed) school during my visit to Langmusi, a small village with two Tibetan monasteries that is easily the most remote place I’ve ever been:

Before I left Wuhan to travel through Amdo I had already seen that Labrang, a much larger monastery town I stayed in for a few days, had played a huge part in the 2008 protests. Parts of this video were shot just a few feet away from the door to my hostel, one of the relatively few which had reopened by the time I came by in December 2008. It’s actually pretty unnerving to think that even tiny Langmusi, a tranquil high-altitude place in the absolute middle of nowhere, was a witness to police brutality and midnight “disappearances.”

Maybe Obama has it right: maybe all China wants is a little respect and then they’ll begin honest negotiations with Tibetan nationalists. I have a hard time convincing myself that moving an appointment from October back to November will really placate a government that’s willing to abduct monks and spend thirty years torturing them, but maybe Hu “earned his fame by cracking down on Tibetans during his term as Party Chief of Tibet” Jintao (yes, it’s a pretty unwieldy nickname) will surprise us all. That would be… well, surprising.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lessons of Alan Grayson

Chris Bowers:

There were several important differences between this and most of the other attacks from the Republican manufactured outrage machine. Other Democrats in Congress could stand to learn from them:

  1. Grayson specifically chose to use rhetoric that echoed earlier rhetoric used by many prominent Republicans. Lesson: Throwing Republican rhetoric back at them can potentially be more effective then just condemning Republican rhetoric.
  2. Too often, Democrats allow policy discussions to be derailed by Republican rhetorical excess. By contrast, Grayson used his rhetorical moment to shift to a policy argument about tens of thousands of people dying from lack of health insurance. Lesson: rhetorical moments like these can allow you to control the debate, as Republicans long ago learned
  3. Many Democrats in congress are oblivious to the existence of the progressive netroots or even progressive media. As such, they think no one will be around to support them if they pick a fight like this. Alan Garyson, by contrast, hired Matt Stoller, thus making his office more aware of the netroots than anyone else in Congress. His non-apology yesterday was targeted directly at the progressive netroots, and earned him $100,000. Further, progressive media like the Huffington Post and the Daily Show immediately produced reams of quotes and video showing Republicans using the same sort of rhetoric over the summer.

    Lesson: If you want to pick a fight, and if you understand the medium, progressive media and the progressive netroots can help you.

It is a landmark moment for a freshman Democrat from a marginal, R+2 district to win a rhetorical fight with the Republican smear machine like this. Hopefully, it will become a teachable moment for other Democrats in Congress.
As J.N. put it over the weekend "the media also learned that democrats can have balls".

It's amazing what happens when you stand up for yourself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Obama Twisting Arms for the Public Option?

According to the LA Times:
Report ing from Washington - Despite months of outward ambivalence about creating a government health insurance plan, the Obama White House has launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to get divided Senate Democrats to take up some version of the idea for a final vote in the coming weeks.

President Obama has cited a preference for the so-called public option. But faced with intense criticism over the summer, he strategically expressed openness to health cooperatives and other ways to offer consumers potentially more affordable alternatives to private health plans.

In the last week, however, senior administration officials have been holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the healthcare bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the Senate floor this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides.
This great news, and marks a major turning point in the battle for the public option. The timing and placement of the story means one of two things:
  • A) Obama has been fighting for a public option behind the scenes for months as the story implies. (Considering that this would contradict 3-4 months of press accounts from literally every source and news outlet, not really buying it without more information)
  • B) The administration has realized that the easiest way to pass a bill is to include a public option, rather than their previous calculation that the opposite was true.
I'd been hoping for option B for a long time now, and if I had to bet on it I'd say that's what happened. Jane Hamsher has a more pessimistic take, and the Hill version of this story seems to lean towards her argument. But regardless of why, it's phenomenal to have this story out there. Telling the world that the President is putting private pressure in favor of the public option is beyond huge in terms of where it moves the debate, and excatly what has been needed over the past several months.

The public option is the easiest way to pass a bill, and it appears this could finally be the path taken by the Democratic leadership. There's still lots of work to be done, but theses are really good signs.