Saturday, January 30, 2010

Close to a deal

If Tom Harkin is right, and the White House, Senate, and House reached a deal just days before Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts, giving the Republicans 41 seats instead of just 40, enough to block legislation with a filibuster, what the hell's the problem now?

Yes, the Democrats came "agonizingly close" to passing final reform legislation, but one extra Republican vote shouldn't prevent that from happening, not with other options on the table.

Democrats could seek to win over a Republican, like Maine moderates Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, to put them over 60 votes in the Senate, including independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, but Snowe, who voted for the Finance Committee bill that is a lot like the one she ended up rejecting, has shown no signs she's prepared to break ranks and vote against her party, which is stressing lock-step obstructionist unanimity.

And, again, there's a better option, as we keep saying over and over: The House could pass the Senate bill as is and improvements to the bill could then be made through reconciliation. Improvements could include adding a public option component, as in the House's bill, and/or expanding Medicare and Medicaid coverage. While doing so would lose the Democrats some votes in the Senate -- Even Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Lieberman, etc. -- they have a large enough majority to sustain a few defections. Brown's victory in Massachusetts did change the landscape somewhat, but it didn't change the reality that Congress remains in the hands of relatively huge Democratic majorities. And that should count for something -- enough for them to pass meaningful legislation without having to suck up to the obstructionist minority.

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U.S. to move 9/11 terrorism trial out of NYC

The Obama administration on Friday gave up on its plan to try the Sept. 11 plotters in Lower Manhattan, bowing to almost unanimous pressure from New York officials and business leaders to move the terrorism trial elsewhere.


The reversal on whether to try the alleged 9/11 terrorists blocks from the former World Trade Center site seemed to come suddenly this week, after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg abandoned his strong support for the plan and said the cost and disruption would be too great.

But behind the brave face that many New Yorkers had put on for weeks, resistance had been gathering steam.

I understand the security and logistical concerns involved with trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 plotters in Manhattan, as well as the strong resistance to it, but, as I just said on Jazz Shaw's Mid Stream Radio show, on which I was a guest from 1:30 to 2:00, I think the symbolism of doing it New York, America's primary terrorist target, as well as perhaps the most important city in the world, would have been immense, an expression of American strength, authority, confidence, and determination, a statement that the U.S. isn't backing down in the face of terrorism, and isn't solely relying on military might, that those who are charged with such horrendous acts will be treated fairly, under the law, according to America's values and principles -- in short, that America isn't like its enemies.

Given the significant hit America's credibility and moral standing took both at home and abroad as a result of how it handled the war on terror -- a disastrous war in Iraq, torture and "enhanced interrogation," Gitmo and military tribunals, etc. -- a civilian trial in New York would have done a great deal, it seems to me, to show that America has recovered from the abuses and excesses of the Bush years.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Is Rahm Emanuel trying to kill health-care reform?

Sure looks that way, what with the proposal he's floating that Democrats should focus on job creation, deficit reduction, and banking regulation before turning back to health-care reform.

Aside from the fact that this won't work, because Republicans aren't about to play along on anything, delaying health-care reform is tantamount to killing it. Ezra Klein explains:

It is very, very, very important to be clear on what the death of health-care reform looks like. It is not a vote that goes against the Democrats. It is not an admission that the White House has moved on from the subject. It is continued statements of commitment from the key players paired with a continued stretching of the timetable. Like everything else in life, policy initiatives grow old and die, even if people still love them.

The timetable Emanuel is laying out makes little sense. The jobs bill will take some time. Financial regulation will take much longer. Let's be conservative and give all this four months. Is Emanuel really suggesting that he expects Congress to return to health-care reform in the summer before the election? Forgetting whether there's political will at that point, there's no personnel: Everyone is home campaigning.

Moreover, there's a time limit on health-care reform. The open reconciliation instructions the Senate could use to modify the bill expire when the next budget is (there's disagreement over the precise rule on this) considered or passed. That is to say, the open reconciliation instructions expire soon. Democrats could build new reconciliation instructions into the next budget, but that's going to be a heavy lift. The longer this takes, the less likely it is to happen.

In other words, the longer the delay, the less likely there's reform. The Republicans know this, which is why they've tried to obstruct it at every turn, and the "put it off for now" strategy, such as it is one, has become a preferred option for those, like Emanuel, who don't see it as priority (or who oppose it altogether or want to water it down to the point of utter pointlessness).

So what's Emanuel up to? Jonathan Chait speculates:

I see two potential explanations. Either Obama doesn't know what he wants to do, and his deputies are spreading conflicting stories in order to see what takes, in which case he needs to make up his mind pronto. Or else he wants to do what he says he wants to do, but his chief of staff is out there subverting his agenda and making Congress doubt his seriousness, in which case Obama needs to shut up Emanuel or fire him.

I'm hoping it's the latter, and that Emanuel gets what he deserves. (No, he shouldn't be fired, not if Obama thinks he can still help twist some arms up on the Hill, or if he's so invaluable in the West Wing, but it might work if he just told him to keep his mouth shut. And yet, I worry that Obama actually approves of what he said and is similarly hoping to delay reform despite his supposed support for it.)

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Obama takes on the GOP

By Creature

It's everything they say it is. This kind of push back should have been happening all year.

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Headlines matter

By Creature

Economists may be hedging, but today's blaring headlines about surging growth should buy Obama, and Democrats generally, some goodwill with a souring public. Headlines matter. Yes, actual jobs and a real recovery matter more, but in a soundbite society today is a good day.


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An Afghan strategy progressives could love

Guest post by Peter Henne 

Peter S. Henne is a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University.

This is his fifth guest post at The Reaction. He has previously blogged about Sri Lanka, the Afghan War, the Left and religion., and Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize.


In his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his support for the increasingly contentious U.S. presence in Afghanistan, even in the face of simmering domestic issues like health-care reform and the economy. Beneath this official show of support, though, recent news articles indicate a potential behind-the-scenes debate concerning the nature of U.S. activities in that country. At the risk of being overdramatic, the fate of U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan may rest on the outcome of this bureaucratic dispute. One of the options being presented, however -- a decentralized strategy of tribal engagement -- has the potential to be both effective and politically viable, and deserves further attention.

A week or so ago, The Washington Post ran an article on U.S. outreach to tribal leaders in Afghanistan. The story discussed the work of Maj. Jim Gant, a Green Beret, and his efforts to assist tribal networks with both "local disputes" and resistance against Taliban and al Qaeda elements. Maj. Gant's work has generated a great amount of attention among military officials, who see in it a means of mobilizing the Afghan people to contribute to their own defense. Interestingly, a large Pashtun tribe recently agreed to fight the Taliban in return for U.S. aid.

A more recent story, however -- also in the Post -- discussed resistance to such efforts among civilian U.S. policymakers. According to the story, Karl Eikenberry -- the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan -- was hesitant to expand U.S. military cooperation with tribal networks, due to a preference to work with a central Afghan government. It was unclear if this is the same program discussed in the earlier article, although there are significant parallels between the two stories. Moreover, U.S. officials are also debating negotiation with Taliban leaders, as well as engagement with lower level Taliban fighters, to reintegrate them into Afghan society.

The debate involves two drastically different approaches to situations like Afghanistan. The State Department's approach involves building up central governmental institutions, focusing U.S. efforts on establishing a (hopefully democratic) state. The approach that seems to be favored by the military is a decentralized strategy of enhancing local capabilities, even if it is at the expense of the central government. The issue of outreach to the Taliban, in turn, rests uncomfortably between the two.

The State Department's strategy is admittedly appealing at first glance. The existence of a strong centralized government would allow Afghanistan to function normally in the international arena and better provide for the security and welfare of its citizens. It would also indicate the beneficial effects of international intervention into conflict-ridden areas.

Likewise, there is much to be wary of with the tribal engagement plan. The first is the cost; the plan may lead to higher casualties, since more troops will be in harm's way. Also, the loyalty of tribal militias may be suspect, and they could use defect to the Taliban or advance their own agendas. Finally, U.S. policymakers must guard themselves against inadvertently taking sides in Afghan politics.

That being said, waiting for a central Afghan government to form may be even more problematic. As Eikenberry himself has warned, Afghan President Hamid Karzai may not be an "adequate strategic partner." Similar concerns have been expressed in regard to the flawed elections in August, in which Karzai was been accused of fraud. The recent postponement of parliamentary elections, while wise, further indicates the troubled state of the Afghan government.

The decentralized tribal engagement strategy may not be ideal, but it is probably the most effective option available. As the strategy would make use of Special Forces teams to work with tribal leaders, it may not require the massive amount of troops an Iraq-style surge would call for. Moreover, by enhancing the capability of local actors, it could minimize the risk of creating Afghan institutions dependent on the U.S. presence. Finally, it can both tie in well with efforts to reintegrate low-level Taliban militants and obviate the need to work with Taliban leaders, as tribal engagement would establish an alternative set of actors with whom the United States could work.

Progressives would do well to pay attention to our developing Afghanistan strategy. The tribal engagement approach may be both effective in stabilizing Afghanistan and complementary to broader progressive goals. This strategy could lay the groundwork for the 2011 troop reduction the president has called for, while also satisfying the progressive desire to ensure the Afghan people live in a stable and independent society. It would also echo earlier Democratic calls for an emphasis in the use of Special Forces, demonstrating Democrats' understanding of national security issues. Like everything in international politics, there is no option in Afghanistan that is simultaneously easy, morally sound, and politically viable. This strategy, however, may be the closest thing to such an option.

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Quote of the Day: Nancy Pelosi on health-care reform

This is encouraging.

Here's Pelosi (via Sargent and Cohn):

You go through the gate. If the gate's closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in. But we're going to get health care reform passed for the American people.

The Republicans are manning the ramparts, guarding the unjust, unfair, corrupt, expensive, and disease-ridden status quo with all their obstructionist might.

But there are far more Democrats than Republicans, and there's a Democrat in the White House, and, while I hope that Pelosi's words reflect a newfound confidence and courage among Democrats, it's pretty clear -- and pretty easy, if Democrats just stick together for once -- what needs to be done.

Pass the damn bill, the (flawed) Senate bill, then use reconciliation to make it better.

Seriously. Do it.

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Alito mouthing off

I agree with Glenn Greenwald that "the behavior of Justice Alito at [Wednesday] night's State of the Union address -- visibly shaking his head and mouthing the words 'not true' when Obama warned of the dangers of the Court's Citizens United ruling -- was a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court. It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with the Court's ability to adhere to its intended function."

And this is why Supreme Court justices, if they can't control themselves, probably shouldn't attend these events.

More Greenwald -- essential reading:

There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices -- along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It's vital -- both as a matter of perception and reality -- that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court's pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations. The Court's credibility in this regard has -- justifiably -- declined substantially over the past decade, beginning with Bush v. Gore (where 5 conservative Justices issued a ruling ensuring the election of a Republican President), followed by countless 5-4 decisions in which conservative Justices rule in a way that promotes GOP political beliefs, while the more "liberal" Justices do to the reverse (Citizens United is but the latest example).  Beyond that, the endless, deceitful sloganeering by right-wing lawyers about "judicial restraint" and "activism" -- all while the judges they most revere cavalierly violate those "principles" over and over -- exacerbates that problem further (the unnecessarily broad scope of Citizens United is the latest example of that, too, and John "balls and strikes" Roberts may be the greatest hypocrite ever to sit on the Supreme Court). All of that is destroying the ability of the judicial branch to be perceived -- and to act -- as one of the few truly apolitical and objective institutions.

Justice Alito's flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten that decline.

I'm not terribly enraged by what Alito did, I must admit, but of course his inappropriate mouthing off is part of a much larger problem:

What's most disturbing here is the increasing trend of right-wing Justices inserting themselves ever more aggressively into overtly political disputes in a way that seriously undermines their claims of apolitical objectivity.


It was clear from Sam Alito's confirmation hearing and his record of appellate opinions that he is a dogmatic, state-revering, right-wing judge. But last night, he unmasked himself as a politicized and intemperate Republican as well.

Now, it's not that we're all too "squeamish," as Jonathan Chait suggests. It's one thing for overt partisans like Joe Wilson to mouth off, quite another for a Supreme Court justice to do so (if inaudibly). We don't expect politicians to be neutral and objective, but we do expect the men and women who sit on the highest court in the land not to be outwardly partisan, that is, to express their partisanship in public. We may know that they are partisans, or at least that they have political views, but we want them to put their professional objectives first.

It hardly matters that Alito was right. Sort of. (Linda Greenhouse notes that while Obama's statement that the Court "reversed a century of law" in "open[ing] the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign companies -- to spend without limit in our elections" was incorrect, strictly speaking, "the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well -- although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.") The point is that Alito both should have known better and represents a disturbing trend in the conservative judiciary, the emergence, and dominance, of partisan right-wing activism in support of the Republican Party.

Inappropriate though it was, are we really at all surprised that Alito, or someone like him, mouthed off?

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

You're part of the problem, Mary Landrieu

So Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana thinks that health-care reform "is on life support, unfortunately," and she blames Obama:

He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done. Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.

Yes, much of the blame falls to Obama for not providing enough leadership throughout the process, and I and many others have directed a good deal of criticism at him, but Landrieu should look straight in the mirror if she wants to point the blame at anyone. After all, it's not like Landrieu and her fellow Democratic centrists (Bayh, Nelson, etc.) have been champions of reform. She was firmly against the public option, which the majority of her party supported (in fact, which almost all Senate Democrats supported), and, while she ended up voting to send the reform bill to the floor, she only did so at the last minute.

Democrats, with Lieberman and Sanders, have 59 votes in the Senate. Prior to last week's special election in Massachusetts, they had 60. Compromises were made, concessions to the centrists, and the bill was passed. But if it's on "life support" now, it's only because Democrats succumbed to panic in the past week despite the fact that they retain relatively huge majorities in Congress -- and because centrists like Landrieu have backed away from reform.

Does Obama need to do more "to move this through Congress"? Yes, absolutely.

Does the Republican-lite Landrieu need to stop being an obstructionist and get with the vast majority of her party? Ditto. Because there would already have been reform, meaningful reform, if not for her and her ilk.


Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas is also part of the problem. There is "a real possibility that health care is at a stalemate and you can't solve it this year," he said.


It isn't on life support and it isn't (necessarily) at a stalemate.

Because the solution is simple: Pass the damn bill -- that is, have the House pass the Senate bill as is -- and pursue additional reform, negotiated by both houses, through reconciliation.

If it doesn't move forward -- that is, if there's no reform this year -- it'll be because of Democratic cowardice and ineptitude, and because of the objections of internal obstructionists like Landrieu and Pryor.


My friend Steve Benen has provided some of the best commentary anywhere on health-care reform -- more politics than policy (for that, turn to Jon Cohn and Ezra Klein) -- and he's right again here:

If this is going to succeed, the way to make it happen is to get it done very soon. As a practical matter, that means working out a plan, literally, over the next week or two. The longer it takes, the more likely failure becomes. And if it fails, the consequences -- for the country, the economy, the Democratic Party, the Obama presidency -- would surely be severe.

Also, I've been pushing the line pretty hard that congressional Democrats can/should realize what needs to be done, and not rely excessively on the White House to deliver marching orders. I still believe that, but it's also becoming clearer to me that expecting Congress to make these realizations is probably unrealistic -- the House and Senate are at odds, they don't seem to be getting anywhere, and without some presidential hand-holding, a way forward will likely never materialize.

The fate of reform, in other words, shouldn't necessarily fall on the president's shoulders, but it may anyway.

Democrats, seriously, stop with the excuses and get this done.

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All things in moderation

By Carl

I confess I did not watch the State of the Union address last night, primarily because I could have written it myself.

SOTU speeches are usually full of
vigorous promises and hopeful solutions which later get bogged down in the idiocy of groupthink. As someone famous once said, "A person is smart. People. Are. Dumb." That character when on to point out that people are terrified when in large groups.

It's true. It's something both sides of the political spectrum exploit, too, although the Republicans seem to be past masters of it, while Democrats tend to be more obvious in their bloviating.

How we perceive something initially on our own becomes a very different story when we've shared that experience with a group of people. Alone, most of us get the facts straight right away, and keep them fairly straight in our heads because we haven't discussed them (this is why jurors are instructed not to discuss the facts of a case until they are in deliberations, by the way). Perception is an individual thing, and how I see something will be very different than how you see it.

We compare notes, and what usually ends up happening is, absent a convincing argument by the smarter party (usually involving his or her authority or experience), both sides end up tailoring the story to fit the lower common denominator.

Now multiply that by hundreds, thousands, millions.

Or Congress.

The general perception of last night's speech, while scanning the opinions of people on the Internet, is the left feels Obama has sold them out,
throwing a crumb here or there, while the right is touting Obama as some wild-eyed angry savage (Yup. Subtle racism is still rampant on the right!)

It doesn't matter. What does matter is whether the follow through on the promises made is effective or not. You see, Americans are not opposed to left wing OR right wing solutions... that work. The only way they will work is if they are enacted which requirtes Congress to put aside the rancor, drub the minority as deep in the shit as possible, and start passing bills (or as with Bill Clinton, they can be enacted by fiat, but after eight years of George Bush, I can't imagine the American people will sit still for yet another childish cowboy throwing tantrums).

Read the promises. Read the speech. Then pick one topic, one promise, and get your Congresscritters attention on it.

It couldn't hurt, and activism may actually help save our democracy.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"This is the most partisan decision since Bush v. Gore. That decision by the activist conservative bloc on the Supreme Court intervened in a presidential election. This decision is broader and more damaging in that they have now decided to intervene in all elections." -- Senator Patrick Leahy, on the Senate floor, slamming last week's dreadful Supreme Court decision.

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By Creature

So the president generally played to the right last night, I'm not going to bitch about that. Politically speaking, he's putting Republicans in a box and that's a good thing. Otherwise, I liked that he called out the Supreme Court directly (and Alito should be ashamed of his response), that he took the Republicans to task over their obstructionism and that he defended his policies without sounding defensive. He was feisty, yet personable at the same time.

Will the speech help get things done? Probably not. But with the striking optics of a petulant GOP sitting on their hands, it should help remind the American people who the bad guys are.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU Night in America: Live-blogging the 2010 State of the Union address

(Updated frequently -- in real time. Scroll down.)

Alright, let's do this. We're about 20 minutes out, American Idol is in Dallas, and... well, I'm going to go make myself a drink.

But first...

Allow me to quote the editors of The New Republic:

How does this president handle a crisis? Thus far, the answer is not at all encouraging... Barack Obama faces a moment where his presidency just might collapse or, rather, risks heading into a wilderness where it would accomplish next to none of its ambitious goals.

And now, we have arrived at a point where we can take the ultimate measure of Barack Obama. For much of the health care debate, he has been a relative bystander. This stance may have been the right approach for various stretches of the legislative grind. But now, we must see his mettle. Is he capable of asserting his will? Can he use his vaunted powers of communication to explain the virtues of reform? He must take ownership of the process and strong-arm the House, so that it comes to its senses and passes the Senate's version of the bill; and he must strong-arm the Senate, so that it promises to improve the bill through the budget reconciliation process. If Democrats are worth anything as a party, they will rally around their president. As much as any other issue, health care reform is their raison d'etre. This is hardly an irremediable situation for Barack Obama. But, for the first time, we are nervous that he isn't up to the task.

I'm nervous, too, and I haven't been nervous about Obama since, well, since the lead-up to the Pennsylvania primary in April 2008, when Rev. Wright was all over the news, Hillary was hitting hard, and Obama seemed to be wilting a bit despite being well ahead in terms of delegates.

And now? Honestly, I'm not sure. And I'm not sure what to expect from him tonight. He's a great orator, no one denies that, but the question is whether he can put his rhetorical skills to proper use tonight. And what he needs to do is to take control, to the extent any president can, of the political situation in Washington, to set a new course and a new narrative that will allow him, and his party, to forge ahead with their policy objectives. In other words, what we need from Obama is genuine leadership, and he can show that tonight, in speech, in words that lay out a definitive course of action.

Health care reform must not be allowed to die -- for the sake of the president and his party, and, more importantly, for the sake of the many millions of uninsured and everyone else who suffers under this terrible system. Yet, as we write, Obama has not yet risen to meet this existential threat to his presidency. The response of his White House has been slow-footed, at best, and thoroughly confused by any objective measure. With so much anxiety pouring over the Democratic Party, only strong presidential leadership can salvage things. We haven't yet seen anything like that.

Obama is expected to focus a great deal of attention on the economy, and specifically on the job situation, tonight, and he ought to, given that elections are won and lost on pocketbook issues, and there are many other issues he'll need to address, including the war on terror, given the heightened threat, or perception of threat, after the failed Christmas underwear attack and the sense that Islamic jihadism will strike again soon, as well as climate change and renewable energy, but what I'll be listening for specifically is a commitment to pass meaningful health-care reform, a push to get done what is already well underway, with both houses of Congress already having passed a reform bill.

It's that "strong presidential leadership" on the politically most defining issue of the day that we need to see from Obama. Is he up to it? Yes. But I'm still nervous.

I suspect it will be a strong speech, but good rhetoric alone won't be enough.

More soon...


CNN has a preview here: "Citing a 'deficit of trust,' President Obama's first State of the Union address will urge Congress to erode the influence of special interests and work together to confront the nation's most pressing problems."

Oh yes, hopefully Obama will issue a strong response to that awful Supreme Court decision last week, the one that will turn American democracy into American corporatocracy.


And a call to repeal the military's bigoted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy against gays? Yes, yes, yes. That would be fantastic. I just hope that's not the scrap (not that it's a scrap, but you know what I mean) he throws to progressives and liberals while the rest of the speech comes straight from the Evan Bayh centrist playbook, with all that crap about bipartisanship, which essentially means caving in to the Republicans, with a failure to push for any other major progressive or liberal objectives. (You know, he gives us an end to DADT, while on everything else -- health-care reform, the economy, the Afghan War, climate change -- he embraces the right or otherwise waters everything else down with endless compromise.)


Alright, it's 8:57. My drink of choice? Vodka. Canadian. From a distillery in Oakville, Ontario, just outside Toronto. (It's pretty good.) With raspberries. I was going to do scotch, but I feel like something really cold, straight out of the freezer.



9:00 pm -- Hey, look, it's Wolf Blitzer! Yes, I've chosen CNN, in HD, for tonight's spectacular.

And there's Rahm Emanuel, looking like he could break anyone's neck like a puny little twig. Shouldn't Obama get him to twist the necessary arms on Capitol Hill over health-care reform? Um, yeah.

9:02 pm -- And now it's Bill Bennett. I've said it before, I'll said it again, how the hell does this jackass get to spew his stupidity on TV?

What is this, a right-wing lovefest on CNN? I'm already pissed off.

9:04 pm -- Obama has apparently left "the holding area." And there he is... followed by Reid and Hoyer, and then... I see McConnell and Boner, er, Boehner, looking typically over-tanned. (No, the U.S. Congress is not characterized by an abundance of human excellence.)

9:09 pm -- That was a rather enthusiastic (and manly) handshake with Biden.

This post is already too long, and the address hasn't even started yet.

The vodka's good, though.

9:11 pm -- Is the state of the union strong? Is it? Is it? I'm on the edge of my seat. Come on, don't drag this out... tell us!

Pelosi looks... odd. Sad? Contemplative?

9:14 pm -- Good move to start with "the anxieties that are out there now." Connect, Obama, connect. Reach out to the American people in a way you haven't really done yet as president.

"Change has not come fast enough." Is is coming at all?

Good move, too, to focus on Washington dysfunction. But, please, no bullshit bipartisan talk.

9:18 pm -- "We all hated the bank bailout," Democrats and Republicans alike. "I hated it, you hated it, it was about as popular as a root canal." Very true. But nice to spin it as doing what is necessary but unpopular. And he's right. Without it, the economic situation would be much worse.

And now "a fee on the biggest banks." I like where this is going. Side with the American people against Wall Street and the oligarchs who run Big Finance.

Unemployment benefits. Tax cuts. "Let me repeat: We cut taxes." -- for working families, small business, etc. No applause from Republicans, and Obama nicely jokes about it. Boner smirks stupidly. Nice.

Republicans don't like anything Obama does, no matter what it is, and that's the lesson Obama should have learned by now. Trying to work with them is like banging your head against a wall. It won't work. And they have no interest in reciprocating, in negotiating in good faith, in seeking compromise. Look at them. What a pathetic bunch of losers.

9:24 pm -- There are success stories, signs of recovery, but... "Jobs must be out #1 priority in 2010."

Oh capitalism... a favourable mention of "America's businesses" gets a standing ovation. Come on, really? But I thought Obama was a socialist or something. Of course he isn't. Just listen to the speech. Elimination of capital gains tax on small business investment? So socialist! Again, Boner and Cantor and the rest of them just look stupid. This is centrist, mainstream stuff, an effort to strengthen American capitalism, not undermine it.

9:28 pm -- Clean energy... good.

So the Republicans won't applaud protecting American businesses and penalizing those that move overseas? Huh.

9:30 pm -- "A new foundation for long-term economic growth." I'm listening...

"Washington has been telling us to wait for decades... Meanwhile, China isn't waiting..." Obama's on fire. He's got the room. Totally. Even if Republicans sit on their hands and look like jerks.

9:34 pm -- Alternative energy: good for the economy, good for the environment. Oh, so Republicans get up off their feel for nuclear energy. And for domestic oil and gas development. Hilarious.

And a comprehensive energy and climate bill. There is it. One of the most important issues of our time.

Obama notes that there are some who disagree with the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. He and Biden both smile. Rightly, he dismisses those deniers as morons -- not saying that, of course, but it's pretty clear. But he appeals to them by saying that leading on green energy will mean leading the global economy. Honestly, Republicans have no chance against this. Which is why they lie and lie and hide behind their propaganda and personal attacks.

9:41 pm -- I'm off to get more vodka.

I don't have much to say about Obama's comments on education. He's right. "In America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college."

9:43 pm -- Here it is: health-care reform. (Wait, the Republicans stood up?)

Obama really is awesome tonight. Not lofty rhetoric, but he's more personable than ever -- smiling, joking. A great way to begin discussing such a divisive issue.

And he begins to make the case for reform... reduce costs, reduce premiums, do away with the worst abuses of the insurance industry, bring down the deficit...

Leadership, Mr. President, leadership.

And he takes some of the blame for not explaining it well enough.

"I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber," speaking of those who don't have coverage or who will lose their coverage.

9:48 pm -- You know, I think the Republicans know he's got them. He just reached out to them by asking for other perspectives, other solutions. (Of course, they don't actually have anything substantive to offer.)

9:49 pm -- Now we're on to government spending? Okay, but what about health-care reform? No more on that?

And now he proposes "specific steps" to pay for the economic stimulus package. Ugh. The stimulus package wasn't big enough, and what America needs now is certainly not a spending freeze. I suppose it makes him look fiscally responsible, and so I suppose it's good politics, but it's not like the crisis is over yet.

9:54 pm -- Hey, Lieberman and Nelson are sitting next to each other. Hmmm.

Oh, just a thought. Shouldn't Obama at least mention the new iPad? I mean, that's the biggest news of the day, isn't it? (Kidding. Sort of.)

9:55 pm -- Obama doesn't even have to mention Bush. He's like an elephant in the room. He just has to talk about what he faced when he entered office, and to talk about those "eight years."

9:56 pm -- Here's the "deficit of trust" narrative. (Here in Canada, we call it "the democratic deficit" -- that's small-d "democratic.")

9:58 pm -- Good. He's going after last week's Supreme Court decision.

Okay, but this whole section seems like disparate elements strung together. Not enough on the "deficit of trust," not enough on special interests. I realize he doesn't have time to get into much detail, but he's not quite persuasive enough here.

(Oh, here's CNN's real-time piece on the speech.)

10:00 pm -- Okay, more on Washington dysfunction, "where every day is election day." And he points to a few senators with grudges who hold everything hostage -- a fully justifiable swipe at Lieberman?

"I'm trying to change the tone of our politics." Thankfully, he's realistic about what he can do. He isn't talking up some post-partisan utopia.

"Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it isn't leadership." Addressing Republicans, he's calling them out for pushing the filibuster, and the need for a supermajority, to get anything done, even as they refuse to help govern. Well done. Subtle, but pointed.

10:04 pm -- A bit on national security here, but no details yet. Still, good to go after Republicans, if not directly, for "schoolyard taunts."

There's Al Franken, behind the Joint Chiefs, nodding... It's still weird seeing him there in the Senate, though he seems to be doing a very good job.

A quick review of his record on national security -- war on terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, torture. On Iraq: "Make no mistake, this war is ending, and all our troops are coming home."

10:08 pm -- Support for veterans and military families. No one opposes that, right?

Man, I'm tired. It's a good speech, but these things do drag out, and they turn into laundry lists. (Although I do admire Obama's commitment to deal with nuclear proliferation.)

And I've finished my second vodka.

10:12 pm -- Human rights, standing on the side of human dignity. Well, what can I say?

He really needs to end with a flourish.

Ah... here it is... the repeal of DADT. "It's the right thing to do." Yes it is. And women getting equal pay for an equal day's work? Also the right thing.

10:15 pm -- Here's the flourish, Obama at his rhetorical best. Talking about American values, the loss of faith in America's "biggest institutions," doubt. "No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment." The room is silent, still.

"I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone." Controversy and passion have been stirred, but of course they have. And he connects "doing what is hard" to "the dream of keeping this nation alive." Brilliant.

I need to quote this part in full once I have the transcript.

I'm amazed at how mesmerized the room seems to be. This is why so many of us love the man, why we fell in love with him back on the campaign trail in '08.

"We don't quit. I don't quit!"

That was an awesome finish to a speech that started strong, stayed strong, went flat a bit, and then recovered. Very, very impressive.

Not nearly enough on health-care reform, but maybe he said enough to send the right message to Congress, and specifically to his fellow Democrats, to work it out and get it done.

I'm going to avoid the pundits for the time being, I think. The reactions will no doubt be exactly what you'd expect them to be.

Again, what struck me was how Obama held his audience in the palm of his hand throughout much of the address. And Republicans, who were no doubt told when to applaud and when to stand up, didn't seem to know quote how to respond. He said much that appealed to them, and he reached out to them, but, as I said above, they seemed to know that they were beaten, that they have no chance against Obama when he's this effective. (Dana Bash reports no booing. And yet she's focusing on how Obama put Democrats in their place on the spending freeze. Please. Yes, he was addressing them, too, but for the most part he neutralized the other side, not his own.)

10:28 pm -- And here's Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, about to give the Republican response. Whatever.

I'll be back later with more. I need to go lie down for a bit.

11:51 pm -- You know what makes me happy? The Dallas Stars beat the Calgary Flames in a shootout. And why? Because I recently added Stars goalie Alex Auld to my fantasy hockey team, and he got the win.

Oh, that third vodka hit me hard.

11:52 pm -- Okay, here the transcript of Obama's address. Here's a bit from towards the end:

I campaigned on the promise of change –- change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change –- or that I can deliver it.

But remember this –- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going -– what keeps me fighting -– is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.

Like I said... brilliant.

11:57 pm -- Oh, I found McConnell's response, delivered to a largely Republican audience, predictably banal, typical Republican pabulum. Like what he said about health-care reform:

All Americans agree, we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality.

But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.

Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.

First, no one's talking about turning the system over to the government. This is fearmongering. The reform currently in Congress and backed by the president are market-oriented and limited in terms of how much government involvement there would be.

Second, Republicans haven't offered anything like a substantive alternative. Like the rest of the speech, it's a misleading, and indeed erroneous, talking point.

12:03 am -- Okay, that's it for me. Obama's address certainly could have been more aggressive in response to Republican opposition and obstructionism, as well as more supportive of health-care reform, but, on the whole, I thought it was extremely effective. Whether it shifts anything in Washington, or in public opinion, is another matter, but I do hope it encourages Democrats to forge ahead with health-care reform, to address jobs, and to move on with the rest of the key elements of the president's agenda, specifically with respect to energy and climate change.

I'll get to the reaction from the punditocracy and blogosphere tomorrow... er, later today.

Stay tuned for that, as well as for reactions from the co-bloggers.

Good night.

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Where no man has gone before

By Carl

at least in the last thirty years:

Reports say when the White House releases their budget proposal, there will be no money for the program that was supposed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.

Reports say NASA will instead look at developing a new "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit.

One year ago President Obama had backed a Moon return mission in the NASA budget.

There's an abounding irony in the fact that a Republican president, desperat to reverse his sagging polls numbers amidst the long-standing accusation of intellectual uninterest in the world around him, propsed not only a return to the moon, but an eventual manned landing on Mars, while the Democratic president whose intellectual curiousity teems across his life has proposed stifling that ambition.

The budget, you see, affects more than just our paychecks. It affects our humanity.

I grew up in the Space Age. The world had a future. Space had a future. Mankind had a future.

Forget colonizing other planets in our solar system! Yea, we'd establish outposts and such and do experiments. Maybe hippie communes might spring up, but space had a wealth of resources that we could use to improve the human condition.

Offshoring manufacturing would take on a whole new meaning as we'd head out to the asteroid belt, pick an appropriate rock and as we dragged it back to high earth orbit, begin to refine out metals and chemicals, processes that pollute our environment horribly. The dollar cost of the mission would be more than offset by the real savings to the environment, to the air, earth, and water, to Gaia.

We would beam back energy from solar panels floating at Lagrange points around the earth in stable orbits. No more war for oil. Sure, there'd be money to be made, but if someone tried to corner the market, someone else would fire up a rocket and deploy his or her own satellite.

And that's just the beginning. The technologies that grew out of the space program, everything from Tang to hazmat equipment to the modern computer, have served us well and one can only imagine what new technoloies could come from the needs of the astronauts.

A country is suffering a drought? It might be cheaper to drag a comet to low earth orbit and make it rain into that country's reservoirs than to bring it by the bottle or boatload across a sea. A nation needs a tourist attraction, a way to bring people to it? Well, if it has a nice climate and a lot of flat open space, it could offer to build a spaceport.

The cultural impact of space exploration cannot be ignored. Neither can it be put off. Eventually, someone is going to realize that we don't have a lot of time or space left on this planet, and if we start now, it will be cheaper in the long run. While I can appreciate the budgetary needs of the Federal government in this time of belt-tightening and counting pennies, this is something that needs to be kept on the table year after year, as a reminder of what it means to be human.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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That is why you're overweight

By J. Thomas Duffy

In the event, you're sitting in front of your computer, reading this, while stuffing your face with a donut, or piece of pizza, you, very likely, won't recall reading this, or remember very little of it.

Don't worry, it's not you, it's your brain, and you're in company with an overwhelming amount of people on the planet.

H/T to Juan Cole for posting this:

Willpower And The 'Slacker' Brain

According to British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure. Those are his findings from a 2007 University of Hertfordshire study of more than 3,000 people.

How come so many attempts at willpower lose both their will and their power?


It turns out, Jonah explains, that the part of our brain that is most reasonable, rational and do-the-right-thing is easily toppled by the pull of raw sensual appetite, the lure of sweet. Knowing something is the right thing to do takes work — brain work — and our brains aren't always up to that. The experiment, after all, tells us brains can't even hold more than seven numbers at a time. Add five extra digits, and good sense tiptoes out of your head, and in comes the cake. "This helps explain why, after a long day at the office, we're more likely to indulge in a pint of ice cream, or eat one too many slices of leftover pizza," Lehrer writes.

Click the link and go to the piece, as we didn't snip the fascinating part, the experiment.

And we have the perfect soundtrack for this, an old gem from Eddie Harris:

Eddie Harris - That Is Why You're Overweight [1975] [HDTV]

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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A Cement Pond of Trouble

By J. Thomas Duffy

There have been growing reports, the past few days, on the upcoming Teabagger Convention, a seething unrest that it is turning into a shit train.

A Tea Party convention billed as the coming together of the grass-roots groups that began sprouting up around the country a year ago is unraveling as sponsors and participants pull out to protest its expense and express concerns about “profiteering.”


The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost — $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare — as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin’s speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.

Interesting ...

After all, so far, all these feces-throwing, flying monkey Teabaggers have had to do, is show up at public spaces, with their own, hand-made, racist, slurring, defaming signs, at rallies supported by Faux News, and other PartyofNoican shadowy operations, and, on-cue, start foaming at the mouth, and make noise.

Boy, these Teabaggers sure don't get around.

Have they never attended a convention before? For work, as members of a trade association, and such?

As a former producer of trade shows, which included managing shows for associations, the fee structure for the Teabagger bash were not so far out-of-line.

And this faux outrage that the producer of the event is going to make a profit?

That's the entire reason for producing a show, whether you are a "For-Profit" entity, or a "Non-Profit" entity!

The producers' hard costs would include the renting of the exhibit space, breakout rooms, large hall/auditorium for keynotes, and dinner, which go in the range of anywhere from .50-cents, to $2, or $3/per square foot (typically, the more space your rent, the lower the cost).

Then there's the decorating company, to manage the logistics of said space, exhibit space booths, setting up, and cleaning, the breakout rooms, servicing the exhibitors, drayage, etc (this could also be done by the hotel, as a package deal). Also, depending what city (and/or venue) you are in, you may be mandated to use Union labor for this work, which adds a bit to bill.

And the hotel, as to per/night cost for attendees, the producer has to book/guarantee, X-number of rooms, to get the lowest rate. The size of the Room Block will determine the fee (and, depending what city you are in, there could be additional fees, surcharges, that cities like to levy, to raise revenue).

The dinner doesn't just magically appear, either.

The producer, based on what they are serving, can, pretty much, plan on a price range of $5-to-$10, per plate, which may, or may not, include beverages, coffee, etc (some halls, that is a separate deal). And, if you are serving alcohol, more fees, and, possibly, a insurance charge with it.

And, it varies, from show-to-show, as to the presenters, speakers, getting paid.

Frequently, it is done via an honorarium, or "corporate gift", but, as we all know, "celebrities" charge.

The bigger the "celebrity", the bigger the fee (we produced a show, where, for just a 15-minute video welcome from Tom Peters, cost us in the neighborhood of $75K).

So the Teabaggers are sagging that Mommy Moose is milking the event for a, reportedly, $100,000-plus.


Why do they think The Wasilla Whiz Kid, abruptly, abdicated her office, to go out and do charity work?

Pretty weak tea, to find out your hero is not much more than a greed-head.

As to getting to the event, some producers may, or may not, work out a deal with a specific airline, to offer a discount, usually done on an "Early-Bird", time-limited basis.

The way to lower the cost for the attendees, is via Sponsorships, everything from Presenting Sponsors, your various levels of "Gold, Silver, Bronze" deals, signage, Registration area, attendee badges, Show Bag (and charging exhibitors to have their items placed in bag), room key/other special deliveries to room, Breakout Room sponsorship, Program Guide advertising, early mailings to attendees, the above-referenced dinner, and, just about anything and everything you can think of, or, that has a flat surface.

Some of these sponsorships cover your hard costs, others are pure profit-makers.

So, while the feces-throwing flying monkey Teabaggers are feeling ripped off, it goes more to their unenlightened view of the real world, which, considering their ideology, doesn't have you falling down in disbelief.

The producer of the event has just done a shitty job in selling it, not knowing his audience.

He's got Beverly Hills dollars in his eyes, while his attendee base is, intellectually, a step, or two, below the Clampetts.

No Claude Raines moment here, of the PartyofNoicans exploiting a situation.

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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That damn Senate

By Creature

Now that the Senate can't hide behind their super majority, using reconciliation to add the needed fixes to HCR should be viewed by wobbly senators as an opportunity, a golden opportunity to make this bill better (even a chance to get back the public option). Hell, it's a chance to poke Lieberman in the eye and prove to the American people that one person can't derail the will of the majority. The House is ready, but the Senate is missing in action.

The president needs to push for exactly this tonight. Unfortunately, I don't hold out hope for that. I see a piecemeal, watered-down healthcare bill in our future and that would be a crying shame.

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Self-flagellation, papal-style

So Pope John Paul II would beat himself with a belt as an act of penitence, huh? And now he's on the path to sainthood?

Gotta love that Roman Catholicism. Gotta love that Christianity generally.

What a load of bullshit.


Which is not to say that John Paul was not a great man in many ways. For what I wrote about the late pontiff around the time of his death, see here, here, and here, back when this blog was a lot younger than it is now.

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Watergate redux: Right-wing ratfuckers busted for trying to bug Landrieu

Evidently, James O'Keefe, the right-wing "activist" who posed as a pimp to bust ACORN last year (but with doctored tapes), is not just a douchebag but a criminal douchebag.

O'Keefe and three other ratfuckers like him were arrested yesterday in conjunction with what The Times-Picayune calls "a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans."

That's right, this jackass tried to bug Landrieu's phones.

There's been a ton of reaction in the blogosphere -- check out Memeorandum -- but here are a few highlights:

-- Digby: "[I]t's interesting that the ratfuckers are still out there doing their thing and that the media still falls for it every time.

-- Libby Spencer: "And what will the 31 House Republicans who sponsored a resolution honoring O'Keefe have to say now, I wonder? Probably nothing unless the "liberal media" decide to ask them. Don't hold your breath."

-- Larisa Alexandrovna: "There is a pattern in far right politics that I have yet to see on the left, despite various levels of extremism on both sides. The right appears to have a pattern of Cold War type tactics when it comes to domestic politics, illegal surveillance of political opponents being one of the key features."

See also Roy Edroso.

What's interesting is how conservatives are covering this. Take Fox News, for example, which has long been one of O'Keefe's major boosters. I'm not sure it was outwardly "devastated," as Think Progress put it, but its initial report included the "context" excuse: It's a "very weird story," but the "context," namely, that they might have been looking for ACORN-related evidence, could excuse them.

Thankfully, other conservatives are being less combative. Even Michelle Malkin was unusually resigned to the facts of the case, though she got her digs in nonetheless, suggesting that these four ratfuckers were acting a lot like Democrats. Huh? Whatever. It's just the sort of partisan bullshit you expect from her. Meanwhile, the far, far more sensible Ed Morrissey called O'Keefe "an idiot."

That's putting it nicely.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reconciliation for Dummies

By J. Thomas Duffy

That be you, President Obama, and the entire Democratic caucus!

You guys have been acting like old ladies, standing on a chair, because a mouse came into the room, all because some bozo PartyofNoican won an election nobody thought he would (and, in fairness, he campaigned and took victory without mentioning he was a PartyofNoican), and suddenly the sky is falling.

This is what we wrote last week:

However, as to the bigger picture, unless something remarkably uncanny happened, and all kinds of state and federal laws were, suddenly, abrogated, and changed, today, newly-elected Teabagger Senator Scott Brown only won one Senatorial seat, not 18-20, and, unless something else has changed, Brown will come to a dead stop, after he runs-like-the-wind, to get to DC, and join the rest of the PartyofNoicans, in doing nothing


What the Dems need to do is, along with growing a few pairs, start governing, start using their majority in Congress, to govern, much as the PartyofNoicans did (when they were known as "Republicans"), during the The Bush Grindhouse years, where they, without a majority, handed The Commander Guy everything he wanted.

Since you seem to be having trouble growing a pair, Paul N. Van de Water and James R. Horney have handed you some, laying it all out for you today:

Using Reconciliation Process to Enact Health Reform Would Be Fully Consistent With Past Practice


Because rising health care costs represent the single largest cause of the federal government’s long-term budget problems, fundamental health care reform must be part of any budget solution.[15] The foregoing examples indicate that using the budget reconciliation process to enact health reform in 2010 would be consistent with the ways in which Congress has used reconciliation in the past. Many major policy changes, including welfare reform, large tax cuts, and new health programs, have been included in past reconciliation bills. Moreover, if health reform is pursued through the reconciliation process this year, the resulting legislation — unlike the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 — will need to be designed so it does not add to the deficit. Any legislation also is likely to include provisions, such as an independent Medicare Commission and demonstration projects to identify ways to deliver health care more efficiently, that could lead to further reforms that slow the growth of health-care costs and contribute to longer-term deficit reduction.

Back in the old days (early '70s) on the "Point-Counter" of 60 Minutes, Nicholas von Hoffman called disgraced President Richard Nixon a "dead mouse on America's kitchen floor ... And it was time for Congress to come in and sweep it up ..."

This is your moment, this is what you are there for.

So, climb down off your chairs, grab a broom, sweep away those pesky, minority PartyofNoican mice, and get to work passing legitimate, benefiting-the-citizens-not-the-corporations health-care reform (and with a Public Option, or a Single Payer system, thank you very much).

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Lieberman fail

By Creature

With the pound of flesh Joe Lieberman took from the Senate health care bill he should be the last one to advocate for any kind of do-over (let alone a bi-partisan one). Joe, you earned your Aetna paycheck. Now shut the fuck up.

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Conservative Dems oppose reconciliation but deal still possible on health-care reform

TPM: "Lincoln, Bayh Won't Support Passing Health Care Fixes Via Reconciliation."

Screw 'em.


Okay, okay... fine. Let's expand on that.

The point is, the Democrats don't need Lincoln and Bayh (or Nelson). The Senate has already passed reform legislation and the House, which previously passed its own, more robust version, could pass the Senate bill as is, and then the Democrats could use the reconciliation process to pass additional reform elements.

The virtue of running the compromise through reconciliation is that you can lose a couple of conservative Democrats. In theory, this could be a good thing: 51 senators could enact a better bill than 60 senators. The most unpopular compromises -- namely, Nelson's Medicaid deal -- came in the effort to round up those final votes. The bill's most popular policies -- like the public option and the Medicare buy-in -- were eliminated to placate conservative Democrats.

But will the Democrats rise to the challenge?

[I]nstead of seeing this as an opportunity to scrub the bill of some of its more noxious concessions and restore some of the legislation's more popular elements, Democrats seem terrified by the prospect of, as some Hill aides have said to me, "cutting another deal." When you've defined "deals" so broadly as to include votes on legislation and then taken such deals off the table, however, you've also taken legislating off the table.

You know, even if Democrats had 90 of 100 senators and a supper-massive majority in the House, they'd still find a way to defeat themselves.

As Steve Benen keeps saying: "Pass. The. Damn. Bill."

For fuck's sake.

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