Monday, July 27, 2009

Max Baucus Returns, Part 2

TPM got a peek at Sen. Max Baucus's cards, and surprise! He's giving Americans a busted flush.
A quick update on this post. More details have emerged from the Associated Press bringing a bit of clarity to the question of what's going on in the Senate Finance Committee.

AP is now reporting-- that the Senate Finance Committee will likely call for the creation of a system of non-profit co-operatives in lieu of a public option--something which has been in the works for weeks--but will not require employers to provide insurance for their workers.

Let's run that again, folks. Non-profit co-ops instead of a public option, and no employee mandate. I can't say I'm surprised (nobody expected Baucus to endorse the public option) but the lack of employee mandate makes this a non-starter, frankly. It's basically the Wyden-Bennett plan, and with no employee mandate, it's actually a worse version of the Wyden-Bennett plan that won't do a thing to lower health care costs. Without a mandate, companies will just continue to cut their health care coverage as they can no longer afford it due to the economy. Without a public option, health insurance companies have no incentive to lower costs making it that much more likely that companies will continue to drop health care coverage altogether.

It's a disaster, is how I'm reading it.

Bunning Not Running

As widely expected, Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky will not be running for re-election in 2010.
The former professional baseball pitcher has been a strong conservative voice in the Senate, and his decision could harm the ability of Republicans to recover election losses in 2006 and 2008 that left them with a 40-seat minority in the 100-member chamber.

In a statement issued by his office, Bunning said he has been unable to raise enough money to run an effective campaign, adding: “For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010.”

Bunning's on-again, off-again saga seems to have finally been done in by his terrible polling numbers and his even more atrocious fundraising numbers. It was only a matter of time, and his heir apparent Trey Grayson seems to be his GOP replacement.

The real action is on the Democratic side. Former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo has the money, but Jack Conway, the state's popular AG,has the momentum. These two are going to have a pretty big battle, and if they damage each other too much, it's Grayson who could end up the winner.

We'll see how this shakes out. I can tell you even around here in the NKY, Bunning's not too popular. They're going to love Grayson up here, but don't underestimate the connections Jack Conway has, either. He's a real Chamber of Commerce Dem, and round these parts, that's huge. Conway just became a father on Friday of a baby girl, too...nice. Mongiardo and his wife are expecting in December. How interesting.

Vick-tory Dance

Michael Vick has been "conditionally reinstated" by NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell and could play for an NFL team as early as Week 6.
Vick can immediately participate in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and can play in the final two preseason games -- if he can find a team that will sign him. A number of teams have already said they would not.

"Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited," Goodell said in a letter to Vick. "I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you."

Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback admitted bankrolling the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting operation. Goodell said then that Vick must show remorse and signs that he has changed before he would consider reinstating him.

"I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others," Goodell added. "I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands."

Once the season begins, Vick may participate in all team activities except games, and Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19).

He's served his time. He still has to serve the rest of his NFL suspension. But, he could play again. I say, if a team's willing to give him a chance, let him play. Like I said, the man's served his jail time fair and square.

If nobody's willing to hire him, then that's alright too. Perhaps he deserves that. But at least give him the chance.

Epic Political Judo Throw Win

Greg Sargent catches this little bundle of EPIC WIN.
Okay, this is getting really good. Dem Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii is going to introduce a resolution on the House floor today that seems designed to put House GOPers who are flirting with birtherism in a jam.

The measure Abercrombie will introduce commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood. But here’s the rub, his spokesman tells me: It describes Hawaii as Barack Obama’s birthplace.

“In the language of the resolution, there is a statement that Hawaii is the birthplace of the 44th President of the United States,” Abercrombie spokesman Dave Helfert confirms.

That confronts House GOPers with a choice: They can vote for the measure, and endorse the idea that Obama was born in Hawaii, which could subject them to the wrath of the birthers. Or they can vote against a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 50th state’s joining of our blessed Union. Or GOPers can skip the vote, of course, but that would look a bit nutty.

“Far be it from us to try to stir things up,” Helfert said puckishly. “The president was born there, so what are you gonna do? Not mention it?”

EPIC WIN, and well played.

[UPDATE 4:35 PM] Perhaps this legislation will answer this burning question:

Manufactured Outrage, Inc.

Thers on the Birthers:
Apart from that, though, what will probably end up happening is that the GOP bigwigs will keep up with the doubletalk until a more exciting and ever so slightly more plausible nutty conspiracy theory comes along that the whole moron gang can cheerfully get behind and bray about endlessly, all family troubles in the past buried and forgotten.
I'm going to argue they've already found it, or are trying to actively manufacture it, with Gatesgate. How many times has Obama been basically called a racist since Wednesday? Obama is a Kenyan, not plausible. Actual evidence against it. Obama secretly hates white people? Can't disprove that with a piece of paper with a notary stamp on it, can you? Doesn't matter what he says now about anything, any time, any place. He's a (whispers) racist.

You can ride that one for the next 40 plus months. The GOP will be flogging this forever and ever and ever and ever.

Count on it.

Pete And Re-Pete

With the 20th anniversary of Pete Rose's lifetime suspension of baseball coming up, the entire city of Cincinnati is buzzing with today's news that Commissioner Bud Selig is considering Rose's reinstatement.
According to the story, there are some pretty well-placed backers of Rose, including Henry Aaron, who told a group of reporters that he believes Rose belongs in the Hall. Two of Rose's former teammates -- Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson, both of whom are on the Hall of Fame's board or directors -- also favor reinstatement, the story said.

Were Selig to lift the lifetime ban implemented 20 years ago,Rose's path to the Hall would have to come from the veterans committee, the living members in the Hall. He'd need 75% of the 65 members to qualify.

Pete Rose still has the major league hits record, even after 20 years. That alone should qualify the guy for the Hall. Twenty years is enough. Lord knows this town needs some dignity from a sports perspective...and so does Pete.

Let him in.

Going Through The Motions

Jeff Sessions is not going to vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor?

Never woulda seen that coming. Nope.

Still Batting .000

Another swing and a miss for Ross Douthat.
Plenty of war-skeptics are unconvinced that Iraq’s recent stabilization will deliver a happy outcome in the long run. But the surge smoothed the way for withdrawal, which is what the war’s critics have wanted all along — so why rock the boat?
Because people are still dying over there, you jagoff. They're dying over there needlessly, they're dying over there because the choice to go over there was a needless and stupid mistake that has cost countless lives, and oh yes, there's the whol people are dying thing. You're acting like the war is over and everything's fine, and all that left now is to edit the history books, clean up the bar and lock the door on the way out.

It's not over yet. It'll be years before it is. Hell, Al-Maliki wants us to stay. We ruined that country. For decades, that place is going to be a hellhole and they rightfully can blame America for inflicting that hell upon them.

We never should have been there in the first place. Period. This "well, both sides made mistakes" crap is self-serving twaddle. Some of us said this was a bad idea in 2003, and we've been saying it ever since.

Knocking Down The Walls

Over at the Daily Beast, Jason Bellini sees some major momentum in Congress on finally getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
After determining she didn’t have enough votes in support of a temporary suspension of the ban on gays in the military, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tells The Daily Beast she has secured the commitment of Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” this fall. It would be the first formal re-assessment of the policy since Congress passed it into law in 1993.

A statement from the Gillibrand’s office, shared exclusively with The Daily Beast, notes that “265 men and women have been unfairly dismissed from the Armed Forces since President Barack Obama took office.”

Gillibrand’s fast-track proposal for halting DADT, an amendment to the Military Reauthorization Act that would have ordered the Defense secretary to stop investigating gay service members, was never introduced. Even with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressing his support, Gillibrand couldn’t gather the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, according to a spokesperson.

“I thought it was a long shot from the very beginning,” says Aubrey Sarvis, executive director the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization fighting for the end of DADT.

“Clearly one of the positive things that came out of the Gillibrand amendment was that it served as a catalyst for hearings,” he added.

Gay-rights leaders expressed high hopes that Senate hearings could bring reluctant legislators around. According to a recent Gallup poll, 69 percent Americans think gays should be allowed to serve.

“Almost all serious experts who used to argue against allowing gays in the military have either changed course or died,” says Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.

Charles Moskos, the Northwestern University sociologist who came up with the DADT policy, died last year. He “defended the [DADT] policy to his dying day,” says Frank.

No matter the outcome of Gillibrand’s hearings, the chances of DADT’s repeal look stronger in the House, where Iraq war veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) is taking the lead on a repeal bill called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. Gay-rights lobbyists say he’s getting close to the 218 votes needed to pass the bill.

I've had my problems with Gillibrand in the past, based on her Blue Dog record as a member of the House. But as a Senator, Gillibrand really has come through and done so in a very surprising way. She has firmly taken the lead in the Senate to get DADT repealed, and has backed Obama on a number of issues. I'm glad to say I've so far been pleasantly surprised by her actions, and she deserves some real credit, especially on DADT.

Having said that, Obama's annoying silence on DADT needs to be broken, especially in light of his Skip Gates comments.

OK, Can You Fire Me Now?

Verizon announced 2Q profits were down 21%, necessitating 8,000 more employees getting the big hang-up.
Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, said Monday its second-quarter profit fell 21 percent as cost-cutting in its wireline business failed to keep pace with falling revenues.

The company will be cutting more than 8,000 employee and contractor jobs before the end of the year in the wireline business, speeding up its efforts to keep costs in line, according to chief financial officer John Killian.

In recent years, Verizon has balanced layoffs in wireline with hiring in wireless, but Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl said that would not be the case this time.

"We probably will not have large-scale hiring until we're out of the recession," Strigl said in an interview.

But...I thought we were out of the recession, according to the "experts."

Funny how that works.

Win Ben Stein's Derangement

Ben Stein, writing at the American Spectator, completely loses it over Obama in one of the most impressive examples of Obama Derangement Syndrome documented so far.
Why is President Barack Obama in such a hurry to get his socialized medicine bill passed?

Because he and his cunning circle realize some basic truths:

The American people in their unimaginable kindness and trust voted for a pig in a poke in 2008. They wanted so much to believe Barack Obama was somehow better and different from other ultra-leftists that they simply took him on faith.

They ignored his anti-white writings in his books. They ignored his quiet acceptance of hysterical anti-American diatribes by his minister, Jeremiah Wright.

They ignored his refusal to explain years at a time of his life as a student. They ignored his ultra-left record as a "community organizer," Illinois state legislator, and Senator.

The American people ignored his total zero of an academic record as a student and teacher, his complete lack of scholarship when he was being touted as a scholar.

Now, the American people are starting to wake up to the truth. Barack Obama is a super likeable super leftist, not a fan of this country, way, way too cozy with the terrorist leaders in the Middle East, way beyond naïveté, all the way into active destruction of our interests and our allies and our future.

And believe it or not, it actually gets worse from there. I mean, you have to stop and look at this train wreck, this is Ben Stein, a man clearly intelligent enough to know better, and he's using all the same old silly lies from the campaign all rolled into one Freeper post (and getting paid for it.) He's a socialist, he's a racist, he hates America, he's a mysterious cypher with no past, an academic zero ultra-leftist agitator and a terrorist sympathizer, but by gum, Ben Stein has him all sussed out, he does. This is pure, unalloyed screaming wingnut right here folks.

Stein presents no actual evidence of any of this of course, but apparently you don't need it, it's self-evident from the last several months, he argues. Really, shouldn't AmSpec be demanding a slightly better class of Wingnut out of the money they're giving Ben Stein? They could grab a random Cornerite and get this level of breathless nonsense.

In all seriousness, Ben Stein's a better person, a better writer and a better debater than this. Or, I used to think that, anyhow.

Birther Of A Nation, Part 6

Via TPMDC, the Birthers are on the move. They're all over the House, and now the Birther movement has invaded the Senate, too.
Sen. Jim Inhofe has also tried to find the elusive middle ground.

They have a point,” he said of the birthers. “I don’t discourage it. ... But I’m going to pursue defeating [Obama] on things that I think are very destructive to America.”

If they "have a point" there Senator, should you be signing on to or introducing legislation like your Republican House colleagues have?

And as I've said before, why should the GOP discourage it? It's red meat for the base, it delegitimizes Obama and you don't have to show any proof or evidence or anything, and most of the Village is playing along with these "examining both sides of the controversy" stories reinforcing it. It's all win for the GOP politically.

That is until somebody decides to do something about it through violence. Then? Not so much win for the Republicans.

[UPDATE 12:40 PM] Over at Media Matters, Eric Boehlert argues that the recent Birtherquake has served to create a pretty nasty backlash, particularly Lou Dobbs jumping the shark last week:

t's true that Dobbs irresponsibly mainstreamed radical right-fringe players by championing their half-baked claims that Barack Obama isn't a natural born citizen and is ineligible to serve as president of the United States. Dobbs, at least indirectly, lent the birther movement some fleeting credence as he dragged its misbegotten detective work into the spotlight. And it's still vitally important to monitor Dobbs and call out CNN management for its dreadful hypocrisy on the birther issue (i.e. The story is "dead" but it's OK for Dobbs to keep flogging it on national TV).

But there was some good news last week, and it came from watching Dobbs' slow motion train wreck unfold on the airwaves. It came from seeing how eagerly -- how convincingly -- the birther claims were debunked, not only online by progressives, but within the mainstream press as well -- the same mainstream press that's often reluctant to show up high-profile media players such as Dobbs, no matter how badly it has botched the facts. And let's not forget conservatives, who dismissed and ridiculed the birther claims.

In the case of the birthers, though, Dobbs' corporate media colleagues were utterly relentless in their fact-checking. I still don't think Dobbs knows what hit him. And frankly, I'm not sure I've ever seen such a well-deserved media pile-on. It's hard to see how Dobbs' career survives the humiliation.

Maybe. But as long as GOP members of Congress continue to make excuses for the Birthers, it's not dead yet. I do agree with Boehlert that we're rapidly approaching a point where congressional Republicans have to make a choice as to where they stand on the issue.

[UPDATE 2:57 PM] Greg Sargent pins down Inhofe's office on an official position on Obama's citizenship:

So I asked Inhofe spokesman Jared Young whether the Senator questions Obama’s legitimacy as President. He answered:

No. His focus is on issues.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Actually, it was…which is precisely the whole point…

Oh, and there's this from FDL too.

GOP members of Congress, most too scared to answer on tape if they think the President is a legal citizen of the US.

Think about that for a while.

On The House

New home sales jumped big time last month, and more importantly the supply of new homes on the market dropped to 8.8 months, a damn good sign. The bad news is that the coming foreclosure wave is going to swamp that, and that home prices are still falling pretty sharply.
Economists forecast new home sales would rise to a 352,000, according to the median of 62 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 335,000 to 377,000. Commerce revised May’s reading up to a 346,000 rate from a previously reported 342,000.

The median price of a new home decreased 12 percent to $206,200 from $234,300 in June 2008. Last month’s value compares with $219,000 in May.

Sales of new homes were down 21 percent from June 2008. They reached a record-low 329,000 in January, down 76 from the July 2005 peak.

The jump in sales in June was led by a 43 percent surge in the Midwest. Purchases increased 29 percent in the Northeast and 23 percent in the West. They dropped 5.3 percent in the South, to the lowest level since January 1991.

Sales may be picking up and supply is finally decreasing, but prices are still falling, and until prices stabilize, we're still in trouble.

CalcRisk has more:

Months-of-supply for inventory has peaked, and there is some chance that sales of new homes has bottomed for this cycle - but we won't know for many months. However any recovery in sales will likely be modest because of the huge overhang of existing homes for sale.
Not to mention the foreclosures rising, dropping prices and increasing the supply of existing homes on the market.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

You notice that ever since the Obama administration started taking top political blogs seriously as news outlets and even treating them as journalists at pressers, the Village has gotten just a little more paranoid than usual about them. TPM, HuffPo, Politico, Daily Beast and their contributors are a threat in some ways, but that's just called competition.

As Atrios says we've been through this before. We're going through it again now because the Village doesn't like it when the President gives the blogs legitimacy by recognizing them as media outlets rather than the Bush modus operandi of Steno Pool: The Next Generation.

Anatomy Of A Lunatic Story

Plenty of much-deserved pushback on the Birther nonsense over the weekend, and it's about time.
First, TPM's Josh Marshall looks at the entire lack of logic over the controversy to begin with.
This appears to be the lacunae the birthers hang their hat on (from the State Department website ...)
Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent in Wedlock: A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) INA provided the citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child's birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen are required for physical presence in the U.S. to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.

Their thinking seems to be that since Obama's mother was just shy of her 19th birthday at the time of his birth, she couldn't meet the "five after the age of fourteen" requirement, thus necessitating rushing home to get the phony certification of stateside birth to make the eventual run for president possible.

That's it. That's the entire argument, which of course is pointless because he was born in Hawaii.

So why are the Birthers so vehemently against Barack Obama being in the White House? Via Political Animal, and Media Matters, CNN's Howard Kurtz explains.

Emphasis mine:

To his credit, Kurtz tackled the nutty story today, and did so in such a way as to criticize the media's handling of the baseless "controversy." In fact, Kurtz called the claims "ludicrous" and noted "there is no factual basis for them."

Roger Simon added that the media is looking for excuses "not to act responsibly" and not to "use any judgment." Both Simon and Kurtz agreed that this is "tantamount to giving airtime to flat-earth people," but Simon was right to add, "[T]here's a racial element to this story, too. Some people, quite frankly, cannot accept the fact we have a black president ... and some of them are seeking to delegitimize his presidency." These nuts, Simon said, are getting "much too much" assistance from major news outlets.

Lauren Ashburn of USA Today added, "[I]t's unethical of the media to be taking this issue and putting it front and center when all of the proof is there to the contrary."

Roger Simon deserves a freakin' medal for finally saying on national TV what should have been said from the outset of this stupidity back during the 2008 campaign. My hat is doffed, sir. Simon's statement is absolutely true. At the core of this entire controversy is a raging, illogical hatred of Barack Obama. It is racial, it is cultural, and what makes it dangerous is that the people behind this hatred have taken it upon themselves to correct what they see as a massive oversight, to "rescue America from having a black President", to overturn the democratic will of the people because of personal prejudice and animosity towards him.

They in fact will never stop. The more legitimacy given to this idiocy, the more it will boil over until it stops being a lunitic fringe theory on the internet into something much worse. The only response to this is what Simon and Kurtz and his guests have done: smash it right in the mouth and expose it for the racially-motivated hatred it is.

About damn time, too.

[UPDATE 9:39 AM] As Steven D notes, so much of the irrational hatred of Obama has two components: 1) it's mostly racial in nature, 2) Wingers bend over backwards to invent justifications for the hatred as being anything other than racial.

Kroog Versus The Blue Dogs

Paul Krugman's column today attempts to make sense of conservative House Democrats screaming about fiscal responsibility while trying to make sure health care reform is more expensive.
There has been a lot of publicity about Blue Dog opposition to the public option, and rightly so: a plan without a public option to hold down insurance premiums would cost taxpayers more than a plan with such an option.

But Blue Dogs have also been complaining about the employer mandate, which is even more at odds with their supposed concern about spending. The Congressional Budget Office has already weighed in on this issue: without an employer mandate, health care reform would be undermined as many companies dropped their existing insurance plans, forcing workers to seek federal aid — and causing the cost of subsidies to balloon. It makes no sense at all to complain about the cost of subsidies and at the same time oppose an employer mandate.

So what do the Blue Dogs want?

Maybe they’re just being complete hypocrites. It’s worth remembering the history of one of the Blue Dog Coalition’s founders: former Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana. Mr. Tauzin switched to the Republicans soon after the group’s creation; eight years later he pushed through the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, a deeply irresponsible bill that included huge giveaways to drug and insurance companies. And then he left Congress to become, yes, the lavishly paid president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby.

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in Mr. Tauzin’s footsteps: if their position is incoherent, it’s because they’re nothing but corporate tools, defending special interests. And as the Center for Responsive Politics pointed out in a recent report, drug and insurance companies have lately been pouring money into Blue Dog coffers.

But I guess I’m not quite that cynical. After all, today’s Blue Dogs are politicians who didn’t go the Tauzin route — they didn’t switch parties even when the G.O.P. seemed to hold all the cards and pundits were declaring the Republican majority permanent. So these are Democrats who, despite their relative conservatism, have shown some commitment to their party and its values.

Now, however, they face their moment of truth. For they can’t extract major concessions on the shape of health care reform without dooming the whole project: knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse — and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.

Is that what the Blue Dogs really want to see happen? We’ll soon find out.
And I for one don't understand the logic of why the Blue Dogs are going after the President. The base of the Democratic Party overwhelmingly wants serious health care reform. If the Blue Dogs scuttle the plan, people are going to remember. If your major claim to fame over the 111th Congress is "I stopped my constitents from getting health care reform" exactly who in the congressional district is gong to reward the Blue Dogs? Republican voters? Don't you think they're going to be voting for the Republican candidate? No matter how far a Democrat in a conservative leaning purple district tries to distance themselves from Obama, they're still going to be attacked for being a Democrat in 2010. And Democratic voters aren't going to be too forgiving, I think.

I however am far more cynical than Krugman. There's a segment of the Democratic party, both House and Senate, that do want to see Obama's agenda handcuffed. Some have no intention of losing their big post-Congressional lobbying gigs by burning their bridges on Big Pharma with millions of baby boomers hitting Medicare age. Some of the Blue Dogs probably do feel betrayed on cap-and-trade votes right now, and have no intention of going to bat for the President on health care. And some object on ideological/free market reasons.

We'll see, certainly. How much hardball is the White House willing to play?


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