Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Last Call

The Village: advancing the debate on health care reform.

And yes, Maria Bartiromo asks 44-year-old Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) "Well how come you don't have it?" about Medicare. Weiner responds with "Because I'm not 65, if I was 65 I'd love it." Now, Weiner is in fact a Congressman and has better health care than a lot of us...but that's still arguably the most idiotic question I think I've seen a Village Idiot ask in quite some time.

North Of The Border Battle

Canada's Liberal Party has pulled out of PM Stephen Harper's coalition, which could force yet another election for our friends in Metric Pop Can Country.
Canada’s Liberal Party withdrew Tuesday its crucial support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ruling Conservatives, opening the door to a possible fourth snap election in five years next month.

“The Liberal Party cannot support this government any further,” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in a nationally-televised speech to his caucus.

“We will hold Stephen Harper to account and we will oppose his government in parliament.”

Harper’s minority government could fall at the first vote when parliament resumes after a summer break in the coming weeks unless the social New Democrats or the separatist Bloc Quebecois volte-face to prop up the Conservatives.

Both the New Democrats and the Bloc have previously said they would vote against the government at the next opportunity.

The Liberals, meanwhile, said they would ask parliament for a vote of no confidence in early October to topple the Conservatives.

And while people say America's government is a mess, there's plenty of evidence to support that the Parliamentary system has its fair share of problems too, and not just in Canada.

Still, it's going to be damn hard to put together a government without the Conservatives, so I'm not sure if this move is going to help the Liberals, New Dems, or BQs much.

Obama Comes Down From The Mountain

After about three months too long of staying above the health care fray by refusing to pin Congressional Democrats down with specifics, Obama finally will make his move next week when Congress returns.

This time, the President is going to be specific. Next week, President Obama is going to give Democrats a health care plan they can begin to sell.

He plans to list specific goals that any health insurance reform plan that arrives at his desk must achieve, according to Democratic strategists familiar with the plan. Some of these "goals" have already been agreed to, including new anti-discrimination restrictions on insurance companies. Others will be new, including the level of subsidies he expects to give the uninsured so they can buy into the system.

Obama will also specify a "pay for" mechanism he prefers, and will specify an income level below which he does not want to see taxed.

He will insist upon a mechanism to cut costs and increase competition among insurance companies -- and perhaps will even specify a percentage rate -- and he will say that his preferred mechanism remains a government-subsidized public health insurance option, but he will remain agnostic about whether the plan must include a robust public option. Officials won't say whether the president intends to endorse a specific "trigger" mechanism if the competition mechanism fails, but they say he will make it clear that the final bill must contain language that increases competition.
He should have done this in May, frankly. America has wasted months on idiotic diversions and blockades thrown up by the Republicans and the Village. They have controlled the narrative because Obama has refused to take the reins and do so himself. Now that he has to do it, he's ready to at least wade into the debate.

Time will tell if it's too little, too late. Still, welcome to your health care reform fight, Mr. President.

Falling Down Again

As long predicted, the correction in oversold stocks appears to be underway.
Tuesday's swoon has been dramatic, coming after a report showing U.S. manufacturing in August returned to expansion for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half.

But it's not enough for the equity market, which some hedge fund managers believe has become overly bullish.

"I am shorting this market because we are facing a period of disappointing economic and corporate growth," said Doug Kass, founder of Seabreeze Partners Management.

More than 80 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange are above their 50-day moving average, according to Bespoke Investment Group, and the Investors Intelligence survey, a weekly look at sentiment among newsletter writers, shows the widest gap between bulls and bears since the beginning of 2008.

"People in the market—traders, advisers and individual investors—went from extremely bearish to quite optimistic," said Robert Prechter, founder and president of research company Elliot Wave International in Gainesville, Georgia.

That's not surprising after a 50 percent move upward in the S&P 500 index from 12-year lows in early March. There is a growing belief that the market has outpaced economic realities, and investors are getting skittish.

Gosh, given our continued lousy economy, people are only now starting to question the 50% jump in stocks over the last six months? Watch what happens over the next month folks, it's not going to be pretty.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Just a reminder that Rumproast's sophomoric, dirty humor is completely necessary at times. It is also NSFW, so you've been warned.

Quote Of The Week

Skippy on the blogfight between Joe Klein and the Double G:
as someone else pointed out elsewhere, it's richly ironic to end a paragraph full of hyperbole with "it is not hyperbole." mr. magritte, paging mr. rene magritte, white courtesy telephone.
I laughed for a good five minutes over that one.

The difference between political blogfights and say, the World of Warcraft forums, is much less use of the words "Warlock" and "nerf". Other then that, the stakes are just higher.

Bachmanniac Tells The Truth

Say what you will about Shelly Bachmann, when she tells the truth, she tells the truth.
"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass," she said in a speech at a Denver, Colorado fundraiser Monday.

"Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom," she added. "And we may never be able to restore it if we don't man up and take this one on." She also declared it "slavery" that some Americans pay half their income in taxes.

This woman helps decide what is law in America. The people of the suburbs around Minneapolis elected her to do this.

I'm betting that's going over really well about right now. But she's dead right: the GOP will do whatever it takes to stop Americans from getting affordable health care.

Here Comes The Boom

Steve Benen notes that James Taranto's piece in the WSJ seems to suggest that Republicans should be rooting for another terrorist attack so that A) they can blame Obama and B) they can run Dick Cheney in 2012.
If the Bush administration's policies really did keep us safe for 7 1/2 years, then it stands to reason that the Obama administrations' policies may be endangering us now. Certainly that is how the public would see it in the event of another terrorist attack.

If that happens, heaven forbid, Obama will be seen to have failed in the most basic presidential duty, and the Bush administration will be vindicated. As inconceivable as it may seem today, the 2012 election may end up turning on national security. Republicans would be wise to nominate someone with both toughness and experience. Under such circumstances, it's hard to think of a better candidate -- assuming, of course, that he could be persuaded to run -- than Richard B. Cheney.

And Benen of course is right: wingnut conservatives want to see Americans die so that Obama loses in 2012.
It's like reading a dispatch from an alternate reality. Taranto believes the White House isn't taking national security threats seriously. That's crazy. Taranto believes the Bush/Cheney team was effective in combating terrorism. That's wrong. Taranto believes Dick Cheney should be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. I don't even have a good adjective for that one.

But it's Taranto's point about how he wants the public to react "in the event of another terrorist attack" that's especially odious here. It falls into a tired and offensive pattern among far-right voices -- laying down markers now so they can blame Obama if/when there's another terrorist attack on American soil. This has been happening pretty consistently for months, and it continues to be ridiculous.

Does anyone continue to be surprised at this after the last eight years? In all seriousness we have people taken seriously as political pundits basically saying that the best way for the GOP to get back in power is for another major terror attack on U.S. soil just to prove their theories about Obama to be correct.

Think about that.

You Can Go Home Again

Even George Will wants us out of Afghanistan at this point, and his op-ed in the Washington Post may be one of the better he's ever written. I find myself agreeing with the man totally on the subject of us getting the hell out of Kabul.
Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan's recent elections were called "crucial." To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American "success," whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a "renewal of trust" of the Afghan people in the government, but the Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government -- his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker -- as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, "who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai's lot."

Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan's "culture of poverty." But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many "accidental guerrillas" to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent reestablishment of al-Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?

U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000, to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.

Even neo-cons like Will are beginning to admit that conservatives cannot play the fiscal restraint card while advocating for unlimited money for another decade or so in Afghanistan. We can't afford it. We have no choice but to leave, morally, financially, and militarily. We're not winning because there's nothing to win there.

If even Will is able to admit that the very idea of an Afghan central government is a ludicrous pipe dream, then the rest of the coutry should be solidly behind us bringing them home.

They Finally Seem To Get It

Max Baucus seems to have finally figured out that Senate Finance Committee Republicans have no intention of passing health care reform, and is now saying that Democrats are willing to go it alone.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana says a health care overhaul will happen this year even if Republicans back out of bipartisan talks under growing public pressure and that the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy could help hold together a compromise deal.

Baucus is leading a panel of two other Democrats and three Republicans that is being watched closely by everyone from the White House and beyond. Chances of a bipartisan breakthrough appear to be diminishing in the face of an effective public mobilization by opponents during the August congressional recess.

But Baucus says the bipartisan deal is still alive. He said he still speaks frequently with Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Michael Enzi of Wyoming.

"I think the chances are still good," Baucus told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. "I talked to them, and they all want to do health care reform. But the sad part is a lot politics have crept in. They are being told by the Republican Party not to participate."

Any questions, class? Gosh, you mean the GOP leadership never wanted a health care bill of any kind and has instructed Republican senators to delay and not to participate in actual negotiations? I'm shocked! Only took Maxie Boy here three months to figure THAT one out. He's sharp, our Max...and yet he's still holding out hope that there's going to be some kind of deal.

Max is betting on individual self-preservation of GOP senators who don't want to be on the wrong side of history with voters versus the individual self-preservation of GOP senators who don't want to piss off the insurance company entities that own them. After all, that's why the insurance companies haven't had competition so far. Even retiring GOP senators like Kit Bond, George Voinovich and Mel Martinez need jobs after the Senate in the lobbyist community, and they're not going to burn bridges on the way out by voting for a bill that basically dooms the GOP as a whole.

Then again, the GOP position in 2010 will be to run against affordable health care. They might be doomed anyway.

[UPDATE 8:55 AM] And our old friend Chuck Grassley is already running against the health care reform he's supposed to be negotiating. His fundraising letter:
I had to rush you this Air-Gram today to set the record straight on my firm and unwavering opposition to government-run health care.

And ask your immediate support in helping me defeat "Obama-care."

I'm sure you've been following this issue closely. If the legislation sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Chairman Ted Kennedy in the Senate is passed it would be a pathway to a government takeover of the health care svstem. lt would turn over control of your health care decisions to a federal bureaucrat ... and take it away from you and your personal physician.

It would mean government rationing in the name of cost controls.

"Hi, I'm Chuck Grassley and I'm here to stop the health care reform I'm trying to negotiate."


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