Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Speechifying For The Win, The Aftermath

The speech went pretty well, I think. You know, except for GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of SC being an asshole.

The gist of the speech was in fact the specifics, and I think it was heartening to hear that a public plan, 10 to 20 percent cheaper due to lower overhead, is exactly what the country needs right now. And who will pay for the public plan? Gosh, the premiums will pay for it.

So why are we not doing this plan? Oh yes...Rep. Wilson showed class and decorum and displayed every reason why you don't have access to this plan yet.

[UPDATE 10:44 PM] Joe Wilson has apologized for his outburst. Welcome to the Town Hall Blitz of America.

You Think?

Obama figures stuff out, cause he's smart.
In an interview today on Good Morning America, President Obama previewed his speech to Congress tonight, promising to lay out a detailed plan for health care reform and admitting he has "probably left too much ambiguity out there."

"I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense," he said, naming "death panels" and government insurance for illegal immigrants as example of the nonsense.

No foolin' there Barry? You think not having specifics allowed the Republicans to make specifics up that had nothing to do with your actual plan...because you didn't have an actual f'ckin plan?

Perish the thought.

First Day On The Shiny New Job

Justice Sotomayor wasted no time in going after Ted Olson's argument today on campaign finance reform.
By all accounts, she jumped right into questioning. She appeared skeptical of arguments by Citizens United that the conservative group's 90-minute campaign-era movie about Clinton ("Not a musical comedy," observed Justice Stephen Breyer) was protected speech. And she questioned Olson about why he had abandoned a former argument -- that Citizens United was not really a corporation -- for a more sweeping one, that campaign funding restrictions discriminate against corporations.

Upbraided by several Republican senators during her confirmation hearings about the importance of respecting court precedents, she asked Olson why he seemed so intent on toppling it in this case. Her first words:

Mr. Olson, are you giving up on your earlier arguments that there are ways to avoid the constitutional question to resolve this case? I know that we asked for further briefing on this
particular issue of overturning two of our Court's precedents. But are you giving up on your earlier arguments that there are statutory interpretations that would avoid the constitutional question?

His answer: no.

The case itself will still be decided by John Roberts, I think. It really could go either way, but the point is for all the bitching about activist judges that conservatives rail about, I haven't seen one single conservative commentator say word one about how the Supreme Court possibly upending 100 years of legal precedent doesn't qualify as "legislating broadly and from the bench."

Mysteriously, they are all silent.

Meanwhile, SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston remarks that based on today's hearing, both precedents are in serious trouble.

If supporters of federal curbs on political campaign spending by corporations were counting on Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to hesitate to strike down such restrictions, they could take no comfort from the Supreme Court’s 93-minute hearing Wednesday on that historic question. Despite the best efforts of four other Justices to argue for ruling only very narrowly, the strongest impression was that they had not convinced the two members of the Court thought to be still open to that approach. At least the immediate prospect was for a sweeping declaration of independence in politics for companies and advocacy groups formed as corporations.

The Court probed deeply into Congress’ reasoning in its decades-long attempt to restrict corporate influence in campaigns for the Presidency and Congress, in a special sitting to hear a second time the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205). At issue was whether the Court was ready to overturn two of its precedents — one from 1990, the other from 2003 — upholding such limitations.

From all appearances, not one of the nine Justices — including the newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor — appeared to move away from what their positions had been expected in advance to be. In her first argument, Sotomayor fervently joined in the effort to keep any resulting decision narrow — seemingly, the minority position but one she had been assumed to hold.

I wonder, when the Supremes throw out every campaign finance law over the last 100 years and declare that the free speech value of corporate cash trumps all in our political discourse, will any conservatives cry foul and say that these are activist judges?

And if this isn't judicial activism, for the love of God what is?

Epic Media Awareness Fail

If you're a conservative Republican, don't tell blatant stories about your mistress next to a hot mic.
Michael Duvall is a conservative Republican state representative from Orange County, California. While waiting for the start of a legislative hearing in July, the 54-year-old married father of two and family values champion began describing, for the benefit of a colleague seated next to him, his ongoing affairs with two different women. In very graphic detail.
Mildly NSFW stuff here, folks. The lesson:
Duvall's sophomoric braggadocio, of course, was picked up by the microphone in front of him, and wound up on a tape for the legislature's in-house TV station. From there it was sent to a local news station, KCAL, which ran this full report last night:

EPIC FAIL. Best part? He's schtupping an energy lobbyist for one of the committees he's on.

[UPDATE 5:45 PM] And he's outta there, folks. Duvall has resigned.

Friedman Calls It

For once, Thomas Friedman gets it right.

Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions.

Look at the climate/energy bill that came out of the House. Its sponsors had to work twice as hard to produce this breakthrough cap-and-trade legislation. Why? Because with basically no G.O.P. representatives willing to vote for any price on carbon that would stimulate investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, the sponsors had to rely entirely on Democrats — and that meant paying off coal-state and agriculture Democrats with pork. Thank goodness, it is still a bill worth passing. But it could have been much better — and can be in the Senate. Just give me 8 to 10 Republicans ready to impose some price on carbon, and they can be leveraged against Democrats who want to water down the bill.

“China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy — an industry that we largely invented — and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don’t have and don’t want,” said Joe Romm, who writes the blog,

The only way for us to match them is by legislating a rising carbon price along with efficiency and renewable standards that will stimulate massive private investment in clean-tech. Hard to do with a one-party democracy.

The same is true on health care. “The central mechanism through which Obama seeks to extend coverage and restrain costs is via new ‘exchanges,’ insurance clearinghouses, modeled on the plan Mitt Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts,” noted Matt Miller, a former Clinton budget official and author of “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas.” “The idea is to let individuals access group coverage from private insurers, with subsidies for low earners.”

And it is possible the president will seek to fund those subsidies, at least in part, with the idea John McCain ran on — by reducing the tax exemption for employer-provided health care. Can the Republicans even say yes to their own ideas, if they are absorbed by Obama? Without Obama being able to leverage some Republican votes, it is going to be very hard to get a good plan to cover all Americans with health care.
While I think the health care plan Friedman wants to see is dangerously "bi-partisan" Village fluff, he is right about two things: Republicans have no intention of ever voting for anything Obama does ever (without a six-month arm twisting to get one lousy vote in the case of Olympia Snowe) and Republicans will not vote for their own ideas or plans if Obama incorporates them, because Obama doing something productive and signing bills into law means he's doing something. Republicans only win if Obama is seen as doing nothing about the problems we face.

Republicans don't want a good plan. They want no plan.

Conflicting Edits

The Wall Street Journal says the President will endorse the public option tonight.

Mike Allen at Politico says Obama will hedge on the public option tonight instead.

Cammy Paglia at Salon says either way, it's too late anyway and it doesn't matter, he's done for.
By foolishly trying to reduce all objections to healthcare reform to the malevolence of obstructionist Republicans, Democrats have managed to destroy the national coalition that elected Obama and that is unlikely to be repaired. If Obama fails to win reelection, let the blame be first laid at the door of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who at a pivotal point threw gasoline on the flames by comparing angry American citizens to Nazis. It is theoretically possible that Obama could turn the situation around with a strong speech on healthcare to Congress this week, but after a summer of grisly hemorrhaging, too much damage has been done. At this point, Democrats' main hope for the 2012 presidential election is that Republicans nominate another hopelessly feeble candidate. Given the GOP's facility for shooting itself in the foot, that may well happen.
I'm increasingly going with option three here. No matter what the President actually says, the Village refs will call it irrelevant. They're already counting the man out of office after eight months.

It'll be a game changer alright, and the Village is all ready to declare it the day the Obama Administration Blew It.

[UPDATE 12:34 PM] Thers at Whiskey Fire lets Paglia have it.
Someone who gets to the Truth of American Sentiment by monitoring talk radio (which is apparently not at all "manipulated"!) "round the clock" is, by definition, a member of the Kook Army. They don't all get gigs at Salon, though. Which they use to serve up very very boring cliches spiced blandly with limp contrarianism. As a bonus there's "so's your mother" authenticity-grubbing superannuated hipster posturing!
And this is bad even for Paglia's usual concern trolling.
Whatever. Hippie vulgar libertarians are no more or less irritating than vulgar punk libertarians, or Glenn Reynolds. But what the hell! If you're hell bent on drowning the government, and hence inevitably the nation, you might just as well fill up that tub with an aesthetically pleasant warm pink bubble bath of self-absorbed idiocy, blasting Airplane on the tape deck. It's easier than, say, understanding policy, or even bothering to try to understand policy. Or anything else.
Reform is just toooooo haaaaard, sweetie darling.

Twelve Thousand Invisible Teabaggers

Speaking of crazy garbage in West Chester this week, the teabagger crowd held a counter protest for the President's Labor Day speech over the weekend and claimed four times as many people showed up as saw the President.

Well, kind see the Cincinnati Enquirer is having a little difficulty locating 12,000 of the 18,000.
How many people were at Cincinnati Tea Party’s rally Saturday at Voice of America Park?

The short answer: We don’t know. Somewhere between 6,000 and 18,000.

Crowd estimates are notoriously difficult and politically charged. Organizers and some other media used the figure 18,000, citing a figure given by Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones - an outspoken conservative and Tea Party supporter who spoke at the event.

The reporter who was there went with a more modest estimate, saying “more than 6,000.” That was based on his judgement and some interviews with local police, though the article didn’t make that clear.

Getting a little crazy out there. You'd think the teabaggers were full of something other than tea.
I attended the AFL-CIO union event, and I went to see Obama speak. Some basic facts that deserve attention:

1. The AFL-CIO distributed, I heard, about 10,000 tickets. The space was not nearly as expansive as the Voice of America park. The limited number of tickets was due to space. So even if 18,000 had wanted to see Obama speak, it would not have been possible. After all, the AFL-CIO does this picnic annually, and Obama was coming to their event. He was naturally restricted by space constraints.

2. Due to the threat of bad weather, the event was moved to a covered amphitheater. That space had even more limited seating, which I presume to be 4,500. I got in line almost two hours before the scheduled speaking time because my son really wanted to see the president. Others I know got cut off later when too many people had come through for the limited seats.

So really, both events had similar numbers, and Obama's was in a much smaller venue on a morning where it rained. But hey, some folks will do anything to prove they have bigger...numbers...than Obama.

The Politics Of Causality

Barry Ritholz argues that the Obama administration's failure to forge ahead with true reform of the financial system has resulted in the current health care debate disaster.
This was a colossal blunder. Passing reform legislation successfully would have fulfilled the campaign promise of “Change;” it would have created legislative momentum. It could have provided a healthy outlet for the Tea Party anger and the raucous Town Hall meetings. It might have even led to a “throw the Bums out” attitude in the mid-term elections, forcing the most radical de-regulators from office.

Also wasted: The enormous anti-Bush attitude throughout the country that swept team Obama into office. He should have been “Hooverized,” and O should have tapped into that same wave to force the greatest set of Wall Street and Banking regulatory reforms seen since the 1930s.

Instead, we have a White House that appears adrift, and the most importantly, may very well have missed the best chance to clean up Wall Street in five generations.

Never waste a crisis, indeed . . .

Ritholz is absolutely right here. Obama's financial team has been his largest failure so far, and a real raft of reforms would have completely disarmed the legitimacy of both the Republican Party and the teabagger idiocy.

Instead, Obama is rightly being painted as a corporate pawn. He has done precisely nothing in the actual financial sector reform department, and the resulting plan has only led to the forced consolidation of the industry, literally making the large "Too big to fail" megabanks even larger at the expense of competition and customers.

The populist moment is now being used against the Democrats, and for good reason. That's the lesson the Obama administration should be learning.

Just Surviving

McClatchy's Jonathan Landay survived an ambush of the unit he was embedded in that claimed 4 American servicemen. His account is astonishing.
The first shot cracked out at 5:30 a.m., apparently just as the four Marines and the Afghan unit to which they were attached reached the outskirts of the village. It quickly swelled into a furious storm of gunfire that we realized had been prepared for our arrival.

Several U.S. officers said they suspected that the insurgents had been tipped off by sympathizers in the local Afghan security forces or by the village elders, who announced over the weekend that they were accepting the authority of the local government.

"Whatever we do always leaks," said Marine Lt. Ademola Fabayo, 28, a New Yorker who was born in Nigeria and is the operations officer for the trainers from the 3rd Marine Division. "You can't trust even some of their soldiers or officers."

Sniper rounds snapped off rocks and sizzled overhead. Explosions of recoilless rifle rounds echoed through the valley, while bullets inched closer to the rock wall behind which I crouched with a handful U.S. and Afghan officers.

Lt. Fabayo and several other soldiers later said they'd seen women and children in the village shuttling ammunition to fighters positioned in windows and roofs. Across the valley and from their ridgeline outposts, the Afghans and Americans fired back.

At 5:50 a.m., Army Capt. Will Swenson, of Seattle, WA, the trainer of the Afghan Border Police unit in Shakani, began calling for air support or artillery fire from a unit of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. The responses came back: No helicopters were available.

"This is unbelievable. We have a platoon (of Afghan army) out there and we've got no Hotel Echo," Swenson shouted above the din of gunfire, using the military acronym for high explosive artillery shells. "We're pinned down."

Landay's unit took some serious casualties. These warlords are the same ones who have had decades to perfect the guerrilla tactics used since the Soviets tried this in the 80's. We'll need far more troops than we have or can train to conquer the country, and the eight years there we've spent so far we have done squat except lose troops like the men killed in Ganjgal Village yesterday.

How many more do we have to lose before we admit the exercise is pointless?

Mean Jean The Birther Machine

Ohio GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt gets caught red handed admitting that she doesn't believe Obama is our legitimate President here in Cincy.
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) spoke at the Voice of America tea party this Labor Day weekend outside of Cincinnati, OH. Following a tense Q&A session — during which, the congresswoman was booed for acknowledging that the Constitution is a living document — Schmidt engaged in a heated conversation with a birther off-stage. At the conclusion of their exchange, Schmidt whispered to the birther, “I agree with you, but the courts don’t.”
Completely busted:

The same woman said this earlier this year:
The President is indeed a Citizen of this country. I voted as a Member of the House to certify the vote of the Electoral College electing him as our President. I may not agree with his politics but there is no doubt he is our President and has my full respect as such.
She's clearly lying about something of course.

But the exchange captured here shows a far more disturbing trend: millions of Americans don't recognize Barack Obama as the President. The question is what will they do about it? What's the endgame here, as I've been saying? What does Rep. Schmidt plan to do about the fact that she apparently doesn't believe the Commander-In-Chief has any real legitimacy?

In short, put up or shut up. Let's get it out on the table, birthers.

[UPDATE 9:05 AM] Oliver Willis finds a Bitter Cling-On on the ass of society.

[UPDATE 11:22 AM] The Cincinnati Beacon is all over this story.

Sarah Palin: Policy Wonk

Over at HuffPo, Geoffrey Dunn cries shenanigans on Sister Sarah's latest WSJ op-ed on health care.
It's already been pointed out by several others that Sarah Palin has a new ghostwriter on staff and that she is clearly not the auteur of her most recent scribbles on Facebook and most certainly not the primary author of her op-ed yesterday in the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, the latter continues her unyielding obsession with Barack Obama by trying to upstage his healthcare address to the nation today, but it's clearly the work of someone who can write cohesively and thinks in a linear fashion. The piece doesn't even sound like Palin. Tina Fey this isn't. Hopefully Palin's memoirs capture some of her peculiar dexterity with the English language. (A genius like Mark Twain might have pulled it off, but rumor has it that he's not around any more.)

Trying to pass off Palin as a policy wonk on national health care issues is simply going a bit far. This dog simply will not hunt.

No, it doesn't, considering the piece rattles off every GOP talking point from the last three months, including how horrific, inefficient and bureaucratic government health care is despite 30% of America getting it through Medicare/Medicaid and rising, and how Obama will kill your grandmother. As one speechwriter famously said, you don't write Shakespeare for Dan Quayle, or in this case you don't write Cato think tank white papers for Sarah Palin.

It's full of classic glibertarian garbage like this:

Now look at one way Mr. Obama wants to eliminate inefficiency and waste: He's asked Congress to create an Independent Medicare Advisory Council—an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts charged with containing Medicare costs. In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of "normal political channels," should guide decisions regarding that "huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives . . . ."
...when the reality is Bush formed this council six years ago, then promptly ignored every single one of their recommendations.

As long as Republicans like Palin get to be useful idiots by spreading smokescreens and manure everywhere, you'll never see improvement one in your skyrocketing insurance premiums. And upstaging the President is all that matters to them...and the Village.


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