Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Last Call

If you have any doubts or questions about what the GOP plan is should they take the House back in 2010, frankly you haven't been paying attention.
Public Policy Polling has another mind-bending partisan number from its national survey. Right now, 20 percent of Americans “support the impeachment of President Obama for his actions so far.” That number includes 35 percent of Republicans, to only 15 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats.
“I’m not clear exactly what ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ they are using to justify that position,” said PPP’s Tom Jensen, “but there may be a certain segment of voters on both the right and the left these days that simply think the President doing things they don’t agree with is grounds for removal from office.”
What?  Did you think the "Impeach Obama Bin Lyin" bumper sticker crowd was going to just go away?

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

As a black man in 2009, you "transcend race" only until you screw up.
A California lawmaker is abandoning his effort to honor golf star Tiger Woods with the Congressional Gold Medal.

In a statement given to The Hill's ITK, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said, “In light of the recent developments surrounding Tiger Woods and his family, I will not pursue legislation awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal this session."
Then you're just another one of them.
On Tuesday's episode of "The Glenn Beck Program," Beck asked listeners a "Christmas question" as the carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?" played in the background
"Do you believe Tiger Woods may actually be O.J. Simpson?"
Two weeks ago, Tiger Woods was the greatest athlete on Earth in the most affluent sport in the world.

Sanford And Six To One

What, you thought that when it really came down to it, the GOP was really going to impeach one of their own?
A House panel has voted against a resolution impeaching Gov. Mark Sanford for abandoning his duties and abuse of power, all but closing the door on lawmakers removing Sanford from office.
The seven-member panel, instead, voted unanimously to censure Sanford, which means the General Assembly would admonish Sanford for his behavior. But, Sanford would get to serve the rest of his term, which has roughly one year remaining.

Lawmakers said that while Sanford may have used a 2008 Argentina trade trip as a cover to initiate an extramarital affair and that his use of state aircraft deserved an S.C. Ethics Commission review, the charges did not meet the high standard they felt was necessary to remove Sanford from office.

The panel, on a 6-1 vote, gave the bill an unfavorable report to the full Judiciary committee. The only vote in support was Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, one of four sponsors.
Of course they were never going to impeach him.  He's not a Democrat.  Now that's integrity.

How The GOP Rolls

Remember when anytime a Democrat went overseas during the last administration, it was "undermining President Bush's authority to conduct foreign policy"?  It was a ridiculous charge, but cries of "criticism of the President should stop at the borders" was a cry often leveled by Republicans.

Those cries are now forgotten with The Kenyan Usurper Other in the White House, as Digby notes.
House Republicans are preparing for a trip to Copenhagen and looking to derail Democratic efforts to negotiate an international climate agreement.

About a half-dozen Republicans will make the trip to Denmark to oppose plans for cap-and-trade legislation, express their discontent with the scientific community that researches climate change and call for the United Nations to halt any negotiations until the academic scandal known as “Climategate” is resolved.

At least Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along with Republican Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Darrell Issa of California and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee are making the trip.

House Republican leaders Tuesday laid out their plans for the U.N. climate conference, which will be to essentially buck all Democratic climate-change platforms.
If you can name a time where a Democratic delegation of Congress went abroad to an international treaty gathering with the specific, pre-stated goal of attacking a Republican President's foreign policy position when representing the United States overseas, then please, by all means, let me know what it was.
"Totally unacceptable" doesn't begin to describe this.  "Outright unconstitutional" comes close.  As Digby says:
I don't think I've ever heard of a group of political opponents going to a foreign country to confront the president when he's representing the nation. It's kind of startling. I'm not a big fan of the rules that call for royal deference to presidents, but you do have to let the country speak with one voice in certain situations, and the constitution anticipates that when it comes to dealing with foreign governments that voice should be the president's subject to ratification by the people's representatives. To personally go to Copenhagen and publicly argue with the president as he's negotiating a treaty is truly radical.
There are no rules save "Obama must be attacked."  There's no such thing as respect for the office, or respect for the man from these people.  They don't even think he's an American citizen, let alone the legitimate President.
Didn't you know that the Republicans really won in 2008?

Jon Cohn's Top Ten

If there's one guy to read on the state of Obamacare, it's TNR's Jonathan Cohn.  He has ten questions on the new Medicare/Public Option deal that will have to be answered before we know if the plan will be good or not:
1. Would funds from the younger people on Medicare mix with the funds from the traditional, over-65 population? This is a critical design question that will impact everything from the premiums people pay to the long-term finances of the Medicare Trust Fund. Previous proposals have tended to segregate the two pools, so that the Medicare Trust Fund would not be affected. And that may well be politically necessary now: Already, Joe Lieberman has released a statement saying he'll consider this idea if, and only if, it doesn't adversely affect Medicare finances. Of course, if the government let all 55 year olds opt into the program, their premiums could actually help the Medicare Trust Fund, since they'd be--on average--healthier and younger than typical Medicare beneficiaries. But you can safely assume the same senators skeptical of expanding government programs will raise eyebrows about that.
2. Which older workers get to buy Medicare--and when? Starting in 2014, people over 55 buying insurance through the newly created exchanges--that is, people without access to group coverage or eligible for an existing government plan--could choose Medicare. But what happens before then? The plan is to make Medicare available to workers older than 55 starting in 2011--which is great, since this is an initiative the government can, and should, get up and running as fast as possible. But it's not clear yet whether, during those early years, only people that qualify as "high risk" because of pre-existing medical conditions would have the option available to them. If it's just a program for high-risk people--and if, as I expect, the new Medicare funds are treated separately--that'd turn the new program into a dumping ground for sick patients. In other words, it'd be an actuarial disaster.

3. Would the Medicare buy-in have some sort of risk adjustment? Even if the program is open to all people over 55 without access to group of government insurance, it could still attract disproportionately unhealthy people, driving up the program’s premiums--which, again, could make the program unaffordable and ultimately unsustainable. This is a common problem of systems with competing insurance plans, one the new exchanges would solve via “risk adjustment”--that is, taking money from plans attracting unusually healthy people, then giving it to plans attracting unusually sick ones. But will Medicare for older workers be part of this scheme? Or will it be excluded somehow?
(More after the jump...)

Quote Of The Week

Can't wait until I can buy some war bonds. Hopefully when you buy them they put your name on a freedom bomb.
Boom baby boom.
At the intersection of Military Stupidity and Economic Stupidity, you'll find Sen. Ben Nelson.

Taking The Temperature

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows pretty widespread antagonism towards the health care bill, and Obama's approval numbers down to 46%.
The second leg of Quinnipiac's big national poll dropped this morning -- and it shows a serious erosion of support for Congressional health reform efforts and the president's performance on the issue -- along with an all-time low 46 percent approval rating for the POTUS.
Most ominously for Dems: Nearly two-thirds of registered voters polled said extending coverage to 30 million-plus people will result in a decline in the quality of their own health care. That gives plenty of room to the GOP to personalize attacks on the plan, Obama and Congress.
The lowlights for Dems:

--O approval/disapproval: 46/44 percent.

--Voters disapprove 52 – 38 percent of the health care reform proposal under consideration in Congress, and they disapprove 56 – 38 percent of President Obama’s handling of health care, down from 53 – 41 percent in a November 19 survey.

--American voters say 63 – 30 percent that extending health insurance to all will raise their cost of health care, although they are split 47 – 46 percent on whether they are willing to pay more to make sure everyone is covered.

--Voters split 48 – 46 percent on whether they think covering everyone will decrease the quality of their own care, but by 71 – 21 percent they do not think universal coverage is worth lower quality of care.

“It’s a good thing for those pushing the health care overhaul in Congress that the American people don’t get a vote. At this time, supporters are down 14 percentage points,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The GOP attack messages are hitting home, but this was before last night's negotiating breakthrough deal.  However, it does certainly jibe with Nate Silver's observation that there is increasing anger from the left on Obamacare as they see more and more of the public option traded away for nothing in return. The right is bleah on the bill, but the loss in approval is almost all coming from the left at this point.

Today's deal may be the faith-restorer badly needed, but the fact of the matter is the details are what matters here, and unless there's a serious improvement in the deal announced last night, I'm going to be joining the folks calling for a reconciliation deal with a real public option.

[UPDATE 3:10 PM] It gets worse:  PPP has 44% of Americans wishing Bush was still President rather than Obama.  The "liberal" media and the Pretty Hate Machine are doing an excellent job pinning everything on Obama, the notion that he has done "nothing" to help Main Street is starting to take hold with Americans.  It's been seven months now on Obamacare almost.  Americans are sick of hearing about it, and all they see is bad news on jobs, bills, premiums and fat cat bankers and insurance giants telling Congress how high to jump.  A good third of this country has gone over the cliff, screaming off into the Birther/Fascist/racist abyss.  The rest of us are starting to get pissed to the point of actually listening to the siren song coming from the deep darkness.

Opposite Joe

So, there's a new plan on the table.  It's a grand compromise.  It's a breakthrough.

And naturally,  Joe F'ckin Lieberman hates it.
"My opposition to a government-run insurance option, including any option with a trigger, has been clear for months and remains my position today," Lieberman says.
That's crucial because, as I reported last night, a (admittedly very stiff) trigger is part of the bargain liberal and centrist health care agreed upon last night. We'll try to pin down whether the announcement, or details, of the deal make Lieberman any less likely to filibuster the health care bill.

"Regarding the 'Medicare buy-in' proposal that is being discussed, we must remain vigilant about protecting and extending the solvency of the program, which is now in a perilous financial condition," Lieberman said. Back in 2000, Lieberman ran for Vice President on a platform of allowing people under 65 to buy into Medicare.

"It is my understanding that at this point there is no legislative language so I look forward to analyzing the details of the plan and reviewing analysis from the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid," Lieberman said.
Getting really sick of this man.  Really sick.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean are all for this.

Stupak Makes His Case

Rep. Bart Stupak (of the much maligned Stupak Amendment fame) takes to the NY Times today in an op-ed to explain his case...badly.
Under our amendment, women who receive federal subsidies will be prohibited from using them to pay for insurance policies that cover abortion. The amendment does not prevent private plans from offering abortion services and it does not prohibit women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money. The amendment specifically states that even those who receive federal subsidies can purchase a supplemental policy with private money to cover abortions.
Some opponents of the amendment have tried to argue that it would effectively end health insurance coverage of abortion in both the private and public sectors. This argument is nothing more than a scare tactic.

The language in our amendment is completely consistent with the Hyde Amendment, which in the 33 years since its passage has done nothing to inhibit private health insurers from offering abortion coverage. There is no reason to believe that a continuation of this policy would suddenly create undue hardship for the insurance industry — or for those who wish to use their private insurance to pay for an abortion.
(More after the jump...)

Epic Paul Blart: Airport Cop Fail

You know that Transportation Security Agency, the one supposed to protect our airlines?  Seems it's just impossible to get rid of Bush-era incompetence.
In a massive security breach, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inadvertently posted online its airport screening procedures manual, including some of the most closely guarded secrets regarding special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers.
The most sensitive parts of the 93-page Standard Operating Procedures manual were apparently redacted in a way that computer savvy individuals easily overcame.

The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate.

The improperly redacted areas indicate that only 20 percent of checked bags are to be hand searched for explosives and reveal in detail the limitations of x-ray screening machines.
The bottom line is while making a presentation this spring to one of the companies contracted to handle TSA duties, the manual's redacted parts were posted improperly, meaning that cutting and pasting the supposedly redacted manual into a new document resulted in a completely unredacted one.

Which is now loose on the internet.

And that's good enough to earn calls for a major Congressional investigation.
Criticism from Congress was scathing. Sen. Susan M. Collins (Maine), the ranking Republican on the Senate homeland security committee, called the document's release "shocking and reckless."
"This manual provides a road map to those who would do us harm," she said.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), the panel's chairman, called the breach "an embarrassing mistake" that impugns the judgment of managers at the TSA, which is still without a permanent administrator 11 months into the Obama administration. Nominee Erroll Southers, a Los Angeles airports police executive, is awaiting a confirmation vote in the Senate.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) also wrote acting TSA Administrator Gale D. Rossides, saying they are were "deeply concerned" about the disclosures and calling for an independent government investigation.
In its defense, the TSA says six more versions of the manual have been created and they were aware the day of the breach.

It's still well into EPIC FAIL territory.

Coakley Is It

Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley has won the Dem primary for Ted Kennedy's senate seat, giving her a de facto win in January's special election (via Oliver Willis):
Attorney General Martha Coakley has defeated three other candidates to win the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

The 56-year-old Coakley is vying to be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. She defeated Rep. Michael Capuano, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca.
She'll face off against State Sen. Jack Brown on January 19 as the overwhelming favorite.

Sarah Palin: Policy Wonk, Part 2

Sister Sarah takes to the WaPo to write an op-ed on climate science that can basically be summed up by the phrase "carbon tax is the new death panels". 
But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs. And those costs are real. Unlike the proposals China and India offered prior to Copenhagen -- which actually allow them to increase their emissions -- President Obama's proposal calls for serious cuts in our own long-term carbon emissions. Meeting such targets would require Congress to pass its cap-and-tax plans, which will result in job losses and higher energy costs (as Obama admitted during the campaign). That's not exactly what most Americans are hoping for these days. And as public opposition continues to stall Congress's cap-and-tax legislation, Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats plan to regulate carbon emissions themselves, doing an end run around the American people.
The science isn't settled on the environment despite the massive amount of evidence to the contrary because science isn't trustworthy, but you should totally trust the economic projections Moose Lady gives you without any evidence to back it up because the economics are sound.

One, this means even Sarah Palin has given up on health care.  Two, it means she's trying to fight the next battle with the same pile of ignorance, concern trolling and scare tactics that failed to kill health care reform so far.

If the Assault on Science has a poster candidate, it's Sarah Palin.  So yeah, keep it up there.  She may be the best thing that happened to the cap and trade argument.

The Cat's Out Of The Bag

Ezra has the details on yesterday's public option "compromise":
The specifics are beginning to leak. The deal looks pretty much like it's looked for the past few days: The Office of Personnel Management will shepherd national, non-profit plans into existence. Medicare will open to folks between 55 and 64 who are eligible for the exchange. If the national non-profit plans don't materialize, then there appears to be a trigger that will call a public plan into the market, but that seems pretty unlikely. All of this, of course, is contingent on CBO giving it a good score.

The details will be important here. What are the conditions for the non-profit plans? How many plans do there need to be? What does the regulation look like? When does the Medicare buy-in start? But assuming those pieces don't come in much worse than expected, the combination of national non-profits and a Medicare buy-in seems like a pretty good deal. Better by far than what Democrats looked likely to get a week ago. And more likely, by far, to seed health-care reform with scalable experiments.

A public option partnered with Medicare might have been better than these policies, but national non-profits and direct competition between Medicare and insurers is more promising than the compromised public plans that succeeded the initial policy idea. In fact, it's like we split the strong public option into two parts.

The national non-profits are not exactly like, but not that far from, the compromised public plan in the House version of the bill. They won't be publicly run, but with the OPM regulating them tightly and carefully choosing which offerings are accepted into the market, the impact might not be that different in practice. They have the advantages of offering a single product nationally and being freed from the profit motive, both of which were key to the theory of the weaker public option. Indeed, they're like publicly-regulated utilities more than private plans. These look a lot like the semi-private insurers that function well in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, among others.

Meanwhile, the Medicare buy-in lets people in the broader insurance market see what national bargaining power can do for individual premiums. Right now, Medicare's rates are largely hidden, as no one pays the full premiums, and so no one can really compare it to private offerings. But if the premiums become visible, and Medicare's superior bargaining power is capable of offering rates 20 to 30 percent lower than its private competitors can muster, we'll see how long it is before representatives begin getting calls from 50-year-olds who'd like the opportunity to exchange money in return for insurance as good as what 55-year-olds can get.
So it includes both the OPM-run public option, and the Medicare buy-in option.  On the surface, it actually seems like a good idea.  I've long said that profit motive in the health insurance industry is the problem and why our current system simply cannot work.

On the other hand the devil is in the details.  If the plans don't kick in until 2014 and there are too many hoops to jump through to get to the OPM non profit plans, the Dems are going to suffer greatly in 2010 and 2012, not to mention another 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance over the next four years while the Republicans could certainly make enough gains to repeal the program before it ever takes effect.

We'll see what those details are.  Potentially this is a decent deal, and better than I thought the Dems were going to get just a week ago.  But those details could be the killer.


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