Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Call

Health care reform's screwed, Environment's screwed, economy's screwed, Obama's screwed, Dems are screwed...

The Scrouges are right.  Let's bury this decade and move on.

The Awesome Continues

The awesome, can you feel it?
The Senate rejected a plan Tuesday to allow Americans to import low-cost prescriptions from abroad, handing drug makers a victory that may help secure passage of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The vote on the amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., was 51-48 in favor, but 60 votes were needed to prevail under a special rule. Obama had supported the measure as a senator, but his administration echoed safety concerns raised by the pharmaceutical industry — which is supporting the Democrats' health care bill.
An angry Dorgan denounced a competing amendment that would permit drug imports if the Food and Drug Administration certifies it can be done without risks.

"Do not vote for this amendment and say you've done something about the price of prescription drugs because constituents will know better," Dorgan admonished his colleagues.

The alternative amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., also failed on a 56-43 vote. The House bill is silent on the issue.

Dorgan's plan would have allowed American pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import federally approved drugs from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan — placing them within reach of average consumers.

Both the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama administration were lobbying against the proposal, saying it would not protect people from potentially dangerous or ineffective drugs. Dorgan's plan would have cost drug makers billions of dollars and had bipartisan support.
Lower costs?  We can't do that!  Canadians apparently die all the time from unsafe drugs, unlike here in America where the FDA has a sterling record of protecting us from bad products.

Best reason we can't have cheap drugs?  They'll lead to prescription drug abuse...because not being able to afford illegal drugs and legal drugs like alcohol stop people from abusing them.

It's amazing.  If companies have to take unsafe chemicals out of our products, cost trumps safety as an accepted risk and that's just the cost of business.  If companies charge money for those chemicals as presciption drugs, why safety is the only thing that matters...cost be damned!

The awesome is so awesome, it's killing us.

Angry Johnny Gets It Right

Newsweek is reporting that tomorrow, Sens. John McCain and Maria Cantwell will introduce a bill to reinstate Glass-Steagall.
More than a year after the election, the Arizona Republican is looking to repair that reputation by joining up with Democratic firebrand Maria Cantwell to propose something that will be anathema to both Wall Street and the Obama administration. According to two congressional sources, the two maverick senators want to reinstate Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that forced the separation of regular commercial banking from Wall Street investment banking. The senators' proposal echoes a failed amendment introduced in the House last week by Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York.

The Senate prospects for the success of the McCain-Cantwell bill—which the two plan to announce together on Wednesday morning—seem bleak at best. But McCain and Cantwell join a still small but not insignificant insurgency of chronic doubters, including former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who say not nearly enough is being done to change Wall Street and, in particular, to address the "too big to fail" problem. The issue is one of the few in Washington that can unite the left and right sides of the political spectrum. Democrats like Cantwell deplore Wall Street's outsize role in the real economy and its lobbying influence, and conservatives such as McCain are appalled at the way the market system has been undermined—some would say rigged—by the power of the big banks.

Bankers and regulators, Volcker said earlier this month, "have not come anywhere close to responding with necessary vigor" to the crisis. He wants to ban federally guaranteed commercial banks from risky trading in derivatives and other arcane instruments that could precipitate another huge bailout some day. That too is a proposal no one who currently controls the levers of power in Washington is considering. But among those who now support Volcker is Arthur Levitt Jr., the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. "I tend to be in the Volcker camp in saying banks should either be investment banks or take deposits and make loans," Levitt told me in an interview this week.
You guys have no idea how much it grinds my gears to blog this, but I hope McCain kicks Obama's ass on this one.  I mean it has no chance to pass and we need to have this done, on the other hand McCain knows this and this will put the Dems and Obama on record as against real regulation.

Then again, given McCain's 180 on climate change, McCain will push this just as long as he can benefit from it (where Cantwell really does want to see this pass).

Still, seeing Glass-Steagall reinstated would certainly show the banksters who the boss is.

Epic Should Watch More History Channel Shelly Fail

Today at the the Teabaggers Hate Health Care rally, Bachmanniac compared her loyal minions to Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade."

The six hundred kinda lost horribly at the end of the poem, you know.  Unless, well, she seems to think that's needed to save the country.  Invoking epic military poetry where all the heroes get pwned in the end for their cause is a bit much, even for Bachmanniac.

But c'mon Shelly, first rule of Teabaggery:  nobody respects a loser, and Lord Cardigan's doomed charge against the Russians during the Crimean War redefined EPIC FAIL.

Much like Shelly here does quite regularly in Congress.

A Minimum Of Effort

Steve Benen notes that we're starting to see Village trial balloons on lowering the minimum wage.
In these difficult economic times, there's nothing wrong with some outside-the-box thinking. But it seems the Conservative Idea of the Week is to improve the economy but slashing the minimum wage. And there's something definitely wrong with that.

The Washington Post's Charles Lane recommended a minimum-wage cut in an op-ed yesterday. Fox News quickly embraced the idea.
Well, it's a stupid idea on a number of fronts.  Will the GOP bite?
As far as I can tell, congressional Republicans have not yet embraced the idea -- given that the minimum wage tends to be pretty popular, the GOP would have to tread carefully -- but it's something to keep an eye on. Indeed, if anyone sees GOP lawmakers call for cutting the minimum wage, let me know.
Won't happen for two reasons: 
  1. GOP won't risk their pissing off the populists, and 
  2. Will lowering people's wages make workers more or less likely to need taxpayer-funded social programs?
This trial balloon is going nowhere.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If only progressives had been more depressed about being stuck with the Medicare buy-in deal, Joe F'ckin Lieberman might have been duped into allowing it to go forward, where Lieberman would have just screwed the Dems over in the final markup anyway and completely scuttled the bill.

[UPDATE 3:08 PM] Howard Dean says "Kill it, reconcile the carcass."

Even More Tortured Logic

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick takes a look at Obama's quiet road towards approving the Bush torture regime as American standard operating procedure.
There's been a good deal of speculation as to why the Obama administration has worked so hard to keep courts from scrutinizing Bush-era torture policies. In its pleadings, the Justice Department continues to take the position that courts shouldn't usurp executive authority over national defense. But the practical effect of this effort will be to ratify such policies and the legal architecture that supports them. As Scott Horton explains, "the path to a renewal of the criminal misconduct of the Bush years is being prepared right now. And Obama Justice Department lawyers are doing the work." Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel, also noted in last week's conference call that because the statute of limitations for prosecuting torture is eight years, those pushing for accountability will begin to bump up against the stature for acts committed in 2002 as soon as this spring.

There's one other practical result of foreclosing every possible effort to litigate the legality of torture: The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial in New York will now become the only forum in which we consider it. That possibility is already being used by Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, and other torture cheerleaders to discredit the New York trials. The Obama stance on torture litigation has only strengthened their argument.
(More after the jump...)

Pretty Much The Worst Job In America Right Now

It belongs to Ana Matosantos.
Ana Matosantos will become Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's new finance director this month as he prepares to deliver his final budget proposal to cover a projected $21 billion shortfall, his office announced Monday.

Matosantos, 34, is currently chief deputy in the Department of Finance, where she has worked since April 2008. She will take over for finance director Michael Genest on Dec. 31, days before the governor gives his annual budget proposal in January.
Finance director for California is about as wonderful as being the Ice Water Coordinator on the sun.

Good luck with that.

No, really.  Your job?  Still better than hers.

Acceptance, My Ass

And we've managed to work through the whole Kubler-Ross thing on the death of the public option and we've arrived at the final stage: acceptance.
Faced with a likely public option-free health care reform bill from the Senate, Hoyer said House Democrats will vote to move the reform process forward without government-run insurance included.

Much as his colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership did last night, Hoyer said the political reality in the Senate means Democrats have to look past things like the public option to the "guts" of the bill itself.

"[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid has does not have the votes for a public option, obviously," Hoyer said. "In a world of alternatives, you have to take what you can get."

Though they may have to sacrifice the public option in order to craft a reform package acceptable to the the fickle Senate Democratic coalition, Hoyer said House Democrats still reserve the right to tinker with the carefully-crafted Senate compromise, whatever it may be.

"Just take the Senate bill? That's not gonna happen," Hoyer said. "There are key differences between the Senate proposal and ours and we'll just have to work that out."
Indeed, we're already seeing the advice to take what Lieberman deigns to allow us to have and be grateful for it.  Nate Silver reminds us the Senate bill numbers are still better far better than the status quo, and there's the option of improving the plan down the road.

But, as BooMan reminds us:
We have to be nice to Lieberman because he's working with the sane people on the climate bill, he's leading the investigation into the Ft. Hood shootings, and he has a bill that would extend domestic partnership benefits to all federal employees. Seriously. I call bullshit. If the Obama agenda is going to be owned by one senator, I'd prefer it be Olympia Snowe rather than Joe Lieberman. I am sure most progressives agree.
Acceptance is one thing.  Enabling abuse is something different entirely.  Show Lieberman the door, and get a better deal from the Snowe Queen.  It has to be better than what Joe's offering, which is only the back of his hand and taste of defeat.  Yes, the Senate bill is better than what we have now by leaps and bounds.  But we only got this far because we kept fighting.

[UPDATE 1:20 PM] Greg Sargent smells a deal with the Snowe Queen coming.  The trick here is to move ahead.  Get it passed.  Get it on the table.  The real battle was always the markup between the House and Senate versions for the final bill.  Have that fight in January, not now.

Textual Healing

SCOTUS takes up a case on privacy rights for personal texts on a government pager which may end up defining internet rights in a much broader sense.  The case is City of Ontario v. Quon:
The Ontario Police Department had a formal policy reserving the right to monitor “network activity including e-mail and Internet use,” allowing “light personal communications” by employees but cautioning that they “should have no expectation of privacy.” It did not directly address text messages.

Members of the department’s SWAT team were given pagers and told they were responsible for charges in excess of 25,000 characters a month. Under an informal policy adopted by a police lieutenant, those who paid the excess charges themselves would not have their messages inspected.

The lieutenant eventually changed his mind and ordered transcripts of messages sent and received by Sgt. Jeff Quon. In one month in 2002, only 57 of more than 450 of those messages were related to official business. According to the trial judge, many of the messages “were, to say the least, sexually explicit in nature.”

Sergeant Quon and some of the people with whom he messaged sued, saying their Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, writing for a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said the department’s formal policy had been overridden by the “operational reality” of the lieutenant’s informal policy.
(More after the jump...)

Bad Antennae

Today's Obama econ must-read is from Ed Harrison at Big Picture as he discusses this Marshall Auerback article on Obama favoring the bankers.
Why is Obama favoring big business? Neo-liberalism.

In the 1990s, the so-called Third Way, popularized by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, changed the fortunes of liberals dramatically.  Traditionally, the Democratic and Labour Parties were controlled by unions and working class interests – the so-called left wing.  This is one reason Democrats controlled the South until the civil rights movement. But, stagflation seemed to discredit leftish policies. In the U.S., the 1980s ushered in 12 years of Republican Presidency.  Labour’s trip into exile was even longer, 18 years.

The Republican’s were stopped only as a result of an unusual combination of Ross Perot’s third-party candidacy and Bill Clinton’s co-opting of large parts of the right’s pro-business anti-regulation, pro-free market platform – so-called Neo-Liberalism.  The neo-liberals in America were so successful that Tony Blair adopted the same tactics in creating New Labour and overthrowing the Conservatives in 1997. Junchiro Koizumi copied Blair in moving the LDP away from its base toward neoliberalism, vaulting him into power in 2001. In fact, one could even see Gerhard Schroeder as a neo-liberal who moved Germany’s SPD into power in 1998 – one reason the SPD is now losing voters to Oskar Lafontaine and die Linke (The Left).
(More after the jump...)

Unleash Joe Biden, Too Many Joes Edition

Joe Biden, on Morning Joe, talking about Joe F'ckin Lieberman:

Here's what he said:
Today Biden appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," defending his old Senate colleague as "a great guy."
But Biden said "honest to god" he doesn't know what is up with Lieberman (I-CT), whose opposition to elements of the health care bill has put Democrats in a major jam. But he added he learned from his own senate service, "never question another man's motive, question his judgment."
"I think Joe's judgment is wrong on this," Biden said.
But Biden explained it's just politics he's seen many times on major legislation.
"Everybody figures their maximum point of leverage is right before the deal is made so you've got everybody lining up out there saying, 'If I'm just willing to hold out now I'll get everything I want,'" he said.
So, let me get this straight.

After getting completely screwed over by the guy, Joe Biden is defending Lieberman as a "great guy."

No offense, Mr. Vice President, but now's the time you want to go full Cheney on this asshole.

StupidiNews Focus

Two StupidiNews stories to follow today with additional developments, first, bad news on the Bush e-mails:
The emails will be turned over to the National Archives, where they'll be treated, initially at least, as presidential records, Anne Weismann, a senior lawyer for CREW, one of the groups that had sued over the emails, explained to TPMmuckraker. That means that, under the Presidential Records Act, they won't be made public for five years. At that time, President Bush can choose to keep them secret for another seven years. Given the former president's record on issues of openness and transparency, it's a good bet he'll opt to do so. At the end of that period, they'll be made available to the public.

However, some of the emails may soon be designated federal, rather than presidential, records. That would mean, said Weismann, that they'd likely be made public in about three years, after the National Archives has processed them and prepared them for release.
Nice.  So we'll be able to see what went on in the Bush White house in 2012, 2022, or never.  However, there's better news on the Illinois Gitmo front:
On Tuesday, the administration will announce that the president has directed that the federal government proceed with the acquisition of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois to house federal inmates and a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Closing the detention center at Guantanamo is essential to protecting our national security and helping our troops by removing a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al Qaeda. Tuesday's announcement is an important step forward as we work to achieve our national security objectives.
Republicans probably will be urinating themselves in public today and screaming how we've doomed Illinois to having planes crashed into it while jihadi ninja disembowel Rockford and Joliet with box cutters, but they also may be a bit too busy trying to figure out how not to kill the all but neutered Libermanated health care bill while saying they tried their damnedest to kill it.

We'll see where this all goes.

Making The Rounds

Reaction last night to news that Harry Reid is going to jettison everything from the HCR bill to appease Joe Lieberman is not being received well as I make the rounds this morning:

TBogg, TBogg's blog:
If Rahm Emmanuel is all he was supposed to be, we can safely assume that the Obama White House either never gave a shit about health care reform, or they managed health care reform so horrifically and incompetently that they are now willing to settle for a “win”, no matter how meager.

I hope they enjoy their Pyrrhic victory because they just burned the base.
Desmoinesdem, My DD:
The new spin is that this bill will still save lives despite its flaws. If this were about saving lives, Congress could adopt a few simple reforms without creating this elaborate structure to transmit taxpayer dollars to profitable corporations.
Chris Bowers, Open Left:
I don't really know what to think right now.  Too angry to think straight.  After a very long campaign, we had appeared to secure a deal that I thought was acceptable.  We promptly get stabbed in the back by none other than Joe Lieberman (and the CBO, btw), and then just as promptly told by the White House to accept it all.
Digby, Hullabaloo
There you have it. Everyone knows that liberals must lose, so down goes the public option and the Medicare Buy-in. The question remains whether King Joseph will allow the government to help older people with long term care needs or any of the other things that anyone could possibly construe as liberal policies.

I think we have a way to go before this bill is bad enough for him and his cronies to allow the Democrats to commit political suicide with it.
BooMan, BooMan Tribune:
I had one other positive in mind to write about, but it must not have been very important or convincing because I've forgotten what it was. That happens when DC is in the process of crushing your hopes and aspirations. But, it's true that we really were only two or three votes shy of passing a damn good health care bill.
In other words,  this:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  If the good parts of the House and Senate bill were combined, we'd have an outstanding bill.  Instead, we're left with the Baucus bill in the Senate and over the next couple of days the White House will give Lieberman, Ben Nelson and the Snowe Queen everything they want.  What's left will be "insurance reform" the same way Bush's Medicare drug benefit legislation was a "cost control measure" and not a $1.2 trillion gift to Big Pharma.  This plan too will fail.  The Republicans will not vote for it, will run against it, and ride it right back into power.

I didn't think the Democrats were this stupid.  Silly me.  Only corporations matter in Washington.  The end of this week may seal the fate of the Obama presidency.


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