Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Call

Bernie Sanders says he's out on health care reform.
Moments ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced that he is prepared to vote against the Senate health care bill in light of the recent decision to strip the public option and the Medicare buy-in provision from the legislation. Appearing on Fox Business’ Cavuto, Sanders said he’s “struggling with this,” but is inclined to vote against:
I’m struggling with this. As of this point, I’m not voting for the bill. … I’m going to do my best to make this bill a better bill, a bill that I can vote for, but I’ve indicated both to the White House and the Democratic leadership that my vote is not secure at this point. And here is the reason. When the public option was withdrawn, because of Lieberman’s action, what I worry about is how do you control escalating health care costs?
Not good.  Crap bill or no bill, Bernie's leading towards no bill.  And he understands what's at stake here.

Intergalactic Planetary

The good news:  astronomers have discovered a pretty decent sized planet out there with what they believe is liquid water on it out in another nearby solar system.  Bad news:  the only reason the water would be liquid would be the massive temperature and pressure on the surface, making it pretty much uninhabitable for us.
While the planet probably has too thick of an atmosphere and is too hot to support life similar to that found on Earth, the discovery is being heralded as a major breakthrough in humanity's search for life on other planets.

"The big excitement is that we have found a watery world orbiting a very nearby and very small star," said David Charbonneau, a Harvard professor of astronomy and lead author of an article on the discovery, which appeared this week in the journal Nature.

The planet, named GJ 1214b, is 2.7 times as large as Earth and orbits a star much smaller and less luminous than our sun. That's significant, Charbonneau said, because for many years, astronomers assumed that planets only would be found orbiting stars that are similar in size to the sun.

Because of that assumption, researchers didn't spend much time looking for planets circling small stars, he said. The discovery of this "watery world" helps debunk the notion that Earth-like planets could form only in conditions similar to those in our solar system.
So in a very real way by redefining the boundaries of size that a planet may have water on, this is pretty big news.  Perhaps there's a super-Earth sized planet out there that's just a bit further out from a star than this one and hey, maybe there's stuff on it.  Who knows.

You Play The Hand You're Dealt

Of course, if you show that hand repeatedly to the other players, don't be surprised when that hand loses.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll coming out later today will show opposition to the health care bill growing -- mainly from disappointed liberals, who are very much disappointed to see the public option getting thrown out.

The poll has 47% saying the Obama health care plan is a bad idea, to only 32% who say it's a good idea.

Chuck Todd writes on Twitter: "Most of the movement on the 'bad idea' comes from some of the president's core support groups, folks upset about lost public option." He also writes: "Still, large majorities of the president's core support groups believe his plan is a 'good idea,' but the margins have shrunk."

In addition, 44% now say it's better to not pass this bill -- seemingly a large bloc of conservatives, plus some liberals -- to 41% who say it's better that something pass: "First time NBC-WSJ poll had that upside down."
So yes, enough folks on the left have thrown in the towel on this bill to have a majority now say that no bill is better than the status quo.

I don't agree with that sentiment from a policy standpoint.  That's a reflection of both how bad this bill is, and how bad the status quo is.  And yes, a big chunk of this is "You have 60 votes, we gave them to you, and you still lie prostrate whenever the GOP makes angry, mean noises."

You guys folded, plain and simple.  The Republicans beat you again.  You can justify it all you want to, but in the end, you guys got beat.

The War Bonds Puppet Show

OK.  You're probably wondering what's up with this whole War Bonds thing.  It's really simple.  Let's take three people:
  1. The Neo-Con, who likes war.
  2. The Fiscally Responsible Moderate Guy, who does not like war.
  3. The Populist, who likes the populist thing.
Now, for years, the plan was that Neo-Con dupes Populist into thinking war is cool by telling him it's necessary.  After eight years, Populist is getting tired of it.  He's seen the plant shut down.  He's seen jobs lost.  He's read in the local paper where his son's friend got killed in Afghanistan.  In short, he's questioning the war.

Even worse for Neo-Con, right now, the Populist and the FRMG are on the same side.  FRMG says "Hey, Populist?  We've spent $3 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan and stuff.  That's why we're in a massive deficit after seven, eight years of this crap."  Populist says "HOLY CRAP YOU'RE RIGHT!  BOY THESE NEO-CONS SURE ARE FULL OF IT!"

You see, all this"government is bad" rhetoric and spending taxpayer money willy nilly crap tends to apply to trillions in defense spending as well.  When Populist hears from his wife that good ol' Charlie Down The Street is on food stamps because his family's in over his head, Neo-Con is in trouble.

So Neo-Con, he has an idea.  "War Bonds!" he says.

NOW, when FRMG says "OK Populist, you're with me on this war being too expensive thing"  Populist turns around and says "YEAH HIPPIE BECAUSE YOU HATE AMERICA AND DON'T BUY WAR BONDS LIKE ME!"  We're right back to where we were in 2003:  anyone who criticizes the war is now unpatriotic, because you bought War Bonds, didn't you?

Neo-Con, he steeples his fingers and goes "Yeah, we can get another eight years out of this easy."

Here my puppet show ends.  The real one continues daily.

Republicans Still Have Zero Ideas To Help America

But hey, they sure are good at wasting America's time.
As Democrats scrambled to meet self-imposed deadlines, Senate Republicans froze the health care debate for at least a day Wednesday by insisting that a 767-page mega-amendment be read out loud in its entirety.
The move was poised take some 12 hours or more and grind Senate business to a halt for the day. It also threatened Democrats' ability to pass a health care bill before Christmas.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, set things in motion around lunchtime Wednesday. As the Senate moved to a sweeping single-payer amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Coburn objected to the common Senate procedure that waives the actual out-loud reading of the proposal.

"I would ask that the amendment be considered as read," Sanders said on the floor.
"I object," Coburn instantly responded.

Senate clerks began with the table of contents and took turns reciting the rest of the bill.

A Republican leadership aide confirmed that party members discussed the parliamentary move at their caucus meeting and planned to require the reading of the entire Sanders amendment.
You're getting punked, America.  These people think you are nothing more than idiots who will clap for their tricks because they oppose the Greatest Evil To Ever Set Foot In The White House.  They figure you'll think they are doing you a favor.

They continue to fling feces in your face, and you cry "Bravissimo!"

[UPDATE 3:43 PMSteve Benen reports that Bernie Sanders, rather than putting up with Coburn's partisan idiocy, pulled his amendment entirely.

They Never Believed Cassandra, Either

While I've gone on quite too far at length about Joe F'ckin Lieberman's easily called backstab this week (and hey look, he's not ruling out running as a Republican in 2012, surprise!) it's important to note that Liebergeddon would not have been possible without the White House.

Double G called it back in August.  There was never any intention to have a public option.  Obama never backed it with action.  Instead, it was set up for failure from the beginning.
Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferious email backlash -- easily -- was this one from August, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it.  From the start, assuaging the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries was a central preoccupation of the White House -- hence the deal negotiated in strict secrecy with Pharma to ban bulk price negotiations and drug reimportation, a blatant violation of both Obama's campaign positions on those issues and his promise to conduct all negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN).  Indeed, Democrats led the way yesterday in killing drug re-importation, which they endlessly claimed to support back when they couldn't pass it.  The administration wants not only to prevent industry money from funding an anti-health-care-reform campaign, but also wants to ensure that the Democratic Party -- rather than the GOP -- will continue to be the prime recipient of industry largesse.
(More after the jump...)

Masters Of Spin

You have to admire the GOP attempt to win the message war here by sticking with the simple strategy of creating a reality where only 25% of America identifies themselves as Republicans, and therefore they are the only voice that should count.

The other 75% of us are not real Americans apparently, so we can just go f*ck ourselves and should let these folks control the country.  That's serving the will of the people.

Real Americans hate Obama, didn't you know?  I mean they elected him, but what does that matter?

Inside Baseball Played By Keystone Kops

From Josh Marshall, a little inside baseball from a Dem Senate staffer chief:
I don't pretend to know Joe Lieberman's motivation, but it's working to perfection if his goal is to divide Party leaders (Obama, Reid, etc.) from the Democratic progressive base. I don't remember seeing this level of outrage from movement progressives before, and I wonder if the only possible way to quell it is to secure Snowe's vote for reform and then remove Lieberman from his chairmanship. I'm not necessarily advocating that, but many people (including many on the Hill) believe that he is playing us for chumps (not waiting for the CBO score of the Medicare buy-in, opposing something he advocated a couple of months ago), and there need to be consequences. It's not an easy decision, though, and I don't envy Reid.

Hey brilliant wunderkind staffer guy?  Two points.

You know how Joe F'ckin Lieberman earned the sobriquet from this blog back when he was openly campaigning for John McCain?  You might have thought that would be the first clue that he might be out to screw you guys over, and that he didn't give a damn about anyone other than Joe F'ckin Lieberman?  This makes me think you've not been paying attention.

Second point.  You didn't think progressives would be pissed when you caved to Joe F'ckin Lieberman on the public option and you let him get away with it?  This makes me know you've not been paying attention.

Hey, Captain Politics, you're getting played like chumps because you are chumps.  Period.  Only this time, it's going to cost a couple hundred thousand lives of people who will die due to being rationed by the free market right out of the ability to afford health care because there's no public option.  All over one guy's petty revenge you still refuse to call him out on.


The Red Phone In Cheney's Secret Lair Is Ringing

...because GOP Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois just crossed a big, fat line on torture.
Appearing on Hardball just now, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) defended the use of waterboarding -- and unlike other GOPers, he openly used the word "torture."

"I would not limit our intelligence agencies' ability to get information from people," said Schock. "If they have a ticking time-bomb or some critical piece of information that can save American lives, I don't believe that we should limit waterboarding or quite frankly any other alternative torture technique, if it means saving Americans' lives."
Really.  So, you admit we torture.  You admit we do torture, and that we should continue to torture if you deem it necessary.  You admit we're freely in violation of the Geneva conventions and decades of international conduct standards because you find it inconvenient.

And you're admitting this on national television.

You know, Dick Cheney's actually shot people for less...

But hey...Eric Holder's got you covered I'm sure.

Multitasking The High-Pitched Whine

Yesterday I posited that Republicans would be too busy with Obamacare to go after Illinois Gitmo.  But then again, I underestimated John Boenher's capacity for being a drama queen.  Luckily, Robert Gibbs was having none of it at the White House presser yesterday.
Asked about fears some Americans might have about Gitmo detainees being transferred to a prison in Thomson, Illinois, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today singled out House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggesting the tanned Ohioan’s comments were less than sane.

“If there are concerns for security reasons, I would hope some of those people would address why they think the military can do what they're doing at Guantanamo and can't do it at Thomson,” Gibbs said at his daily briefing today.

Continued Gibbs, “I will say this.  I have seen some far crazier comments today -- comments from people like John Boehner.  Here's what I would suggest for John Boehner.  Call up Leon Panetta or Denny Blair at the CIA or the director of national intelligence.  Ask them if he can come down and watch a video put out by Al Qaida senior leadership like -- the names that we recognize, (Ayman al-) Zawahiri.  Thirty-two times since 2001 and four times this year alone, senior Al Qaida leadership in recruiting videos have used the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a clarion call to bring extremists from around the world to join their effort.”
What prompted Gibbs going off?  This idiocy:
Earlier today in a press release titled “How Will Importing Dangerous Terrorists Make America Safer?” Boehner said “Republicans will stand with Illinois families and seek every remedy at our disposal to stop this severely misguided plan.”

“Once again, the Obama Administration has put the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people,” Boehner said. “The American people don’t want dangerous terrorists imported on to U.S. soil, and we have had bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate reaffirming this position.  What’s worse, this decision is completely unnecessary considering that these terrorists were already being tried by military commissions, which were specifically designed under the law to prosecute such heinous acts.”
It also didn't help that Boehner decided that this meant Obama had "forgotten 9/11".
House Minority Leader John Boehner said Tuesday that the Obama administration’s plan to move some Guantanamo detainees to Illinois shows that the White House "must've forgotten" about the Americans who died on Sept. 11.

"I think the administration wasn't around for 9/11," the Ohio Republican said, emerging from a weekly meeting with House Republicans.
Well no, asshole.  The administration that was around for that was Dubya's.  Perhaps you've forgotten history?

Great And Terrible Things

Time Magazine has named Helicopter Ben its Person Of The Year.
So here he is inside his marble fortress, a technocrat in an ink-stained shirt and an off-the-rack suit, explaining what he's done, where we are and what might happen next.

He knows that the economy is awful, that 10% unemployment is much too high, that Wall Street bankers are greedy ingrates, that Main Street still hurts. Banks are handing out sweet bonuses again but still aren't doing much lending. Technically, the recession is over, but growth has been anemic and heavily reliant on government programs like Cash for Clunkers, not to mention cheap Fed money. "I understand why people are frustrated. I'm frustrated too," Bernanke says. "I'm not one of those people who look at this as some kind of video game. I come from Main Street, from a small town that's really depressed. This is all very real to me."

But Bernanke also knows the economy would be much, much worse if the Fed had not taken such extreme measures to stop the panic. There's a vast difference between 10% and 25% unemployment, between anemic and negative growth. He wishes Americans understood that he helped save the irresponsible giants of Wall Street only to protect ordinary folks on Main Street. He knows better than anyone how financial crises spiral into global disasters, how the grass gets crushed when elephants fall. "We came very, very close to a depression ... The markets were in anaphylactic shock," he told Time during one of three extended interviews. "I'm not happy with where we are, but it's a lot better than where we could be."
"I had to destroy the village to save it, you see."  Yes, Bernanke did avert a catastrophe.  But he's all but assured we'll see another such catastrophe again, and soon.  The banks are right back at the gambling table with derivative trillions, because that's what enabling compulsive gambling does.  When they come up snake eyes again, what then?

Having said that, I don't disagree for a millisecond that Bernanke is Time's Person of the Year.  When you think about your own personal economic situation right now, Ben Bernanke's face is the one you should see when you close your eyes.  He's done great and terrible things.  Hell, he deserves the honor for being the first guy in Washington to suggest ditching Medicare and Social Security.  He's run the numbers.  He knows what's coming.  Great and terrible things.

And still, he refuses to do anything about it.  He can't.  The banks are too powerful.  They own him, they own us, they own Washington.

Great and terrible things.

To Recap The Year So Far

I said this more than a year ago:
...[T]he reality is much simpler if you go on psychology of Republicans rather than economic theory:
  1. The Republicans just got their asses kicked in the elections.
  2. They want to get back in power.
  3. The easiest way to get back in power is to blame the economy on Obama.
  4. Therefore, the GOP will do everything in their power to obstruct Obama's economic policy and then blame the Democrats.
That's it. That's the next two years, if not four years of GOP policy: stop the Democrats from passing any legislation, then blame the Dems when things go to shit. If it's anything like the last two years, the Dems will promptly fold time and time again and give in to nearly every GOP concession, and then get donkey punched in the back of the head anyway when the GOP then turns around and blames the Dems for the weak, incremental legislation that gets passed as a result.

The GOP will run Washington and will do so with help from the Village Idiot class, who will helpfully launch "The Economy Was Better Under Bush!" articles left and right.

That's it. That's the plan. You don't need to understand economics. Hell, the GOP doesn't understand economics at all, that's how we go into this. The Right Wing Noise Machine doesn't understand a damn thing about economics. But they understand spin.

They will ruthlessly attack Obama and the Dems. It's nothing more than obstruct legislation, force concessions, claim victory, blame the Dems, repeat.
Fifty-four weeks later, nobody could have predicted, etc.  So gosh, what happens now? 
The GOP doesn't have any solutions to this mess. They simply want to paint anything Obama does as bad and will as a result blame him for everything bad that will happen over the next two years, and then hold up "The Librul Media's Treatment Of Bush" as their argument that payback is a bitch.

Then they figure they'll swoop in and sharply reduce the Democrat's margins in Congress in 2010 and outright take back Congress and the White House in 2012, and Obama will go down as The Worst President Ever Because He's Worse Than Bush Was.

That's it. That's the entire plan, folks.

And unless the Dems finally find their spine and fight back, it will play out exactly like above. I guarantee it.
Next December, I'll check back on this.  Now look, I'm no Rahmbo or Nate Silver or Jane Hamsher or BooMan or even an actual political operative out here.  I'm just a blogger who saw this coming a mile away and said something about it at the time.

Pray I'm wrong.  Because if I'm not, come January 2014 or so this country's about to be completely unrecognizable.  And at the speed and course we're heading, I don't think I'm going to be wrong.

The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 6

New Rasmussen poll has Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist and State Sen. Marco Rubio all knotted up at 43% ahead of August's Senate primary.  The corporate masters behind the Teabaggers are looking to buy themselves a Senator now while the price is low.
Nationally, the GOP’s Florida Senate race is being watched as a test of the new “Tea Party” mood among many conservative and traditionally Republican voters. The GOP Primary is scheduled for August 24.
Fifty-two percent (52%) of self-described conservatives favored Rubio. In October, Crist still had support from just over half the conservative primary voters.

Crist angered many conservatives in the state when he supported President Obama’s $787-billion economic stimulus plan. While the Republican establishment has endorsed Crist, some prominent GOP conservatives including Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and former Bush adviser Karl Rove are backing Rubio.

Both Crist and Rubio are vying to be the Republican nominee in next year’s race to fill the seat vacated by retiring GOP Senator Mel Martinez. In August, Crist as governor named his former chief of staff, George LeMiuex, to serve the remainder of Martinez’s term, but LeMieux is not running for a full term next year.
Fifty-six percent (56%) of likely GOP Primary voters approve of Crist’s performance as governor. Forty-three percent (43%) disapprove of the job he is doing.
The Teabaggers have made the elimination of Crist a national priority, and they see this race as the symbol of where the GOP has to be headed into 2010 and beyond:  plunging screaming into Birther territory ahead of 2012.  Note that Republicans like the job Crist has done, but don't think he'd make a good Senator.  If there's a race where the Teabaggers have managed to convince the people that the stimulus package was a terrible idea, despite the fact it probably saved the state's bacon, it's this one.

Getting Schooled In Budget Economics

Here in Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland says his back is against the wall on filling the state's $850 million budget hole, and that hole's going to be filled with schools.
The Democrat told reporters on Monday that other programs such as libraries and mental health services have already been cut and probably can't be cut further. He says all that's left is education, including primary and secondary schools and colleges and universities.

Strickland says Republicans who have suggested schools could be spared have not identified other areas for cutting.

Ohio Senate GOP leaders say they can provide Democrats with enough votes to pass a budget bill that would suspend an income tax cut, but only if it includes changes to state construction rules. Strickland says that issue should wait.
If somebody wants to explain to me how an income tax cut is going to help the state's budget situation, I'm all ears.  As it looks however, the Buckeye State's about to get a harsh lesson in economics.  And in 2010, it's not going to be the only state.


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