Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pass The Damn Bill, Part 5

Harry Reid is calling the Republican bluff.
Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.

"I've had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi," Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" in Nevada. "And we're really trying to move forward on this."

The majority leader said that while Democrats have a number of options, they would likely use the budget reconciliation process to pass a series of fixes to the first healthcare bill passed by the Senate in November. These changes are needed to secure votes for passage of that original Senate bill in the House.

"We'll do a relatively small bill to take care of what we've already done," Reid said, affirming that Democrats would use the reconciliation process. "We're going to have that done in the next 60 days."

The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their filibuter-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown's (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.
Uh-oh.  The GOP plan has backfired.  They thought the Dems were done after Scott Brown.  They thought the Village was going to buy the 41 is more than 59 play and that Obama was going to throw in the towel.

And then Wellpoint's rate hike happened.  Suddenly, the Dems had their opening.  And now they are going for the brass ring.  Watch the Sunday shows be full of Republicans saying "Well, we're going to boycott the health care summit" and Obama can respond with "When the insurance companies want to raise rates by 20%, 30%, almost 40% on the American people in a recession, the GOP plan is to walk away from the table and leave you and your family at the mercy of the insurance companies."

This is starting to go even better than I could hope.

General Breitbart Declares War

Andrew Breitbart has seen THE FUTURE OF MEDIA, as Mike Madden of Salon discovers.
The patron of James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles and their ACORN pimp-and-prostitute "scandal" video, Andrew Breitbart, spoke to CPAC Saturday morning. After his rambling talk about the evils of the media -- and how conservatives can fight back -- I tried to ask Breitbart a few questions. But as soon as I introduced myself, it was obvious he wasn't really in the mood to chat:

(For the record, the Max Blumenthal story he was asking about had already been corrected.)

Silly the Lamestream Media Reporter Person, THE FUTURE OF MEDIA needs not your "facts" and "logic."
But he didn't save all his rancor for Salon (talking to the Washington Independent's Dave Weigel, he sent a pleasant message to Center for American Progress boss John Podesta). For that matter, his speech had been pretty surly, too. "Look, mainstream media, the gig is up," he told the CPAC crowd to cheers. "We figured you out. You're not on our team -- you're not on the American team. You're on the progressive team. We tried to play nice with you, and nice is over." Evidently so.
You see, THE FUTURE OF MEDIA is where only crap on the internet is forcefed to everyone without fact checking.  Lamestream Media Reporter People like Rachel Maddow are delegated to janitorial duties!
Breitbart claims that Maddow drastically distorted the arrest of one of ACORN filmmakers last month, while he was attempting to produce an expose on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.).

According to Politico, "asked what he would say if he ran into Maddow, an unabashedly liberal MSNBC host who made a surprise appearance at CPAC on Thursday, Breitbart said, 'I hope to see you and give you a lovely hug because you validated my hopes and aspirations and my business model because you're so bad at what you do."

Breitbart accuses Maddow of being involved with "part of a propaganda campaign to attack the last president .. and make him out to be the worst human being that ever walked the face of the earth. And, at the same time, you promoted Barack Obama as the greatest thing that ever walked the earth."

"Plus," as reported by Politico, "he ripped Maddow and other liberal commentators for their treatment of the populist conservative tea party movement and one of its champions, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin."
And they will destroyed!  For in THE FUTURE OF MEDIA, all news is what Breitbart says it is!  People do not want "facts" or "truth" or "integrity", they want Breitbart!

Also, all restaurants are Taco Bell!   It's THE FUTURE!

And the lord of that future is Andrew Breitbart!

The Mind Of An American Terrorist

Over at Slate, author Dave Cullen takes a look at the mind of Joe Stack through his manifesto and comes up with a number of warning signs that identified stack for what he was:  a mass murderer in an all-too-familiar style of using domestic terrorism to make a political point.
Joseph Stack spent months on his manifesto. He was adamant about convincing us—or himself—why flying his plane into an IRS building was an act of charity.

The five-page rant the software engineer wrote before his performance murder is illogical, hysterical, hyperbolic, and deeply dishonest. Stack's convoluted arguments explain nothing, and the thumbnail sketch of his impoverished life is absurd. And that's exactly why it's so revealing. The software engineer tried to con us with a deceptive self-portrait, but the real Joseph Stack reveals himself in the way he concocts it.

I've spent 11 years studying routes to mass murder, in particular for a book on the Columbine school shootings, and it's startling how similar all the manifestos sound. Many of Stack's passages were practically lifted right out of the diatribes of Eric Harris, the Columbine mastermind. Yet while the notes are the same, the tune is not. Harris was a textbook psychopath, and Stack doesn't read that way at all. Stack has more empathy, less callousness, and none of the vicious desire to torment others for enjoyment. There are echoes of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui here, but Stack forms coherent thoughts and speaks rationally. He gives no indication of insanity. Instead, Stack shares Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh's disgust with intrusive government and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski's angry frustration at "the system." 
Matt Osborne disagrees with me that you can try to separate the political motivations from the murder here.  Indeed, the political motivation is what makes a terrorist a terrorist, in fact it was the political motivation that was at the core of his deadly spree to burn down his home, kill his family, and then smash a plane into an IRS building.
He was an Ayn Randie who tried to get away with a tax dodge and got caught. Then he tried dropping off the radar (this patriot was not registered to vote) with a move to Texas, consulted attorneys, and then -- upon getting the final bill from the IRS -- decided that rather than sell his $30,000 PRIVATE PLANE and (quit paying hangar fees) he would set his house on fire WITH HIS FAMILY IN IT and NOT TELL ANYONE before driving to the airport to BUY GAS for his PRIVATE PLANE and fly it into a GOVERNMENT BUILDING to kill TOTAL STRANGERS.
Matt is right on that account.  This man was a domestic terrorist.  He killed for political motives.  My point is not that it excuses his horrible actions, but that the argument over whether he's a left-wing or right-wing terrorist misses the very valid point that he was a terrorist and that America continues to have a domestic terrorist problem.

But Matt's larger point is that the right-wing is quick to justify that this wasn't terrorism but murder, or else they are even quicker to dismiss this as proof that Stack was a liberal and all terrorists are liberals, equating Stack's action to that of Dr. Amy Bishop's alleged shooting murders last week.

And that's a problem still.

Defending Rahmbo's Honor

Dana Milbank of the WaPo makes the argument that Obama needs Rahmbo because he's the only smart person Obama has working for him, and that apparently includes Obama himself.

No really.  That's the argument.
Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter.

Obama chose the profane former Clinton adviser for a reason. Where the president is airy and idealistic, Rahm is earthy and calculating. One thinks big; the other, a former House Democratic Caucus chair, understands the congressional mind, in which small stuff counts for more than broad strokes.

Obama's problem is that his other confidants -- particularly Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and, to a lesser extent, David Axelrod -- are part of the Cult of Obama. In love with the president, they believe he is a transformational figure who needn't dirty his hands in politics.

The president would have been better off heeding Emanuel's counsel. For example, Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn't politically feasible. Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn't met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons. Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco.

Obama's greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction.

The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.

Had it gone Emanuel's way, a politically popular health-care bill would have passed long ago, leaving plenty of time for other attractive priorities, such as efforts to make college more affordable. We would have seen a continuation of the momentum of the first half of 2009, when Obama followed Emanuel's strategy and got 11 substantive bills on his desk before the August recess. 
If I'm reading this correctly, Milbank is saying "So if Obama had followed Rahm's advice and basically thrown the Dirty F'ckin Hippies under the bus immediately and then had gone straight to the Republicans and asked them how they wanted him to govern, we'd be having a great time right now."

First, what Milbank is really saying is "If Obama had only followed my advice..."  Let's get that out of the way right now.

Second, Milbank believes that Rahmbo should be in charge.  He doesn't have a high opinion of any of Obama's other inner circle members, and he has an even lower opinion of the President for listening to them, and not Rahm (and by extension, Dana Milbank.)

Third, even after the Clinton years, we still have Villagers who believe that Democratic Presidents will be rewarded by doing what the GOP tells them they should be doing.  Clinton wasn't impeached or anything despite tacking to the right after 1994 enough to win re-election in 1996.  The GOP isn't going to make that mistake again.  And by "mistake" I mean "allow a Democratic President to be re-elected".

Fourth, a "smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support" is a laughable concept that does not exist.  No popular health care reform bill that a Democratic President and Congress could have taken credit for would ever be embraced by a Republican.  Period.

Is Milbank really this dense?  Has he been paying any attention at all to the CPAC conference?  Do you think the Tea Party movement would have gone away with a GOP health care bill?  Do you think they wouldn't be screaming "Socialist" and demanding the long-form birth certificate and posting pictures of Obama as a witch doctor on the internet?

Denial is an interesting mechanism.  But in the end, it always comes down to the Villagers complaining that Democrats aren't Republican enough.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

After noting that Steven Pearlstein of the WaPo went after the Kroog yesterday with this:
I’m not a something for nothing free lunch Keynesian—you must be thinking of Prof. Krugman… 
Doug at Balloon Juice asks,
Pearlstein goes on to slam the reader who asked the question, comparing him to Joe McCarthy, but why the strange gratuitous slam on Krugman.
That one's easy.  "Something-for-nothing free-lunch Keynesian" is econ nerdspeak for "You're a Dity F'ckin' Hippie Socialist."

The Kroog has basically become the king of "Socialist" economists (along with Joseph Stiglitz.)  Even the Village economics reporters are now spewing Tea Party idiocy as talking points.

Coming Out Swinging

Obama has let other folks do the talking on health care reform over the last couple of weeks, mainly the Dems in the Senate and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Today however he used his weekly address to go straight after the health insurance companies to make the case for health care reform.
“The other week, men and women across California opened up their mailboxes to find a letter from Anthem Blue Cross. The news inside was jaw-dropping,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Anthem was alerting almost a million of its customers that it would be raising premiums by an average of 25 percent, with about a quarter of folks likely to see their rates go up by anywhere from 35 to 39 percent.”
Since news of Anthem Blue Cross’ planed premium increases first broke, Democrats in both the House and the Senate have cited little else in arguing their case for refusing to let healthcare reform slip through their fingers.

But with the economy and debate over a jobs bill dominating the majority of their attention so far this year, Democrats had shown very little progress in merging two competing bills, or even formulating a cohesive strategy for sending a single bill to the president’s desk.

That seemed to change Friday, however, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office left the door open to using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation to pass a bill out of the Senate with only 51 votes.

And just days ahead of Obama’s much-anticipated bipartisan, televised healthcare forum, the president himself on Friday – speaking at a town-hall style meeting in Las Vegas – began to reemphasize the importance of finishing the task of signing a healthcare reform bill into law.

He reiterated that argument during his Saturday address.

“The bottom line is that the status quo is good for the insurance industry and bad for America,” Obama said. “And as bad as things are today, they’ll only get worse if we fail to act. We’ll see more and more Americans go without the coverage they need. We’ll see exploding premiums and out-of-pocket costs burn through more and more family budgets.”
The GOP is scared right now.  They thought they had cornered the market on populist anger and directed it all at the Dems in preparation for a massive electoral landslide in November.  They thought they had sealed the deal with the death of health care reform after Scott Brown's election.

But something funny happened on the way to measuring the drapes in Pelosi's office.  Wellpoint singlehandedly saved health care reform and revived the public option with one of the most boneheaded moves in corporate history.  The GOP argument against health care reform was "the government is so horrific that doing nothing is better than any health care reform bill."

That GOP "doing nothing" plan now involves people waiting for their own insurer to hike rates by 39%.  If insurance companies can arbitrarily do that...and they basically can...then there's a serious problem here.  Wellpoint clearly thought the battle was over and proceeded to propose to jack up rates in a number of states, not just California along with their fellow insurance companies.

Wellpoint's disastrous fumble did what the Democrats had been largely unable to do since the days of the Town Hall Blitz scaring the crap out of voters in the summer:  they are now able to take the high road on the populist argument for health care reform.

"If we don't get a health care bill passed and signed into law, the insurance companies will continue to raise your rates until you can't afford insurance anymore."

That's a simple and powerful argument.  It's the argument Obama should have been making from day one but instead he went for the complex and confusing angle on how much the plan would cost.  That allowed the GOP to all but bury it.

Now there's some slim hope to get the plan moving.  The GOP doesn't have a counterattack to this.  A 39% rate hike in this economy?  Suddenly the Republicans don't have an answer at all.  And wisely, Obama is going on the attack.  Given a second chance, it's time for the Dems to make the most of it.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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