Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last Call

Tom Jensen at PPP finds out some interesting things about the voters in the middle.
The voters who will determine the balance of control for the next Congress are a pretty Democratic leaning group- 62% voted for Barack Obama last year while 36% voted for John McCain. They only approve of Obama by a 52/37 margin though. The fact that his disapproval and the support McCain received from them is basically the same indicates that Obama hasn't really lost any of these voters yet. But the drop from 62% who voted for him to 52% who now approve of him does suggest a lot of them haven't really decided whether they think he's a good President or not.

They're pretty divided on their feelings about health care with 45% opposed to Obama's plan and 41% in support. That suggests the issue is pretty much a wash with these voters- some are more likely to vote Democratic if the party makes progress on it but others will be turned off. There's little such division when it comes to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell though- 64% of the swing voters supporting letting gays serve openly in the military with only 31% opposed.

Although this has little immediate relevance the divide between how these voters see Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee vs. Sarah Palin is pretty remarkable. Romney has a positive 39/24 favorability spread and Huckabee's is 32/22. But Palin's is 27/57! Republican candidates are going to be a lot better off coming across as Romney like than Palinesque this fall.
Voters in the center are still siding with the Dems.  For the most part, they remember the last eight year and they're not happy with them.  But Obama and company have to produce some high profile legislation, and dragging their feet on health care and DADT's repeal will only continue to hurt them in the fall.   If they don't, they're going to start looking at moderate Republicans to get the job done again.

Health Core

Here's what's coming tomorrow, people.

Be there.  Aloha.

A. Weiner Is You

Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York calls out the entire Republican Party on the floor of the House.

Twice.  A classic exchange between Weiner and Republican Dan Lungren of California:

WEINER: You guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is the wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. They say this isn’t going to do enough, but when we propose an alternative to provide competition, they’re against it. They say we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and they’ll do the job. But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said we’re against it. They said we want to have competition but when we proposed requiring competition they’re against it. They’re a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That’s the fact!
LUNGREN: Mr. Speaker I ask that the gentleman’s words be taken down.
WEINER: You really don’t want to go there, Mr. Lungren.
About time somebody said it.   The problem of course is that what Weiner said could be applied to a number of Democrats as well.

What?  Do you see a signed health care reform bill yet?  No?

Keep that in mind.  It's a damn fiery speech here that Wiener gives.  In the end however, it's just words without the actions to go with them.

Picking Sides In Debate Club

Orange Julius actually pulled off a nice little bit of Kung-Fu on the health summit:  he picked Democratic Blue Dog point man Rep. Bart Stupak for his debate team tomorrow.  D-Day has the goods:
Republicans got an extra spot because Ron Wyden got a late invitation. In addition, Olympia Snowe was asked to the summit, but she declined because her leadership didn’t ask her to attend. Instead, they asked Stupak.

It should be noted that Stupak led the Anthem Blue Cross hearings today, and said at them that rate hike problems like this would continue “until reform passes,” and also said that this was why he supported a public option. But Stupak is also a peacock on the issue of abortion funding, and the Republicans know very well that their best chance to kill the bill completely lies with him.

Stupak in the summit raises the possibility of turning it into a circus and shifting focus away from where the White House and Democratic leaders would rather go. They’ve been hiding from this abortion issue throughout this debate, but Stupak won’t go away.
No.  And you can bet Stupak will force the abortion issue and announce that unless the compromise bill has his amendment in it verbatim, he will singlehandedly kill the bill in the House. He can do that, he has enough Blue Dogs in his kennel to bite the Dems in the ass on this.

Orange Julius isn't as dumb as he looks, apparently.  He did make it to minority leader, after all.  We'll see what transpires tomorrow.

In Which Zandar Agrees With Don Surber

First time for everything, I suppose.
Central Falls High School in Rhode Island is one of the nation’s many “underperforming schools.”

Only 7% of its 11th graders are proficient in math. Half the kids drop out.

There are only 13 students for every teacher.

Taxpayers spend $15,000 a year per student for this crappy performance — or nearly $2,000 above the state average.

Central Falls High is in the worse 5% of all schools in Rhode Island and it must improve or close under federal law.

The state gave the school 4 choices: Dismantle, bring in new management, make some changes or fire everyone and start over again.

Rather than work with the school to fix things, the teachers union stonewalled.

This left the school board one choice: Fire everyone and start all over again.

The teachers union held a rally to demand that the jobs of the teachers be protected. Teachers were trucked in by the busload from throughout the state to pressure the school board to surrender.

Just an hour after the rally, the Central Falls school Board of Trustees, in a brief but intense meeting, voted 5-2 to fire every teacher at the school. In all, 93 names were read aloud in the high school auditorium — 74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals,” the Providence Journal reported.

The response from Washington was refreshing.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said: “This is hard work and these are tough decisions, but students only have one chance for an education, and when schools continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to take action.”
Under law, every one of the lowest 5% of a state's schools must face this choice.  Central Falls, RI picked option number four, because they didn't think the Obama administration, the State of Rhode Island, or the school board would do this.
They did.  Good for them.  Frankly, if you refuse every other option on something like that?  Boom.  Gone.

Who Do You Antitrust, Baby?

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill designed to remove the antitrust exemption for insurance companies.  naturally it means the bill has zero chance in the Senate.
The vote was 406-19, with most Republicans siding with majority Democrats against a widely unpopular industry which has been under attack by Democrats and consumer advocates for recent rate hikes.

Republican lawmakers complained, though, that the legislation passed Wednesday was largely symbolic and would have little real impact since states already regulate health insurers.

Independent experts largely share that view. Democrats, however, contended that the bill would help consumers by increasing competition.

Prospects are dim in the Senate.
Of course they are.  It's not like the Senate would ever pass progressive legislation, even bipartisan legislation that got nearly 90% of the House to vote for it.

It won't even get a majority, because it's much easier to buy a Senator that it is a Representative.  If it's symbolic, then the insurance companies won't mind doing it.  It's not symbolic, which is why the Senate will kill it.


We must protect our nation's precious insurance companies.

[UPDATE 4:25 PM] Anthem Blue Cross of California today basically told California lawmakers that hiking their rates as much as 39% was legal, and that the people of California need to simply deal with it or find a new insurer.
The health committee's chairman, Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), called the Anthem hikes "astonishing" as he renewed his call for the state to regulate health insurance rates the way it limits increases for auto and property insurance.

"Are you planning to go forward with the rate increases?" Jones asked executives from Anthem and Wellpoint during Tuesday's hearing in Sacramento.

James Oatman, WellPoint's vice president and general manager of individual business, responded: "We believe the rate increase we have applied for is consistent with all the laws of the state of California. We are advocating that those rates are appropriate rates."
So, a 39% rate hike is "appropriate" for the largest single state insurance market in the country.  But we don't need health care reform.

The Darwinian Dystopia

For a bunch of folks that question evolution, conservatives like Glenn Beck have no problem subjecting the rest of America to natural selection where the weak are culled.  Open Left's Mike Lux:
Beck's essential message was that I crawled my way from the dung pile without any help, and that's what makes America great ,so we shouldn't help anyone in trouble. From his twisted personal story to his twisted vision of American history, Beck took rapturous CPACers on a classic tour of American conservative ideology. From his paranoid delusional ranting about how liberals hate anyone successful to his Social Darwinist view of society and nature, he laid out the conservative line and took it to its logical conclusion. And the audience loved it. The quintessential moment in the speech? When Beck explained why we shouldn't be helping anyone in need: "There's some sort of element of competition to life. Oh that's not natural. Really? Go watch the lions eat the weakest." And the audience burst into laughter and applause- as I wrote the other day, these conservatives really are into cruelty, so the idea of lions eating the weak got them going. 
It's brutal, as Mike says...the essence of brutality.  The strong must rule the weak, and if the weak cannot keep up, if they need help, if they need a safety net, they must be destroyed in order to allow for more resources to be divvied up among the survivors.
Conservatives' answer to the question "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a resounding Hell NO. And that is the essential divide between them and the progressivism which Beck describes as a cancer: progressives believe that all of us are in this together. When our child is weakened by a chronic illness, or our parent by old age, we don't abandon them in the wilderness so that the lion can eat them up (and then laugh about it). When our brother stumbles and hits bottom, we don't stand back and see if he can pull himself up by his own bootstraps, we lend him a helping hand. When our sister is abused and treated unfairly by an employer, we don't tell her she's on her own, we work with her to make things fairer. We believe in a community that helps each other survive and prosper, because we don't want to live in a world where only the strongest and wealthiest and - yes - luckiest survive. We don't have fantasies that all our success is of our own making because we know that without good families, good neighbors, good school and libraries and roads and bridges paid for by public dollars, that without all that, we'd be much less likely to make it on our own. In spite of Beck's paranoia, we have no problem with people being successful. I have never once heard any progressive attack Steve Jobs or Eric Schmidt for their success, or attack the local small businessperson making a good living because he or she is supplying products a community wants. But what we do believe is that those lucky enough to be successful have a responsibility to give something back to their fellow citizens. 
First Law Of Conservatism:  "I've got mine, screw you."

Social Darwinism has been around for a long, long time.  The basic hypocrisy of it is that without the people they consider to be peons to work for them and actually work at the jobs to provide the goods and services to earn the money to consume other goods and services, the folks at the top of the pyramid have no pyramid to be on top of.  Beck knows that.  He's been at the bottom of that pile.  Most of us have been at one point or another, out of work, scared, hurting.

We turned to others for help.  And help they did.

Beck got his help.  Then he got lucky.  Now the rest of America can go screw itself when beck shares his fantasy with others so they can pretend they still have something to deny people even more miserable than they are.  It keeps everyone in their place: the liberals, the gays and lesbians, the minorities, the women.

And that's just how the Glennsanity likes it.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

The old adage was never more true.
Carrie Prejean isn’t the only beauty queen open to expressing her objection to same-sex marriage. Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley is also speaking out in support of traditional nuptials.
“The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white,” Ashley told Pop Tarts.
“I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.”
Nice.  For those of you keeping score at home, she's totally okay with people dying for being homosexual.  Naturally, she will be defended on this by the Wingers when people like little ol' me say "You know?  I think that's wrong and I don't agree with that."

Perhaps they will call people misogynist for having a specific beef against a specific person who said something that I specifically find to be rather repugnant (which has nothing to do with Lauren Ashley's gender) because clearly liberals hate women.  Or something.

I don't know.  It's all very confusing, guessing how a Winger will play the victim card on somebody from Beverly Hills.

Turn The Other Cheek

Yes, America blames the GOP for not working with Obama, 67% say the Republicans aren't doing enough.  But at the same time, they say the Dems need to change and give up more because they're in charge.
Even though more people think Republicans are not doing enough to reach bipartisan consensus, 54 percent believe the Democratic party should take the first step toward developing bipartisan solutions to the country's problems, the survey says. Forty-two percent say the GOP should take that first step.

Just over half of those questioned say the Democrats should give up more ground to achieve bipartisanship, while 43 percent want to see the GOP make more compromises.

"Americans feel the ball is in the Democrats' court," Holland added. "They may not be held responsible for the problem, but since they are in charge of the government, Americans appear to think they are responsible for the solution."
So America is basically okay with the GOP being a bunch of petulant children, because they expect the Dems to clean up this mess.  That's about right.  Can't blame the GOP after all, they're not in charge anymore.  Of course, technically, the are blocking everything they can find and forcing cloture votes on things they later pass, but it's not CNN's job to tell the truth, either.

The Capital Job, Part 4

The Senate has passed the jobs bill, 70-28.  All Dems voted for it.  Even Jim Inhofe wasn't going to vote against this.

But Ben Nelson did!
"We've had so much gridlock," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), co-author of a key portion of the bill. Now, he said, "finally we have something" bipartisan to show the public.

The legislation is the first element of what Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has said will be a multipart "jobs agenda." The measure includes a new program that would give companies a break from paying Social Security taxes on new employees for the remainder of 2010. It also carries a one-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund, an expansion of the Build America Bonds program and a provision to allow companies to write off equipment purchases.

The next stop is the House, where Democratic leaders are weighing whether to pass the Senate version or go to conference to reconcile it with the $154 billion jobs bill the House passed in December. 
Needless to say, it's not over with yet.  This is going to get tied up for quite some time, I'm betting.  The House will most certainly want to make this a jobs bill worth passing.  $15 billion is chump change.  That's a week in Iraq.

A Winner Is Yoo

John Yoo possesses large, metallic testes.  Perhaps they are made of cold, dense, lifeless stone instead.  Perhaps depleted uranium.  Either way, he's outright bragging to Obama and Eric Holder in today's WSJ that he's now untouchable because the DoJ has cleared him, so Obama just might want to kiss his ass.
Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.

He sure didn't make it easy. When Mr. Obama took office a year ago, receiving help from one of the lawyers involved in the development of George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies was the furthest thing from his mind. Having won a great electoral victory, the new president promised a quick about-face. He rejected "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" and moved to restore the law-enforcement system as the first line of defense against a hardened enemy devoted to killing Americans.

In office only one day, Mr. Obama ordered the shuttering of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, followed later by the announcement that he would bring terrorists to an Illinois prison. He terminated the Central Intelligence Agency's ability to use "enhanced interrogations techniques" to question al Qaeda operatives. He stayed the military trial, approved by Congress, of al Qaeda leaders. He ultimately decided to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, to a civilian court in New York City, and automatically treated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, as a criminal suspect (not an illegal enemy combatant). Nothing better could have symbolized the new president's determination to take us back to a Sept. 10, 2001, approach to terrorism.
And he goes on from there on a real tirade, spending the remaining 80% of the article lambasting the DOJ's Office of Professional  Responsibility for daring to even think about going after him, citing "rank bias and sheer incompetence" as America's "junior varsity CIA".  In the end, Yoo repeats his claim that he is the ultimate patriot for allowing Obama to prevent terror attacks (thus "saving his presidency") and that Obama and America basically owe him.

Yeah.  You're breathing only because John Yoo made it possible for the President to assassinate and torture and go all Jack Bauer on raghead sunzabitches, and don't you ever, ever forget it, you dirty hippie asshole.

Yoo's massive ego aside, this is where America is right now:  where a man whose job it was to justify war crimes is crowing about how his success in allowing Presidents to subvert international and Constitutional law is allowed to have a national forum to tell his detractors to go screw themselves.  The Wingers are ecstatic.

As far as they are concerned, this is now settled law.

War crimes are now permissible in America.

Jesus wept.

Manufactured Nontroversies, Inc.

Matt Osborne catches ABC's Jake Tapper falling hook, line, and sinker for shiny Winger iron pyrite, and then building himself a golden idol to worship out of it.
Sure, no Very Serious Beltway reporter would think to get Arab reaction to a story about public communications aimed at the Arab world. After all, it’s such a chore to chat up the nearest felafel vendor. But would it be too much to ask that ABC not give the right-wing media machine a stovepipe for its smoke?

Answer: of course it’s too much to ask. Here’s how Jake Tapper reported (“EXCLUSIVE!”) last Thursday on Obama’s rebranding of the Iraq war as “Operation New Dawn:”
The move has met with some criticism. In a statement, Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United said, “You cannot end a war simply by changing its name.  Despite the Administration’s efforts to spin realities on the ground, their efforts do not change the situation at hand in Iraq. Operational military decisions should not be made for purposes of public relations, as the Secretary of Defense cites, but should be made in the best interests of our nation, the  troops on the ground and their families back home.”
Wise should know something about rebranding. “Military Families United” is an astroturf organization related to his better-known project, the “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,” where he is the Director of Media Relations. FDD is one of those CPAC-welfare agencies supporting otherwise-unemployable neocon mouthpieces like Clifford May.
Like Tapdance checks crap like that.  This guy with this organization said it, and it has "Military" in the title, so it must be totally legit, right?  But Wise's astroturfing and Jake Tapper's judgment aside, Matt hits upon my major beef with the Village:
FDD and MFU exist to manufacture nontroversy; and while the Beltway ought to know this (it’s not hard to figure out from a simple Google search) I get the impression folks like Tapper just don’t care.

At some point, the mavens of journalism decided there can be no story without two sides — never mind if one side has nothing to offer but stupid lies and fear. The rules just require a contradictory quote, is all. Because why report straight news without controversy?
And that's the heart of this darkness here.  I was a journalism major in college.  Rule one was drilled into us: always check your sources.  Guys like Tapper apparently not only don't check, but are so cynical that they simply don't care enough to check in the first place.  I know Washington is a con game, but frankly the Village is so jaded that the entire process is to just find a way to make excuses for why the con game should continue.

So when a new con game comes along, the Village adapts right into justifying the con.  Every con needs a mark, after all.  These astroturf cons are set up to bag Villagers.  They then run that information as fact.  It became overt government policy in the run-up to Iraq, and it never really stopped.  Anything Iraq-related out of the Village should be treated as triply suspect as a result.

The Wingers are just better at it.

Throwing Oatmeal At The Wall

To see what sticks.  That's the GOP plan right now on tomorrow's health care summit as marindenver over at Rumproast points out.
Yes, John Boehner announced today that Republicans intend to “crash the party” that Obama’s putting on this Thursday.

OK cool.  But, um.  Soooo.  Didn’t President Obama very explicitly invite the Repubs to the Health Care Summit?  So, I mean, how do you crash a party you’re invited to?  Boehner goes on to say that they haven’t actually accepted any invitation yet.
Boehner explained that leaders are waiting for a response from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to a letter they sent earlier this month that asked a series of questions on the bipartisan summit.
“It’s our intent to be there on Thursday. We’re waiting on a response and we’re hopeful that we’ll receive one soon,” Boehner explained.
So is not RSVP’ing, then showing up anyway, the new “party crashing”?  But there’s no point in trying to decipher what he meant by any of this.  It’s just more Republican silliness, joshing and shoving each other and shifting from one foot to the next because, truthfully, they don’t know how to handle this whole summit idea.

Dan Pfeiffer, writing on the White House website, couldn’t resist thumbing his nose a little over the failure of the Repubs to post their comprehensive solutions to the health care crisis.  To which they responded “We did!  We posted this!”  Like, about, last October or something.  And it’s the House Republicans *plan*, Senate Repubs not involved.  But anyway it’s not as LONG as the stupid Dem/Pelosi Wicked Takeover plan.

Um, what’s that?  You say “long” isn’t the issue any more?  Oh yeah, that’s right.  Now the Democrats plan is too short.  Freaking bunch of Goldilocks, I swear.
They've got nothing, basically.  Actually, they've got nothing literally too, the GOP freely admits it doesn't have anything to add at the summit.  The Village is trying to do everything to muck up the summit by complaining about seat assignments and by running a number of op-eds today proclaiming President Uppity McBlackMan is about to get what's coming to him for daring to do this when clearly health care reform was nice and dead after President Scott Brown was elected in January.

But the GOP does have a plan for life after this summit...and life after health care reform is passed:  to make sure the national legislation is tied up in courts for all eternity while Republican-led states simply enact the GOP ideas in each state, creating a massive mess.  Of course, that plan starts with the Wignuttiest state in the nation, Utah.
(More after the jump...)


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