Thursday, February 25, 2010

Last Call Plus

Obama wants Republicans to do some soul-searching.

Joke's on you, Barry!  Republicans in Congress don't have souls.  They made this so easy for you it's hysterical.  There's no way any Republican will ever work with you on anything.  They reject any idea of theirs that you appropriate.  The GOP Plan:  Anything Obama does, say no to it, even when you supported the idea in the past.

The individual mandate. Chuck Grassley was for it before he was now against it.
Health insurance exchanges. Tom Coburn was for them, now he's against them.
Trimming Medicare fraud.  Paul Ryan in fact wants to do away with Medicare altogether and replace it with vouchers.  Against the HCR plan.

Reconcile it.  Pass it.  Move on.  The GOP will never agree to anything.

Last Call

NY Gov. David Paterson is keeping an "open mind" about suspending his re-election campaign.

At this point, it's all over as soon as Andrew Cuomo agrees to run.
"I am not suspending my campaign, but I am talking to a number of elected officials around the state, as I would, fellow Democrats, to hear their opinions," he told reporters in New York City. Asked about the calls for him to back out of the race, Paterson said he had "an open mind" about the situation.

"I want the Democrats to win this November," he said. "I want the governor of the state of New York to be Democratic, hopefully me, and I will weigh what they have to say, but right now I am a candidate for governor."

Paterson said he is in the race "for the long haul," but added: "I am not in it without having my colleagues feel they can talk to me about this."

He expressed confidence that the state Attorney General's office - led by Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who has been mulling a primary challenge to Paterson - will clear him of any wrongdoing. Ultimately, he said, "everyone will understand."

He said he would not resign the governor's office.
Well, it's not like Gov. Appalachian Trail resigned either.  Interesting however...there's a bit of a problem shaping up for Cuomo right now.  If he goes after Paterson too hard, he risks looking like he took Paterson down to win the Democratic nomination for Governor.  If he is too soft on Paterson, he risks looking like Paterson's corrupt buddy.

If Cuomo is running, the first thing he needs to do is recuse himself from this case.  Cuomo needs to put the pin back in that little grenade ASAP.  And he's better hurry:  Rick Lazio, the Republican running for Governor, is already attacking Cuomo for being silent on this matter.

While We Were Out

Rest of the universe moved on outside of SUMMITRON '10:

Top NY Cabinet official Denise O'Donnell resigned in the wake of the growing scandal involving the State Police.
Denise E. O'Donnell, the deputy secretary for Public Safety, announced her resignation at 2 pm, saying that the actions of the governor and the State Police are "unacceptable regardless of their intent."

The New York Times broke the story last night that Paterson personally phoned a woman who David "DJ" Johnson allegedly attacked. The details of their conversation remain murky, but the woman did not show up in court to address the case the following day.

The article also alleges that state troopers visited the woman at her home and discussed the case with her despite having no official business doing so.
GOP Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio says he has reimbursed personal expenses purchased with his party issued credit card.
Rubio said Wednesday that he paid for all personal expenses billed to an American Express card given to him by the party to use from 2005 to 2008 when he left public office. The rest of the charges, he said, were legitimate party expenses.

Those expenses include a $1,000 charge at Braman Honda in Miami for repairs to the family car in January 2008. Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political function and that the party agreed to cover half of his insurance deductible. The party also paid $2,976 for him to rent a car in Miami for five weeks, according to the records provided by a confidential source. 
And new jobless claims went up 22k to 496,000.
Continuing claims rose 6,000 to 4.62 million in the week ended Feb. 13. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 3.5 percent in the week ended Feb. 13, today’s report showed. Nine states and territories had an increase in claims for that same week, while 44 had a decrease.

In testimony before lawmakers in Washington yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke cited “tentative” signs of stabilization in labor markets, such as lower job losses, a rise in manufacturing employment and stronger demand for temporary help. 
Heck of a day.

Health Care Summit Thread, Part 2

The best part of this is Tweety, who's done a complete 180 from his position last month that the Dems could never even try reconciliation. Now he's basically saying that's all they have left. GOP will never play ball, even on their own proposals.

2:03 Obama gets class back in order.  Damn kids.  Biden!  Go!

2:06 Biden makes jokes about not doing anything, passes to GOP Rep Mike Enzi.

2:09 Mike Enzi likes exchanges too.  Talks about qualified and unqualified plans.  Of course, all the plans Enzi wants to add would be unqualified, making exchanges moot.

2:15 Dem Tom Harkin says it's time to end "segregation by health" by passing comprehensive HCR.  Good argument.  Bad politics.  GOP will jump on that and now feign indignation at the "race card."

2:19 Obama argues that the high risk pool wont work without money in said pools, money the GOP doesn't want to spend.

2:25 Sen Jay Rockefeller of the Dems talks about insurance company "sharks".  No oversight on them past state regulation.

2:30 However, Rockefeller is bluntly shooting down the public option, period.

2:45 Rep Marcia Blackburn keeps talking about insurance companies crossing state lines.  Obama wiselysets her straight.  Not your strongest speaker, GOP.

2:52 Obama talking about being dragged kicking and screaming into mandates, again, a Republican idea.

2:55 Moving on to the deficit.  Biden!

3:00 Rep Paul Ryan still lying about the cost curve.  "We don't think the government should be in charge."  We think the insurance companies should be in charge.

3:04 Ryan hits at the Obama plan's "smoke and mirrors" spending.

3:06 John McCain would like to reiterate that he's running for President in 2008.

3:08 Paul Ryan and Xavier Becerra now arguing CBO points.  Becerra says "You can't cherry pick".  Nice stroke.

3:12 Oh good, Chuck Grassley.  I wonder which of his own policies he'll argue against, the mandate or trimming Medicare fat?

3:16 And it's the mandate.  I was for it before I was against it...

3:24  Kent Conrad of the Dems up. Mentions chronically ill as a reson why we miiiiight be having a cost containment issue.

3:27 Boehner again.  Warns of bankrupting the country.  Probably shouldn't have started those wars, then.  Doesn't the bill reduce the deficit?

3:29 And now Boehner goes for the abortion attack.  Apparently Bart Stupak couldn't make it.

3:33 Obama looks like a high school teacher in the last period of the day.

3:34 ...and Obama put Boehner in time out.

3:37 Dem Jim Cooper: We have to make change now.  Only took 5 hours for the "fierce urgency of now" argument.

3:44 McCain again.  Talking about Dems trying to "impose 51 votes".  Stop and think about that one for a sec.

3:47 Obama takes Boehner out of time out and goes after him on medical malpractice.

3:50 Dick Durbin hitting clean-up here.  The man is doing well.

3:53 Did I say "well?"  He crushed it out of the park. "If you think this is a socialist health care plan, drop out of the Federal Employee Health Plan."  Quote of the day so far.

3:57 Republicans counter with Sen. John Barrasso, a former physician.  Makes Durbin's point for him that other country's wealthy come the US to buy better health care.

4:00 And Obama sticks it to Barrasso, asking him of all members of Congress should take the kind of catastrophic coverage the Republicans say all Americans should have and a salary of $40k a year to pay for it.  Nice!

4:04 Now Henry Waxman up for the Dems, follows Obama's lead on this.  Asks if Medicare recipients should only have catastrophic coverage.

4:07 Waxman also on fire.  the GOP proposal gives "a break to the healthy".

4:15 Peter Roskam of Illinois is bragging how the Great GOP Plan will cover 3 million people..out of what, 50 million?  Idiot.

4:23 Chris Dodd looks to finish.  Nice points here on the "dream" of HCR.

4:28 Joe Barton closing for the GOP.  Could save 50% if Californians could shop in other states.  Sure, until the rates for those folks go up.

4:35 Check that, Ron Wyden closing for the Dems.  Points out the GOP incremental, piecemeal approach would...surprise!  COST MORE.  Thank you.

4:37 And now Mitchy is quoting polls.  Again.  Just like he has been for the last nine months.

4:41 Obama points out the individual pieces poll better than what Republicans have been saying was actually in the package.

4:47  Tom Coburn, Charlie Rangel, Patty Murray all talking because we have to be fair.

5:03 Pelosi again, Dingell, and finally Obama getting the last word.  Dingell makes a great point:  What's wrong with deciding by majority vote?

But Obama finishes us off with his closing remarks.

...and calls out the state line nonsense once and for all.  Yes South Dakota, he's talking to you.  We've done the interstate trade before with credit cards.  They all ended up in Bismarck.  They had the nicest rules for the credit card companies.  Insurance companies want to do the same.

I'm done here.

Summit Halftime Report

Apparently, the only thing the Village is taking away from this is A) it's 2008 again with McCain vs. Obama and B) Eric Cantor's 2400-page bill prop invalidates any Democratic argument.

What policy? Obama's mean to McCain and Cantor. And angry black men are inherently bad for America.

[UPDATE 1:41 PM] David Corn argues that the GOP just made reconciliation a whole lot easier with the GOP stating over and over again that they want to completely start over, while the Dems have gone out of their way to point out the Republican ideas incorporated into the plan.

Crescent Rolled

TBogg notes the Wingers are going all crazy because the logo for Obama's missile defense program kind of looks like a CRESCENT HE'S A MOOSLIM SLEEPER AGENT GET THE PEPPER SPRAY!
Over at one of Andrew Breitbart’s hypertensive shrieky Big sites, ridiculous man-thing Frank Gaffney alerts us to  irrefutable evidence that Muslim President Barack Muslim Obamuslim is sending secret colorful messages to his Islamopuppetmasters that he will soon destroy America with low-orbit Demon Laser-eyed SpaceSheep.
Oh shut up, it’s true:

No really, that's the entire argument. More Wingers peeing themselves over symbols of Barack Muad'Dib Obama's Jihad of a Million Worlds.

The spice must flow.

Health Care Summit Thread

10:17:  Obama's opening statement is pretty decent.  Let's work together, etc. Sen. Lamar Alexander up next for the GOP opening statement.

10:30:  Sen Lamar Alexander just told Obama to basically go screw himself in the GOP's opening statement and that the only way forward, period, is for the Dems to start over completely, otherwise this is six hours of wasting America's time.  You don't have a choice, is his message.  There's bipartisanship for you.

10:35:  Nancy Pelosi:  Allow me to retort.  Remember Ted Kennedy!  You guys respected Ted, you know.

10:41:  Pelosi hits back on Alexander's long-on-process speech.  "Most people sitting around the kitchen table don't care about process.  They care about results."

10:44  Harry Reid opens with an anecdote about a Nevada man named Jesus and his daughter who was born with a cleft palate, and the $90k bill the insurance company stuck him with for surgery for his daughter's "pre-existing condition."

10:46: Alexander is "entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts."  Ouch.

10:50:  "America's the only country in the world where you have insurance and get sick and go bankrupt."  Nice.

10:54:  Obama again, saying everybody agrees the issue is cost.

10:58:  Lamar interrupts the President and says the CBO says the Senate bill makes premiums go up.  Obama corrects the hell out of him. Lower premiums mean people will buy better insurance.

11:00:  Obama: You know, there are a lot of Republican ideas already in this plan on cost-containment.

11:02:  Mitch picks Tom Coburn for his side next, but not until McConnell flogs the polls that say everyone hates the Dems.

11:06:  Government can't run anything.  $150 billion a year in fraud.  We fix fraud, we incentive doctors, we save 15% on health care for everyone.

11:09 We're creating more diabetes with food stamps and school lunches than anything.   It's all about tort reform!

11:14  Steny Hoyer's up for the Dems.  We've all got health care horror stories.  I have one too!

11:17 Hoyer: You know Tom, you should be happy with our bill's anti-fraud provisions.  You have a better way?  Let's talk.

11:24  Republican Rep. John Kline talking about small businesses forming insurance pools.  Don't both sides want this?  Isn't this already in the bill?

11:26 Sen Max Baucus of the Dems responds:  Yeah, those are called "exchanges".  They were originally your idea, Republicans.  It's a good idea.  We're working on ironing out those differences.

11:29  The Dems continue to be nice.  "We agree on prevention.  We agree on fraud.  We agree on exchanges."    Somebody give him the hook already.

11:32 Rep Dave Camp of the GOP comes in with the $1 trillion cost/$500 billion Medicare cuts lie.

11:37 Obama puts up Dem Rep. Rob Andrews, who has a lot of Republican friends, apparently.

11:40  John Kline cuts off Andrews.  "Nobody with health care plans from big companies are complaining."  Really?

11:41  Mitch Objects, wants more time for Republicans.  Obama relents to Rep Paul Ryan.

11:44 Obama getting annoyed now.  Ryan keeps going on about doing to insurance what Congress did to credit cards.

11:45 Obama telling his story about his legal minimum car insurance policy he had on a beater in college, and how you can't have that for breast cancer.  "We can't do that."

11:50 Chuck Schumer still agreeing with the Republicans.  The Dem response to start over is "your ideas are in this bill."   Gotta cut the bad stuff, keep the good stuff.

11:51 GOP Sen Jon Kyl counters with "No, we have too much disagreement."  Attacks mandates, which are...a Republican idea.

11:57 Obama again, disputing Kyl's "fundamental" differences.

12:01  Jim Clyburn speaking.  Emergency room patients being seen for primary care problems because they don't have insurance.  Small businesses are at the mercy of the owners who make the decisions.

12:10  Obama shifts gears to insurance reform itself.

More on this later.

12:30:  John McCain reminds everyone that he's running for President in 2008.

12:42:  Eric Cantor puts the entire 2400 page bill on the table and says "We're afraid of Washington."  Obama's bullshit tolerance level just dropped to nil.

12:50:  Eric Cantor looks like somebody just took a dump in his Cheerios.  He is clearly not used to being spoken to in this manner.

12:54:  Biden askes for 10 seconds (heh).  Rep Louise Slaughter of the Dems talking about the history of insurance discrimination of women.  Strong stuff.

1:00 Obama talking to reporters now, called lunch break.

The Cult Of Moosenality Argument Is A Complete Loser For Dems

Via Steve M, Maha has a fascinating article about Sarah Palin as the Tea Party's goddess figure, but there's a major, major problem with the notion.
Which brings me to why Sarah Palin is a goddess. By that I don’t mean she has actual godlike powers. I’m talking about her role in the rightie mythological cosmos, and why pointing out her obvious shortcomings will put no dents in the tea partiers’ loyalty to her.

By “goddess” I mean a goddess in something like (but not exactly) the tantric sense, in which a deity becomes an archetype for one’s own deepest nature. Palin, by contrast, is a near-perfect embodiment of an ideal. She is (to a rightie) beautiful, sexual, and maternal; she is powerful enough that the Evil Ones who live in Washington and who speak seditious things on the Teevee must kowtow to her. Through her folksy speech and shooting skills she evokes other American archetypes from more wholesome, earlier times, like Daniel Boone. But she also wears modern clothes and has a Facebook page.

Like most tantric deities, Palin has has both benevolent and wrathful aspects. As a wrathful goddess she gives voice to her followers’ deepest fears and hates and resentments. But she also has a bright smile and sometimes carries a baby, showing a benevolent side. Her followers both love her and identify with her; she is an archetype representing their own deepest selves, or at least the selves they’d like to be.

She’s a goddess, I tell you. And because she is a goddess is makes no difference to her devotees that she has few real accomplishments, no coherent ideas, and probably doesn’t know Bern from Budapest. It does not matter if she writes crib notes on her hand and needs several months to think of a name of a newspaper she actually reads. In fact, it does not matter to them if she reads at all. Whatever she does is exactly right, because it is her doing it, and she is a goddess.

It’s important to understand this, because it shows us why it’s futile to treat Palin as just another politician or media star. It was pointless to make fun of the crib notes, for example. I doubt anyone could bring Palin down but Palin herself. If she somehow grossly and blatantly violated the ideal she represents, her followers could turn on her. But until she does that, she is invincible in the eyes of the devoted.
The problem is simple. Isn't this the same kind of thing people were accusing Obama of having in early 2008?  Indeed, there are a number of articles I can find on Obama's cult of personality from everyone from Jake Tapper to The Kroog (!?!?) ripping Obama for coming dangerously close to a setup like this.  From a theological and sociological view, Maha is right.  Politically?  It'll never, ever fly and Obama's cult status will only get thrown up in people's faces...and rightfully so.

Not to defend Sarah Palin in any way, but throwing this cult of personality accusation around is not anything that's going to stick after it was applied to Obama two years ago, no matter how applicable it actually is to Moose Lady.

This one's a loser, guys.  Let's not go down this path on Palin.

The Other Shoe Drops On Gov. Paterson

The bombshell that was supposed to drop earlier this month on NY Democratic Gov. David Paterson was something of a dud.  Which makes this actual bombshell that dropped on him yesterday quite surprising, and very very much the end of his political career.
Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against the man.

In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.

Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.

Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear, but the accounts presented in court and police records and interviews with the woman’s lawyer and others portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.

The case involved David W. Johnson, 37, who had risen from working as Mr. Paterson’s driver and scheduler to serving in the most senior ranks of the administration, but who also had a history of altercations with women.

On Wednesday night, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, Mr. Paterson said in a statement that he would request that Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo investigate his administration’s handling of the matter. The governor also said he would suspend Mr. Johnson without pay. 
So, we have the Governor's possible interference in the case of violent assault on a woman on behalf of an aide with a history of violence against women, to the point where the woman was scared away from continuing her case...and the matter is now going to state AG Andrew Cuomo, a stalwart against corruption and abuse of power and already popular because of his crusade against Wall Street.  Cuomo is already investigating a nearly ten-year long tale of NY State Police corruption, including -- you got it -- covering up for powerful Empire State politicians.

Paterson's screwed.  The fork is inserted and comes out cleanly.  He is done.  As he should be.  This is pretty repugnant and Paterson deserves to go.  Cuomo needs to throw the book at him.

Meanwhile, Wall Street sees a major opportunity to get Cuomo out of their hair as AG and into the Governor's mansion, where he really can't do too much more damage to them.  Cuomo hasn't officially announced anything about running for Governor, and Paterson had largely weathered the storm.  You can bet the last 12 hours that has completely changed that picture.

Count on it.

Congress Throws Consumers Under The Bus

Obama is dropping the consumer financial protection agency and the Volcker Rule from the bank regulation overhaul bill.
The Obama administration is no longer insisting on the creation of a stand-alone consumer protection agency as a central element of the plan to remake regulation of the financial system.

In hopes of quick congressional approval of a reform bill, White House officials are opening the door to compromise with lawmakers concerned about creating a new bureaucracy, according to congressional and some administration sources.

President Obama's economic team is now open to housing the consumer regulator inside another agency, such as the Treasury Department, though they still prefer a stand-alone agency. In either case, they are insisting on a regulator with political autonomy and real teeth so it can effectively enforce rules designed to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

The administration may also have to compromise on Obama's recent proposal for a rule to limit risky activities at banks by prohibiting them from engaging in many kinds of speculative investments.

Treasury officials are preparing to send Capitol Hill a toughly worded measure that would bar banks from making certain investments that benefit only the firms' bottom line rather than their customers. But there is little support among either Democratic or Republican lawmakers for this proposal, known as the "Volcker rule," and Senate leaders are now closing ranks around legislation that would leave it to banking regulators, rather than the law, to decide which activities to ban.
That's staggering.  There's basically no support for either of these measures from Republicans or Democrats in Congress.  Real reform of the banks was always going to be impossible, even after nearly destroying the global economy and costing taxpayers trillions of dollars.  Passing this, for the Democrats, would be a massive boost to their credibility in 2010.

But let's face it:  Congress is owned by the banks.  They freely admit this.  The banks sure as hell do.  No reform for you.  Congress serves the financial industry.

So the next time this happens, we'll take another multi-trillion dollar hit to the economy.  And it will come out of your pocket again.  I find myself starting to agree with this anti-incumbent thing.

No Plan B Survives Contact With The Enemy

Ezra Klein catches the Wall Street Journal trying to muck up today's health care summit and reminds us at this point the White House has gone all in (emphasis mine):
The Wall Street Journal has a splashy piece this evening on the White House's plan B for health-care reform: a fallback approach that would cover 15 million people, do less to reform the system and cut costs, and carry a lower price tag. Call it health-care lite.

Plan B has been around for awhile. In August, discussions raged in the White House over whether to pare back the bill. The comprehensive folks won the argument, but people also drew up plans for how you could pare back the bill, if it came to that. More thinking was done on this in the aftermath of the Massachusetts election, when Rahm Emanuel and some of the political folks again argued for retreating to a more modest bill. As you'd expect, these conversations included proposals for how that smaller bill would look.

At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that's all this is. A vestigial document that's being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They're furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House -- not even anonymously -- raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There's no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it. 
Ezra has a point. This plan B is basically the scaled-down Republican plan with some changes, it's been around for six months, and it's being pulled out in advance of today's health care summit in order to try to give the GOP another talking point to try to kill HCR slowly.  It's being done to weaken Obama's position and I fully expect the GOP to flog this Plan B all day.

It's a pretty good tag team from the "liberal" media and the GOP.  We'll see how Obama can counter.


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