Saturday, March 6, 2010

Last Call

Yet another episode of What Digby Said on the matter of US Catholic Bishops trying to get 60 votes in the Senate to put Bart Stupak's final amendment in the reconciliation part of the health care bill.  It would take 60 votes in the Senate in order to waive the point of order that the Stupak language is not germane to the budget part of reconciliation.
Reconciliation for me but not for thee ...

It looks to me as if the play is to force all the Senate Democrats, along with just a couple of Republicans, to accept the Stupak language. The pro-choice senators know that at this late stage, if they even utter a peep of protest they will be excoriated for being selfish, obstructionist divas, unlike the deeply principled forced childbirth zealots who are only following their consciences. They must do this to themselves, as a sort of ritual self-sacrifice, for it to be meaningful.

I would expect to see every Democrat in the Senate acquiesce to this only to have whichever Republican had previously agreed to vote for it back out at the last minute. After all, after forcing these pro-choice Senators to cave on their principles time and time again, if the bill is defeated anyway, it will be the sweetest conservative victory ever.

Dday is right that this is a massive power play on the part of the Catholic bishops who, last I heard, were elected to nothing. But in the larger narrative, it serves the purpose that members of the ruling class all agree must be served: liberals must eat shit at every single step of this process or it cannot be seen as legitimate by Real Americans who, by definition, are against anything godless liberal freaks believe in.

This is something we should keep in mind going forward. Next time, they should be sure to put in some items for the sole purpose of having them stripped out. We'll all agree in advance to howl and scream when they remove our beloved subsidies for oral sex instruction and mandatory jail terms for global warming deniers. Maybe that will satisfy them enough that the Democrats won't feel the need to further sacrifice our true principles.

If that doesn't happen, though, next time it's the fella's turn to give up some of their bodily integrity for the greater good. I'm thinking maybe they will agree to a law that requires them to seek permission from their wives and/or mothers before they have a vasectomy. Seems only fair.
To sum up, we're looking at the end of elective abortion coverage in health insurance because it would be priced out of the market.  Any plan that had elective coverage for the procedure would not be eligible for any subsidies, most of which are provided right now by employers.  That would end under the Stupak language.

The problem is the Senate version of the bill already does this.
Never mind that the federal government already subsidizes abortions through the employer deduction for coverage that almost always includes reproductive choice. Never mind that the Nelson compromise in the Senate bill would probably do exactly what the Stupak amendment does, because the requirement of two separate payments – one for your health insurance and one for the portion that covers abortion services – “would be cumbersome for insurers and objectionable to customers.” Never mind that Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst for the Urban Institute, said that “There will not be abortion coverage in the exchanges. There just won’t be.” Never mind that the design of two separate payments singles out insurers who offer abortion coverage, opening them up to anti-choice protests. Never mind that under the bill, employer-based coverage is meant to move to the exchanges over time, as the eligibility for the exchanges expand, meaning that this restriction in the individual and small-group markets will eventually be brought to everyone. And never mind even that Ben Nelson, who authored the Senate version, “tried to figure out language that would be as close to Stupak as you could be without repeating the language,” according to his spokesman.
The plan here is to effectively end abortion as a medical reproductive health procedure and classify it completely in the elective surgery category.  The goal here is to make abortions so impossible to get that they simply don't happen...unless you can afford one.

Abortion is not a choice I would personally make.  Then again, I'm not a pregnant woman, and the right isn't trying to criminalize my reproductive system either.  It amazes me that the same people that scream Obama is the most criminally fascist President of all time ever are completely fine with the government telling their daughters, sisters, mothers, nieces, wives and themselves that if you get pregnant, you no longer have control over your body, and that if you behave in a manner that "threatens your unborn" you are a criminal who can be prosecuted.

We slaughter civilians in the Middle East, and at the same time, Utah is looking to criminalize a miscarriage as a felony.

Our country is broken.

Obama Versus Odubya

Like I've said, I have my specific problems with Barack Obama.  I am not a 100% supporter of the man's policies, particularly the continuation of the ones that were Bush's: the continuing killing of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the continuing loss of civil liberties here, and the continuing failure to rein in the corporate machine that is largely responsible for America's financial disaster.

Chris Hedges at Alternet pulls no punches and argues it's time for progressives to abandon Obama (emphasis mine):
The illegal wars and occupations, the largest transference of wealth upward in American history and the egregious assault on civil liberties, all begun under George W. Bush, raise only a flicker of tepid protest from liberals when propagated by the Democrats. Liberals, unlike the right wing, are emotionally disabled. They appear not to feel. The tea-party protesters, the myopic supporters of Sarah Palin, the veterans signing up for Oath Keepers and the myriad of armed patriot groups have swept into their ranks legions of disenfranchised workers, angry libertarians, John Birchers and many who, until now, were never politically active. They articulate a legitimate rage. Yet liberals continue to speak in the bloodless language of issues and policies, and leave emotion and anger to the protofascists. Take a look at the 3,000-word suicide note left by Joe Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee last month into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring dozens. He was not alone in his rage.

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?” Stack wrote. “Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political ‘representatives’ (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the ‘terrible health care problem’. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.”

The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement, one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers. We are, even more than Glenn Beck or tea-party protesters, responsible for the gusts fanning the flames of right-wing revolt because we have failed to articulate a credible alternative
John Cole of Balloon Juice has a response.(emphasis again mine):
Look once again at the list of accomplishments in one year, notwithstanding the fact that we staved off a complete economic collapse, and then realize that this is being deemed a failure- by the Democrats (and that list is four months old). It is ridiculous.

Hell, they are on the cusp of delivering a health care reform package that wildly exceeds Howard Dean’s wet dream a couple years ago, and Dean himself was briefly acting the “genius” on cable tv trying to kill the bill. Meanwhile, members of the legislative body, the folks responsible for writing legislation, led by Democrats, are whining publicly that Obama should have written the bill and just given it to them. And there is a good chance that a couple of nutjobs butthurt about the public option and some fetus fetishists allied with Stupak might very well kill the bill.

I’d be tired too. In fact, I am. And the best part is going to be listening to the concern trolling of people worried about the Oabam administration’s fall, without so much as mentioning they have spent the last year tripping them up, whether it be for reasons of self-promotion or because their pet issues wasn’t dealt with first.

To me, nothing sums up the fail of the Democratic party and the blogosphere more than the Dawn Johnsen affair. For a year, she was blocked by an obstinate GOP, and rather than attack the Republicans, we got months of “Why isn’t Obama doing more?” nonsense on the blogs. Some went so far as to suggest that this was just Obama’s way of thumbing his nose at progressives, and that it was a plan to screw them over.

And now that it looks like Dawn will be at the OLC shortly? Crickets.
My problem is that I can see both points.  Obama has accomplished genuine good.  At the same time, he has continued Bush's more egregious and illegal policies.

Is doing both possible?  I ask myself that more often these days.  On the balance of the whole I side with Cole.  But Hedges does have a legitimate argument.

However, it's not enough to abandon the country to the Republicans.  That cannot be allowed to happen.

Dealt Out Of The Game

Yesterday I noted Obama was folding on a civilian trial for KSM.  Ostensibly, it was to get Gitmo closed. That was the deal.  The problem is every time there's a deal, the Republicans turn around and stab Obama in the back.
If press reports are to be believed, the White House is hoping that if it decides to try the 9/11 plotters in a military tribunal, it will secure some GOP support for closing Guantanamo and bringing some terror suspects onto U.S. soil.

But leading Republicans have a two word answer: No deal.

Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Mitch McConnell, tells me the GOP leadership position will remain the same: Guantanamo, not a U.S.-based facility, is the right place to hold the detainees.

Michael Steel, a spokesperson for John Boehner, suggests the same: “Our focus is keeping dangerous terrorists from being brought to this country, where they will have the same rights as American citizens.”

And Liz Cheney’s group, Keep America Safe, says No Deal. “We are concerned by reports that this will be part of a deal to close Guantanamo Bay and bring terrorists onto US soil,” a statement sent over by the group says. “We continue to call on the President to reverse his decision to close the facility.”

The White House may be able to poach a few GOPers, perhaps. But the above suggests that if the White House agrees to try KSM in military tribunals, Obama’s national security critics on the right are more likely to be emboldened than placated.
Isn't that what happens every time Obama stupidly gives in to Republican demands?   Of course it is.  It happened on health care time and time again, it happened on the stimulus, it happened on Obama's nominees, it happens every time.

Obama still keeps caving.

Is our President capable of learning?  How many times will Lucy yank the football away?

Weakness From A Position Of Strength

Steve M. has one of those there valid points on Obama on his begging to Congress on HCR.
... I had essentially the same reaction as this Hot Air blogger:

With all due respect, when the liberal president of the United States has to essentially beg his fellow liberals to vote for his proposal, it's safe to say we have a weak executive.

Really -- you hold a meeting with people who are on your side and you do it in such a way that the messaging is, inevitably, "Obama begs"? That's how you fight? You let that get out to the public? Do these guys know anything about optics?

The Hot Air blogger is right -- we do have a weak executive. Now I wish he/she would kindly convey that information to all the crazies on his/her side who think Obama is a jackbooted fascist.
And Steve is right.   How many times did Bush assume he had a position of strength even when he did not?  Remember his "mandate" in 2004?  By 2006 the Democrats has won back Congress, and by 2008 they had won nearly 60% margins in Congress in both chambers.

I think the problem is Obama was a Senator and not a Governor.

Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, all were Senators.  They were negotiators.  (Nixon played hardball nonetheless but he knew how to play the game.)  But they negotiated because they had experienced Washington politics as negotiation among people who were at the time equals:  other Senators.  Presidents who were Governors:  Reagan, Carter, Clinton, Dubya.  (FDR, too.)  These guys pushed things as leaders, as executives.  They got things done not with other people, but in spite of them.

As far as Democratic party history goes, FDR, Kennedy, LBJ all proved that either pool can produce great Presidents.  But today requires a Governor style President, not a Senator.

At times, I wish Obama really would have pulled a Dubya.  My way or the highway.  Instead, we've had a year long plus battle on HCR that still is far from a sure thing.  Chris Bowers notes that there at 50 Senators now who have gone on record to support reconciliation.  That means the battle now turns to the House where prospects are much less clear.

Now we're finally seeing the fruits of HCR through Obama's style, but there are times when I wish Obama would have done a better job of Dubya-style "negotiating".

How much better would the bill be if he had?

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