Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last Call

The health care legislation is getting slightly more popular.  It, if you'll excuse the pun, has stopped bleeding out, but there's still a lot the Dems need to do to try to convince the public that this was the right decision to make for the country.
The latest Associated Press-GfK poll on Obama's top domestic achievement finds support for the new overhaul has risen to its highest point since the survey started asking people about it in September - six months before it became law.

The results now: 45 percent in favor, 42 percent opposed. That's a significant shift in public sentiment considering that opposition hit 50 percent after Obama signed the health plan into law in late March and that in May, supporters were outnumbered 39 percent to 46 percent.

"I thought when people began to realize what was in the health care package that they would see it's a good, solid program and that would dispel some of the misinformation," said Brigham Young University English professor Claudia Harris, 72, of Orem, Utah.

Electrical contractor Kerry Eisley of Moscow, Pa., said he thinks people are starting to get nuts-and-bolts information on how the law affects them.

"If we can insure more people across the United States and get the cost of health care down, I think that's a better thing," said Eisley, 43, a Republican who supports the plan, which passed without the vote of any GOP lawmaker.
At least the measure is above water instead of minus 7.  That's a noteable turnaround, but it's going to take some time and some convincing, not to mention actual cost savings and benefits kicking in, to convince the folks in the middle.  The folks on the right, well...for the most part that's going to be impossible.  But...I'm sure Obama and company will take "slight plurality".

Ironically, health care legislation seems to be headed back for the 50% mark, which is about where Obama's approval is floating around these days.  That actually makes a lot of sense.  One defines the other at this point in the Obama legacy story.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The management wishes to convey that the people responsible for Joe Barton’s apology have been sacked, and Joe Barton wishes to retract his apology and say just how wonderful BP is as a corporation and that they should be all given ponies.

The people responsible for Joe Barton’s retraction of his apology saying how great and awesome BP is have been sacked, but not before saying how cool BP is and how smexy Tony Hayward’s hair is.

The people responsible for sacking the people responsible for Joe Barton’s retraction to his apology to BP have been in fact crushed by Barack Obama’s huge Kenyan penis.
Seriously. Balloon Juice commenter Dave:
I think the frustration that supporters of the president have (at least it is for me) is that his critics give him credit for nothing. NOTHING.

He gets a health care reform bill passed that is sweeping in scope and more than anyone has done in decades. And the left-wing critics say “Not enough.”

He gets a stimulus bill passed that pretty much kept a massive recession from getting worse and all the left-wing critics said was “Not enough.”

He’s on the verge of getting DADT repealed through law as opposed to using a reversible executive order and all the left-wing critics say is “Not enough.”

He gives a speech that talks about peak oil, points out how government corruption played a role and begins to lay out the way forward towards an alternative energy future and all the left-wing critics say is “Not enough” while having orgasms to Rachael Maddow’s satisfying-but-completely unrealistic “Fake President” speech.

Never mind Lily Leadbetter, killing the F-22 (something BUSH couldn’t do), expanding SCHIP, credit card reform, tobacco regulation…but no, it’s not enough. It’s NEVER enough with some people.

There is legit criticism to be made when it comes to President Obama, especially in the civil rights arena. But to hear the WATBs on the left tell it, he hasn’t done a damn thing. And that is simply not true. 
End of line.  Remember, the alternative was John McCain and Republicans like Joe Barton here.  What do any of you think President John McCain and Vice President Moose Lady would have done better on any of this?  Do any of you think their "accomplishments" would have been more progressive?  Do you think the oil spill would make drilling safer with those two in charge?

Oh, and if the GOP wins back the House, the guy in charge of the House Energy committee?  Joe Barton.  My God.  And the folks joining Joe Barton in Congress if the Tea Party has their way?  Folks like NC Republican Bill Randall.
Republican congressional candidate William "Bill" Randall is suggesting that the Obama administration and BP conspired to intentionally spill oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Randall admits that he has no evidence that what he says is true. But that is not stopping him from making the claim as he campaigns for the GOP runoff election Tuesday to determine who faces incumbent Democratic Rep. Brad Miller on the November ballot.

"Now, I'm not necessarily a conspiracy person ... and this is purely speculative on my part and not based on any fact, but personally I feel there is a possibility that there was some sort of collusion," said Randall, who has aligned himself with the tea party movement.

"I don't know how or why, but in that situation, if you have someone from a company proposing to violate the safety process and the government signing off on it, excuse me, maybe they wanted it to leak. But then it got beyond what was anticipated, and we had an explosion and loss of life."
This is your alternative to the Democrats, people.

World Cupdate

Group B action started off today with Argentina at South Korea, and the Taeguk Warriors ran into a buzzsaw named Gonzalo Higuain as his hat trick(!) and an own goal off a free kick ravaged the Reds 4-1.  The only bright spot in South Korea's day was Chung-Yong Lee's solid goal at the end of the first half making it 2-1, but the other 89 minutes belonged to the Albiceleste and 88 of those to Higuain as he savaged South Korea's 1-3-2-4 setup like a tank cannon through plywood.  An absolutely commanding performance by El Pipita, and frankly the entire Higuain clan has to be pleased.  Argentina next faces Greece, and they have to be feeling good about their chances to run the full nine.

Group B's other match saw Greece and Nigeria facing off, both teams playing for survival.  A loss here meant elmination, a draw would keep both teams alive.  The Pirate Ship tried to cut through with a 3-3-4 plan led by Theofanis Gekas, but the Super Eagles countered with Yakubu and Peter Odemwingie fronting a 2-4-4 attack and scored almost right off with a free kick from Uche at 16' and a nasty header fake from Odemwingie.  Nigeria played their plan well, dominating the middle third and leaving Gekas hanging out to dry time and again until the Piratikos caught a massive break when a really pointless red card was pulled on Nigeria's Sani Kaita for a shove-kick combo, and suddenly Greece was back in the match with Nigeria a man down.  That directly led to Dimitrios Salpigidis scoring Greece's first ever World Cup goal at 44' as even Mount Olympus smiled down.  The second half saw Nigeria go 1-4-4 and an injury to defender Taiwo left them at nine men at one point.  Both teams fought well, looking for and needing the win, but it was the Greeks who prevailed as Vassillis Torosidis knocked one home at 71'.  They will survive another day, but the Super Eagles are basically done as Greece surprises 2-1.

France and Mexico rounded out the day back to Group A as both teams needed the win to keep up with Uruguay after their dismantling of host South Africa yesterday.  The Bafana Bafana were hoping for another draw as Les Bleus went 1-3-2-4 with Nicolas Anelka at point, while El Tri opened 3-3-4 with Francos, Dos Santos and the dangerous Carlos Vela up front.  An offensive show by both sides in the first half didn't result in much, but Vela pulled up with a lame hamstring and went out at 32' for Pablo Barerra.  Nobody could keep the ball down, which suited the keepers just fine.  France dominated on corner kicks and that pressure kept up in the second half, leading to a number of fouls and more than a few yellow cards as both teams got frustrated, but it was Hernandez off the Marquez assist at 64' that broke the game open for El Tri. The Gauls then blew their cool again with a terrible trip in the box by Eric Abidal on Blanco, and he made France pay at 79'.  The 2-0 loss means France has to sit back and watch along with the Bafana as Mexico and Uruguay decide their fates.

The Job, It Is Harder Than It Looks

Jon Chait's smackdown of Rachel Maddow's "here's the Oval Office speech I would have given" is not only appropriate, but delivered with the necessary force to knock Rachel off the Firebagger train.  Hopefully.

In reality, you can't pass any of the climate bill by reconciliation. Democrats didn't write reconciliation instructions permitting them to do so, and very little of its could be passed through reconciliation, which only allows budgetary decisions. Maddow's response is to pass the rest by executive order. But you can't change those laws through executive order, either. That's not how our system of government works, nor is it how our system should work.

If Maddow's speech had to hew to the reality of Senate rules and the Constitution, she'd be left where Obama is: ineffectually pleading to get whatever she can get out of a Senate that has nowhere near enough votes to pass even a stripped-down cap and trade bill. It may be nice to imagine that all political difficulties could be swept away by a president who just spoke with enough force and determination. It's a recurrent liberal fantasy —Michael Moore imagined such a speech a few months ago, Michael Douglas delivers such a speech in "The American President." I would love to eliminate the filibuster and create more accountable parties. But even if that happens, there will be a legislative branch that has a strong say in what passes or doesn't pass. And that's good! We wouldn't want to live in a world where a president can remake vast swaths of policy merely be decreeing it.
The reality is that Obama is constrained by checks and balances, especially when it comes to money.  He's constrained even more by the ego of 535 members of Congress.  but Rachel did make a good point in her speech:
All the might of this, the mightiest nation on earth, and the combined expertise of the richest, most technologically ambitious corporations the world has ever seen, cannot, it turns out, cap an oil well when it breaks five thousand feet-deep in the ocean. It is something that mankind does not yet have the technological capability to fix.
Then why firebag on the President over this?  My goodness.  I never thought I'd have to put Rachel Maddow in a Useful Idiots and Village Stupidity post, but there you are.  Chait's lesson is important:  The President has rules to follow, folks.  Dr. Rachel Maddow -- Rhodes scholar, mind you -- should be smart enough to know this.

He can't magically fix the damn problem.  He can't magically force BP to do it either.  He can try to lead on getting climate legislation passed, but it abundantly clear he doesn't have the votes.  He can't magically make the Senate vote for what he wants to do, nor should he.

Folks, we're in a long term disaster situation here.  Wishful thinking will not solve this issue any more than Obama bashing or even GOP bashing.  At this point we need answers on how to cope, how to survive this, and how to put it all back together, and in the long run we need to assure this never happens again.  yes, I've said time and time again we need to use less oil...but that was true before the spill, just like it's true I've got to drive my Hyundai to work every weekday.

There are no easy answers, and in out quick fix instant gratification society, that's a problem.  Time to learn some new skills, folks. 

Captializing On Mistakes, Part 3

Republicans should really, really stop talking when it comes to BP.  All that comes out of how much they are in the pockets of energy companies.  Dave Weigel:
Giving the opening statement for Republicans at today's BP hearing, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, vigorously defended the company in the wake of Wednesday's compromise on an escrow fund to pay for damages from its broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown," said Barton, "in this case a $20 billion shakedown."

Barton, who holds a safe seat in Texas, is saying what the leading edge of tea partyers and conservatives are saying -- no matter whether it's good politics, his first worry about the response to the disaster is that it will empower the federal government. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said this to me on Tuesday, and Dick Armey said it to me yesterday when I told him about the $20 billion compromise.

"It fascinates me," said Armey. "I'm fascinated with it. I'm against it -- there is no doubt that BP has resititution to make, but there is something called due process through the legitimate judicial branch of government through which these things should be adjudicated."

How many of the assembled here would like to see the federal government's position as "We should apologize to BP for Obama trying to make them pay for claims" for the "little people" out there? Seriously, if the Republicans and most importantly the guys behind the Tea Party movement like Dick Armey and faces like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are taking BP's side here just to attack Obama, then they are in real, real trouble.  Joe Barton has taken a lot of oil money and it shows.  I'm pretty sure if you asked the people in his district, they wouldn't want to apologize to BP.

You don't get to play the populist card any longer when you take the position opposite of the populists, and one that embraced by both the left and the right.  Obama has fumbled the ball on the response to BP, but if the GOP is really going to back BP on this disaster, they are going to pay for it dearly at the polls.  "Accidents happen" just doesn't cut it.  People are really pissed off about this.

Suddenly, Obama's position doesn't look so damn awful anymore.  Thanks Republicans!

Eight Is Enough

Closing arguments in the trial for California's Prop 8 amendment banning gay marriage wrapped up yesterday as Judge Vaughn Walker now has the case.
The lead attorney defending Proposition 8 on the final day of a historic federal trial Wednesday said that gays have been subjected to a "shameful history" of discrimination but that voters had a right to limit them from marriage.

Voters, argued attorney Charles Cooper, had legitimate concerns about what the consequences of same-sex marriage might be for society and children, even if critics of gay marriage can't prove that allowing gay couples to marry has a negative impact.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker took final arguments Wednesday in the case brought by opponents to the 2008 initiative. No date has been set for his decision.

Theodore Olson, who gave closing arguments on behalf of two gay couples challenging the ban as unconstitutional, said the defense failed to show a good reason to let voters use the state constitution to bar gay people from a fundamental right such as marriage.

Walker peppered both sides with questions during the daylong hearing.

Cooper reiterated the defense argument that governments have a historical interest in "channeling" procreation into marriage so children can have the "optimal" benefit of having a mother and father as "role models."
He quoted from a writer who expressed concern that gay marriage would "cut the link between sex and diapers," and told Walker: "It is not possible to predict with certainty and confidence what that change will beget."

Olson lashed out at Cooper's arguments, saying that Cooper, under questioning by the judge last January early in the trial, said "I don't know" and "we don't have any evidence" when he was asked what harm might come from gay marriage.

"You can't come in here and say, 'I don't have to prove anything,' " Olson said.
Regardless of how Judge Walker rules, this one's heading for the Supreme Court almost certainly.  it's just a matter of how long the appellate process takes until the measure goes to the Nine in Black.  That ruling could define gay marriage for the entire country when it happens, but it has to at least start with Walker overturning Prop 8 first, otherwise there'd basically be no grounds for a higher court to even take the case.

We'll see what happens.  Walker is not expected to render a decision anytime soon, and he has weeks and weeks of testimony to digest and process here.

Here's hoping.

The Damage Is Already Done

Wildlife along the Gulf Coast is already showing signs of severe ecological stress.
Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange — and troubling — phenomena.

Fish and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it might appear to be, researchers say.

The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.

"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.
Only in this case, the "forest on fire" is tens of thousands of square miles of hopelessly polluted ocean.  This nightmare scenario is happening in real time, folks.  Dead zones, destroyed marine and bird species, wrecked wetlands, all leading up to an ecosystem that will be devastated for decades.  We made our choices on oil and clean energy.  We made our choices on cars and trucks.  We said "We don't care. It's my right to burn as much oil as I want to pay for."

A little something extra just got added to the bill.  Gratis.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims up 12k to 472k.  Not good.  We badly need to get under 400k on a weekly basis.

Continuing claims up 88k to 4.57 million.  Still very high 30 months into this recession.

Oh, and for the inflation/deficit hawks:
The Labor Department says the Consumer Price Index, the government's most closely watched inflation barometer, dropped 0.2 percent in May, following a 0.1 percent dip in April.

So-called "core" prices, which strip out energy and food, edged up 0.1 percent in May, after a flat reading the month before. 
Prices have been deflating for months now.   The only reason we're not seeing much worse deflation is because of the stimulus.  The CPI was down for the first time in five decades in 2009.  It will get worse this year.  Inflation is not the problem in this recession.  It never was.

Pile Driver

Obama's getting dogpiled in the press.  And the people he's getting savaged by the most are on the left.

WaPo's Eugene Robinson:
Less than a minute into President Obama’s Oval Office address, my heart sank. For the umpteenth time since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began, an anxious nation was informed that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a Nobel Prize. Obama’s speech pretty much went down hill from there.
MoJo's Kevin Drum:
What a terrible speech.
Unfair? Maybe! I mean, compared to Sarah Palin's (literally) incomprehensible burbling on Bill O'Reilly's show afterward it was a model of straight talk and reassurance. But that's a pretty low bar.
HuffPo's Jason Linkins:
I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up? Or perhaps a definitive statement, severing the command and control that BP has largely enjoyed, in favor of a structured, centralized federal response? Maybe you were looking for a roadmap-slash-timetable for putting America on a path to a clean energy future? Well, this speech was none of those things.
WaPo's Ezra Klein:
The elements of Barack Obama's speech tonight that were specifically newsworthy were also broadly-expected: A liability fund that BP will pay into and that a third-party will distribute. A "long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan." Both ideas sound good. But their worth will be determined by, well, their worth. And Obama did not name any dollar amounts.
TNR's Jon Chait:
The portion of the speech detailing the government's response to the Deepwater Horizon spill seemed effective, as did his explanation of his plan to toughen regulations on offshore drilling. The important part of his speech concerned how we would wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. This portion revealed just how much Obama is operating from a position of weakness.
These are all people whose political opinion and analysis I respect, and to a man they dismissed this speech as weak, recycled crap that did nothing to help with any of the problems we have.

Which is exactly what the speech was.  Like I said, this isn't the Obama I voted for, and that guy needs to show the hell up and get his act together, pronto.  Obama had a golden opportunity to announce real support for climate legislation.  Instead he started out at his position of full compromise, an amendment to a bill dealing with the oil spill, as his entire environmental policy.

That's it.  Also, Dr. Steven Chu is smart.

That's his entire plan right now.  The escrow is helpful, and to be fair there's nothing much he can do about the spill...but by not going for it on climate legislation, and Obama starting out at his compromise position so that the Republicans can push things as far to the right as they can, he's really blown it.  It's a pattern with him, and one he needs to break.

Capitalizing On Mistakes, Part 2

Whenever I think Obama is in trouble for his response to the oil spill, the Republicans remind America what they would have done if they were still in charge.  If it isn't Rep. Michele Bachmann being as tone-deaf and cement-headed as possible defending BP in this oil spill disaster, it's Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

"If BP is the responsible party under the law, they’re to pay for everything. I do worry that this idea of making them make a huge escrow fund is going to make it less likely that they’ll pay for everything. They need their capital to drill wells. They need their capital to produce income. … But this escrow bothers me that it’s going to make them less able to pay us what they owe us. And that concerns me. … [I]t bothers me to talk about causing an escrow to be made, which will — which makes it less likely that they’ll make the income that they need to pay us."
To recap, the $20 billion up front makes it less likely that they'll pay us, so we should turn the money we're asking them to pay us down. Wait, what?  A multi-billion dollar company who made a $100 billion plus in just profits over the last decade is somebody you should feel sorry for?

You know, after screaming for weeks that Obama is doing nothing, everything you need to know about the Republicans on the Gulf Coast can be summed up by Barbour here.  Last week it was "The President's not doing enough!" Now it's "The escrow plan will hurt poor BP!"

Frak BP.  They made the mistake, they pay for it.  Please Republicans, keep making heartfelt pitches as to why America's chief goal right now should be helping BP.


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