Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Call

From Balloon Juice, your moment of perspective on today's DADT fail at the blog Joe My God:

I’ve just gotten off the phone with Atlanta Journal-Constitution political writer Jim Gallaway who says that Sen. Saxby Chambliss has confirmed that the “All faggots must die” comment left here on JMG earlier today did indeed come from his Atlanta office. Galloway reports that Chambliss told him his office is conducting an internal investigation.

I may be pissed at Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and more than a little miffed at Obama.  People have every right to be.  I understand it becomes exceedingly difficult to exact any sort of price from the Republican party for doing this when Democrats turn around and do the same thing.

But to be perfectly honest the DADT repeal was doomed because there are 41 Republican Senators in Congress, and every single one of them thinks gays should not be allowed to openly serve in the military.  Let's not forget who the bad guys are:  right now the GOP can block any and every piece of legislation they want to, no matter what the Democrats do.  That is reality.  Right now there is nothing we can do about it.

The WSJ's Bret Stephens penned a pretty good article as to why the GOP should repeal DADT.  It's nice to know that the Republicans in turn do not give a shit, because their hatred for Obama and the Democrats supersedes anything and everything else.  There are no moderates in the GOP in the Senate.  The House was lost some time ago, but even Maine's Senators are nothing more than gay-hating bigots.  Period.  We're talking about when presented with a bill that would repeal federal government bigotry (listen up Libertarians!) and would give people the ability to earn their US citizenship through fighting for our country (listen up Galties!) the Republican party said no.  All 41 of them.  Every single one said no, and even one would have been enough, in theory.  Because it would have benefited the Democrats in some way, they blocked funding for our troops during a time of war.  They do not care about governing.  They only care about winning.

There are no Republicans open to compromise.  There are no Republicans who want to work across the aisle.  There are no Republicans interested in improving America and listening to opposing points of view.  There are no Republicans who want to govern.  There are only hardcore fanatics.

Clearly, the manic progressives will tell you, the plan to achieve equality at the federal level is to punish the Democrats and allow more Republican Senators into Congress.  That will make them listen!  That will make things better!

After all the first act of a GOP Senate will be to kill the filibuster, right?


Larry Summers is outta here.

White House economic adviser Larry Summers is stepping down from his job at the end of the year, the administration said on Tuesday.

The White House said Summers planned to return to his position as professor at Harvard University.

The departure of Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, would mark a major shakeup in President Barack Obama's economic team. White House budget director Peter Orszag stepped down in July and White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer left her job at the beginning of this month.

I'm all choked up.  Really.  Now if only we can fix all the damage that Larry did AND get rid of Timmy, we'll finally be getting somewhere.

The GOP Economic Plan

Once again, here's what the Republican party's top budget mind, Rep. Paul Ryan, has in mind for America once the GOP gets back in charge with his "Roadmap" plan.

The Roadmap would give the most affluent households a new round of very large, costly tax cuts by reducing income tax rates on high-income households; eliminating income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest; and abolishing the corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the alternative minimum tax. At the same time, the Ryan plan would raise taxes for most middle-income families, privatize a substantial portion of Social Security, eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, end traditional Medicare and most of Medicaid, and terminate the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The plan would replace these health programs with a system of vouchers whose value would erode over time and thus would purchase health insurance that would cover fewer health care services as the years went by.

Got it?  Because this is what's coming for us as soon as we put the GOP back in charge:  the rich would get substantially richer, the rest of us would pay substantially more taxes so that the rich and corporations can get tax cuts (or eliminated taxes period) and Social Security and Medicare will be phased out in favor of private insurance...and you'll lose the tax exemption on insurance benefits making it all but unaffordable for everyone but the wealthiest among us.

We'll be right back on the road to a straight Pareto Distribution economy where the wealthiest have hundreds of millions and the vast majority of us have nothing.

But let's keep hating on the Democrats.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Silly The Kroog is silly.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that it would be right or justified for progressives to take their ball and go home. Obama has brought real change — above all, health reform, imperfect as it is (and if it survives). But yelling at the base won’t get them up and going; a little respect might.

Paul, buddy?  "Republicans fear their base and listen to them.  Democrats despise theirs and blame them instead."  You know this.  It has defined politics in this country for at least the last thirty years.  C'mon.

Enthusiasm Gap for the loss.

State Of The Numbers

The state unemployment figures for August are out, and they are pretty dismal.

Unemployment hit a record 14.4 percent in Nevada in August, up from 14.3 percent in July, giving it the highest unemployment rate in the country for the fourth straight month. Michigan, the previous leader, remained No. 2. (Nevada also leads the nation in home foreclosures.)

"The 2010 Census began to wind down, bringing an end to employment for about 1,900 workers, while local government shed about 1,000 jobs, brought on by continued budget cuts,” said Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation in a statement.  

Michigan's rate held steady at 13.1 percent from the month before. 

California was third with a 12.4-percent jobless rate, followed by Rhode Island (11.8 percent), Florida (11.7 percent) and South Carolina (11.0 percent). (See the top 10 in our slideshow.) Once again, North Dakota had the lowest rate in the country at 3.7 percent. 

Let's keep in mind that California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are all states with double digit unemployment rates, and are states where Republicans are expected to make gains.  But that doesn't explain everything when people say "it's the economy, stupid."  Alabama, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Minnesota are all states that have seen significant state unemployment rate improvement in the last 12 months, and yet Republicans are doing well in these states too. 

Wisconsin's unemployment rate has dropped from 8.8% to 7.9% in the last year, and yet Russ Feingold is in real trouble in his Senate re-election campaign.  Texas has gained roughly 130,000 jobs since Obama took office, and yet the state remains blood red.  It's not just jobs and the economy that are causing problems for the Democrats.

Six weeks ahead of the elections is a bit too late for searching for answers, but a lot of it has to do with the enthusiasm gap and the media pounding Obama has taken for the last 2 years.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Why There's An Enthusiam Gap

And the Republicans block the repeal of DADT, the DREAM Act, and the Defense supplemental bill with a 56-43 cloture failure.  The Democratic backstabbers this time?  Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster.

DADT was one of several sticking points of the defense authorization bill, which must pass in order to fund the military.

Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME), argued that passing repeal now would undermine the Defense Department's review of the policy, which won't be completed until December.

The language in the bill provides that DADT wouldn't be repealed until 60 days after the review is complete and the plan for repeal is signed off on by the president, defense secretary and joint chiefs of staff.

The White House said today it supports the repeal language. 

So this one goes back to the drawing board to after the election.  Meanwhile, Johnny Volcano is already claiming a "bipartisan victory" because of Pryor and Lincoln.

And the GOP wins again.  The vote would have lost anyway even without Pryor and Lincoln, but they can't help themselves being Southern Democrats and giving into the bigotry.  Nice job.

And you wonder why there's an enthusiasm gap.

[UPDATE]  Steve M. for the win:

If you didn't have a plan, you should have promised to fight -- no more. You shouldn't have told us you'd be able to prevail.

This right here.   Obama promised this years ago, and could have taken steps through executive orders.  We were told Congress had to have its say on it.  59 Dems and the GOP still won.  Every single Republican came down on the side of bigotry and homophobia against Americans serving their country.

The Dems screwed this up royally, and now they are going to let the GOP walk out unscathed.

The Rally To Restore Democratic Spinal Columns

Dave Weigel notes the near panic by Democrats that the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rallies on October 30 in DC will destroy the elections for the Dems or something because people at the rally aren't knocking on doors for the last 72 hours (and presumably will have voted for the Dems anyway).

Democrats don't think this is helpful, and a few of them poured their hearts out to Politico's Ben Smith. "To the extent that some people who will attend his rally would otherwise be involved in GOTV efforts," wrote party strategist Steve Rosenthal, "this is not helpful."

Tea Partiers are on the same page. They appreciate the distraction from the labor movement's One Nation rally on Oct. 2, which has only started to get attention since … well, since it started being analyzed as a victim of Restoring Sanity. They also appreciate liberal activists taking themselves out of the GOTV game for a day.

"I'd much rather see liberals coming to D.C. that weekend than staying in their districts and GOTV-ing," says Brendan Steinhauser, director of state campaigns for FreedomWorks and a key organizer of the group's two 9/12 rallies. "Our guys are going to be in Ohio and Pennsylvania knocking on doors."

Needless to say, this is idiotic on its face.  If anything, this is going to be lots and lots of free publicity for the Democrats (despite Jon Stewart's careful moves towards making sure he lampoons crazies on the left at this thing as well.)

Secondly, the largest problem right now with the Dems is the enthusiasm gap.  Some excitement about the Democrats cannot hurt, especially if it reminds people that the GOP is completely ass-backwards crazy on things and want to roll back the last 80 years of classic liberal social and civil advancement.

Finally, Stewart and Colbert aren't Democratic Party officials.  It's good to hear something out of the media that's not automatically "Well Bob, is Obama a Muslim threat?"

If the Dems are that worried about the final GOTV weekend, then they'd better get moving and quit blaming Stewart and Colbert.

A Much More Civilized Age

Sid Meier's Civilization V is out today, and having religiously sunk cash and time into playing the other 4 PC titles (has it really been 20 years since Civ came out?) I'm looking forward to this latest iteration.

I remember playing Civ in high school on my old Tandy 486 back in the early 90's so yeah, the series is older than some of the people I work with (yikes!). The newest version looks to be another absolute classic, streamlined and taken back to its roots as a strategy game and not Empire Tycoon Simulator Deluxe.

Gone are the squares and stacks of doom, meet single units per hex like tabletop wargames, and man I dig that. It's far more tactical and quicker, too. Don't worry, Civ veterans...there's still plenty of city management and specialization to be had, but there's far less boring logistical crap to have to mess with.

Metacritic has your list of Civ V reviews for you to peruse, but this one's already pre-loaded off Steam and ready to go once I get home.

One more unto the breach, dear friends...

Big Dog Feels Your Tea Pain

Taegan Goddard talks to Bill Clinton about the Tea Party, and once again the Big Dog says he feels "sympathetic" to the movement and its anger.

Nonetheless, the anger they feel is very real. Clinton made the point that "big business has done well and people who caused the financial turmoil are already back in the saddle -- they're doing fine. And the government that gave them the TARP bailout -- you're doing fine; you've got a job, you can send your kid to college, you've got healthcare. The middle class squeeze is basically occurring to non-government private sector workers... They've been squeezed by both big business and government."

In short, Clinton said, "I'm sympathetic with these Tea Party folks. American public and private systems need to be modernized and changed so they're more accountable to people and they help the middle class more. I 100% agree with that. They're right." 

The reality is that the Tea Party wants the elimination of public systems period, and to give all those resources to big business so that they can squeeze what's left of the dwindling middle class more.  I understand what Clinton believes the Tea party anger really is, but their reaction is being stoked in order to fuel much more nefarious purposes.

Just as it is foolish to completely dismiss the anger behind the tea party movement, it's also foolish to disregard what the movement's astroturfing big business leaders and media figures are trying to accomplish with the power of that anger.

I agree that the Dems need to provide an alternative that works.  Unfortunately as long as 41 GOP Senators are able to effectively hold the government hostage, it will never improve.

A Little Insurance Policy For The Future

Well, if the major insurance companies were trying to avoid being so reviled that the public demands government action to control them, they're failing miserably.

Some of the country's most prominent health insurance companies have decided to stop offering new child-only plans, rather than comply with rules in the new health-care law that will require such plans to start accepting children with preexisting medical conditions after Sept. 23.
The companies will continue to cover children who already have child-only policies. They will also accept children with preexisting conditions in new family policies.
Nonetheless, supporters of the new health-care law complain that the change amounts to an end run around one of the most prized consumer protections.
"We're just days away from a new era when insurance companies must stop denying coverage to kids just because they are sick, and now some of the biggest changed their minds," Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, an advocacy group, said in a statement. "[It] is immoral, and to blame their appalling behavior on the new law is patently dishonest."
Three insurers - WellPoint, Cigna and CoventryOne - all cited uncertainty in the health insurance market for their decisions. That incertitude and the resulting decision of other insurers to drop their child-only plans, according to WellPoint spokeswoman Kristin Binns, "has created an unlevel competitive environment." 

I expect more insurers to follow suit.  Profit motive and health care are fundamentally incompatible.  In other words, these insurers will simply refuse to issue policies that cover kids with pre-existing conditions, requiring a family plan instead.

Obama will be blamed for this by the short-sighted.  More realistic people will see this is a conscious choice by the health insurance industry to cut health care reforms because they don't like them, and that these insurers would rather see these kids die than provide them health care.  It really is that simple.

And let's not kid ourselves:  it's not like it was possible for kids with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance before these reforms became law anyway.

But hey, they want to put themselves out of business, fine with me.

Even The Rich Aren't Rich

Some surprising findings on the economy from the latest McClatchy News/Ipsos poll:


Note that third question there: 45% of Americans say making $250,000 a year doesn't make you wealthy at all, despite the fact that this puts you in the top 5% of US households. Americans understand instinctively that the "true rich" are the folks pulling in millions, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions or more a year.

Once again, we also see the even split on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republican meme that the wealthy are being crushed by taxation is taking hold, and this seems to indicate that the concern about fiscal responsibility doesn't apply to the rich at all, only cutting spending for the poor.

Also, nobody's buying that "recession was over in June 2009" crap either.  Democrats need to be damn careful about that.

Graham And Iran Again

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is screaming that the US must be prepared to use military force to stop Iran from getting nuke (which is not news) and even that we must be prepared to overthrow the Iranian regime (which is most certainly news).

Graham, a military lawyer and a senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, became the first senator to support direct U.S. military intervention in Iran, saying it should not involve ground troops but be launched by U.S. warplanes and ships.

"If you use military force against Iran, you've opened up Pandora's box," Graham told the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "If you allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, you've emptied Pandora's box. I'd rather open up Pandora's box than empty it."

Graham's unusual public support for overturning Ahmadinejad and the ruling council of Shiite Muslim clerics that he nominally heads recalled President George W. Bush's controversial policy of regime change to invade Iraq in 2003 and overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein.

Graham was a prominent supporter of the Iraq war, though he criticized Bush and former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld for sending too few U.S. troops.

Obama aides on the National Security Council declined to comment Monday on Graham's remarks about Iran.

State Department aides said Obama will discuss Iran on Thursday during his address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Graham said he believes Ahmadinejad "was lying" when he said Sunday in New York, after arriving for the U.N. General Assembly session this week, that Iran isn't building a nuclear bomb.

"From my point of view, if we engage in military operations as a last resort, the United States should have in mind the goal of changing the regime," Graham said. "Not by invading (Iran), but by launching a military strike by air and sea."

Now, I'm no Gen. George Patton, but last time I checked it's pretty much impossible to actually force a regime change by air power alone, and yet that's exactly what Graham is promising here: that we can take out Iran's nuclear capability and force regime change solely through air power with minimal loss of troops and none of this 9-year Afghan quagmire nonsense.

Is the man insane?  He has learned a grand total of nothing from Iraq, and Iran, unlike Iraq, actually has a decent military force as well as anti-air and anti-ship weapons that can definitely cause us serious problems.  Finally, all Iran has to do is close the Strait of Hormuz and bang, the world's oil tankers are stuck in the Middle East and unable to deliver oil without adding months to their trips, causing a massive worldwide oil disruption that would effectively triple oil overnight.

This is the kind of thing that even "moderate" Republicans want:  with our economy all but crumbling like thousand year old parchment in a hurricane, these guys want another multi-trillion dollar war...but can't be bothered to pay any additional money to help ordinary Americans.

Just another reminder that there is a difference between the Republicans and Democrats, and that putting the Republicans back in charge of Congress is going to be a brutally painful mistake.


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