Saturday, August 22, 2009


It ain't easy, apparently. But it's coming up again.

Conrad, who as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, would oversee attempts to use reconciliation, has criticized the idea. Senate procedures would require the measure be stripped of anything not related to the budget, and the timeframe for the legislation to become deficit-neutral would be five years, instead of the 10 years that lawmakers are currently using.

“You’ll be left with Swiss cheese for legislation,” Conrad said in an Aug. 3 interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose. “Those who say blithely, ‘we’ll just go for reconciliation,’ I don’t think they’ve done their homework.”

Democrats would also be forced to take complete ownership of the plan and might face retaliation from Republicans. Under Senate rules, Republicans could tie the chamber in knots by demanding procedures such as the reading of 1,000-page bills before they are brought to the floor, slowing Senate business.

Money In Politics

Ever wonder who the biggest donors are?
I just ran across this list today and two thoughts immediately come to me.
1. No wonder they hate unions so much
2. If unions are so economically powerful, how come we're in such a struggle over the public option

Ans: I'm just guessing, but I'm thinking the Republican money is spread around more sources. If I wanted to see if that's true, I'd have to add it up.
But I've pledged not to use my pocket calculator for at least a week to give it time to rest.

The Upside To Deep Recession

ThisJoel Stein does Vegas:
As I turn out of my hotel's full parking lot, veering onto the Strip, I come across something rarely seen in Vegas: frozen construction projects. I pass cranes abandoned at the site of the Echelon, a huge, multibillion-dollar project of four hotels that is now just three buildings of nine floors of concrete and steel beams sitting idly on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. I pass three more abandoned sites — 63 empty steel floors of the Fontainebleau, a sad unfinished shell that was supposed to be Caesars Palace's Octavius Tower and two cranes halted on a structure that was supposed to be a St. Regis condo building. I then drive up to where the New Frontier was razed to build a resort modeled on New York City's Plaza Hotel. It's just a dirt wasteland, so ugly that Wynn planted a row of trees so his hotel guests wouldn't stare at it from their windows. I never realized an economic defeat could look so much like a military one.
This makes sense.
Boemio specializes in short selling, in a particularly Vegas way. Basically, she finds clients who owe more on their house than the house is worth (and that's about 60% of homeowners in Las Vegas) and sells them a new house similar to the one they've been living in at half the price they paid for their old house. Then she tells them to stop paying the mortgage on their old place until the bank becomes so fed up that it's willing to let the owner sell the house at a huge loss rather than dragging everyone through foreclosure. Since that takes about nine months, many of the owners even rent out their old house in the interim, pocketing a profit. (See pictures of modernist houses available for rent.)

Unfinished City Center

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tort Reform

When they're trying to bore you to death rather than scare you to death on health care reform, they bring up tort reform as a cost-savings measure.
It helps to be reminded just how effective that would be.

Health Care Reform Fact Check

Obama for America morphed into Organizing for America after the inauguration and they put up their own  health care fact check page today in case you're interested.
I haven't toured it. I hope it's sourced.

Inside Baseball Talk

I love Josh Marshall and Talking Points Memo, the first thing I open each day when I hit the intertubes.
Today he has this little bit of nostalgia up about his early days in journalism.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Act IV Of Recess Games

Dems leak idea of splitting the health care baby in two. The moderates can have one and go home and say they did their job. The liberals can have the other through reconciliation and also go home and say they did their jobs.
This time, the idea is in the Wall Street Journal.
Kabuki or just another way of admitting they don't have the votes in the Senate for the public option with filibuster looming. Which we already knew.

Free Movie Preview Via Internet

David Bianculli noted today that a new Robin Williams movie is available for preview on HDtv movies at 8 p.m. EST tonight. I may sit outside in my specially protected blogging chair and watch it on my little laptop screen. I've never sat through a movie that way.

The FDR Approach: Make Me Do It

The campaign to squeeze Dems on the public option continues with this petition.

And there's much more here on Daily Kos (the orange Satan) from NYCeve.

Note to Self

Answering a question with a question is one way of not answering a question. I used to cover a sheriff who did that almost all the time.
"Now why would I do that," he'd say and hope I didn't notice he hadn't said anything.

The police chief would just say "I'm not going to answer that."

Another source would say, "I don't respond to rumors."

As in:
“I don't know why on Aug. 19, we’d decide on something that's going to happen in September or October that the possibility is only 51 votes,” Gibbs said.
 He was talking about a health care reform vote by reconciliation, and maybe he is saying "I'm not going to tell you until the time is right."

Barney ! Frank Refuses To Answer Dining Room Table

Everybody Knows

Medicare is worse off than Social Security financially, and the solutions to fix it without drastic measures are trickier.
But I'll be fine, thank you, because this 1944 baby plans on living long enough to reap a bonanza.
But one thoughtful conservative boldly discusses the rational — but not correct — alternative.

        Medicare is a popular entitlement, but it’s going to have to face changes one way or another down the road, and some people are going to lose their benefits in the process.  We should be talking about health care vouchers, free markets, and responsibility.  We should be talking about avoiding monopoly in favor of competition.  We should be talking about the moral impetus to cover the uninsured because there is a moral impetus at the heart of this debate, and there is no reason it should be the sole property of the left.

This faux-crusade to “protect” Medicare from the government is just absurd.  “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” was a funny line.  That Republicans have taken it up as a cause is simply farcical.
Trouble is, no one will listen anymore. The R's are screwed.

Who Runs Govt?: A Resource

The Washington Post publishes puts out a delicious publication compiling the names and faces behind the politics and policies. I love so many women and people of color in this adminstration.
They hired Greg Sargent away from TPM to blog the insider stuff and he's often the source of breaking bits.

Juicy Tidbit

The other Kerry brother.
Cameron advised his brother; the two would often speak in French when they didn’t want anyone else to hear what they were saying.Tumulty, Karen, "Inside The Inner Circles Meet the ever-expanding group of advisers who make up the Kerry brain trust," Time, Aug. 2, 2004(2)Tumulty, Karen, "Inside The Inner Circles Meet the ever-expanding group of advisers who make up the Kerry brain trust," Time, Aug. 2, 2004
Cameron is now general counsel for the Commerce Dept., advising Gary Locke.

Timing Is Everything Dept.: Health Care Reform

The Worm Turns: A Play In Many Acts.

First, you have the Senate Finance Committee headed by Max Baucus dragging its feet on the health care reform bill, hung up over the dreaded public insurance option (gasp! socialism! gasp!) and Republican members Chuck Grassley of Iowa and some guy named Enzi from somewhere supposedly important to bring on board to make the final bill look like it's bipartisan.

All the while N.D. Dem. Kent Conrad mumbles incoherently about something called regional co-ops, which he refuses to elaborate on, but which he insists are a solution to the problem.

Liberals/progressives fuss and fume.


The administration says things that  make it sound like it could drop its loyalty — never fully committed in public — to the public option.

Liberals/progressives fuss and fume.

The Republican National Committee says — stroke of genius here —  that co-ops are just another government takeover  and they'll never support such a "compromise."

Chuck Grassley says he won't vote for any kind of health care reform. No way, no how.

Who's Enzi again?

ACT III — Aug. 19, 2009

Wait for it, wait for it...Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, fires off an accusation in today's NYT ( Drudge has had the headline with the notation "NYT: developing" up since sometime yesterday) that Republicans aren't interested in any kind of health care reform, which a huge portion of the American public supports in theory at least, including most polled Republicans. He says (gasp!) they're only interested in playing political games to defeat anything the Democrats try. (Who's that guy Grassley again?)

Too early for Republican response.

Some nameless White House official says he can't understand why liberals are so tied to the public option.

(It's too early, but  liberals/progressives will fuss and fume.)

End of Act III

Tune in tomorrow, or maybe later today for another episode of our newly renamed, multiple-act,
always entertaining presentation of Recess Games. 
(The Worm Turns was just a working title.)

SUBTEXT BY Fightin Bill at TPM or Kabuki 101

Can it be any more obvious that this is a "don't shoot til you see the whites of their eyes" strategy?
They have compiled hours of incriminating video tape to run as needed in the 2010 elections, from all the Republican "luminaries", spewing obstructionist and traitorous rancor. They have ugly footage of angry, ignorant "ordinary citizens" spewing hate, racism and obvious falsehoods, and carrying assault rifles to boot. They have gone WAY out of the way to float every possible concession, knowing that the Republicans wouldn't budge and would take the bait. They now have a clear field to do Health Care reform with a Public Option and with all of the ingredients that will give it the best chance to succeed.
And this has been done, in part, to provide cover for Max Baucus, Ben Nelson and their ilk in the Senate so that they can help us reach 60 votes to deny the filibuster and then vote as needed on a final bill that contains a public option. If their votes are needed to reach the majority, Blue Dogs have the cover of having fought the good fight to slow this down, which will help them in their conservative states. (Read Kevin Sack's piece in the NY Times from a couple of days ago about Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas to better understand why this is such an important component of the strategy.)
Remember when Rahm Emmanuel scolded activists a few weeks ago about running ads against Ben Nelson and other Blue Dogs? It was because the strategy was long since in operation: any Obama operation excels at counting and does their homework. They had to figure out a way to solve the Democratic votes in both the House and the Senate, and create a mechanism for centrists and Blue Dogs to get on board. And boy, the Republicans have fallen for this, hook, line and sinker. Charles Grassley, for one, could be reading from scripts written by David Plouffe and David Axelrod--perfect campaignfodder for 2010.
Do you think Obama and his crew got to where they are by being emotional and reactive? No, they outsmart people by always taking the long view. I suspected this is what they've been up to, and for me it was confirmed earlier this week by the big grin on Howard Dean's face when he made the rounds of morning and evening shows to insist that everything's on track, and again last night by the serene Mona Lisa smile on the face of Linda Douglass as she calmly endured Ed Schultz's interrogating rant.
This is Obama's way of doing business. I think his record speaks for itself.
I so want to believe this.

UPDATE: Or maybe it's just getting everybody back to the message as one Dish reader notes:
What just happened in three short days?
With one statement about the "public option" from Obama, the entire health care reform discussion shifted totally away from the right wing crazies and Palin's "death panels"  In just three days with one statement about the "public option", liberal Democrats who stood on the sidelines and barely jumped in to the death panel discussions, have finely stirred off their duffs to get into the fray and argument.

The White House says officially it doesn't know what they're talking about cough cough.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Swine Flu: Who Should Worry

Pregnant women, young people, people like me with underlying chronic conditions. I plan to stay home during the season, which means continue doing what I have been.

Fountain Of Youth

Resveratrol, resverotrol!
Erm, no, maybe green tea?
A good NYT piece gives the latest on anti-aging research and concludes:
All that seems clear about life span is that it is not fixed. And if it is not fixed, there may indeed be ways to extend it.

News at 11.

The Wire, Translated

The Brits are using subtitles to decifer The Wire.
Me, I took it straight, but I like the cheat sheet The Independent offered.
As in:

*The hopper from Balmer carrying a burner

A child drug dealer from Baltimore is carrying a disposable mobile telephone used by drug dealers to stop the police monitoring their conversations.

*Crew up with corner boys for a re-up

An instruction to form a team of young men who can sell drugs on a street corner when a re-up, or a re-stock package from drugs wholesalers, arrives.

Maybe I should have named Shorty Hopper. Nah.

Are They Smart Or Just Lucky?

Health Care, Ch. 4,207
Somebody else — just another blogger, but he's really funny and really good — notices what I did yesterday. That the RNC's announcement that it opposes the co-op idea as a replacement for the public option may have been exactly what the players over at the White House need to bring Baucus, Conrad et al on board in the Senate.
Was this the White House plan all along? To smoke out the Republicans for what they really are, a bunch of asshole's who will never, never support any Democratic proposals no matter what because opposition is all they've got left.
NCSteve doesn't know and neither do I. But I'm glad he confirmed for me that I'm not crazy.
They're scary smart, but smart enought to foresee the Republican response with sufficient certainty to go ahead and provoke yet another liberal snitstorm to do it?  They have better info than we do.  They've got more political skills than any White House team in decades.  But I still don't know.
Now I've read the comment thread on Steve's post, and another possibility comes from Answer Frog:

But the problem remains, and the WH knows it:
How do we get the votes in the the Senate?
We probably only need 50, and for the other 10 to vote for cloture.
I think progressives should focus on this.
Maybe 5 people in the Senate are all that stand between us and passign a good HCR bill.

Sotomayor's First Vote — In Minority

We are so consumed with health care that this sort of thing just slips by, but not at TPM, which is where I got the link.

The newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, on Monday night cast her first vote in a death penalty case, joining three other members of the Supreme Court in dissent as the Court permitted the execution Tuesday of an Ohio inmate, Jason Getsy, 33.   He was scheduled to die in Lucasville, Ohio, at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The Supreme Court’s order is here.  Sotomayor would have granted a stay of execution, along with Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens.  Sotomayor’s predecessor, retired Justice David H. Souter, frequently voted to postpone executions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

California Dreamin'

When I graduated from high school in Omaha, NE, in 1962, it was a curious fact that a disproportionate number of my classmates intended to go to California and take advantage of its remarkable higher education system that was close to free.
But according to Taplin's source, Big Daddy got tired of paying the bills, then got paranoid about crime.
And then, and then, the debacle that is California's budget.
Quite a nice historical perspective.

And then there's Florida:
If every home in Boston received a foreclosure notice, the total would still be less than Florida’s.

Okay, Here's What I Want To Happen

since the administration may, indeed, be backing off the public option.

Given the fact that you can't get 60 Senate votes for the public option in the health reform plan even if Kennedy and Byrd show up, and given that dumping the thing into reconciliation this early on would cause all sorts of havoc, maybe, just maybe, this is what is known fondly in the 'sphere as an Obama head fake, alway two steps ahead of the opposition.
The openness to the co-op plan is a head fake, too. It can't be proven to meet the requirements Obama has set down for the plan.
The public option will be restored to a final bill and will pass the Senate as a reconciliation measure with everyone on our side pointing at the R's and saying, "You made us do this. You refused to consider anything at all in the end." And the American people, who still support the public option, and America itself will be better off. Not as well off as if we had Medicare for all, but better off.
In the end — you did not hear it here first — I think we may be heading toward a reconciliation solution, with maybe some Executive Orders or other legislation thrown in to somehow avoid the restrictions on reconciliation, which I can't remember but I heard some Republican senator lay it all out a few weeks ago.
'Do I need to say Kabuki again?

It Can't Get Any Better Than This, Can It?

Twitter Message O' Teh Day
Tom "The Hammer" DeLay will appear on Dancing With The Stars, Jake Tapper (ABC?) reports.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cut-And-Paste Health Care

A 1,000-page bill in 1,000 words. A Wapo reporter gives it to you.

Women Are Fighting These Wars

I've often briefly pondered what seems like an awful lot of women military dead as the names and pictures scroll down the screen on Jim Lehrer's evening news show on PBS.
It is an awful lot for the "other sex," the one that was supposed to stay out of combat and combat zones.
But I guess these wars have altered the way women are used in combat, likely forever. This NYT story is the first I've seen to focus on it and explain what's happening. I'm sure there have been others and I just didn't see them. Well, maybe not.
Of the two million Americans who have fought in these wars since 2001, more than 220,000 of them, or 11 percent, have been women.