Wednesday 30 September 2009

Petraeus overthrows Obama!

As I noted in April, the first rightwing attempt to overthrow the government was driven by an alliance of big business and army veterans. The Liberty League consisted of very rich men in the 1930s who loathed FDR. They included leaders from DuPont, GM, EF Hutton, General Foods, GM, Montgomery Ward, JP Morgan, the Hearst newspapers, Lehigh University, Princeton, Yale, U.S. Steel, Standard Oil (Exxon), Chase National Bank, Goodyear, Birdseye Foods, Colgate, and surprise, insurance executives. The group was so powerful that even New York Times gave them dozens of positive front-page stories. Prefiguring today’s rightwingers, they screeched that FDR’s policies betokened "a trend toward Fascist control," and “the end of democracy." Their aim was to use WWI veterans to overthrow FDR so the fatcats could put their own man in. Their first choice to lead the charge was Douglas MacArthur, but the veterans hated him because he had crushed the Bonus Army march a year or two earlier, so they turned instead to another general, Smedley Butler, who (luckily for us all) had the good sense to blow the whistle on these loons in Congress.

Compare that to what’s going on now. Rightwing leaders are trying to reach out to both the man-in-the-street wingnut and to bankers (trying to pull all the strands of the wingnut world together), screaming that the President is an enemy to humanity and will lead us to Fascism – he should be killed or overthrown, or the red states should secede etc etc. The Bonus Army has reappeared as teabaggers. They are involving big business just like last time, and recruiting ex-military like past time, and seeking media attention just like last time.

So what if they follow the 1930s model all the way, and try to get Petraeus to be their leader?

Like Butler, he would say “no”, because he has other options. Petraeus is reportedly interested in running for President, and Republicans are paving the way, setting up websites, pushing the Petraeus idea out into the political arena, trying to steer political debate toward foreign policy and military issues…Considering their other options for 2012, I’m not surprised they’re drooling over him.

Obama would have tactical options here. First, he would want to avoid putting himself in a spot where Petraeus can come after him later on an issue in which Petraeus has actual expertise, on Afghanistan or on don’t-ask-don’t tell – so Obama’s native caution would serve him well on military policy. Then Obama would remind people that, notwithstanding any fearmonger tactics by the wingnuts, our major issues right now are economic and domestic issues, which Petraeus knows nothing about, and not guns and bombs. Having Petraeus move to CENTCOM helps Obama: Petraeus can’t stray too far from Obama’s policy, at least openly; if he defies Obama publicly like MacArthur did to Truman he will go down in flames like Mac did. Also CENTCOM is a five-year job so Petraeus would have to quit part-way through like Palin, in order to run in 2012, which would look cheesy.

But keep an eye on Petraeus. Because the Red Team is keeping an eye on him.

Once before a general served under a president in wartime and then tried to take the White House from him in an election. In 1864, Lincoln represented the people who wanted wholeheartedly to win the Civil War, and George McClellan, erstwhile general-in-chief of the northern army, represented the people who really didn’t have their hearts in it. Originally Lincoln himself thought he was doomed for the 1864 race, but then the war news took a turn for the better and people realized that Lincoln knew what he was doing and McClellan didn’t. Lincoln won by 10 points.

Two differences between 1864 and a potential 2012 race: McClellan proved himself to be a weak military leader, a problem which Petraeus would not have. And in 1864 much of the South couldn’t vote.

In addition to Petraeus’ ignorance of non-military issues, there is the simple fact that government is a profession, and so is politics. Obama has proven himself as a master of both, crafting an incredible come-from-behind victory in 2008 – the primary/caucus strategy, the speeches, the debates, the unshakeable cool in tough times – and a superb tactician in working the legislative levers to get the bills he wants. Petraeus brings none of this to the table. The popular myth, going back two centuries, is that even an inexperienced, common man like Andrew Jackson, Abe Lincoln or Harry Truman can succeed as President, but today the job is too complex and it requires a competent professional.

Eight years of Bush proved that.

Have your cake and eat it too

There are plenty of reasons for health reform supporters to be optimistic. Hoyer is among those echoing Schumer’s sentiments – the Finance Committee was the most conservative and the most hostile to health reform, but the Senate floor and the House-Senate conference will be friendlier terrain. Recent polls show that Americans not only want better health care but are willing to increase taxes to get it, and that after two months of anti-reform obstruction in the Baucus committee, Americans complain that Congress isn’t listening to them. And here’s confidence for you: not long ago Obama said he wouldn’t go to Copenhagen because he was needed for the health care fight, but guess where he decided to go after all?

A special source of optimism is that the arguments of the anti-reform forces are getting weaker and sillier. Baucus is arguing that nobody has shown him how to get to 60, which is silly, while Lincoln is arguing that her constituents don’t want the public option, which is also hogwash. Those who argue for more compromise are dwindling away, since the Democrats kept tossing out their ideas and putting in Republicans to win them over, and still got not a single GOP vote. Americans, who enjoy reliable public water and public power and public highways and public sewers and public medical research and Medicare and Medicaid and the VA and everything else, are rejecting the argument that public health care is suddenly a dangerous idea. Democrats are preemptively shooting down the meme that somehow a 51-vote majority doesn’t count anymore -- in the last 20 years, when the Republicans have controlled Congress they have passed legislation with fewer than 60 votes almost twice as often, which also shows that Democrats are more likely to be bipartisan. Reform opponents wouldn’t use lame arguments if they had good ones – and this summer shows that they ran out of sensible arguments long ago. The GOP has been so nakedly obstructionist that even Bobby Jindal has admonished them to grow up and work constructively on the issue.

But the lesson in all that is that some of the shaky arguments have been made by Democrats: Baucus, Lincoln, Nelson. They may just be positioning themselves politically in case they do support reform in the end, but somebody is going to need to give them the “Are you a Democrat or not?” lecture. White House folks are already talking to these people constantly, but I think they need to start shifting to “yes, we’re going to try to accommodate your needs on the bill itself, but in return you better get your ass in line on cloture.” I’ve been calling this the “have your cake and eat it too” strategy – get Democrats to vote “yes” on cloture and then “no” on the bill if they choose. They could even try out the pitch on the ladies from Maine – Collins is a stickler for procedure, and she might be offended by the idiotic GOP claims that, contrary to the Constitution and 200 years of legislative tradition, 51 votes is no longer enough to pass a law.

Harkin is demanding that Democrats commit to cloture, and Crooks And Liars says there are 57 votes for cloture already (who are the last three? Nelson, Lieberman, who?).

And here’s the hole card (or one of them, anyway) – the Democratic Senators know that Obama can and will use reconciliation if he needs to. So the question is not…

“Are you willing to defy your president and your party, on a bill that the American people want, on a filibuster?”

…the question is…

“Are you willing to defy your president and your party, on a bill that the American people want, on a DOOMED filibuster that Obama is going to trump with reconciliation anyway?”

If the Blue Dogs don’t get the message from the White House, they might start listening to their constituents. Collins, Snowe, Lincoln, Pryor and Baucus are all seeing the polls from their home states – their constituents are much more liberal than they thought. The Maine folks want Snowe (and presumably Collins) to ignore their party if need be, and are cooling to the idea of reelecting her; the folks in Montana and Arkansas want real reform. And when the Finance Committee trashed the public option, liberal groups got hundreds of thousands of donations in a single day, a sneak preview of the kind of money liberals will use to destroy the Blue Dogs in 2010. Liberal fundraisers and advertisers are already targeting the Blue Dogs.

Other strategic factors are becoming more apparent:

Baucus’ absurd assertion that no one has shown him how to get to 60 votes may actually be true – the White House, which reportedly is leaving him out of the process of merging the two Senate bills, may have simply decided that trying to explain their strategy to Baucus was just not worth the bother.
The White House is still schmoozing Blue Dogs and the ladies from Maine – Emanuel is personally working on Collins the deficit hawk.
The House is working on passing a bill with a public option tied to Medicare, a quite liberal formula which will help to push the House-Senate conference report hard to the left.
Reid is cancelling the Columbus Day recess, which will deprive the GOP of a week to stir up town-hall trouble, and is publicly planning to start Senate floor debate on health care that week, which will distract Republicans by impelling them to fight that timeline more, and fight the actual terms of the bill less, just as they did in July.
The White House is preparing a wide range of legislative drafts, including budget numbers, so that whatever situation Obama finds himself in, in the ninth inning, he can slap the appropriate proposal on the table and say “how about that as a compromise?” Gibbs is denying that they are doing that sort of homework, but I think they are.
During all this, key players – Obama, Snowe, Ben Nelson – will keep their options open as long as possible, but eventually if Obama wants the public option he will need to step out and say it. A key thing to watch is whether the public option is in the first bill to be discussed on the Senate floor: if it is already in there in the beginning, they don’t need to get cloture to add it as an amendment. The fewer times they need to climb the 60-vote filibuster mountain, the better.

We are still hearing more from GOP obstructionists and Democratic surrender monkeys. Carper is offering a plan which would empower states to set up government plans or coops or purchasing pools – too small and weak unless the states can band together – while Cantwell proposes letting the states negotiate with the insurers, which has already proved unworkable. Cantwell may offer her option on the Senate floor; Snowe may offer her trigger option on the floor too. Grassley is already promising to fight the public option on the floor.

This health reform battle is going to teach both sides a lot about what will happen in the coming political battles: climate change, gays in the military, Afghanistan, the works.

Use the Patriot Act to shut down the Republican Party

In praise of the Secret Service --

A GOP Congressman is calling Obama an enemy of humanity.
A wingnut spokesman is telling folks to get more guns and take back America so as to prevent Nazism.
Another wingnut runs an internet poll on whether Obama should be murdered.
A rightwing website runs a piece calling on the military to overthrow Obama.

That’s, what, in a week?

Remember that this is a country that had three presidents murdered within 36 years. And none of the three, not even Lincoln, was subjected to the hate and vitriol aimed at Obama.

Time for a pay bump for the Secret Service. Better yet, pay them in accordance with how many threats the President gets – Obama is getting five times as many as Bush did. Because if Obama does down, at least one of them probably goes down too.

I’m thinking we should use the Patriot Act to destroy the Republican Party.

The purpose of the Patriot Act is to find and destroy groups which have a proven track record of working to terrorize Americans and destroy America.

Under that standard, the one group which should be shut and down and destroyed, its leaders put in cages, its followers put on watch lists like ex-cons and sex offenders, is....the Republican party.

Just in the last few years, they killed thousands of innocent people in the Middle East,
Allowed other terrorists to destroy the World Trade Center without holding them accountable,
Turned a blind eye as Iran and Korea built the nuclear weapons which could destroy our cities,
Threatened to endanger U.S. troops for political purposes,

And tortured innocent people and lied about it,
Set up secret sites to hold innocent people hostage and lied about it,
Spied on innocent people and lied about it,
Inflicted so much damage on our military that PTSD and suicide are skyrocketing,

And made America hated around the world,
Endangered a CIA employee by exposing her identity,
Conspired to destroy the lives of innocent public officials,
Undermined the authority of our Congress and the courts,

And destroyed evidence of their crimes illegally,
Put thousands at risk of disease and death after Katrina,
Made it easier for aliens to enter the country across the Mexican border and through our ports,
Risked innocent lives by impeding our government’s efforts to keep our kids safe from poison and pollution and unsafe products,

And allowed babies to be poisoned with bad baby formula,
Caused the U.S. financial system to collapse,
Sent thugs to disrupt the counting of votes in a presidential election,
And deliberately tried to create a climate of terror in the US regarding its new president.

And openly condoned and encouraged party members to commit or threaten assassination and other violent attacks against the President and members of Congress,
Sent armed goons to Presidential events;
Caused riots at events for members of Congress, so the Congressmen couldn’t do their jobs,
And denied the authority of the President on the grounds that he was illegally elected, encouraging the troops to disobey lawful orders,

And insisted the President’s policies are killing our troops;
Insisted that perfectly legal legislative tactics are unconstitutional;
Prevented Congress from functioning with endless obstructive tactics;
And accepted millions in bribes to block needed national reform.

Political activity and dissent, in itself, are protected by the Constitution. But what the GOP has done goes way beyond that.

Their actions have shown the Republicans to be traitors to the Constitution and destructive to the nation. The U.S. Code states that "whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States." By that standard, the GOP’s eight-year effort to destroy the nation and give aid and comfort to our enemies, warrants treason charges for the whole party. Let’s open the prison doors, free all the people who were thrown in jail under the rubric of the other great Republican success, the War On Drugs, and give the empty cells to all the loons who are screaming for an armed revolt against the legally-elected president.

Some of their leaders, Perry, Huckabee and Palin, have strong ties to advocates of violent secession – the actual dismemberment of the republic. Others advocate nullification – deliberate obstruction of the execution of federal law. So let’s keep Guantanamo open, and put the GOP leaders in there. Or put them in the same cell where we held Jeff Davis after the Civil War.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Obama writing his own health bill, just in case

Word has it that Obama has been drafting his own health care bill secretly, just in case the Senate bill turns into a Frankenstein monster. So he has yet another way to get in the win column. My guess is that his plan looks something like this:

The bill will establish a national coop which will be governed by members paid from coop’s own funds, and administered by private firms; getting its policy and financial safety net from HHS.

It will mandate irrevocable coverage, both public and private, with accountability to consumers and a “basic services” platform including prescriptions; it will prevent price spikes, adverse selection, lifetime caps, huge deductibles, and denial and termination of coverage.

The bill will control rising costs and encourage competition; buy-in will be significantly less than the 13 percent of annual income which Snowe prescribed.

The bill will supercede all preferential deals which insurers have with local governments and reaffirm the supremacy of Article 1 of the Constitution over Amendment 10.

We may never see this bill, but if we do, we can check to see how close my guess is. My proposed bill is not technically public option but it has just about all the features that people want from the public option.

What to watch for in the health reform battle

Yes, this post is long, but it is all important.

Here is what to watch for next.

First, watch for Senate Blue Dogs and liberals talking behind closed doors.

Democrats are arguing that today’s result wasn’t that bad – we got more votes than expected on the public option, the public option is on the march, it hasn’t lost any ground, the floor bill will still have the public option, and we have 60 votes for cloture and 51 votes, easily, for the public option, etc. The facts bear them out: the Finance Committee was a hostile environment for the public option, and the Senate floor and the House-Senate conference won’t be as hard. The timeline is still on track for the passage of a bill by Thanksgiving. Even Grassley admits the public option could pass on the Senate floor. The latest polls show that Americans still want affordable care they can count on, and the latest Kaiser poll shows that the public demand for health reform is spiking: 57 percent say reform is more important than ever.

And the big one: some Democratic Senators who haven’t yet endorsed the public option are approaching the guys who do support it, seeking points of agreement – these guys are looking for ways to vote “yes” in the end. So we will get to 51 on the public option.

A look at some individual Senators:

Bill Nelson is under pressure from paranoid seniors, but he voted for one of the two amendments today, so he is gettable.
Conrad voted “no” today, but he admitted that the Schumer formula comes close to a plan that can win 60 votes (he likes the fact that it’s not tied to Medicare rates) and much closer to something he himself likes, suggesting he won’t block cloture and could even vote for the bill itself.
Baucus claims he likes the public option, but voted against it because it can’t possibly pass, which is absurd; if we do get to the finish line successfully, and then he still votes against cloture and/or against the bill, his excuse will be exposed as crap. He can’t stand any more public embarrassment of that kind – his own constituents are furious with his footdragging.
Stabenow will work to push the floor bill to the left.
Menendez publicly slapped down Grassley’s lies on the public option – he’s on board.
Carper originally said he only wants public option with a trigger, and rejected the Rockefeller amendment, but then voted for the Schumer amendment with no trigger.
Snowe will be the belle of the ball as long as she’s on the fence, so she will stay mum; she wants affordable coverage.

Having Nelson and Carper publicly voting for the public option bumps up the nose count.

Next, watch to see which bill is used as the basis for forming the final Senate bill. The White House, Harkin, Dodd and Reid will cobble together the combined Baucus-HELP bill. Technically Reid is in charge of this, but he’s already hinting that he will hand the reins over to the White House, which is good. The White House prefers the public option in the floor bill, Harkin wants it, and they will get help also from Schumer, who is a member of the Finance Committee but also Number Three in the Senate leadership.

So a key issue is whether they will use the Baucus bill as their “chassis” to add or subtract amendments, or the HELP bill. If they use the HELP bill as a base, the GOP must introduce amendments to kill the public option; but if they use the Baucus bill, the Democrats must add amendments in order to add the public option, which would force some Democrats to weigh in on the provision before they are ready to show their hands. So a lot of Senators want to stick to HELP, I think.

Next, watch for any statements by any Senator, especially Nelson, on cloture. Something that Baucus is possibly confused about: the Democrats need 60 votes for cloture, but only 51 for the public option. Soon we will see more pressure from the Democratic leadership on Democratic Senators regarding the cloture issue: in effect, Obama will dare anybody to vote against cloture. The media will keep pinging guys like Nelson to declare on the cloture issue. Voting against cloture means defying the President and the party, and damaging the party; Obama’s gamble is that all those Blue Dogs will be satisfied voting for cloture and then against the bill, and that they won’t risk their careers just to block a popular measure – the public option. The trick is that Obama needs unanimity and the Senators know it. Note that no Democrat, so far, has had the balls to publicly oppose cloture. Which brings us to Nelson.

Ben Nelson says reform should have 65 votes, which is nonsense, and he opposes reconciliation, which is also nonsense because he supported reconciliation twice on Bush tax cuts (this is not a problem – we probably don’t need him on reconciliation). But the big deal is that he won’t commit to cloture. His recent statements could just be for local consumption, or he could really be an opponent of measures such as cloture on the public option, but doesn’t want to bring the whole party down on his head by coming out publicly against it. Ironically if he blocks cloture, he practically ensures the reconciliation option he (now) hates. Count on Emanuel to read him the riot act sometime real soon – how about a primary challenge by Bob Kerrey? Is he still around? Hold a gun to his head and force him to publicly filibuster his own president and explain why he’s doing it – to his constituents who want him to STFU and give them the public option.

Watch for more talk from Senate Democrats on the “have your cake and eat it too” option: Senate Blue Dogs can vote “yes” on cloture and then “no” on the bill itself, thus giving them political cover back home. Also, watch for Senate Democrats to do what their House colleagues did: put pressure on the Blue Dogs by insisting they will not vote for a bill without the public option.

Watch for these three provisions, in the floor bill:

First, a lot of Democrats hate the provision requiring people to buy insurance, but it actually helps them, because there are some Senators who don’t want to approve the requirement without also passing the public option, so that we are not held hostage by the private insurers.

Second, the public option will be easier pass if it has negotiated rates (Schumer’s “level playing field” option) instead of rates tied to Medicare (the Rockefeller way); that’s a weaker bill, but a more passable bill.

Third, one dangerous provision which needs to be removed: a Baucus-bill rule conferring decision-making authority to a group of state insurance commissioners who won’t defy the private insurers.

Watch for statements by key House Democrats on the House-Senate conference. In the conference, no bill could pass without the public option, barring a miracle, which should keep some Senate Blue Dogs from going too crazy.

Watch for Republicans to screech that using reconciliation is unprecedented, so we can spank them without mercy. The GOP used the same tool on social-policy bills such as welfare reform, student loans, children’s insurance, and digital TV conversion. Republicans are terrified at the prospect of the other team aiming this incredibly dangerous weapon right back at them – it only allows for 20 hours of debate, and it can’t be filibustered or clogged up with irrelevant amendments, so all the usual Republican implements of obstruction are out of bounds – but, what can I say? Turnabout is fair play.

Weirdly, Ben Nelson – famous opponent of reconciliation – said recently that health care should be done in two parts, the cost-cutting bit first and the extension of coverge later. That actually sounds a lot like what would happen if they chose the reconciliation option – one bill with the budget-y stuff and another with the non-budget stuff. Is he crazy like a fox, or just plain crazy?

Watch for anything the Senate parliamentarian, Frumin, says or does. This will probably be a futile exercise: he will almost surely keep his cards close to his vest, and even if he gives health reform sponsors his early opinions on key provisions, he can still change his mind out on the floor if the nature of the relevant provision changes.

Watch for any Senator speaking out on the notion of overruling the parliamentarian, because like filibusters, rulings by the parliamentarian also require 60 votes to override. Actually, for anybody to antogonize the parlimentarian by speaking out on this issue would be incredibly rash. But as we learned in the last several days, there are some pretty stupid Senators.

In the end, keep in mind – if Obama decides he wants to public option, there is nothing anyone can do – Republican or Blue Dog Democrat – to stop it from passing via reconciliation. We know he prefers the public option (as does most of America), and he knows that his presidency will not survive the passage of a BAD bill. And remember also – the Republicans must block the public option at every step along the way: the Democrats only need to get lucky once, either in the first Senate bill, or the conference bill, or via reconciliation.

Monday 28 September 2009

Obama may be jumping into the fight earlier than expected

There are a number of places to pass the public option: in the Finance Committee, in the merged Finance-HELP bill, on the Senate floor, and/or in a House-Senate conference. Few people expect the Finance Committee to pass it: Baucus, Bill Nelson, Conrad, Lincoln and Carper are shaky, and even Schumer’s second proposed amendment, the least liberal of the three public option proposals, would have a tough climb. Firedoglake noted that the Chamber of Commerce is attacking the Schumer amendment but not attacking the more liberal Rockefeller amendment, possibly a sign that the fatcats are afraid that the Schumer proposal could actually pass. Even if the public option doesn’t pass in Finance, a close loss would provide some momentum for it.

Some staffers say that the merged Finance-HELP bill won’t have the public option either, due to Reid’s wobbliness; others said the White House would not weigh in on the process at that point, preferring to wait until the House-Senate conference. However, other sources say that Harkin will defer to Reid on the merged bill, while Reid reportedly will defer, in turn, to Obama – for the merged Senate bill, not for the conference later on. One source says that the merged bill will be hashed about by a White House official, Reid, Harkin and Dodd – not Baucus, interestingly. If a milquetoast like Reid goes into a room with Harkin, Dodd and, say, Emanuel, they’re coming out of the room with the public option in the language. We might have clues on the merged bill by the end of the week.

Another factor which will make it easier for the real Democratic leaders to toss out the Baucus bill in favor of the public option: the whole point of Baucus making all those concessions was to win Republican support, but now Republican governors are assembling a huge campaign to fight the Baucus bill. So what was the point again?

So after the merged bill is the Senate floor – another place to fight for the public option – and then the House-Senate conference. Some suggest that the conference was always the one and only path to passing the public option, but perhaps Obama could make it happen earlier, in the merged bill or on the floor. Adding some more pressure toward the left, 25 House Blue Dogs have said they will support the public option, making the conference a tougher environment for foes of the public option.

Whether the big fight is in the first Senate bill or the conference, the key, obviously, is that Obama doesn’t want to use the messy reconciliation tool unless he absolutely must, so he needs to get all the Democrats to commit to cloture even if they vote against the final bill (the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too option), which means listening with saintlike patience to all their concerns – or he might pick off a few Republicans but it seems unlikely. Even if Obama is unsure of getting cloture, he might risk a filibuster rather than approve a crappy bill with no public option: even if he misses cloture by a few votes, the Republicans will get the blame for blocking something that everyone wants. Perhaps a filibuster and THEN reconciliation.

Behind the scenes the White House staff, the cabinet secretaries, Obama and Biden are lobbying Senators furiously, not so much lobbying them as carpetbombing them with attention. Susan Collins is a key target. Again and again they are asking the centrists: what could you vote for? They are acting as “vote whip” because Reid doesn’t have the balls or the brains.

There are those who suggest that by leaving his position ambiguous for so long, Obama showed America that he is being flexible and making concessions, and the Republicans are not, thus ensuring that the Republicans get the blame for any defeat. But leaving it up in the air so long has its risks. Perhaps Obama sees that, which would explain his jumping into the process during the Finance-HELP merge rather than in conference.

More wingnuts call for assassination and armed revolution

A poll just popped up on Facebook: "should Obama be killed?" The Secret Service is investigating. Meanwhile a speaker at the “Take Back America” conference lectured on “"How to recognize living under Nazis and Communists," and urged the troops – “So, keep your guns, and buy more guns, and buy ammunition....Take back America. Don't let them take the country into socialism….Don’t you dare give up your guns! Never, never, never!" The speaker has given her speech to teabaggers and is expected to give it to bankers too; Michelle Bachmann supports her. She claims Obama is like Hitler because he likes universal health care and equal rights for women. Another attendee hollered "Give them back one bullet at a time!" Another speaker compared an FCC official to Joseph Goebbels.

So…the media will yawn over these people and move on, just like the thugs who lynched the census worker, or the guy who shot the abortion doctor, or the armed maniacs who showed up at the Obama events…but elderly professor Bill Ayers was a huge story for months because he’s the real terrorist, right?

Saturday 26 September 2009

The South secedes again!

Lots of talk about secession these days. Look at all the trigger factors: a black president for southerners to hate, economic chaos driving the need for unprecedented, scary government intervention into our economy and our society, and a whole lot of ignorance about how the Constitution works, particularly the Tenth Amendment. A bunch of yee-haw southern politicians are hollering about seceding: seceding because of Obama’s big gummint, seceding because of the stimulus package (but please please please give us the money first! Yee haw!), seceding because they lost two butt-whupping elections and they can’t accept defeat like grownups, particularly after being told by their leaders that they were a permanent majority.

So what if they did secede?

Let’s say there is another wave of secessions like 1860-1861. Look at the places where anti-Obama sentiment is hottest, and simply let them go. Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, plus east Texas and Oklahoma, and the Florida panhandle.

And what would happen?

The new country would quickly succumb to the consequences of its own fatal pandemic, ignorance.

First of all, southern politicians have been telling ignorant yokels for a century that the (northern) federal gummint is a threat to their liberties, but it’s the (northern) federal gummint that has kept the South alive, with the military bases, the military contracts, the pork, the earmarks, a great deal of the federal welfare programs they claim they hate. Without federal dollars coming from the northern states, the South would starve; without federal intervention, the southern economy and society would collapse from the lack of good roads to bring in food and consumer products, school lunches, college loans, safe food and water, and a hundred other things.

Even setting aside the issue of pork and welfare from Washington, ignorance would collapse the southern economy anyway. The economic base down there is weak: wobbly manufacturing base, workers hating labor unions even though they need them badly, the endless cycle of poverty, low incomes, unemployment. Add to that their ugly health problems: low life expectancy, cancer, drug abuse, alcoholism, and an idiotic aversion to properly-run health care. Then the social problems: bitter people clinging to their guns and Bibles just as Obama foretold, and gun violence, crime, unstable families, domestic violence, serious social problems for children, teen pregnancy, a long history of belittling education. Almost all of which is driven by the ignorance of the population.

Next, ignorance would ruin southern politics. Down South, the political world would of course be dominated by far-right wingnuts, because the wingnuts have worked with might and main to portray even moderate conservatives like Lindsay Graham and John McCain as apostate traitors, and their beef with Bush was that he didn’t do ENOUGH to pursue conservative principles. At best, the political spectrum down south would split into the polished wingnuts in suits and the toothless wingnuts in overalls. Politicians would entertain their ignorant, gullible, paranoid audience with conspiracy theories and hate campaigns against the moderate “traitors”. The intrusion of religion – the last refuge of ignorance -- into political life would accelerate.

Furthermore, ignorance means the yokels haven’t thought through the consequences of seceding. As Jeff Davis discovered when West Virginia split off from Virginia and rejoined the Union, secession begets more secession. Once they establish the precedent that any state, region, county or town can simply quit a democratically constituted country whenever they don’t get their way in that same democratic process (call it the Sore Loser Clause), Texas will secede after a political dispute over oil, Kentucky will secede over a crackdown on drug trafficking, West Virginia will secede over a dispute on pollution, South Carolina will secede for just about any reason because they’re ornery. And soon the South will look like Yugoslavia, a dozen armed, angry, pissed-off countries all wedged together in a small area – and look how well Yugoslavia turned out.

Ignorance will drive southern foreign policy toward isolation and fear.

A key facet of southern foreign policy, of course, would be the South’s relationship to the now-shrunken USA. In the “divorce” settlement, the USA gets to keep America’s reputation and ethos – all that stuff about peace and democracy and helping people around the world, that belongs to us, not the South, because that is not what they stand for. World respect for the USA would go up; the South would be seen as a backward, armed, dangerous ignorant third-world country. Or countries. Any Southern leader who ever hoped to make a mark on the world stage would have only one option -- move north.

The South would insult the north and we would ignore them. The South would beg the north for help and we would ignore them. The South would try to export pot and meth to the north and we would seal the border.

The USA – the north – would thrive in the divorce. We would no longer be hampered by the expensive effort to prop up the South with federal welfare, southern politicians wouldn’t be polluting and impeding our political process, and we could make progress on climate change, health care, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, gays in the military, cleaning up Bush’s mess, and regulating Wall Street, without having to bash down the stone wall of McConnell, Bunning, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Cornyn, Jim Demint, Lindsay Graham, Inhofe, Dick Shelby, and David Vitter.

Perhaps in the north the Democrats would split into Liberals and Blue Dogs; with the political world splitting up something Liberal 50 percent, Blue Dog 30 percent, Republican 10 percent, America would take its long-overdue jump back to the center.

A huge demographic change would inevitably follow.

Millions of women would move from South to the USA up north, because the South will ban abortion; the women will bring their families too.

Blacks will move north, because they saw that census taker get lynched and they know who’s next on the list.

Hispanics will move north because they don’t want to be treated like an invading army or a species of pest.

Gays will move north because the north will repeal DOMA and allow gay marriage.

Liberals and moderates will move north so their voices can be heard.

Anybody who wants their kids to have a quality education and decent health care – move north.

Anybody who wants their rights protected by labor unions – move north.

And who would be ignorant enough to stay in the south?...Oh, why go there…?

America's "no religion" community is growing explosively

In 1992, upon learning that Bil Clinton would be the Democratic presidential nominee, the Republicans decided they would go after him with the "family values" strategy, and they've been trying to sell that strategy ever since.

In 1992 the number of Americans who say they have no religion was about 8 percent.

Now, after 20 years of rightwing efforts to ram their views down our throats on abortion, school vouchers, school prayer, intelligent design, putting the Commandments in courtrooms, stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning, civil unions, HPV shots, contraception, sex education, faith-based initiatives, banning books, assisted suicide...the "no religion" sector has doubled to 15 percent. The fastest growing religion religion.

Another Republican success.

Support for GOP outside the South: 10.3 percent

After an entire summer of attacks against Democrats and health reform, their support outside Planet Wingnut is 10 percent.

Support among the independents they've been trying to win over: 9 percent.

Support among the Latinos they need, particularly out west: 7 percent.

Support among the seniors they've been trying to frighten: 18 percent.

All that effort all year -- after throwing every weapon, every bullet, every attack at the Democrats, the exhaustive effort to launch all those tea parties, the town hall attacks, the millions of dollars worth of attack ads, the bitter, vicious fighting on Capitol Hill, the incessant visits by rightwing Senators on the Sunday chat shows, the unprecedented campaign of veiled racism (ACORN! ACORN! ACORN!), the endless internet smear campaigns, the thousands of hours spent by Rush and Sean and Beck and Malkin and Bachmann to smear Democrats on the airwaves...after all that, they're at 10 percent.

And Obama's at 54.
Outside the South, where they will always hate him anyway, Obama's at 66.

Obama told troops not to fight the Finance Committee

More details are emerging with respect to Obama’s health reform strategy.

We have learned that the White House pushed liberals to mute their objections to the Baucus bill in the Finance Committee (which Schumer correctly called the least friendly battlefield for Democrats), and save their ammunition until a bill gets to the Senate floor, and then the conference with the House. We have also learned that Obama himself will jump into the health reform fight with both feet when the conference process begins.

Somebody over at the White House has clearly been reading the history of Fabius Cunctator, the Roman general who came up with the plan to beat the great general of Carthage, Hannibal. The Romans allowed Hannibal to wear himself out in attack after attack, until finally, after some internal squabbling in Rome regarding the strategy, they defeated him. Sun Tzu had advocated such strategies long before. George Washington used the same playbook against the Brits, and then those Vietnamese fellers used it against us. And a big part of the strategy was to do exactly what Obama is doing: wait until the enemy can be tempted into doing something stupid, or tempted to wear themselves out in pointless attacks, or herded onto the right battlefield. Or, ideally, all three.

Obama spent the spring and summer quietly learning the Senate rules, setting up the reconciliation instruction in the budget bill, talking privately to Senators to get the 50 votes he needs, and covering his back by talking to the AMA and the drugmakers. Meanwhile he was playing rope-a-dope, letting the Republicans punch themselves out in the townhalls and the Finance Committee, showing the whole nation that they are lying wingnut teabaggers who want nothing but obstruction, despite all the Democratic concessions, all the wooing of Snowe, all the trial balloons regarding coops and triggers.

A lot of us wanted Obama to take the more straightforward route, crush the Republicans like Sherman going through Georgia this year and ram the Democratic platform down McConnell’s throat. He could have done that and I kind of wish he had – we do need to re-establish the tradition of Democrats who are willing to fight for their beliefs and punch the bullies until they bleed. But there are some advantages to the more Fabian approach which Obama has taken. A long, hard-fought, tactically brilliant victory will resonate with the people and history in a way that a quick smash-and-grab attack against the GOP would not have. And more importantly, letting the Republicans really show the country what a bunch of worthless scumbags they are is absolutely going to pay dividends for future campaigns.

So now the Democrats are situated perfectly. The American people still want the Democrats to pass the public option. And the Republicans, having worn themselves out pounding away at poor little Max Baucus, demanding concession after concession, suddenly will have to face the army of Boxer, Feinstein, Dodd, Harkin, Durbin, Mikulski, Levin, Webb, Leahy and Sanders…and then Pelosi and the House liberals in the conference.

And then Obama himself. The most effective American political leader in decades. As we have learned, once the House and Senate begin the conference process, Obama and Rahm Emanuel will overtly step into the fray, with all the talent and firepower they used to win the White House in the first place.

As Fabius would have said, the enemy has done stupid things, worn themselves out with their endless Pickett-like charges, and stumbled onto the perfect battlefield where they can be destroyed.

Should be an interesting two months.

Friday 25 September 2009

Health care: Obama likely to focus on conference report

The key players in the health reform debate are already moving beyond the incredibly slow Baucus committee. Both Baucus and his Republican buddies have come off looking pretty terrible, and public support for the public option is actually increasing. Now everybody is preparing for the next act. It is generally believed that the Baucus bill (if any) will be heavily edited by the 77 Senators who were NOT on the Finance Committee. Schumer is confident that the bill will become more liberal on the Senate floor and again in the bicameral conference committee, and he’s right on both counts.

And the White House is watching too. It sounds as though the White House will wait until the bill goes through Finance, out to the Senate floor, and is voted on, and then jump in when the conference process begins. If Obama goes that route, then there are still multiple options.

Option 1. If the first Senate bill has the public option (which they could get if they succeed with the “commit to cloture” gambit), they could ask the House to vote on that bill as is, with no changes, so they needn’t hold a conference and then go back to the Senate for a second vote.

If the first Senate bill does not have the public option, Obama can do one of several things:

Option 2. Accept the final Senate bill as is, presumably a slightly less terrible version of the Baucus bill. Unlikely.
Option 3. Alter the Senate bill in the bicameral conference, to include a strong national coop with guaranteed federal funding, or a trigger that is a real hair-trigger, destined to take us straight to the public option with little delay. (In other words, Public Option Lite, or Public Option in a year or two)
Option 4. Add the public option in the conference, and get all the Democrats to “commit to cloture” even if they don’t like the bill. Thus Obama needs only 50 votes to win.
Option 5. Add the public option in the conference, and go for reconciliation. Again Obama only needs 50 votes, but he must make the bill confirm to reconciliation rules, which would be rather complicated.

So for all supporters of real reform, Options 1, 4 and 5 get us a pure public option, and Option 3 gets us close enough. Only Option 2 is a stinker.

I think Obama is gunning for Option 4, with Option 5 as his emergency backup.

Pelosi is helping to set up Option 4 by pushing the House bill hard to the left, to give herself – and Obama – more leverage when the conference process begins.

And that’s what people forget: Obama has four routes to getting a good bill, and the Republicans must block all four of them, to win.

Dead census taker was found naked, gagged and bound

Republicans still say it was a suicide, not a wingnut lynching.

CSI Dogpatch: Who Killed Bill Sparkman?

The scene: eastern Kentucky.

The time: today.

The corpse: Bill Sparkman, a census taker hanged near a Kentucky cemetery, the word “FED” painted on him.

Cue theme music: Squeezebox by the Who (all CSI shows must begin with a Who song, and that’s the only one with a banjo in it. Sorry).

So, who lynched Sparkman?

Let’s do a profile of the killer, beginning in his operating area, Kentucky.

America has known for decades that the people of Appalachia live in appalling conditions: sky-high poverty rates, short life spans, cancer, depression and other serious mental illnesses, and alcoholism all feed off of each other. In this region, one in ten is completely toothless – yep, not a single tooth. A doctor who moved there said that the Appalachians were poorer than the people back where he had come from -- India. Kids in the area are hit particularly hard – heavy alcohol abuse, smoking, mental illness; a toddler with a dozen cavities is not unusual.

Appalachia has higher drug abuse rate than cities like New York and Miami. Oxycontin is a major driver (no wonder they love Oxycontin-poster-boy Rush Limbaugh out there), and job-related injuries in coal country drive up the demand for prescription painkillers. Eastern Kentucky has had a rash of hundreds of drug abuse deaths. The drug epidemic is draining the economy, destabilizing families, hurting education, hurting the economy. And again, kids are leading the way – abuse rates are higher among kids than adults; one doctor who tried to educate the adults about the problems among their kids showed them Oxycontin and found that a lot of the adults were so clueless that they didn’t even recognize it, but the kids knew all about it.

Across the decades, Appalachia has slid a long way down the slippery slope: all of this misery and isolation from the rest of the world paved the way for decades of moonshiners, pot growers and meth lab operators, ultimately evolving into underground economies, corrupted blind-eye local governments, and fear that contact with the federal government can lead not only to trouble with the feds but retribution from the locals. Appalachians despise outsiders connected with authority and the government, and not just the snooping revenooers, either: farm country folks see little point to teachers or book learning, and there is a stigma against seeking help for psychological problems. The federal government is not, of course, giving up: among other things they set up a special task force to fight the epidemic of drug activity and related crime out there.

These people are, of course, the people who need affordable health care the most. And they are the ones who re fighting it the hardest.

So our profile of the killer: young, unemployed adult white male, uneducated and short on teeth, drinks and abuses Oxy, works either farming pot or cooking up meth. Almost certainly a gun owner.

And Republican, obviously. Probably a dittohead, possibly a teabagger. This will be a person who listens to Rush, watches Fox, and clings to an almost religious belief that the 2010 census is part of The Big Plot. He gets a thrill up his leg to hear people like Michelle Bachman screeching that the census will be run by ACORN (read: scary Negroes) and will be the first step to invasions by foreign troops, concentration camps, drone-plane attacks against conservatives, and indoctrinating children, Neal Boortz screaming that the census will be used to take away your house and give it to the “moochers”, Michelle Malkin bellowing that the census is part of a plan to let all aliens vote so that the Democrats have an unfair electoral advantage, and so forth.

So a white male loser dittohead with no teeth. We’ve neatly narrowed down our search to…the whole state of Kentucky. And western West Virginia.


Time to call the feds. Because that will definitely settle the situation.

Even Republicans say the GOP hasn't explained their health care policy


Honest Blue Dogs should vote for cloture

New data confirms that the public option is popular in Blue Dog states and districts. In fact a new poll warns that the Democrats will lose a bunch of swing districts if the final bill does NOT have a public option. Voters oppose a mandate to buy insurance alone, but support (60-37) the mandate with the choice of a public option. The latest CBS/Times poll shows that even a plurality of Republicans supports the public option. The CBO says a strong public option would save $85 billion more than a weak one; it was the concession to the Blue Dogs on Medicare, in one of the House committees, that wiped away that $85 billion in savings. Ezra Klein notes, "In other words, the conservatives want to spend $85 billion more than the liberals do." Passing the public option would not only cut government expenditures – everybody, in fact, would save on insurance, because the increased competition would bring all prices down.

A key sticking point, as always, is in the Senate Finance Committee, which, regrettably has jurisdiction over big social programs, following a tradition going back to FDR’s time. The committee was supposed to vote on the public option today, but they all fled at lunch for the three-day Yom Kippur weekend. And some of the other Democratic Senators got a little wobbly: Reid expressed interest in Snowe’s trigger option, and Carper said we should ignore the 20 percent of the health reform plan which the GOP doesn’t like (which gives the GOP total veto power). Debbie Stabenow, however, got on the scoreboard for the Democrats: John Kyl is pushing to limit maternity care, which is an appalling idea since few states require maternity coverage and fewer individual insurance markets offer it (an insurance stooge actually argued that “having a child is a matter of choice); when Kyl started bellowing that he doesn’t need maternity coverage, Stabenow poked him right in the eye -- "I think your mom probably did."

Obama allowed the Baucus circus to drag on this long in order to set up reconciliation: now the public knows the GOP wasn’t negotiating in good faith. One scenario would point toward the House passing the public option but not the Senate. The two houses would then get together on a compromise report which would add it back in, and send it back to the Senate. Then the big issue would be nailing down cloture. It really should be enough for the Blue Dogs to vote against the public option in committee, and then vote for a non-public-option bill, then vote for cloture, and then vote against the public-option itself – voting against the public option three out of four times should be all the political cover they need, particularly since, as we noted at the top of this piece, the Blue Dogs’ constituents want the public option. That’s if the Blue Dogs are really working for their constituents, rather than their insurance industry paymasters.

Cloture just got a little easier -- the GOP challenge to the seating of Kennedy’s replacement was swiftly rejected by a state judge.

Secret Service backs Pelosi on political violence

When Pelosi warned of possible political violence, Republicans immediately ridiculed her and blamed Pelosi herself for the increased temperature of the political rhetoric – Pelosi said it so we must slam her for it etc etc. But the CIA, FBI and Secret Service agree with her. A former Service guy admitted “I’m not a real big fan of Nancy Pelosi’s, but she is correct.”

Thursday 24 September 2009

U.S. support for public option actually increased in September

Despite all the lies, the smears, the attacks....The latest Times/CBS poll says that 65 percent still support the public option – in fact, support for it jumped 5 points from late August. The teabagger jihad has peaked, and the non-crazy 80 percent of America realizes that the GOP has been lying to them again. (Obama’s approvals are solid at 56 too)

House Democratic leaders will draft the final outline of the House bill Friday, with a written text next week and a floor vote further down the road. Pelosi is pushing hard to the left: she says the final bill will have the public option, and she’s apparently defying the centrists who want her to delay action and to consider Snowe’s trigger option. She seems to see a strong public option as a good idea and also as good leverage against any shillyshalllying by the Senate.

Pelosi is getting a smidge of help from her opponents, the Blue Dogs, who are now split on the public option issue, and are in fact more energized on other issues such as costs and the pace of work in the Senate. Pelosi could get more Blue Dogs on board by giving them the deal they want on Medicare rates, but the CBO scoring suggests it’s a bad idea and Pelosi doesn’t like it much either. The Medicare issue will be decided by the House leadership; if Pelosi senses that she doesn’t need to bag a few more Blue Dogs, the Medicare issue will go overboard.

Shockingly, the Senate Finance Committee won’t be finished with their work this week as advertised – too much GOP obstruction and Democratic footdragging. The Committee will, in fact, vote on the public option tomorrow, but don’t get your hopes up (boy do the Republicans want to beat the public option just once!). CNN claims the public option is a dealbreaker in the Senate, but Schumer and Rockefeller say the plan will have the public option by the time it gets to the President’s desk (although maybe not in the Finance bill or the first Senate bill), and Sherrod Brown says that even if not all Democrats prefer the public option, they have 50 Senate votes for it, and that no Democrat will vote against cloture (Nelson is of course playing coy on that issue, and Conrad is also scary). And no Democrat has said flat-out they would oppose the public option no matter what, so attaining cloture is presumably doable also.

The Democrats do, in fact, have 60 Senate seats. Reid is going ahead with the swearing-in of Kirk, ignoring the threats of lawsuits from Massachusetts Republicans. The Washington Republicans are not contesting the appointment, and in fact they can’t because his appointment papers are in order.

Obama still way ahead of contenders for 2012

According to the latest PPP poll -- for 2012, Obama leads Huckabee by 7, Romney by 9, Jeb Bush by 13, Palin by 15.

And they had a polling sample of people who were a bit more conservative than the country as a whole.

These numbers are not very different from the polls conducted earlier in the year, before the Guns Of August.

So all the caterwauling about Obama’s declining popularity was, as we knew, bullcrap.

The House-Senate conference report

If Obama wants the public option – and it seems he does – he can try to get it into the Baucus bill, or get it into the merged Baucus-HELP bill, or get it in the House-Senate conference after each chamber passes its own bill, or get it through reconciliation. It looks as though the White House is preparing for a possible battle in the conference.

It seems that Pelosi is working to push the House Republicans hard and pass as liberal a health care bill as she can. She backed down and allowed a 72-hour wait between posting the bill online and holding the final vote, but otherwise she has had the bit between her teeth: with House liberals confident that she has the votes for the public option, she is pushing for that, and rejecting a compromise “trigger” plan; she is also throwing an elbow at the Republicans on another front, by attaching a continuing resolution to the liberal spending package, so the Republicans can’t fight the liberal programs without shutting down the government (she may have used this tactic because the Republicans just did it to her a few years ago, or she may have done it because the Republicans openly admitted they intended to try to add poison-pill amendments to make the Democrats look bad). Some believe that Pelosi wants a very liberal House bill on health reform so that she has better leverage in the bicameral conference negotiations, if the Senate passes a bill without the public option. So she has a very good reason to ignore the House Blue Dogs.

In the Senate the Democrats are fighting back against the Republican nonsense: Conrad got into a fracas with Kyl, and Baucus slapped Kyl down for delaying the work of the Finance Committee. Rockefeller said flat out that Cornyn was being “run” by the insurance industry. On one issue, the Republicans were undercutting each other: McConnell was starting the “Democrats will cut Medicare” singalong for Republicans, but he was undercut by Lamar Alexander -- “There may very well be savings that could be in Medicare Advantage”.

The Democrats are, however, making more concessions in the Senate. So far the Baucus bill will probably have mandates without price controls, which could make prices skyrocket even for people who do have insurance; and Reid, who wants to lift the insurers’ anti-trust exemption, is not pushing to include such a provision in the Baucus bill even though 94 percent of the national insurance markets are not competitive. The Senate Democrats are bending over backwards to avoid provoking the insurers and the far right – but why? What has that gotten them so far?

In one ominous note, Conrad was doing the work of the insurance industry, claiming that the European health systems are not government-run, which is hogwash.

With public opinion in Massachusetts greatly favoring the early seating of a new Senator, there is no sign that the local GOP will challenge Kirk’s swearing-in tomorrow; with 60 Senators in the Democratic caucus, Bernie Sanders is leading the effort to ensure that all 60 of them for cloture. But with the battle in the Senate dragging on and on, Rahm Emanuel seems to be expecting the House to pass the public option, but not the Senate, whereupon the conference report will hash out the differences. The White House may be choosing the House-Senate conference as their battlefield of choice, or possibly shoring up that option as their recourse of last resort.

I’m still researching whether a conference report needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster or not. It probably does.

Badmouthing our President on foreign soil? Gadzooks!

Who’s this babe who’s out there badmouthing our president on foreign soil?

The Dixie Chicks in London?

Um, no, that would be Sarah Palin in China.

So naturally the rednecks who burned the Dixie Chicks in effigy, and launched a national campaign to destroy their careers, will do the same for Palin, right?

Oh, that’s right, I forgot. It’s okay if a Republican does it. I'm a big Silly!

Wednesday 23 September 2009

The GOP lies on Medicare

The GOP’s current smear campaign pertains to alleged cuts in Medicare benefits. Yet again: Medicare benefits will not be cut. Even the AARP, always sensitive to the fears of consumers, said the total Medicare spending will only go down 3 percent, and the insurers have agreed to accept reduced payments to them. Second, as Obama addresses the inefficiencies on Medicare, they may not even need to do the 3 percent reductions in payments – and again, that’s cutting payments to the insurers, not cutting the actual coverage for the seniors. Third, the CBO pointed out that existing law guarantees that every Medicare beneficiary receives the same basic services. Fourth, Senator Nelson, in an excess of caution, wants to fix the imaginary problem with an amendment that would cost only $4 billion a year, but again, for the reasons stated above, it’s not even necessary, except perhaps for political reasons.

In other words, the Republicans are trying to scare seniors with lies.

Rasmussen caught lying again, to help the GOP

From Daily Kos:

Earlier this week, Rasmussen went into Minnesota and polled the public climate for the office-holders there. This was not covered in the wrap, because the three names involved (Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Pawlenty) are not on the ballot in the 2010 elections. What it did show that while Franken had net positives (41/31), they were less than both Klobuchar and the newly-minted right-winger Tim Pawlenty. This made its way into a variety of tradmed stories, but Jonathan Singer at MyDD made a great catch: Pawlenty's question was based on the traditional four-option menu of "strongly approve", "somewhat approve", "somewhat disapprove", "strongly disapprove". The Democrats were based on a four-option menu which asked if voters through their performance was "excellent", "good", "fair", or "poor". Research has shown that the former arrangement leads to better numbers in the top two boxes, because some voters will conflate a "fair" performance with one that is worthy of the rating "slightly approve". Not only that, but in a subtle wording change, it said Pawlenty was "doing a job" as governor, while it said Franken was "performing a role" as senator. When Mark Blumenthal went to Rasmussen Reports with a query about this, he was told it was a "mistake that slipped through the cracks."

Another rightwing terrorist attack

The wingnuts just lynched a census worker in Kentucky and scrawled “Fed” on his chest. This is the fourth fatal rightwing terrorist attack in the last few months. The two murder sprees in Pennsylvania, the killing of Dr. Tiller, and now this. Plus the teabag/townhall attacks, threats, armed loons showing up at Obama events and menacing Democratic members of Congress, preachers are out there leading prayers for the death of Obama, lone wolves, “militia” men, Klansmen, skinheads, neo-Nazis, all fondling their…weapons. The media covers these things in a perfunctory way, and then yawns and moves on (just as the media has categorically failed to shoot down the endless series of GOP lies and attacks). But eventually there will be an attack by a lunatic, which the media finally will not be able to ignore. And finally the American dialogue on politics will openly address the central issue – that the Republican party is not only condoning political lunacy and dangerous behaviour, but allowing the worst wingnuts to control the direction of the party.

So where is Intrade on all this? Where is the Lone Wolf Pool? Where will the big attack be, the one that finally makes America sit up and take notice?

The short odds on when it will happen: 4-1 on next August when the loons come out again.
Short odds on target: 4-1 on Democratic congressman, innocent bystander, abortion doctor or policeman.
Shortest odds for region: even money on the South.
Shortest odds on the claimed motivation: 5-1 on either the birth certificate or illegal aliens (that’s claimed motivation – the real motivation is, of course, having a black President).
Method: even money on gun attack.
Even money on the perpetrator being a dittohead.
Even money on the proposition of more tattoos than teeth.
12 to 1 that that the Republican party will exploit the murder for political purposes, and blame the Democrats for it.

Maybe if we turn this into a stupid fucking game, the media will take notice. Maybe they’ll even make a game show about it. Those guys who made the “Network” movie 30 years ago were laughed at for predicting that TV news would turn into a pathetic game show, but look at stuff like Fox and Inside Edition: maybe they were actually lowballing it.

Or instead of a game show, a reality show, just following around the wingnuts and listening to all their wingnuttery. Since the media won’t make the effort to really hold the mirror up to these folks, maybe some sleazy Jerry Springer wannabe can git er done.

The “Gang of Seven” and “Commit to cloture”

Two new phrases to learn.

If the Republicans had embraced the Baucus bill, which was essentially designed for them, it would have passed in some form. But the Republicans doubled down their bets: apparently they know that any health bill will be bad for them, and/or they think they can prevent any good bill from passing. So the red-meat Republicans are up to their old tricks. In the current deliberations on the Baucus bill, Hatch is deliberately slowing down the process with endless, repetitive questions regarding the constitutionality of the bill, which is a bogus argument to begin with. He actually lectured Baucus for moving too fast. Jim Bunning took a nap during the deliberations; in his waking hours he demanded (with Snowe’s support) an unprecedented change in the committee’s rules regarding legislative language, which would delay the process for weeks. Pat Roberts demanded that the insurance lobby be given three days to attack the legislation. Then, stunningly, Republican Senator Demint is claiming that Obama’s effort on health reform is taking so long that it’s putting our troops in Afghanistan in danger -- hey, Jethro, which party has been delaying health reform for months?

The stalling tactics aren’t going to stop. This is how pathetic the fortunes of the GOP are right now: their only “victory” this year was preventing passage of health reform this summer, and now they hope to do so again, to prevent passage before the end of the year, in hope that the media will start mooing all over again, about how Obama has “lost control” of the process, and writing op-ed pieces all through the holidays about how health reform is dragging into 2010, an election year. This is all the “policy” the GOP has left: obstruction. This is why we need to get the process out of the hands of Baucus, who is perfectly willing to let the Republicans set the snail-like pace of the process, even if it means dragging this out indefinitely.

And of course the Republican lies and attacks are never ending, although the Democrats are fighting back for a change. While Roy Blount was getting nailed for comparing Obama to a monkey, the Republican party as a whole was getting nailed by the White House for trying to frighten seniors about Medicare: “These distortions and outright falsehoods would be offensive under any circumstances, but they’re especially disingenuous coming from a group who has a long history of opposing Medicare and who very recently tried to kill the program as we know it. Just this past April, nearly four-fifths of Republican House members voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.” Ouch!

Now there’s a new problem. There’s a new Gang Of Seven – Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, Nelson (Nebraska), McCaskill, Landrieu, Wyden. This group dislikes both the public option and the reconciliation strategy; they want a cheap, bipartisan bill when it all goes to the Senate floor. The one positive sign is they don’t like the Baucus bill: Wyden, whom Obama likes, is worried about the lack of competition; Snowe is worried about affordability.

In the face of all the pressure to move to the right, at least one White House guy is wobbling. The White House Budget Director said a reform bill could be passed in 6 weeks, based mostly on Baucus bill. Orszag implied that the White House doesn’t consider the public option essential; coops or triggers could work also, provided that there is real competition. Two DC liberals are claiming that the White House is trying to persuade liberals to accept a trigger option in the Senate bill, after which the defect would be fixed in the conference report, although the report is now being denied. Another report says the White House is still seeking Republican support.

Which brings us to “commit to cloture”.

Instead of the reconciliation option, there is also the option of insisting that all 60 Democrats and Independents vote for cloture, even if they vote against the ensuing health care bill itself. Those Gang of Seven people (also the Gang Of Six people) would need to be convinced. Democratic leaders at both ends of Capitol Hill, as well as pro-reform unions, are discussing this daily, to include trying to pin down the Blu Dogs and Gangers on the cloture issue. Specter supports cloture and believes Snowe will too (I’m not convinced). Democratic strategists prefer the “commit to cloture” plan to the reconciliation plan, but the strongest option would be “commit to cloture” PLUS the threat of reconciliation if cloture doesn’t happen. In fact Obama may have sought the reconciliation option not to use it, but to use the mere threat of it to get what he wants. “Commit to cloture” allows the Dogs to have their cake and eat it too, to vote for cloture and then against the bill, whereas they could be left out entirely in a reconciliation effort.

The reconciliation option isn’t the only way to pressure Blue Dogs to do the right thing. They should also be told that committee chairs and political support can be taken away if they screw the President over. Or in Lieberman’s case, he could be thrown out of the caucus entirely, and lose ALL his committee memberships. The Senate Democratic leadership is moving in the direction of insisting that Democrats commit to cloture.

Keep in mind that the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too gambit should be sufficient for the key Blue Dogs, since the voters whom they represent are actually okay with the public option. Even in we-hate-Obama Arkansas they like it, which should make Lincoln and Pryor moveable. Maine as well, for that matter. And Connecticut .

So at the end of the day, Obama has a number of ways he can seek the plan he wants: he can get the plan in good shape during the “merge” between the HELP bill and the Baucus bill, or fix the problems in the bicameral conference report (as noted in the trigger option mentioned above), or go with “commit to cloture” and gamble that he won’t lose a single Senator, or reconciliation.

The liberal cause is stiffening in the House. House Blue Dogs are realizing that Pelosi can pass the public option if she wants to.

It’s flooding down in Georgia

April 2009: southern white trash attend “tea parties” and scream about the federal gummint.

May 2009: southern white trash in Kentucky and elsewhere are hit by floods and scream that the federal gummint ain’t doing enough for them.

August 2009: southern white trash go to town halls and scream about the federal gummint.

September 2009: southern white trash in Georgia and elsewhere are hit by floods and scream that the federal gummint ain’t doing enough for them.

Thus proving that if there’s a God, he has a wicked sense of humor.

And throughout the year, the same Stetsoned yahoo Republican governors who condemn the federal stimulus package and threaten secession, get hit with economic and budget problems, and then they not only beg for stimulus money but BRAG about getting the cash for their state.

So in good times these toothless yokels screech about the revenooers, but when trouble hits they’re the first ones to come whining to Washington .

PS – the health reform package they’re screaming about….would help the southern red states the most.

In the immortal words of a 20th century philosopher from white trash country – Stupid is as stupid does.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Here are about a dozen reasons why passage of the public option became more likely today.

The Massachusetts Senate passed the bill allowing the governor to replace Kennedy in the Senate. So we’re back to 60-40. All Reid needs to do now is lay down the law to the Blue Dogs: a “yes” vote on cloture is not voting to support the bill, you’re voting to support your party and stop the filibuster. And if you screw with me on this, the signature issue of your party leader in the White House, your days as a player in the Senate are over. Massachusetts Republicans are threatening legal challenges, to delay the process, but if Reid decides to seat the Senator, we could swap a court fight for a Senate fight. At best I think all they can do is slow things down a bit – and reinforce the overpowering impression among Americans that the Republicans are into obstruction for its own sake, regardless of the damage they’re doing.

More are speaking out for the public option: Stabenow endorsed it, Schumer called for it, Bingaman and Menendez want it, Cantwell said she won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t have it, even Bill O’Reilly endorsed the public option. And Eric Cantor told a sick townhall attendee to go get aid from the government, which was a rather astonishing left-handed endorsement of government-provided health care.

The main alternative to the public option, the Baucus bill, is being panned by labor, by House Democrats, Senators Burris, Feingold and Brown, and Howard Dean.

Today in committee, the Republicans were screeching all over again – “government takeover of healthcare, stunning assault on liberty, it’s all going too fast, we demand a promise in advance from the House and the President that they will back the bill with no alterations” etc, and they are still putting the screws to Snowe to reject any reform plan (pressure which may ease off once Kennedy’s replacement arrives). Nevertheless the Republicans are rather clumsily admitting that it’s the Democrats who have been trying to seek bipartisanship on this issue: Grassley finally admitted that the Finance bill did in fact have Republican input (a ton of it, in fact), and Cantor admitted that the Republicans agreed with 80 percent of the bill.

Insurance lobbyist Karen Ignani shows us all vividly why we need the public option. She actually sent a letter to Baucus, saying the insurers want to design “packages” that allow them to cherry-pick healthy applicants and deter those in poor health from applying. "For example, insurers could offer a benefits design that omits or severely limits services needed by people with serious medical conditions." Properly-defined standard benefits would stop them from doing that. Ignani’s idiotic move demonstrates to all that even government regulation won’t stop these crooks – we need the public option. (The insurers were also caught trying to use Medicare mailers to scare seniors into opposing government-run care – an astounding combination of hypocrisy, chutzpah and dishonesty)

The public option won’t get out of the Finance Committee without Baucus and Conrad, but that is not an insurmountable obstacle – Reid will step in and merge the Finance bill with the HELP bill, which does have the public option. Wyden is complaining that the Baucus bill doesn’t have enough reform or enough bipartisanship – the obvious problem being that getting more reform means less bipartisanship and vice versa. Wyden cosponsored a coop plan with Bob Bennett of Utah, but interestingly, he hasn’t fought to put it on the table with the 6-7 other plans being discussed. Which makes the coop less likely, and the public option more likely. Wyden was also calling for more competition and accountability for the private insurers – perfect.

The Republican Lie Machine is running out of gas. The American people are tuning them out. Or, in today’s example, laughing them off the stage. Some GOP yokel tried to persuade his constituents that Obamacare will cap doctors’ wages, and his own voters openly laughed at him. And this was in ruby-red KANSAS . Meanwhile voters slapped around GOP Representative Eric Cantor, demanding that he explain what the GOP health care plan is.

Mitch McConnell was screeching today that if the Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass health reform in the Senate, the American people will explode with rage and exact their revenge; his desperate, impotent bellowing neatly skips over the fact that not one American in a hundred even knows what reconciliation is (for once popular ignorance works in favour of the Democrats), and the few who do know, also know that the GOP used it to ram a bunch of stupid stuff down OUR throats. I raise the reconciliation issue to make a point: at many points in Obama’s career, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat because he always knows the rules better than the other team. He got to the Illinois Senate by pointing out that his opponents were ineligible to run for the seat, because they had violated ballot qualification rules. He beat Hillary for the presidential nomination because he knew about the proportional distribution of delegates, about the hybrid primary/caucus system in Texas, about the rules for scooping up caucus delegates, about horse-trading with other candidates to win delegates in the all-important Iowa primary, and about working the superdelegates. And this spring, he managed to insert a thing called a reconciliation instruction into the budget package and hardly anybody noticed: that device gave him the option of passing health reform with only 50 Senate votes, provided he meets a list of rules – which Obama also knows full well. McConnell, a sharp parliamentarian himself, knows he’s been checkmated – and that’s why he’s whining today. If he had whined back in the spring, he might have had a chance to head Obama off at the pass on the reconciliation instruction. Obama never gets outsmarted on the rules, and he isn’t about to start when fighting potentially the greatest battle of his life. And he’s unlikely to set up the reconciliation thing in the spring, and then NOT use it to get the best bill he can, meaning the public option.

Robert Byrd’s fall wasn’t serious; he’s back home.

Key obstructionist Blue Dog Mike Ross has been caught selling a pharmacy business, for a ridiculously high price, to a drug firm that has a stake in the health care debate. He pocketed over $100,000 over market, I think. So one of the key obstructionists just pulled up lame.

The House Blue Dogs tried to pin Pelosi down to a deal Waxman made with the Dogs, to get Waxman’s bill out of committee. Pelosi said no dice: that deal was binding only on Waxman to get the bill out of committee, and I cannot be bound by anything that happened in committee because I have to also accommodate two other committees. Grassley tried the same stunt in the Senate, demanding that ALL Democrats, including Pelosi and the President, adhere to whatever deal was made in the Senate Finance Committee, which is simply not done. So Pelosi is still hanging tough for the House liberals.

A new NBC poll showed that the American people, who have said over and over that they want action on health care, will hold the Republicans responsible if health reform fails this year. Just in time for a midcycle election.

And on a side note…Scarborough just admitted the obvious – that Glenn Beck is bad for the GOP because he is the de facto leader of the party and he is clearly insane. Back in the spring I was tickled to death because the true GOP leader at that time, Limbaugh, was about as popular as hemorrhoids, but having Beck be the party poster boy is even better. A problem which the Republicans wouldn’t have if the had actual, ya know, leaders.

Monday 21 September 2009

The invasion of New England

A Republican Congressman from Rhode Island, Ivan Marte, just quit his party in disgust over the Joe Wilson nonsense. Of course it could have been anything: a Republican looking for reasons to quit his party wouldn’t need to look too far.

But let’s look about 100 miles to the north of Providence.

I’m thinking that Snowe and Collins seriously could switch parties next year. They would still be able to pursue their moderate/conservative policies in the Democratic party – God knows we’ve proved this year that the Democratic party allows dissent. And they could vote their consciences without worrying about Mitch McConnell and the Republicans threatening to waterboard them with gasoline if they “betray” the party. These two women – Collins particularly – are all about policy, not party. Obama has been courting Snowe heavily, while her own party is publicly beating her up; as a result she has publicly praised Obama and criticized her own party.

And she and Collins come from the blue state anyway.

Snowe said she’s rather try to fix the GOP than leave it, but she sounds like an abused wife who is one beating away from getting a TRO and a lawyer.

Obama’s walk-away position

Let’s look again at the “negotiation” between the reformers and the obstructionists.

Obama and the Democrats have given ground on single payer, on tort reform, on abortion, on immigrants, deficit spending, tax increases on middle class, “death panels”, forcing people to buy insurance even when costs come to 13 percent of annual income, banning cuts in Medicare benefits, coops governed by members rather than the government, coops not government sponsored, coops without guaranteed government subsidy beyond a certain date; small business tax credits; allowing private insurers to sell across state lines; McCain’s catastrophic health care plan; state-level coops which insurers would be able to crush easily…

The Republicans and the other obstructionists said no to an independent insurance board, no to single payer, no to mandating employer participation, no to health care information technology, no to comparative effectiveness research, no to eliminating overpayments to insurers, no to the public option, no to the trigger option, no to coops. And then at one minute to midnight they offer…a trigger that will never be pulled, and an extra $9 per person per year in health coverage.

That’s their notion of compromise.

As I said earlier, the Democrats need to take the public option bill to the parliamentarian and figure out what goes through reconciliation and what doesn’t. And THEN they need to unveil it publicly, and show the obstructionists what happens when they don’t negotiate in good faith because they don’t think they need to.

Well, they need to.

One of the principal axioms of negotiating, is that the other team needs to know you have a walk-away position: if the other team can’t even come close to that position, you walk away, and pursue more drastic options, i.e. reconciliation.

And although the Democrats are unlikely to overrule the parliamentarian’s rulings on reconciliation, they can in fact do so – and the parliamentarian knows it. His predecessor overruled the Republicans too many times, and the Republicans didn’t just overrule him from the chair (the Vice President), they fired him outright, which the majority party can do. That’s how the current parliamentarian got the job – which he remembers quite vividly.

Which means that all the close calls will go to the majority party, particularly since they are likely to remain in the majority for many years to come.

And just to turn up the heat a bit, Pelosi told a Philly crowd that the public option will pass in the House in a few weeks. The House leaders were showing signs that they wanted to see where the Senate was going to go on health care, but Pelosi undoubtedly thinks the situation in the Senate will be pretty clear once the Finance Committee pounds through all those amendments this week.

Snowe may have more wiggle room too. Not long ago she admitted that the insurers have too much power, and the “compromises” currently on the table don’t address that adequately.

Mass. GOP gives up fight to block Kennedy replacement

The state Senate will take up the motion tomorrow. We could have a new Senator this week.

The new Godfather of Wingnut: Cleon Skousen

The latest reading material for the wingnuts like Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck and Rick Perry is “The 5000 Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen, a wingnut who was so far to the right that even the Cold-War FBI thought he was dangerous and the National Review considered him a “nutjob”.

As the National Review put it, "Next time someone tells you the Tea Party movement is composed of average Americans who are simply worried at the terrible things Barack Obama's trying to do to their country, keep in mind they are being influenced by the works of someone who thought America was being plunged into socialist tyranny by the Eisenhower administration."

He also wrote “The Naked Communist, and "The Making of America.", which advocated America’s slavery system in the 19th century.

Baucus amends plan, gives us nine whole dollars per person!

Here’s a quick recap of the continuum of health reform options, going from left to right:

Single payer
Two of the three House public options
The House Energy and Commerce Committee public option
HELP public option
Snowe’s trigger
Baucus’ coops
Doing nothing

Firedoglake points out that Snowe’s trigger option is worthless because the overall Baucus bill ensures that the terms of the trigger will never be met.

Ross, a key Blue Dog, is trying to help Conrad sell Baucus’ coops as the compromise solution. As Firedoglake points out, Ross admitted that experts think a coop would need half a million members to survive, which would be extremely difficult since Ross’s home state, Arkansas, only has 3 million people, and has lots of local restrictions placed on coops. Obama’s stance is that the Baucus bill is a "pretty big burden on middle class families"; we can’t have mandates without affordable policies, and Baucus doesn’t get us there. The AMA criticized the Baucus plan too.

Baucus responded by bumping up the subsidies to consumers – but only $2.8 billion a year. That comes out to about nine dollars per person.

Per year.


If we go coop, it would need to be a strong national coop with all the state-level restrictions removed, and if we go trigger, it would need to be a realistic trigger with a sensible threshold for affordability, as Obama intimated. Perhaps we could do both: a strong coop with a more sensitive trigger toward the public option if the coops don’t get it done. Either way, we need federal guarantees so that we always have a competitive option to counterbalance the private-insurance crooks.

Meanwhile the GOP obstruction continues. The latest Republican poison-pill proposal to come to light: John Ensign wants to go through every page of the bill, and any time a fee pops up, he wants to insert the word “TAX!” in big red letters. And of course the networks were doing Ensign’s work for him, trying to push the “reform equals tax increase” meme this weekend.

Booman thinks we’re still heading for reconciliation. Some point out that under the reconciliation scenario, the chair (Vice President Biden) can overrule the Senate parliamentarian on anything he wants, but even the Bush-era Republicans didn’t go that far, and some Democrats would hesitate. Currently the Democrats, if they need to, will use reconciliation only under existing traditions (i.e. listening to the parliamentarian) and only as a last resort.

Meanwhile, more of the crimes and follies of the insurers are being exposed. Justifications for cancelling coverage include being a cop or fireman, having acne (which includes almost all of us), having bunions, being an expectant mother or father, taking Lipitor or Advair, or planning to adopt a child.

**UPDATE** -- ...and C-sections too.

New GOP lies: race-based quotas and lotteries

From a new GOP mailer:

Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to:
23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patient's prospects are deemed not good?
24. A "lottery" system of determining who will get priority treatment?
25. A "quota" system which would determine who would determine who would get treatment on the basis of race or age?

• Pick who is "eligible" for certain medical procedures?
• Pick your doctor for you?
• Restrict certain medical procedures on the basis of age?
• Put strict price controls on medicine and drugs?
• Penalize you for choosing to see a private doctor
• Seriously undermine private health care insurers who currently serve tens of millions of Americans?

Fox producer caught stage-managing Beck's 912 riots

Glenn Beck campaigned to get the 912 riot going, to "bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001" when "we were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the greatest nation ever created." The implication being that the arrival of the Obama presidency is tantamount to a terrorist attack. Neatly enough he was too gutless to attend his own riot. Fox promoted the 912 riot like gangbusters, and took out a huge ad falsely claiming that the other networks ignored 912 (and Fox got busted for it).

And now we know that at the 912 riots, a Fox News producer was caught on camera raising her hands, giving stage directions and encouraging the crowd to yell and scream while a Fox reporter was doing his live shot. When Fox was caught, they claimed they disciplined the “inexperienced” producer.

America already knew that so much of Fox’s other reporting is just plain made-up; there are entire websites dedicated to exposing their endless lies, and nobody to the left of Mussolini takes their lies seriously anymore. But clearly Fox hasn’t just been promoting the original tea parties, Beck’s 912 wingnut circus and other propaganda and infotainment for wingnuts: they have been actively manufacturing and choreographing their “news”. What else have these scumbags done behind the scenes, that we don't know about?

And Fox is surprised that the White House doesn't take them seriously as a real news organization.

Back in the day, any journalist who was caught fabricating his reports would not only be fired but drummed out of the business forever. But what happens when an entire news organization does it, day after day after day?

Sunday 20 September 2009

Time for Obama to shoot down the lies and the bad plans

After seeing how powerful and dangerous the insurers are when aroused, I am warming up to the notion of crushing them all with single-payer; at the very least we need the public option. But Obama is still hedging his bets: after Obama’s speech on Capitol Hill, both the liberal Democrats and the Blue Dogs believed that Obama backed their stance on health care, presumably by design. So the door is still open to a modified Baucus plan or the public option, so Obama can say he passed something, no matter what.

So which will it be? The Finance committee will probably start arguing all the amendments Tuesday and they plan three days of debate, although with 500 amendments that’s optimistic. Note that rather than pre-coordinating in advance, some Democratic Senators proposed the liberal House public option plan while others proposed the more modest HELP public option plan, possibly so the Democrats could propose the HELP plan as the compromise between the House plan and the Baucus coops (perhaps that was what they pre-coordinated). Meanwhile Snowe is resurrecting her disastrous trigger plan, possibly hoping that THAT can be the compromise option. Keep in mind that the public option itself is actually a compromise which writes off the most cost-effective alternative, the single-payer plan, and that the other side, the Republicans, offered nothing at all in return for that compromise. The Democrats have been negotiating with…themselves.

So first, Obama and the Democrats need to man up, and shoot down the Snowe plan. It sucks. Fix its problems, or kill it. Obama is, in fact, pushing both Baucus and Snowe on one of their greatest vulnerabilities, cost. Baucus’ plan would demand that families pay $700-800 a month for lousy care, and the Snowe plan would set “affordable” coverage at $13,000 a year. If Obama can crush single-payer without even a debate, he can crush the Snowe monstrosity (and the Baucus plan if he’s smart).

Second: we may have a replacement for Kennedy next week, which means the next step is for Obama and Reid to man up and demand that any Democrat who wants to sit in the Democratic caucus (or chair a committee) had better vote for cloture, in case they don’t go the reconciliation option.

Next, Obama and Schumer need to run the HELP bill by two people: Frumin and Pelosi. Ask Frumin about motions to recommit too, in case we do need the reconciliation option.

Next, Obama and the Democrats need to actually do what they said, call out the wingnuts. There are signs of wobbliness in the wingnut crusade: Glenn Beck didn’t even bother to show up at his 912 rally, support for the GOP outside the South is still at a toxic 11 percent, and Reid’s threat to cancel the October recess would prevent a repeat of the lunacy of the August recess. But the insanity isn’t over. For the third time in a month, atmed wingnuts showed up at an Obama rally. Republican leaders, instead of providing actually leadership, are sucking up to the lunatic fringe: Pawlenty was screeching about death panels (which is stupid) and nullifying federal law at the state level (which is illegal), and Kay Bailey Hutchison was screeching about Obama’s czars, none of whom are actual czars (“czar” is an appellation given by the media, and the officials in question all have normal jobs and normal job titles, having gotten their jobs in a perfectly normal way). So it is time for Obama to stop pretending he’s above the fray and call these guys out. They are calling him a liar to his face, accusing him of trying to kill people, accusing him of being a Communist etc etc. If he can call Kanye West a jackass but can’t do the same for Wilson and Grassley, he’s going to get whupped over and over. “Turn the other cheek” doesn’t work with bullies: going upside their head does work.

Next, Obama also needs to call out the media, for failing to shoot down the GOP lies, and for their chickenshit attacks against Obama. Just this weekend, MSNBC of all people is claiming that if the Baucus package were to be defeated in committee, it would be a stunning blow for Obama (actually it would be a major victory). And Bob Schieffer and George Stephanopoulos were both screeching at Obama that he’s going to raise taxes, which he isn’t. So much for the so-called liberal media. If Obama can call out dishonest politicians, he can call out dishonest reporters too.

So that’s what Obama needs to do: shoot down the less attractive alternatives to the plan he really wants, and be more aggressive in attacking dishonesty.