Saturday 31 October 2009

Wingnuts: first take New York, then the nation!

The GOP thinks it can control the extremists, but German conservatives thought the same about controlling Hitler, and the Hoffman race in New York shows that the party cannot, in fact, control the wingnuts. Republican party leaders scrambled to switch their support to Hoffman and claim him for their own – ideology and pragmatism ironically worked together to overcome considerations of partisan loyalty. But that won’t be enough: the wingnuts are not just outpacing the moderates – they are deliberately targeting the “apostates” for extinction. Conservatives insist they’re trying to take back control of the GOP – as though the party wasn’t too far to the right already. So more RINO’s have bulls-eyes on their backs.

Supporters of the Hoffman’s moderate Republican rival support Obama 64-31, which suggests that Hoffman could lose. If Hoffman wins, he says he will caucus with the GOP, but simply having him enter Congress after slaughtering the chosen GOP nominee will cause shivers among the party faithful.

How will the wingnuts react nationally?

First we will take the Sudetenland! And then…the woooooorld!

Already the polls show that a generic congressional ballot, a Democrat-GOP tossup a month ago, now shows an 8-point gap in favour of Democratic candidates. Wingnuts are saying that the Hoffman race shows that they can beat moderate Republicans even in the northeast, and then try to take on the Democrats themselves, which must send shivers down the spines of the few remaining northern moderates like Snowe and Collins. These endangered centrists are afraid to run, or afraid of flank attacks during their races and even after they’ve won: the they now know they face potential primary challenges AND general election challenges from the right. Two other Republicans are facing challenges from the Conservative Party for House seats; wingnut Rubio is slowly catching up to moderate Crist in the Florida Senate race, and Kelly Ayotte has barely avoided a rightwing challenge in NH. So the moderates will tack to the right to defend themselves – but will it be enough to impede the challenges from the right? And does that in turn make them vulnerable on the left -- will that drive centrists into the arms of the Democrats?

What happens when a Conservative Party candidate takes the next step, winning a Senate or gubernatorial seat? Or something even bigger? This explosion could blow in a number of directions: big-name Republicans like Pawlenty could switch from the GOP to the new party, while nervous moderates like Snowe and Collins could defect to the Democratic party, decimating the GOP from both directions.

And that takes us to 2012. Could Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich or even Pawlenty decide to go for the Conservative Party’s presidential nomination if they don’t get the GOP nomination? Could we have two races, one for the GOP nomination and another for the third party, with some candidates potentially running in both? Polls show that half of America’s Republicans think Palin is unfit for the presidency, and those who supported Palin for 2012 are now switching their allegiance to the new polling leader, Huckabee (Pawlenty is getting no traction at all despite repeated efforts to suck up to the wingnuts). So Palin might be tempted to, what’s the phrase? Go rogue. Beck, lucid for once, first slammed Gingrich for supporting Hoffman’s third-party effort, but now he is warming up to the wingnut-party idea, and he thinks Palin will run on a third-party ticket.

The thing is, setting up a new party in time to run for the White House in 2012 is a huge undertaking, as Ross Perot found out in 1992. So watch for the preliminary maneuvers to play out next year.

Friday 30 October 2009

working over the Blue Dogs

Reid will address the Senate Democratic caucus again next week, although the real audience is those five Blue Dogs who are still dithering. One way or another it would be nice to get one of these idiots to just read the damn bill and sign up for it. None of the Blue Dogs has given a credible reason why they would oppose the Senate bill – either they express objections which are inaccurate like Lieberman, or they express vague philosophical objections which have no basis in reality. If they were to express a concrete, real-world objection to something that’s in the bill, Reid could fix it with no sweat. Getting one of the Blue Dogs in line will help put the pressure on Lieberman: there is a tremendous difference between having one dissenting vote, or two or three.

The other part of the two-prong strategy is to publicly set up the reconciliation option. Conrad, Lieberman and Bayh will at least allow the Senate to debate the bill. But with Lincoln going even further to the right than Lieberman the Independent, saying she might not even let the Senate bill be debated, and Nelson also noncommittal on the debate issue – it’s time to plan seriously for reconciliation, and wave that stick in the faces of the Blue Dogs. Meet with the parliamentarian and get it sorted out and publicize the results.

Lieberman seems hell-bent on spitting in the faces of Democrats. The same guy who campaigned, hard, to eliminate the filibuster tool entirely 15 years ago is now the poster child for filibusters, like a two-year-old who is throwing shoes into a toilet to block it up just because he can; he was also talking about launching a nonsensical investigation into Obama’s czars, an attack that has already been debunked, and then screwing Reid over on the public option, and then deserting the Democrats in favour of the GOP on reauthorizing the Patriot Act, and he is now saying he’ll campaign for Republicans in 2010. Is he trying to provoke Obama and Reid with all this crap? Is he swinging to the right so he can cover himself if he does vote for health reform, or to lay the groundwork for switching to the GOP? Or is he just insane? Some say he is in fact running for reelection although he’s unpopular back home, particularly on the public option issue, and even if he runs, Harkin is already hinting that he could lose his committee chair.

Bayh has switched on the procedural vote, now saying that the motion to debate is not the same as the motion to pass the bill, although he is still mum on the motion to allow the final vote. So the anti-Blue-Dog backlash is starting to work. More backlash: the latest polling from Arkansas shows that the voters want the public option by a huge margin, and that they are less likely to vote for Lincoln if she blocks the public option. Nelson is still sucking around for the opt-in; he doesn’t want a bill that will “destabilize” the insurance industry he used to work for.

Perhaps the GOP is starting to realize that their stonewalling tactics are making them look really bad. Under pressure from Reid, the GOP backed down and allowed the surgeon general nomination to go through.

It’s official: the conservative movement is splitting into two parties

The Republicans are screeching that the likely McDonnell win in Virginia is a referendum on Obama – neatly ignoring the fact that (a) Virginia has been a red state in almost every election for the last half-century, and (b) in the same election the Republicans are likely to lose in New Jersey and collapsing into a bloody civil war in New York . Even more terrifying for Republicans, now that the teabaggers have turned the NY race upside down and hurt the GOP nominee, other teabag candidates elsewhere in America are thinking about attacking Republicans from the right. Bradley Rees in Virginia and Don Ryon in Ohio are running on the Conservative Party ticket just as the NY candidate did (Ryon is targeting a pro-choice Republican like the guy in NY). Another teabag candidate may soon pop up in Alabama. Watch for more “Conservative Party” eruptions in 2010.

Meanwhile Republicans are staring slack-jawed at Obama’s accomplishments, just from this week -- extending HIV treatment, lifting the HV travel ban, hate crimes legislation, stopping unnecessary boondoggle military programs, causing the first jump n GDP growth in two years, saving around close to a million direct and indirect jobs via the stimulus, public-option bills announced in both Houses, improving intelligence oversight, stopping abstinence-only funding, smart grid technology (thanks, Cesca!).

Also the birthers got seriously spanked in a California court. The judge not only dismissed the suit claiming that Obama was occupying the presidency illegally, but he also pointed out that no court can rule on the issue since only Congress can remove a sitting president. The judge also slammed the plaintiffs for flinging treason charges at the other judges who ruled similarly.

And a new poll shows that a huge majority of Americans – 58-18 – blames Bush, not Obama, for the recession. The source: Fox! Ouch!

Playing chicken with the Blue Dogs

Word has it that there are 55 Democrats ready to go with the public option, and five who will hold out until the end for maximum leverage, apparently some combination of Lieberman, Lincoln, Landrieu, Conrad, Bayh and Nelson (Baucus hasn’t surfaced in these machinations).

Lieberman is mooing that the Senate bill will cost taxpayers money, drive up premiums, increase the debt, and so forth. The media doesn’t have the guts to call him out on his lies, but Gibbs pointed out that even the CBO has refuted Lieberman. This yutz doesn’t believe in reform now, but he bragged about his health-reform cred during his race with Lamont. He doesn’t believe in voting for cloture on bills he dislikes now, but he did it plenty for Bush, including the Alito vote. He doesn’t believe in spending money now (forgetting that the Senate bill actually saves money), but he voted for all of Bush’s big-ticket bills on tax cuts and fighting wars (to include the gigantic sub contract for his home state). He’s all Mister Integrity now, although he took $3 million in bribes from the health sector and another million from the insurers. And it’s complete bullcrap to say he won’t filibuster, wait for Reid to announce the bill, and then say “oh, wait, I meant I won’t filibuster on the first vote, but I’ll definitely filibuster the final vote – gotcha!” What a craphound. Lieberman’s proposal that people like him could vote to allow the debate but not pass the bill itself is actually destructive, because it could give the Republicans just what they want, months of wasted time.

You have to wonder why Lieberman is screwing Reid over like this.. Playing chicken? Angling for changes in the bill? Seeking attention? Hoping to start a stampede of Blue Dogs away from the bill? The problem is that he has changed his coat so often that it is impossible to see what he really stands for.

Gibbs said flat-out that Connecticut will hold Lieberman accountable, and the state does favor the public option by a whopping 68-21 – but what if he isn’t running for reelection? If he does run, remember that last time it was Republican voters who put him over the top, but he still can’t completely screw the Democrats over.

As for the other Blue Dogs: Lincoln, whose constituents support the public option to the tune of 80 percent and who could toss up a primary challenger for her, still says she doesn’t like the opt-out.. Nelson wants to read the bill and see the CBO score; Conrad is also reading the language and said Reid scored points with him by including the coop idea, although his commitment to allow cloture on debate does not extend to committing to cloture on the final bill.

Bayh says he will vote to put the bill on the floor, but isn’t saying he will support cloture on the final vote. His colleagues are condemning him for claiming that the cloture vote and the vote on the bill are the same – particularly since he himself voted yes on one and then no on the other in the past. Happily, he is not angry about the public option although he is concerned about the deficit (a worry which the CBO will assuage); he is also okay with reconciliation. His own state supports the public option, like the other Blue Dog states.

Specter, annoyingly, says he’s okay with reconciliation only as a last resort. Good God, are we going to have these clowns mooing and moaning and deliberating endlessly over THAT too? After letting Bush use the same tool over and over?

Reid, the Senator from Las Vegas , is quite the gambler: he never claimed to have the 60 votes nailed down but he rolled the dice anyway (perhaps because without a win on this he might be doomed down in Vegas anyway, at election time). So he was gambling, and possibly acting to flush out the treacherous Blue Dogs earlier rather than later. And now he seems bent on calling Lieberman’s bluff. In his back pocket he has the reconciliation option: he was talking about that option even before Lieberman tried to sandbag him, and both Reid and Durbin say that reconciliation is the fail-safe. Threatening reconciliation now might keep some of the Blue Dogs in line, particularly since reconciliation would mean that the Blue Dogs would not only lose in their power play but also lose any chance at getting bribes from Reid; using reconciliation would be much easier if it was used only for the public option itself – leave the rest of the reform package for the regular bill, and dare the Blue Dogs to filibuster THAT.

Snowe is still pretty steamed: when asked what Reid would need to change in the bill, to get her back, she barked “the whole thing”. But they might think about taking Snowe’s temperature again – if she can get on board for anything at all, it gives coverage for the Blue Dogs who cooperate and puts pressure on the ones who don’t. She (and Conrad) are still talking about triggers, and might be interested in Carper’s suggestion that a public option be used in states where only one or two insurers control the market (which is most of the country), although Snowe’s trigger formula would need to be strengthened considerably in the process.

The Senators will also be looking over the House bill. The House package not only reduces the deficit by about 10 billion a year (take that, Lieberman), but it also has a big basket of goodies for the voters for 2010, while they wait for the public option to kick in later on: closing part of the doughnut hole, interim help for the uninsured, bans on lifetime limits, bans on dropping customers, extending coverage for children to the age of 27, helping low-income Medicare patients, protecting Medicare Advantage patients from getting screwed, blocking price gouging, helping displaced workers, helping early retirees, helping community health centers, and increasing number of primary care doctors.

One hazard: Kyl, on the Republican side, is dangling before us a possible compromise on the opt-in formula. Don’t get sucked in – he just wants us to make more concessions before they pull the football away again. Perhaps he is trying to launch this nonsense because the Republicans, even now, still cannot gain any political traction. House Republicans are hollering at their own leadership for failing to deliver their own health plan as promised months ago. New poll data shows that 72 percent of Americans want the choice of the public option, twice as many Americans approve of Obama’s handling of health reform as they do for the GOP’s performance, fundraising for Blue Dog candidates is dropping like a rock, and the insurers made matters worse with a disastrous gaffe in North Carolina – Blue Cross sent the locals at gigantic rate increase while simultaneously urging them to write their Senator to denounce health reform. D’oh! Mitch McConnell is hollering all over Washington that anyone who votes for cloture is really voting for the bill itself, which is nonsense -- and by the way, Senator, you can stop screeching that the Democrats should be able to pass anything they want: we have 58 Democrats, not 60, as the antics of Lieberman the extremely Independent have reminded us.

Monday 26 October 2009

What Reid will do next

For Reid’s next trick…

Reid knows his future depends on this health bill; if he didn’t have the votes he would have gone for the trigger as Rahm pressed him to. Barring a major miscarriage, he has the votes. The Blue Dogs have been saying they can support the bill if it’s a level playing field – the Schumer version rather than the robust version – and are unlikely to block cloture. Significantly, Reid said he hasn’t asked the White House to urge Senators to get on board, because “it hasn’t been necessary”, which betokens confidence (or foolhardiness). He was also confident enough to ignore the worries of Obama and the pressure from Rahm, who knows how to bring pressure.

Tomorrow the Senate Democrats meet for lunch and Reid will work the Blue Dogs over again.

Reid will remind the Blue Dogs that this is a moderate bill, the compromise which they reached after the Democrats gave in on the single-payer, and on the robust public option, and on the unadulterated Schumer option. The public option will have to pay back its loans and play by the same rules as the private insurers; it not only allows people to opt out, but it allows states to PREVENT individuals from opting in, so nobody is being forced into anything – states can deprive people of the right to choose, which should warm any conservative’s heart.

Reid will remind the caucus that Lieberman, Lincoln, Carper and Landrieu supported cloture when Bush rammed Samuel Alito own our throats, and they should extend the same courtesy to a president from their own party.

He will remind them that a vote to block cloture is a vote to destroy both Reid and Obama, by rejecting a program that voters want; it’s a vote to create Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell, because in 2010 America will punish us for failing to pass a good bill, OR for succeeding with a bad bill that people hate.

He will remind them that if this bill is blocked, the Republicans will know they can block anything, at any time, just as they are blocking our nominees for the courts and for Surgeon General (right in the middle of a health crisis).

He will remind them that if they go with him on just one vote – cloture – they can go against him on the opt-in amendment, the trigger amendment, the strip-out-the-opt-out amendment, and the bill itself, four separate chances to prove their loyalty to their paymasters in the insurance industry (it isn’t loyalty to their constituents because the voters want the public option).

He will remind them that the liberals, for once, didn’t cave to the conservatives, and they will stand firm to the end because they’re tired of getting screwed over.

He will remind them that the options aren’t opt-out and trigger: they are opt-out now, or opt-out in conference, or opt-out in reconciliation.

He may also remind them that they need to sweeten the bill with some popular stuff for 2010, like drug discounts for seniors, tax credits for small businesses, money for folks with preexisting conditions.

And he will remind them that they claim to be Democrats, and it’s time to stop fucking with their president just to prove they can do it. Because Obama can fuck with them, and so can Rahm.

Watch Nelson, Lincoln and Bayh after the big lunch with Reid. Silence is golden. If they come out and say “hell no” now, then Reid miscalculated. If they play their cards close to their vest, then we have weeks to work them over. Baucus is now saying he was a public option fan from the beginning – he at least, believes the fix is in. Nelson says he wants the opt-in, not the opt-out, and hasn’t committed to cloture; nor have Lincoln or Bayh, so those three will get a lot of attention. Snowe criticized the bill but did not say she’d block cloture. Meanwhile liberal Senators are working it from the other side, showing that a bill WITHOUT the public option might not even get 50 votes (although threatening a filibuster could backfire by causing the Blue Dogs to use the same threat).

Then Reid will spend weeks working on the holdouts, if need be, aided by Obama.

The opt-out notion, apparently Schumer’s brain-child, was a huge creative leap, like the one LBJ exploited in the late 1950s to get our first civil rights bill passed (actually that bill required 3-4 political miracles from Johnson, not just one). Reid is actually sending two or three versions of the reform package to the CBO for scoring, which hopefully will come under Obama’s $900 billion threshold; apparently the alternatives to be scored do include some language regarding coops (I’m unclear what that is) but they do NOT include Snowe’s trigger plan, which is insulting to Snowe but necessary to prevent the Blue Dogs from selling out to her again. There are also elements of the old Baucus bill which the liberals may want removed.

Snowe’s trigger was doomed even before Reid stomped it flat today – Reid must have known that so many liberals would fight it that it might not even have gotten 50 votes, let alone 60. Note that neither Snowe nor the White House made a real effort to sell the trigger idea, whereas Schumer has been marketing the opt-out to death for weeks. Of course Snowe is still feebly touting the trigger now, claiming on very thin evidence that it would lead to a broad bipartisan compromise (no, seriously!).

And stop whining about Obama, folks. His strategy all along was to go with the trigger in the first bill, and keep out of the picture until everything is settled at the last minute in conference – it’s safer that way, it preserves momentum, and they only have to rely on balky Blue Dogs once instead of twice (although it was highly unlikely a Dog would vote yes the first time and then screw Obama on the conference report). Obama’s only sin here was being slow to shift strategy now that the public option is back from the dead, and some pardonable reservations about Reid’s ability to pull this off. Now that Reid has jumped in, the White House is backing him up: Obama always wanted the public option in the first place, and soon he will bring his considerable firepower to the cause.

The GOP thought they killed this dead, and now they are terrified. They are screeching that Reid, Mister Caspar Milquetoast himself, who looks like a retired mailman, is a PARTISAN BULLY!! Snowe, when she isn’t trying to resurrect the trigger plan, is bragging that she is trying to slow the process down, which is a dead giveaway that all those weeks of Baucus sucking up to her were wasted.

So watch to see what leaks out of Reid’s big lunch meeting tomorrow.

Sunday 25 October 2009

GOP pols hit the panic button

Republican pols call for radical surgery to prevent disaster in 2012:

Some Republicans are so horrified about the butt-whupping that they are clearly going to suffer in 2012, that they are proposing radical surgery on the whole party, to prevent the patient from dying on the table.

Mainstream Republicans are terrified that the wingnuts, dittoheads and teabaggers will once again dominate the GOP primaries and render up a wingnut nominee like Palin or Huckleberry in 2012, who will spend all summer emitting dangerous, frightening lunacy, culminating in a landslide defeat on a scale comparable to Hoover, Landon, Adlai Stevenson, Goldwater, McGovern, Mondale….

This race is three years away, but already the GOP leaders are going public with their panic.

The race in upstate New York, in which the wingnuts are defying the GOP nominee entirely, and supporting a third-party wingnut who threatens to throw the race to the Democrats, has caused sphincters to pucker through out the GOP.

Some Republicans (apparently including one at the Philadelphia Inquirer) are talking about rigging the primary system to give more power to big-state moderate Republicans, or creating a Democrat-style system of superdelegates who could stop the wingnuts from nominating some reactionary maniac. Their argument is that 2012 will be all about Obama, so even if the Republicans nominate a moderate, the wingnuts will still come out in droves to vote against Obama.

So, notwithstanding all the screaming from Fox and Rasmussen, who are arguing on no evidence whatsoever that Obama is on the ropes, Republican leaders know that they face not just a serious ass-kicking, but their most mortal danger since Watergate.

But there are a couple of problems here.

First, most Republicans refuse to admit they have a problem.

Second, seeking big-state moderate Republicans these days is like looking for a unicorn carrying the Holy Grail on his horn.

Third, finding some Jedi Council of superdelegates who have the guts to defy the wingnuts is just not going to happen – if they had the coglioni to defy the teabaggers, they would have done it by now. They still entertain the fantasy that they can control the wingnuts, just as German conservatives were confident that they could control Hitler. But all Boss Limbaugh has to do is growl, and the party leaders will come to his heel and lick his fat, veiny ankles.

And fourth, as that New York race shows, the GOP can’t go too far toward the center, because the wingnuts could split off from the party entirely. All they need is a leader – Palin, Buchanan, Roger Ailes, Ross Perot…Clearly, for this crowd, sanity is not a prerequisite. Like lower order mammals, they will simply follow the loudest voice (Rush, perhaps?).

In other words, Doctor Frankenstein (let’s call him Rove) realizes that his monster (let’s call him Rush) is galloping across the countryside throwing little girls into wells, but they have no plan to bring him down.

“He was supposed to be a thing of beauty! Not a monstrosity!”

Why Obama must take on Rush

First of all, Rush Limbaugh did not rise to power because of the brilliance of his own political acumen, but because of the cleverness (and dumb luck) of the business model created by his managers. Back in the 1990s radio music was moving heavily away from AM to FM, leaving AM stations in the red, looking for cheap content to fill up their hours. In comes Premiere Radio, swooping down on many, many stations in the small rural markets, offering Rush’s show for free, in return for preferential advertising deals. Thus, the station doesn’t need to pay anybody to broadcast during that bloc; Rush probably doesn’t want you to know that he did more than anyone to wipe out local jobs, and local radio voices, in those rural areas. Soon, the only thing on in a lot of those rural areas was Rush, and once all those stations adopted conservative formats, it became very difficult to mix liberal and conservative on the same stations, so conservative radio, by getting in the door first, made liberal radio almost impossible to launch (although Air America has bounced back its market penetration is dwarfed by Rush). And the only reason this Limbaugh Invasion was possible, was that Reagan had eliminated the Fairness Doctrine a few years earlier.

While Premiere was building Rush a massive nationwide platform to shout from, the Republican party was destroying itself, leaderless, creating a power vacuum. Rush jumped in. Now, everyone fears him: with his unequalled ability to mobilize large numbers of people to make calls and write emails, and to coordinate his message with folks like Fox, Republicans can’t even question Rush’s statements on the record. The party has lost control of both Rush and the wingnuts at his command: they know, and he knows, that he could split the party in two instantly.

So Rush was aided by the entertainment vacuum in AM radio, the power vacuum in the GOP, and then…the election of Obama. Rush’s audience had peaked at about 25 million during the Clinton era and then dropped to 14 million, but Obama’s arrival pumped it back up to 20 again. Nevertheless the onslaughts from rival media sources like the internet, the decline of AM radio, the rapid aging of his audience, the prospect of the reinstatement of the hated Fairness Doctrine, and the fact that his broadcasts are loaded with obvious lies and bullcrap, will in time bring Rush down.

But in the meantime, Rush is much more dangerous than Fox.

In Jean Anouilh’s “Becket”, the doomed archbishop pointed out that the kingdom of God must be defended like any other kingdom. John Milton optimistically argued that we should just let truth and falsehood grapple, and truth inevitably would win, but my view is more “Becket-like”: the truth must be actively defended from falsehood. We must take up arms. The political system cannot function if the lies are crowding out the truth, and if the media won’t do their jobs and separate truth from falsehood, Obama must do it himself.

In 1928 FDR was elected governor of New York. At that time, the state of New York was blanketed with small-town Republican newspapers, and there were wide swathes of the state which were only hearing Republican viewpoints, just as there are wide swathes of the country that are only hearing Rush’s voice now. FDR took action and spent $100,000 on a reporting bureau to help shoot down the Republican lies and attacks in New York. By the same token, Obama, as America’s political leader, has every right to see to it that the truth gets the same play as the lies, and to help truth to fight on a level playing field with bullcrap: the President is allowed to defend himself, and he is allowed to refute lies (he is also allowed to deny a bully pulpit to people who lie all day – presidential access is not a First-Amendment right, which is why the supermarket rags aren’t invited into the White House press room). This is all the more important since the media won’t both to do what it used to do, shoot down the lies – as we learned when the mainstream media utterly failed to shoot down all the kill-grandma death-panel lies this summer.

So not only is Obama absolutely justified in calling Fox out for their endless lies, he needs to expand the attack and take down Rush.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Reasons to stop worrying about Snowe’s trigger

Here’s another reason why the Snowe trigger option is unlikely to go anywhere. In addition to the fact that it is really bad policy which consumers will hate, and is aimed almost entirely a single Senator…. Remember that we haven’t had a serious public discussion of the trigger yet.

There are a lot of problems with the trigger plans which folks like Snowe have proposed. They give the private insurers a free pass by raising the affordability threshold, for example by including federal aid and leaving out some of the out of pocket payments, and not accounting for inflation. We also haven’t discussed how to establish realistic performance metrics, apply them promptly, and pull the trigger promptly when needed. Then we get to the other nasty stuff: you can’t require people to buy unaffordable coverage, and the insurers will continue to jack up rates just as they promised.

Somebody should tell Rahm to stop mooning over Olympia’s picture and face the fact that opening a discussion on the Snowe trigger could add weeks or even months to the process. Reid and Pelosi are aiming to pass similar bills regarding the public option, to forestall squabbling later on, and make things go swiftly: with the public option things would happen pretty quickly, but with the trigger option, we would have to have a long discussion about how it would work, and then the House would still reject it. I think Rahm needs to realize that his strategy is out of date, now that the public option has risen from the dead.

Pelosi has acknowledged that she may have to dial down her plan from the robust option to the Schumer option and is okay with the opt-out; Clyburn expects a bill on the floor next week. In the Senate it was the idiotic AHIP attack that brought the public option back to life, and as of Saturday they are still leaning toward the public option with the opt-out, notwithstanding all the rumors regarding the White House and the trigger. The one or two Senators still dithering probably include Lincoln, Baucus, Bayh, and Nelson who actually said at one point that he couldn’t vote for a bill that had no GOP support, which is idiotic (and hopefully a reference to the bill only, not to cloture).

both Houses moving toward the middle -- the Schumer public option

Reid plans to unveil his bill early next week. That dramatically increases the odds that we will see opt-out, not trigger. Schumer has spent weeks selling the opt-out to Senators, with considerable success. But the last we heard of the Snowe trigger, it was a crappy deal in the extreme, and nobody has either (a) repaired the bill to make it workable, or (b) started selling it, especially to suspicious liberals. And the Snowe trigger can’t be fixed, packaged and sold all in the next 48 hours.

Reid is canvassing the Senators this weekend. The trick is that he can’t go out there and say “I’m counting votes for both the opt-out and the trigger”, because somebody like Baucus can easily con Reid out of his shorts by saying “I’ll give you cloture on the trigger but not on the opt-out”.

Also, as I intimated earlier, House and Senate leaders want to pass bills that are close together on the public option, to make the conference easier. That means opt-out, because the Snowe trigger would be stomped to death instantly in the House.

The House is considering a trigger – NOT the Snowe trigger, which starts with nothing and shifts up to the public option, but a hybrid trigger which starts with the Schumer public option and then triggers up to the robust, Medicare public option. House leaders says the White House likes it. Currently the House is not discussing the Snowe trigger or the opt-out, although Pelosi is trying to get the SENATE to go for the opt-out, by speaking positively about it.

My proposal would have been to use the opt-out, and then use the Snowe trigger IN the opt-out – for the states that opt out, the Snowe trigger could drag them back into the Schumer plan if too many people are going uninsured. That plan would get more support in the Senate. But hey, they didn’t ask me.

So we could have the House passing the Schumer public option with the option of shifting upward to the robust option, while the Senate passes the Schumer option with the option of a few states opting out. Got it?

So both Houses possibly are tiptoeing toward the Schumer plan, from opposite directions.

Another Democratic Senator wanders off the reservation

Thirty Republican Senators voted against the Franken amendment which would have allowed rape victims to access U.S. courts even if they are defense contractors. To commemorate the vote, somebody started up .

The problem is that now the Republicans have a Democratic ally, Senator Inouye, who is under pressure from defense contractors.

Can't Reid keep the caucus in line on anything?

Republican chaos

Mike Savage is squabbling with Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs is squabbling with John Stossel…All we need now is for Rush and Sean to go at it, and we can just sit down with the popcorn and watch!

This, the leadership of your Republican party.

The latest CNN poll says the Republican party has the lowest approvals since the Clinton impeachment 11 years ago. New Gingrich is whining that the recent ABC poll, which showed that only 20 percent of Americans support the Republicans, must have been “deliberately rigged”. Too bad for him that the CBS poll had it at 22, AP 21, Ipsos 19, Gallup 27, Pew 23, and the ultra-communist Wall Street Journal 18. What this means is that the Republicans have failed both ways: they haven’t brought down Obama, and they haven’t improved their own numbers either.

Even the Wall Street Journal is saying that Republicans who pray for salvation in 2010 should take a good hard look at their sorry-ass performance in that special election in New York.

As Media Matters pointed out, the winguttery is not stopping, or even slowing down: GOP congress members joking about hunting liberal Democrats with their guns, shooting at targets with the initials of Democratic politicians on them, hollering about House leaders bludgeoning opponents to death, talking openly about a coup against Obama, talking about a revolution in America, calling on citizens to bring guns to Obama events, making jokes about lynching Democrats, hanging Democrats in effigy, calling on conservatives to slit their wrists and become blood brothers, speaking out in favor of a political “Project Mayhem” referring to terrorists blowing up banks, calling for citizens to be armed and dangerous…

And my favourite: wingnuts want to boycott the NFL for being mean to Rush Limbaugh. Swear to God.

Republicans are becoming more overt in their fear of the wingnut movement they created: fear that the wingnuts are making the party look like Nazis (which is justified by the polls), and fear that the wingnuts could, Frankenstein-like, turn on their creators (a fear which is justified by the fiasco in the upstate New York race). Months ago Republicans hoped to capitalize on the wingnuts, and on public fears of Obama, but now it’s the GOP rather than Obama which has the image problems, and the whole notion of mainstream Republicans trying to harness the wingnuts sounds kinda scary.

More Republicans are starting to sound the alarm, about all this chaos. “Unfortunately, I see a lot of Republicans simply involved in political games,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said. “The Republican leadership in the House right now is constantly trying to play a political game to get a headline, and I don’t think that is going to take us anywhere. Most of our Republican friends, they’re only interested in the next couple days’ worth of headlines, rather than what they’re doing and the impact it’s going to have in the long run. I think that Republicans should be more focused on the long term rather than short-term headlines. You have to convince people that you’re serious, and by doing that you talk about your long-term alternatives and what you’re doing. The Republicans need to make sure that the public knows that we are not just in opposition, but we also have very creative alternatives to the horrible things the Democrats are trying to accomplish. I don’t think we’ve put out enough on that.”

And the Republicans regularly afford opportunities to expose their hypocrisy. Republicans like Boehner want Obama to handle Afghanistan the way Bush did in Iraq – figure out the manning first and the strategy second, which is stupid – forgetting that even Bush took months to launch the surge in Iraq. And the Democratic Party helpfully drafted a list of Republicans who bitterly opposed the stimulus package, and then took credit for getting the money. Guess how many? Sixty-seven.

Can Pelosi lend Reid some, um, guts?

Reid and Obama both know that going for the opt-out is a gamble, and it gives conservative Democrats veto power over the measure – Bayh, Nelson, possibly Lincoln or Conrad. The White House has been planning for quite some time to give Snowe her trigger on the Senate floor and then fix everything in conference (which has risks of its own); they may be reluctant to rethink their strategy, although they should because the situation has improved relative to a month or two ago. Now, because of Obama’s waffling, Reid is waffling too, doing a nose count on the trigger option.

Reid is going to canvas the Blue Dogs this weekend and then make his final choice next week.

Enter Pelosi. She and her whip, Clyburn, are speaking out in favour of the opt-out. The message to Reid and Obama is that if the Senate passes the opt-out, the conference will be a breeze, whereas if they pass the trigger there will be a fight in conference. In other words, the Senate needs to pass opt-out, and it might as well be now, while the momentum is moving that way.

Pelosi needs to tell Reid what Maggie Thatcher told Bush 41 before the Gulf War: “This is no time to go wobbly”.

As I said days ago, if Pelosi and Reid had switched jobs, health reform would be on Obama’s des already.

Maybe she should have that conversation with Obama too.

Friday 23 October 2009

White House shoots down trigger rumor again

The White House has specifically refuted the TPM report that they are pressuring Reid to switch from the opt-out to the trigger. Dan Pfeiffer: "The report is false. The White House continues to work with the Senate on the merging of the two bills. We are making good progress toward enacting comprehensive health reform." The White House denied it once already, but the denial was vague so they denied it again. That is actually the first time the White House has come out overtly and said they’re working to get the public option passed.

The trigger notion would have flown in the face of the White House’s clear effort to (a) get a good bill, by (b) letting the legislators figure it out for themselves and do their own nose-counting.

Keep in mind that the original rumor had a bad smell from the start – it was also rumored that Pelosi was secretly seeking the trigger too, which we know is bullcrap. Some janitor or pastry chef with a White House extension is making mischief with some leakage.

At best, the earlier leak was some White House staffer forcing people to take a hard look at the trigger, so they can see that it is indeed a really crappy proposal, and that it isn’t worth it to make that big a concession just for one Republican, in an effort to straighten out Senate Blue Dogs, or scare liberals into working harder for a strong public option.

This was NOT a White House panic attack – if they fear that Reid has gotten his math wrong again on this no-margin vote, particularly after blowing the doctor-fix measure, they still have the reconciliation option in their back pocket. They have a good fallback plan, they don’t need a crappy one.

And Booman echoes a sentiment expressed earlier: Reid wouldn’t have floated the opt-out trial balloon if he didn’t have the votes AND White House approval.

Obama told the press he’s looking for a “serious public option”, which Snowe’s proposal certainly was not. Just because Obama has, in the past, shown polite interest in the trigger – or at least Snowe, or at least in bipartisanship – doesn’t mean he is going to cripple his signature presidential legacy, and undermine his vulnerable Majority Leader, and probably lose anyway because guys like Rocky would balk, all for one woman.

The opt-out plan is still on track, and we know this because of the Blue Dog that didn’t bark.

It seems that initially Reid didn’t have the votes nailed down for cloture and simply gambled that when he announced his plan, the Blue Dogs wouldn’t object. And he was right, they didn’t – the Blue Dogs that didn’t bark (although they growled a bit). Apparently Reid knew they wouldn’t, based on some consultations which indicated that the Blue Dogs would support cloture if they had a chance to offer, and vote for, an amendment stripping OUT the public option, thereby appeasing their conservative constituents. And the most unnerving moderates have, in the past, expressed willingness to consider the public option: Ben Nelson and Conrad have expressed willingness to support some form of it, Bayh said he’s an agnostic on it, Landrieu and Lieberman and Pryor have promised to support cloture (the one I want to hear from is Lincoln).

The Huffington Post published a really badly-written piece saying that Reid is only one or two votes away from either (a) securing 60 votes on cloture, or (b) securing 60 votes on the actual health care bill. My guess is that he is still working to nail down two on cloture – some combination of Lincoln, Nelson, Baucus and Bayh.

And remember that this latest trial balloon, the opt-out, did get almost universal positive reactions, whereas when the trigger-option trial balloon was floated weeks ago, it crashed to the ground, full of holes. People just don’t like it (although, annoyingly, Blue Dogs might).

And there has been no effort to fix Snowe’s orginal trigger plan, to make it workable and marketable. If someone at the White House had really wanted the trigger, they could have come along and said “here is how we alter Snowe’s plan, to make the threshold lower and the trigger more of a hair-trigger”, and then marketed the idea. But they didn’t. Instead they let Schumer, the real leader in the Senate for my money, spend weeks marketing the opt-out. If, in the next week, you see someone like Nelson or Bayh come out with an improved trigger, then we can adjust our estimates.

Another leaker, anonymous of course, asserts that Senate leaders not only are doing a nose count on the trigger, but have found that the trigger plan is closer to getting 60, being only 1-2 votes way. Funny how the opt-out seems to be at almost exactly the same point – sounds like a tie to me. You could argue that the nose counts for the good opt-out could be 60 while the bad trigger could come out to 61, but the trigger still a bad proposal, which means Obama will tell Reid not to even allow it to come to a vote.

Obama did say at one point that it is the conference report, not the initial Senate vote, that is important. However, existing Senate rules, and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, make it hard for a conference committee to add new material that wasn’t passed in either house originally. As I understand it (not being a parliamentarian), if the House passes the robust public option, and the Senate passes the trigger option, it is hard to pull a switcheroo in conference and add the opt-out instead. Not impossible, but hard – for one thing you would need 60 votes in the Senate again. That would not be a problem if the House had the opt-out, but that would involve Pelosi persuading her already-angry caucus to give in on both the robust option and the opt-out. So getting the opt-out into the original Senate bill is optimal.

And we don’t want to misinterpret Pelosi’s struggle in the House. She is not having trouble with the robust plan because House members dislike it. She is having trouble because the Senate is clearly moving toward the Schumer plan – the fence-sitters in the House don’t want to go on record for a liberal plan that isn’t going to go anywhere on the other side of the hill. She could have nailed down the robust option if Reid had waited a bit, but it hardly matters – the robust option was never going to get through the Senate successfully. The centrists are saying they want to go slow in the legislative process. My take is – that’s fine, commit NOW to cloture and we’ll vote next January if you want.

And Tim Pawlenty says that if the opt-out is passed, he will lead a crusade to get ultra-blue Minnesota to opt out. Either he really is that clueless about his home state, or he’s just posturing for national attention.

Support for the GOP outside the South is down to 8.3 percent

That’s eight point three. Not eighty three.

Democrats are now twice as popular as Republicans nationally, and they haven’t even passed their signature legislative package yet.

Could Palin run in 2012 as an independent?

Up in the New York 23rd, the Conservative Party is splitting the Republican vote, by running Doug Hoffman against pro-choice GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava and the Democrat, Bill Owens. Palin is endorsing Hoffman and donating money, defying the GOP which just nominated her for vice president, insisting that “there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race”. Michelle Bachmann has also endorsed Hoffman; the one major Republican speaking out publicly for Scozzafava is Gingrich. Currrently Scozzafava is 8 points ahead of Hoffman but 5 behind Owens – if Hoffman weren’t in the race, the Republicans would have this one in hand.

This could be more than just Palin seeking attention and helping to flack her new book. For months mainstream Republicans have been ridiculing Palin behind her back, blaming her for sinking McCain last year, ignoring her offers for campaign help, and giving her the “don’t call us we’ll call you” answer with respect to supporting her for the GOP nomination in 2012. What if she intends to pay back the Republicans by running for president on a third-party ticket? She would transform instantly from has-been punch-line to Queen of the Wingnuts.

As I mentioned on 20 October, there are a number of reasons why the wingnuts and teabaggers could conceivably split off and formalize their own political movement, independent of the GOP.

…and Palin would be their ideal leader. Watch to see if she starts showing up at the teabag events, or schmoozing with the Club For Growth people, or the Constitution Party or the Boston Tea Party. She would want to piggy-back off an organization that is already going (the Constitution party did get on the presidential ballot in 37 states last time), and she would want to do something a bit early, perhaps after the midterms, to work on petitions, ballot access, fundraising etc. There might also be some clues in her book.

Please please please let her run a third-party candidacy!

The thing is, if she did run in 2012, she could actually take some states in the electoral college, particularly in what I call “Planet Wingnut”, the racist we-hate-Obama belt running through the Appallachians and then over the river into Louisiana and Texas. Conceivably she could take Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma. But everything she took would come from the GOP nominee. And she could also cause the GOP to lose a lot of close states like Missouri, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina.

Let’s start a draft movement! Get her on the ballot!

(Here’s a scary thought – could the Blue Dog Democrats also split off? Naah. They generally live in red states where they would be crushed easily – but they could cause Democrats trouble just by running for office. And who would they run nationally? Evan Bayh? Lieberman??)

Also, this New York race is just a dress rehearsal for the Florida Senate contest. Down south, rightwing Republican Rubio is running strong against moderate Charlie Crist, but polling shows that it is Crist who can beat the Democrat in the general election. This sort of fratricidal nonsense sends a dangerous message: there is no room for moderates or centrists in the GOP.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Reid has the votes for the opt-out public option

The health care formula which Reid is reportedly favoring for the Senate bill calls for the more conservative, Schumer version of the public option, probably run by a nonprofit board with federal seed money, with the added feature of an opt-out: after a couple of years states can bail out of the public option. Who has the power to make the opt-out happen – governors, legislators etc – is not clear. It gives conservative Democrats a fig leaf – hey, we’re leaving up to the state capitol, state’s rights!

Remember that Reid is a timid, timid, timid little Milquetoast of a man. Reid is even more timid after the recent fiasco on the doctor-salary measure, which made him look like he can’t lead his caucus or count to 60 (just imagine if Reid and Pelosi had traded jobs this year -- health reform would be law already). He’s not going to jump out with something like this opt-out thing unless he has checked his caucus, and checked them again, and again, to ensure he has everybody nailed down on the cloture issue.

So unless someone screws him over, he's got it.

The cloture question was tested almost immediately. Baucus went completely nuts when he heard Reid’s plans, because Reid is wiping out Baucus’ two-month effort to schmooze Olympia Snowe. Baucus tried to round up conservative Democrats to persuade them to oppose the public option. Keep in mind that only one Democrat is needed to step out and say “I will oppose cloture on the public option”, and the public option is dead. But not one did. Not even Baucus himself. Nelson and Conrad grumbled, but they didn’t threaten to join Team Red on a filibuster.

And it is very unlikely that a Senator is going to remain silent until the day of the vote and then suddenly screw over the President: they will haggle for their price. Silence is golden, no news is good news. Specter and ABC confirm that Reid has 60 on cloture, although a Senate aide tried to poopoo the story. Landrieu is still spouting nonsense about the public option but she has indicated that she will support cloture, as will Pryor. Nelson isn’t happy but didn’t threaten a block on cloture. Conrad already said the Schumer version of the plan could pass, which suggests it’s unlikely that he would block cloture. The only public rejection of the new Reid plan was from the Republican, Snowe, whom we probably don’t need now. Collins, Snowe, Bayh, Landrieu, Wyden and Lieberman are meeting privately to wring their hands worrying about the plan, but none have said “hell, no” to it. Perhaps they’re just humouring Snowe while she licks her wounds.

There are two people we do want to watch closely right now. Bayh says he opposes a federal public option and wouldn’t vote for cloture on a bill that hurts his state -- youch. And Lincoln has vaguely supported the public option in the past, I think, but now she is insisting that she won’t support a solely government-funded public option and that Arkansas doesn’t want it (incorrect), which hopefully is just weasel-wording which would allow her to vote, at least, for cloture.

Because the public option will be in the original merged bill, there will be a vote on an amendment to remove it. This will give Blue Dogs the chance to vote in favor of stripping out the public option (bad), for cloture (good), and against the final bill (bad), so they can say they voted against the public option two out of three times – but it’s the cloture vote that matters, because that gets the victory threshold down from 60 to 50.

Those who were clamouring for Obama to draw a line in the sand on the public option before, must remember that as soon as he committed himself, ANY on the Blue Dogs could crush him with a “no” vote on cloture. He would effectively be putting his balls in their hands: as soon as he committed, they could hold him hostage. Thus the reticence.

In the House Pelosi is fighting the Blue Dogs (who should like the public option because it’s cheap and covers more people) to get a robust public option through the House; this would give Pelosi leverage in conference, and give guys like Conrad something to grandstand against (although again, Conrad should also like the plan because his good buddies the CBO say it’s cheap). Democrats are also pushing the notion that the public option is similar to Medicare, which people understand and approve of (it wouldn’t be crazy to simply let people buy into Medicare, which is actually a budget-neutral option).

Out in the media, the Democrats are taking off the gloves. Obama is running a new ad slamming Steele for lying about health reform, and slapped down Grassley for claiming that Obama is spreading “propaganda” on health reform. Reid and Leahy are working on stripping the insurers of their anti-trust exemption, a plan which has wide, wide support among the public – 65 percent for, 21 against. But my favorite smackdown of the day occurred in the Senate, where a conservative lobbyist made the ghastly mistake of claiming that the current health reform plan will move us toward a European system and increase bankruptcies, and ran into a nasty buzz-saw named Al Franken, who asked: how many medical crises led to bankruptcies in Switzerland last year? Zero. How many in France ? Zero. How many in Germany ? Zero. So STFU.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

What if the wingnuts take aim at the GOP?

America has a wingnut infestation.

Here’s the news just from today: a new PPP poll says that only 27 percent of Republicans believe that Obama loves America, a Pennsylvania Republican says that veterans who support climate change legislation are traitors, another Republican said of his sportsman’s caucus “We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition!“, and champagne corks popped at GOP headquarters at 1240 today, as the Dow temporarily dipped below 10,000. Hooray, Americans are getting hurt!

And the GOP is sustaining terrible damage because of the wingnuts: new polls say that only 20 percent of Americans support the GOP – the lowest score in 26 years -- and only 19 percent have confidence in the GOP’s ability to made the right decisions for our future, which suggests that Obama will have a ridiculously easy time persuading Americans he can outperform the GOP. Polling also shows that in generic congressional matchups give the Dems a 51-39 edge, the same kind of margin they enjoyed just before the historic ass-kickings in 2006 and 2008.

Historically wingnuts have accomplished little in our governmental history. The few times they stumble over a good idea, their effort to pursue that ideal is so clumsy that one of the two major parties swipes their innovations for themselves. The only time a fringe movement truly caught fire was when the Republican party was born in the 1800s, and the GOP enjoyed ideal circumstances – they had the old Whig party to build on, they had a hot issue, and both the Democratic party and the nation it ruled were coming apart at the seams, creating a staggering power vacuum.

At other times, wingnuts have achieved little. In the earlier days small parties based on bigotry, like the Anti-Masons and the Know-Nothings, were laughed out of town, while the parties depending on one issue (Prohibition) or one man (Teddy Roosevelt, prefiguring Ross Perot) were short-lived. Their signal achievement in the 20th century came when their southern wing split off en masse from the Democratic party and joined the GOP in the 20 years following the Democratic effort to pass civil rights legislation.

FDR had many wingnut enemies like Father Coughlin, Huey Long and the bonus army, but they all embarrassed themselves and slid into oblivion. FDR’s real troubles were with establishment Republicans and conservative Democrats who impeded more of his legislative program than many people remember today. Clinton had the same problem: the wingnut attacks against him mostly rolled off his back, but his establishment opponents in both parties blocked or threatened initiatives such as Hillarycare and his stimulus package (Obama is having the same trouble with the same sort of alliance between Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate).

But could the wingnuts finally get on the scoreboard? Find another Ross Perot who isn’t quite so obviously insane and build a movement?

One thing we know we will see in 2010: mainstream Republicans are being challenged by archconservative wingnuts for various electoral seats, either in primary challenges or in third-party challenges. Already, this is causing the Republicans big trouble, since the wingnuts are siphoning off money and voters, and forcing Republican candidates to tack to the right instead of the left, which makes it harder to pick up the independents they need for the general election, and so forth. One group in particular, the Club For Growth, is specifically targeting “RINO’s” for extinction – they are a key reason why Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic party. But so far the CFG is trying to fix the GOP from within.

What if the far right wing makes this a permanent, free-standing revolution? What if they work full-time to attack the apostate mainstream Republican party in hopes of conquering the conservative half of the country?

This would be analogous, somewhat, to what Nader did to Gore in 2000: Nader reasoned that it was worthwhile to run for president because he saw little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and because Nader was on the ballot in Florida, we ended up with eight years of Bush. By the same token, a split in the conservative movement could elect a lot of Democrats for a long time.

Let’s look at the tools which the wingnuts have to work with: they include the Reform Party and its adherents, the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, the Boston Tea Party, the Club For Growth, and of course the teabaggers.

What if one person could unite all these groups, or at least persuade a number of them to all nominate him, for President or another high office? What platform would he use, to unite them all?

First, the fear factor: this group’s base would begin to build in the South, so start with their centuries-old fear of uppity black folks (and brown ones too), and harp on crime, guns and immigration, as well as affirmative action. Also add the neocon fear and anger over the performance of both major parties on Afghanistan, Iran and al-Qa’ida. This is one reason why a retired general might serve as a party nominee, perhaps in the VP slot the way they did with Curtis LeMay (the original model for the insane Jack Ripper in Doctor Strangelove).

Second, attack anything Obama does, and keep the birther flame alive. Also hit hard on Obama’s effort against unemployment if it’s still a problem. Gotta have a skeery enemy, and a black man with the 82nd Airborne at his command scores right up there.

Third, the Big Gummint meme. The ages-old anti-revenooer attitude down south now provides fertile ground to yell and scream about gummint spending, gummint regulation (an issue which also attracts business people with deep pockets), the climate change “hoax” (ditto), and federal stimulus efforts. You can also scoop up more wingnuts with the tax issue, the Tenth Amendment, the health reform effort and the death panels, government spying, and fair trade.

Fourth, scoop up the religious right on gays and abortion: there are still millions of them and they know how to organize and spend money. Give them lip service on their seemingly endless list of grievances against the horrors of the modern world – hit them with school vouchers, school prayer, intelligent design, putting the Commandments in courtrooms, stem cell research, cloning, civil unions, HPV shots, contraception, sex education, faith-based initiatives, banning books, assisted suicide. Reagan never kept his promises to this crowd, and they still genuflect whenever they hear His Name. Men of faith indeed.

As you can see, it is platform perfect for the wingnuts – almost entirely rooted in fear, hate and ignorance. With a platform like that, the Chief Wingnut would win over the little third parties, the Club For Growth, the social conservatives, the neocons, the denizens of Corporate America who have deep pockets and loathe all government activity, virtually the entire conservative base (not dissimilar from Hitler’s coalition-building efforts in the 1930s – he even won over the socialists whom he subsequently sent to the ovens). Such a wingnut movement would leave the Republicans in tatters, forcing the GOP to choose between (a) going to the right to fight for their old base, which would doom them in any fight with Democrats in general elections, or (b) tacking to the left and fighting Rahm Emanuel and the Blue Dogs for control over the few centrists America has left, having abandoned the whole GOP base – and its platform, and its philosophy -- to the wingnut party.

The main problem the Wingnut Party would have is spreading its reach beyond the South. The West would afford some fertile ground, depending on how they play the immigration issue, but the North and East would require some true ingenuity. Fiscal conservatism, guns and fear.

Another issue is finding that elusive, charismatic leader. Obama has set the bar pretty high, and even the Republican party is having trouble finding credible national leaders – a wingnut movement would have even more trouble.

Perhaps it could be Pat Buchanan, who led the Reform party once already in a presidential election.
Today Buchanan was hollering on World Net Daily that “traditional” Americans, i.e. whites, are losing THEIR nation, that America’s politicians are media aren’t facing the “reality” that is white America, that whites are angry about jobs outsourced to nonwhites, about tax money spent on nonwhites, about nonwhite aliens, about a nonwhite affirmative-action president which causes whites to distrust their institutions….He did everything but scream “NIGGER” at the top of his lungs.

And here’s an ominous addendum: Buchanan is crowing about a new species of wingnuts, the “Oath Keepers”. These guys are either current or former military and police who have pledged to defend the Constitution even to the point of disobeying orders, in order to “stop dictatorship”. They have been overtly seeking the armed people they need for the revolution.

CBO, Blue Dogs still liking the public option

Senate Blue Dogs are beginning to realize that if they pass an individual mandate without the public option, their constituents could toss them out of office. Landrieu said she’s not inclined to join a filibuster, which is huge since she’s arguably the Democrat most resistant to the public option. Ben Nelson isn’t ready to commit to cloture yet, but he is now saying that the public option is popular but the opt-in and opt-out options are even more popular. Baucus is saying that he likes the public option personally and wants to keep the insurers honest, and he seems to be talking about which public option we should have, rather than whether to have it at all. Some think that even Snowe could vote for cloture. Two Senators, Udall and Bennet, are keeping up the pressure on the Blue Dogs by openly calling on the other Senators to commit to cloture.

The CBO gave reformers a big boost by scoring the liberal, robust public-option plan and giving it a very low price tag, below $900 billion. Pelosi, armed with that, will ask her caucus to take that liberal public option to the House floor, which will keep up the pressure on the Senate and give reformers more negotiating room to their right. Even better, Reid is saying he wants to look at the CBO numbers before deciding on the public option – which suggests that the good CBO score will give the public option momentum in both Houses.

Reid, Dodd and Baucus will wait a couple of days before tackling the public option issue, addressing the less volatile issues in the meantime. Reid’s weird “we’re leaning toward talking about the public option” suggests that some form of the public option will be in the merged bill, which is very important because it is much easier to pass it as part of the original bill, rather than trying to tack it on as an amendment which is much easier to block with a filibuster. Reid did sound a bit pusillanimous in the way he addressed this issue, and his wobbly leadership has become so obvious that even liberals are getting in his face: Ron Wyden just pushed back at a message from the Senate leadership claiming that under the current plan anyone can switch to the public coverage. But Reid knows that if he comes out looking wobbly, he loses his job, so he’s got to man up soon.

Along the same lines, Senate aides have been begging for weeks, for Obama to jump into the fight publicly: they say a lot of the Blue Dogs could be brought into line that way (although he may not have all that much leverage over them), and it could pump up Obama’s poll numbers (and party fundraising) as well – a lot of Democrats and independents are withdrawing from Obama because he’s not pushing enough.

The GOP saw the poll data this week, and they must have been stunned to learn that the public option is three times as popular as the Republican party.

Let me hit that point again: the public option is three times as popular as the Republican party.

Nevertheless they have their attack/evade/delay strategy ready again, although New Gingrich is promising that if health reform passes, the GOP will work to repeal it later, which suggests the GOP expects to lose this battle. Insurance lobbyists have new massive ad campaign aimed at seniors, claiming that Obama will allow Obama not only to deny Medicare coverage, but also to put your “intimate” details out where the public can see them.

But here’s the real measure of Republican desperation on health reform: Tom Coburn is one of the biggest gay-bashers in Washington, screeching that gays have infiltrated the centers of power, that their agenda is the greatest threat to our freedoms, that their agenda is abortion and promiscuity; he bellows about rampant lesbianism and gay porn, and advocated reporting all positive HIV tests to the public authorities. Now Coburn is crawling back to the gay community, begging for their help on health care, claiming that big gummint will kill people by rationing AIDS medicine. That’s like Hermann Goering asking for the Jews to speak in his favour at Nuremburg.

Monday 19 October 2009

GOP loses one-sixth of its support in one year!

The Republicans and the wingnuts launched a massive national campaign to win people back to the GOP banner, by trying to smear Obama, bury him with lies, overwhelm him with wingnut attacks on a thousand fronts, and bury him in their bullcrap. Did they win people back? Um, no. According to the latest Gallup poll, support for the GOP has actually dropped from 27 percent in January to 22.5 today – WOW! -- and the Democrats have now widened their lead over the GOP to 11.2 percent. Even worse for the GOP, most of their support is crammed into the southern states: other polling shows that outside the South, support for the GOP isn’t at 22, it’s at NINE. Once you get outside the Confederacy, the GOP is about as popular as rectal cancer. They have completely emptied out the Toolkit Of Crazy, the teabaggers dressed as Betsy Ross, the lies, the smears, the attacks, the birthers, the deathers, the tenthers – all that, and they actually lost ground. So what does that leave them? Pray for a miracle, or prepare for extinction, like the Whigs and the Know-Nothings.

Whoops, this just in! The ABC poll says support for the GOP is down to 20 percent. So...27 down to 20. Yikes!

The Pennsylvania GOP is making the entire national party look even more foolish, by running an ad implying that Obama is a Communist.

Rasmussen actually managed to give us some insight into the GOP race for 2012. They detected a shift in the wingnut vote from Palin to Huckabee. This is excellent news for the Democrats, because it increases the probability that the wingnut voters, rather than splitting their votes between Palin and Huckabee, will line up behind a single candidate, Huckabee, and use that unity to wipe out the relative moderates like Pawlenty and Romney. This is turn gives Obama an easy wingnut opponent, and an easy reelection victory.

Come on, girls, time to grow up and grab a mop.

Blue Dogs warming to the opt-out

Okay, okay, here's the short version.

The public option is getting more support from the polls and the media. The Congressional Blue Dogs, facing more pressure from their constituents, are starting to “frame” their position, saying they will not accept a public option linked to Medicare, but are warming up to the opt-out proposal, although Lieberman is still playing with fire by screwing with Obama both on health care and on czars. Other Democratic strategists are reminding the Republicans (and the Blue Dogs) that they have other tools they can win with – the conference report and reconciliation (although so far they are not talking up the notion of having people vote yes on cloture and then no on the bill itself); even the Republicans are starting to admit tacitly that the Democrats may very well stick together on the public option. Reid is talking tough about delivering the goods, presumably because he knows he can’t survive if they pass a crappy wimpy bill; Obama, who also realizes the need for a strong bill, is still hanging back, but will soon need to step in and lead, for a number of reasons – but when he does, a lot of people will fall in line.

Now, a whole lot of details about all this.

A new ABC poll shows, again, that the American people want the public option, not bipartisanship for its own sake, and the NY Times also endorsed the public option.

Reid is running ads all over Nevada, claiming he’s guy who can “deliver in a way that no one else can”. So with the problems he already has back home, he knows he can’t deliver a crappy bill, so perhaps his tough talk in the ad betokens his confidence that a good bill is coming. In Washington Reid is, annoyingly, still playing more of a birthing coach that a leader, still mooing about the 60-vote barrier, but still, there’s that ad. So perhaps for him it’s about the bill itself, rather than him doing a lap around the rotunda wearing a Superman cape. The ad is a good sign.

Obama does want the public option – he wouldn’t be pushing Pelosi to keep pushing the House bill to the left if he was just going to cave. He has been noncommittal all summer in order to make talks with the Republicans possible and keep the Finance committee from collapsing, but a lot of people – includingCongressional Democrats – want to see Obama honest-to-God lead, and not just because of the health care issue. The good news is that when he does step in, some wobbly Blue Dogs will finally fall in line. Hopefully, enough of them.

As we learned from the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, the American people will indeed rebel against a bad health care plan. The MCCA was so bad it was repealed after a year. By the same token, if we do have an individual mandate, but do NOT have the public option, then millions of people will be forced to buy from the private insurers, who have just PROMISED us all gigantic rate increases. Under those circumstances, a rebellion – right during the 2010 midterms -- is certain. Add to that the fact that Obama has made clear that he doesn’t want to sign a bad bill, i.e. one that would start a REAL national teabagger riot. All this leads inescapably to the conclusion that Obama is unlikely to sign anything that looks even remotely like the Baucus fiasco, or triggers.
Axelrod is still talking about solving all this in the House-Senate conference, which could be risky. Hopefully the White House is just reminding the Republicans of how many paths to victory there are for Obama – just like Harkin is ostentatiously wheeling out the reconciliation weapon. Read on:

Democrats are test-driving the reconciliation process, which they can use to pass health reform with 50 votes if getting 60 for cloture proves problematic. They are testing out the reconciliation process by using it on a different issue, shifting student loan money away from subsidizing private lending and toward Pell Grants, which would move about $9 billion a year from bankers to students. This will be a great test of the reconciliation prospects for health care, because a lot of the same people are involved: Harkin is pushing for the student loan bill, the Republicans and a couple of Blue Dogs oppose it, and the Senate parliamentarian will have to rule on what passes and what doesn’t – this would be a good time to gauge his mood on the whole reconciliation concept. And publicly flirting with the reconciliation mechanism sends a message to the Blue Dogs: “If you screw Obama over in the first floor vote, not only are you going to bring the wrath of the whole party down no your heads, but you’re going to lose anyway because we have this second mechanism we can use to go around you.”

Baucus, the most conservative of the big three Senators currently hashing out the language for the Senate health reform bill, seems to be warming to the opt-out option. He reeled off the list of options, the “most pure” plan involving a public option linked to Medicare, and the many “less pure” plans such as Schumer’s public option plan, the opt-out, the opt-in, the coops, the triggers. He implied that the “most pure” version – the one linked to Medicare – was the nonstarter, echoing the sentiment of fellow Blue Dog Kent Conrad; in fact, other conservative Democrats are beginning to subtly draw that line – it’s the Medicare-linked public option they won’t go for, which is a very good sign. Baucus expressed particular interest in the opt-out. So it sounds as though the conservative Democrats are warming up to the notion that giving Obama the opt-out package would be a good compromise between the more robust public option, and openly defying the President. They seem to be realizing that defying a popular president in order to block a popular legislative effort is suicidal. Senate liberals are leaning on the Blue Dogs, to the tune of “you don’t want to be the one person who kills reform and cripples the party and the president, do you?”

Interestingly, it still sounds as though the Democratic leaders are not making much of an effort to persuade Blue Dogs to have their cake and eat it too – vote yes on cloture and then no on the bill itself. It sounds as though they’re shooting for 60 on the actual bill. Not sure why – the split-the-difference notion allows you to get a better bill and still get to 60. But as long as their talking opt-out rather than clinging to Baucus’ idiotic coops or Snowe’s fatally flawed trigger, we’re okay.

The various Blue Dogs are dragging this out as long as possible – as soon as they commit to a position, they no longer get all the attention, which is pretty childish; and as long as the three Senators are behind closed doors hashing out the bill, the Blue Dogs aren’t getting the ego massaging and schmoozing they need so desperately. Lincoln may have been speaking kindly of the trigger option in an effort to block the more liberal opt-out, but in the meantime her Arkansans back home, who have said in the polls that they want the public option, slapped her silly on the issue in a recent forum. Lincoln isn’t the only Blue Dog facing liberal pressure back home: Carper, Nelson and Conrad are also facing potential revolts from home-state Democrats, Mainers are putting pressure on Snowe and Collins. Specter, interestingly, is touting the public option, perhaps feeling the pressure from Sestak back in Pennsylvania. Conrad may be leaving himself room to back Obama after all, by specifying, as I noted, that it’s the Medicare-based public option he can’t vote for although he stills prefers coops and triggers; Obama worked him over in the Oval today.

Pretty soon Democratic Senators are going to be asking Lieberman – “Why are you insisting on an investigation of Obama’s “czars”, when you didn’t investigate Bush’s czars when you had the same oversight job? If you’re going to give preferential treatment to the Republicans, why don’t you just take off the mask and join the GOP?” This actually gives me hope here – Lieberman can’t be stupid enough to defy Obama on czars and then defy him again on health care, because he knows he’d be thrown out of the Democratic caucus. Hopefully he’s tacking to the right on czars so he can then tack to the left on cloture for health reform.

I think the Republicans know how much trouble they’re in. It is now emerging that Senate Republicans don’t expect any Blue Dog Democrats to block passage of the health reform bill, even if there is a public option included. The Republicans might even lose Snowe and Collins, who could conceivably support cloture. So now the only remaining strategies for the GOP are delay (they demand several weeks of debate, which the Democrats rejected) and more lies about tax increases, seniors getting denied care, some new variation on the death-panel bullcrap, etc etc.

Saturday 17 October 2009

The “grab yer guns and destroy Obama” meme is now an internet game!

The wingnuts have set up an online “overthrow Obama” game. According to the backstory, Obama takes over in a coup (which we call an “election” in the real world), kills Glenn Beck, and puts all the other rightwing pundits in concentration camps – Rush, Sean, Billo etc. A revolution ensues, the military refuses to fight to defend Obama, and Sarah Palin takes command of the revolutionaries. The game encourages the players to “invade” and “conquer” their neighbors (presumably the nasty little brown ones).

So now mass insanity is now a web game like Sudoku or crosswords.

Fun fun fun for the whole family!

Friday 16 October 2009

The GOP’s really bad week

Where, oh where do I begin?

A new focus-group study has been released, a study of the voters in the Republican base. They really do hate hate hate Obama. They believe that Obama has a secret agenda to lie to the American people so he can deliberately damage and bankrupt the country, destroy the country’s founding principles, take away our freedoms, and expand government into a socialist model. Interestingly they like Beck more than Rush, and they fear that Beck and his staff are at personal danger because of his bravery and honesty. Neatly enough, these people who are outraged at the alleged liberal worship of Obama “the Messiah” were the same drooling idiots who ejaculated into their overalls whenever their Messiah, Reagan, favored them with a TV appearance; they still worship him in death like Jesus.

For 2010 races, the GOP wants to attract moderates, but the effort is alienating the party base. Some candidates who were specially selected by the party are now being undermined by the teabaggers – in some cases teabag candidates have launched third-party runs and are outperforming the mainstream party choices. The intra-party squabbling is costing the party money, hurting registration, and helping Democrats to pull ahead in key races. So the Republicans will become harder to deal with on the Hill (as they tack to the right to mollify the base) but then easier to beat in the voting booth. They have no one but themselves to blame – they worked for years to drive the party to the right, and now they’re surprised that the rest of the party (and the country) didn’t follow. GOP leaders are becoming more vocal in their concern: Bill Frist admitted that the birthers are a problem for the GOP and they need to be brought down to earth; Linsey Graham told them to knock the crap off. The dream scenario is for the wingnuts to split off from the GOP and form their own party: the Democrats will never lose again.

A new R2K poll measures the popularity of Obama but also other top leaders and the parties themselves. Ignore the top-line data -- we all know that the poll numbers for Obama are rising, Boehner is down to 13 percent, McConnell 17 – because the important data is at the bottom: support for the GOP outside the South is down to 9.3 percent.

A separate poll shows that Palin’s numbers are at an all-time low.

The GOP’s new website launch was a disaster. Laughter across the country.

Four Congressional wingnuts have been laughed off of Capitol Hill, for screeching that interns of Middle Eastern descent working on Capitol Hill are actually terrorist spies.

Michael Steele, who never misses a chance to put his foot in his mouth, promised to be the cow on the tracks who was going to stop the health-reform train, the kind of metaphor that only Wile E. Coyote could love. Moooooooooo!

A Boehner staffer was forced to admit that Boehner had goofed when he said he’d never heard anybody in Ohio say they like the public option.

Romney was ridiculed for screeching that the public option would absolutely be “death” across the country.

Likewise Grassley was hollering that health care reform – which hasn’t even been finalized yet – might be unconstitutional, which betrays a staggering ignorance of Article I Section VIII of the Constitution (he seems to forget that such objections didn’t stop Social Security, Medicare or the VA). A new poll shows that Grassley, after blocking health reform all summer, now has a much tighter reelection race than he had before.

Rove is whining that Bush never rejected requests by Afghanistan commanders for more troops. Gee, anything wrong with this? First, Obama hasn’t rejected anything yet. Second, Bush did reject some requests. Third, it’s the President’s call, not the commanders. Fourth, when, in 5000 years of recorded military history, has a commander ever asked for FEWER troops? That would be…never.
The neocons are trying to game the system, by demanding 100,000 new troops, to make an increase of 40,000 sound like the reasonable middle option – the Fallacy of the False Choice.

GOP republicans block extension of unemployment benefits. Just in time for Christmas!

A Louisiana judge was nailed for denying an inter-racial couple a marriage license – an action ruled unconstitutional 40 years ago.

The GOP has been busted for lying about Obama education adviser Kevin Jennings, because he’s gay. They claim he ignores the sexual abuse of children. They’ve already been debunked.

Republican Senator Richard Burr publicly browbeat a legal expert who dared to question the right of insurance companies to treat being victimized by domestic violence as a preexisting condition. Getting clubbed over the head by your husband can cause you to lose your health coverage.

But that’s okay, because Rush will win back the women for the GOP!..Rush and the rest of the lunatic fringe are launching sexist attacks at Snowe and Collins – all because Snowe dared to vote for the Baucus bill, and Collins did…um, nothing at all. “Women, damn it!...Stupid girl…Jezebel stabbed America in the back”. Limbaugh describes Snowe’s supports as castrati, just as he did for supporters of Hillary.

The “lawyer” leading the birther charge, Orly Taitz, was fined $20,000 for misconduct; she responded by calling the judge delusional and corrupt. Somebody’s going to jail..!

The GOP spin machine has thrown a rod. Their laughable effort to spin the Nobel Peace Prize as a bad thing for Obama was laughed out of town, and Obama even got a Nobel bounce in the latest Gallup. Undeterred, they are trying to spin the rise of the Dow to 10,000: after spending weeks in the spring, blaming Obama for the drop in the Dow, they are now referring to the rise in the Dow as the “Bush recovery”. So apparently all downward movement is Obama’s fault, but all upward movement is credited to the ex-president who is now back in Crawford eating Cheetos and watching the Longhorns.

Limbaugh’s effort to buy the Rams was laughed out of the room by NFL executives who are almost all Republicans. Ouch!

Beck went into another of his raving crying fits when a White House staffer had the temerity to quote Mao Zedong to the tune of "You fight your war, and I'll fight mine." Beck claims the staffer has a hero-worship for as mass murderer!! I guess he was asleep when Bush 43, McCain and Ralph Reed also cited Mao.

Conservative CNN “commentator” Alex Castellanos was outed as a shill for the insurance industry.

Senate narrows it down to public option, opt-out, and trigger

Apparently the Senate leadership has narrowed it down to a public option, an opt-out, and a trigger; I think the opt-out is the most likely.

When the Senate leaders emerged from the Democratic caucus meeting, they were boasting that the caucus was united, but today it emerges that there was more squabbling about the public option than we were originally told. Rockefeller joined Schumer in publicly pressuring Reid to include the public option in the original merged bill, but it sounds as though Reid wanted to leave it out, and then try to add it as an amendment later, which is stupid because it could be filibustered.

Here’s the key: as it stands now, Tom Harkin says that the Senators have narrowed it all down to three options: a full public option, a public-option with an opt-out feature, and Snowe’s trigger. The trick is that if you present people with three options, they are more likely to choose the middle one, in this case the opt-out, which would be an acceptable outcome.

A problem with the deliberations in the Senate is that the 10-15 Blue Dog Democrats, along with a few centrist Republicans like Snowe, ALL want to be the star of the show, the deciding vote. We rewarded Snowe for playing hard to get, with months of adoring attention, and now a dozen other Senators want to be schmoozed and courted in the same way. To my way of thinking, liberals like Rockefeller held their noses and voted for the execrable Baucus bill; now the Blue Dogs need to hold their noses and vote for cloture, at least, even if they don’t vote for the bill itself. Mark Pryor says he can’t see any Democrat joining a filibuster, and he damn well better be right.

One bit of good news: Lieberman says he’s inclined to support cloture but he hasn’t decided yet. I guess he hasn’t decided whether he wants to be thrown out of the Democratic caucus, either.

House Democrats are talking about a negotiated public option, with a trigger that would potentially launch a Medicare-linked public option later on; that plan is actually to the left of all three Senate options, so it’s a longshot.

The insurers aren’t even trying to act in a reasonable way, to sway the debate. Guardian, an insurance firm, has cancelled all coverage in New York state rather than cover ONE muscular dystrophy patient. A Guardian executive referred to such patients as “dogs” which the firm could simply “get rid of”.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Standing up to the insurance bullies

The AHIP insurance people who just claimed that passage of the Baucus bill would “force” insurers to raise rates sky high, have been exposed as pathetic liars. Even the accountants who wrote their report for them, admitted that if other the health reform provisions succeed, that will offset the costs they forecast – they admittedly cherry-picked which provisions to score out. Undeterred, the AHIP people are still screeching that health reform will cause seniors to lose benefits – I guess they think old people are stupid – and Blue Cross is coming out with AHIP II, another pack of lies from the industry, warning that reform will cause them to jack up rates 50 percent.

Even more appalling that the lies in the AHIP report is the overt threat. If any other industry dared to tell the country – “don’t try to regulate us or we will use our monopoly power and our bribes in the Senate to rob you even more than we are already” – they would be shut down by the Justice Department instantly. The insurance extortion was so obvious that even CNN, in the form of Wolf Blitzer, slapped around insurance spokeswoman Karen Ignani. Perhaps he did that because CNN just got caught using another insurance shill, Alex Castellanos, as an allegedly “unbiased” reporter.

And all of this has backfired. Democrats, who had to wash the bad taste out of their mouths after they were forced to defend the Baucus bill they hate against the AHIP attack, now say that the AHIP blackmail makes the public option more likely –the insurers themselves proved the need for an alternative to their services (Pelosi said as much). The AHIP threat makes the Baucus plan less likely since it will put us all at the mercy of the insurers, and it makes the trigger option look pretty silly – if they’re already promising to jack up rates, which would set off the trigger, why give them a test which we know they will fail? And the past behavior of the insurers undermined their threat anyway -- since we know that they will raise our rates whether we pass reform or not, there’s no reason not to pass it.

Now that the insurers have taken the gloves off, the Democrats have done the same. Leahy, Schumer, Conyers and even Reid are working on revoking the anti-trust exemption which the insurers have had for half a century. The entire Senate leadership is sponsoring the idea. Schumer thinks that such an amendment can pass (it wasn’t clear whether they would put it in the merged bill, which would be good, or add it afterward, which would be bad because it could be filibustered on its own). Some say it’s just a threat, but I see no reason not to follow through and pass it; a bargaining chip perhaps.

This just in – the anti-trust effort has now been joined by….Pelosi. Ouch! If Obama jumps in as well, look for some serious crap to ensue.

And the Democrats are taking other measures that will make the Republicans and the insurers shake in their boots.

First, the Democratic Senate caucus met today – a meeting in which NO ONE spoke out against the public option --and the Senators came out saying it was likely that whatever bill they wrote would get all 60 Democrats and possibly even some Republicans.

Second, Sherrod Brown came out of the meeting and pointed out that no Democrat wanted to be the guy who would go down in history as the guy who destroyed health reform for another decade or two. He essentially dared any Blue Dog to contradict him on the issue of breaking ranks. To date, no Democrat has said he will vote against the final bill or against cloture.

Third, Pelosi is offering House Blue Dogs some money for rural hospitals, to help make the House bill as strong as possible, for when the House-Senate conference meets.

Fourth, Pelosi implied that if the Blue Dogs force the public option out of the bill, the Democrats will be forced to remove the individual mandate too – which would cost the insurers billions.

Fifth, House Ways and Means just approved the measure allowing the Senate to use reconciliation (it works that way because all budget bills must start in the House). Rangel said they’re just keeping the door open for reconciliation, but a GOP Congressman said that the Democrats have pulled the trigger and it is more likely that they will use reconciliation.

Sixth, Obama is mobilizing his zillion-man army to campaign for health reform.

Seventh – and Obama is also rounding up national Republicans who support reform. Bob Dole is a biggie.

And the people in the know, know that the insurers are going to lose all this. Since the death-panel wingnut lunacy peaked out around Labor Day, the stocks of the top six insurance companies have dropped a whopping 11 percent of their value. The investors know that the insurers are going to get whacked and they can’t stop it.

And how did we get here? Simple facts:

Almost everybody will have at least one major illness in their lives.

Once you are seriously ill, you’re at the mercy of the insurers, who can cut you off at whim.

They don’t even have to give a good reason: their justifications include preexisting conditions and disqualifiers such as teenage acne, pregnancy, and being a victim of domestic violence.

They profit when they cut you off – they have an incentive to deny you the coverage you paid for already.

Almost half of personal bankruptcies in America happen to people who got sick and HAVE insurance, but they get screwed over anyway.

In many cases, if you get screwed over, you can’t even sue the insurers.

And that means that ANY of us can have our lives ruined by the insurers.

They have effective monopolies in 38 states, so many Americans have little choice but to bend over and get screwed.

Trying to fix these problems at the state level is impossible, because the insurers have already bought and paid for all the state legislators they need; the whole country is littered with all the sweetheart deals which the state capitols have given the insurers.

Without a strong NATIONAL plan which is OUTSIDE the control or interference of the insurers, we have no recourse. They will rob us blind and drive us to the poorhouse.

And as long as they have that anti-trust exemption, and no federal controls, their capacity for defrauding and screwing us over, for blackmailing us, for controlling our own Congress, will remain unchecked.

Is Reid going wobbly on using the cloture option?

Washington insiders expect a health bill by Thanksgiving or New Year’s, depending on Obama’s travel.

The polls continue to show support for health reform. Only 18 percent of Americans believe the line that America has the best health care in the world; even among Republicans the number is only 28 percent. Olympia Snowe’s home state wants the public option by a margin of 58-29. And support will increase even more since Obama is turning out his grassroots troops to mobilize for health reform.

But we’re still overcoming the media’s laziness in reporting the issue accurately: in addition to the media’s parrotting dishonest wingnut talking points about death panels and benefit cuts for seniors, there is a strong likelihood that one reason the White House wanted Rockefeller and the liberals to vote for the Baucus bill, was that the media was likely to portray a defeat of the Baucus bill as a defeat for Obama and reform, instead of a rejection of a crappy bill.

One thing that could help goose the public option forward, is the fact that a lot of people are leery of having an individual mandate WITHOUT also having the public option: that really puts us all at the mercy of the insurers who just boasted that they are going to jack up our rates. Now: according to Senate rules, if they hold a House-Senate conference to reconcile the two versions of the bill, and both versions have the individual mandate in it, then it will be extremely difficult to take it out – you’d need 60 votes, and you know the Republicans would all fight to keep it in. So then the negotiators in the conference would be put on the spot: since we can’t take out the individual mandate, don’t we need the public option even more?

Other options include allowing states to opt in or out of the public option, or allowing states to choose from a list of options including local coops. The liberals at least want something that isn’t too weak. Some have suggested a combination, such as an opt-in with a trigger. Obama and Reid apparently have been talking about the trigger option with Snowe, but hopefully they were just buttering her up. Baucus’ plan is coming under more fire – with costs for a family of four at around $700 a month, around 17 million could be priced out of the market. Things we want to look for include: strong subsidies, protection against high out-of-pocket costs, controlling providers (drugs, hospitals, manufacturers), making the system strong and national with power to control insurers, opening the plan to those already employed, taxing the Cadillac plans, strong mandates for both individuals and employers, capping rate hikes.

The problem here appears to be Reid.

Reid says he prefers the public option but he keeps going wobbly on us; first he said he needed 50 votes to act, then when we got 50 he needed 60, and now that he gets 60 he says he won’t enforce discipline and will just seek a reform bill that can get 60 votes on its own, rather than demanding that Democrats support cloture. He doesn’t even want to ASK the Democrats to stick to the team on cloture. Alan Grayson is among the Democrats screaming at him to man up (I think that Lieberman, at least, should be brought to heel). Even if Reid wins reelection next year, how about making Schumer majority leader?

Reports say that in the last few weeks Reid has, in fact, started intensive talks with liberals, trying to figure out how to pass the public option, but hasn’t closed in on a strategy yet. He seems to be focusing on doing it in conference, which is risky.

So he wants it, to he's too polite to ask.

Lyndon Johnson wept.

Lacking such adult supervision, Landrieu is spewing nonsense about people believing the public option is free health care – I’m more interested in her stance on cloture. Conrad is stressing his opposition to a public option linked to Medicare – he’s setting himself up to vote for some OTHER kind of public option, which is a pleasant surprise. Ben Nelson says he will be a team player as long as his party doesn’t go too far to the left…which is where, exactly? Lieberman is a probable “no” on the public option, but again, what about cloture? He must know that even a very lenient Reid would have Lieberman at the top of the “punish me” list.

(On a happier note, Blue Dog Mark Pryor says he’s on board for cloture, and Specter urged the other Democrats to do likewise, although they were reluctant)

It was reported that Snowe will be invited to some of the sessions in which the bills will be merged; then Reid’s office firmly shot down the idea. Snowe is still selling the trigger idea; I don’t think she would be pushing this unless she was afraid that a real public option could pass. She dislikes the opt-out option. The GOP is not punishing her officially, although wingnut sites like Redstate are slamming her. But let’s all remember: if you pass a bill with a public option you might lose Snowe, but without the public option you lose the House of Representatives.

The rest of the GOP is doing the same old same old – lie, delay, lie, delay. McConnell says he wants a couple of MONTHS for debate, and the rest of Team Red is screeching lies about more gummint and more taxes – which they wouldn’t be doing if they had a valid argument to use.