Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: Eating Your Brain Edition

QOTD, Tish Durkin (via Fallows):
“Even through a veil of censorship and propaganda, the Chinese people managed a clearer view of Obama’s visit than the US media did.”
QOTD2, John Cole:
On any given day, if you just quickly read a newspaper or watch cable news for fifteen minutes, there is a very solid chance you will leave the experience knowing less than when you started.
QOTD3, Political Pragmatist:
There is no answer. We have perfected national insanity.
QOTD4, John Cole:
Why do we allow the people who choose to vote against even debating a bill participate in the debate and offer amendments later on in the process? Didn’t they already decide they didn’t want to debate the bill? Can’t we take them at their word and ignore them?
Jane Hamsher with a tasty bit on Blanche Lincoln:

At this point, every step forward has a certain historic significance. The Senate voted 60 to 39 last night to bring a health care reform bill to the floor for the first time ever, marking the latest in a series of milestones. But that there was any drama at all surrounding last night's vote underscores the silliness of the process -- there was a lengthy, overwrought debate yesterday about whether to have an even longer, more overwrought debate in December.

Or put another way, yesterday's vote (supermajority on the motion to proceed) makes it possible to have other votes (supermajority on amendments), which will make it possible to have another vote (supermajority on cloture), which will hopefully lead to another vote (final passage).

And while last night's vote was far more difficult than it should have been -- every Republican in the Senate opposed even talking about health care reform -- it was the easiest hurdle to clear.

Two reluctant Democratic senators, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, warned that their support for a motion to open debate did not guarantee that they would ultimately vote for the bill. Their remarks echoed previous comments by several other senators, including Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.

Those comments made clear that more horse-trading lies ahead and that major changes might be required if the bill is to be approved. And it suggested that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who relied only on members aligned with his party to bring the bill to the floor, may yet have to sway one or more Republicans to his side to get the bill adopted.

If the Senate leadership had 59 votes lined up for cloture, finagling one lone holdout would be tricky enough. But as the bill currently stands, there are four holdouts who are all prepared to vote with Republicans to kill health care reform. Indeed, two of the four -- Lieberman and Lincoln -- were pretty emphatic about their intentions yesterday, leaving themselves no meaningful wiggle room.

Much of the debate will focus on the public option, of course, but votes on abortion, immigrants, subsidy rates, and medical malpractice will be nearly as contentious.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said late yesterday, "The battle has just begun." It was the only accurate remark he made all day.

Last night was another achievement that keeps the ball rolling. Regrettably, it's still rolling uphill.

The debate is expected to resume a week from tomorrow and extend through December. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still intends to pass a bill by Christmas.

John Cole: Ungovernable

It is starting to become clear to me what the GOP strategy is- they are trying to turn the entire country into California- an ungovernable mess where the majority is incapable of governing because of an obstinate and insane minority party and ridiculous procedural hoops.

And when you realize that, it makes complete sense why no one in the Republican party stands up to the lies spewed by Sarah Palin, like, for example, this nonsense about mammograms and death panels. She is flat out lying, as she does most every time she opens her mouth, but no one in the GOP will call her on it because it is to their advantage to make the country ungovernable. They like it when there is so much bullshit and disinformation out there that the public is incapable of being informed. Sarah Palin is cheaper and far more effective than all the bullshit factories the Koch Foundation and others have been funding for decades.

And our media elites, desperate for access and a way to fill a 24 hour news cycle, comfortable with their village status, and cowed by decades of being called liberal, rather than calling obvious lies for what they are, will instead sit by and act like play by play announcers and color commentators at a football game, with a he-said she-said approach: “Sarah Palin claims mammogram guidelines are legally binding, Kathleen Sebelius says this is not true. What do you think? Our roundtable next with Stephen Hayes, Karl Rove, and James Carville, where we will discuss what this means for Obama and the 2010 midterm elections.”

Just depressing. On any given day, if you just quickly read a newspaper or watch cable news for fifteen minutes, there is a very solid chance you will leave the experience knowing less than when you started.

  • from the comments:


    Okay, to just go full throttle Godwin:

    It worked against the Weimar Republic. Conservatives just resisted every fucking thing the gov tried to do rehabilitate Germany, and proceeded to align themselves with the criminal and batshit extreme right wing…

    that worked out real well…

    Political Pragmatist

    “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” When you consider how dumb the avg person is, and realize that half of the population is more stupid than that, you have half of the problem solved. As in, it’s not solvable.

    That’s because of the cynicism known as good business.

    The MSM does not inform because it would lose control of the cycle. By keeping the public stirred up, they get more eyeballs. The more partisan, the better. They can’t cover issues in ten minute segments, only highlights. USA Today is not the New York Times, and the shallowness of the TV coverage means no one who isn’t deeply involved is informed.

    Combine that with the infomercial which is Fox News, which is played as if it were a legitimate news organization instead of a massive PR firm, and a public which wants to be told what it wants to hear, and the bottom line for the U.S. is sadly simplified…

    We’re fucked.

    There is no answer. We have perfected national insanity.

DemfromCT (DK): Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Frank Rich on Sarah Palin:

But no matter how much Palin tries to pass for "center-right," she’s unlikely to fool that vast pool of voters left, right and center who have already written her off as unqualified for the White House. The G.O.P. establishment knows this, and is frightened. The demographic that Palin attracts is in decline; there’s no way the math of her fan base adds up to an Electoral College victory.

Yet among Republicans she still ties Mitt Romney in the latest USA Today/Gallup survey, with 65 percent giving her serious presidential consideration, just behind the 71 for her evangelical rival, Mike Huckabee.

Maureen Dowd:

Yet Democrats would be foolish to write off her visceral power.

As Judith Doctor, a 69-year-old spiritual therapist, told The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz at Palin’s book signing in Grand Rapids, Mich., "She’s alive inside, and that radiates energy, and people who are not psychologically alive inside are fascinated by that."

Ron Brownstein via Ezra:

"I'm sort of a known skeptic on this stuff," [MIT health economist Jonathan] Gruber told me. "My summary is it's really hard to figure out how to bend the cost curve, but I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here....I can't think of anything I'd do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than they are doing."

Gruber may be especially effusive. But the Senate blueprint, which faces its first votes tonight, also is winning praise from other leading health reformers like Mark McClellan, the former director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under George W. Bush and Len Nichols, health policy director at the centrist New America Foundation. "The bottom line," Nichols says, "is the legislation is sending a signal that business as usual [in the medical system] is going to end."

More of same from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The health reform bill that Senate leaders unveiled yesterday meets two rigorous fiscal tests: it reduces deficits over the next decade and beyond, and it puts long-term downward pressure on health care costs.

David Broder does his own rigorous analysis, Beltway style: he asks "every expert" that agrees with him what they think of the new health care bill and ignores the CBO and the ones that don't.
ChrisinParis (AmBlog): Crazier by the day

Maybe Americans should wake up and be concerned but not exactly in the way this loon thinks.

A billboard showing President Barack Obama wearing a turban has sparked a lot of attention at the suburban Denver used car dealership that put it up.

The sign, completed Friday by artist David Lee, shows a grinning, cartoonish Obama and bears the words "PRESIDENT or JIHAD?"

Underneath the president's image is a big yellow square with the phrase, "BIRTH CERTIFICATE, PROVE IT!"
DougJ: The lifecycle of a barnacle

John and I were just discussing Chuck Todd’s unbelievably idiotic tweet defending McCain’s latest primary-induced flip-flop. Todd’s an idiot, but not as dumb as Howie Kurtz—was John’s take on it. Mine is that neither Todd nor Kurtz is dumb in the usual sense. To stay in the good graces of elite media is simple—just keep saying everything is good news for conservatives, that we are a center-right nation, that John McCain is a principled maverick and so on. Criticize the Iraq war and you get shit-canned—ask Ashleigh Banfield or Phil Donahue. Any reporter interested in having a cushy, high-paying gig for the rest of his or her life would be foolish not to keep repeating the Village-approved talking points.

It really is that simple.

I realize that, per Forrest Gump, one could argue that stupid is as stupid does. And obviously, saying things that aren’t true, making incorrect predictions, etc. is in some sense stupid. So I see that point.

Here’s how I look at it: once a barnacle finds a good rock to attach itself to, the barnacle eats its brain, because it doesn’t need the brain anymore. The barnacle would be stupid not to eat its own brain. The same applies to Chuck Todd, Ben Smith, Mike Allen, Howie Kurtz, etc.

John Cole: The Deep Insights of Chuck Todd

I’m far more pessimistic about the future of this country after a few days of reading twitter feeds from our news elite. Here is Chuck Todd, after Reid gets the necessary votes to advance the HCR bill:


Shorter Chuck Todd: It’s only big news if the Democrats fail!

I guess he didn’t pick up on the fact that if they had failed to get the 60 votes, HCR would, for all intents and purposes, be dead in the short run, as the Republicans would filibuster. That is why this is such a big deal- they have overcome the obstructionism of the GOP, and the debate can advance.

Although in fairness to Chuck, he may be more concerned with why Obama didn’t reach out more to President McCain. Not to be too subjective, or anything.

*** Update ***

Can anyone imagine the feeding frenzy for the next two weeks if they had failed to get 60 and advance the debate? Can you imagine the Sunday shows tomorrow? Can you imagine all the headlines speculating if Obama was a lame duck? “Senate fails to advance health care reform. Is Obama’s entire agenda at risk?” and “Obama’s signature legislation killed in Senate. Can he recover?” and “Republicans, spurred by sagging Obama poll numbers and grass roots support from tea party, stop Obama administration in their tracks.”

And Chuck Todd would be leading the goddamned charge with that crap.

Republican critics of the economic recovery efforts, when they're not taking credit for the money that's benefiting their state/district, take it as a given that the stimulus "failed." For the right, it's a foregone conclusion, hardly worth discussing anymore.

The New York Times reminds us today that "dispassionate analysts" agree that a fair look at the stimulus package shows that it may be "messy" but it's also "working."

The legislation, a variety of economists say, is helping an economy in free fall a year ago to grow again and shed fewer jobs than it otherwise would. Mr. Obama's promise to "save or create" about 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 is roughly on track, though far more jobs are being saved than created, especially among states and cities using their money to avoid cutting teachers, police officers and other workers.

"It was worth doing -- it's made a difference," said Nigel Gault, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a financial forecasting and analysis group based in Lexington, Mass.

Mr. Gault added: "I don't think it's right to look at it by saying, 'Well, the economy is still doing extremely badly, therefore the stimulus didn't work.' I'm afraid the answer is, yes, we did badly but we would have done even worse without the stimulus."

In interviews, a broad range of economists said the White House and Congress were right to structure the package as a mix of tax cuts and spending, rather than just tax cuts as Republicans prefer or just spending as many Democrats do. And it is fortuitous, many say, that the money gets doled out over two years -- longer for major construction -- considering the probable length of the "jobless recovery" under way as wary employers hold off on new hiring.

Obviously, a bigger investment would have meant a bigger return. The $787 billion package would have been more ambitious if the Senate operated on majority rule, and even White House economists have conceded that the stimulus bill should have been larger to accommodate the size of the hole in the economy. That aid to states had to be curtailed to bring on GOP votes continues to undermine the effectiveness of the strategy.

But on the whole, we're talking about a recovery package that saved us from a wholesale economic collapse. Conservative Republicans -- who've been wrong about every major economic challenge of the last generation -- who whine bitterly about the stimulus are, as is usually the case, misguided.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's and an occasional adviser to lawmakers from both parties, added, "[T]he stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do -- it is contributing to ending the recession." Zandi added that without the recovery bill, the "G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus."

Left unsaid is what the economic consequences would have been if we'd listened to congressional Republicans -- 95% of whom voted for a truly insane five-year spending freeze at the height of the downturn.

Politically, however, the stimulus has proven problematic -- much of the public is convinced it didn't work, since the economy is still struggling. The more effort the White House invests in explaining reality, the better.

Tim F. I Have A Confession To Make

Way back in 2007, as a nice gesture, I wrote a conciliatory post towards RedState after they came in second (to us) in a top category at the Weblog Awards.

I don’t have any particular beef with Erick and RedState, and even if I disagree with practically every post I respect what they’re trying to do. It seems to me that they’re up against an institutional disadvantage that runs deeper than just having to defend government rather than criticize it. With luck some years in the wilderness will improve Republican leadership the way it (sort of) did for the Democrats. It will only be good when when the party treats well-intentioned members trying to effect change from the inside like a squeaky wheel rather than like an unhammered nail.

My friends, this small dishonesty has weighed on my conscience long enough. It’s time to come clean. Even by 2007 everyone knew that RedState was a fruitcake factory. They drove John off in, what, 2005? I knew perfectly well how badly the GOP needs to keep stupid, angry people like Erick Erickson on the DL. If Schiavo taught us anything, it’s that Malkin’s wing will steer the party into a traffic barrier and laugh while it burns down with them inside.

So, um, yeah.

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