Friday, March 26, 2010

Can Dubya please hire a full-time towel boy? 

Because this is embarrassing. Via WST, Bush wipes some icky "haities" off his hands on to Big Dog's shirt (0:13).




Flashback:

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Why do conservative think tanks and Wall St. hate freedom? 

According to this Politico story, David Frum was forced out of AEI because of "donor pressure" after his infamous "Waterloo" post, which claimed the GOP never intended to negotiate in good faith with Obama on health care, because they wanted him to fail in order to weaken him politically.

Bruce Bartlett can relate, and chimes in with his story and an anecdote:

I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush's policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.
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Since, [David Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

Paul Krugman finds Bartlett's claims to be "quite believable", and points to other recent conservative support for the initiatives that were incorporated into the Democrats' health care plan:

I find this quite believable; back in 2003 Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, which is supposedly harder-right than AEI, proposed a health care reform consisting of... drumroll... an individual mandate coupled with subsidies to make insurance affordable. In short, Obamacare.

After feigning apocalyptic outrage over the Democrats' non-radical health insurance reform, Republicans want to (hilariously) invoke Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn rule"-- you break it, you own it. Well, there's a flip side to that. If these reforms supported by conservative think tanks prove even mildly successful (given the way the right framed the stakes), Democrats can claim all the credit.

And we'd be remiss not to point out that before the Health Care vote Newsbusters dutifully pimped a pessimistic market prediction by CNBC's Jim Cramer. (In recent years Cramer has become perfectly wrong in his prognostications. In other words he's become a zanier version of his old partner, Larry Kudlow.)

Kudlow asked Cramer to elaborate on his theory ObamaCare could send the financial markets reeling or "topple the stock market," as Kudlow described it.

"First, it is the single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher," Cramer said. "And a lot of this has to do with what's not being talked about enough with how it's going to be paid and also about what it will do to small business formation. This bill is a disaster for both."

In the days after the bill passed, stocks rose mildly.

Let's recall that when Obama began his health care push a year ago Cramer and other conservatives were squealing like stuck pigs about the stock market's descent, and predicting more wealth destruction. The President, of all people, suggested it was a good time for Americans to invest in stocks (for the long term). Since then, stocks have risen over 70%. One of the few dips that occurred during this upwards move occurred after conservatives became bullish after Sen. Scott Brown's election. Then some of them (like Kudlow) were bearish when it looked like Congress would pass a bill. Now we're sitting at (approximately) 16 month highs. What gives? Why are they so consistently wrong?

(Note: I'm not suggesting a correction won't occur. After all, an Oliver Stone movie about Wall Street is coming out this year. But obviously the conservative pessimism in March 2009 and their optimism after Brown's election were way off base. The anticipation of a market crash after the hcr measure passed was also wrong.)
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Update: More here from the Miami Herald (H/T Flaming Liberal):

The lawsuit against the health care overhaul filed Tuesday by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is focused on a provision that has long been advocated by conservatives, big business and the insurance industry.

The lawsuit by McCollum, a candidate for governor, and 12 other attorneys general, focuses on the provision that virtually all Americans will need to have health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. The lawsuit calls this an "unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals." It states the Constitution doesn't authorize such a mandate, the proposed tax penalty is unlawful and is an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states."

"The truth is this is a Republican idea," said Linda Quick , president of the South Florida Hospital and Health care Association. She said she first heard the concept of the "individual mandate" in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain , a conservative Republican from Arizona , to counter the "Hillarycare" the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson , secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008 , Thompson said, "Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance." Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney , who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage. "Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate," Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. "But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian." Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vitter grandstands on your mammary vans 

I crack the whip
And you skip
But you deserve it
You deserve it, deserve it, deserve it

A boy in the bush
Is worth two in the hand
I think I can help you get through your exams
Oh, you handsome devil

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Repeal the Rule! 

This week a horrified nation witnessed a vote by NFL owners to kill the spirit of professional football's overtime period. By my calculations overtime comprises almost one sixth of the game of professional football, so the magnitude of this wanton power grab cannot be overstated.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton "hates" the new overtime rule, and likens its sneaky passage to a "coup". "One of those back-door deals", he calls it. Precisely right! The new rule was forced down the throats of American football fans. It is complicated, relies on gimmicks, and will eventually bankrupt the sport. As Payton correctly observes, it changes the nature of the game: "Now the finality and the great cheer is when the fourth-down pass falls incomplete for the other team.... It just doesn't seem as nice."

I'll go further. This power grab is an insult to the kicking game as we know it. Now, field goal specialists will be deprived of more game-winning moments, and their salaries will suffer. The original football founders had a hallowed respect for placekickers and "sudden death". But these new technocratic liberal owners want to piss on that cherished tradition. They think they understand what's best for us. So they've just turned "football" into "Favreball". Unless we resist, these owners will eventually accomplish their long-term socialist mission, which is to transform the game of football into a rough version of ultimate frisbee. It's true! People used to think I was crazy when I said that. Not anymore. The camel's nose is firmly under the tent. So don't come complaining to me in a few years when you're being forced to trade in your pigskin balls for yellow plastic disks. That's how they do it. First they come for playoff overtime, and you say nothing. Next they'll come for the sacred 4th quarter, and it's too damn late. They call it "fairness", I call it fascism. Don't you see how they've already devalued the importance of the second coin flip, and its capitalist symbology?!! Wake up, sheeple! This is code red dawn defcon one, and y'all are yawning.

What a dark time for America. The only way to fairly describe the implications of this new overtime rule is "Armageddon", pure and simple. And while we can't condone the actions of those on our side who would protest the rule change by terrorizing NFL owners-- overtime killers!-- we will remind everyone that from time to time the gridiron of liberty must be nourished by the blood of football patriots. The game belongs to us. Extremism in the pursuit of sudden death is no vice.

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Note: I've polished this polemic slightly after initial publishing.

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Queries, your holiness 

David Gibson of Politics Daily asks the dreaded question, "What did the Pope know, and when did he know it?":

The latest story is in Thursday's New York Times, and it is shocking: That top Vatican officials, including [Pope] Benedict, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and chief guardian of doctrine for Rome, did not take action, despite pleas from some American bishops, against a Wisconsin priest who molested hundreds of deaf boys.

"The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal...

There's an expanding wave of worldwide momentum developing over these stories, and it's not in the Vatican's favor.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Almost like an underground movement" 

Noladder informs us that Mayor Ray Nagin is doing more interviews with national media. Better batten down the hatches. Here's a choice snippet:

CNN: The ratings show that people are frustrated with you, how does that make you and your colleagues feel?

RN: We feel it's unfair, but we know the truth and how far we've come. We have this kind of idealism that at some point people are going to understand what we've been doing, it's almost like an underground movement. We've been working underground to make sure that this city can fully recover with the hope that at some point people will recognize the good work that we have done.


This might require some explanation. See, when a shadow government controls the levers of power above the ground, real leaders must go underground in order to create a stealth recovery movement. And that's what Nagin has done. Like Clint Eastwood in Firefox, Nagin had to steal the recovery from the powers-that-be, and fly it under the shadow government's radar. Sure, it's an audacious maneuver fraught with risk, but the underground movement understands the necessity of such tactics. They have faith that one day the sun will shine and the shadows will dissolve, and the underground movement will emerge triumphantly from the depths.

Since the shadow government controls the local media, the above-ground sheeple are already consuming fresher-smelling stories. No matter. Eventually the stealth recovery will be revealed, and history will vindicate Nagin's underground movement.
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Update: Given the above context, I'm going to choose to uncharitably interpret this other Nagin quote about the Saints SB victory, of all things. To me, it comes off as being subtly self-serving:

When we won the Super Bowl, it was like a veil of frustration, despair and negativity was lifted from the eyes of just about every citizen... All I'm hearing around the city now is, 'oh my God, we are recovering, we are doing great.' It wasn't until that moment that people's eyes opened up to what we were doing collectively.

I don't think the Super Bowl wiped the scales from the eyes of New Orleanians, and they suddenly realized they were in the midst of a "great" stealth recovery. No. I think the Saints win inspired a unified celebration throughout the city. That feeling of unity, coupled with the landslide Landrieu victory, made the city optimistic about its future potential (not its current circumstances).

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Day of many candles 

Happy Birthday to Michael, the photoshop maven who publishes 2 Millionth Web Log.

I'm not sure which is older, Michael or his blog. But both are great in my opinion. Why not go over and extend your best wishes?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pretending Obama is a devil doesn't make you an angel 

TPM:

RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Fox News anchor Shepard Smith today that he agreed with House Minority Leader John Boehner's assertion that health care reform is akin to "Armageddon."
...
Steele then pushed a new GOP site --- FireNancyPelosi.com -- that features a photo mashup of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi engulfed in flames

So a rather mild health insurance reform measure that borrowed Republican ideas from Tricky Dick, the Heritage Foundation, and Mitt Romney is being repeatedly described by GOP leaders as "Armageddon".

Why didn't the Right warn us that if the Democrats ever co-opted their reform ideas from the nineties... and passed a bill... the world would end?

Imagine if-- gasp!-- a public option had found its way into the bill? What would that be considered... SUPER-Armageddon? Armageddon Deux: Electric Boogaloo? What if the Dems had somehow found the stones to pass a single payer healthcare bill? Are there words in the English language that could possibly capture the momentously awful implications of such a measure? How would the right describe the intergalactic stakes of a single payer system without descending (further) into self-parody and absurdism? What would Steele and Boehner say then?


Liberty Loving Americans, the death of American freedom is at hand. Our way of life is under attack like never before. Remember in Ghostbusters when Gozer turned into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Well, this is even worse. Suit up, patriots, we haven't a moment to spare.

Seriously, what do you do after looting the Metaphor Store of its biggest, baddest brand name items? I suppose you can get creative, like Phyllis Schlafly:

Anyone who doubts the abortion tsunami which awaits this bill becoming law lives in a fantasy world.

Coincidentally, "abortion tsunami" is the title of the oil painting hanging above my computer. You should see it. Amazing use of color. Seriously, what happens to your alarmist cult when "deathcare" actually arrives but the world doesn't end?



How much contempt for history must you possess, to use its most hideous and horrible moments merely as fodder for political slurs on your opponents?* By inflating your opponents into powerfully evil enemies, you're actually inflating your own importance and goodness by implication. How willfully ignorant must you pretend to be in order to believe this recent partisan battle was a biblical confrontation of world-historic proportion? Pretending Obama is Hitler doesn't make you General Eisenhower. Pretending the healthcare debate is Armageddon doesn't make you a righteous angel. This abuse of language and history is, at root, a display of hubris and evidence of a profound emptiness in one's interior life.

Jesus versus the Anti-Christ. Heaven versus hell. God versus Devil. After two thousand years of "end times", the Obama administration's mediocre health insurance reform measure has finally marked the end of freedom and the beginning of "global armageddon". So says the right.

But where else can you go if, as a political movement, you're being led around by a "conservative entertainment industry" that tells national audiences that Obama is a racist with a "deep seated hatred for white people", and that he's "out to destroy the whole concept of western civilization"? Once you're trapped in such extreme rhetoric, how do you get out?

What do the endtimers do when the apocalypse doesn't happen on schedule? When lukewarm Republican ideas are passed by a Democratic Congress and President, and the world doesn't implode?

Hey Cons, you got a call from Perspective. He says you're not even in the ballpark.

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Update: Disturbing results from a new Harris poll, taken over the weekend during the height of the hcr mania:

•67 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a socialist.
•57 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim
•45 percent of Republicans agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
•38 percent of Republicans say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
•24 percent of Republicans say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."
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Update #2: Jeffrey shares some valuable historical perspective. If Obama is the socialist antichrist, what was FDR, the president who (eventually) took us to war against Hitler?
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* I realize both sides do this, but the right is way out in front right now.

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Is the Pope Catholic? 

Used to be an obviously rhetorical question, anyway.

From blogenfreude at Stinque, we learn of some rather hideous allegations in a new documentary:

The Pope played a leading role in a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, according to a shocking documentary to be screened by the BBC tonight.

In 2001, while he was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church's interests ahead of child safety.

The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated.

And then there's the "male prostitute sex scandal" from earlier this month.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

"Stop throwing around epitaphs" 

A few days ago, Cousin Pat from Georgia (who is not my real cousin, just my crush) wrote:

[T]he strangest meme of the whole Health Care Reform debate, to me at least, is when Republicans and right-wingers advise that if a Democratic [colleague] votes for the bill, their re-election chances are surely doomed.

And the strangest expression of this strange meme surely came from Newt Gingrich (I'm assuming this news story is contextually accurate. Update: Glad I put in the disclaimer. Wapo "clarifies" the quote, which was slightly suspicious as written, saying Gingrich views the civil rights revolution as morally necessary, and LBJ would've split the party with other stuff. Disregard teh quote and commentary relating to it. H/T Pat in the comments):

[F]ormer Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill "the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times," Gingrich said: "They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

What a bizarre and revealing opinion for Newt to express. I mean, is civil rights such a bad hill for a political party to die on? The Democratic Party is a venerable institution and all, but would anyone (nowadays) choose to lengthen the hideous Jim Crow era by years and decades so that a political party could be spared from re-alignment? As Rep. John Boehner might say, "Hell No!"

So it might be a good reverse indicator when Republicans suddenly begin counselling Democrats on how they should vote in order to remain in office. I love the way Obama's team has forcefully responded to this strange meme.

Here's David Axelrod:

[The Republican leadership has been generous] in giving advice to Democrats about how perilous this vote is. I wonder what their motivations are in offering us advice about how to strengthen our party.


And this devastating exchange between David Plouffe and Karl Rove is super fantastische:

Rove: "This thing is paid for with Bernie-Madoff-style accounting. ... It's a gigantic disaster."

Plouffe: "Karl and the Republicans would be familiar with that."

Rove: "You will bankrupt the country if this bill passes. ... For God's sake, will you stop throwing around epitaphs [sic] and deal with the facts for once, David? ... We will fight the election on this,. and the Democrats will have significant losses in the House and Senate as a result of this bill."

Plouffe: "If Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election already, they ought to break out that 'Mission Accomplished' banner."

Krugman observed "[S]trangely, [Karl Rove] doesn’t seem as delighted as he should be if he really believes it will be a political disaster for Democrats." Again, I think that's insighful. Dems should treat these sorts of Republican protestations as potential reverse indicators. They must be doing something right if the GOP is anxiously offering them cautionary political advice.

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As the kids say, "stay classy" 

TPM:

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of [tea party] protesters screaming "kill the bill"... and punctuating their chants with the word "nigger."

While that's hatefully rude, I'm sure it's just an isolated incident.

I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed "Barney, you faggot"--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.


Yikes! Well, at least that sort of ugliness didn't occur inside the Capitol.

Moments ago, while members [of Congress] were on the floor for a vote, a protester stood up in the visitor's gallery and began shouting "Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!" Clerks quickly removed him. But as they were doing so, a number of Republicans--at least half a dozen, from what I could see from a few feet away--were cheering the man.

I don't mind free speech and spirited protest, but I don't think the Representatives should've cheered him on. GOP leadership should say something.

House Minority Leader John Boehner told his conference to "behave like grown-ups" if the healthcare bill is passed by the House on Sunday.

Well done. It's unfortunate such warnings are necessary, but better safe than sorry.

A health care debate marked by episodes of ugly rhetoric took another turn for the worse late Sunday night when a voice on the Republican side of the House shouted “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak.

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Health Care bill passes; world prepares to don brown shirt and commit suicide 

After tonight's passage of the health care bill, Jeffrey at Library Chronicles can't figure out what Republicans are upset about. Well, as David Frum explains, it's not a "what", it's a "who".


Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.
...
A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.
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This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

As Jeffrey notes in the comments, beyond Mitt Romney and the Heritage Foundation, this bill is actually a more conservative version of Tricky Dick's health care proposal from the seventies, and a much more limited version of the universal coverage envisioned by those well known fascist statists, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman. Federal involvement in healthcare dates back to 1798, but pretending it's a Marxist plot to destroy liberty is always more fun. As Frum explains, this Republican opposition (wrapped in the rubric of "principle") was ALWAYS first and foremost about defeating Obama, in much the same manner as they "defeated" Bill Clinton in 1993/94. The GOP chose to be strategic and act like anything from the President's mouth was a sign of the Obamapocalypse. The content of the Democrats' actual proposals never mattered, as they would be criticized and opposed no matter what, in order to hurt Obama. So the GOP helped stir opposition to the bill with hysterical extremist language. They were never, ever negotiating in good faith, hoping that they could reach some "common ground". This was all about handing Obama a crippling political defeat.

And tonight, their strategic decision cost them.

Cousin Pat from Georgia still can't believe Congressional leaders Pelosi and Reid (plus Obama) pulled this off. I'm fairly surprised as well. As late as today, I figured it was a coin flip. But that's looking in from the outside. In close situations like these, trying to divine firm vote totals from beyond the closed doors of Capitol Hill is a fool's errand. How can you possibly know or account for all the last minute inside baseball that occurs on close votes like these? Ryan Booth at the Hayride tried his best to tabulate the likely vote totals throughout the week, and compiled a running tally on a "Obamacare Death Watch" post that eventually had 140 updates prior to Booth finally reversing his prediction that the bill would fail (update 3-21, 12:38 PM), hours before the actual vote.

Like me, Huck is disappointed (but not shocked) that Rep. Cao voted "No".

If stocks fall tomorrow, many conservative pundits will cite the drop as proof of something or other. I'd respond by saying "Well, if you want to play this stupid game let's note that a huge bull move began last year when Pres. Obama first made passing healthcare reform a major goal. Stocks dipped noticeably after Scott Brown was elected to the Senate and prospects for a health care bill's passage seemed remote. Then the market recovered around the time when the President and Democratic leaders recommitted to passing a bill. But it dropped a couple percentage points after passage, after a 70 percent move, and the 'conservative entertainment industry' (as Frum describes it) claims that proves something definitive? Hacktacular."

And liberals should face facts, too. This bill has plenty of warts. Early on, Obama made the calculation to pay off Big Pharma, rather than battle their effective tv campaigns (which crushed Bill and Hillary Clinton's health care reform effort). Not a profile in courage by any stretch, but I think most liberals would acknowledge this flawed bill is better than a courageous nothing. Not only is this a major legislative victory, but these programs will likely not presage the end of the world (as the critics suggest). Opinions will turn around, unless the economy tanks. Either way, I've seen worse hills to die on.

So the stakes were massive on this vote. Obama and the Dems weren't riding high to begin with, but they still had a great deal to lose here. While this health care vote doesn't guarantee any future "wins" (especially in the coming mid-terms), a loss would have guaranteed a world of political hurt and ineffectiveness. The Obama on "life support" cartoons would've drawn themselves.

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