Friday news dump

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 17:00


A bunch of links:

  • Another bad campaign finance ruling: Federal Appeals Court unanimously strikes down the $5,000 contribution limit to Federal PACs.

  • Senate Adjourns with unfinished business: In addition to not passing an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits, the Senate left town without passing a Medicare doc fix.  This will result in Medicare doctors receiving a 21% cut in pay starting on April 1st.  The Senate plans to solve this problem by passing an extension in mid-April that will restore the lost benefits and pay retroactively:

    Meanwhile, COBRA benefits expire April 1; a 21-percent cut in Medicare doctor payments is scheduled to take effect that same day; and the filing deadline for UI benefits arrives April 5.

    Senate lawmakers will tweak the bill to make the extensions retroactive, Reid's office said.

    The money will come, but having it come late will still cause problems for a lot of people.  Not good.

  • New foreclosure prevention program announced: The Obama administration is revamping their program to prevent foreclosures.  Once again, it takes money from TARP (which is good) instead of appropriating new funds.  I don't pretend to understand this policy very well, but Wonk Room is impressed.  It better work, because this program is probably the last best chance for Democrats to improve the economy for average Americans before the midterm elections.

  • Nuclear arms reduction treaty: Russia and the USA have signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty.  Details on the treaty can be found here.  It is a good first step, but it will face the hurdle of ratification in the United States Senate.  Anything that requires approval from that chamber is pretty much always in danger.

  • Democrats getting riled up?: Democrats might be narrowing the voter intensity gap, according to the weekly Daily Kos poll tracking poll.  Whether this holds up as the year goes on, and in other polls, is another question.  Kos is absolutely correct when writes, in his press release for the poll, that "this intensity gap will bear tracking the rest of this cycle."

  • Eric Cantor's office window bullet story  The bullet that went through Eric Cantor's sort-of office window was fired into the air as an act of random gunfire.  Unsurprisingly, Cantor's spokesperson defends Cantor originally citing the story as an example of equivalnce between left and right-wing political violence.

  • More right-wing violence: Meanwhile, a conservative attacked an Obama supporter, and his ten-year old, with his SUV.  Pretty scary.

  • Bad idea jeans: Yes, Cass Sustain would be a terrible Supreme Court Justice.

  • Progressive media news: The Nation purchases Air America's 290,000 member email list.

  • The dangers of over-promising and relaxing on health reform: David Dayen responds to my article from earlier today touting the expansion of public health insurance and public care for low-income Americans as a major progressive accomplishment in the far from perfect health reform legislation.  He is worried about complacency and overpromising:

    Student loan reform is smart and 100% defensible in concept. The Affordable Care Act involved legislative compromise and must be watched carefully to ensure it achieves the promise that many liberals are touting this week. Rather than labeling it, we have to work to make it actually operate properly.

    I don't disagree.  In fact, analogously, I think there was far too much complacency in the center-left after the 2008 elections.  Everyone was tired and happy after the election, and didn't want to work to prevent bad transition appointments like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.  Those appointments resulted in bad policies like an ineffective foreclosure prevention program that helped far to few people, and which the Obama administration has now had to entirely revamp. And, those bad policies have resulted in an economic environment that is worse than it had to be for average Americans, which has in turn resulted in an electoral environment that is far worse than it had to be for Democrats.  And, that will result in even worse policies down the road, as Republicans and conservatives accrue more power.

    We have to always keep pushing.  I just don't think that is incommensurate with feeling good, and pointing out that we have made some gains, too.

Enjoy your weekend.  This is an open thread.
Chris Bowers :: Friday news dump

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Friday news dump | 16 comments
But when Geithner and Summers were being appointed (4.00 / 4)
all Good Democrats were saying that the left had to give Obama a chance and shouldn't expect him to fix everything overnight.

It seems that the time to be pushing harder is always back then. By contrast, now is always the time to get along, and not rock the boat.


There Was Exhaustion and Complacency (4.00 / 2)
But there was also a good deal of self-delusion. All that talk about how appointments didn't matter.

I  do think there's a chance for a second wind here, but it needs to be a second wind with second thoughts, too.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Not sure if it was all complacency (0.00 / 0)
My feeling at the time was that some people at the time decided to prioritize California's Prop 8 as most worthy of their finite time and energy.  Which isn't to say that was an unimportant issue, just that there were trade-offs involved.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

[ Parent ]
the Dodd bill? (0.00 / 0)
so it looks like the Dodd bill is galumphing along towards passage.

shouldn't we - as in whatever passes for a left wing in the US - be taking a position on this?

it doesn't really seem worth passing, though my opinion is hardly an expert one. but Simon Johnson describes in that post how the supposed "resolution authority" does zip about dealing with the Too Big To Fail financial institutions. the high-PR "Volcker Rules" are proving to be low-reality. the revised reformed-foxes-in-henhouse Consumer Financial Protection Agency, moved under the Fed (who've done such a bangup job so far) and stripped of authority over some of the worst actors, doesn't sound like more than cosmetics.

one of the critiques about the health care mess is that the left could never credibly negotiate because they were too invested in it - the value of getting something was always too high.

without getting into the specifics of that, it does seem like a fair point that it would be easier to block something that hasn't been the subject of a 50 year moral crusade, and that there would be real value in blocking something that the Top Boys want. and there is much more support for the stance that a bad bill is worse than no bill - that the illusion that we have dealt with the problem will just make the next breakdown worse.

it wouldn't take more than a few Senators to keep this from passing. maybe we should encourage them? start drawing some lines?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.


It still has to be merged with the house bill... (0.00 / 0)
So, there's that...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
re: merge (0.00 / 0)
after seeing how successfully was the house po merged into thre hcr bill, should I have any hope?

[ Parent ]
I started a reply last night, but had to run off for a while. (0.00 / 0)
So now that I have a little more time, let me try again.

The main difference between HCR and financial reform is who considers this a must-pass bill.  With HCR, Obama made it plain--through actions, not just words--that he considered it a must-pass bill, so there was never any doubt that there would be something.  So progressives were in a situation where they could afford to block passage, without any negative consequences, unless they got what they wanted.  They even did an amazing job clearly stating their position so no one could be confused why they wouldn't support a bill that didn't have what they wanted.  It was the perfect position to be in, and progressives dropped the ball.  Big time.

Is the same true with financial reform?  Is it must-pass legislation?  Are Obama and the Dem Leadership showing us through their actions that they have to have something?  Are progressives making clear demands?  If the Dem Leadership are committed to passing legislation, then progressives have another golden opportunity, and a chance to show they learned their lesson from the HCR debacle.

But if the Dem leadership is not committed to passing legislation, then it is far more likely that what they really want is the appearance of reform.  This means that any attempts by progressives to kill the bill over lack of real reform would stand a higher likelihood of actually killing it.  This would have the double whammy of also making progressives look like they're against reform.  All of which would naturally suit the banks and those they funded.*

Progressives need to start acting on this like they did with HCR in the beginning.  They need to get out in front of this issue right now, laying out their position and making sure everyone understands what things progressives see as reform, and what things they do not see as reform.  And then they need to prove their seriousness by refusing to support legislation containing non-reform elements, no matter how many crumbs are tossed at them.  The argument is very simple.  If the legislation lacks the necessary elements to make it reform as progressives define it, then there is no reason for progressives to support it, and indeed progressives may consider such a bill to be worse than nothing.  If progressives can make that message loud and clear, then a "kill the bill" tactic would be viable, even if the Democratic leadership is not intent on passing financial reform legislation.

But the most important element of a "kill the bill" tactic is going to be that progressives no longer have the luxury of bluffing.  In the political game of chicken, progressives have shown they are consistent in being the first to blink.  Their opponents (and this could be, and has been, everyone from the teabaggers to Obama) have no reason to consider progressive threats credible.  For progressives to win, they need to consider that they may have to lose this fight in the short term.  By proving that they will not blink, this will force their opponents to reassess progressives.  It might not be an overnight change, but at the very least, it will be a huge first step toward making others take progressives seriously, and that will lead to better odds of success for progressives in the future.

Now, there's a risk that this could cause various elements in the Democratic party to become even more conservative.  After all, the CW says that Democrats are as liberal as it gets, so if they are losing support, that must mean they have to move right.  Progressives need to decide how to counter this.  (In fact, they need to figure this one out, whether or not they choose to fight over financial reform.  It'll be a game changer if they can do it.)  They need to be ready with their next message and be ready to hold to their position, even if it means they end up losing.  Progressives cannot both challenge the rightward shift of Democratic power while simultaneously propping up the very elements enabling and manufacturing that shift.  Not only is it something progressives can no longer afford to do (allowing a continuous rightward shift of the political and policy discourse makes enacting progressive ideas all that much harder), but it is hypocritical as well, which is a good recipe for losing support among those who self-identify as progressive and liberal.

Of course, all this pre-supposes that progressives can act as a homogeneous group toward these ends.  Given the current makeup of the progressive movement, which consists of a far more diverse ideological spectrum and predisposition than is capable of functioning efficiently,** I do not believe that is possible in any realistic time frame.  The debate will be over and the bill passed long before progressives manage to get their act together.  Of course, I could be proven wrong, and that would be just dandy with me.  But I think the ability of progressives to engage quickly and early is simply not possible as a rule.  Their early engagement in the HCR fight was, I believe, an exception to that rule, not an example of what progressives are regularly capable of.

* Just looking at Obama, The Financial/Insurance/Real Estate sectors gave him $39,663,073 ($14,891,735 coming just from the securities and investment industry, the very industry we're talking about regulating, here), over twice what the Health sector gave him.  In comparison, MoveOn contributions totaled a "whopping" $4,656,532.

** Efficient is different from effective, obviously, but efficiency does affect effectiveness.  I think progressives could be incredibly effective, but they first have to figure out where they stand on any given issue and show a willingness to hold their ground.  That takes a level of time and commitment that is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the more diverse a group becomes.  Efficiency comes at the price of diversity and vice versa.  Progressives need to figure out the sweet spot between these two.  Currently, I think they've become too diverse to be efficient, which means they're usually one step behind the debate and action on any given issue.  This makes them ineffective.  To become more efficient, progressives will need to define themselves as something more than "not conservatives."  Once progressives define themselves in a positive way ("this is who we are; we stand for these things"), there will be those who no longer fit.  This is fine.  They'll form their own groups, and progressives can then work with these groups on an issue by issue basis.  This is actually a good thing, since small efficient groups working as a coalition can be more powerful than a single large inefficient group.

Health insurance is not health care.
If you don't fight, you can't win.
Never give up. Never Surrender.
Watch out for flying kabuki.


[ Parent ]
A lot of us complained loudly (4.00 / 2)
about Obama's home foreclosure program. It was too similar to Bush's voluntary program that had already failed. No one listened.

Where's the victory lap on Studen Loan reform? (0.00 / 0)
Kicking a powerful special interest out of a major program was huge - and done through reconciliation.  Way to go Dems.

Tuesday.... (0.00 / 0)
They will victory lap on Tuesday...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
I've had a song by the Psychedelic Furs on repeat… (0.00 / 0)
...figured someone else might get a kick of it on a Friday night...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

"President Gas"

You have to have a party
when you're in a state like this
You can really move it all
you have to vote and change
You have to get right out of it
like out of all this mess
You'll say yeah to anything
if you believe all this, but...

(Chorus)

Don't cry, don't do anything
No lies, back in the government
no tears, party time is here again
President gas is up for president

Line up, put your kisses down
Say yeah, say yes again
stand up, there's a head count
President gas on everything but roller skates

It's sick the price of medicine
stand up, we'll put you on your feet again
open up your eyes just to check that you're asleep again
President gas is president gas again

(2nd verse)

He comes in from the left sometimes
he comes in from the right
It's so heavily advertised that he wants you and I
It's a real cowboy set, electric company
Every day is happy days
It's hell without the sin, but...

(Chorus)

Don't cry, don't do anything
no lies, back in the government
no tears, party time is here again
President gas is up for president

Line up, put your kisses down
Say yeah, say yes again
stand up, there's a head count
President gas on everything but roller skates

It's sick the price of medicine
Stand up, we'll put you on your feet again
open up your eyes just to check that you're asleep again
President gas is president gas again



"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams


The campaign finance system (4.00 / 1)
was failing apart before Citizens United, and it's only going to get worse. The Court is a corporate friendly court first and foremost. While better justices will help (agreed on no to Sunstein) that isn't going to address the campaign finance issue any time soon.  They simply aren't going to leave us any room to address the issue on the supply side.

A constitutional amendment can't solve this problem either.  An amendment would be the end of a process of reform, not the beginning. We need strategic initiatives to find a way to get where we are going. How could we get an amendment given the role of corporate money right now?

That said, addressing the supply side of campaign finance, like with drugs, is a recipe for failure.  There is too much ingenuity and resources behind efforts to get around such rules.  Clean elections are a strategic initiative. We can push them at the state and national levels simultaneously. Winning some of these battles would help us win later ones.  Clean elections can also be done piecemeal (for example, free or reduced price air time could make it easier to win while raising money from small donors, which in turn could reduce the power of big money, making further reforms possible.)

We have to put Republicans on defense - force them to openly defend corporate privilege and attack populism. National Democratic officials are unlikely to embrace such an agenda, so the key is finding ways to do it without them.


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


re: Studen Loan reform (0.00 / 0)
What Progressive Victory Looks Like: Ending Corporate Welfare To Help Regular Americans

By: Jon Walker

Yesterday was actually big victory for progressivism. Not in health care, but in student loan reform. Finally, a wasteful and worthless corporate welfare program was eliminated. The taxpayer dollars that were being thrown away on private profits will now be redirected to help low income students attend college and pay down the debt. This is what progressive victories look like.
...
Contrast the progressive victory achieved with student loan reform and what the new health care law will do to expand coverage.

For years, Medicare has proven that the government can provide high quality health insurance much cheaper than private health insurance companies. Yet, when the bill tried to expand coverage, it used massive subsidizes to the wasteful private insurance industry, and a mandate forcing people to buy their overpriced products. It is a liberal goal, but not the least bit "progressive" because it was designed with the explicit goal of unnecessarily wasting huge amounts of taxpayer money and regular people's premiums to protect the private profits of huge corporations.

Most importantly, they kept out a public health insurance alternative which could serve as a benchmark, like the direct lending program did in student loans, and Medicare did with Medicare Advantage. Without a benchmark, it will be much harder in the long run for the American people to see just how much of their money is being stolen by this weird system set up to enrich unnecessary corporate middlemen with public money.

http://fdlaction.firedoglake.c...

"Cass Sustain would be a terrible Supreme Court Justice" And Koh? (4.00 / 1)
According to news reports, he's on the WH's short list, too. But would Dems want to have a Supreme Court judge who acts like John Yoo? Here's what Ackerman says about Koh's latest coup:

Koh also responded to critics who have questioned the legality of such attacks under international law. "[S]ome have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law....[S]ome have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict-such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs-so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war."

I have to go back here to my colleague Dave Weigel's coverage of the conservative effort last year to keep Koh out of his job because he was allegedly a wild-eyed enemy of American sovereignty. Koh's chief persecutor was Ed Whelan of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, who capped tendentious readings of Koh's writings by contextualizing them in hysterical ways like this:
   
"What judicial transnationalism is really all about," wrote Whelan, "is depriving American citizens of their powers of representative government by selectively imposing on them the favored policies of Europe's leftist elites."

Perhaps Whelan would like to explain how launching missiles from unmanned aerial vehicles onto targets in Pakistan and Yemen - which kill, by the New America Foundation's estimate, one civilian for every two combatants - are the favored policy response of effete European elites. The ACLU, meanwhile, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the formal legal arguments prepared by the Obama team justifying the drone strikes.

http://washingtonindependent.c...

A guy who voices such a one-sided view, that he thinks it's legal for the US to kill anyone they deem a terrorist with a drone attack, without regard to due process, neutral nations and civil victims, as Supreme Court judge? I desperately hope NOT!


Another foreclosure prevention program (4.00 / 1)
The economy crashed in October 2008, and Obama is still trying to prevent foreclosures. Wall Street's bailout was an immediate success and generated record profits and CEO bonuses for them, and Obama's main street bailout still can't find the bathroom door.    The guy is a neoliberal.  Nothing left to say.  This is the "new" Democratic Party.  

Complacency (0.00 / 0)
In fact, analogously, I think there was far too much complacency in the center-left after the 2008 elections.

Approximately 2002-2008 I spent a lot of my time trying to persuade liberals that things were really pretty bad, that a more aggressive approach needed to be taken, and that mainstream (DLC, etc.) Democrats had been falling down on the job. I was having some success, but once Obama was electes a lot of them seem to have said "Whew! Now I can relax and go back to normal life". Obama unfortunately kept a lot of Bush's harmful innovations in foreign policy and civil liberties, but that didn't seem to bother people. Probably resistance had been focussed on Bush's person too much.

That's an abiding problem with liberalism. Liberalism is all about individual freedom and private life, whereas for most people politics and public life are not intrinsically rewarding and are seen as a sacrifice or duty. Since a big cultural trend within liberalism since 1960 or so has been an assault on feelings of duty, liberals seem to mobilize to protect liberalism only during emergencies, since private life is more fun.


Friday news dump | 16 comments
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