Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2009

THURSDAY'S MINI-REPORT.... Today's edition of quick hits:

* Afghanistan: "A car packed with explosives blew up beside the Indian Embassy on Thursday, leaving more than a dozen dead in what India's foreign secretary said was a direct attack on the embassy compound, the second in two years. The blast killed 17 people and wounded 63."

* Retail sales saw their first gains in 14 months in September.

* The Making Home Affordable program met its target: "The Obama administration reached its goal of signing up 500,000 borrowers for its foreclosure prevention program three weeks early, government officials said Thursday morning."

* Defense Secretary Robert Gates does not want congressional Republicans to make U.S. policy in Afghanistan a partisan issue.

* The Senate Finance Committee will finally vote on health care reform on Tuesday morning.

* Speaker Pelosi is playing it smart with CBO scores on various reform alternatives.

* Ben Nelson sounds amenable to the opt-out compromise. So does Max Baucus.

* According to Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, there are 208 votes for a "robust" public option. Reformers will need 218 for passage.

* In the Senate, 30 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are also on board with an ambitious public option.

* If you missed it, Keith Olbermann's hour-long "Special Comment" on health care is online.

* Expanded hate-crimes measure passes the House.

* Rep. Charlie Rangel's (D-N.Y.) troubles with the House Ethics Committee seem to be getting worse.

* The president is poised to name the first openly gay ambassador in the Obama administration.

* Marriage equality in D.C. is looking pretty likely.

* Maybe it's time to "rethink the whole four year college experience."

* There are enough votes to confirm President Obama's nominee to be the Labor Department's top enforcement official, but Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) put a hold on the nomination.

* MSNBC host Contessa Brewer isn't happy about the NRCC's sexism, either.

* The Fox News smear campaign against Kevin Jennings is getting worse.

* The abortion registry in Oklahoma is ridiculous.

* Limbaugh is lashing out at Scarborough. That ought to be an interesting feud.

* The co-founder and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots owe the IRS over half a million dollars.

* And it was only a matter of time before right-wing loons put impeachment on the table.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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I groaned when I heard Keith Olbermann was going to do a whole hour long special comment, but it was well worth watching.

Posted by: Danp on October 8, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Keith's special comment was very intelligent, incredibly personal, and even quite touching.

But while I was expecting him to take people to task the way he tends to do, and even use a bit of hyperbole, a few things stood out:

1. The "reform or die" message may be seen by some as over the top, but it's true. 44K people die each year because they can't afford it. That's fucking wrong.

2. I was expecting more in the way of "Here's what we can do to get things going the right way." But other than the clinics he mentioned, there was none of that. Very, very, very disappointed he didn't do more along those lines.

3. He was, sadly, preaching to the choir. Everyone in America should see the part about meeting his childhood friend. That's what is at stake here -- people losing all they have simply because they or a family member got sick.

Anyway, it was really good, but a big missed opportunity there.

Posted by: Mark D on October 8, 2009 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why so much hate for higher ed over here at WaMo? How many lame stories are you guys going to do on this?

You'd think colleges were bastions of right wing hate-mongering and corporate corruption--FOX U--rather than bedrock American institutions for promoting critical thinking, rational discourse, and liberal tolerance. The wingnuts know we're their enemy (even if few profs are actually Marxists or even much to the left). Why don't you guys recognize a friend? Next thing you know, WaMo will be arguing that unions are the devil and that women's suffrage should be revoked.

Posted by: RMcD on October 8, 2009 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

If so many college students are unprepared for college level work, shouldn't your emphasis be on reforming K-12 teaching? And as for affordability, please tell the state legislators in Michigan, who have made the great state universities here "public" in name only.

There is an argument to be made, however, for not pressuring every high school student to seek a 4 year degree. Nursing used to be a 2 year program that prepared students for a highly respectable and socially valuable career. Now they're all under pressure to get bachelors' degress. My grandfather became an engineer without any higher education at all, through the apprenticeship system. Nowadays, an engineer is barely taken seriously without an MS -- in some cases, a PhD. Okay, okay, times have changed, but one of the ways in which they've changed is that universities are now being used as extended high school program.s

Posted by: T-Rex on October 8, 2009 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

And on another subject, if that jackass advocating impeachment really thinks that it's just a fancy name for "recall," then he's not only never read the Constitution, but he never cracked a newspaper during the Clinton years. What part of "high crimes and misdemeanors" doesn't he get? And does he understand that the crimes have to be real, and not something that he's afraid someone MIGHT do, in his fevered nightmares?

Posted by: T-Rex on October 8, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) put a hold on the nomination.
Do we have to let this happen? I don't think so. Democrats have to show some guts about these administrative manipulations.

Posted by: N e i l B on October 8, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Are they going to name it after me?

Did I beat everyone to the punch with this comment on August 27, 2009? Did some staffer see the idea while skimming comment threads? I remember the very instant when the idea came to me. I held on to it for a couple a days before posting the comment below. I thought it was a brilliant solution to the food fight. Looks like I was right about that too....

Putting the Big O in public Option
Here is a truly radical idea:
We need to make the public option optional for individual States.
States can vote themselves in or vote themselves out. Those States voting themselves in will allow their citizens the option of the public option. Those states voting themselves out will not make the public option available to their citizens.
Arkansas and Alabama and Oklahoma and Tennessee can freely reject it and continue on with their status quo. Other states can choose to participate in the public option and bear its financial burdens and its shared rewards.
Think about it.
The most unhealthy states with the most obese people are the ones that oppose the public option. These diabetic States will end up burdening the public option and making it more expensive for the healthier States.
Indeed if the right-wing hillbillies had any sense they would realize that the public option will result in a net cash flow to their hillbilly States. But these States, like Oklahoma, are too simply to stupid to realize this. And you know what? Their ignorance is our boon. Give all States the option of opting out of the public option. It will make it cheaper for the smarter States in the long run...

Posted by: koreyel on October 8, 2009 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh calls Scarborough "neutered, chickified."

Sex is very frightening for Limbaugh. His one gift is an ability to talk fluidly. So he pays somebody for sex, issues instructions, runs his mouth... but it doesn't work: he's repellent and impotent. Nobody's fooled on these points, not him, not the prostitute; bullshit only makes it worse, but it's all he knows, so he keeps talking awhile.

Posted by: Limbaugh's third ex on October 8, 2009 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

More wind power for Texas.

Also, The most recent Antarctic summer ice melt was the smallest ever recorded:

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 8, 2009 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Opt out" option makes the most sense and I hope it passes. It provides political cover for the timid, while ensuring that a critical mass of states will buy-in early so there is no adverse selection problem for the public option. In fact, the adverse selection problem will be for the states that opt out. They will soon find that health care costs is an economic development issue and may see their job recruiting efforts suffer a reversal. Mid South I'm looking at you.

As for Charles Rangel -- he should get the boot with a very visible Democratic foot planted in his ass. He's part of the culture of entitlement and corruption that's causing the problem. Party affiliation is meaningless when it comes to egregious ethics violations. He needs to be cashiered with no qualifications and no extenuating circumstances cited.

He can join fellow New Yorker Eliot Spitzer on the wall of shame.

I don't believe equivocation and image rehabilitation of bad apples serves the goal of branding this administration and this congress as representing "change."

Posted by: lobbygow on October 8, 2009 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

@ koreyel

Bravo on your foresighted solution. I remember well that post you sight, as I thought it quite inspired at the time. However, I see you edited it...perhaps for brevity or clarity? Missing is the part about our hillbilly brethren and their poor health/life-styles. Anyway, good idea and here's hoping it takes the Republicans in red states to task.

Posted by: about time on October 8, 2009 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

He can join fellow New Yorker Eliot Spitzer on the wall of shame.

I agree whole heartedly with this caveat; Let the ethics committee first complete its investigation and let Sanford, Ensign, and Vitter all step down from their positions as well.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 8, 2009 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Is letting States opt out of PO really a good idea? It sounds like good snark in theory FWIW, but I'm not sure it's good for the concept overall. Not everyone in that State would want that to happen, and without PO life for those forced into buying insurance from private for-profits would be miserable. Seriously, getting revenge on hypocrites or whatever is not a mature policy perspective.

BTW I will have a chance to talk with Jim Dean (brother of Howard) at a meeting in some days, about the public option. I'm hoping to work out ways to improve it, not sell it out even in some tricky chess-playing/deserts-giving way:

We will be having a Health Forum House Party in the _____ that nite (*Oct 15).*
Jim will speak and offer tips on how we can push for the Public Option and make phone calls. It will be fun! I am "fired up".

I don't want to let him down, with some weird giveaway to State's rights reactionaries. Maybe I'm taking the snark about the Red State rabble too seriously, but then what do you people really think?

Posted by: N E I L B on October 8, 2009 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, Yes I see Howard Dean is willing to compromise, but he doesn't really want to. He just doesn't want to see the whole thing go down, because of missing one or two votes. I think Jim wants it for real and is less tolerant of compromise. Steve made the case, how unfair for consumers in the rejectionista regimes, that wanted a public option.

Posted by: N E I L B ♪ on October 8, 2009 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

What if the folks who think Obama should be impeached actually decided to support him. given that he IS POTUS?

What if the Tea-Party goons who owe 100 of thousands of dollars to the IRS realized their cause was bogus?

What if the entire country woke up tomorrow and realized that educating our children to be critical thinkers was the most important cause anyone could get behind?

What if the goons in DC realized that their selfish behavior sucks, and that voting for their constituents, and not the lobby crowd,
was a cause beyond equal?

I know I'm pipe dreaming. But some one has to dream ourselves out of this mess.

Finally, eco-systems thrive on diversity, why shouldn't gay's be accepted?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 8, 2009 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

The right-wing comments at Politico re: Contessa Brewer are appalling and depressing. Why are ALL the credible current conservative critics of the sorry intellectual state of their movement out of office and without influence?

Posted by: DKF on October 8, 2009 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, eco-systems thrive on diversity, why shouldn't gay's be accepted?

First, gays should be accepted because it's the moral and human thing to do.

Second, ecosystems don't "care" about diversity or lack of diversity. The definition of "thrive" requires a human judgement be applied. There are monocultures that are more stable than highly diverse communities. The benefit of diversity is that there are more chances to "win" against the forces of natural selection. This applies to both individual species evolution and coevolution. But that necessarily means that a good portion of the species portfolio is destined for extinction. A conservative could argue that hate crimes are just a form of natural selection, and some lifestyles are more "fit" that others and those are the ones that persist over time. For that reason, I don't like the ecosystem analogy.

Accepting people of different sexual orientation is a fundamental moral principal. No other arguments required.

Posted by: lobbygow on October 8, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Please let us know when there is a print copy available of Keith's special comments.

Posted by: Bonnie on October 8, 2009 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Bonnie @9:09 PM, the transcript for Keith's special comment is on the MSNBC website here. It doesn't do justice to the experience of actually watching it, though. It was very moving, and there were a couple of points I thought he was going to lose it.

Posted by: Michael W on October 8, 2009 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK
N E I L B ♪: Is letting States opt out of PO really a good idea? It sounds like good snark in theory FWIW, but I'm not sure it's good for the concept overall.

A triad of things.

1) I actually posted the idea of letting states opt out of the Public Option twice. The first case is shown up above. That was a response to a Benen post about Sen. Inhofe threatening to go bonkers should the public option pass. That's why my post had a sharp pernicious slant.

2) The reason why I've been saving urls to my comment posts is because I'm very curious if I have a knack for predicting outcomes or likely scenarios. There have been many times when I've gotten things right and haven't boasted about it. The reason why I shared the above tonight is because I do think these comment threads are perused by staffers. And yes, I think it is quite possible they got the idea from me.

3) Now is the opt-out a good idea?

Not so much. The reason why I choose to share the above version of the idea is because it contains its inherent flaws. If this becomes legislation we are embarking on a huge social experiment with tons of potential side effects. One of which is that poor dumb states may will become poorer and dumber. That's not good. Another? The real estate market might plummet in states that don't opt for the public option. Who in the hell would want to live in a non-public option state? But greater than both of those flaws is the simple fact that we are one country. To not equally protect all citizens from diseases would be a travesty.

So even as I am bold enough to take credit for the idea, so too, in the end, I am bold enough to junk it. What the country needs is a robust public option available in all 50 states. That my friends is a no-brainer.

On the other hand, if this is the only way to get the public option into being, then so be it. Roll the dice. Let's start the experiment and see who wins.

Posted by: koreyel on October 8, 2009 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

In a perverse way, I would welcome an attempt by the nutjob right to impeach President Obama. They'd never get the votes, and in the meantime, the whole Birther/Tenther/tea party/nativist/racist/Christian militia/John Galt madness would be on display for all the world to see. It could well set American conservatism back 100 years.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on October 8, 2009 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

"...in the meantime, the whole Birther/Tenther/tea party/nativist/racist/Christian militia/John Galt madness would be on display for all the world to see."

I don't know. That's never really seemed to hurt them before.

Posted by: garnash on October 8, 2009 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

koreyel: Let's start the experiment and see who wins.

The states can be the laboratories of democracy.

The real estate market might plummet in states that don't opt for the public option. Who in the hell would want to live in a non-public option state?

Consider CA and TX right now. CA has better social support services of all kinds, but a higher unemployment rate and declining manufacturing sector. To the degree that there is interchange, jobs are moving from CA to TX; entrepreneurs are leaving CA because of its relatively high taxes and regulations; TX even has a faster growing alternative/renewable energy supply; TX has a higher export economy than CA. To the degree that there is population flow, it is from CA to TX. CA has an exodus of doctors.

There are lots more differences, but you get the idea: it is possible that entrepreneurs and technically trained professionals would prefer the states without the public option.

I think that your idea is sound, and in the American federal tradition. My prediction would be that the states that adopted the public option first would soon have the worst economic growth rates. Others can make their predictions; of course, we'll all have to see the exact wording of the bill before making our predictions of record. My other prediction is that any bill presented in public long enough to be read by all Congressfolk and their lively/involved constituents will not pass.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 8, 2009 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK


"CA has an exodus of doctors."

The American RightWing ginned-up the same bogus claim in 2001, 2005, and 2007. It was debunked every time.

The rest of your claims are just as baseless.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 8, 2009 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, this is how Chimpy left Texas:

1st in Pollution from Manufacturing Plants
1st in Industrial Plants in Violation of Clean Air Act
1st in Greenhouse Gas Emissions
1st in Percentage of Poor Working Parents Without Insurance
2nd in Children Without Health Insurance
2nd in Percentage of Population Without Health Insurance
2nd in Number of Children Living in Poverty
5th in Teen Birth Rate

46th in High School Completion Rate
48th in Per Capita Funding for Public Health
48th in Spending for Parks, Recreation, and the Arts
48th in Best Place to Raise Children
50th (dead last) in Teacher's Salaries (including benefits)

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 8, 2009 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Some more Texas stats, albeit from 2007:

* Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Poor 2nd

* Percentage of Population without Health Insurance 1st

* Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Scores 47th

* Percentage of Population over 25 with a High School Diploma 50th

* Percentage of Non-Elderly Women with Health Insurance 50th

* Rate of Women Aged 40+ Who Receive Mammograms 44th

* Rate of Women Aged 18+ Who Receive Pap Smears 47th

* Women's Voter Registration 43rd

* Women's Voter Turnout 49th

* Percentage of Eligible Voters that Vote 44th

Add to this list that Texas has the highest rates for home insurance

From the report "Texas on the Brink" [pdf]. Read the whole thing. It's absolutely dismal. Texas may be a cheaper place to live than California -- so is Zimbabwe -- but it isn't necessarily a better place to live.

Posted by: trex on October 9, 2009 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

My prediction would be that the states that adopted the public option first would soon have the worst economic growth rates.

Your prediction would be wrong for many reasons. For instance, one of the few things that many don't take into consideration is that many businesses would relocate to states that had a public option AND that more people would be able to start up their own businesses if there were a public option. Also, even if opting-out sounds good to the we-hate-government-healthcare-keep-your-hands-off-our-medicare folks, at the end of the day businesses lobbying in a state are going to have a much bigger, more influential voice.

Does anyone here think that businesses want to have to manage and pay for health insurance for their employees? Employers that have nothing to do with health care/insurance would love to get out of the health insurance business altogether. It's one of those things that makes running a business much more difficult and complicated than it should be. That is one of the ways that the GOP is so out of touch on this issue-- overall businesses don't want to manage health insurance for their employees.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on October 9, 2009 at 4:12 AM | PERMALINK

If states want to opt out, they should be charged, I think. After all, if you want to opt out of the horrible and useless Medicare Part D, you are charged 1% per month...usury... in case you ever want to join.

so opting out states could be charged the same. And that money could go to healthcare nationwide for those who do not opt out.

The idea, of course, is to get the most people so that they get the best deal on drug prices, can pay drs., reasonably, and with $ going to health care, not insurance companies.

Posted by: Clem on October 9, 2009 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK

Too early for you folks to know but: Obama won the peace nobel prize! Congratulations!

Man, the right-wing will go berserk ob´ver this...

Posted by: Vokoban on October 9, 2009 at 6:09 AM | PERMALINK

fake news on Friday

related fake news


Some of the News
That may be True


Soon after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Barack Obama, political opponents and other prominent Americans weighed in with adverse comments.

Financial guru Jim Cramer told his TV audience that he knew the fix was in when some of the TARP money was secretly funneled to the Nobel Committee.
Lou Dobbs said that the Nobel Committee had followed the pattern of awarding Nobel prizes to Africans.
TV comic Roger Standpipe felt that it was passing strange that the award was given to President Obama on the same day that the U.S. was going to shoot the moon.
Representative Michele Bachmann stated indignantly that this award proved the influence of ACORN over the Nobel Committee.
Former Republican leader Bob Dole remarked dryly " I guess that the Nobel Committee knows a messiah when it sees one"

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on October 9, 2009 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

Impeach the Nobel Prize winner.

Posted by: bob h on October 9, 2009 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

Going on tv, before the cameras, and stating falsely that someone is a supporter of NAMBLA. Shouldn't that person be able to take some legal action for slander?

Posted by: SaintZak on October 9, 2009 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

A whole Peace Prize, just for being Not-Bush! I love it!

Posted by: N.Wells on October 9, 2009 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

"A whole Peace Prize, just for being Not-Bush! I love it!"

Creating hope in the hearts of millions is a small achievement only for die-hard, heartless cynics.

Posted by: Vokoban on October 9, 2009 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Obama winning the Nobel Prize at first seemed odd. Then a little thought and okay, it's less for what he's done and more for what he ended. I mean, as far as at least this one non-American is concerned, the big, big thing is he managed to get the know-nothings out of power despite the lack of balance in the U.S. media and the large number of outlets given over to right-wing propaganda. This alone has probably done more to tilt the balance towards peace in the world than anything else. Top it off with a hard-nosed but pointed approach to international terrorism in contrast to the bad-tempered flailing punctuated by boasts of success (that almost always later were shown to be empty) and the screechy denunciations of the rest of us that were the hallmarks of the Cheney administration. Ending the U.S. policy of practicing torture as a state policy was probably worth the Nobel alone. This was a policy that was reviled outside the U.S. Still, a surprise... But a hearty congratulations, Mr. Obama. (Though perhaps collectively those that voted for him deserve to be co-recipients)

Posted by: snicker-snack on October 9, 2009 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

N.Wells puts it a whole heck of a lot more succinctly than I did!

Posted by: snicker-snack on October 9, 2009 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

Congratulations to Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama!

Faux News commentator Juan Williams was on NPR this morning grumbling -- of course! -- with host Steve Inskeep that the prize was an obvious repudiation of Bush and the direction he led this country.

Let the radical right go berserk over this honor, and complain about the prestige gained by this international recognition. It'll just further isolate the 27% dead-enders and the radical rump Republicans who dance on their strings.

Posted by: Gregory on October 9, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Marler wrote: My other prediction is that any bill presented in public long enough to be read by all Congressfolk and their lively/involved constituents will not pass.

In addition to your typical boilerplate Republican bullshit others have already rebutted, the full test of at least one bill is already online.

The states can be the laboratories of democracy.

The states can do that because Republicans enjoy the moral hazard of sucking tax dollars from blue states to subsidize their many failures.

Pretty weak sauce, Marler. I know you seem to feel some obligation to defend the miserable failures of your Republican Party, and it's refereshing to see you drop your wholly unconvincing pretense as an honest commentator in favor of your usual mode of bad-faith partisan mendacity, but really, you're just phoning it in, aren't you?


Posted by: Gregory on October 9, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK



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