Archive for January 6th, 2010

Hoekstra’s Defense: "uhhhhh, is, uhhhh, ya know …"

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

After yesterday’s news of this embarrassing screw-up:

Someone other than Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra appears to have purchased the URL and the results aren’t exactly promising for the Michigan Republican.

… the site’s authors lash out at the lawmaker for fundraising off the bungled airline bombing that took place on Christmas Day. They also take glee in reminding Hoekstra that he failed to register the website they now run.

… Hoekstra defended the pesky little oversight:

We went out and registered a number of campaign sites. To believe that we could go out and register ever every potential campaign site that might in some way be affiliated or pop up when someone typed in my name, uhhhhh, is, uhhhh, ya know, what people do in this new Internet world.

Uhhhhh, uhhhhh, it was, for crying out loud.

So, if some (misguided) voter is looking for information on Hoekstra, they could potentially decide that petehoekstra might in some way be affiliated with Pete Hoekstra, type it in and here’s what will pop up:  



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Grijalva Criticizes Leadership Over Non-Conference Conference

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

The co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus doesn’t like once again being shut out of healthcare reform negotiations. Greg Sargent:

A top House progressive, in a statement sent my way, ripped the Dem leadership’s emerging plan to skip the traditional process to merge the House and Senate bills, claiming it will make it even tougher to improve the bill and slamming it for stifling real debate.

The Dem leadership in the House and Senate, according to multiple reports, are mulling this scheme to pass health care, as a way of leapfrogging GOP intentions to block reform with parlimentary tricks. Dem leaders may informally negotiate a compromise between the Senate and House bills, rather than merge them with a formal series of votes subject to GOP obstructionist tactics.

But in a statement, Rep Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, criticized the scheme and complained he hadn’t even been consulted yet:

“I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion. I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday. I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we’re concerned even more.”

With Ben Nelson in charge, Grijalva’s and the rest of the Democrats–the majority of whom in the House and Senate wanted a much more progressive bill–are going to be left in the dust again. That is, unless they decide that Nelson’s coathanger amendment, the lack of a public option, the “Chevy” excise tax, and the cost burden to the middle class in the Senate bill all combine in one old big poison pill that they can’t swallow.

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Late afternoon/early evening open thread

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments
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ND-Sen: Byron Dorgan Announces His Retirement

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

There really isn’t a way to spin this one in a positive light:

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan will not run for re-election later this year, creating a major pickup opportunity for Republicans.

“After a lot of thought I have made the very difficult decision that I will not be seeking reelection in 2010,” Dorgan wrote in a memo to staff distributed this afternoon.

For months, the speculation in North Dakota was that Republican Governor John Hoeven, who has been easily re-elected to three terms as the state’s Chief Executive, would challenge Dorgan in 2010. Democrats had found a modicum of hope in the fact that Hoeven had not yet made the plunge. Much like the recent odyssey with Rudy Giuliani in New York, the sense was that an announcement was imminent in the Fall, only to be followed by lengthy silence.

If Hoeven continues to demur, the GOP can turn to a number of other potential candidates in a state where most of the statewide elected officials are affiliated with the Republican Party.

Democratic hopes may well rest on the leader of their very thin bench in North Dakota: Congressman Earl Pomeroy. But Pomeroy has been relatively secure in the House, whereas a Senate bid would certainly prove to be a greater challenge. There would likely be no small amount of reluctance on his part to give up a reasonably secure seat and two decades of seniority to start a career in the Senate at the age of 57.

Dorgan’s statement to the press read, in part, as follows:

“It has been a special privilege to serve with Senator Conrad and Congressman Pomeroy, who do an outstanding job for our state. And although he inherited an economy in serious trouble, I remain confident that President Obama is making the right decisions to put our country back on track.

Further, my decision has no relationship to the prospect of a difficult election contest this year. Frankly, I think if I had decided to run for another term in the Senate I would be reelected.

But I feel that after serving 30 years, I want to make time for some other priorities. And making a commitment to serve in the Senate for the next seven years does not seem like the right decision for me.

So, 2010 will be my last year in the Senate.

Dorgan has been in public life since his mid-twenties, when he became North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner. From there, he served a dozen years in the House before being elected to the US Senate. He coasted through easy re-elections in both 1998 and 2004.

For more discussion, see hekebolos’ diary.  – BarbinMD

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Steele: GOP supports full repeal of health care reform

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Even before it is passed into law:

Transcript (aired Tuesday, 1/5/10):

STEELE: They’re going to get something.


   CAVUTO: But once they have something that is the proverbial camel’s nose underneath the tent.

   STEELE: It’s the nose under the tent, and then the charge of Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, and myself, our governors around the country is we will work night and day to elect Congressmen and Senators to undo it, because this is not what America needs right now.

Who knows if Steele actually speaks for the GOP, but if so, he is boxing Republicans into a horrible position here. Once reform passes, there’s three basic choices: repeal it, improve it, or declare mission accomplished. As we’ve learned in Massachusetts, there’s not likely to be much appetite for either extreme. Rather than scrapping the reform bill (”repeal it”) or doing nothing more to change health care (”mission accomplished”), most people will want to continue improving the system. There’s no question that this reform bill isn’t perfect and it leaves many things that must be fixed, but saying “repeal it” isn’t a plan for improving reform — it’s a plan for doing nothing, and that’s not what most people want.

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Punching straw

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Under the header “Um, Pathetic,” the New Yorker’s Hendrick Hertzberg takes on left-wing critics of the health care reform bill. Notably, Hertzberg actually agrees with the substantive criticism of the health care bill.

The left-wing critics are right about the conspicuous flaws of the pending health-care reform—its lack of even a weak “public option,” its too meagre subsidies, its windfalls for Big Pharma, its capitulation on abortion coverage, its reliance on private insurance. And there are surely senators and representatives whose motives are base or, broadly speaking, corrupt.

So what’s Hertzberg’s beef?

But it is nonsense to attribute the less than fully satisfactory result to the alleged perfidy of the President or “the Democrats.”

Ah, so Hertzberg believes that progressives (especially members of what he calls “the Internet cohort”) are impugning President Obama’s motives. He singles out a weeks-old tweet in which Markos slammed the Senate health care bill as a “monstrosity” that should be killed. To Hertzberg, this is an example of “nonsense,” but such a glib proclamation overlooks the fact that when Markos made his statement, the final Senate bill was still being negotiated, and progressive pushback likely made it stronger than it otherwise would have been.

Certainly, progressives could have shouted from the rooftops about how great the bill was, but who can forget what happened when we jumped on board the Medicare buy-in compromise? Didn’t go so well, did it? At least this time, Ben Nelson was unsuccessful in his efforts to reduce subsidies, the loophole allowing insurers to cap annual benefits was eliminated, Bernie Sanders’ Community Health Centers were funded, and a loophole allowing national plans to sidestep state regulations was closed.

Would those things have happened without progressive pressure? Perhaps, but the notion that progressives made the bill worse is implausible. Still, Hertzberg has a helpful suggestion for how we can be more effective in the future:

The critics’ indignation would be better directed at what an earlier generation of malcontents called “the system”—starting, perhaps, with the Senate’s filibuster rule, an inanimate object if there ever was one.

So we should talk about the filibuster? Um, there’s been no shortage of that. On the Daily Kos front page, for example, I found more than 100 posts discussing either the filibuster and the public option or cloture and the public option. In fact, one of our Contributing Editors — David Waldman — is an expert on Congressional procedure and probably understands Senate rules better than any other political journalist in America. (David also blogs at Congress Matters.)

In light of Hertzberg’s concession that “left-wing critics are right about the conspicuous flaws of the pending health-care reform” and the fact that blogs like Daily Kos have been focused like a laser beam on the very thing that he wants us to focus on, it’s somewhat perplexing that he devoted a full column to trashing those with whom he agrees instead of looking for solutions to the substantive problems that he says we must address.

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Oops: Bachmann’s anticensus hysteria could backfire

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

As you may recall, over the summer Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) urged Americans to protest the ACORN-Census conspiracy by refusing to comply with the decennial census.

But now it’s becoming clear that if her constituents heed her advice, she might end up losing her seat in Congress.

Why? Because the results of the census determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Heading into each census there are always states “on the bubble” of either losing or gaining an extra seat, and as it turns out, in 2010 Minnesota is one such state:

State demographer Tom Gillaspy has been warning for months that the next census could result in the loss of one congressional seat in Minnesota.

The irony was not lost on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

It’s ironic that a Minnesota member of Congress, Republican Michele Bachmann, went so far last summer to declare her intention to only partially complete her census forms, and to suggest reasons for others not to comply with the census law. If Minnesota loses a congressional seat, Bachmann’s populous Sixth District could be carved into pieces. She likely would have to battle another incumbent to hang on to her seat. We’ve noticed that her anticensus rhetoric has lately ceased. We hope she got wise: Census compliance is not only in Minnesota’s best interest, but also her own.

Of course, if Minnesota does lose a seat, Bachmann will undoubtedly decry the government conspiracy against counting people who refuse to be counted. The black helicopters are already circling.

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House Quietly Pushing for Their Bill?

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Via Jon Walker, here’s a handy list that Nancy Pelosi should keep in hand during the non-conference conference negotiations–the multiple reasons why the Senate’s bill is deficient compared to the House version. Jon provides this list:

  1. Weaker employer mandate
  1. Most regulations won’t apply to the large group market
  1. Lower minimum benefit requirements
  1. Large age rating
  1. Multiple state-based exchanges versus one national exchange
  1. Lack of a public option
  1. Later start date
  1. Does not repeal health insurance anti-trust exemption
  1. Smaller Medicaid expansion
  1. Does not increase payments to Medicaid primary care providers

Add to that the regressive “Chevy” tax on benefits and it’s a fairly comprehensive list, drawn from this memo [pdf] just released by House staff that details the differences between the two bills.

It’s entirely possible, as Brian Beutler suggests, that the very existence of this memo is a signal that the House “conferees” aren’t quite ready to roll over for the Senate version of the bill, particularly given the message with which the first page summary of similarities in the bill concludes:

However, especially on a topic as historic and sweeping as health reform, there are differences between the chambers that will need to be resolved.

The following eleven pages detail those differences. There are a few elements where the Senate bill is stronger, at least in terms of consumer protection. It maintains SCHIP, while the House sunsets it out with the start-up of the exchanges. It has better affordability credits for people between 250-400% of the federal poverty level. It has a good state innovations waiver provision (with waivers not available until 2017–a drawback) that could actually help spur some real reform among the progressive states.

If the House is going to capitulate on the public option (which Ben Nelson has almost certainly assured) and abortion (which Rosa DeLauro has almost certainly assured), then perhaps this is a signal that they’re already considering the possibility considered in David’s post that they’ll demand “demand a generous raft of such items as partial payment for the surrender forced on them by the hostage takers.”

To do so, of course, they might have to buck the White House, which is in just pass any damned bill mode, and is downplaying any differences between the bills.

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Midday Open Thread

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey at the Campaign for America’s Future had a dialog on how progressives can learn from the frustrations of 2009. [Video here.] The main points:
    1. Change is brutal, and will always be resisted by powerful entrenched forces. …
    1. No matter how popular a reform idea is, like the public option, it still faces the buzzsaw of the United States Senate.
    1. Progressives cannot wash their hands of the political process. We have to organize more, independent of the political parties.
    1. This is still the best opportunity in 30 years for progressive reform.
  • All Together Now: Shut Up You Lefties!
  • Kevin Drum answers the question of How Big Finance Bought Uncle Sam:

    Now if the aerospace lobby had told us after the 1986 Challenger disaster that the key to better performance was to turbocharge the engines and quit performing preflight inspections, everyone would have agreed that they were crazy. Yet that’s essentially what the finance lobby has done over the past decade, and in some weird way we were too mesmerized to recognize it. Within months of a near catastrophe caused by one of the industry’s brightest stars, the lobbyists were busily making certain that it would happen again—and that when it did happen, it would be bigger and more disastrous than ever.

  • The Best and Worst Jobs for 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah E. Needleman.
  • I’ve often thought that maybe, just maybe, if someone made a movie about the effects of nuclear weapons, Kids These Days™ might take an interest in nuclear abolition. So I’m pleased that David James Cameron is considering just that for potential post-Avatar plans:

    … on Dec. 22, the Oscar winner visited Tsutomu Yamaguchi, an ailing 93-year-old man who survived the U.S. bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. … The director told a Japanese paper he’s not certain he’ll make a nukes-themed film — but if he did, it would be “uncompromising.”

    – Plutonium Page

  • Frank Munger of the Knoxville News Sentinel has been following the transformation of the US nuclear weapons complex from strictly defense to more diverse functions. Today, he has an article about how Y-12 workers have developed a more effective way to detect tiny amounts of bomb-grade uranium:

    Engineers have come up with a way to make a small amount of U-235 appear much larger. At least it appears that way to radiation detectors, and that could be critically important.

    According to officials at Y-12, the project could change the way monitors are tested at border crossings and airports and make sure the detection systems work properly. This, in turn, could enhance global efforts to stop the smuggling of nuclear materials with bomb-making potential.

    – Plutonium Page

  • In a Charlie Rose BusinessWeek interview with Paul Volcker, The Lion Lets Loose.
  • Chase Davis at California Watch says Politicians rely on county parties to funnel contributions, avoid campaign limits.
  • Gee Oh Pee Chairman Michael Steele steps back into the 19th Century to punctuate his bullshit:

    Our platform is one of the best political documents that’s been written in the last 25 years. Honest Injun on that.

  • Roger Schuler at Legal Schnauzer (and here) writes that Alabama’s Economy is Imploding Under Governor Bob Riley.
  • Ezili Danto looks at Avatar from a Black perspective.
  • Nathan Hodge of Wired magazine’s Danger Room slams David Ignatius:

    What government agency doesn’t need a good public affairs officer? It’s a rough world out there, with lots of critics. You never know when someone might try to cut your budget or demand a Congressional investigation.

    So much the better if your PAO has a twice-weekly column at the Washington Post, and does the flacking for free. I’m speaking here of David Ignatius, Post columnist and author of spy novels. Let’s examine, shall we?

    Read the whole thing. – Plutonium Page

MA-Sen: Could Coakley Lose?

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

Rasmussen is out with a new poll and certainly wants us to think Martha Coakley could lose the special election to be held in Massachusetts on January 19.

Rasmussen. 1/4/10. Likely voters. MoE 4.5%.

Martha Coakley (D) 50%
Scott Brown (R) 41%


Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley.

Of course, this is Rasmussen. Their election polling is generally more reliable than their issues polling, but in a special election poll, the likely voter screen is crucial. And what do you know, Nate Silver finds reasons to be skeptical of the sample.

PPP gamed out some possible scenarios in advance of this poll:

I thought it would be worth taking a look at what would happen if things played out in Masschusetts similarly to Virginia, which is a sort of Democratic worst case scenario.

The Virginia exit poll showed the folks who turned out there voted for John McCain by an eight point margin, in contrast to the actual six point victory in the state for Barack Obama.  A similar 14 point drop on the Obama margin in Massachusetts would mean the people who come out for the Senate election voted for him by a 56-44 margin.

In Virginia Creigh Deeds won 88% of the Obama vote and Bob McDonnell won 95% of the McCain vote.  Give those percentages to Martha Coakley and Scott Brown and you have Coakley at 51.5% and Brown at 48.5%.  

In other words, given available polling, informed critiques of said polling, and a worst case scenario look at voting history, it’s really unlikely Coakley loses this one. In fact, since Rasmussen shows her up by nine points while losing independents 65% to 21% (improbable, by the way), astoundingly low turnout by Democrats is the only real path to victory for Scott Brown.

Republicans are engaged in some epic spinning and not a little crowing about this poll. But really, it’s probably bad news for them — with complacency the main danger for Coakley, this poll should get Massachusetts Democrats paying attention and making plans for a strong GOTV effort.

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