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We have now entered the realm of the fiasco

I learned about real fiascos in Italy.  A fiasco is a bottle that you cook beans in.  You put the beans and water in the bottle and sit it in the warm embers of your fireplace before you go to bed.  If everything goes right, those beans will be tender and delicious in the morning.  But beans are full of gas producing and nitrogen containing compounds so they tend to be unstable when they’re cooked under pressure.  So, you could come downstairs to find that your fiasco has blown up all over the place and you now have a mess to clean up.

In other words, fiascos are more likely to occur when you leave the bottle unattended.

On Nov 1, 2013, This American Life reprised one of my favorite episodes on Fiascos.  The funniest act in the episode is about what happens when an untested director reaches beyond her modest abilities to stage a Julie Taymor-esque version of Peter Pan complete with flying apparatus.  It’s hysterical but also illuminating.  You get the stages of a fiasco in the making from this act.  At first, the audience is bemused and forgiving.  Then the mistakes keep piling up and the audience progresses from sympathizing with the actors to ridicule.  Then they start getting involved.  The play completely breaks down and the audience is fully engaged in demolition.  At some point the audience recognizes that they are no longer watching a play.  They are watching a fiasco.

I think we are at the ridicule stage right now with Obamacare.  We are rapidly reaching the point of no return with this play.  We may get a reaction to Obamacare that was completely absent with HAMP but what the heck, why not revisit HAMP too, while we’re at it?

Some of us knew the Democrats were working with an untended mess of explosive beans but did they listen?  No.  They did not.  There are really no good options right now.  Just watch it explode and be ready on the other side with some game changing plan.  I’m going to bet that the fiasco is going to generate enough public anger that there will be a slim chink of an opportunity to get something passed.

Go big.  Like a public option.  Make it administered by a non-profit insurance company like Blue Cross.  Pour the subsidies into it.  Make sure providers in the area can’t lock public option participants out and tell everyone you’re working on a permanent fix.

The problem is the for profit insurance companies and the politicians who cooperated with them. Let’s stop forcing this fiasco on the uninsured, the poor and the sick.

And check out Fiasco! on This American Life for one of the funniest episodes they’ve ever broadcast.

The strange silence

Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times and Bill Moyers discussed the government shutdown /debt ceiling crisis last week.  Check out the whole interview here.  I was particularly struck by this part:

BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?

MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.

It helped, but it didn’t help enough because it wasn’t big enough. And they’re not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.

It’s been the basic support of America’s unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there’s the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.

And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don’t live in the early 19th century, it’s a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.

It’s strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that’s just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.

And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it’s only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, “Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it’s properly financed?”

I’ll touch on the effects of sequester on the future of science in this country in another post but right now, I want to talk about the strange silence from the Democrats and the dangers that wait for them if they don’t start speaking up, soon and loudly.  And part of this has something to do with Joan Walsh and Feministing and what Atrios said a couple days ago:

I don’t offer that as a defense (except for things that happened before his watch, of course), but while ultimately the man in charge is the man in charge, I think that often criticisms of things which happen during this administration are just heard as criticisms of Obama by people who are, understandably, fans and invested in his success.

I’m going to step right into this (because why stop now after five years?) and hypothesize that there are some “fans” on the left who would sell their children into neofeudal serfdom in a heartbeat before they would suffer the completely unfounded accusations of racism that other “fans” would heap upon them if they even dared to strenuously question the Obama administration.

It is pointless to tell these “fans” that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn’t make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you’ve failed Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use.  Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy.

This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don’t get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama’s campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude.  But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want.  If you don’t raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people.

Not only that but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the last time the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they passed a much less than adequate stimulus bill and gave us Obamacare.  Yep, it had control of the executive and legislative branches and still found it politically impossible to even introduce the concept of public option or single payer or even cost controls, for gawdssakes, into the debate over a national healthcare policy.  How does that happen??  I don’t mean how does it happen that these things never even got discussed in a legitimate way with our side in complete control of the dialog.  I mean how does it happen that our side stayed so quiet about the fact that the Obama administration had effectively emasculated it?  The sequester should have been the last straw but from the “fans”?  Hardly a peep.

Russell Brand has a point.  If the side that professes to be the one that stands up for the great masses of people who are being treated poorly doesn’t do anything when it’s in charge, then why vote?  Why not do something different?

This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.  And if that happens, it will be because voters will have had enough and the Republicans will have finally hanged themselves.  And if THAT happens, there’d better be some changes made.

But I personally will not take the left seriously if I don’t hear some harsh criticisms of the way this administration has squandered its first two years in office leaving millions of people unemployed, underinsured and at the mercy of very determined social security and medicare cutters.

If your demoralized, older but wiser youth vote, or ladies’ vote, or “name your base here” vote doesn’t show up for the next big election in sufficient enough quantities and decides to seek its own path, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Lambert picked out my favorite line from the Brand interview:

My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”

Exactly.   There’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels and becoming nasty, mean spirited old bigots in the service of the powerful.  Fox News viewers take note.

New GOP Rep. Andy Harris gets irate over lack of instant health insurance

Yes, Dr. Harris, newly elected congresscritter and anesthesiologist, has gotten what my Dad would call a “Rude Awakening”.  From Steven Benen’s Political Animal post at Washington Monthy, we get the following exchange related by someone who was there:

“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. […]

“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Steve adds:

Harris wants to know “what he would do without 28 days of health care”? I don’t know, Andy, what have tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, done without access to quality health care for years? Why are you entitled to government-subsidized health care, but they’re not? What will those families do after you repeal the Affordable Care Act? Wait for tort reform to magically cover everyone?

What an embarrassment.

{{RD pauses}}

I’d laugh but I don’t think this is funny.  I can just imagine someone like Harris expostulating loudly over the fact that some poor woman whose family is recently unemployed and can’t pay for COBRA couldn’t afford to pay the bill for the epidural she had during childbirth.  It’s not funny that his 5 kids will not be covered until February.  It’s not funny that he’s been sheltered from the reality of the probationary period that everyone I know has to suffer through.  It’s not funny that some district in Maryland will be represented by a dolt.  And it’s not funny that he will presumably learn nothing from this, given his party affiliation.

Satisfying, but not funny.

Bad News and More Bad News :: Health Insurance Reform

I’ve seen links to this all over the place from Facebook to blogs :

Public Option Support Surging In Senate

On Tuesday, four Senate Democrats joined the effort, urging Reid to pass a public option using reconciliation. The group was led by Sen. Michael Bennet, facing a primary challenge in Colorado. Sen. Kirstin Gillibran, facing a primary in New York, was also one of the initial four. Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) rounded out the foursome.

And now somewhere between 16-19 Senators have supposedly signed on with Kathleen Sebelius claiming that President Obama himself will support the “Public Option” if the Senate Leadership signs on first:

Health Care Reform Back from the Dead? Obama’s Team Signals Support for Public Option; 18 Senators Sign on

From Thursday’s Rachel Maddow interview with Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

Maddow: “The private insurance company writ large hasn’t done a great job. That’s why we want a public option to compete with them. These 18 Democratic senators want to bring that back into the fold. If that happened, would the administration fight for it?”

Sebelius: “Well, I think if it’s… Certainly. If it’s part of the decision of the Senate leadership to move forward, absolutely.”

The onus is now really on the Majority Leader. As of Thursday, at least 18 senators had signed an open letter urging Reid to make the public option a necessary part of the final Senate bill.

So we’re supposed to swoon over the fact that ~18 Democratic Senators (out of 58-59) are publicly supporting a “Public Option” — that’s absurd.

  1. The Public Option as it stands won’t be an option for the general public.  In fact, the policy is so complicated most people I know don’t know if they’d be eligible or not.
  2. This Public Option has been dangled in front of us so often this story actually feels like a joke.
  3. I heard Harry Reid announce that he had enough votes for the Senate to pass the Public Option the day he announced the Senate Health Care Plan. What happened with that? And didn’t THAT imply that he supports the thing?
  4. And (really?) something less than 20 Senators are supporting this thing? So what?

After all this time I can’t tell if I support it.  So why does my heart start pounding when I read these stories?

Pure desperation.  That’s why.

What will it take for Koolaid drinkers to finally accept reality?

Some still refuse to see the truth

Some still refuse to see the truth

The Obama administration’s betrayals of liberalism are ubiquitous. Has he ever kept a single one of his campaign promises? They could hardly be called promises anyway, since Obama had such a long history of voting “present” before he ran for President. Way back in January, 2008, I was asking Obama supporters to name an issue that he really cared about enough to stand and fight.

I never got a clear answer–because Obama never made those kinds of commitments. He was always wishy-washy and all over the place when it came to important issues. Yet we are still seeing passionate Obama supporters who fail to deal with this reality. Here are three examples of Obama administration betrayals that I found today in about 10 minutes of ‘net surfing.

Outrage #1

Long-time Obama stooge and Huffpo columnist Sam Stein reports today that unnamed “Hill aides” have complained to him that the votes for the public option would be there in the Senate if only President Obama would step up and fight for its inclusion in the health care reform bill.

“There is a clear sense that it would be helpful,” said one senior Democratic aide. “Throughout this entire debate the White House line has been ‘We will weigh in when it is necessary’…. Well now we need 60 votes. So if it’s not necessary now, then when will it be?”

“I think folks in general in Congress were looking to the president to clearly define his feeling on the issue,” another aide said. “And I don’t think he has done that on the public option from the get-go… With a lot of senators nervous because of elections or other political dynamics, it would be helpful for the president to send a strong signal that this is what he wants in the final bill.”

Let me get this straight. There are still people working for U.S. Senators who actually believe that Obama supports the inclusion of a public option in the bill?! And these morons are helping to run our government? No wonder things are so f**ked up! These “Hill aides” need to put down the Koolaid glass and step away from the punch bowl. Time for a reality check. Obama doesn’t care about the public option. He will only accept one if it is either completely neutered or forced on him. Pull up your britches and fight for it yourself! Continue reading

The Obama Delusion and Health Care Reform

Obama Transition

The Obama Delusion: The belief that although President Obama is a liberal and has liberal values and goals, he cleverly pretends not to be a liberal in order to to fool Republicans into supporting his agenda.

{{Sigh…}} Where to begin? While perusing Memeorandum this morning, I noticed Booman’s post from yesterday about “11-dimensional chess.” Frankly, the less said about Booman’s post, the better. It’s just embarrassingly silly and illogical. Besides, Big Tent Democrat, who coined the term “11-dimensional chess,” has already handily disposed of Booman’s arguments, such as they are.

Booman’s post was prompted by one at the Cheeto in which the author, Maimonides, makes the claim that Obama, along with his trusty enforcer Rahm Emanuel, are actually using not 11-dimensional chess, but “Sun Tzu’s the strategy of “formlessness,” outlined in this quote:

“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

Here is what Maimonides thinks Obama and his capo are up to:

For several months now I’ve been pushing the idea that President Obama is engaged in the Sun Tsu strategy of “formlessness.” This strategy is not the much-derided “11-D Chess” that so many choose to dismiss. This is the very simple and time-tested strategy of not taking a position that is easily defined by your opponents, of not giving them anything to attack. By doing so, one forces one’s opponents to take positions, giving you the advantage of adaptability and information, which they now lack.

Maimonides also claims to have some vital inside information, but, sadly, he/she cannot reveal the sources of that information.

You may not see reports of what Rahm Emanuel says to your Congressperson. You may not hear rumors of it. But it is going on all the time; what did you think he spent his time doing, checking in on Dkos diaries? Rahm is putting pressure where he is told to, floating trial balloons as directed, keeping all options on the table, and most of all keeping Obama’s strategy of formlessness alive. Until he’s directed otherwise.

Which brings us to now. Rumor in DC* is that Rahm has gotten exactly what he wanted: a “Big mess,” as Rahm reportedly described it. Formlessness has payed off. There are virtually no Congressional players left whose opinions we do not know, and every option has been talked to death. And now the Administration, rather than having its policies debated to death, has the ability to sweep in and choose among the options presented.

*Here I open myself to claims that I’m using unsourced “insider knowledge”, which is true, I am. You can take it or leave it, but I would hope that you would be open to the possibility that those of us working in the trenches may hear things that you do not.

Okay? See, Maimonides has inside sources, because he/she “works in the trenches.” But we just have to take that and the “rumors” Maimonides has heard on faith–just like we have to take on faith that Obama wants health care for all at a reasonable price.

Here’s the thing. In a sense I agree with Maimonides that Rahm and Barack have gotten exactly what they wanted–a “big mess.” And for all I know, Obama and Emanuel may both have read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and may be using it as a guide for their political strategy. But whether the “mess” is the result of a deliberate strategy or just one big clusterf*ck is irrelevant to the President’s actual goals for health care “reform.” Continue reading

This creek smells funny. How did we get here?

Shit_Creek_
Imagine you were rowing your boat gently down the stream and one of the oars got caught in the hatch. What would happen? Logic suggests that the current would slowly move you downstream as you spun the boat in circles.

O.K. Rowboats don’t have hatches, but Orrin Hatch is a creature and a feature of the ship of state and it is people of his intellectual and moral quality who are spinning the boat in circles when it’s clearly in need of proper direction. In fact, abandoning the first metaphor, they’ve piloted the US up the creek to where it is today. When you’re up this creek, you need a paddle, not an Orrin.

In response to Charles Schumer’s statement, that the Democrats can pass healthcare reform without Republican support:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who joined Schumer on the show, said Democrats should not try to use reconciliation to force through a bill which could not overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

“If they use that, that would be an abuse of the process,” Hatch said. He also said creating a government health plan open to all would be a grave mistake. “If we do that, we’ll bankrupt the country.”

Earth to Orrin. What do you think you’ve been actively working at for the last 8 years? What do you think lying to the public to make a war in Iraq, and loosely regulating the financial community, have to do with the current economic situation?

The Republican Party set the stage for bankrupting the nation by adopting neo-conservatism as its political philosophy. Neo-conservatism, which is conservatism without moral and intellectual grounding, is bankrupt at the conceptual level, so it’s hardly surprising that Bush’s application of its principles gutted the economy of the nation. It’s also why so many Republicans continue working to bankrupt the nation by applying the principles they say prevent bankruptcy.

Ideologues whose brains can’t get beyond binaries are incapable of accepting the empirical world when it conflicts with their beliefs. One such belief is that public healthcare would bankrupt the economy, when every study ever published in The New England Journal of Medicine on the topic shows that public healthcare is more efficient and cost effective than private healthcare.

With people like Orrin at the helm, there is no reason to wonder why the country is up the creek. I can think of at least two good uses for a paddle.

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