December 15, 2009 archive

Throwing It All Away

From TPM

Hoyer: House Will Accept Public Option-Free Bill

House Democrats can’t always get what they want, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today. But if they spin it right, he said, they just might find they got what they need.

Faced with a likely public option-free health care reform bill from the Senate, Hoyer said House Democrats will vote to move the reform process forward without government-run insurance included.

Much as his colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership did last night, Hoyer said the political reality in the Senate means Democrats have to look past things like the public option to the “guts” of the bill itself.

“[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid does not have the votes for a public option, obviously,” Hoyer said. “In a world of alternatives, you have to take what you can get.”

We Were Told

We wanted single payer, but were told we couldn’t get it, so we may as well not try.

We wanted a hybrid European-style system, but were told we couldn’t get it, so we may as well not try.

We wanted a robust public option, and we wondered why the president wasn’t working hard to get one, but we were told to ignore the pronouncements of members of his cabinet and staff that the public option wasn’t that important, and only listen to his own occasional statements that he wanted a public option.

We were told that we shouldn’t worry that he wasn’t out fighting for a public option, and that he never drew a line in the sand, because we didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes, we didn’t understand the strategy, and the president would get us the public option that he kept saying he wanted.

We were told to accept mandates.

We were told to accept a public option with triggers.

We were told to accept a public option with opt-out.

We were told to accept a public option that still left millions of people out.

Finally, we were told the public option wasn’t that important, anyway.

Finally, we were told that after months of being told that we didn’t understand the strategy that was going to get us the public option, it wasn’t that important, anyway.

We were told to accept the Medicare buy-in, because that would be a huge step in the right direction, even if it was unclear whether there would be subsidies actually enabling people to buy in.

We were told to accept the Medicare buy-in, because that would be a huge step in the right direction, even if it left even more millions of people out.

Now, we’re being told that the Medicare buy-in isn’t important, either.

No matter how much “reform” is defined down, we are told to accept it and like it and support it.

And we still don’t know what we will get!

We are being told to support whatever we get, and we still don’t know what that will be!

I wonder how many will accept literally anything.

I wonder how many just want to pass something, anything, so we can pat ourselves on the back and claim to have reformed health care.

I have a simple question: what about Stupak? If Stupak remains in the bill, will we be told to accept that, too?

I have another question: is there any degree of compromise, of unilateral knee-capping, that will render the bill unacceptable?

Perhaps, for the sake of consensus, we ought simply to pass a Sense of the Senate resolution stating that “health care is good.”

Grace Notes, Ghost Notes, and Justice

In the midst of the hullabaloo around Lieberman et al, I’ve succeeded, so far, in not tearing my hair out although I am kind of sick to my stomach.

While driving my kid to School this morning, an hour early for Band Sectionals, I listened to her telling me some silly story about her Band chums that she found rather funny. In the telling of her tale, she found she had to explain to me (since I don’t read music or speak theory) the concept of Grace Notes. They are merely extra little notes thrown in for… no reason, just extra, you don’t have to play them, but you can if you want to… [according to my kid]. They’re there for the taking, and they embellish the tune. Not to be confused, apparently, with Ghost Notes.

Ghost notes, however, are not simply the unaccented notes in a pattern. The unaccented notes in such a pattern as a clave are considered to represent the mean level of emphasis–they are neither absolutely emphasized nor unemphasized. If one further deemphasizes one of these unaccented notes to the same or a similar extent to which the accented notes in the pattern are emphasized, then one has ‘ghosted’ that note. In a case in which a ghost note is deemphasized to the point of silence, that note then represents a rhythmic placeholder in much the same way as does a rest. This can be a very fine distinction, and the ability of an instrumentalist to differentiate between what is a ghost note and what is a rest is governed largely by the acoustic nature of the instrument.

There’s metaphor to be had here, I just know it! Give me a minute. heh.

It becomes more and more obvious, on a daily basis, that Justice and Rule of Law in our country has been ghost noted.

Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

~  Groucho Marx

Franken DESTROYS Thune! “We are entitled to our own opinions, we’re NOT entitled to our own facts!”

Crossposted at Daily Kos

    First thing is first. I am broke, totally broke, with no money for food or transportation to look for a job with. Therefore, I have been urged by others online to post a paypal account and ask for donations so that I can continue looking for work. If you can make a donation, I would greatly appreciate it, as it will help maintain my ability to live until I find work. In return, I will try to continue posting articles for your enjoyment as often as I am able to.…

    Now that I have gotten that out of the way, on to the show.

Full transcript and more below the fold.

Old Media’s Awkward Embrace

The awkward embrace by which the established media figures are halfheartedly wrapping their arms around their heir apparent reminds me of the uncomfortable John McCain/George W. Bush man hug used so effectively by Barack Obama’s campaign.  That any mainstream outlet would seek to collar the internet and with it the multitude of online-based means of information exchange, forcing them to march to its own tune in the process surprises me not really all that much.   Power plays like these are why the blogsophere has often been contemptuous of the big names.   A drowning person reaching desperately for a way to stay afloat would have to be awfully sadistic if he or she, out of pure spite, sought to drag down the very means by which he or she might survive.   But then again, no one ever confused the media as being strictly and patently rational.   A crisis mentality permeates the thought process of many in these trying times and catastrophe is rarely graced by sensible or conscionable decision making.      

The Washington Post, also known as the walking dead, pulled a fast one on just about everybody quite recently.   Its Next Great Pundit Contestâ„¢ started out with a stated desire to lift some obscure member of the Proletariat blogging class into a temporary, but nonetheless visible role as a Beltway heavy hitter, but was shiftily transformed from beginning to end to showcase an “average” member of society who happened to have a substantial publication history and at least one book in print.   The winner was highly competent but also the safest choice the company could have ever made.  And not only that,

…in this contest, as in much of new media, though over 50% of bloggers are women, the opinion sections at some of America’s most respected online publications continue to be dominated by men. Between August and October of this year, only 20% of the Huffington Post’s front page opinion columns were written by women, a proportion that dwarfs the corresponding number at Salon, which was a mere 12%.* The primary consumers of new media are young people, a Twitter-crazed generation raised in the post-feminist era, many of us too young to remember Katie Couric as anything other than a serious prime time anchor. So why, when it comes to pundits, does new media look so much like old media?

My response, in part, is this.   Any industry in turmoil is going to aim for the lowest common denominator, because it is averse to take a risk.   In better days, struggling companies might have taken the opportunity to invest into something off the beaten path that conventional wisdom might question or that didn’t have a history of a guaranteed rate of return.   Those days, lamentably, no longer exist.   One sees this in the newspaper business and one sees this also in the music industry.   One of the more gaping flaws with capitalism is that there is always a temptation to view everything, no matter of its quality, in terms of a commodity or in terms of turning a guaranteed profit; I also know that social progress will always be impeded by the pursuit of the bottom line.

Any historically marginalized group, provided they speak with enough of a unified voice and demand their right to be heard is often thrown a cheap concession in the form of a specific platform upon which to be heard as a way to get activists and reformers to stop applying pressure and in effect, to shut up.   Traditionally the addition of a token member promoted to a high level from within has been an easy way to satisfy protesters, and so also has been the creation of a specific publication to best serve the interests of those who have historically been denied a voice.   As a noted intellectual put it, what has been set in motion up to this point could well be described as The Triumph of Tokenism.   This could never be confused as true equality, but it is often embraced as “at least a start.”

In 1966, the scholar whom I reference above, historian C. Vann Woodward, wrote a provocative essay entitled “What Happened to the Civil Rights Movement?”   The opening two paragraphs have an eerie resonance to the present day.   Woodward was specifically writing about the struggle for African-American rights, but they fit this context neatly.

As if adopting the techniques of the cinema director, history has obligingly thrown in a few flashbacks or replays of hauntingly familiar lines, encounters, whole episodes from the past.  It would seem at times, in fact, that contemporary history has been plagiarizing an old scenario and helping with the script.

With all due resistance to superficial parallels, we have been unable to to avoid comparisons between past history and lived experience.  For we have witnessed in our own time a rising tide of indignation against an ancient wrong, the slow crumbling of stubborn resistance, the sudden rush and elation of victory, and then the onset of reaction and fading of high hopes.

So it would seem then that demands for equality must be measured against the course of events as established by some sort of equilibrium we can sense but have a difficult time observing viscerally.   But neither, of course, does this mean that revolutions of all sorts are unnecessary or need not even be attempted.   Even if the ultimate end is that of discouragement and disillusion, this does not mean we ought not to start the process over again.   Perhaps we should assume that the life cycle of movements and issue activism is beholden to ebbs and flows by its very intrinsic nature and thus we ought to prepare ourselves for the nascent battle charge in the same breath as we acknowledge our retreats and the re-entrenchments of our opponents.

Woodward continues,    

Historians have their arm chair consolations, of course, their after-dinner ironies with brandy.  We knew all along, or so we inform the young and ill-tutored, that all revolutionary upheavals have their life cycle:  rise, climax, decline, reaction…We knew all too well–and the knowledge always embarrassed encounters with true believers–that high fevers of idealism and soaring moods of self-sacrifice cannot be sustained indefinitely, that they lag and burn themselves out, that disenchantment and self-doubt inevitably set in.  And one could expect from past experience that extremists from both ends would take over and make common cause against the rational means.

This passage has parallels to our day that go well beyond gender inequality.   I think what is most crucial is the understanding that revolution as strictly defined doesn’t necessarily mean armed revolt and establishment of a brand new way of conducting one’s affairs.   Sometimes the most subtle revolutions are the most influential and the revolutionary power of the internet is one of these.   The internet reveals both the best and the worst of humanity and I choose to observe the best while taking care not to be dragged down by the latter.

I prefaced this piece by quoting the Huffington Post article written by Chloe Angyal, who concedes that even though the deck may be stacked against female contributors to media, a certain amount of persistence is necessary to overcome it.

…[W]e — young people, and especially young women — can do better. New media, despite its distinctly old-fashioned start, still represents an enormous opportunity to shape for ourselves the kind of public discourse we want to have. It is from our ranks that America’s next great pundits should come, and it is our responsibility to support them when they do. Furthermore, new media represents our chance to genuinely participate in changing the face of our nation’s public discourse. The men to women ratio of submissions to the Washington Post contest was eighty-twenty, a distinctly old media proportion. Young women can and must do better than eighty-twenty. It’s time for us to change the conversation. It’s time for us to sit down, log on and be the change we so desperately need to see in the world.

Reform of any kind is a two-way street upon which seeking a scapegoat isn’t nearly as effective or necessary as positive action.   Far too often our cynicism gives way to a self-fulfilling prophecy of ultimate defeat.   Ultimately we will have hard times, but we will also have times of inspiration and great success as well.  One of my favorite sayings is that life never promises us that it will be fair, but it does promise us that it will often be good.  Finding that which is uplifting and satisfying is our role and ultimately our decision.   Businesses rarely make decisions based on faith or on intangibles.   In the cold, hard world of numbers, graphs, charts, and raw data, nothing is left to chance and nothing exists without some undeniable proof to back it up.  Yet, some of the most innovative reforms and products required leaps of faith to set into place, even when the safety net below might not have been several reassuring glances downward.   Irrationality in any form is foolish, but rationality and trusting in the unknown and even the unknowable are not mutually exclusive concepts.   If none of us were willing to risk potential loss and relied exclusively on the status quo, slavery would still be legal in at least half the country, women would not be welcomed into the workplace, LGBTs would be treated with scorn and contempt by most Americans, and we would dwell in a world exclusively of the white males, by the white males, and for the white males.    

Mainstream Media Comments On Itself

Hand me one of those airsick bags, will you please? Seriously. Things like this worry me.

The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room reported yesterday that “Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among the seven finalists chosen for Time magazine’s annual “Person of the Year,” according to media reports on Monday. Other finalists in the realm of politics include last year’s winner President Barack Obama, Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.”

Time’s managing editor Richard Stengel in an appearance on NBC’s Today show praised Pelosi as “the strongest Speaker of the House in decades”, said that she had “piloted what is probably the most important legislation in decades through the House” and called her “a really, really pivotal lawmaker”.

In other news, Police in Panama City, Florida tasered a man who was choking to death on a baggie of pot, apparently calling his flipping and flopping “resisting arrest”:

Thanks for nothing.

Darcy Burner: The Senate bill is a recipe for national disaster. If it’s that bill or nothing, I prefer nothing.

by Joe Sudbay (DC) on 12/15/2009 08:10:00 AM

The fundamental failing of the newest Senate proposal is that it requires individuals to purchase health insurance, but does nothing to rein in what insurance companies charge. There is nothing to stop spiraling health costs from eating up an ever-increasing percentage of our national productivity.

Democratic leaders are going to have to explain how forcing a mandate on people to buy private health insurance, without controlling the insurance industry, makes sense. That concept might appeal to Joe Lieberman, but it doesn’t sit well with everyone else.

The fire this time

By: TBogg Monday December 14, 2009 10:28 pm

If Rahm Emmanuel is all he was supposed to be, we can safely assume that the Obama White House either never gave a shit about health care reform, or they managed health care reform so horrifically and incompetently that they are now willing to settle for a “win”, no matter how meager.

I hope they enjoy their Pyrrhic victory because they just burned the base.

Where We’re At On The Lieberman Health Care Industry Profit Protection Act Of 2009

By: David Dayen Tuesday December 15, 2009 5:00 am

Another major addition in the mystery “deal” on the public option, the extension of the medical loss ratio to 90% (meaning that insurance companies would have to spend at least 90% of premiums on medical care), took a major hit from the CBO, and an ideological one at that. Doug Elmendorf basically said that such a medical loss ratio would make the private insurance industry into a government entity, “so that all payments related to health insurance policies should be recorded as cash flows in the federal budget.” This would make the health care bill cost several trillion dollars in CBO’s eyes despite the fact that nothing would have materially changed, and so this arbitrary decision basically killed the medical loss ratio, at least at 90% (it’s unclear what the magic MLR number is that turns the private insurance market into a government entity; Elmendorf didn’t explain it, just saying that it was somewhere between 85% and 90%).

One question for those who argued that liberals could easily bargain away the public option for something really valuable and good – how does “nothing” sound to you?

Docudharma Times Tuesday December 15

Tuesday’s Headlines:

China and U.S. Hit Strident Impasse at Climate Talks

The Palestinians’ opposite poles

U.S. to announce transfer of detainees to Ill. prison

Schuss! At 94, Mammoth Mountain resort founder is shooting the slopes (with a camera)

Palestinian tunnel tycoons feeding demand for banned goods

Iran protesters say torn Khomeini photos were staged

Sri Lankan government killed surrendering Tamil Tigers, says general

North Korean arms plane linked to East European arms traffickers

Berlusconi ‘amazed’ at attack but rivals blame PM for stoking violence

Misfits and runaways join French Foreign Legion for Afghanistan tour

Chile’s love for Bachelet goes only so far

Late Night Karaoke

Open Thread

For “Holier  Than Everyone” Joe Lieberman  

Enuff ‘z Enuff: We’re gonna rein in our damnable lobbyists!

This is IT, man!  The bankers’s lobbyists pissed on the bankers’s rugs, man, and a line in the sand has been drawn.

Right before their very noses, and in the midst of the worst political and financial regulatory crisis since at least the Great Depression,  the banks’ lobbyists have been over-aggressively trying to quash real financial reform, totally unbeknownst to the bankers.  And this has infuriated bankers.

An angry and victimized Goldman Sachs investment banker, Jeff Lebowski, read the news aghast,  still dressed in his paisley bathrobe and drinking his morning Ovaltine, angrily sputtered,

This will not stand, man!

CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon delivered a more inflected and innuendoed  response to the news of failed financial reform, first quoting the great American poet, Wallace Stevens:

From oriole to crow, note the decline

In music. Crow is realist. But, then,

Oriole, also, may be realist.

(update: here, both Stevens and Dimon fix upon you a sidewards pomegranate eye!)

Some read this as a vague middle finger to President Barack Obama’s tongue-lashing of the banks on network television on the previous evening.  When queried for clarification, Dimon said he was obviously chiding Stevens for failing to notice that “The jay is the fucking populist, man!”  And with that, it seems, financial reform is all but guaranteed.

Just in case you missed it…

Anger is flying at Mach 1,000 and everybody who isn’t a member of the Democratic leadership wants to punish the Democrats for their endless betrayals, broken promises, lies, and capitulations.  Well, I seem to remember someone posting ideas for how we can do something more than just bitch and complain.…

Just thought I’d remind you so we can start holding discussions for how we can implement these ideas.

Chill Space


Haad Rin, Koh Phangan by Manfred Werner  (Wikimedia Commons)

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