January 27, 2012

What Digby Said: CU





 


Last night, Digby pre-empted the mistake atrios makes here when he links to BooMan blaming Citizens United for the SuperPAC attack ad mess that the GOP primary has become. She points out that the money in this case is coming from individuals, not corporations, and so Citizens United played no role. Rather, something else has happened. For some reason, cultural perhaps, or perhaps just the rankness of the corruption in our political system, the money boys are not as reticent as they used to be. They don't care, anymore, if you know who they are.

January 20, 2012

Corruption


Redolent.

Rank.

Foul.

Elected Democrats no longer see themselves as representing their constituents. They see themselves as representing their donors. In the teeth of huge, well-organized grass roots opposition--hell, universal opposition, Democrats come down on the side of the MPAA and the RIAA. They'll try to find some other way to take away our internet, trying to put the toothpaste of an open network back into the tube.

This is not even a question of stupid or evil. It's stupid and evil.

MOULITSAS: It has been a shameful day. Now let me add that Ron Wyden, who was just on, if it wasn't for him, this thing may have passed already. He was the first person in Congress to stand up against this and fight the way he has. He is the reason this is still being debated. That said, you have a bipartisan group of people who supported it. Today, Republican after Republican has backed out and abandoned support for SOPA and PIPA.

Democrats haven't. They cling to this fiction that this thing can be fixed, and not only is it incredibly stupid, it's incredibly tone-deaf. You are basically ceding a generation of Web-savvy, Web-immersed people who are obsessed with protecting what they see as their very birthright. And they are watching Republicans come out and see the light on this issue, while Democrats continue to cling to the Hollywood studios. It is unfathomable.

I'm embarrassed to be a Democrat, I'm ashamed and I'm angry. You couldn't even begin to believe — because I believe that this legislation is an existential threat to the social Web — that's Daily Kos, that's Reddit, that's Facebook — that's anybody, any time you can interact online, this legislation threatens that ability to do so.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, that's Red State, that's all the other right-wing sites, as well. This is not a liberal thing.

MOULITSAS:
It's not. It's liberal, conservative, greens, libertarians, people who don't even pay attention to politics. I don't think I have ever seen this much consensus around an issue.
Unbelievable. The Democratic leadership in the Senate is willing to throw a generation under the bus.

Influence by major donors isn't new, of course. Henry (Scoop) Jackson of Washington was referred to as the Senator from Boeing. But, as with the Health Care Reform negotiations, voters don't even have a seat at the table--especially among Democrats. Unless we in the rank and file can find a way to penetrate the Democratic primary system, we are doomed to a future of bad public policy--a neo-feudalist regime run by monopolists and their "elected officials."

January 1, 2012

Ron Paul



Paul's candidacy creates tremendous cognitive dissonance. Digby, in this VS A-Z clip, explains one source for this cognitive dissonance; he isn't really a libertarian so much as a states' rights tenther. A libertarian would focus on the "people" part, rather the "states" part of the clause. Moreover, the 14th amendment considerably weakens the "states" part; the Amendment is about the Federal government protecting individuals from oppressive state governments. So Ron Paul is a statist libertarian, or a libertarian statist. Confusing.

Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller write about a different kind of cognitive dissonance, the kind that is infesting discussion that are on the "left" or, rather more accurately, are taking place among rank and file Democrats.

Glenn notes that there's a problem when an odious candidate advocates policies also advocated by progressive activists--opposition to wars of choice, bloated defense budgets, unwavering support for Israel, torture, warrantless detention, an unaccountable president, a disastrous war on drugs et alia.

That problem is parallel to the problem of a good, well-meaning leader who happens to engage in odious policies:

The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations withdrones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has wagedan unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.
This is very confusing. To combat the confusion, many progressives fall back on issues where they agree with the President, and disagree with Paul, which happen to be issues around social policy, and involve more visceral, tribal issues like the right to choose and civil rights. They deride people like Glenn as saboteurs, trying to undermine our last, best hope to stave off the evil depredations of conservative governance. And they bring up the Courts, both the Supremes and the Federal Circuit. It's hard to write about this clearly, but it's even harder to think clearly--the dissonance is internally deafening.

Stoller points out that there is conflict in the liberal commitment to a large Federal government that does good because a large government can also do evil:

Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature. And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism doesn’t really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism going back to the 1930s don’t work.
The other source of dissonance is within the media's reporting. As Stolller notes, part of the current issue is that there really are very few movement liberals among the elected officials of the Democratic Party. The party is dominated by a mix of centrists and establishment Democrats who are uninterested, if not actively hostile to movement liberalism. There is a natural fit between the political centrist and the media's love of centrism. Both groups love the idea of an unelected elite making tough decisions behind closed doors. This is especially the case with respect to foreign policy, where there is a bi-partisan consensus, shared by the Village, for US policy that involves frequent military interventions, and support for non-democratic regimes that serve America's vital interests.

Ron Paul exists outside, and in opposition, to that foreign policy sphere of consensus, as he demonstrated in a 2008 interview with Tim Russert. So he is invariably marginalized, treated as a lesser candidate, even though by any objective standard, he should be receiving much more coverage.

It's also interesting that the issues that marginalize Paul in the Village--opposition to brutal foreign policy, to an increasingly intrusive security state, run by unaccountable banksters--are also the issues that motivate and marginalize the Occupy movement. On the left, these grass roots issues are represented not by any one leader, but by a mass movement.

These are grass roots issues that are simply are not on the table. Without the Occupy movement, and, yes, without Ron Paul, they also would not be part of our political discourse.

At all.


Friedman



Tom Friedman today:



As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track? After 9/11, the idea of helping to change the context of Arab politics and address the root causes of Arab state dysfunction and Islamist terrorism — which were identified in the 2002 Arab Human Development Report as a deficit of freedom, a deficit of knowledge and a deficit of women’s empowerment — seemed to me to be a legitimate strategic choice.


Tom Friedman then:



What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.[28][29][30] ..We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth...




This text is provided as a public service. The email address for the Times Public Editor is public@nytimes.com, for LsTE, letters@nytimes.com

December 13, 2011

Premium Support

(By Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd)

Last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story about Democratic support for restructuring Medicare as a premium support plan, as part of the austerity negotiations:
Members of both parties told the panel that Medicare should offer a fixed amount of money to each beneficiary to buy coverage from competing private plans, whose costs and benefits would be tightly regulated by the government.
[snip]
The idea faces opposition from many Democrats, who say it would shift costs to beneficiaries and eliminate the guarantee of affordable health insurance for older Americans. But some Democrats say that — if carefully designed, with enough protections for beneficiaries — it might work.
The idea is sometimes known as premium support, because Medicare would subsidize premiums charged by private insurers that care for beneficiaries under contract with the government.

Of course, the Democrats all remain nameless, as do most of the "health policy experts." These same people have been trying to drum up support for premium support as a means of cutting Medicare benefits controlling Medicare costs for years, mostly from Democrats predictably wary of how unpopular this would be. That's why any policy discussion takes place in an atmosphere of anonymity, dishonesty and misdirection, using unrepresentative processes like the creation of unelected commissions or the establishment of a specially empowered SuperCommittee.

Centrist Democrats --the New Democrat Coalition, Democratic Leadership Council, Third Way, Progressive Policy Institute and the Brookings Institute-- have been trying to get "Premium Support" legislation in front of Congress for at least a dozen years. It's the other half of what the PPACA is designed to accomplish, to restructure what they regard as obsolete New Deal social insurance policy. The policy recommendations focus on “private/public partnerships” supplanting public sector programs, while messaging focuses on selling ideologically centrist, “market-based reform" to liberal Democrats.   They reassure movement liberals by reciting platitudes that seem to affirm Medicare's sanctity with promises to “strengthen" the program for the 21st century. This has been going on since the mid to late 90s.

For instance, New Democrat John Breaux, chairing President' Clinton's Bipartisan Commission of the Future of Medicare,  introduced a premium support plan in 1999. In an Op-Ed in The Hill (pulled from the memory hole by Republican Congressman Tim Griffin), Breaux wrote:
With any restructuring approach, we must preserve Medicare's entitlement and ensure that Medicare does not become a program just for the poor. I would like Medicare, in fact, to become a model for expanding health care coverage to all uninsured Americans. I believe a Medicare premium support system is the best way to achieve that end.

What exactly is a premium support model and what does my particular version do? Premium support means the government would literally support or pay part of the premium for a defined core package of Medicare benefits. This is not a voucher program but an alternative to the current system. Today, Congress micromanages Medicare and the government uses fee schedules and thousands of pages of regulations to set prices for specific services. My plan combines the best that the private sector has to offer with the government protections we need to maintain the social safety net.

I have proposed a premium support Medicare plan modeled after the health care plan serving nearly 10 million federal workers, retirees and their families. Like that plan, my reform plan would also guarantee that the government's contribution keeps pace with health care costs.

This history makes it clear why it was so important for national Democrats, and especially Third Way partisans to differentiate their "premium support" from Paul Ryan's "premium support,” as with Ezra Klein's  interview with Henry Aaron, the Brookings'  Fellow who originally developed the premium support idea in 1995. It was crucial to centrist talking points to make the case that the GOP "Path To Prosperity" involved a voucher program, totally different from Aaron's "premium support" plan. But, as this story from the Times makes clear, there are core elements among the centrists who dominate the Democratic party leadership committed to premium support under Medicare, core elements who are well aware that reducing Medicare benefits will be extremely unpopular.

Vouchers?

(By Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd)

Last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story about Democratic support for restructuring Medicare as a premium support plan, as part of the austerity negotiations:
Members of both parties told the panel that Medicare should offer a fixed amount of money to each beneficiary to buy coverage from competing private plans, whose costs and benefits would be tightly regulated by the government.
[snip]
The idea faces opposition from many Democrats, who say it would shift costs to beneficiaries and eliminate the guarantee of affordable health insurance for older Americans. But some Democrats say that — if carefully designed, with enough protections for beneficiaries — it might work.
The idea is sometimes known as premium support, because Medicare would subsidize premiums charged by private insurers that care for beneficiaries under contract with the government.

Of course, the Democrats all remain nameless, as do most of the "health policy experts." These same people have been trying to drum up support for premium support as a means of cutting Medicare benefits controlling Medicare costs for years, mostly from Democrats predictably wary of how unpopular this would be. That's why any policy discussion takes place in an atmosphere of anonymity, dishonesty and misdirection, using unrepresentative processes like the creation of unelected commissions or the establishment of a specially empowered SuperCommittee.

Centrist Democrats --the New Democrat Coalition, Democratic Leadership Council, Third Way, Progressive Policy Institute and the Brookings Institute-- have been trying to get "Premium Support" legislation in front of Congress for at least a dozen years. It's the other half of what the PPACA is designed to accomplish, to restructure what they regard as obsolete New Deal social insurance policy. The policy recommendations focus on “private/public partnerships” supplanting public sector programs, while messaging focuses on selling ideologically centrist, “market-based reform" to liberal Democrats.   They reassure movement liberals by reciting platitudes that seem to affirm Medicare's sanctity with promises to “strengthen" the program for the 21st century. This has been going on since the mid to late 90s.

For instance, New Democrat John Breaux, chairing President' Clinton's Bipartisan Commission of the Future of Medicare,  introduced a premium support plan in 1999. In an Op-Ed in The Hill (pulled from the memory hole by Republican Congressman Tim Griffin), Breaux wrote:
With any restructuring approach, we must preserve Medicare's entitlement and ensure that Medicare does not become a program just for the poor. I would like Medicare, in fact, to become a model for expanding health care coverage to all uninsured Americans. I believe a Medicare premium support system is the best way to achieve that end.

What exactly is a premium support model and what does my particular version do? Premium support means the government would literally support or pay part of the premium for a defined core package of Medicare benefits. This is not a voucher program but an alternative to the current system. Today, Congress micromanages Medicare and the government uses fee schedules and thousands of pages of regulations to set prices for specific services. My plan combines the best that the private sector has to offer with the government protections we need to maintain the social safety net.

I have proposed a premium support Medicare plan modeled after the health care plan serving nearly 10 million federal workers, retirees and their families. Like that plan, my reform plan would also guarantee that the government's contribution keeps pace with health care costs.

This history makes it clear why it was so important for national Democrats, and especially Third Way partisans to differentiate their "premium support" from Paul Ryan's "premium support,” as with Ezra Klein's  interview with Henry Aaron, the Brookings'  Fellow who originally developed the premium support idea in 1995. It was crucial to centrist talking points to make the case that the GOP "Path To Prosperity" involved a voucher program, totally different from Aaron's "premium support" plan. But, as this story from the Times makes clear, there are core elements among the centrists who dominate the Democratic party leadership committed to premium support under Medicare, core elements who are well aware that reducing Medicare benefits will be extremely unpopular.

June 27, 2010

Victory

Panetta on victory in Afghanistan (This Week transcript):

PANETTA: Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safe haven for Al Qaida or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al Qaida. That's really the measure of success for the United States. Our purpose, our whole mission there is to make sure that Al Qaida never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country. That's the fundamental goal of why the United States is there. And the measure of success for us is do you have an Afghanistan that is stable enough to make sure that never happens.


My reaction to this has always been "WTF? That's the best you've got?" As Atrios says this morning:

The stability of the state of Afghanistan and its willingness to house bad actors are completely unrelated to each other. More than that, potential bad actors can, roughly, find a "safe haven" just about anywhere they want.


It's a big world! And they don't need a lot of space:

PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaida is actually relatively small. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of Al Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan.


Yes. He really did just say that the US is spending annually something like twice or thrice the GDP of Afghanistan, facilitating the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, on the pretense that it will keep five dozen people from holding meetings.

It is is easy to think of obviously stupid, silly things the US could do for a tenth, or even a hundredth of the cost of this "war" that would be more effective at keeping these meetings from resulting in successful terrorist attacks on the US.

August 5, 2009

Advice

If I were an elected Democratic official holding a town hall on health care reform, this is the preamble I'd adopt.

So glad to have all you folks here. It shows what an important issue we are talking about today. Now because we are here to share views, I'd appreciate that everyone get a chance to say their piece without interruption.

That includes me. Please give me a chance to answer your questions without interruption.

Before we start, it will help me to know where you folks are coming from.

Who here currently has some form of health insurance? Please raise your hands.

Of those, who is covered under a plan provided by your employer?

And who covers themselves, pays for insurance out of pocket?

Next, who here gets their health care from the government, under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veterans Administration?

Finally, is there anyone here eligible for Medicare or VA coverage who has opted for private insurance instead? Please raise your hands.