Archive for the ‘Democratic Controlled Congress’ Category

START Ratified, 9/11 Responders Cared for (Sort of), Senate Looking to Reform Filibuster

December 23rd, 2010 11 comments

As 26 Republicans voted against a nuclear treaty which is clearly in the best interests of the nation and the world, they seem to have inadvertently handed Obama a bigger victory than he would have gained otherwise. Without opposition, the treaty would probably have been ignored by the media as simply business as usual. Instead, its passage has made headlines and comes across as an Obama victory.

This only emphasizes what Obama could have gotten done had he and the Dems had any kind of backbone when it came to the tax cut legislation, or any number of other issues that they became spineless on. The START treaty is poor compensation for other, even more critical decisions that were flubbed. In this case, in classic Obama fashion, he gave Republicans credit for not overwhelmingly sabotaging American security, saying, “The strong bipartisan vote in the Senate sends a powerful signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand together on behalf of our security.” So, a dozen Republicans voting for something clearly necessary for American security–while double that number voting against said security so they could score political points–is “strong bipartisanship”? Only relative to Republican standards, i.e., any Republican who votes for anything that could cast even a halfway-decent light on Obama and/or the Democrats is a traitor.

In the meantime, the 9/11 First Responders bill finally passed after years of Democratic attempts to get it through and repeated Republican attempts to block it–but not before Republicans slashed the amount of care they will get by 40%, and cut the length of coverage by three years. Because nothing is too good for the heroes, except, of course, money, health care, and respect. Dozens of Republicans in the House still voted against the bill, but even the GOP had a hard time justifying a “no” vote on this one.

Something interesting, if two years too late: Senate Democrats seem unified in approving a change in the filibuster rules. Every Democratic senator signed the petition. It’s not a call for a “nuclear option,” but a change in the rules that would change filibustering from dead-simple, no-pain casual act into, well, a filibuster. Maybe. The details are not fully clear, but it’s pretty certain it would simply make it harder for anyone to anonymously stop a vote cold, or for one party to kill a bill simply by saying so. How the details are worked out should be interesting–and expect the Republicans to make huge noises about it.

I somehow doubt they’ll call it a “constitutional option” this time.

Spam Targets, and, Oh Yeah, Obama and the Dems Are Being Stupid Again

December 15th, 2010 1 comment

As part of some overdue maintenance, I figured I’d check out and empty the Spam box for the blog… and discovered that almost all of it, or at least 60 comment’s worth, was for a single post: The White House White Board post on jobs. Many were the traditional arm’s-length list of spam links, many had the innocuous-sounding “love this place, just peeking in” message along with a site link to spam, several Russian-language spam ads, several longish comments which, when read, are pretty much gibberish (with spam links), and many were the more involved long post on a tangentially-related (if even that) subject which have links (often formatted for forum links styles) to, of course, spam sites.

Makes me glad for spam blockers, despite their occasional inconveniences, and reminds me of the days when blog comment spam was still new and had to be deleted by hand.

By the way, since I brought up the White House White Board, I see they have a new video up–this time on the tax cut issue. Thought I’d put it up here as well.

This one I’m not so crazy about. Obama says that we have to give Republicans the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to save the tax cuts for the middle class, but the truth is if he and the Democrats had not been such idiots from the beginning they wouldn’t have to be doing this. Republicans are still the black hats here, but Obama and the Dems are the dumb sheriff that let them get away with holding up the train in the first place. Obama says we have to give in to the hostage takers–but the first rule of hostage negotiation is that you don’t give in, because that will just encourage them to take hostages every time. And Obama says we’ll fight them in two years–seriously next time, though he was supposed to be serious this time–and the fact is, in two years, the story will be exactly the same as it is now, only the Republicans will be stronger and more emboldened by then.

Olbermann had a good discussion on this the other day.

The Stimulus, The Budget, Employment, and the Election: Conservatives Are Lying Their Asses Off, Obama Is Doing Great, And Here Are the Numbers to Prove It

October 26th, 2010 9 comments

To hear Republicans talk about it, Obama has done nothing about the economy, has not created any jobs, has busted the budget with unprecedented spending, and is responsible for the unemployment rate being what it is. The stimulus, they maintain, is a failure, and the people are suffering because of Obama’s inaction.

The problem with these accusations is that they are all one-hundred-percent, Grade-A horse shit. Bush wrecked the economy, and Obama and the Democrats, despite massive Republican obstructionism, have managed to pull off a minor miracle. And here are the numbers to prove it.

Before on this blog, I have refuted the claim about the stimulus’ failure; the numbers speak volumes–here’s a chart I published six months back:

With no other notable effect acting on jobs other than the stimulus, it would take huge leaps of legerdemain to explain the turnaround seen here in any other way than to recognize the stimulus as successful. As a result, Republicans simply ignore it, acting as if pulling the country out of a deep hole–their deep hole–is meaningless because the Democrats haven’t made the economy rocket into the sky yet. And sadly, Democrats–who should be plastering this chart up everywhere in sight–are letting their best advertising slip away as the conservative narrative takes hold.

Yes, the surge in jobs and/or the halt in layoffs sputtered soon after I made this chart, and since then the numbers have hovered below zero. However, this is pretty much what was predicted back in early 2009 by those who said the stimulus, as finally passed, wasn’t enough–they were 100% spot-on correct–and let’s not ignore the fact that we are substantially better off now than we were when Bush left office.

Now, how about the budget? That’s another GOP talking point–that things were going OK under Bush, at least tolerably well–but then Obama came in an exploded spending and the deficit. Let’s explode that lie, shall we? Here’s a chart [source data] showing expenditures and receipts over the past six years:


Ouch. Sure enough, deficits have exploded, and spending is up. Yes, spending is more of a straight line, but it’s not supported by revenue. Looks like under Bush, the deficit was under control, and then recently, under Obama, things have gotten out of hand.

Until, of course, you draw a precise line showing when Bush left and Obama took over:


What do you know. The deficit exploded under Bush, not Obama; Obama has been holding relatively steady. His spending is increasing at about the same rate it was under Bush. Also notice that the deficit is not that much greater now than it was when Obama took over–the arrows show the deficit when the transition occurred, laid over the latest numbers and a year before Bush left office. Obama, it turns out, has not really added much at all relative to what he was given. In contrast, Bush more than doubled the deficit in his last year in office.

So much for the “Obama and the Democrats have wrecked the budget” lie. Not to mention that soon after Obama came in to office and deployed the stimulus, the recession ended and government receipts started trending upward again. How about that.

Another tack taken by the Republicans is the unemployment rate; their claim is that since the stimulus did not take the rate down to the optimistic projections of the Obama administration, Obama therefore owns the unemployment rate–he is, they say, responsible for it.

But let’s take a look at that chart over time as well–red represents Bush months, blue for Obama:


Despite the fact that the trend and momentum started and gained steam fully under Bush, it doesn’t look too great for Obama here–when he came in, the rate was just under 8%, then it went up to 10%, and now is hovering between 9% and 10%. Republicans have picked up on this, adding fuel to their criticisms.

One problem: the unemployment rate lags behind improvements in the economy, usually by about three quarters. Apply that to the chart, and you get this:


Seen this way, one finds that not only was Obama not responsible for the 10%, he has actually lowered unemployment since he got into office. This would not be a surprise to anyone aware of the job trends since the stimulus began. Of course, this doesn’t make things all rosy–we’re still in a bad place, and slightly better than catastrophic is still terrible.

However, that’s why the unemployment rate seemed to go the opposite direction of the job surge: not only were we delayed by nine months or so, but in addition to that, we spent a year in negative territory–despite the fact that things were getting way, way better, we were still losing jobs up until late ’09. Thus the reversal in unemployment trends has been tepid so far.

So, let’s pause for a quick review: Conservatives say the stimulus is a failure. The facts say it was a resounding success, reversing the horrific nosedive that Bush had put us in. Conservatives say that Obama exploded spending and destroyed the budget. The facts show that Bush did all of that, and under Obama, spending has increased at the same general rate it did under Bush, but deficit increases have slowed greatly. Conservatives say that Obama made unemployment rise to 10% and hasn’t done a thing to change that. The facts say that Bush drove unemployment up, and that Obama stopped the trend and has slowly been wrestling the number down.

The difference is like night and day–Bush wrecked the economy, Obama has been bringing it back under control. And now Republicans are trying to blame the guy who has been helping for all the damage that Republicans wrought on the economy.

OK, back to the unemployment numbers, and where they will go. Now, the stimulus surge came to an end after May, the month in which we gained about 430,000 jobs. There was a 4-month period from February to May when the surge continued upwards, and then things went dead from June, since which time we’ve lost roughly 100,000 jobs a month.

If unemployment lags as predicted, this will be bad timing for the Democrats, and very good for Republicans: if they win the House in November, it will probably be to news that unemployment is dipping, a trend that should continue until early 2011. They would, of course, attempt to take full credit for the change, acting as if it were the euphoria over their election wins and the expectation that they would pass tax cuts for the wealthy that spurred the gains–despite the fact that it would be the tail end of the stimulus and the special employment due to the census. Even more ironically, the trend would have continued far upwards and might even have taken us out of our dire economic straits had not the Republicans cut the stimulus down to well below what it should have been.

Nor would I be surprised if (a) the downturn in unemployment ends somewhere around February or March 2011, and (b) Republicans attempt to blame it on the Democrats for not going along with all the crap they will try to ram through the House the moment they have the gavel.

I don’t have a sterling reputation for political and economic prognostication, though, so let’s see how this plays out. In the meantime, it looks like Americans are blaming the bad economy on those who have done a good job repairing it so far, and are set to hand over power to the party that caused the worst of it and has hampered the recovery. You get what you deserve. Too bad about all the people who you’re dragging down with you.

Misunderestimating the Asinine

September 28th, 2010 4 comments

Steven Benen got me on this one (emphasis mine):

Just a few months ago, the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, not exactly a raging leftist, said House GOP leaders “are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious.”

Ornstein may have thought of that as a throwaway line, but I’ve considered it rather devastating. He didn’t just say Republicans aren’t serious; he said they can’t get serious and don’t even want to try. That’s not only a powerful critique, it has the added benefit of being true.

Early last year, as the GOP’s descent into nonsense picked up steam, there was some rejoicing on the left, and I understood why. As Republicans took on the collective persona of angry, over-medicated children, it seemed highly unlikely American voters would reward them with power. The GOP was becoming a national embarrassment, progressives assumed, and would need to come to its senses before it could return to the big kids’ table.

But that satisfaction was misplaced. Sure, Republicans abandoned the pretense of credibility, seriousness, reason, and thoughtful policymaking, but they’re nevertheless poised to make significant gains anyway. Voters care less about the GOP’s radical recklessness and more about a struggling national economy.

He’s right. Looking back at my posts from about 18 months ago, it’s almost painful how naive I was, smugly certain that people would see through the most transparent of political plays, and that the GOP would marginalize itself to obscurity. Of course, that was before the Obama and the Democrats truly revealed how weak-kneed and surrendering they could be with the GOP, but it’s not as if Democrats had never acted that way before. It’s also not as if demagoguery never worked before. But seriously: I had a much higher opinion and expectation from the centrist American voter a year and a half ago than I have now.

However bad the economy might be, it should be clear to any idiot that:

  • It was primarily Republican policies that got us into this mess;
  • While the economy is still bad, it is far, far better than it would have been thanks to the stimulus;
  • Democrats, for all their failings, have had better and more responsible policies;
  • Republicans are acting like deranged, idiotic maniacs who are mostly incapable of telling the truth;
  • Unless you’re wealthy, the Republicans are not on your side; and
  • Republicans don’t have any ideas worth listening to, certainly none that hold up to close inspection.

So, naturally, voters are set to sweep them into office–because with the massive damage left by Bush and the GOP, and the Republicans going all-out, balls-to-the-wall in obstructing every move the Democrats try to make, the Dems have only been able to partly undo the damage the GOP has done.

If campaign slogans had to be truthful, then the GOP would have to run with: “We’re Crazy and Destructive, but the Other Guys Are Ineffective at Stopping Us.”

What Were You Saying About Confirming Judges?

August 3rd, 2010 Comments off

This chart shows what is perhaps one of the most under-reported stories in D.C. today:


Remember when Democrats refused to confirm Bush’s most extreme judges, and right-wingers screamed about how the filibuster was unconstitutional, and all that crap? Yeah, I know, this is old news–the GOP is being hypocritical as hell, yet again. The filibuster was toxic and traitorous and so on, but now Republicans use it virtually all the time, breaking records year after year, so that now a 60-vote majority is virtually required for everything.

Republicans acted like confirming judicial nominees was even a more important matter, the courts were tied up and it’s the president’s right to get anyone he wants approved by the Senate, no matter what their politics, and (again) so on and so on… and now Republicans are blocking nominees like never seen before.

Right now, the Party of No is blocking pretty much anything coming down the pike–even a tax cut for small businesses, which Republicans claim is their forte, they voted against as a bloc. Health care for the heroes who worked at Ground Zero and now suffer? Screw them!

What excuses are given? The goddamned DemocRATs didn’t allow us to attach huge tax cuts to the rich and every other thing we ever wanted tacked on to these bills as amendments, they wanted to force us to vote on these issues up-or-down! After all those years WE were in power and let Democrats add as many amendm… uh, OK, well, we shut them down and treated them like they didn’t exist, but now they’re fascist bastards anyway!!!!

Stuff like this, in addition to the we-love-fat-cat-bankers, the we-love-BP, we want to give Paris Hilton billions but the jobless are lazy and don’t deserve relief, and the fact that the GOP is going even more extreme as time goes on… even with people hating incumbents this year, it is still astonishing that people cannot see who is causing the damage.

You want Congress to do something about jobs? If Republicans get more than 40 in the Senate (they won’t retake the majority, that’s for sure), then you can bet that the near-total filibuster marathon will become an all-out standstill, or worse, Democrats will start to cave and things will start to roll back to the Bush years.

They have made it clear: as long as the Democrats hold the White House and a majority, they are determined to grind D.C. to a halt and make the country fail.

What really astonishes me: the Democrats and left-leaning independents don’t see this as a clarion call to march to the polls in droves. The Stimulus, Health Care, the auto industry revived and profitable, Wall Street reform, credit card reform… all despite near-monolithic opposition from the GOP, the Democrats have managed to get through as much big-ticket legislation in two years and others get through in four or eight. If you’re a liberal, it would be hard to claim that they haven’t accomplished anything, or as much as they could have. But if you fail to get out the vote, you’ll see either nothing or a hard, sharp turn to the right.

The alternative, should the Left fail to do the right thing: Democrats scrap the filibuster. In hindsight, they clearly should have taken the GOP up on this when the “Nuclear Option” was being threatened a few years back–it would have made no difference then, but a huge difference over the past two years. And if the Democrats do toss out the filibuster, and hang on to a majority in the House and a 4- or 5-vote margin in the Senate, with the filibuster gone they could accomplish even more.

And the Republicans could not even criticize the Democrats, because they themselves vilified the procedure and came up with the whole idea of killing it off, so they would have to be silent.

Ha! Gotcha! Of course they’d be hypocritical and blast the Dems. But the Dems should have the guts to ignore them and push ahead.

Voting and Interests

July 22nd, 2010 20 comments

Today, Obama signed the financial reform plan into law, bringing back regulation to the financial industry to avoid future meltdowns like the one that occurred under the era of deregulation under Bush.

64% of Americans approve of the bill. It passed 60 to 39 in the Senate because of the Democratic majority, with Republicans monolithically voting against it. The GOP vows to repeal the regulations–they actually said they want no regulations–and let businesses do practically whatever the hell they want.

In a similar vote (this one 59 to 39), Democrats passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits, which will help those suffering from the economic crisis, and will pump more money into the spending side of the economy, where it is desperately needed.

Again, Republicans voted against it as a near-solid block, saying we should instead let rich people have more money. Even when reminded that this will increase the deficit, 62% of Americans approve of the extension.

So, Americans want out-of-control businesses who have helped wreck the economy brought under control; Democrats passed a law to do that, while Republicans sided with big business and against the people.

Americans want relief for the unemployed; Democrats passed a law to do that, while Republicans, again against the will of the people, told the unemployed to go suck it, it’s your fault you lost your job and rich people need that money more than you do.

Americans recoiled in horror at the BP oil spill; Democrats made BP pay for it, while Republicans clearly stood by the criminally reckless oil company.

After Bush and the Republicans brought the economy to its knees, brought massive job loss and massive deficits before Obama set foot into office, and after Democratic initiatives brought an abrupt stop to the job loss and now have us gaining jobs and doing everything they can to help those who still can’t find one…

…remind me, why are Americans set to elect more Republicans this year?


The Low Bar?

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

Democrats are currently crowing about a major victory in the Senate right now, as Republicans folded under pressure and gave up on their obstructionist attempt to weaken or kill the financial reform legislation before debate even started.

On the other hand, the Democratic “victory” was that with a 59-41 majority, Democrats, after several days, were finally able to open debate on a bill that must later go through several other steps before passing.

One way of looking at it says that Democrats have done the equivalent of tying their shoelaces correctly. Hardly impressive. Another way of looking at it, though, is that they have successfully tied their shoelaces while a bunch of people make a concerted effort to keep them from doing it. Imagine trying to lace your shoes with three or four people constantly yanking at your hands and feet, trying to stop you. I think you’d be impressed by anyone who get their shoes tied under such conditions.

But in a political sense, the achievement or lack of same is less important than the fact that both sides had resolved, and one side caved. If Obama was trying to pass a law for “National Shoelace Day” but Republicans thwarted him, the relative importance of the law would be of little importance, as the main focus would be who has got stronger political will.

So, for the time being, at least, Democrats are doing pretty well, keeping a fairly good image ever since the passage of the health care law. And it doesn’t help the Republicans that they are making their stand for the banking industry, which everyone now detests, trying to thwart reform which will help keep another bailout from happening. That’s not a very defensible stance, which is most likely why they folded–along with the fact that they were preventing even debating the legislation. If Dems can similarly succeed in blasting the Republicans as being pro-bank and anti-reform when cloture and passage come to pass, it would be an even bigger win. Republicans are also not helped by right-wingers pulling crap like the immigration law in Arizona and the Nevada Republican seriously advocating livestock payments for health care.

Of course, one can always count on Republicans to provide a steady stream of idiots to do stupid stuff like that. The real question is, how long can the Dems keep this up without reverting to weak-kneed giga-wimp form?

Digging Out of the Bush Chasm: How to Win the Midterms

April 4th, 2010 15 comments

In a development one can be assured Republicans will try to find a way to attribute to the Bush administration, the U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in March, the biggest job gain in three years, since the Bush recession began. Analysts expected 190,000 jobs gained, but that figure is likely to be realized with adjustments over the next two months. Unemployment remains at 9.7%, but is below double-digits; while the job market remains tough, we are still in an upward trend and are now in positive territory. Compare this to January 2009, when Bush left office and 741,000 other Americans lost their jobs at the same time.

March Jobs

Obama’s stimulus was put into play, and immediately Bush’s plummet was reversed. Aside from Obama’s election in general, no other major factors aside from the stimulus seem to be able to explain the upswing in job creation. This month’s job report puts us comfortably on the plus side, and hopefully that trend will continue along the lines it has over the past year.

Compare this to when Bush was handed a shaky yet overall positive job market in 2001; he passed his massive tax-cuts-for-the-rich and immediately send jobs down the toilet–and did not see this kind of recovery until October in his third year in office. Bush, on the other hand, handed Obama the worst recession in recent history, the worst since the great depression, and we were hemorrhaging jobs–and Obama is back in positive jobs territory after just 14 months.

Any way the conservatives want to spin this, even despite the still-distressed economy, it cannot be denied that the Obama recovery is remarkable, perhaps even startling. If the current trend continues, we could be seeing aggressive job gains by summer (in the 400,000 ~ 500,000 range), in time to impress voters before the midterms. That would allow Obama and the Democrats to tout their two major victories–the Stimulus and Health Care Reform–in a light that makes clear the long-term benefits of both. And they can point to undeniable massive Republican obstructionism, and state truthfully that the Republicans tried to stop the recovery. Remember, they said it aloud: they wanted Obama to fail. Just run on the record: Republicans were driving us into a recession, and then tried hard as hell to stop the legislation that we can now see is bolstering the economy.

Republicans will no doubt bring up the deficit in criticism of this, but Obama and the Dems can correctly point out–aside from the fact that most of the debt is Republican-generated–that in order to drive down the debt, you must first have a strong economy. We had to spend before we could do anything else; failing to do so would have been courting economic collapse. Had Republicans gained power and there had been no stimulus–or worse, more massive tax cuts for the rich like Bush used in 2001 to drive job losses further–we would have been in a hell of a mess by now, maybe even in a depression.

The Dems just have to show the Bush trend and where it was leading, and contrast it with the Obama trend. This is the magic chart that could win the midterms:

Bush V Obama Wt

Look at that red trend line and imagine where we would have gone had McCain won, or worse, the Republicans had also controlled Congress. One shudders at the thought.

The difference could not be more stark. Republicans were driving us straight into the toilet; a depression was imminent. Obama and the Dems intercepted that long-bomb pass Bush threw straight to the depths of hell, and are now rocketing out of the chasm Bush was dragging us into, a recovery clearly foreseeable. (It won’t be so easy to recover from the staggering debt Bush drove us into, but aside from that….) Back this up with strong job gains into the summer, with people feeling the recovery in their guts, and the point will be driven home.

This is not one of those bogus charts where a regular trend line to the present is “predicted” to take ridiculous turns in the future, with “our” party’s line going straight up and “their” party’s line going way down. These are actual figures showing definite trend lines based on hard fact.

That chart should be made into a theme for the next seven months, it should be iconic for these elections. Show it every chance you get. Put it up on walls, show it on broadcasts, make it into backdrops for rallies and speeches. Convert it into a simpler graphic:


Slap that on every car bumper and home and store window in sight. Drive the point home.


March 8th, 2010 4 comments

Being a liberal has been somewhat disheartening lately. We expected that we would have a revolutionary progressive in the White House making our hopes comes true, but instead got a compromising technocrat even more willing to appease Republicans than Clinton ever was. We expected a supermajority, but got a Congress that couldn’t pass much of anything. We expected solid opposition, but thought they could be splintered just enough to make a difference. So, many of us came to the conclusion that the Democrats were not what we thought they were, that they failed. Seeing little hope, the progressives started losing interest in the elections coming this Fall.

Big mistake. If anything, we should be galvanized, ready to fight even harder than the last election–and with good cause, because this coming midterm election could mean a whole lot more.

First of all, our expectations were way too high. We should have known that Obama was no flaming liberal. Yes, the right-wingers painted him that way, but they would have claimed that Ronald Reagan himself was the most liberal commie socialist ever had he risen from the grave, switched parties, and ran as the Democratic candidate. The Democrat on the ticket could be espousing every right-wing goal imaginable, it wouldn’t make a difference. They claim any Democratic candidate, in every election, is “the most liberal ever.” Not only that, but one of Obama’s big selling points, if you recall, was that he liked finding middle ground, he wanted to compromise as a way of reaching consensus and getting things done. So expecting him to push the nation far to the left was unrealistic.

Then there was Congress. Once Specter had switched and Al Franken’s seat was finally confirmed, we thought we had a super-majority and could sweep in any law we wanted to. Well, that was a stupid assumption. One of those 60 votes was Lieberman, who campaigned for John McCain; to expect him to vote with the Democrats on anything the Republicans pushed hard against was folly indeed. And even not counting him, many of the new Democrats won precisely because they were conservative Democrats, winning conservative states where they would have to pander to conservative sensibilities. We never had 60% in the crucial bottleneck of the Senate; at best we had just over a simple majority, at least when it comes to the controversial stuff.

And then there was Republican opposition. We knew that they would push, but I don’t think that anyone foresaw just how fantastically monolithic and almost hysterically powerful that opposition would be. They pulled no punches and did not give a moment’s hesitation in fear that their total obstructionist frenzy could work against them. With the fanatical single-mindedness usually seen only in the most feverish of zealots, they not only obstructed but poured out a tidal wave of unprecedented, unadulterated hatred and invective, issuing against the president–at all levels low and high–every pejorative one could imagine being used publicly.

With a centrist president, much less than the needed supermajority in Congress, and fanatical obstructionist opposition from the right wing, there was never a chance for much to get done. We should have seen this from examples of the past. At, we get this chart showing the majorities that FDR and LBJ had during formative years that trended to the liberal. Note that they usually had well over 60% majorities in the Senate, while the House was always above the 50% needed there.


In short, to get even part of a meaningful agenda done, we’re gong to need more than we got before. Becoming disheartened and turning away from the polls is nothing short of self-destructive, especially as the right-wingers, tasting Democratic defeat and still possessed of whipped-up, galvanized, angry mobs of tea-bagging fanaticism, are looking at strong showings at the polls this coming November.

We have little hope of gaining the seats we need to get the things we want done. But to give up and lose seats–maybe hand Republicans a simple majority in either house, all they would need to make their scorched-earth goals total and irrevocable–would be just plain dumb.

The Democrats, for all of their weak-kneed, wavering ineptitude, never really had a chance. There were too many Blue Dogs, too much solidarity and hysteria from the right, and not enough single-minded Bush-like drive or disregard for the risks from the White House for this to work.

Had FDR faced this, the New Deal would never have passed. Had LBJ been given these numbers, neither Medicare nor the Civil Rights legislation he got through would have stood a chance.

We fooled ourselves into thinking that we had the numbers to get things done. We were wrong. We weren’t even close. Not just one more vote, but probably five more votes in the Senate may have done the job. As weak-kneed as the Dems have been, that wasn’t what broke the deal. They could have been bolder and stronger and still failed. All that was needed was for Lieberman to vote “no,” and that would be that.

That’s what we have to keep in mind in upcoming elections: More. We need more. We need to galvanize, to get out the vote. Giving up is not an option. Even at my time of greatest disgust, when I couldn’t even bear to watch any more, I knew that I would still be voting strongly, as I always will. But many have simply turned away and don’t intend to vote. If you know someone like that, make sure you turn them around. Make sure you get them their voter registration materials and egg them on to the polls in November.

Even if we don’t succeed, not losing is far better than giving up and letting these frothing, fanatical fascists take back the country and send us right back down the shaft to national self-destruction they had us falling to for the first eight years of the century.


October 27th, 2009 1 comment

The Public Option is now in. Senate and House both have the “Opt-out” plan, which strikes me as a win-win for Dems, as it mollifies the “Moderates” (read: somewhat-less-radical conservatives) while not really giving away anything. Unless the states themselves will be setting up Public Option plans and/or paying for them, I see no reason why anyone would want to opt-out–and the Republicans who do can be vulnerable for denying their constituents cheap, effective health care. Is my read on that right?

Now, Republicans in Congress have a tough choice: when it becomes inevitable that the health care reform bill will pass, how will they vote? If they stick with opposition and the plan proves popular–as is probable–it’ll look bad for them. Right now they’re not opposing the bill because they really believe it’ll lead to Socialism or Death Panels–they’re opposing it because they want to make Obama fail and to follow industry lobbyist direction. When the bill’s passage becomes inevitable and they risk looking like partisan industry shills who opposed what is most likely to be a very popular law, how many will switch?

Of course, the GOP is not only extremely partisan right now, its members are very strictly controlled, almost the opposite of the Democrats. Likely they will stick to their opposition, and simply try their hardest to paint the law as destructive in the 2010 midterms, before it will have had enough time to prove that it works. After that, they’ll just try to take credit for it.

A Word or Three on Franken

July 6th, 2009 2 comments

The right wing has been its usual nasty self with Al Franken, from the Wall Street Journal claiming he stole the election to gasbags like Limbaugh calling Franken a “genuine lunatic.” But the typical thing for those on the right to do is dismiss Franken as a comedian, as in “nothing but a.” The media picks up on this–like David Broder, for example, calling Franken a “loud-mouthed former comedian”–and there is the general sense that there is something inherently wrong in sending a jokester to the Senate.

But as the lefty blogs are now quoting Paul Krugman on, there is much more to Franken than meets the eye. Krugman points out something that many have overlooked: that Franken has real substance. In fact, he has more substance than almost anyone else in the Senate.

First off, his credentials aren’t bad: he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, his major being Political Science. As much as the right falsely whines about how lefties hate Sarah Palin for not having such credentials, and as much as they put down people like Sotomayor for having made accomplishments of that nature, the fact is, you don’t graduate summa cum laude from Harvard without being pretty damned sharp. Not to mention that he aced the Math section of his SATs with a perfect 800. Right off the bat, one should understand that Al Franken is no intellectual lightweight. Sure, most intellectual heavyweights don’t go around publishing books calling Rush Limbaugh a “big fat idiot”–but they probably wish they could. Calling people names like that is usually not tolerated in such circles and adds to the idea that he’s not serious, but let’s face it: the title, though impolitic, was, if anything, an understatement. Franken was being subtle and nobody seemed to notice.

Second, the man is an unabashed, undeniable patriot–the actual kind, not the self-serving flag-waving opportunistic kind, or the blind, easily-fooled kind–with a special respect for those who have served. Franken just recently received the USO Merit Award for ten years of service to the organization, going on seven tours and frequently visiting military hospitals. This is not a campaign stunt in his political bid–he started doing this in 1999, visiting troops in Kosovo, three years before he got the idea of entering into politics when Paul Wellstone died and Norm Coleman grabbed his seat in a particularly dishonorable manner. But you don’t just need to go by Franken’s USO service to understand that he honors those who serve; if you listened to his radio show for any amount of time, it was pretty obvious. Nothing got Franken emotional more than his dealings with the troops, and when he saw them being mistreated or dishonored, he would start to lose it. You could hear him holding back his rage, tearing up, as he described some of the crap that they were put through, how they were getting killed because they were not sufficiently equipped or taken care of.

But most of all, Franken is, as Krugman pointed out, “a big policy wonk.” Again, you’d know this if you listened to Franken’s radio show. The man was well-prepared, knew his topics, and had his facts in order–and when he didn’t have the facts at his fingertips, he would not make them up, not assume. But when others did, he would call them out on it. Catch the segment below, with Franken showing a group of young people why they should question what they hear, work out the math, and think for themselves:

Nobody’s perfect. Franken has been wrong on stuff from time to time, as everyone will be. But if he is, it’s not from lack of trying. The man is serious, he is dedicated, and gosh darn it, he’s smart. Far from bringing down the level of discourse in the Senate, as Krugman points out, he’ll raise it. Underestimating Franken is a dangerous business; being a comedian doesn’t mean he’s not serious, it means that he can skewer you all the more skillfully. A comedian who is smart and knows his facts is not someone to be trifled with.

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Franken Won a Long Time Ago, GOP Obstruction Finally Runs Out of Steam

July 1st, 2009 Comments off

I love how so many of these “Liberal Media” headlines read, “Coleman Concedes Seat to Franken,” as if Coleman was the one ending this with grace or something. The Minnesota Supreme Court, a week overdue in giving its decision, voted unanimously that Norm Coleman was an ass.

Well, they didn’t quite go that far. In fact, amazingly, they bent over backwards to give Coleman the chance to drag this out even further, and did not direct Governor Pawlenty to certify the results. But Coleman and Pawlenty get no points for passing on that chance; they have already gone to asinine lengths to keep Franken away from his Senate seat, at the cost of the people of the state.

Coleman is quoted as saying, “Further litigation damages the unity of our state.” Oh, yeah, right; and Coleman’s wholly capricious and petty campaign to deny Minnesota half it’s voice in the Senate for six full months, long after it was a foregone conclusion that Coleman had lost–that didn’t even dent the “unity of the state.” It has been clear for months that Coleman had no chance, that Franken was the winner.

Lest we forget, waaay back in November, when Coleman loudly declared victory after the initial count put him a few hundred votes ahead, he–Coleman–said: “If you ask me what I would do, I would step back. I just think the need for the healing process is so important. The possibility of any change of this magnitude in the voting system we have is so remote, but that would be my judgment.” Coleman intimated that Franken should “waive his right to a recount,” in part because it would cost the people of Minnesota a whopping $86,000. All of this despite the fact that it was not Franken’s “right,” but Minnesota law said that a recount at that margin was mandatory.

When the mandatory recount gave the election to Franken, and when the process was so honest and above-board that even Republicans were expressing surprise as how honest and well-run the recount was, when it became clear that any further challenges were useless and all the votes had been counted as fairly as possible and there was really no chance for things to be reversed–Coleman suddenly turned hypocrite and, in a path that was not at all mandatory and which cost the people of Minnesota far more than $86,000, started a series of legal challenges which, from the start, were a transparent attempt to tie up the election results and deny Franken his seat in the Senate for as long as possible.

Again, Coleman gets no points for not taking this to the ridiculous extreme of appealing to the federal courts; had he done so, any hope that might be left of his ever again running for office would have been severely damaged. Coleman conceded for his own sake, not for Franken, and certainly not for the people of Minnesota.

Senate on Gitmo: We’re Stoo-pid

May 21st, 2009 Comments off

Fer cryin’ out loud. Ninety–Ninety voted against funding to shut down Gitmo because of Republican scare tactics about terrorists being released on the streets of America? When Kit Bond (yes, the same guy who held that the CIA could never lie) claimed that closing Gitmo would lead to terrorists put in halfway-houses in Missouri where they would then walk the streets and slaughter Americans, I thought that this was such an example of rank alarmist stupidity that it would bolster the case against the Republican scare tactics. Anyone who was a real terror suspect would be tried and if guilty would be detained in SuperMax facilities (where we already hold many big-time terrorists like Ramzi Yousef), anyone else would not be allowed into the U.S.

But at least 47 Democrats, despite their near-supermajority in the Senate and the moral high ground, caved utterly to not just Republican scare tactics, but stupid Republican scare tactics. If the White House has not coordinated the details yet, then make it mandatory to work out the details–but don’t strip the funding and give such credence and respect for the rank idiocy and scaremongering spouted by the GOP.

What’s next? Will the Democrats rename themselves the “Democrat Socialist Party”? Frankly, at this point, that wouldn’t surprise me much. Even after the GOP abandoned the idea of rebranding the Dems with that name themselves–noting, rather chillingly, that the publicity on their proposal had “educated” Americans to be “properly fearful.”

The GOP at work, making you scared.

They Do Understand What “Opposition” Means, Right?

January 11th, 2009 Comments off

Great. After eight years of caving in to almost everything Bush and the Republicans wanted, now the Democrats in Congress start developing an opposition mentality. To their own party’s president. And, it seems, they are doing it as much to show their own dominance than for any other reason; if it were a principled stand against something important, that’s great, but it almost seems as if they now feel it is safer to be uncooperative and so are doing it just so they can get some political leverage.

There are a few hopeful points: first, they postured with Bush a lot before caving in to him, so maybe they’ll do that with Obama. And second, we don’t want a rubber-stamp, runaway government like the Republicans presided over. The problem is, Democrats in Congress should provide a check against their own party’s president where it is important to do so, not for the purpose of playing politics to the detriment of party unity.

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The Reason

January 8th, 2009 3 comments

I have seen rightwingers many times over the past few years point to low Congressional approval ratings as proof that Democrats are failing to lead. The trick is that they refer to the Congressional approval ratings as a whole, call it the “Democrat-Controlled Congress,” and so lay all the blame at the Democrats’ feet.

A Gallup poll out last month (referenced in C&L today) shows the reason why Congressional approval ratings are getting dragged down:


Yep: the Republicans are the ones with the bad ratings. Congressional Democrats are getting the best ratings of anyone in Washington at present. Whaddaya know. Surprisingly, more Republicans approve of the job Democrats are doing than the other way around; Republicans also have a more negative view of their own party than Democrats do of theirs:


So, the Democratic Congress unpopular? Not so much. Republicans obstructing everything in sight in a multi-year filibuster-thon? Not a big hit. Add that to the list of reasons Democrats made such surprising gains in the election this time around.

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Stevens Concedes; Democrats Score #58

November 20th, 2008 1 comment

Convicted felon Ted “Series of Tubes” Stevens has, apparently, recognized that Begich’s victory is now inevitable, and has officially conceded the race. Which means, one can presume, that Stevens will not shell out the $15,000 for a recount–which means the drama is over and the election decided. And the Democrats chalk up one more vote in the Senate to help Obama get the job done come January.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, as the official recount gets started, Al Franken scores a victory as a court gives him access to documentation of rejected absentee ballots, allowing his campaign to find ballots that might have been thrown out mistakenly and have them readmitted. With 18% of the recount done, Franken picked up about 40 votes, and now is behind by only 174.

Begich Breaks Out

November 19th, 2008 Comments off

We’re down to 8,000 votes left to be counted, and Democrat Mark Begich has now doubled his lead over convicted felon and Republican Ted Stevens. Stevens, who had a 3,000-vote lead before early and absentee ballots were counted, saw his lead dwindle and then disappear, and now Begich has almost as much a lead as Stevens had held–2,374 at the moment–and with so few votes left to count, it is virtually unthinkable that Stevens could pull ahead.

However, the game is not entirely over. While Begich’s lead is now safely outside the margin that would require a recount, Stevens could still ask for one, and it would only cost him $15,000–chump change that could easily be made up with a bribe or two. On the other hand, Alaska’s ballot system is said to be reliable enough that a recount would have little chance of changing the outcome, and there is likely to be a fair amount of pressure on Stevens to let it be, by Republicans who would rather not deal with the spotlight of a convicted felon who stands to be ejected from the Senate anyway clawing for the slightest chance to overturn the standing results.

Considering the unlikeliness of Stevens winning and the probability of him being thrown out of the Senate even if he wins, I am not sure that I agree with the Alaska Daily News when they say a recount is likely to happen.

It looks like one way or another, Alaska is pretty much a lock for the Democrats. Next up: Minnesota, where Franken stands a better-than-average chance of overturning Norm Coleman’s 215-vote lead in the state’s mandatory recount.

Update: With only 2500 absentee ballots left to count, Democrat Mark Begich now leads by 3,700 votes. The news agencies are calling this a “win” for Begich. So now we have to wait until Stevens decides whether he will concede or pay for a recount.

Flaccid Arrogance

November 11th, 2008 Comments off

Here’s a doozy:

CNN Anchor Tony Harris: How will we — “we,” big “we” — make this work? I’m talking Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians. Republicans — do Republicans want to work with a President-elect Obama?

Bay Buchanan: Well, it all depends on which direction the country — Obama wants to take the country. If he is really going to govern from the center and recognizes that the nation is center to right, then we’re gonna work with him, just as we worked with Bill Clinton to get welfare reform.

In other words, “we’ll be bipartisan as long as the other side does what we want them to do.” Yeah, that’s bipartisanship.

I am really, really glad that the Dems have won such a commanding majority, else we’d be in for four years of rather horrific gridlock. Remember, the Republicans in the Senate used the filibuster at least three times more in the last session of Congress than it had ever been used before; they blocked virtually every single Democratic initiative out the gate. Even as they blamed Democrats as being the “do nothing” Congress, they crowed openly about how being obstructionist “worked for them.”

Republicans have, for too long, been far too greedy, far too insistent on having everything go their way. Remember when they got more of their judicial appointments confirmed than any party in living history–98 percent were approved–and then screamed that the Democrats were being “obstructionist” because they refused to rubber-stamp the most egregiously extremist and corrupt right-wing judges that even some conservatives gagged at?

For me, the best representation of this attitude was that one Republican woman who complained about Starbucks coffee cups when it was found that more of them had left-leaning quotes printed on them than right-leaning quotes: “oh well, I’m not surprised. I’m used to being under-represented.” This was 2005, when Republicans had held the White House, both houses of Congress, had a stronger voice on the Supreme Court, and had a media filled with right-wing voices–and here was this woman whining about how she was “under-represented” because her coffee cups disagreed with her more often than not.

The problem is, Republicans like Buchanan don’t seem to realize that their bargaining position has been whittled down to almost nothing. With even more Republican Senate seats coming up for election in the next round (the last round where Republicans stand to lose the most, after Democrats won big the last two times), there will probably be at least a few Republicans who won’t want to be held up as the ones who blocked progress.

While Republicans may be able to hold on to the barest sliver of obstructionist power, the fact is that they are marginalized now more than they have been for a long time–maybe more than they have been ever, all things considered. To still go about with such arrogant hubris, demanding things be done their way or not at all, is flirting with disaster.

Democratic Wins in Congress, 2006-2008

November 10th, 2008 Comments off

Before the 2006 midterm election, this is what the balance of power looked like in Congress:


Democrats: 201
Republicans: 230


Democrats: 45
Republicans: 55

And what it looks like after the 2008 election, just two years later:


Democrats: 255
Republicans: 174


Democrats: 55~58
Republicans: 40~43

Now, look at those numbers and tell me that Democrats in Congress haven’t been given a big, fat mandate.

Filibuster, Filibuster, Filibuster…

September 19th, 2007 1 comment

Senate Republicans are still filibustering everything in sight. Today’s lineup:

Giving Washington D.C. residents representation in Congress. Washington D.C. has more people in it than the state of Wyoming (D.C.: 581,000; Wyoming: 493,000), but Wyoming has full representation in Congress. The people of D.C. don’t get that privilege. They are effectively living under the equivalent of colonial rule–taxation without representation. Democrats want to give those people a vote. Republicans oppose for a simple reason: D.C. would vote Democratic. If they would vote Republican, the GOP senators would vote for the measure in a heartbeat. But they’re not, so the GOP wants to continue denying them their fair representation. With a filibuster, no less.

Senator Webb of Virginia wants to give U.S. troops–you know, the ones we’re supposed to be supporting?–enough leave time back home so they won’t be as over-stressed and overburdened. Bush has repeatedly extended their tours of duty, bringing them back to Iraq again and again, forcing them to stay longer and longer each time. The strain is showing. Suicide rates among veterans and soldiers are climbing. So Webb–a decorated Marine officer whose son is also a Marine and is serving in Iraq–introduced an amendment to a defense funding bill that will require our troops to get as much time at home as they serve abroad.

So how do the Republicans in the Senate respond? With a filibuster, forcing our troops to serve beyond all reasonable expectations, and get burnt out. Way to support the troops!

Fox Misp
Somebody buy Fox News a dictionary! Or a spell checker.

And then there’s Habeas Corpus (which, apparently, Fox News can’t even spell–see inset at right), which Democrat Chris Dodd is trying restore after Bush and Gonzales denied Americans has any such right. Guess what Republicans are planning to do to keep Americans from enjoying that right? Yep. Filibuster time!

Apparently, Republicans feel that since the Democrats used the filibuster in a strictly limited fashion to block far fewer judges than Republicans denied Clinton (Bush got through more nominees than any president in recent history), it is now OK for Republicans to filibuster everything in sight. As always, taking things to extremes.

Democrats blocked bat-guano crazy extremist judges that one could easily choke on. Republicans are filibustering your Constitutional right to Habeas Corpus, leave time for extremely overburdened soldiers, and the right for Americans to have representation in Congress. You know, commie liberal stuff.

Republicans are living up to their promise to Americans: burn out the troops and wreck the military, strike down your Constitutional rights, and deny minority voters the right to representation in Congress, using the very same means they themselves called “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic.”

These guys deserve to lose everything in the next election. Let’s see that they do.