Ezra: The Senate Plan Is Just Like What Obama Campaigned On–Except for All the Ways It’s Not

This is pretty funny. Ezra has a post up arguing that, the Senate health care bill “is very close to the health-care bill that Barack Obama promised.”

And then he proceeds to list 8 ways that the bill is not like what Obama campaigned on.

And there are, to be sure, some differences. The public option did not survive the Senate. The individual mandate, which Obama campaigned against, was added after key members of Congress and the administration realized that the plan wouldn’t function in its absence. Drug reimportation was defeated, and a vague effort to have government pick up some catastrophic costs was never really mentioned.

But the basic structure of the proposal is remarkably similar. Here’s how it was described in the campaign’s white paper:

The Obama-Biden plan provides new affordable health insurance options by: (1) guaranteeing eligibility for all health insurance plans; (2) creating a National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses purchase private health insurance; (3) providing new tax credits to families who can’t afford health insurance and to small businesses with a new Small Business Health Tax Credit; (4) requiring all large employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan; (5) requiring all children have health care coverage; (5) expanding eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs; and (6) allowing flexibility for state health reform plans.

We don’t know what the employer mandate will look like once the House and the Senate merge their bills, and the exchanges look likelier to be run by states or regions than by the government (though there will also be a national exchange overseen by the Office of Personnel Management), but those are really the only differences. And it’s not even clear they’re differences.

Nor were there aggressive cost controls outlined in Obama’s white paper but abandoned amid the legislative process. The Senate bill is quite a bit stronger on controlling costs than the campaign paper, which makes no mention of prudential purchasing or the excise tax on high-cost health insurance or the Medicare Commission or specific delivery-system reforms.

So let’s review. Ezra lists the following things that Obama promised, but failed to deliver:

  1. Public option
  2. No individual mandate
  3. Drug reimportation
  4. Government coverage of catastrophic costs
  5. Employer mandate
  6. National, rather than state level, exchanges

And then adds two things that Obama didn’t promise but are in the bill (and note, I agree the delivery system reforms are great improvements, but the case for the excise tax is riddled with problems and is a big attack on the unions that supported Obama in the campaign).

  1. Excise tax
  2. Delivery system reforms

And from that, Ezra judges, that the Senate bill is very close to the bill Obama promised!

That’s the funny part. There are parts of this that aren’t funny at all.

Such as when Ezra makes the argument that the plan needed mandates, but doesn’t recognize that the whole mandate system depends on two other things–affordability, and competition (which is what the public option was supposed to provide)–that don’t exist in this bill. Ezra avoids admitting that there is no employer mandate in this bill by saying that it might be made into a real mandate in conference (at which point it will not longer be the bill “that looks likely to clear the Senate” that he says he’s writing on). And he pretends that state exchanges are the same as national exchanges (even though they have the effect of breaking the pool into smaller groups), and that the OPM option–if it is used at all–makes up for the state exchanges. He claims that no aggressive cost controls were lost in the legislative process, I guess judging that $19.4 billion the federal government would have saved and the $100 billion consumers would have saved through drug reimportation and the $110 billion that could have been saved through a robust public option don’t count as cost controls. And Ezra makes no mention of the assault on choice that this bill includes.

When he found himself describing eight differences, some very significant ones, then (referring to just two of them), “but those are really the only differences. And it’s not even clear they’re differences,” he should probably have decided against trying to make this argument in the first place.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the idea that we should pass this if only to get 30 million people health insurance (but not, necessarily, health care). I think those pitching the Senate bill are doing so in a good faith belief that the good outweighs the bad in it.

But seriously, it really hurts the cause to then turn around and claim that Obama has delivered on his campaign promise when he hasn’t. Argue that this bill really helps the working poor who make up the biggest group of those who lack health care now. Argue that this bill is important enough to pass in its very problematic form and may get better over time. Argue that this is just the outcome of legislative process. Argue (as Ezra did about mandates, though I think his argument is incomplete) that these changes were necessary. But don’t make a list of the fundamental differences between what Obama campaigned on and what the Senate produced and then try to claim that, “it is very hard to argue that the bill Congress looks likely to pass is fundamentally different from the approach Obama initially advocated,” because you have basically just shown that, no, it is not.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

130 replies
  1. phred says:

    Here’s what I don’t get… Ezra and all the other Dem apologists are being trotted out to sell this bill to a public that clearly hates it. What do they hope to accomplish? With each passing day, they reinforce the notion that this is the bill the Democratic leadership wants and is willing to fight for.

    In 2 weeks time it will be an election year. I’m not sure shoving a bad bill down the public’s throat is a particularly good way to kick-off the campaign season.

    Call me crazy, but I thought Ezra was in the business of promoting the interests of the Democratic party, not handing them the knife with which to commit political suicide. The pseudo-libs in the Village have completely lost their minds.

    • Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle says:

      It’s clear that Ezra sold out once he joined the Kaplan Test Prep Post. Whether he sold out just in joining them, or after when he realized the cache in being able to interview more people once he told them he worked for Kaplan is unclear. But he’s one of those doing Rahm’s dirty work.

      • phred says:

        Yeah, but that’s beside the point. It isn’t just Ezra. Dem leadership has been sending out every pseudo-progressive Dem they can get their hands on to sell this thing. The Dems are gonna wear this like an rotting albatross come November. It makes no sense politically, whether it’s Ezra or Kirk or Franken, they are branding themselves as the guys who are requiring you to pay a significant fraction of your paycheck to privately-held for-profit insurers. That’s not health care reform, it’s a health insurance bailout. It’s beyond stupid in an election year.

  2. SueDe says:

    The next big stumbling block will be the financing of the final bill. The House finances its bill by taxing upper income earners; the Senate bill does it by taxing “cadillac” plans. Sen. Ben Nelson has already said he would not vote for a bill that contained a “millionaire’s tax.” (Considering he’s a millionaire, this is not surprising.) More fun to come after the conference committee slug-fest – or stomach-churning power plays, depending on your point of view.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree, that is a huge hurdle. The more I study the excise tax, the more I’m convinced it’s built on a foundational misunderstanding of how employers screw employees. And as a result may not do what it says it will.

      Nevertheless, Bad Nelson must be king.

  3. joejoejoe says:

    Below is what the White House has been talking about since they have been in office. I think it’s more useful than going back to white papers during the campaign which a tiny number of people read or understand.

    The Administration believes that comprehensive health reform should:

    * Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government
    * Protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs
    * Guarantee choice of doctors and health plans
    * Invest in prevention and wellness
    * Improve patient safety and quality of care
    * Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
    * Maintain coverage when you change or lose your job
    * End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions

    Whatever happened, happened this summer and not in the past few weeks.

  4. chinaz says:

    This bill is rotten. It will sink Democrats because they have gone out of their way to dis their base.
    Third party. We need to leave Democrats. Obama is the ultimate fraud. We need to have a third party which is not tainted and corrupted like the Democrats. Its the only way. Maybe we could get it started by having a general strike. Everyone stays home on the agreed day and boycotts EVERYTHING. Maybe they would start to notice if we could really shut it all down for just a day.

  5. Jesterfox says:

    That 40% excise tax is going to kill employer plans. The plans they have already put them at a disadvantage to their competitors in other countries that have a government non-profit plan. Now we’re going to add 40% to that? They will either cut the value of the plan by 30% (70 x 1.4 = 98), shift the costs of the tax to the employee, drop the coverage entirely, or move the jobs to another country.

    We will end up with a combination of junk insurance, no insurance, wage cuts, and lost jobs. This has got to be obvious to them.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      My first reaction: Everybody head to the White House, Obama’s serving Koolaid!!!!

      Boxturtle (BushCo koolaid was red, this will likely be blue. Only difference)

        • BoxTurtle says:

          Nope, just fulfulling the curse. Once their season is mathmatically futile, they must foul up their draft choices. They need to drop to position 5. The chiefs will pick ahead of the Browns if the records are tied.

          So right now, Brownies have the 5th position. If the Chiefs win, the Browns will win. Otherwise, they’ll lose spectacularly.

          Boxturtle (Death, where is thy sting?)

          • bmaz says:

            Dude, I have had the thrill and “competency” that is the Cardinals here in my little hamburg for 23 some odd years now. Don’t let the last year fool you, I feel your pain.

  6. Mary says:

    I’ve seen 3 ads this morning, with jubilant actors bubbling,”THIS is the the healthcare bill we’ve been waiting for”

    Uh huh.

    IIRC Krugman telling the truth on mandates during the campaign process is when all the Obama crew flipped out about him. A lot of what tells the story of who Obama is and what his “policies” (politics) are, can be found in watching how he handled brilliant, truthful, people like Krugman who “got it right” over and over.

    He never reaches out to utilize them in his policymaking – he runs to people like Larry Summers instead.

    I remember the venom of Obama backers over Krugman making the points that massive reform was going to require mandates and mandates were going to require a reform program that made them affordable (via increased competition or a govt plan optin). They were spitting mad that he was “taking sides” and “supporting Hilary” because he told the truth. And they’ve held that grudge. I know Whitehouse gave an impassioned spiel about how things were going to catch up with the GOP – but he’s forgotten how much of the WH and Dem party are equally deserving of hanving things catch up to them.

    OT – I guess as the MSM continues to wither, people really are going to be reading Playboy for the articles. I hope LHP sees this one – linked at TPM

    A shyster sold the CIA on the fact that he had technololgy that he couldn’t explain. It extracted bar codes from al-Jazeera reports and his proprietary software read those bar codes as “longitudes and latitudes and flight numbers” that “the terrorists” were using to plan their next attacks.

    To the rescue – Freedom Fries! Or, maybe make that the French.

    A branch of the French intelligence services helped convince the Americans that the bar codes were fake.

    LHP’s favorite – spun out of the FISCt, tied to politicization of the DHS alerts, and current TV pundit, Fran Townsend weighs in:

    Former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend defended the use of Montgomery’s “intelligence” in an interview with Playboy, telling the magazine, “It didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility. We were relying on technical people to tell us whether or not it was feasible. I don’t regret having acted on it.”

    Let’s see – Playboy interviews of Fran Townsend about how it was ok to raise alerts based on a conman spiel that “didn’t seem beyond the realm of possiblity.” And you wonder how that crew left us as a broke, torture regime, mired in wars that have handed off strategic control of vast resources to Russia and China.

    • fatster says:

      Pathetic, just pathetic (the conman story). But then it fits right in with the cab driver, Curveball, Chalabi, Karzai and on and on.

      • Mary says:

        I just a bit ago saw your comment linking to the Guardian story on the Kessler opinion that was declassified. Thank you. I’m offline now for a bit again but maybe will catch up tonight.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Not unlikely. The Brits had a reputation for being very “gloves off” during the Troubles.

            I think it’s one reason that, by comparison with Cheney, Bush and possibly Obama, they are now so restrained. They also have to contend with additional European and EU laws that can expose them to oversight and legal consequences. Bush and Obama have gone to great lengths to avoid that inconvenience.

  7. TomWells says:

    Ezra is a villager. It’s why I don’t read him. No credibility. Just shills for the village and is well compensated by WaPo.

    His “argument” are ridiculous.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think that’s right. Whatever the value of his earlier wonkishness, he’s become a member of the Village Borg. While there are exceptions, his comments are becoming as useful as Ross Douthat’s.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    So the government, in effect, enables corporations to stop providing the second of their two most basic benefits – they’ve already gutted their pension commitments, or could do so readily by filing a “strategic” bankruptcy.

    The government does not, however, help people find an affordable replacement for that benefit that enhances access to health care. It sends them, under penalty of law, into the loving embrace of under-regulated private insurers. That’s an offer you can’t refuse – from a Mafia don.

  9. alinaustex says:

    in response to BoxTurtle @ 13
    I’ll be sure to wear my wraparound Rev Jones sunglasses,,,,
    This is not the Obama administration -this is the Marjoe administration
    Cannot fathom how so called progressives can support this crappy bill.
    Is Al Fraken pulling his first Norm Coleman on us here ? I want my hard earned three hundred dollars back Al – because by golly you sold us out …

  10. browngregbrown says:

    “I think those pitching the Senate bill are doing so in a good faith belief that the good outweighs the bad in it.”

    Really, Marcy? :-) You are so much smarter than that or then again, did you mean the good for some outweighs the awful for so many?

    • bmaz says:

      What is your evidence that the people saying that are doing so for nefarious reasons as opposed to believing, even if wrongheadedly, that the good outweighs the bad?

      • browngregbrown says:

        For one that it provides so much more benefit to the corporations than it does to people in need. Actually, since corporations are left in charge, it probably provides less to nothing while taking more from people in need.

        And you have no evidence that they are acting in good faith, that is, unless you can claim to be able to read minds.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, actually, I know a couple of them, and know of and have friends who know others, including Klein, well. So, yes, I do have some evidence thankyouverymuch. Secondly, these are not pop up trolls, they are people that have been around, who write and speak, and who attempt to explain and support their opinions. I disagree vehemently with them for any number of reasons, and think them in many ways blind and naive, but do not see any basis for your claim or vitriol, and therefore was wondering if you had any. Clearly, you do not.

              • BoxTurtle says:

                Whereindaheck is Freep? You shouldn’t have to handle these sorts of things yourself.

                For the record, I think there’s lots of money changing hands because of the vote (Holy Joe, I’m speaking of YOU!) but I also think that some folks are voting for it because they honestly believe it’s better AND it’s the best they can get. They may be right, the next congress will be less supportive of a real public option than this one.

                Boxturtle (But remember, Obama would do the Right Thing if it wasn’t for Rahm. /s)

  11. fatster says:

    O/T. And another surprise: Citigroup is screwing up its sales of shares, the Treasury Dept is not playing along as handily as they expected, and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has filed an arbitration against Citi. My, my.


  12. frenchiefried says:

    I really hate to say this. But as smart as Ezra is and as good as he is at putting complex ideas into user-friendly information, he has a huge Achilles tendon. He is simply too young and has too much given to him to really get the fact that Americans just can’t afford what’s being sold here. I know, I know there are lots of really smart and much younger folks who do get it. But, to me, Ezra’s naivete on this has always stemmed from his general lack of empathy for the downtrodden because he’s never been there. IMHO

    • eblair says:

      Early this year, Whitehouse gave what I thought was one of the greatest speeches in American history on the need for Truth Commission.


      Naturally, I really wanted to hear what he had to say about health care but he only addresses Republicans and ignores the fact that progressives are generally opposed to this bill. So I thought it was an oversimplification of the debate and an unfortunate deployment of his indignation.

      (Sorry I’m not very good with inserting links yet.)

      • bmaz says:

        Sadly, Sheldon has been a little weak in the accountability pursuit, notwithstanding that speech, which was as you say pretty good.

      • MadDog says:

        (Sorry I’m not very good with inserting links yet.)

        You mean like this?

        Don’t be sorry! It just takes a wee bit of effort and you too can be link expert too! *g*

        This site makes it really easy to insert links. One of the best in the blogosphere!

        Just type some text, highlight the text you want to associate with a link and then click on that little chainlink icon to paste in the link.

        • fatster says:

          What MadDog said. Not only that, but I’m one of the clumsiest ones around and I finally learned how to do it, so I know you can.

          I did notice, though, when I had to use Firefox for about half a day, I couldn’t operate the chainlink thingy. Hope that’s not your issue.

          • MadDog says:

            I still have to manually create them at places like Pat Lang’s SST blog, but that too has become almost perfunctory with practice.

            If only all blogs could be as techno-savvy as FDL…

            • bmaz says:

              You have no idea what effort goes into making the gig work smoothly and effortlessly; the tech crew and our code writers are freaking awesome. I would also like to take the opportunity to say thanks to the readers and members that donate to us; it is because of you we can keep all this running and keep improving it.

              • skdadl says:

                You mean everyone else isn’t still doing this (use angle brackets where I use square)?

                [a href=”pasteinurl”]deathless original prose[/a]

                Somebody smarter showed me once how to teach the lesson using the angle brackets so that they wouldn’t automatically vanish and make a link, but that was a step or two above my tech pay grade and I forget.

                eoh @ 49: Obama as Tony — in many ways, yes. What a good metaphor, and why didn’t it occur to us all earlier? A similar mistaken sense of “strategy,” as you say, and then also maybe a similar irrational sense of personal destiny.

                fatster @ 59: “on the cusp”??? Who writes the guy’s copy? I would never mess with a metaphor that messy. Now I’m going to have bad dreams about my dentist, or my horoscope.

                • PJEvans says:

                  [lt;] and [gt;] (that’s lt and semicolon, and gt and semicolon, and add & (ampersand) in front of each) give you < and >

                  • skdadl says:

                    Thank you, PJ, and I’ll try to remember, but …

                    It’s like the Tor thing eoh explains @ 103. Petrocelli is always bugging me to do that, since there are videos we can’t watch here when your people detect that we are Canucks — Jon Stewart and Colbert, notably. We have to go to another site, which is always a day behind. And Simon Cowell blocks all the videos on his British operation (ITV) from us, which I think is kind of mean from a billionaire.

                    My head for coding and tech things is so bad, though, unless I’m doing them every day (a href — I do have that down pat, and then there’s the ever-popular br/). So I’m nervous about doing the installation m’self. I’ll put it on the list for The Genius’s next visit.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Good comment. To break it down further for those new to “linking”, these are the easy steps:

              1. Copy the link you need from the address bar of the site you want to cite or refer to in your comment;
              2. Highlight the word or phrase in your comment that you want to link to that site;
              3. Click on the “link” icon above, second from right;
              4. A pop up window will appear. It will have an empty address line, with only the letters “http://”. They will be highlighted;
              5. Press “control + v” simultaneously. That will paste the address of the site into the pop up window’s address line; and
              6. Click “OK”.

              The pop up window will disappear. The word or phrase you originally highlighted in your comment will now be blue. When a reader clicks on it, it will open the web address of the site you wanted readers to see.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  It’s always worth asking why and why now. Most of these exceptions have applied to Interpol for fifteen years, some of them for twenty-five. Obama has, so far, miserably failed to reform his own DoJ. Why now devote resources at the DoJ and White House Counsel’s offices to formally amend an E.O in order to extend routine immunities to Interpol that should never have been withheld by Reagan? Maybe we’ll find out in Jason Bourne IV.

                  Interpol is mostly a clearinghouse for law enforcement agencies worldwide, not an investigatory agency. Europol in the EU has a similar but more focused remit. If something nefarious is going on, it’s being washed through Interpol by state law enforcement agencies. It would be a convenient cutout, not the prime actor.

                  Most likely, these changes are a quid pro quo for increased cooperation with FBI or other alphabet soup agency investigations or “programs”. They do seem to demonstrate Obama’s focus on the tangential rather than the central.

                  • bmaz says:

                    There was just recently an action by MPs seeking access to US courts on torture info they could not break loose in Britian and also the dustup over the UBS and Swiss financial info. These may not be the specific triggers for this move, but my guess is that it is those general types of thoughts behind it.

  13. Slothrop says:

    Ezra has been co-opted by his “success” as a blogger, whether he realizes it or not. There are bloggers whose goal has been to gain acceptance into the traditional media – or to be invited to White House press briefings. It’s a career goal where the career-ness takes precedence and bends belief systems.

    You’ve got formerly aggresive bloggers pulling punches now that they have access.

    I’d put Matt Yglesias in this category and, maybe Josh Marshall.

  14. TaosJohn says:

    Geez, how do 30 million people “get health care” with this bill??? Why do people keep repeating this? It’s a freaking MANDATE. Thirty million of us are about to be hit with a hideously unfair major tax, and liberals keep saying they’re doing us a favor.

  15. Loo Hoo. says:

    Sam Stein:

    Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told reporters that the public option is not dead. “It will be revisited,” he said. “I’m just saying, I believe it is so vital and so important that it is going to be revisited. Believe me.” The Iowa Democrat said that “even next year,” senators “may be doing some things to modify, to fix, to compliment what we’ve passed here.”

    • BoxTurtle says:

      “I will gladly pay you tuesday for a hamburger today” – Wimpy

      Boxturtle (Politics is like cards. Deal ’em out and find the joker)

  16. VMT says:

    But seriously, it really hurts the cause to then turn around and claim that Obama has delivered on his campaign promise when he hasn’t.

    I don’t think Ezra is interested in the cause; he’s interested in promoting the team. The real division between progressives when it comes to controversial legislation is that most Democrats are loyal to their tribe, regardless of legislative particulars. I’m increasingly realizing that all politics is first identity politics (party, race, gender, sexual orientation, accent, verbal articulation, etc.) and second social issue politics and third economic issue politics.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Drew Westen, as others have pointed out, suggests Obama has no tribe, that he’s an incessant “middler” and conflict avoider, traits that inside the Beltway will have him running around the Rotunda looking for a corner to squeeze himself into.

      Those traits are in stark contrast with his ambition, his academic success and his gift rhetoric. Nevertheless, they will inherently benefit rightwing extremists because Obama can’t seem to allow himself to credit the left with advocating anything worth fighting for.

      In fact, fight is the thing least “there” in Mr. Obama. He’s the Chauncey Gardiner of Presidents, wise for just Being There. Unlike Chauncey, his rhetoric soars, and creates expectations; like Chauncey, he seems incapable of acting on it, creating frustration and victories for his opponents.

  17. Slothrop says:

    Well, now I see that EJ Dionne and Andrew Sullivan agree with Ezra Klein. Apparently I’m all wrong. If only I could understand better I guess I would see that bill is exactly what Obama wanted from the beginning.

  18. VMT says:

    @ earlofhuntington

    Digby has an interesting post today where she quotes a Republican analyst http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/bipartisan-tragedy-by-digby-i-quoted.html.

    SHIRLEY: Let me be a voice in the wilderness for polarization.
    I think it is intellectually dishonest to go out there and present to the American people a party that has liberal Republicans, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans, a Democratic Party that has conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, and liberal Republicans—or Democrats—is, that when you have two parties with diametrically opposing views, one organized around the concept of freedom, the other organized around the concept of justice, and they give the American voter an honest choice, I think that that is much more intellectually honest for the American voter, so that they have a clear choice of who and what set of principles they want to lead this country.

    I think one of the problems with the Democratic Party is that it is way too flexible. We like to take pride in the “big tent”, but when you get down to it that big tent is like clay in the hands of corporate funders. K Street and shifty Democratic representatives can mold the party into whatever disaster capitalism marketing push suits their needs. The fact that progressives maintain a presence in the Democratic Party simply adds another element that the base identifies with. But does the presence of progressives actually amount to anything policy-wise? Not really. Well, actually what it does is give the base a reason to go along, without really considering the issues, with whatever legislation the Party pushes through.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think Craig Shirley was saying that it’s OK to be partisan, to have starkly different perspectives on what government should do, how it should pay for it, and who should do the paying.

      Obama is trying to blur those distinction, in part, because avoiding conflict is one of his defining characteristics. He wraps his need in some Tony Blair like “strategy” of appealing to the “center”, really the right, extreme right and a little center right.

      It worked for Blair, for a while, but his people had different needs and a vastly better social safety net. I don’t think it would work now. Obama, I think, is playing with political fire by ignoring so many pressing needs in favor of meeting those that fill his leadersheep’s pocketbook.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I should add that Shirley and Digby were also saying that parties should be clear about what they stand for so that citizens have a choice, and not just on election day.

          Dr. Westen, whose HuffPost blog has been mentioned by several posters today, suggests that Obama doesn’t stand very long for any one thing and so neither does his party. When the choice is between a clear and “decisive” intellectual and moral midget, like Bush, or a triangulating, overly flexible over-achiever, like Obama, many people would choose Bush.

          In 2008, people chose Obama because he sold himself as being as decisive as Bush, but with vastly different priorities and competence instead of cronyism. He has delivered Goldman Scratch cronyism and little decisiveness. Consequently, his many talents go to waste.

          Worse, Obama leaves a wide and widening “needs gap” on Main Street America that his rhetoric alone cannot fill. He has to walk the talk, or walk.

          • fatster says:

            “He has to walk the talk, or walk.”

            Or get run out of town.

            Problem is, how many Dem seats (Senate and House) will he leave vulnerable–and there we are back yet again to the same mess we’re in now.

            And thanks for the Goldman Scratch coinage.

  19. fatster says:

    Is Shirley saying that both the Repuglican and Democratic Parties are comprised of liberal, moderate and conservative Repuglicans?

    • VMT says:

      It’s funny about that quote. It spurred me to start thinking about the actual political spectrums respective to the parties themselves, but what Shirley is actually saying is a bit confusing to me (particularly because I haven’t read the actual article he is being quoted from). To be honest, I’m kind of brainstorming in my post. If I had to analyze both parties with regard to their factions, I’d have to say that I don’t see any significant factional differences in the GOP. I think Shirley actually doesn’t understand the GOP very well. Indeed, lots of Republicans imagine the GOP to have lots of ideological variety, but the reality is that there really isn’t much difference within the party. James Inhofe, Mitt Romney, and Olympia Snowe aren’t much different from each other. Republicans have always voted in lockstep whereas Democrats, for the most part, show a little more variation. My point is that the factions in the Democratic Party actually play into the hands of corporate sponsors. The progressive faction within the Democratic Party gives legitimacy to the corporate faction of the party and that keeps loyalists/tribalists from ever dissenting with the Democratic leadership when it comes to legislation.

      • fatster says:

        Thank you. I know I’m supposed to think that the Repuglicans = Freedom and Democrats = Justice, but it’s pretty hard to swallow that, too. Repuglicans seem, by and large, to think Freedom is for old, wealthy, white guys. So, if we confine the definition of Freedom that narrowly, then I guess that fits. Far too many Democrats, agreed with (or did very little to nothing to counter) the statement that “Impeachment is off the table,” voted for retroactive immunity for the telecoms that had brazenly broken the law, and so on. Don Siegelman is still in the sling while Rove and Gonzo, etc., walk free, and so on. Intellectual honesty and clarity are hard to come by in these confusing times.

        I do think you raise a most interesting point, though, and that is that we are diminished in terms of our love for freedom and justice by being loyal to a Democratic Party whose leadership is pro-corporate.

  20. VMT says:

    I do think you raise a most interesting point, though, and that is that we are diminished in terms of our love for freedom and justice by being loyal to a Democratic Party whose leadership is pro-corporate.

    Thank you. One of my problems with the decision to transform the Democratic Party from the inside rather than attempting to start a new party is the issue of holding establishment Democrats accountable. It seems to me that the netroots are co-opted more often than they hold leadership accountable. I mean, it’s ridiculou to sit there and listen to David Axelrod describe the health care bill as “progressive”, but that’s what we’re hearing.

    As far as Shirley’s categories of freedom and justice are concerned, I didn’t mention them because I usually find those distinctions way too reductive to be meaningful. In other words, I often find terms like “evil-doers”, “freedom”, “justice” and many others pretty meaningless in the contexts Republican analysts talk about them. The notion that Republicans=freedom and Democrats=justice doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s partly Goldman demonstrating that no one games the system better than Goldman: if there’s a government handout, the ueber-capitalist, bootstrapping Goldman will be the first in line and the first to close it after it’s done.

      The subsidies Goldman is benefiting were legitimate attempts by city, state and federal authorities to rebuild parts of lower Manhattan directly affected by the destruction of the WTC. That the subsidies, in fact, are as high as they are is also a function of NYC allowing the Twin Towers site to remain empty. The deal is that ground rent (on what may be the most expensive real estate in Manhattan) isn’t payable while the site remains empty and unused, an eyesore rather than a co-tenant of the area.

  21. fatster says:

    Just got an email from Obama, as no doubt most of you did. In it, he states, “. . . we are now on the cusp of making health insurance reform a reality in the United States of America.” If only the phrase “health insurance reform” could be replaced with “universal health care”. Sigh.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I resemble that remark.

      In another case of change we can’t believe in, after a seven months delay, Obama named the former chief of information security at ebay and chief security officer at Microsoft as head of US “cybersecurity”. He will report to the NSC. Predictably, for a guy who doesn’t do conflict, Obama named as his CS chief a former CS adviser to George W. Bush:

      The decision to appoint Howard A. Schmidt, an industry executive with government experience who served as a cybersecurity adviser in the Bush administration and who also has a military and law enforcement background, is seen as a compromise between factions. Government officials and industry executives say there has been a behind-the-scenes dispute over whether strict new regulations are necessary to protect the network that increasingly weaves together the vast majority of the world’s computers….

      The administration’s decision to appoint Mr. Schmidt was slowed by a tug of war among political, military, intelligence and business interests, said people with direct knowledge of the selection process. Industry officials, for example, have expressed concern that new regulations would dampen innovation.

      Naturally, Mr. Schmidt has also worked in CS for the FBI and the Air Force. Given Mr. Bush’s stellar inability not to lose his own White House’s e-mail, and his inability to distinguish between White House and GOP telecoms equipment and practices, choosing one of Bush’s top CS advisers is a strange choice.

    • fatster says:

      Well, you’re doing great moonlighting as a troll-killer.

      (BTW, thanks for not busting me and skdadl last night when you were out on patrol.)

  22. MadDog says:

    You have no idea what effort goes into making the gig work smoothly and effortlessly…

    Au contraire, mon frère. *g*

    For some, perhaps many, this is indeed true!

    For me however, having toiled in the bowels of IT plumbing at major corps for 30 years, I know only too well the effort to produce this magic.

    And yes, indeed:

    …the tech crew and our code writers are freaking awesome…

    I’m only waiting now for them to code the mind-reading software so we don’t even have to type our comments. *g*

    • fatster says:

      Not to worry. No doubt that’s what Howard A. Schmidt (see @ 66) will be doing for Obama in the cybersecurity gig. It’ll trickle down soon enough–and then we’ll all have to learn to not think while on-line.

  23. eblair says:

    Since you folks have been so helpful with links, I’d like to ask you another question: How do I find the threads from a few days ago?

    • MadDog says:

      There is the cumbersome way (hint, hint FDL techies *g*) by clicking the link at the bottom of EW’s main page called « Previous Entries and then continuing to click those same links until you get to the day you’re looking for.

      Yes, cumbersome, but I said so upfront. *g*

      Another way is to click on Emptywheel’s name at almost the top of this page: “By: emptywheel Monday December 21, 2009 7:34 am” which lists all of her posts by day and then to continue, again click that « Previous Entries link.

      Or you can try the Advanced Search on the FDL main page.

      There are probably other ways as well (I’ve even used Google for searching Emptywheel and a specific word/phrase), so if others know, by all means, jump right in!

        • MadDog says:

          LOL! And that just wouldn’t do!

          On a serious note, if the FDL tech crew would take a suggestion, I’d like to see a small (2″ x 2″) calendar thingie with the current day highlighted that users could click on for a specific day and with back arrows to previous months.

          Could be one on the main FDL page for all posts by all FDL bloggers, and then a more focused one on each blogger’s post such as here for just for Emptywheel’s posts.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        I’ve never had any luck with advanced search. NOT to say I don’t appreciate our techies, I do!

        Google works best in my experience.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          “ixquick.com” is almost as thorough and it’s privacy policy claims that it does not store your searches.

          Also try “google.co.uk” instead of “google.com”. It’s the UK site for google, but should comply with EU rules. The exception may be when google drills down, detects the source address/location for your computer and applies the rules applying to that location. (E.g., California instead of Croydon.)

          Simple anonymity is also available by using Tor. It’s a free, open-source proxy server service you can readily download. Set up takes a few minutes. Web sites you visit will see the address for the Tor server, not yours. (Governments can drill through it, at modest effort, but it lowers your digital signature with commercial sites.)

    • bmaz says:

      Click on the “Home” button at the top of the page. That will take you to the Emptywheel main page which will have the ten most recent posts; then at the bottom of that is a link to the page with the next ten older posts, and so on from there.

    • fatster says:

      Have you tried “Latest Posts” in the right-hand side bar above? I think (damn! there I go again) that might work.

      BTW, sorry about ‘fusion.’ I’m from the Mahavishnu-McLaughlin era, so . . . )

      • bmaz says:

        Hey, I saw the Mahavishnu Orchestra a long long time ago; they were pretty wild.

        Also saw McLaughlin with the Devadip, Carlos Santana too somewhere in that same vicinity.

        • fatster says:

          Both McLaughlin and Santana got mixed up with Sri Chinmoy. Don’t know how the spiritual part of that worked out (and NOMB), but the musical contributions to humanity of both did shift during that time.

    • bmaz says:

      I am a little tired, and quite frankly more entertained by Python currently, but a quick look at that seems to reveal that it is not so much a grant of broad new power to Interpol as much as a grant of impunity for them in the exercise of the power they already had and freedom from discovery through American courts for the same.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Be calm. What are they saying? The change in E.O. 12425 deletes exceptions to the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 USC 288) that applied to Interpol. In essence, the changes make it easier and less expensive for Interpol to operate within the US. Interpol is a facilitating organization with a small staff (about 500 in 2005). These changes do not expand their limited powers. I assume Obama wants more cooperation from them and its 188 participating countries.

      The sections of the cited act that now apply to Interpol:

      Sec. 2(c), the right to have their organization’s property and assets free from search.
      Sec. 3, the right to admit their luggage and personal effects into the US free from customs and other taxes.
      Sec. 4, exempts compensation paid by Interpol to its employees from US income tax.
      Sec. 5, exempts the same from Social Security taxes.
      Sec. 6, exempts Interpol from paying property taxes imposed by or under the authority of Congress.

      To everyone but Strom Thurmond, Southern conservatives and the GOP, this is tame stuff. The privileges and immunities that now apply to Interpol are ordinarily reciprocal. If the US withheld them from Interpol and its staff, chances are some of the 188 cooperating countries withheld them from US police agencies visiting or having offices in their jurisdiction. By now extending them to Interpol, the US would expect similar concession from those countries as regards US police agencies.

      Obama is signaling that he wants to play cricket or soccer in addition to baseball. The Right may be afraid that he’ll now let foreign teams play in the World Series.

      • prostratedragon says:

        EoH or anybody, do I have this summary correct, that the Fourth Amendment aspects of this order extend protection to Interpol and its officers, rather than remove them from obligations to adhere to it in dealing with U.S. nationals?

        The wording in the series of orders is a little clumsy, but that’s what I’d got out of it at first.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That’s correct.

          The web page at democraticunderground was a bit confusing, but that may be what the White House issued. It gives Obama’s changes; a description of what Sec. 2(c) in the Act covers (but not what’s covered by Secs 3, 4, 5 or 6); and the original order as issued by Reagan in 1983, which contained a longer list of exceptions to the Act as it applied to Interpol. The web page then gives the changes Clinton made in 1995, which reduced the number of exceptions that Reagan had carved out and which Bush I continued. Obama’s changes remove them entirely, which means the Act applies in full.

          The exceptions that Obama removes have nothing to do with Interpol’s permitted activities inside the US. They do not change applicable search and seizure requirements under the Fourth Amendment. These still apply (as gutted by Bush).

          Obama’s changes merely apply – to Interpol’s assets and employees in the US – standard exemptions from border checks and tax liability. These apply to the assets and personnel of other recognized and accredited international organizations.

          • prostratedragon says:

            Thank you.

            These still apply (as gutted by Bush).
            [sigh] “Things could be worse” is not my idea of a standard here, but there you have it.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Well, Vancouver is SFO North, Banff is Vail North, and Toronto is NYC North and on a lake, non? *g*

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The buzz around the Internet seems misplaced. The changes Obama made to EO 12425 extend to Interpol routine exemptions from search, seizure and taxation of its property and personnel. This is a common and expected attribute of international cooperation. (Admittedly, an oxymoron under Bush II.) The exemptions from taxation, search and seizure routinely apply to international organizations and their personnel, such as the World Bank and the UN, that have facilities and personnel located in the United States. Similar rules apply to our benefit in other countries. By themselves, these changes do not support conspiracy theories about “surrendering sovereignty”, except in the mind of Strom Thurmond’s ghost.

    Interpol is an international agency. It has a small staff of several hundred (about 500 in 2005) and facilitates cooperation among national police forces, in connection with crimes and criminals that have international aspects – international criminal flight, smuggling, racketeering, organized crime, terrorist crimes. (There is a similar EU organization, too.)

    While that work has expanded in the “age of terror”, it’s still largely the work of Interpol’s 188 or so participating countries. If somebody “has the goods on Obama”, they won’t be able to commercialize them simply because he has now exempted Interpol’s people and offices from customs searches at the border or from paying US income, social security or property taxes. Lighten up. Keep your powder dry for more concrete problems we face.

    • chetnolian says:

      The anti-EU crazies in such as the United Kingdom Independence Party keep up the same nonsense in respect of the EU organisation Europol to which you refer, as if lots of other diplomats, spooks etc. did not have exactly the same privileges

  25. WindHarps says:

    “Pissed Off About Health Care”

    “I’m pissed off that President Obama ‘thanked’ the independent senator from Connecticut even though the senator nearly killed health care reform this week.” (But, I won’t go any further in criticizing the President (who campaigned on “If a mandate was a solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everyone buy a house.”) – even though he set the stage for this outcome with sabotaging statements (after the election) like “the Public Option is just one sliver,” has refused from the beginning to stand up for anything remotely progressive, and, was still coddling other corporate sellout senators after they repulsively propagandized the entire nation with “Death Panel” assertions.)

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