Obama’s Infirm Lump Of Coal Judicial Policy

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail1Lost in the blizzard like white out of other concerns by the push by the Obama Administration and Congress to handwrap a huge present for the rapacious healthcare insurance industry, has been intelligent coverage of the breakdown of Barack Obama’s naive and feckless judicial policy and the emerging harm to the U.S. Federal Court system it portends.

Maybe that is starting to change.

At the end of last week, David Fontana at TNR penned an article entitled “Going Robe” noting the ever more glaring lack of accomplishment by the Obama Administration on judicial nominees. Since then, Scott Lemieux and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones have both followed up. All of these came on the heels of a startling editorial by the New York Times last month that received far too little play.

The facts and figures are stark and certain to be depressing to progressives and liberals who voted for Barack Obama and a Democratic majority with an eye to halting the rightward shift of both the Supreme Court and lower Federal court benches. Two months ago I wrote:

Three out of 23 [confirmations out of total nominations], with a popular President possessing a real electoral mandate and the supposed holy grail of a 60 seat caucus majority in the Senate, is a batting average that screams lame. But the real eye opener painting the full color of the context is that George W. Bush sent 95 nominees to the Senate for confirmation by this point in his first term. Whatever happened to the big push Greg Craig (he of two first names) was spearheading on this? And make no mistake, it is not as if there are not plenty of judicial seats to fill – there are currently at least 90 waiting to be filled – and it is having a deleterious impact on the ability of Federal courts across the country to function.

Time is wasting, there is no reason not to put up big blocks of nominees. Get on with it, make the Republicans vote in good faith or expose them as unprincipled obstructionists. Fight for your nominees and use the 60 seat majority. You can bet your family farm that is exactly what the Republicans would do; it is what they do when in the Presidency.

What has happened since that time? Not diddly squat with the exception that Obama has finally managed to get the centrist milquetoast David Hamilton confirmed. Despite the rejoicing, this is precious little to cheer. Which brings us back to where we stand now, and Scott Lemieux nails it perfectly:

But with respect to judicial appointments, Obama’s preemptive concessions really have been counterproductive. It’s not at all surprising that his attempts to put forward moderate appointments is not working — after all, we’re dealing with conservatives willing to claim that Cass Sunstein is a wide-eyed radical.

And, what’s worse, putting forward moderate nominees will continue the asymmetry in which Republican presidents take the ideological direction of the federal courts very seriously while Democratic presidents are willing to settle for moderates to focus on other priorities. There’s no reason to continue this. Given that Republicans will portray anyone to the left of Anthony Kennedy as a lawless Trotskyite, Obama needs to make stronger liberal appointments and accept that not everyone will get confirmed.

Exactly. The problem, however, is that is just not who Barack Obama is. Scott seems to think there may be a more progressive judicial attitude lurking within Obama. Kevin Drum not only bites off on that questionable proposition, but adds:

But it’s been nearly a year now and Republicans, if anything, are more intransigent than they were on inauguration day. How much longer does Obama give them? Another year? Two? At what point does he finally give up and decide that he’s just being played for a patsy?

At what point do progressives quit perpetuating the unsupportable dream fixation of a living, breathing principled progressive lurking beneath the slick dick political marketing gloss that is Barack Obama? Obama is not a patsy and he is most certainly no “Constitutional scholar”; if he were, he would not be letting the health and future of American Article III courts wither while he dithers. Instead, Mr. Obama is a common retail politician that is willing to say what it takes to get and stay elected; principles are seemingly merely the vehicle for attracting the support he needs at any one time.

Barack Obama will never magically make the turn and do what progressives, liberals, and the citizens of this country want and need on resetting the Federal judiciary and courts from the long term relentless march to the conservative Federalist Society right wing ideal unless we – you, me and those of a similar view – force him to. There is no magic bullet for accomplishing the goal, it will take long hard and arduous work; if you want an eye opening explanation of just what this means, read the outstanding recent article by Thereisnospoon at Daily Kos.

Make no mistake however, the stakes in judicial policy are far higher and, ultimately, more consequential than other areas of domestic policy, even healthcare; Federal judges are lifetime appointments and they are the backbone of the rule of law. And while the common District trial courts and Circuit Courts of Appeal may be capable of ambling along in a weakened state from Obama’s refusal to get serious with judicial nominations and support for confirmation fights, a reckoning is coming on the Supreme court. Obama has already appointed Sonia Sotomayor, and two more vacancies, maybe three, lurk on the immediate horizon.

Justice John Paul Stevens is done after this term, that is a given; but also Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s chair may come open as well. The problem here is that Mr. Obama, even when replacing sitting liberal justices, seems hell bent to move the overall composition of the court markedly to the right with his stated desire to appoint “empathetic moderates” whatever in the world that is in practice. If Stevens and Bader Ginsburg are replaced by a couple of mealy mouthed David Hamiltons, not only will we regret it, but so will our children; that is the gravitas of lifetime appointments. Barack Obama must not be allowed to further shift the Supreme Court to the right.

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.

149 replies
  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    From thereisnospoon’s diary at Daily Kos, which you linked to:

    If you want to win, you will ORGANIZE. You will organize in the same way the Right has done for the last 40 years, and you will spend money on persuasion, where it really matters. You will, in short, make the politicians as afraid of you as they are of them. The Right has built vast networks of think tanks, newspapers, periodicals, cable news channels, and political advocacy organizations to spread their finely tuned, well-honed messages. Their politicians may fail them, and their actual policies may be deeply unpopular, but their message machine nearly always works its magic to get them what they want, even when Democrats are in power.

    This is correct, in so far as it goes, but it fails to note that the left cannot organize without a torrent of opposition arising from within powerful elites in this country. Those elites hold the levers of governmental agencies, who will do their best to derail efforts to organize, as TINS suggests.

    This does not mean we shouldn’t organize. Hardly so, and the existence of both DKos and FDL testifies to that. But real change means organizing in relation to existing political groups and institutions. The given political parties, as constituted, are unable to bring about change, and in fact fight for the status quo, or even worse, for enriching an ever-more entrenched corporate group of interests. If the latter should become seriously threatened, they whip up the machinery of state-repression.

    Perhaps most don’t remember how in December 1974 Seymour Hersh (and the NYT) broke the story about CIA spying on domestic groups. That led to a powerful sequence of major investigations and new laws against government malfeasance (like FISA). (We’ll be getting to all that in a Book Salon on the Frank Olson murder mystery next month, because it was the Olson LSD “suicide” that set off a subsequent frenzy of investigations about CIA/military/FBI outrages.) For now, it’s enough to realize that what progressives have really failed at is a true reckoning on why the last great surge of progressive politics was defeated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It wasn’t only the election of Ronald Reagan, though that was part of it, or rather, represented its aggressive apotheosis.

    I won’t pretend I have the answer (though I believe state repression, as with Cointelpro, played a huge part, and helps explain the inertness of much of the progressive electorate, i.e., their fear), but it’s answers we need, and soon, before the damage of another infirm excuse for a liberal president dooms us to another generation of right-wing politics, out of which anything even recognizable as a U.S. democratic state may be lost forever.

    Great post, bmaz. See how you set me off. If “Barack Obama must not be allowed to further shift the Supreme Court to the right,” how are we going to stop him?

    • bmaz says:

      There are certain things I can do and assist in a couple of groups I am in; beyond that, keep writing belligerent blog posts I guess.

    • milly says:

      Don’t have an answer? Let’s brainstorm.

      Our govt. is fascist. Obama couldn’t do the change thing if he wanted to.

      Our govt. is no different than if hill had won. hill and bill, darlings of corporate America.

      It would have just been to overt for a republican to continue handing over trillions to the banks as a reward for their criminal conduct.AGs from all 50 states wanted something done about predatory lending. gbush stopped that. It would have looked awful if a regular president could not be blamed for fascist give aways. We were all looking at how stupid bush was . And how dangerous cheney was. While they looted the treasury.

      A friend of mine is from Greece. She says re. the riots going on there now..their currency devalued.”Right wingers have been in office.They stole all the money.”

  2. john in sacramento says:

    … Obama’s preemptive concessions really have been counterproductive.

    Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Something I’ve been saying for months

    OT Vegas baby! Er … Vegas Bowl coming up – Oregon State v BYU

    I’ll take Oregon State

    • bmaz says:

      Thats the Maaco Bowl baybee! I dunno, this could be a very good game; remember what BYU did to the Sooners early in the year. If Max Hall gets on a roll, the Cougs could easily win this. Easily could go the Beaver’s way too. Makes for a potentially good game.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Dawn Johnsen’s stillborn nomination to head the OLC is an exemplar of Obama’s mismanagement of the federal appointment process, not an outlier. Compared to his predecessors, Obama is a slacker in putting forward his nominees, federal judgeships included. He is an absentee landlord when it comes to reinvigorating federal agencies that survived the Bush years battered, unled and underfunded.

    As bmaz says, four, let alone eight years of Obama appointments to the federal judiciary – in addition to eight years of Bush appointees – will be cement rightwing Republican control of the judiciary. That branch of government defines and oversees the enactment and enforcement of civil and specifically women’s rights. It defines the legal restraints on law enforcement and the power of corporations to speak and vote with their money. It will interpret with acidic reticence new and untried health insurance and health care rules, and redefine the separation of church and state.

    A federal judiciary appointed in the image of George Bush will diminish the lives of all Americans and spawn greater civil strife than we’ve seen since Mr. Obama’s forebears refused any longer to sit in the back of the bus. Mr. Obama entrenches ultra-conservative control of the judiciary. He affirms claims of the unaccountable, secret powers of the president. He acquiesces in corporate control over the legislative process, as he continues to substitute corporate actors in place of governmental ones. As he does so, Mr. Obama makes us all sit in the back of the bus. Only he could imagine that will engender less conflict than opening up seats in the front to all.

  4. Stephen says:

    Raw Story has an article about Iranian mobs rescuing men from execution that were convicted of robbery. Meanwhile we allow Obama to drone bomb innocent civilians. IMO Barry is an enemy to the American People. In all the recent criticism of Obama regarding his spineless presidency very few bring up the issue of his callous disregard for the judicial system. I agree with bmaz completely, without a firm foundation in the federal judiciary and the constitution all else suffers.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, this sucks; however, they are not secret in the traditional sense. Just not well known. There was a story not long ago about an old hotel in NYC that had been used for this purpose. At one point there was actually a designated program to take over abandoned hotels, motels and apartment buildings for this purpose.

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      I’m afraid the reciprocal of this is going to be happening. Americans trying to establish residency in Mexico, Central and South America.

  5. 4jkb4ia says:

    I spent some time in the mall actually thinking about this post. The mall was full of people.
    Part of the reason that Republicans are able to obstruct nominations for district judges and appellate court judges is that relatively nobody is paying attention. Work of organizing around judicial nominations should be local so that there is a constituency of ordinary citizens who want to see these positions filled and could possibly suggest liberal candidates to the Senators who will make the decision about who to send to the President.
    Organizing to get more liberal candidates on the Supreme Court in some ways puts the organizers to the left of Russ Feingold who will happily give the President deference to his nominees even if he might not agree with all of their positions. As the TNR writer acknowledged, Sotomayor did very little to change the ideological balance on the Court. A replacement for Stevens or Ginzburg might have the ability to hold the Kennedy swing vote and might be broadly ideologically similar to Stevens or Ginzburg. So organizers need to be able to decide what specific issues or approach they want the replacement to have and their Senators to bring up. The organizers need to do broad education about the Supreme Court so that they can shift public opinion so that the people who are considered have the desired approach. Abortion and civil rights as in the case of Judge Bork are not sufficient. By the time these people get to committee the White House is confident that they have an innocuous enough record to go through the confirmation ritual.

    Good to see bmaz recognizing that thereisnospoon had a terrific diary.

    • bmaz says:

      Excellent comment. I would actually posit that Sotomayor did move the Court net to the right from Souder, but I think that is a matter of opinion, and even if true, it was extremely minor. The Stevens chair, however, is problematic; Stevens is old school liberal and Obama figures to appoint some moderate namby pamby like Cass Sunstein in my opinion. Then if that is repeated with Ginsburg’s chair, you really have a significant move to the right from two Democratic appointments. This is my fear, and I think it is a rational one.

      • Teddy Partridge says:

        We can always go all “Harriet Miers” on him when he does appoint a judge unacceptable to the base, because he listens so well to us.

      • 4jkb4ia says:

        Thank you! I was coming here full of piss and vinegar that I did not really explain the difference between “approach” and “ideology”. Ideology is a huge aggregate. Approach is such things as “Judge X is pro-4th Amendment” or “Judge X is pro-criminal defendants”. Approach is what Judge X would favor in a narrow area that comes before the Court.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    OT to this post, but relevant to the topic of ‘law’ and ‘judiciary’ and ‘legal process’: Guardian is reporting that Lithuanian ‘spy agency set up secret prisons for CIA’. :

    [A Lithuanian parliamentary panel ]t said there was no evidence that the security agency had informed the president, the prime minister or other political leaders of its co-operation with the US. The country’s former leaders have denied any knowledge of the secret prisons.

    Okay, I couldn’t help googling ‘Cheney + Lithuania’, and the first hit is a NYTimes article about Cheney’s Lithuanian speech in May 2006.

    Get a load of this bullshit from Dick Cheney in May 2006:

    In these 15 years, the Baltics have shown how far nations can progress when they embrace freedom, serve the interests of their people, and hold steadily to the path of reform. You have thrown off the stagnation of imperial dictatorship and a command economy, and now your children look to a future of promise as citizens of independent, prosperous democracies. You give both aid and inspiration to those who share this dream, from countries nearby, to the new democracies of the broader Middle East. Because you have persevered, you are now part of the family of democratic countries in the European Union, and your security is protected by the greatest partnership for freedom in our world, the NATO Alliance.

    … this from the first of 5 pages in the article. And here’s from page 3 — have a drink handy before reading:

    In a democracy, the state itself has only limited authority over the lives of its citizens, because the true strength of a nation is found in the institutions of civil society -– the family, communities of worship, voluntary associations, and free enterprise. Each person is entitled to freedom of conscience –- not merely the right to hold a religious belief, but to practice that belief and to share it with others. Citizens deserve basic guarantees of equal treatment under the law, and minority groups should be safe from oppression. Protecting civil society and upholding individual freedom requires the rule of law –- and that is at the very heart of government’s reason for being. Government meets this obligation by ensuring an independent judiciary, a professional legal establishment, and honest, competent law enforcement.

    This from a guy whose chief of staff outed a CIA agent.
    Wonder what Plame knew about the Lithuanian prisons.
    Or what Erik the Dark Prince knew about Lithuanian prisons.

    Wonder whether JayRock and SSCI knew about the Lithuanian prisons…?

    And cross-referencing with the EW Timelines, not too much comes up for May 2006 on the Ghorbanifar Timeline.

    The Iran NIE Timeline, we learn that the Iran NIE would not be completed until Nov 2006.

    From the Torture Tape Timeline, we learn that the previous day May 5, 2006: Porter Goss resigns as DCI; General Michael Hayden replaces him.

    From the Warantless Wiretap Memos Timeline, we see that a few months previously (Feb 2006), the WH had refused to let Ashcroft, Comey, and Goldsmith testify before SJC. Perhaps we can assume that the Lithuanians were kind enough to know that when Cheney spoke of ‘law’, he was only giving cynical rhetorical flourishes for the sake of appearances?

    From the Disappearing WH Emails Timeline, we see that as of May 2006: Theresa Payton begins as White House CIO.

  7. Sara says:

    Bmaz — I would suggest that you are putting all too much blame on Obama on the matter of nominating and confirming Judges, without looking at the environment in which he is currently working.

    You have to comprehend that that Party of No, otherwise known as Republicans, are putting up a filibuster on virtually everything that requires a Senate vote — and it isn’t so much that for many potential nominees they could not defeat a filibuster and confirm, instead it is just the fact that it is time consuming to go through the process, and there are other priorities.

    First of these in the first year of any Presidency is the Budget, Appropriations and Spending Authority bills. The way a President puts a stamp on government is in the first year, when programs get zeroed out, others get increased funding. Most years in the end these bills get wrapped up into some sort of omnibus bill, which does not change policy, but simply extends funding with small percentage increases, for existant policy. But the first time a President can rework the budget is during his first year and in all likelyhood, that will be Administration Policy for 4 or 8 years — including the first year of the next President. I would suggest that doing all of the spending bills independently this year was very high priority for Obama — and since the Republicans did a filibuster on six of these bills — it took considerable time. Every one of these spending bills contains considerable policy change. One may prefer to have some floor fights about confirming judges as priority, or one can choose to force the Congress to rework Spending Authorities — but it seems to me that Obama’s priority was to pay lots of attention to appropriations bills, fight them through a variety of filibusters, and get at least some of his policy preferences set into the Federal Budget. Tiz very time consuming when everything is threatened with a Filibuster. Good Lord, the Republicans even filibustered the Defense Appropriations before on final passage the majority of them voted for it.

    With Health Care nearly out of the way, now Congress can turn to Climate Change and Financial Industry Regulation, Those will be his Winter and Spring focuses. I doubt if you will see all that many Judges until these are well underway in the Senate. He may even decide to do another Stimulius and Jobs Bill — or he may incorporate it into the monster Transportation Bill Oberstar has on track in the House. He has to keep the Senate focused on things that make a major difference to masses of people, and a judge fight with a filibuster is, if you think about it, a distraction and a time waste to the vast majority of voters.

    My point here is not that it is unimportant to nominate and move to confirmation Judges — I agree it is important, but Priority for Obama is clearly to avoid drawn out individual fights about personalities, and instead focus on Policy through Spending Authorities and large scale bills that address large and fairly common national problems. He has to assume everything possible will be filibustered, so he has to make choices where he wants to have fights.

    I think putting all the blame on Obama in this instance is misplaced. He could get a whole lot more done if the Republicans were not filibustering every thing possible.

    • tjbs says:

      The only thing he worked was health care for a whole year.
      Don’t the democrates own the same threat of a nuclear option the party of no held?
      My Grandfather was proud he could do three things at once whistle, and fart and push a cart. The president isn’t who we project he is.

      • Sara says:

        “The only thing he worked was health care for a whole year.”

        As Al Franken told John Thune, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.

        I can hardly think of an area where Obama has not worked, even if I don’t totally agree with the outcome. The whole Economic/Financial mess has been a high priority, as has Foreign Policy. Do you not appreciate the end of the Bush Policy of putting Missiles in Poland and the radar in The Czech Republic? Don’t you think negotiations to re-set the US and Russian Nuclear Disarmament programs are important? You might not approve of the outcome of the Afghanistan/Pakistan policy deliberations, but one has the sense that at least they have argued through most of the serious issues, and he is not making it up based on how his gut feels today. I happen to like the decision to finally negotiate an end to the Blackfoot Indian Claims regarding their trust accounts, the refusal to honor many of the gas leases on Federal Property that were passed out helter skelter at the end of Bush’s administration.

        Much as people would like something different, Obama is not one for juicy and dramatic confrontations, and by refusing to engage in them he is essentially taking off the table the big loss or the big win. For many this is not emotionally satisfying, but what makes for emotional reward does not necessarily result in good policy.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Much as people would like something different, Obama is not one for juicy and dramatic confrontations, and by refusing to engage in them he is essentially taking off the table the big loss or the big win. For many this is not emotionally satisfying, but what makes for emotional reward does not necessarily result in good policy.

          The entire comment really was liberating to read, particularly the section that I’ve copied in this comment.
          Thanks, Sara.

          Helpful reminders.

          • bmaz says:

            By the same token, shitty feckless policy does not make for a healthy justice system or American society. But what the heck, the Republicans made a cottage industry apologizing and making excuses for their lack performance in the Presidency, guess we might as well too. Or not.

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              I totally sympathize with your frustrations, bmaz.

              In some respects, as I review my 2009 items, what is coming clear to me is that – call me naive, and call me clueless and call me dumb – it has been a year of revealing in a brazen, harsh, blinding light the pathetic, outworn, tragic nature of the GOP.

              And I say that as someone who, out of frustration with the inept, corporatist Dems, began to support the GOP (even giving money and holding a fundraiser for a candidate or two, out of sheer despair at the fecklessness of the Dems by the late 1990s).

              I think that some of us got fed up with the Dems and gave the GOP a shot.
              Clearly, that did not work.
              So Howard Dean gave some of us enough hope to come back to the Democratic party again, because he talked like someone who understood what he was saying and didn’t give a shit about K-Street, the DNC bullshitters, and the style of politics that basically equates votes with financial transactions.

              Politics is a deeply human endeavor, but until Howard Dean came along it seemed that politics had become crushed by the ‘transactional logic’ of the ‘marketplace’.

              And it was covered in the media as if it were a football game; one team ‘wins’, and moves toward the playoffs. There are rules, there are strategies, there are players. But playing football – much as I love it – doesn’t change the fundamental nature of society or culture. It doesn’t put judges in place, it doesn’t limit the brazenness of banksters….

              As long as ‘politics’ is covered in the media — and Tweety is among the worst in this regard (!!) — as if it is ‘mostly about strategy’, as if no one is ever changed or transformed by the political system in which they live, then we’re stuck and suffocating.
              And one symptom is judgeships that aren’t approved in a timely fashion.

              What you write about is, in my mind, a symptom.

              I’m trying to look at the larger, more systemic issues.
              And IMVHO, those systemic issues are shaped by outdated institutional rules, a culture that wants to continue worshipping a fiction called ‘the free market’, and cultural attitudes that strangle political conduct because they see it as a ‘competition’ rather than a deeply human endeavor.

              The one thing that Howard Dean ‘gets’ better than anyone that I have ever seen is the fundamental, deeply human fact that at its best, politics is deeply transformative.

              2009 has shown us what we are up against; people who have no experience, and no clue, of politics as anything other than a financial transaction.

              That’s what we’re caught in, and the blocked judgeships are symptomatic of corrupted, cynical, dysfunctional assumptions about what politics is, and what it can accomplish.

              We need a Velvet Revolution of some kind, but I don’t think we’ll get it if we continue to buy into Rahm Emmanuel’s view of politics as simply a market transaction or exchange.

              When FDR got the Federal Bureau of Reclamation through, it fundamentally changed not only the idea of ‘politics’, but it altered people’s ideas about what was possible, about what they could achieve, and about who they were. FDR, like Howard Dean, ‘got’ politics in a profoundly human way.

              What troubles me about the court is not whether they are ‘left’, or ‘right’ – but whether they think very carefully about what it means to be human. Some, like Alito, seem to have a very small, rule-riddled, almost superstitious view of human life; others, like Ginsberg, have a wider experience of life, and a larger view of what it means to be human.

              As for Roberts; I wonder if the man would look at a Picasso and find it boring.
              Does he ever wonder what Picasso was trying to convey about Guernica?
              Because if he doesn’t, that is seriously scary.
              And that thought terrifies me.

              Sotomayor, however, would probably look at a Picasso and think, ‘what does this mean? what is this terrifying warning encrypted here with paint?’

              Your background in brain anatomy should at least allow my claims that asking about ‘issues’ is perhaps not the best way to assess someone’s ability to make complex decisions. There is more art to judgment than we often admit.

              For me, it’s not as much about ‘left’ or ‘right’ as it is about whether we have as judges people who ever take the time to consider why we are not chimps, and how the rules we live by restrict us to being merely serfs, or give us the potential to be composers, painters, teachers, researchers, or … whatever.

              • Jim White says:

                a culture that wants to continue worshipping a fiction called ‘the free market’

                Fiction it is. The market is totally rigged for the benefit of just a few. Those few share just enough crumbs with the political whores to keep the system fully rigged.

                Such a system never has ended well in the past. I dread what is in store for all of us.

                • Sara says:

                  “a culture that wants to continue worshipping a fiction called ‘the free market’

                  Fiction it is. The market is totally rigged for the benefit of just a few. Those few share just enough crumbs with the political whores to keep the system fully rigged.

                  Such a system never has ended well in the past. I dread what is in store for all of us.”

                  One of the great contributions of the Germans in the Wake of World War II was invention and use of the concept, “SOCIAL MARKET ECONOMY” — I think it comes from Adenauer in the wake of the economic fast growth in the 1950’s — but Willy Brandt adopted the slogan too, and it has long since passed into general use in European Social Democratic writing and analysis. The idea is utterly simple — you just have to add or subtract social costs from any policy you promote or advocate.

                  I’ll give you an example of this. Every once in a while I decide to follow a political debate about some relatively obscure issue in the Danish Parliament — and back in the early 80’s, I picked up on a good illustration of this. Essentially it was about whether the Menus in the Danish School Lunch Program should be revised to account for recent research on childhood nutrition and its relationship to late middle age and old age disease. In otherwords, how much disease and medical costs can we avoid if we re-jigger what school children are fed? (Remember Denmark has had a National Health Program supported only by a progressive tax since the 1920’s — and this accounts for all sorts of different assumptions.) For the Danes this was really an economic and value matter, because many of the revisions went against the typical Danish diet — heavy in butter, cream, lard, fat pork, cheese, and low in fruit and vegetables. To say the least, the Danish Dairy Industry didn’t like the new menu proposals. But what you got was the fascinating picture of members of Parliament actually reading some of the nutrition science, and then running the figures — how much does a heart attack cost US if it comes when someone is say mid-50’s in loss of production, medical costs, etc, and then a “social cost” of loss of life’s enjoyment. All this was set against the costs of making the menu changes, and putting on a public relations effort to make eating fruit and veggies instead of cheese open face sandwiches for lunch, suddenly seem Super Patriotic Danish.

                  You just see the concept, “Social Market Economy” painted all over this kind of political debate. I wish we could import the concept and some of the ways of factoring into American debate and Rhetoric. But think about it — in all this debate about Health Care did you hear anyone discuss a subject that involved making some sort of change now so that disease and economic consequences of disease twenty-forty years hence could be avoided? Hell no. Our political culture is such that our congress critters don’t think beyond the next election. (they not unlike the Wall Street Critters who have no long view of investment value, but only think in terms of the next distribution of bonuses.) In fact, Bush/Cheney went to war without a calculation of the long term costs of VA Medical Benefits, and to make matters worse, they cut the budget of the VA at the same time they went to war. Result of such short term thinking — well the scandal at Walter Reed to begin with, and then the Harvard calculations of future costs which befuddled the congresscritters.

                  Somehow we need to import into our culture that Social Market Economy idea — but it would be OK if we call it something else.

                  • Loo Hoo. says:

                    Right, and I keep wondering why a tax on cheeto-type junkfood wasn’t included in this reform. Were the ads that effective?

              • bmaz says:

                I don’t disagree with much of that at all; however I fully maintain that Obama has masqueraded as a vehicle of solution when, in fact, he is a one of the slickest and most pure proprietors of just what you have described. People keep biting off on the thought that he is the the PR gloss and not the hollow man below it. I sit squarely with Frank Rich’s recent thought:

                Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam….

                The justice system travails are but one part of the matter; however they are th part that eats at me the most.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  It gets harder and harder for once stout supporters to come to another conclusion. Mr. Obama’s stiffing of the left is resolute, consistent and thorough, as is his stiffing the rule of law and consumers & families. Meanwhile, his accommodations to the right are inventive, pro-active and endless.

                  He claims that’s because he is devoted to bipartisanship, as if that were a substantive result rather than a management technique. He claims that he is “principled and pragmatic”, not rigidly “ideological”, giving us a similar false dichotomy, but one once so effective, it could have been invented by Karl Rove. (Dems, unlike Republicans, are notoriously poor at devising emotive euphemisms that hide their brutality.)

                  Mr. Obama’s behavior does not produce random or even handed results. His results are thorough and deliberate and wholly sympathetic with ConservaDem-GOP hermaphropublican goals.

                  • Leen says:

                    they are going to come whining to the Progressives come next summer and I seriously do not think it is going to work. In our area Con Zack Space came running to the Athens area for money and free workers. I just do not see it. He has pissed off quite a few folks in our region who put lots of time in for him.

                    Our Congressman Charlie Wilson (D) who rode in on the coat tails of our former Congressman Strickland now Governor is going to find himself in trouble.

        • tjbs says:

          Torture destroyed the fabric of the country.
          What has obama done or said in relation to torture/ Murder / Treason.
          I’ve heard nothing except dick the traitor mouth off.

          • skdadl says:

            Not just the fabric of your country, either.

            The bottom line is the torture regime. The economy as well, yes, and internationally, but the torture regime above all, the backsliding of so many in the West on one of the most basic moral issues.

            Camus called suicide the most serious philosophical question, and I dunno, Camus was smarter than I am, but I think that suicide comes second to torture as a challenge to sheer sanity. It has horrified and depressed me to live through this decade, to see us all lose the legal and moral structures that were so carefully constructed (often by wise Americans) after the Second World War. Obama is an ignorant child in those woods, as, admittedly, most of the politicians I can think of anywhere are.

            I don’t know the answer to this problem, but I doubt it lies with any of the those now living off the avails of public pomp and circumstance. There are many wise and talented people among us who never get elected to anything but whose voices should be leading us in defence of democratic principles and structures and humane international systems. How do we convince large numbers to turn their eyes and ears to those people rather than the Disney constructs who have the titles?

    • Peterr says:

      Priority for Obama is clearly to avoid drawn out individual fights about personalities, and instead focus on Policy through Spending Authorities and large scale bills that address large and fairly common national problems. He has to assume everything possible will be filibustered, so he has to make choices where he wants to have fights.

      Keeping your powder dry makes sense if you actually plan to use it some day.

      It’s been almost a year since Dawn Johnsen was nominated. If I’m Dawn, and I agree with your assessment of Obama’s priorities, can you tell me how long I’m supposed to wait? For that matter, can you tell me why I should bother waiting at all?

      • Sara says:

        “It’s been almost a year since Dawn Johnsen was nominated. If I’m Dawn, and I agree with your assessment of Obama’s priorities, can you tell me how long I’m supposed to wait? For that matter, can you tell me why I should bother waiting at all?”

        This question needs to go to Pat Leahy. Obama sent up the nomination, so now it is up to Leahy to create the strategy for confirmation. I just have to assume that Kyle and Sessions, among others, would be totally opposed, and ripe for calling for a filibuster, and Leahy doesn’t have the 60 votes to overcome that yet. The fact the nomination has not been withdrawn suggests to me Leahy supports the nomination, and is looking for means to get confirmation — otherwise he might let it go to the floor and fail, or just let it be withdrawn. I rather suspect they would not have Lieberman’s vote on Dawn Johnsen — so to get around a filibuster they probably need two or three Republican Votes.

        • Petrocelli says:

          Agreed, this rests squarely with Leahy, and future SJC Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse had vowed to get Dawn Johnsen confirmed.

          Sara, do you know whether Whitehouse’s speech the other day, about Repugs having their day of reckoning, was a hint about the upcoming OPR Report ?

          What I would love to see is, during the Christmas break, Obama pushing through a bunch of confirmations while Boner bastes his skin a deeper tone of Orange.

            • Petrocelli says:

              Thanks for clearing that up … Sheldon Whitehouse said in an interview and again in an e-mail, which has since gone the way of the public option, that he will see to it that Dawn Johnsen is confirmed this year.

              I took his statements to mean that the SJC had the reins on this nomination.

        • Peterr says:

          Leahy did his part — she went through the SJC on March 19th, for crying out loud. Since then it’s been sitting on Harry Reid’s desk.

          It’s not Leahy’s job to round up the votes on this or to create a strategy for confirmation — it’s the Senate leadership’s job. Ultimately, it’s the job of the White House. THEY made the nomination, but they haven’t done anything that I can see to try to actually get it to happen.

          So let’s go back to my questions, that you tried to pawn off on someone else. “How long should I wait? Or why should I bother waiting at all?”

          And to make it even tougher . . .

          Suppose you’re a judge that the WH approaches to be nominated for one of these appointments. The obvious question is “Are you going to fight to get me confirmed, or do I have to put my life on hold for well-nigh a year or more in the hope that maybe, possibly, perhaps the GOP will be nice enough to let me be confirmed?”

          The more the WH lets Dawn hang in limbo, the harder it will be to get anyone to agree to even be nominated. “Sorry, I’d like to, but I can’t afford to put everything on hold indefinitely — not financially, not career-wise, not with kids in school — in the hope that maybe I’ll slip through the confirmation process.”

        • bmaz says:

          Leahy passed her out; it is not Pat. It is Reid, and the signals that he is holding at the direction of the WH are crystal clear and unmistakable. Peterr is exactly right; it has been disgraceful what they have done to Dawn Johnson. It has been fraudulent. They gave an important cookie to true progressive with, from all appearances, no intention to do anything but treat it as a puppet show. If Barack Obama is that afraid of his own shadow, and must always keep his powder dry, so that he cannot fight the battles that need to be fought, he ought to get the fuck out and let somebody who can do the job take over. Is there anything you will not excuse by this man?

    • bmaz says:

      Well, that is indeed the climate he has to operate in; if he was not up to the task, he should not have applied for the job. From my perspective, the two most important things Obama had to do was clean up and restore the DOJ and countermand what has been done to the Federal judiciary including the Supremes. The justice system is the backbone of American life in many ways. It is not just that Obama has not fought for confirmation on them, it is that he has not even found the wherewithal to make sufficient numbers of nominations. And other than Gerry Lynch, they have been completely uninspiring choices. David Hamilton was his flagship first pick to set the tone? That is pitiful. Quite frankly, I think Sotomayor was a rather pedestrian pick, at best, too despite her nice backstory.

      Sara, you are pitching the same trite excuses for Obama that are used to explain every failing every time. I am mad as hell and not going to take it anymore on this front; the man appears truly not up for the job. If he cannot nominate judges for the sake of maintaining and resetting the Federal judiciary; screw him, he is not going to get a pass. He said he could “walk and chew gum at the same time”; you are excusing his inability to do so. I will not.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Bmaz, you’re making the assumption that Obama is failing. I think he’s getting exactly what he wants.

        He said a lot of things campaigning to try to excite the progressives and he succeeded. Many folks were raising red flags about his dedication to his stated plans, but he was so clearly a better choice than McBush that nobody really pushed it.

        But he’s a centrist, tending right. I think he was eager to trade away the public option. He nominated Dawn Johnson to appease the rule of law folks, but he doesn’t really want her seated for fear she’d open up BushCo or make ObamaCo obey the law.

        Holy Joe kept his seat and influence. Rahm is taking the blame for nearly everything the upsets progressives. The public option is nearly dead. The civil cases against BushCo are getting delayed forever. He’s had great success in keeping any foreign government from pursuing BushCo. See any interest from Italy in extraditing CONVICTED criminals?

        So I think Obama has been quite successful with HIS goals. They just don’t match our goals.

        Boxturtle (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Chicago politician)

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I would suggest that doing all of the spending bills independently this year was very high priority for Obama — and since the Republicans did a filibuster on six of these bills — it took considerable time. Every one of these spending bills contains considerable policy change. … it seems to me that Obama’s priority was to pay lots of attention to appropriations bills, fight them through a variety of filibusters, and get at least some of his policy preferences set into the Federal Budget. Tiz very time consuming when everything is threatened with a Filibuster. Good Lord, the Republicans even filibustered the Defense Appropriations before on final passage the majority of them voted for it.

      With Health Care nearly out of the way, now Congress can turn to Climate Change and Financial Industry Regulation, Those will be his Winter and Spring focuses…. He has to keep the Senate focused on things that make a major difference to masses of people, and a judge fight with a filibuster is, if you think about it, a distraction and a time waste to the vast majority of voters.

      Obama… has to assume everything possible will be filibustered, so he has to make choices where he wants to have fights.

      I think putting all the blame on Obama in this instance is misplaced. He could get a whole lot more done if the Republicans were not filibustering every thing possible.[bold and italics mine]

      I hope that I have been able to maintain the cohesion that Sara offered here.
      However, I’ve obviously tried to underscore and highlight a point she makes that — increasingly, as I think about it — is systemic, and needs urgent highlighting in any conversation related to national policies.

      My hypothesis about the nature of the modern GOP, sprung from the field of PR (which made it ideal for pushing corporate agendas), can be saved for a Seminal Diary if I have time and motivation. The relevant point for this comment is that because the GOP seems to have originated in PR in the late 1960s and 1970s, they’re not good at creating solutions — they’re much better at ‘selling’ the ideas given to them by third parties (i.e., Enron, ExxonMobil, Citibank) than they are at conceptualizing ‘the Common Good’ and creatively designing and implementing new solutions.

      That leaves them with no way to create meaningful, fundamental change at a time when what has worked in the past is not functioning.

      That puts them at a profound disadvantage.

      All they have left at this point are reactionary, obstructionist, negative tools like the filibuster.

      In starting to do a bit of research about the filibuster, if you look at demographic and social changes in the US since 1841, it’s not one bit surprising that the filibuster is bringing things to a screeching halt at this historical moment.

      In the past, the Dems have been reluctant to demolish the filibuster out of fear that they will be in the minority and need to use it. The Republicans have kept the filibuster for the very same reason.

      At this point, the filibuster has morphed into political Semtex; it is a tool for political suicide bombing, and I begin to sense that it what we are seeing.

      The Republicans have been using it with increasing frequency.
      But note that their poll numbers are not improving measurably — ‘taking out’ policies is incrementally destructive to the social skills that are critical for successful political achievements.

      We have lost the arts of political compromise, and the increased use of the filibuster (i.e., ‘political Semtex’) is a symptom of this problem.

      This is the political context in which Obama is trying to operate.

      I think that Sara’s comment here is brilliant.

      (I also think that Jane Hamsher’s analysis of current political triangulation is somehow related to the GOP reliance on the ‘political Semtex’ that we call a ‘filibuster’, although I’ve not yet thought through the nature and subtleties of the nexis.)

      Thanks for this comment, Sara.
      Sometimes I think that you have a ‘radiologist’s view’ of political behavior: you the underlying structures below the visible circus and bread commotions.

      To move forward and make the kinds of structural changes that need to happen, I believe it is critical to get that kind of insight, if only to see the underlying sources of political dysfunction that are in most urgent need of speedy remedy.

      (With respect to the problems with the filibuster, I don’t see it as a partisan issue. If I wanted to see America hog-tied, hamstrung, and vulnerable to continued corruption, I’d advocate for its continued use. If I wanted American government to ‘heal’, a first diagnosis would be: get rid of the filibuster. At this point, it’s becoming as destructive to those who use it, as to those against whom it is being used. It is a mutual destruction pact, helpful only for nihilists and the genuinely delusional.)

      Freep, good to see you!

  8. Sara says:

    I should add that they took a pass this year on the Farm Bill, simply keeping the spending authorities in place from the last five year Farm Program for an extra year instead of working through major changes. I suppose that will be on deck in 2010 too — with Colin Peterson and Blanche Lincoln getting featured pride of place. Word is that Obama wants to make some significant changes in Food Stamp and School Lunch Programs that are all part of Dept of Agriculture. Food Safety is also on deck as part of all this. Much of the food safety inspection system is broken beyond repair. I am sure all this will be filibustered.

  9. freepatriot says:

    so, hows about some group of really smart bloggers get together a list of potential candidates n stuff

    then, ordinary schmoes like me could have some idea of what we’re supposed to be selling to our congresscritters

    I supported Sonia Sotomayor with reservations, based on what I learned here

    I agree with Sara about Obama’s “Style”. I think he is doing better than most people would admit. The man plays a game so deep that most people misunderstand the preliminary moves. This is only the beginning

    but I could also be misoverestimating the dude …

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      Has to be a “list”. We had two threads on this and it turned into “Chemerinsky or Bust” IMHO. Perhaps bmaz remembers others.

      • freepatriot says:

        Has to be a “list”

        no, it don’t gotta be a list

        we ain’t looking for the top ten liberal judges

        we ain’t lookin to use a #1 draft pick here

        we’re tryin to staff a new franchise or something

        instead of a list, how about a lineup

        let’s treat it like spring training, or preseason training camp

        better yet, let’s start a “Fantasy Judge League*”, where you score points by drafting rookie judges, then we keep score based upon their rulings

        we need some way to publicize our “Judicial Prospects”, if ya follow my meaning

        Nate Silver is a strange dude. Feed him some data, and see what comes out …

        *Copyrighted, in case somebody takes me seriously, I could expand on this idea …

  10. 4jkb4ia says:

    OK, maybe I can split the difference by saying that for too many of these vacancies there is nobody, whatever their ideology is. Obama can get his nominees into the committee process and out of the committee process in order to show determination to have people in the positions, even if it is not fair to have them wait while the large bills are worked on. It is one of his constitutional responsibilities to fill these slots.

    I guess I would say that Stevens and Ginzburg are old-school liberals, but they are not polestars for Supreme Court liberalism even in my lifetime. You need a concept of being more conservative than Stevens and Ginzburg while still being more liberal than Kennedy. That is where things like the 4th Amendment come in.

  11. fatster says:

    Gun Owner Nabbed Near Obama Was Bush Employee
    — By Nick Baumann| Wed Dec. 23, 2009 3:25 AM PST

    “The man who was arrested with two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition near the Capitol during President Barack Obama’s health care speech in September had been an employee of the George W. Bush White House.”

    One thing this guy was involved with was . . . WH emails!


    And there’s more! Larry Klansman of Judicial Watch is very very mad because the Secret Service was too interested in his 5 am visit to the WH recently.

  12. 4jkb4ia says:

    Also remember that part of the reason given for why GregCraig of the two first names was replaced was not getting judges ready fast enough, so some of this is bureaucratic tangles.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Alternative theory: He took the hit for his boss. The GOP is good at recognizing someone they can push around and they’ve hung the “easy mark” label on Obama. They’ve not going to move until they think they’ve wrung every possible concession out of Obama.

      We saw the same thing in BushCo, underlings falling on their sword to protect their God.

      Boxturtle (Does he realize yet there’s NOTHING he can do to get the GOP to cooperate?)

      • fatster says:

        In response to your parenthetical: No, that’s why, as you so aptly put it, they’ve hung their “easy mark” label on him.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I’ve always held that the Military comissions will be invalidated in front of a real court unless they provide the same rights and meet the same standards of evidence. But the entire point is to deny the above.

      So I think this is just kabuki. ObamaCo can run their kangaroo courts, but once convicted some of the detainees will appeal. The lawyer will simply point out the courts are open and functioning, proven capable of trying the case with classified evidence, and proven capable of trying other terrorists. It’s a very solid argument.

      Only way Obama will be able legally keep some of these folks is to declare them prisoners of war in the war on terror, get congress to pass a declaration, and promise to release them when the war is over.

      Boxturtle (But he’d have to follow the Geneva conventions. He’d hate that)

  13. Leen says:

    The Bush administration warmongers have no shame

    “Oy vey! Condi Rice to join International Rescue Committee Board’

    Maybe Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice will volunteer to go work with the 4 million million Iraqi refugees that she helped create. Maybe she will volunteer to lead the way so that they can find their ways back to their homes if they have not been turned to rubble

    • fatster says:

      If Condi is on it, I’d say there goes the International Rescue Committee. Like her husb. . . boss, things she undertakes tend to turn to dust.

      • Leen says:

        Kissenger and Albright all ready on. Guess they figure they will just add one more warmonger drowning in innocent people’s blood to their board

        How in the hell can you have Liv Ullman on the same board with Kissenger and Albright, and they are thinking about adding “mushroom cloud” onto that list. Absurd

        Talk about trying to mix oil with water. Way too much blood in the mix

        • BoxTurtle says:

          Keep your friends close…and your enemies closer. :-)

          Boxturtle (Perhaps Condi was visited by the Ghosts of Xmas and seeks to make amends)

          • Leen says:

            Kissenger, Albright and Mushroom Cloud must think by being on boards like this that they are redeemed for their highly destructive warmongering and the death and destruction they are responsible for.

            Can just see Condi in a robe with a staff leading 4 million Iraqi refugees back to the homes that have not been turned into rubble. What a crock of shit

            • BoxTurtle says:

              I doubt seriously that any of them think they did anything wrong. And since John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Mr. Rogers are all dead, I’m not sure there’s anyone who could explain it to them that they’d listen to.

              Boxturtle (“It would have been much worse if we hadn’t acted” – C. Rice)

    • bobschacht says:

      “Oy vey! Condi Rice to join International Rescue Committee Board’

      That really is too bad. IRC has been one of my favorite charities. Low overhead, too.

      Bob in AZ

    • Sara says:

      ““Oy vey! Condi Rice to join International Rescue Committee Board’

      Maybe Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice will volunteer to go work with the 4 million million Iraqi refugees that she helped create. Maybe she will volunteer to lead the way so that they can find their ways back to their homes if they have not been turned to rubble”

      The International Rescue Committee has very interesting Socialist and Trotskeite roots in the 30’s. It was founded about 1934 by Socialists who were deeply involved in organizing Rubber Unions in Akron Ohio, but who were convinced by operatives the German Social Democratic Pary in Exile sent to the US in March of 1933 to also organize against Fascism, and to assist those who had to or wanted to leave Germany. About 1935 the outfit moved from Akron to New York — but throughout the 30’s it was one of the leading avenues for refuge in the US. They were organized as semi-underground cells during the 30’s, and were one of the most effective groups doing this sort of work.

      In the early 50’s, they signed on with CIA which had an interest in screening the refugees from E. European Communist States for political orthodoxy. Played a much larger role in this effort than is generally understood, but as a result of the CIA connection, it was no longer a shoestring organization, and IRC gave up much of its rough and tumble politics from the earlier days when it really had a refugee welfare profile, and was not afraid to kick up heels on issues.

  14. SaltinWound says:

    I have been assuming that it serves Obama to not have a head of OLC. If Craig was considered to be a nuisance, what would Johnsen be?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      What would Ms. Johnsen be? The doctor pointing out the gaping wound that her colleagues treat as if it were just a scratch.

      Obama may be an honorable man, good husband and kind father. As a politician, he’s water waiting for a vessel to give it shape. There are plenty of backroom kingmakers in Chicago, Washington, NY and in stateless palaces ready and willing to do that.

      Mr. Obama’s claim that the abomination known as Senate health insurance reform is a historical gift to all Americans is true. It’s one of those gifts that will keep on giving long after he’s retired to that Goldman Scratch consultancy and his new estate overlooking Lake Michigan.

  15. Leen says:

    Sorry bmaz. Thought you folks might be interested.

    I have heard Cass Susstein say it is important for our nation to “move forward” He sure does sound a bit radical. Let the Bush administration get away with their bucket full of serious crimes

  16. Mary says:

    FREEP IS BACK! (missed ya)

    Misoverestimate – my new favorite word.

    bmaz I agree with most of the post, except I have to say that David Hamilton IMO is a very good judge. For a Fed Dist Judge in Indiana, he’s almost been a godsend (btw – he’s Johnson’s bil) But one David Hamilton from IN getting the nod is NOT a big wins record.

    Sara – how in the world do they not have 60 votes to get Johnson’s vote to the floor? Lugar has already said unequivocally that he is going to vote for her. If Leiberman didn’t at LEAST have to commit to voting for cloture on judiciary nominations to get his chair – then someone should be responsible for that and Obama – who made all the noises about keeping Leiberman in the fold – does at some point have to be responsible for something.

    @51 – “Can just see Condi in a robe with a staff leading 4 million Iraqi refugees back to the homes that have not been turned into rubble.” I think in her mind she believes she’s already done that. I keep hearing all this crap about trying to replicate the “success” of “the surge” in Afghanistan, and it’s as if no one is paying attention to that “success” meaning there are still all kinds of bombings and suicide bombings (pretty much non-existant in that country prior to the US invasion), there are still millions of refugees who have not been and now may never be repatriated, there is no decent relief process for them other than letting them overrun the Jordanian and Syrian borders (until they find their own Sheriff Arpaio-s) etc.

    What a great success.
    “The buck stops on minority leader Mitch McConnell’s desk” isn’t the way it works.

    And all those pieces of legislation that are supposedly distracting from judicial nominations – any thoughts on what’s going to happen with them when all of the many objections that get filed against them end up in Republican ideologue stacked courts?

    • Sara says:

      “Sara – how in the world do they not have 60 votes to get Johnson’s vote to the floor? Lugar has already said unequivocally that he is going to vote for her. If Leiberman didn’t at LEAST have to commit to voting for cloture on judiciary nominations to get his chair – then someone should be responsible for that and Obama – who made all the noises about keeping Leiberman in the fold – does at some point have to be responsible for something. ”

      Lieberman didn’t have to commit to anything other than the organizing rules and leadership elections to keep his chair. He, or any other Senator, can put a hold on any nomination, and if there are enough of them to require a super majority vote, it just doesn’t come to the floor. All you need are 40 Senators who will vote against Cloture. Moreover they can play the “hold” like a hidden ball trick. First one Senator puts on the Hold, then when it comes to the deadline when his/her identity has to be revealed, they let another Senator do the honors for the regulation time. As Chair of Judiciary it really is Leahy’s responsibility to captain the effort to bring the nomination to the floor when he actually has the votes.

      • bmaz says:

        Leahy has done his job and, as for the supposed power of the hold, Reid has certainly discarded that asinine formality when it suited him to screw people and slam something through. In fact, you ought to ask Chris Dodd and Leahy about just that. Secondly, after Lieberman’s shameful performance in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections, especially the latter, there should have been many more demands made of him to even consider allowing him to keep his Chairmanship (not to mention that he refused to actually do his job as Chair of HS under Bush), but that was not done at the express demand of Barack Obama. Thirdly, you are telling me that if Reid and Obama wanted to get tough on the issue in order to get an absolutely critical post filled (nothing in DOJ was arguably more critical) that they could not muster the 60 votes? That is laughable. Hell, he could have considered a recess appointment (although I would not have favored it). You are making hollow and trite excuses for a pathetic and weak effort by a bunch of self serving worthless shills; mainly Barack Obama. If the man is so weak in the face of everything you say, again, he should not be in the job because under that view, he is clearly not up to it.

  17. Mary says:

    bmaz – I’m sure this isn’t anything involving this site and so it isn’t fixable on your end, but a heads up on the thereisnospoon link. I tried it really late last night and again just now and while the link takes you to the article, the article freezes my screen. I can’t see more than what pulls up originally and the lovely hourglass thingy. Spoon always has good stuff so I’m going to try it from a different computer later.

  18. Mary says:

    I don’t think anyone would care much about Obama being all about “no drama” if he was being a leader or even making good decisions. IMO, it’s trite to say that people who disagree with Obama are just emotionally unsatisfied because he isn’t engaging in juicy confrontations and it’s also not really forthright to pretend that a “just, let’s just not confront the issues” approach is somehow pragmatically, if not emotionally, satisfying.

    There are a lot of lawyers who are no drama. But they don’t avoid the confrontations. Obama’s lack of drama is because he avoids tackling the issues, not because he walks calmly into the confrontation. That’s not a different style of handling problems, it’s a different style of avoiding confrontation.

    • bmaz says:

      With me, for starters, I was jaded by the initial FISA about face betrayal during the campaign. When you are not only willing, but from all appearances eager, to gut shoot the Fourth Amendment, and go back on your sworn promise to NOT do so, for sheer political efficacy; well then you simply are not a Constitutional scholar. And you are a confirmed political shill and opportunist no different than any other common political hack. Hey, I still like the guy personality wise, and voted for him as by far the better alternative, but there was no doubt what he was after that critical FISA point. Not nearly enough people kept that in mind as they kept counting on him for different things after getting elected. To me, it has just snowballed with similar betrayals since then. Obama once was concerned about the primacy and health of the justice system; now he just sits on his hands and, worse, actively and affirmatively works hard to ingrain the abuses and cover up responsibility, and deny accountability for the most heinous Constitutional and human rights abuses in American history. Now he has the temerity to go out and give interviews yesterday where he is outright belligerent about his critics and lies through his teeth about what he has run on and emphasized in the past on health care reform. It has been a thoroughly disgusting display of political avarice.

      It is not simply the lack of accomplishment, it is the gross duplicity, arrogance and belligerence. He has acquired a distinct knack for talking down to and marginalizing the very people who got him elected; it is not an attractive look.

    • Leen says:

      Just could not see any of the hype when he was in the Senate or reflected in his voting record. Played it safe as he was maneuvering towards the Presidency. A bit to slick for me…and his voting record was not very impressive

      But the massive mess they inherited is obviously a bit overwhelming

  19. bobschacht says:

    bmaz @ 32:

    …If Barack Obama is that afraid of his own shadow, and must always keep his powder dry, so that he cannot fight the battles that need to be fought, he ought to get the fuck out and let somebody who can do the job take over.

    Someone like, um, John McCain? I’m sure he would be more quick and decisive.

    Bob in AZ

  20. bobschacht says:

    I have been reading the comments with great interest. I don’t know enough to come down as firmly as bmaz on one side or the other, but here are some of my considerations:

    * I am more than half-way through Obama’s Dreams of My Father(?– forgot to bring it with me on this trip) and some of the comments here just don’t square with the sense of him that I have from that reading.

    * I believe that Obama thinks strategically, and a lot of the commentary here is in-the-moment, concerned mainly with tactical issues. By “thinking stragegically,” I think Obama had a 4-year plan for his first term. Of course, that plan has to be adaptable, and must account for things not happening quite the way he planned. Part of strategic thinking is periodic reviews of the strategic plan, and I think we are going to see some changes next year, as the election year unfolds. He knows that he needs a strong showing by Democrats in order to strengthen his prospects in years 3 & 4 of his first term. Exactly how those changes will unfold, I don’t know.

    I am greatly disappointed in a lot of the same things as bmaz, but I am not quite ready to draw the same conclusions.

    Keep the discussion going, these are important issues!

    Bob in AZ

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If this is Obama thinking strategically, yet working toward true centrist (let alone progressive) goals, he must be assuming that Democrats are inherently weak, undirected, skittish of leadership or governing, and afraid any change from the status quo he inherited – despite having run on campaign centered around constructive change for all. That would make him cynical and us political infants, rather than him cynical, self-serving and inexperienced.

      My impression is that he is the latter, but that he wishes progressives were compliant and dormant, so that he needn’t work so hard to oppose their goals. He is working too hard to entrench Bush’s excesses and to stifle expectations of the change he claimed to want.

    • bobschacht says:

      I meant to add that Obama’s plate has been, indeed, very full, and that some of that, I believe, is due to deliberate traps left by the Bush administration, as well as resolute opposition by the Republicans in Congress. They are very eager for him to fail, and they don’t seem to care much who gets hurt in the process.

      Bob in AZ

      • Petrocelli says:

        Obama had amazing momentum coming into Office, and also lots of knives in the shadows, waiting to inflict pain on his Admin. Today, his momentum is dwindling, esp. with his base and those knives are longer and sharper. That is not the mark of wisdom, it is the sign of someone who strives to be popular with the kewl kids.

        I wrote some time ago, that he is smart enough to get things done but the key is whether his actions would follow his words. He would have had more success keeping his campaign promises if he had spent an hour every morning repeating and visualizing them … and yes, I suggested that on his site.

        • bmaz says:

          It is not that he has fought for and lost on the principles and positions he sold himself on; it is that he has so consistently and completely caved without attempting a good fight that angers me. There have been many straws for me in reaching that conclusion, but his belligerent and petulant attack on the Democratic left base for fighting for a decent HC bill and fundamentally dishonest blather about never having run on the public option that really sent me over the edge.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Agree 100%. Karl Rove invented the canard that Clintonistas removed the “W’s” from White House keyboards, but he and his peers, no doubt, left innumerable political IED’s throughout government, not to mention political moles burrowed into the permanent bureaucracy.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Fox Obama, meet legal hen house. This is precisely what enraged and embittered many about George Bush, the hiring as leaders of organizations those who most want to tear them down.

      Is Mr. Obama’s mask slipping to the ground; is he a frustrated hostage to corporatists who fund and empower his career; or is he, with all his intellect and ambition, so inexperienced he’s being led around by DC cowhands who spend all day turning bulls into steers?

      • fatster says:

        “. . . he’s being led around by DC cowhands who spend all day turning bulls into steers. . ..”

        Now, that’s some powerful imagery there, partner. Yessirreeee.

  21. researcher says:

    give the man credit he managed to piss off the repubs and the demos and the progressives.

    man that is a feat.

    the capitalists are smiling all the way to the bank.

    history tells us there are those that take and those that give.

    the capitalists to their credit know how to take.

    they wont be happy until most of america is third world.

    why third world????????

    cheap wages, absolute control over workers, fire and layoff at will, long hours no overtime pay, no benefits, part time workers, all this means greater profits.

    capitalism by its very nature is designed to max profits with no conern for the welfare of society.

    yet americans line up to vote for politicans that tell them capitalism is of god even through it is survival of the fittest mentality which is social darwinism defined.

    follow the money and it will reveal to you why they love capitalism.

    naw keep on bitching and screaming at others and keep the same self destructive system in place.

    • Leen says:

      The insurance and pharmaceutical companies do not need to sneak out the back doors of the White House the Obama administration gave them a set of keys to the front door.

      They are walking out of the White House in Santa suits and their Santa bags filled with what billions or trillions “laughing all the way”

  22. eCAHNomics says:

    Oh, now Woolsey’s hedging. Will give up PO in name but will go for something that claims to be the same by a different name. What a tool.

    • Sara says:

      “Oh, now Woolsey’s hedging. Will give up PO in name but will go for something that claims to be the same by a different name. What a tool.”

      Maybe not. In a radio interview with Al Franken today, he made the point that there is a provision in the bill requiring all state exchanges to offer at least one medical plan offered by a non profit entity. He calls this the Minnesota Plan, because in Minnesota we have long had controls on the profits of insurance that can be sold in the state, and we do not have any “for profit” hospitals — illegal here. There are apparently nine states that have some version of this preference for non-profits in the medical care industry. (The basic reason Minnesota is totally devoted to the Non Profit Model has to do with Mayo Clinic, which has campaigned against “for profit” medicine since the first decade of the 20th Century, and has never allowed the Minnesota Legislature to change this. Mayo is King of the Mountain in Minnesota, and is fully integrated with the University and the Medical School. Very Very powerful Institutional Position.)

      Al was going on saying that with a little smart organization at the state level this requirement of at least one offering of a non-profit health plan could become “better” that the Public Option. Apparently Al was working very closely with Rockefeller to get this in, and in addition, getting controls on how much of total premium intake any insurance company has to pay out as direct medical benefits. In Minnesota 91% of premiums go out as direct medical benefits — in West Virginia it is about 70%, and Rockefeller apparently did not know this, but fell in love with, and adopted and made sure it got into the final bill Al’s basic concept.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        That would be good news. What I have read about state regulation so far, however, is not encouraging. I certainly know nothing about the subject, but what I’ve read so far suggests no one else does either. Fingers crossed.

        • Sara says:

          “That would be good news. What I have read about state regulation so far, however, is not encouraging. I certainly know nothing about the subject, but what I’ve read so far suggests no one else does either. Fingers crossed.”

          Some states have decent regulation, others have virtually none. There are all sorts of pieces in the Senate Bill that both require regulatory bodies and performance, and if not, shift to a Federal Body. In Texas they might allow you to sell four leaf clover’s and call it health insurance, in Minnesota there are quarterly reviews by an auditor in the State Insurance Commission of everything.

          So much is going to change — just think for a minute about the requirement that the National Institute of Medicine (Part of National Science Foundation) take on the job of evaluating the range of practices, and conducting scientific reviews so as to clarify “best practices” and then giving HHS authority to push these to the states.

          This can be understood along the dimension of quality, but it also has a financial dimension. Lower cost proceedures can often be the more effective proceedures. But how do you determine this for the priority benefit of the Patient/Consumer? That is going to be the new political arena in part.

          Not part of the present bill, but I would hope that in the next few years it can get consideration — the whole Medical Economic dimension needs to be applied to how the peer reviewed research grants are made. NIH needs to give some priority to this in making its grants (as does the Defense Department — Defense gives lots of medical grants that at this juncture are not peer reviewed, and not coordinated with NIH or FDA.

          Good example of this on Fresh Air earlier this week. Had to do with the huge costs that confronted Medicare when a medication for Osteproses (sp) was developed. (You have seen the ads on TV — the buff ladies who go out on long hikes.) Turns out the medication has serious side effects in some cases, so diagnosis has to be very precise, and account for counterindications. Result, they came up with a diagnostic test sequence that pretty much breaks the bank, and itself is dangerous as it relies on multiple full body scans. And the instrument for measuring bone density is super expensive. So to sell the new drug for bone thining, a set of dangerous and super expensive tests are required.

          There is a much cheaper way to do this. Bone thining has genetic markers, and the screen test for these markers, done in volume, could be very cheap. This screen would eliminate at least 75% of the Medicare Patients currently tested the expensive way, and minimize the excess radiation resulting from multiple body scans. So smart thing for NIH to fund would be test kits for the genetic markers, and perhaps specialized labs that did the lab work in volume. It would get those cute little pills for bone density into the right consumers at a much lower overall cost. (Clear the National Park Hiking Trails. The Women are on the move.)

          Anyhow, all the argument about Public Option really didn’t get at this dimension of what Obama was intending to do.

          So yes, I preferred a Public Option, but my political sense is there are lots of ways to kill cats. If you can’t get 60 votes for a decent public option, then you see what you can get now, realizing that there will be flaws in this bill no one sees right now, and over time it will have to be fine tuned.

          Did folk here see and hear the god awful comment Lindsey Graham made yesterday. Just out and out Racism. He complained about how much it might cost South Carolina in Medicade costs to upgrade and fully cover the 31% of his state’s population that are Black and currently uninsured. This was in the context of Ben Nelson getting a pile of money for Nebraska’s Medicade Program.

          I shouted at my TV… “Hell Lindsey, Obama’s doing Reparations!!!” He is just not calling it Reparations. And South Carolina has lots of poor white folk too that have endured little or no medical care for generations just so they could feel racially superior by upholding confederate traditions for the landed gentlemen. If Lindsey had not been in the Party of No, he might have gotten the Nelson deal for his state. Obama would have loved one South Carolina Republican vote.

          Well, the Xmas Blizzard hath arrived in Minneapolis. Snow is flying, and the wind is whipping up drift patterns in the street. We are expecting 20+ inches between now and Saturday. The 23rd of December in my custom is the day to eat middle ages poor man’s food — Black Bread and Herring (along with Snaps) (Danish Custom). Sadly, Poor Man’s food is fairly expensive.

  23. chipshirley says:

    Fire Dog Snake is the name of this site…

    It’s run by stinking NEO-CONS god knows that’s right…

    You stupid stinking neo-cons are going down strong…

    William Kristol pays for FDL,


        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I always thought prophecies were self-fulfilling, like Rahm’s predictions of what “the Senate’s” health insurance reform proposals would look like.

          The sine qua non of such prophecies is that Rahma & Bahma cut their deals and had key Senate leaders behind them, even if they didn’t have identical information about what all was in the deal. An oxymoron would be more like “a constructive troll comment”. At least Karl’s Klackers had a bit more verve, if not class, and all the Federalist Society and AEI scholarships they could want.

      • chipshirley says:

        No Twain, I’m the real deal, straight from the trenches, FDR L I B E R A L And I post under my real name. If you google chip shirley you will find the thousands of letters I’ve had published like the one below. I’m getting some tech help soon and will have my own blog up at chipshirley.com. It’s in beta now though so don’t judge it. Anyway, the letter below proves my cred’.

        Chip Shirley: High taxes made America great
        Athens Banner-Herald | Story updated at 7:00 pm on 7/20/2009

        You know how conservative radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are so fond of saying that Democratic President John Kennedy actually lowered income taxes?

        The tax cut, which became effective after Kennedy’s death, dropped the top marginal tax rate from 91 percent to 77 percent for the richest Americans. Now the rate is down to 36 percent.

        All during the time we paid for World War II and President Eisenhower built our entire interstate expressway system, tax rates were around 90 percent for the wealthiest of us. And we couldn’t have gone to the moon and stood up to communism without having a top rate of at least 77 percent for the wealthy.

        When are Republicans going to wake up and read a book? The history of taxes in the United States can be found in any encyclopedia. America did everything great it ever accomplished with the upper tax rate for those who make millions per year at 77 percent or higher.

        The wealthy pay far lower taxes in the United States than anywhere on Earth.

        Facts are facts. All of our European allies and Israel have universal health care available from the government.

          • chipshirley says:

            Hey little neo-con! google C H I P S I R L E Y stinky boy.

            I’m the straight FDR raise taxes on the rich dude and I know this HC bill is good for the commoner and you smell like Jane Hamster’s ratty wig.

            • eCAHNomics says:

              How is the bill good for the commoner, when the cost (i.e. mandates) fall disproportionately on the less-than-rich? It looks like a pretty regressive tax to me.

              • chipshirley says:

                The cost of premiums is supplemented for people making under 22k (that’s me too) down to the point that medicaid takes over. Pre=existing conditions are effectively eliminated and mainly, this bill puts the camels whole head under the tent of regulating privete insurance.

                T H I S…I S…S T E P…#1…T O…U N I V E R S A L…..HEALTH CARE…

                  • Leen says:

                    Guess that is what OBama’s marketing team meant when they had him repeating “hope” and “change” ccchhing for the Insurance and Pharma. A big CHHHHIIING

            • MadDog says:

              Son, a word to the wise. You want to debate, fine! Do so intelligently.

              Different points of view don’t bother us. We can handle constructive, rational debate.

              You want to act like some tea party dimwit spouting nonsense gibberish about FDL being a neocon site, the FDL bouncers are gonna bounce your ass right out of here.

              Intelligent debate we have time for.

              Temper tantrums from a two year old, not so much.

            • bmaz says:

              Alright, you may have moved on by now, I dunno, but play nice. And the same goes for those attacking Mr. Shirley. We don’t run a free for all here.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                If “ratty wig” is a description Mr. Shirley feels compelled to use to describe a multiple-cancer survivor’s short hairstyle, his idea of intellectual discourse would fit better on another blog.

            • PJEvans says:

              Why? You’ve made it quite clear that you think very highly of yourself. Based on that, I don’t want to know you better; you’re a f*cking troll, IMO.

              (Sorry, bmaz. I don’t take that kind of crap from anyone I don’t have some respect for.)

            • MrWhy says:

              Chip Shirley, President of Newell Recycling, frequent contributor to the National Republican Congresional Committee, and Georgia Republican Party?

              Looks like a troll, smells like a troll.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Thanks for the further explanation, and I agree (as an economist. Very strong growth during high personal tax rates during the 1960s is indeed a fact). However, this is not the 1960s. The U.S. govt has swung very far to the right. So q is what to do about it. The Ds are clearly not the a. I don’t have an a either. Willing to see how Jane’s unorthodox ploy works.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I agree with regard to Jane’s shake the conventions gambit with Grover. The tactics he uses to enforce his “no tax” pledges would be right at home on the North Side, or South Side.

            The joint communique itself is startling, let alone the credibility it lends to under-reported behavior by Obama’s hand-picked and vetted Chief of the Imperial General Staff. It is, as they used to say in politics and about political marriages (formerly, a redundant phrase), a marriage of convenience. Rahm and Jane’s more vehement critics should consider that some of the greatest dynasties were built on them.

        • Twain says:

          So what are you yelling about? Those of us who have been at the Lake for years know exactly what Jane stands for and what we stand for. If we don’t push, it’s obvious that Obama will do little or nothing to help us. All I want is for him to do what he said he would do. That’s not much to ask. I’m tired of it. I supported him and was thrilled when he was elected. I had so much hope that the dark days of Bush were over and now……

    • eCAHNomics says:

      My goodness gracious me. Like the drunk at the party, who thought that if s/he said it one more time, and a little bit louder, surely everyone would agree.

  24. Loo Hoo. says:

    Sara, I sure hope you’re right. I keep thinking about the cesspool Obama came into, and hope like hell he has the expertise around him (ha! Rahm) to pull off a presidency that’s remarkable. I agree with bmaz, too, that he doesn’t seem fight enough for people and policies he needs to ultimately be successful. I want him to succeed. I want America.

  25. skdadl says:

    Ok, which do you need more? A Mountie riding to the rescue (“We get our man”), or a St Bernard with a keg of restorative brandy? Or both? Or just a mod?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I go with the brandy, unless the Mounties have gone co-ed.

      An “FDR liberal from Georgia”, now there’s an oxymoron. Surely, Shirley, you are aware that being loud is no substitute for being taken seriously, except on Sunday morning tradmed programming.

      • skdadl says:

        Chip Shirley, I have to leave now — it’s ‘way past pumpkin hour for me — but I would like to say that I feel for you. I understand your anger, and I hope that whatever HC bill is passed in the short term takes care of you and yours as soon as possible.

        I know the people here, and I know that they’re thinking as hard as they can about a genuinely better system for everyone. I’m sure they’d listen to you if you weren’t starting off on the attack quite so much. I hope that you’re well, though, and that you soon have ways to ensure that.

        Sweet dreams, good friends.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As Obama demonstrates, language that dramatically diverges from the opinions it is used to describe, does not a serious critic, blogger or politician make.

  27. tjbs says:

    When we talk about corporations ,it’s a construct to hide the richest 2% of the greedy, selfish, self serving part of the population. The French figured this out that a society prospers when this cancer is dealt with castration or elimination. We don’t need the rich pigs to tell us what’s best for the rest of us after they take their cut.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      This is nothing, a ripple in a teacup. Read Greenwald or Krugman’s comments, or those on Dan Froomkin’s old site. Rife with trolls.

      Surely, if commenters are serious and not merely trolling instead of watching basketballs deflate as a work-study gig, Shirley will come up with something more credible than capital letters, bold-faced type and crude, sexist comments about the hairpiece s/he imagines a cancer survivor wearing.

  28. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jane on Grover, years of left and right cooperating over Constitutional affronts, and Kevin Drumm’s limited memory:

    I guess Kevin wasn’t around two weeks ago when Campaign for America’s Future put together a letter seeking to stop Ben Bernanke from being confirmed until the Fed had been audited….

    Or nine long days ago, when CAF circulated another letter opposing Bernanke’s confirmation, signed by Dean Baker, Bob Borosage, David Swanson and…Grover Norquist….

    For those with short memories: Here’s Wes Clarke, Mort Halperin, John Dean, John Podesta, Grover Norquist, Bruce Fein and Bob Barr on the Liberty and Security Protection Committee of the Constitution Project….

    Here’s the bottom line regarding Rahm Emanuel generally, as illustrated by his manipulation of the legislative process and his jamming a stick into the eyes of millions of Americans who desperately need to work with more responsible insurers in order to obtain basic health care:

    Rahm Emanuel is destroying not only the Democratic majority but the Democratic Party. There isn’t enough pork in the world to hold his “Blue Dogs” in office with the legacy of bailouts that he has engineered while in office, and that’s why his “big tent” is now collapsing in his wake. Parker Griffin, and now (possibly) Chris Carney, may blame Nancy Pelosi for their defections to the GOP, but that’s pure demagogurery. The mess they are fleeing — the corrupt back-room deals, the endless bailouts — belong to Rahm.

  29. chipshirley says:

    ………………….…..H A P P Y…H O L Y…D A Y S…………………






  30. sagesse says:

    Yeah – endless disarray and do-nothingness endlessly applied. On public lands issues it is worse the same Bush years. Good Old Boys still with name plates on the door in Interior in DC. Agencies continuing – and even amping up -the evil of the past, with no clear new direction of any kind.

    New Obama BLM and Forest Service appointees invisible and doing nothing except more of the same. Kind of like having no new people in place. I think this Obama Dem crew either doesn’t know how to govern, or doesn’t want to …

  31. Mary says:

    Sara – after what Reid did to Dodd on holds re: unconstitutional legislation, you can’t sell that for such an important nomination. Especially after all this time – if he can refuse to honor Dodd’s public hold, he can – after months and months of delay – refuse to honor other holds on her nomination. If he can’t then -do we get to just ignore the legislation passed over Dodd’s hold? Of course not. If he deems it important, he can go forward. He’s not getting Republican votes on healthcare as it is, so that’s no trade off reason to respect the holds.

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