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March 26, 2010

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So for some reason I lost the ability to post comments from work suddenly. Weird.

And I don't how people like Thiessen sleep at night.

OT, I guess, but

"U.S., Russia agree to slash nuclear weapons"

The headline went off msnbc.com's front page almost before it got there. I assume it didn't get enough clicks to warrant keeping it around. Now you have to dig to find it.

No one cares, I guess. But to me it's a heck of a matching bookend to the health care legislation. Not a bad week's work.

Or am I missing something?

Thanks for flagging Billmon, Eric. The granddaddy of them all (from the LOC POV).

"U.S., Russia agree to slash nuclear weapons"
....
No one cares

Sure, someone cares, JanieM: it's something fresh for GOP Senators to mindlessly obstruct.
It gets old, after a while, to block the same old crap: unemployment benefits, veteran benefits, anti-rape provisions, Non-Binding Puppies Are Cute Resolutions, etc.

@ Ugh
And I don't how people like Thiessen sleep at night.

Truly evil people always sleep like babies, because they don't believe they are doing evil things. It is the sleep of the just. They're often nice to dogs and kids, too. Denial is not just an Egyptian river.
======================
Eric: I tried to post to this thread earlier today, from the office. It kept trying to make me fill the WebSite URL line, and stopped me right there. Never did that before.

I was wondering if you were going to post something about the New START treaty.

Good news for everyone, or it should be. I think nuclear weapons at the superpower level promote peace (I understand others differ), but they're obviously rather dangerous too, and expensive, and beyond a certain low number, pointless.

What that low number is, I'm not so sure about. China gets by with just a couple of hundred and those with dubious survivability on the (sensible) presumption that the US is not going to take a risk of sacrificing West Coast cities to an overwhelming first strike. But certainly 1,500 or so seems more than sufficient.

Now what I'd really like to see is some action on the reserve stockpile. At the very least reducing near-ready-to-use warheads in the reserve to 100% of deployed warheads. The reserve weapons largely serve as a post-strike threat, in other words, they could be used after a nuclear exchange to reduce the other country to even more of a smoking ruin than it would be after the 1,500 deployed warheads were used. Not really confidence-building when you're trying to come to an understanding that neither side is going to nuke the other. And the reserves seem by far the riskiest place for a nuke to potentially escape from.

(I would like complete disarmament and think that the "virtual deterrent" theory would still keep major powers from engaging in outright warfare, but I think getting there from here is extremely difficult given the proliferation that has taken place.)

Billmon's post has fed into thoughts I've been having about the Republicans today. Maybe this is a little too 11 dimensional chess, but I think there might be something to it.

It seems to me that each time Obama moves right and offers the Republicans a compromise, they spit on him and get more vitriolic and move further right. Aren't they alienating more and more people every time they do that? Additionally while the press never calls them on it, or in anyway point out their unreasonable nature, after a while it gets too much for the general public to ignore and leaves folks increasingly doubting the press.

Maybe Obama is even smarter than he seems. If he can reduce the Republican party to its 27% crazy base, or even close, it would be a major political re-alignment.

No, I fear Obama really has a blind spot there. I think for him it simply does not compute that the other side is not open to reasoning at all. Add to that that he seems to be a compromiser by nature who seems not to get that negotiations between 'real' people does not start with proposing the compromise first and going on from there. Why do I feel reminded of the scene from The Life of Brian where the merchant refuses to sell without haggling and gets indignant when Brian (who is in a hurry) agrees to the initial price?

russell: Who the hell are we to know, or say, what the Iraqi people "need", or what they would be "better off without"?

In lots and lots of matters, we obviously shouldn't. But there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

There are basically only two ways that governments can change:
1) they can have an election, where one individual/party is voted out and goes peacefully.
2) they can have a violent removal of an individual or party, based on who can exert the most force in the right place.

If anyone can thinks that they can make a case that the latter is preferable, that it is what a people need, I will be fascinated to hear it. But I'm not holding my breath.

"It seems to me that each time Obama moves right and offers the Republicans a compromise, they spit on him and get more vitriolic and move further right."

Step 1: "Here's a shit sandwich: Take a bite!"

Step 2: "Ok, it's on Rye: Take a bite!"

Step 3: "Oh, alright, with swiss: Take a bite!"

Step 4: "Fine, fine, I've added some ham: Take a bite!"

Step 5: "What, you want the shit left out? You unreasonable SOB!"

It seems to me that each time Obama moves right and offers the Republicans a compromise, they spit on him and get more vitriolic and move further right.

Clinton redux.

In response to Brett's comment: Fear of food is sitophobia or sitiophobia. (There is no specific named phobia which causes a person to refuse a tasty sandwich because of a paranoic fear that it contains feces.)

"It seems to me that each time Obama moves right and offers the Republicans a compromise, they spit on him and get more vitriolic and move further right."

It would seem to be a working strategy for them.

Then again: (via Sideshow) there is a rational analysis that the healthcare bill that was passed is the bill the conservative administration wanted passed - a bill which does the absolute minimum for patients but which aggressively protects Big Insurance, Big Pharma and Big Medicine. So long as the US has an essentially oligarchic rather than democratic system of government, legislation will tend to benefit corporations rather than humans.

wj, I think you're in the wrong thread.

Brett, there's a funny story attributed to Ram Dass.

Some meditation student is working through some kind of existential angst. He asks his teacher, "Why does shit smell so bad?"

Teacher says, "If you were a fly, it would smell like candy!"

One man's shit is another man's candy.

Time will tell who among us were the flies.

I always imagined that shit would smell like a good steak to a fly. Flies like candy, so candy should smell like candy to them, and shit and candy shouldn't smell the same - savory vs. sweet. I'm a philosopher. I think very deeply.

HSH, you make a strong argument here.

Please amend my earlier comment: for "candy", read "a good steak".

russell: sad but true. Comments weren't working (or my browser was hosed up) when I went to post. I thought I got back to the right one when I tried again, but obviously not. Sorry all.

Brett: we followed an old Republican recipe in making that sandwich and they've been trying to get it on the menu for years. I guess they are holding out for bottomless tax cuts on the side with some macho posturing for dipping sauce?

Jeebus Brett, this was a Republican bill from the early 1990s, reworded and retitled, and re-released.

If the GOP doesn't like the taste, tell them to blame the chefs.

"this was a Republican bill from the early 1990s, reworded and retitled, and re-released."

This is a great campaign mantra, I like the ingenuity behind this.

It is Plouffe doing his job, the Democrats really needed him back. It may keep the seats the Republicans win to almost nothing.

It is, of course, a gross exaggeration and it really was more the Nixon plan than anything in the 1990's but who cares? If you say it enough it is completely insubstantiable and equally irrefutable in any practical way to become "fact".

But I find it interestiung that the voice of moderation has picked up and started repeating the weeks talking points so eloquently.

But I find it interestiung that the voice of moderation has picked up and started repeating the weeks talking points so eloquently.

Really Eric, you need to ask Mr. Soros to up your checks.

I was in highschool at the time and all I remember is "HillaryCare aaaaaaaaah!" I didn't know there WAS a GOP healthcare reform plan in 1993/4.

If there was and the law that just went through is NOT functionally the same as the old 90s GOP planN (as Marty suggests), perhaps someone (Marty?) could explain the key differences between the two?

I wouldn't want to fall for a misleading talking point...

Brett, when the GOP was in power it went like this:

GOP, step1: here's a shit sandwich, take a bite!

DEMS: No.

GOP, step2: you pathetic, unpatriotic dogs! You will eat shit and like it!!

DEMS: no, no, we love America! Could we at least get some mustard or something to help cover up the shit taste?

GOP, step3: You probably want DIJON mustard, you frenchified, cheese-eating surrender monkeys. NO, you will eat shit and like it!

DEMS: Yum, tasty shit sandwich! Yum!

It is, of course, a gross exaggeration and it really was more the Nixon plan than anything in the 1990's but who cares?

Can you give any examples of how it is unlike the Republican counter-proposals to Hillarycare from the 90's?

It is, of course, a gross exaggeration and it really was more the Nixon plan than anything in the 1990's but who cares?

In addition to the requests for examples of differentiation, it is an interesting critique of my statement.

So, instead of saying this: "this was a Republican bill from the early 1990s, reworded and retitled, and re-released"

I should have said this: "this was a Republican bill from the early 1970s (closely resembling the Republican proposals from the early 1990s), reworded and retitled, and re-released"

And this would have rendered Brett's story about the principled Republican opposition...insightful?

Heh.

Come on Marty, that's an awfully fine point to be making:

There is no GOP hypocrisy because this bill was a retread of a Republican plan from the 1970s, not 1990s, though it also mirrored key provisions from Republican proposals in the 1990s. Also.

"this was a Republican bill from the early 1970s (closely resembling the Republican proposals from the early 1990s), reworded and retitled, and re-released"

I like this one better,although it is irrelevant whether it was an exact duplicate of a Republican plan that had been presented every year for the last thirty years.

I would think the level of hypocrisy pretty clearly reflected in Bretts story is about right on. The Democrats started with a plan that no Republican could support and then kept taking ideas at the periphery and saying now we have listened.

It never stopped being a big government plan. Big was the operative word, despite Bidens added expletive, the New Deal became the Big Deal.

The Republicans were never going to vote for the Big Deal.

So it was either the excrement in the sandwich or the Holy Grail, depending on which side you are on, but it was never up for discussion and connstantly saying it ws is at least as hypocritical as the Republicans fighting things they might have found reasonable in a smaller bill.

So, is the argument that it might have been like Republican plans of a generation ago, but it's not a plan any current day Republican could support, and therefore a claim of hypocrisy is not accurate?

I'm not trying to bug you, I'm just trying to understand what your argument is here.

Thanks -

The Democrats started with a plan that no Republican could support

Of course they did. There was no plan Democrats could propose that Republicans in Congress would have supported. Republicans made that clear from the start.

"So, is the argument that it might have been like Republican plans of a generation ago, but it's not a plan any current day Republican could support, and therefore a claim of hypocrisy is not accurate?"

Russell,

Yes and no. It has many features that look like plans of the past. I am sure that there is some level of inconsistency in the Republican rejection of those pieces. I am also sure that there are many pieces that were never a part of any plan.

For example, I (not Brett) object to the biggest parts of the plan, the Medicare Commission and the tax on Cadillac plans. Both are unwarranted intrusion by government but are required to pay for a plan of this scope.

I note that the week after the bill passed the President and many others are once again talking about the Commission, even Ezra hasnt' talked about it much since September. Because it does generate legitimate fear in people on, or soon to be needing, Medicare.

Now the "panel that can't be named" is suddenly be touted as a benefit, it's not, it's the cost cutting axe that has no accountability.


The yes part is that no current day Republican was going to support a massive spending bill. The no part is that I openly recognize some level of hypocrisy, on both sides.

The Republicans were never going to vote for the Big Deal.

I think this is definitely true, but I guess I have issues with this line of argument:

1. Why is that the Democrats problem?
2. Why should they care?

Brett calls the bill a shit sandwich. That's because he doesn't like it.

The Republicans lost the White House and the Congress because they did a crap job of running the country for the previous eight years.

When you lose, you no longer get your first choice of luncheon meat.

Shit is in the eye of the beholder.

"1. Why is that the Democrats problem?
2. Why should they care?"

1. Its not

2. I hope they act like they don't

It has many features that look like plans of the past. I am sure that there is some level of inconsistency in the Republican rejection of those pieces.

Just to be clear, we're talking mainly about the individual mandate, an idea that in some form or other many Republicans (including current office-holders) have supported in recent years.

And Republicans didn't just vote against a plan that included an individual mandate (not necessarily any hypocrisy there). They are now claiming that an individual mandate violates important sections of the Constitution that have been there since there was a Constitution, and some that were added very shortly thereafter. If the individual mandate in unconstitutional now (let alone tyrannical, totalitarian, and many other things), why wasn't it unconstitutional in 1993, when we had the same constitution? Or what is it about this individual mandate that distinguishes it consitutionally from the 1993 individual mandate?

For example, I (not Brett) object to the biggest parts of the plan, the Medicare Commission and the tax on Cadillac plans. Both are unwarranted intrusion by government but are required to pay for a plan of this scope.

So, government regulation of government-provided insurance is...big government, and a government intrusion, that you find objectionable? But not the original government provided insurance? Interesting.

Also interesting, the Medicare Commission is looking for savings that the GOP has been touting for decades. Yet now that Obama agrees to try to find the savings that the GOP says are there, it's a big mistake?

Now the "panel that can't be named" is suddenly be touted as a benefit, it's not, it's the cost cutting axe that has no accountability.

Sigh.

Really? Death Panels? Come on Marty, you're better than that.

These aren't death panels, they are commissions dedicated to finding efficiencies. That might mean cutting back certain extravagances in end of life care, but not condemning anyone to death.

More like shooting down hip replacement surgery for the terminally ill patient.

Ideally, that patient would be able to get it, I suppose.

But you yourself are constantly harping about Medicare going bankrupt and being inefficient, yet if we don't make some tough choices regarding superfluous treatment, it will go broke or eat up too much of our budget.

And regardless, the objection to curtailing certain excessive expenditures coming from people that want to abolish ALL expenditures is more than a bit rich.

"And regardless, the objection to curtailing certain excessive expenditures coming from people that want to abolish ALL expenditures is more than a bit rich."

Who are these people? Not me. I want accountable cost containment, not a commission whos recommendations get an up or down vote, OR in the case they don't they get implemented anyway.

Who are these people? Not me.

Marty, when I posted about the success of Medicare, you objected strenuously, calling the legislation a failure - that it is underfunded, will bankrupt us in the long run, etc.

Further, you claim to be opposed to government solutions, preferring private market solutions.

That position doesn't match a hyperconcern that the government might cut too much Medicare spending.

"These aren't death panels, they are commissions dedicated to finding efficiencies. That might mean cutting back certain extravagances in end of life care, but not condemning anyone to death.

More like shooting down hip replacement surgery for the terminally ill patient."


Or maybe more like this:

Patients forced to live in agony after NHS refuses to pay for painkilling injections

Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.

"Marty, when I posted about the success of Medicare, you objected strenuously, calling the legislation a failure - that it is underfunded, will bankrupt us in the long run, etc.

Further, you claim to be opposed to government solutions, preferring private market solutions.

That position doesn't match a hyperconcern that the government might cut too much Medicare spending."

You are correct, I consider the legislation that established Medicare a failure. That doesn't mean, of course, that after forty years of millions of people paying for it that I think we should not maximize the return on that investment.

Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.

Unlike in the US, where tens of thousands of patients are forced to live in agony either because the insurance companies think they'll get addicted to (or sell) opiods, or because doctors that give out pain medication too liberally get investigated and prosecuted by state and federal government agents.

Also, the NHS Is a whole lot cheaper than our healthcare patchwork. Fund NHS halfway between the current level and current US spending and you can give out more pain meds.

Of course, there is always going to a be a point at which, no matter what the funding level, someone - whether a gov't bureacrat or a private insurance bureaucrat - says no.

To provide context to Marty's cite, he's linked to a right-wing newspaper's story from early August 2009: that is, one of the early shots of a fight that began with a Conservative MEP being paid to go to the US and deliver anti-NHS speeches to Republicans who were desperate to hear bad, bad things about one of the most effective healthcare services in the world.

(Reading between the lines, the basic facts of the story suggest a dispute about best clinical practice, not a real threat to the pain management needs of actual patients: if acupuncture may now be available via the NHS for back pain, this is a good thing. The Telegraph is handicapped in its fight against socialist healthcare by havin some journalistic standards: it's hard to make a good case against the NHS when the facts are all against you. )

I want accountable cost containment, not a commission whos recommendations get an up or down vote, OR in the case they don't they get implemented anyway.

Marty would do well to explain what he means by "accountable".

I mean, nobody is opposed to accountability as a general concept like motherhood or patriotism. But if Marty is going to talk as if he, and not the rest of us, want "accountable" cost containment, then it's worth his time to give us his definition of "accountable" in this specific context.

--TP

"Of course they did. There was no plan Democrats could propose that Republicans in Congress would have supported. Republicans made that clear from the start."

There was no plan Democrats WOULD propose, that Republicans in Congress would have supported. Because the two parties disagree on this subject.

Look, the last couple decades of elections have pretty well sorted out the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress; There isn't much ideological overlap anymore. And you'll generally get "bipartisan" votes when either there's a lot of overlap between the two parties, or the issue at hand has no particular ideological salience.

Neither was the case here. We had a bill not all Democrats liked, you had to deploy billions of dollars in bribes to get all the Democrats on board in the Senate, and lost dozens of them in the House. Why would you expect Republicans to support it? The break line for supporting this bill was well into the Democratic caucus territory. You could barely SEE it from where the Republicans are.

I don't think that says anything awful, as such, about either party. It just says the parties have been properly sorted out, and that's good: It reduced the amount of information voters need going into the polling booth, they can treat party affiliation as a strong proxy for positions on issues.

What's this fetish about "bipartisanship"; Are Democrats going to feel some obligation to vote for the next big Republican bill, when they recapture Congress? I don't think so...

There was no plan Democrats WOULD propose, that Republicans in Congress would have supported. Because the two parties disagree on this subject.

Look, the last couple decades of elections have pretty well sorted out the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress; There isn't much ideological overlap anymore.

I think this is pretty much right on.

I'm not so sure it's a good thing, because IMO neither the reality of most situations, nor folks' actual thinking about them, are quite as polarized as this would indicate.

But I do think it's a fact.

What's this fetish about "bipartisanship"

Holy sh*t, I agree with Brett. I keep looking out the window expecting to see seven headless horsemen charging up Broadway.

But seriously, I don't get it either. Politics is about opposition, and this notion that there's something tragic about that is a curse.

For example, I (not Brett) object to the biggest parts of the plan, the Medicare Commission and the tax on Cadillac plans. Both are unwarranted intrusion by government but are required to pay for a plan of this scope.

Marty, the interesting thing is, the Dems actually did the responsible thing and tried to find ways to pay for it. There are tax increases, reduction of waste and a Commission to seek efficiencies.

Now, the Dems could have just done what the Republicans did with Medicare Part D - which is make absolutely ZERO attempt to pay for it - but they didn't.

And the parts that you, a fiscal hawk, object to the most are the parts that are designed to make it deficit neutral/reductive.

Another interesting point is that for months, you have been saying that it will never be neutral or reductive because they won't ACTUALLY make the cuts to Medicare. Now you appear frightened that they just might make those cuts.

Finally, you say "plan of this scope" derisively, but you know that increasing Medicare to cover the uninsured, while doing away with bans on pre-existing conditions and banning rescision, would also be enormously expensive.

I believe it would be cheaper than subsidising purchasing private insurance, but it would still be in the same neighborhood of expense.

And that's the plan that YOU supposedly favor. So let's try to be realistic.

There was no plan Democrats WOULD propose, that Republicans in Congress would have supported. Because the two parties disagree on this subject.

The issue isn't support by "Republicans", it's support by one single Republican, even the supposedly moderate ones like Snowe. Mitch McConnell has admitted, even bragged, that his strategy is to throttle the Obama administration: hence the unprecedentedly ubiquitous use of the filibuster, and the 77 (no, that's not a typo: 77) nominations that haven't been allowed an up-or-down-vote. (Recall when the GOP talking point was that every nomination deserved one?) This isn't about ideology -- it's about political warfare.

Politics is about opposition, and this notion that there's something tragic about that is a curse.

This is a tricky question, I think.

Certainly any kind of useful politics will allow opposing points of view to be expressed, heard, and accounted for in the overall process.

But my *opinion*, and it's only my opinion, is that the political process works best when "accounting for" involves negotiation. Rather than, "it's our turn now so STFU".

Again, my *opinion* only, is that politics is really at its best when it produces a result about which all parties can say, "I can live with that".

Everyone gets enough of what is important to them that they can let the less important stuff slide.

When that doesn't happen, some number of folks will eventually come to believe that the process isn't working for them. I don't think that's a situation that's sustainable for any length of time.

What worries me about politics in the US right now is that effective negotiation is not happening.

Either that's because some number of folks involved in the process could negotiate but refuse to, or because the common ground just isn't there.

Where that leaves us is everyone fighting to get their guys in a position to make policy, and eating a shit sandwich when they lose.

There's only so much shit sandwich that folks will eat, regardless of which side of the aisle they're on.

I'm not sure where it's all going to land.

The first step, I think, really has to be that everyone has to make room in their heads for the idea that not everyone thinks the way they do, and they're not always going to get their way.

The trend, however, seems to be in the opposite direction.

This isn't about ideology -- it's about political warfare.

Yeah, I think that's right.

Regarding my earlier comment:

Either that's because some number of folks involved in the process could negotiate but refuse to, or because the common ground just isn't there.

Without looking to pick a fight about it, I will simply observe that the political tactic Republicans have chosen is to, straight up, refuse to negotiate, about anything. They'll vote against stuff they favor, and have publicly stated they favored.

The HCR bill that was passed has its flaws, in fact it probably has a number of them. But it's not a radical bill. It's not wildly ambitious, it doesn't dramatically restructure the health care industry, it doesn't extend the scope of public responsibility in any significant way beyond what it currently is.

There are 41 Republicans in the Senate, and 178 in the house. That's 219 out of 535 Congresspeople.

Not one Republican vote in favor. Not one.

That's beyond partisanship, that's a great big "F you".

What's this fetish about "bipartisanship"

it's not a fetish, it's what the public says it wants. politicians who want to please the public will try to give the public what it (says it) wants.

My initial thought on the ideological sorting out of the two major parties in this country is this: It departs from the ideas I've heard expressed regarding how at least some of the founders of this country envisioned our political system working. When the parties weren't as ideologically pure, party was only one of many sources of commonality (or disunion) among the various actors. You also had liberal/conservative, southern/northern, rural/urban, industrial/agricultural, wealthy/not wealthy and so on, leaving groups that overlapped or intersected in various way and having to work together to acheive common goals at some points and not others.

A given actor could only be in almost constant opposition to a relatively small fraction of the other actors, so you had shifting coalitions rather than these big, mostly unchanging blocks you have now. And when you're almost always fighting against the very same people, and almost never in agreement with them, you start to hate them.

Before the ideological sorting, at least almost everyone agreed with almost any given other at some point or another, so they were almost all fellows of one sort or another, even if not in most ways. Not so much now.

Maybe it makes voting for one party over another easier. Big whoop. Then again, if you're not binary in a way that lines up with the parties, it makes things harder.

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