Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lieberman threatens to filibuster health care

Senator Lieberman (Lieberman for CT-CT) says he'll join the Republican filibuster of Senate health care bill if it includes a public option:

"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."

There are two procedural issues at play here. Most people think of a filibuster as a minority blocking passage of a bill that's already been debated ad nauseum on the Senate floor. That's the most standard filibuster. But on major legislation, it's become more common for the minority--in this case the Republicans--to object to the majority getting a chance to debate legislation in the first place. If any one of them objects to the so-called motion to proceed, it will take 60 votes just to start the amendment and debate process. That's a less-discussed filibuster, but it's quite plausible that this health care bill will have to contend with it.

Lieberman is saying that he's pretty much OK with letting senators offer amendments--try to change the legislation, move it in any direction they deem necessary. But when that process is all over, and Harry Reid wants to hold an up or down vote on the final product, Lieberman's saying he'll join that filibuster, if he's not happy with the finished product. Point blank.

To every stupid Democrat who ever backed Lieberman against Ned Lamont (and that includes Obama): WE FUCKING TOLD YOU SO!!! Here's me over three years ago:
Any Democrat who supports Lieberman is inviting a betreyal. The lefty blogs have been shouting this for a long time, but there are still some DC Democrats who are supporting him, or at least not lending their support to Lamont, who could really use it. I could post every day some piece of evidence that Lieberman is running as a Republican. I hope in the debates he gets pounded on these issues: Does he promise to caucus with the Democrats? Will he support Democratic House candidates (apparently not)? Who's funding him right now? Control of the Senate could very well hinge on what Lieberman decides to do, unless Lamont can defeat him. Any Democrat who has lent him credibility since he lost the primary has a lot to answer for in my opinion.
Speaking of me being right, here I am in June of 2007 on whether choosing a nominee other than Hillary Clinton would spare the Democrats any attacks from the right-wing noise machine:
While I agree with Sabato and others that Senator Clinton would be a highly polarizing candidate, I highly doubt the right wing will sit mutely on its megaphones and allow any Democratic president much of a honeymoon. Sen. Clinton seems like the most polarizing candidate now, because she's already been demonized (not that there aren't legitimate reasons not to like her; she's the least favorite Dem for me right now). But once the Democratic nominee is chosen, I think whoever it is will get the same treatment. Are all the talk radio hosts and Republican political operatives who make a living attacking Democrats going to stop if Clinton doesn't get the nomination? Not likeley. They'll just turn their guns on the new target.

In 2004, Democrats thought they could diffuse the right-wing attacks by nominating a decorated war veteran like Kerry, but that strategy failed. The smears happened anyway. Maybe this time the Democrats will nominate a Southerner (Edwards) or someone who talks about faith alot (Obama) or someone with an impeccable resume (Richardson). One would think these people would be well positioned to unite much of the country. But would any of these people get a pass from Rush Limbaugh, the Christianists, or the torture apologists? I don't picture it. I think Clinton hatred is more a symptom of this country's polarization than a cause of it. James Dobson is not going to allow anyone who doesn't share his agenda to be a "unifier and a healer", and secular leftys like myself are not interested in "unifying" with those we consider to be peddling hatred. We want them to stop and change their ways, or failing that we want to defeat them politically.
Seeing the right-wing reaction to Obama, I'll count myself as correct there, too.

Bold Prediction: Republican party will split

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that before the 2014 mid-terms, the Republican party coalition will split, with the conservative wing going one way and the fundamentalist wing going another way. (Note that I'm using "conservative" in an Andrew Sullivan way rather than a Sarah Palin way.) This could happen in one of two ways: either the fundamentalist wing will solidify its control of the GOP, forcing the conservatives to set up their own party, take over a third party, or become Democrats (as many have already done). Or the fundamentalist wing will break off and take over the Conservative Party or form their own party. I sort of think the latter is more likely, as the right-wing movement thrives on its image as outsiders and insurgents (even when it simultaneously controls the government).

Why do I think this? Two things are prompting me. The first is the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district:
A three-way Congressional race in upstate New York has become the stage for a national political battle between establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives. The outcome could foretell the GOP's near future as it struggles to find itself. The National Republican Committee and party leaders such as as Newt Gingrich have officially endorsed Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican. But bloggers, grassroots organizers, and now party luminaries such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have lined up behind Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party nominee.
When you have many prominent national Republicans spurning their own party's nominee and endorsing a candidate further to the right, you have a recipe for a major schism. I guess Reagan's 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." is not binding on the current right wing grassroots, as much as they idolize him.

The second sign of GOP schism that I've noticed is that fact that Newt Gingrich, once the standard-bearer for right-wing movement conservatives, is now being denounced as not conservative enough by various right-wing pundits. When Newt Gingrich is too cozy with liberals for your taste, I think you have little choice but to go off and form your own little club outside the current GOP.

It seems the right-wing base would prefer and ideologically purer party, electoral consequences (outside certain geographic regions) be damned. I'd really hate to be a Republican strategist these days. Yes, they may very well pick up some seats in the 2010 midterms. But the basic problem seems to be that for much of the country, anyone right-wing enough to make it through a Republican primary is way too right-wing to win a general election.

I see a several possible scenarios unfolding over the next several years:
  1. With the current GOP coalition split between the old GOP party and the new conservative party (whatever that turns out to be), the Democrats increase their majorities in congress and hold on to the presidency. National politics becomes even more a one-party affair than it currently is. This would be good for progressives in the short term, but without a meaningful opposition holding them to task, the Democratic party would get flabby and self-serving pretty quickly (or rather, get more flabby and self-serving)/
  2. The GOP scrambles rightward to keep the right-wingers from breaking off. This leads to a gradual erosion of GOP power as demographics and changing social mores make them less and less appealing. Results similar to #1, above, but an intact GOP maintains a hold rural areas and the Deep South, at least for a while. This is the strategy they seem to be currently pursuing.
  3. The right flank of the GOP breaks off and forms its own party or takes over the Conservative Party. The GOP moderates use this opportunity to move left, and recapture many independents and conservative Democrats. If the three parties balance out at something like 45% Democrat, 30% Republican, 25% (right-wing), this would actually give the Republicans a lot of power: they could be the swing votes in Congress that the Democrats and right-wing fight over. The center of political gravity might shift, depending on how the alliances played out.
  4. The GOP abandons its right flank and remakes itself to be more appealing, modeling itself on the British Conservative Party. The right-wing is left howling in the political wilderness (possibly leading to an increase in right-wing domestic terrorism). A political equilibrium between Democrats and Republicans gradually re-asserts itself, but this equilibrium is a good deal further to the left than the current equilibrium. The emergence of a reasonable conservative party in America is Andrew Sullivan's fondest wish, but he doesn't see signs of it happening yet.
  5. Some GOP evil genius figures out how to make American-style right-wing politics appealing to non-whites. The GOP comes surging back. At some point, this will probably happen, but my guess is it will be at least a few decades before the link between right-wing politics and white superiority has faded enough for large enough numbers of non-whites to feel comfortable joining a right-wing coalition. But who knows?
By the way, I know I'm totally talking out of my sleep-deprived ass here. But there does seem to be some kind of crack-up happening. I'll try to follow it here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our new (to us) dining room table & chairs

There are two more chairs and 3 leaves to the table, not pictured. I
love having a dining room table (and sitting at the head of it) a lot
more than I thought I would.

The unseen cost of plastic waste

Photo by Chris Jordan

There's a huge region of the Pacific Ocean that's full of floating plastic garbage. Albatrosses pick up the plastic, thinking it's food, and feed it too their chicks. The chicks die. The plastic in these photos was apparently not moved. It's hideous to see. (Here's a video on the subject of all the plastic in the Ocean.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prototype of D&D 4th Edition on Microsoft Surface table

Obviously needs a lot of work and tweaking, but the potential is there (HT: Jak Koke on Facebook):

Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough from Surfacescapes on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WWII veteran pleads for equality for his gay son

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yay! New marijuana policy from Obama administration

This is good. It looks like the new policy is "If they're in compliance with state law, don't go after them.":

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Hat Tip: Adam Buchen on DailyKos.

If you get why this is funny...

...then you get 10 geek points or 10 80's pop culture knowledge points (take your pick). From here. Hat tip: Mad Latinist via email.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yes, they really are living in a different world

This tends to confirm my worst prejudices about Obama-haters:

A new focus-group of Republican base voters by the Democracy Corps (D), the consulting and polling outfit headed up by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, presents a picture of the GOP base as being motivated by a fundamentally different worldview than folks in the middle or on the Dem side -- and they see the country as being under a dire threat.

"They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a 'secret agenda' to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism," the analysis said." While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail."

The analysis argues that Obama's unpopularity among conservative Republicans is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from liberal Democratic ire against George W. Bush -- that the GOP is more heavily conservative than the Democrats are heavily liberal, and that the hatred of Obama is more intense than Dem hatred of Bush was. All of this adds up to a powerful set of emotions that the Republican Party as a whole cannot ignore.

Now fortunately the Republican base is a minority, and a shrinking minority. But that will increase their sense of vulnerability. I wish there were some easy way to reach out to these folks and make them feel included without letting their fear cripple our polity.

There's a rep for that?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Best signs at gay equality march

The sense of humor evident is awesome. Now Obama and congress need to act. It is past time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Best Obama Nobel reaction quote so far

"Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."

-PJ Crawley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.

Oh, snap!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Our cat is back!

Kitty has been found and is with us once again. Yay!

Christianist revisionist American history watch

This is almost unspoofable (Hat tip: Pablo via email). But someone did manage to do it (via Kos). I love how someone trying to depict the heritage of our country in a fundamentalist Christian light managed to include 4 Unitarians (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Clara Barton, and Susan B. Anthony) as well as Thomas Paine in his portrait. The latter wrote, in Age of Reason:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

How regressive is today's GOP?

Very. In response to a horrifying rape incident, Al Franken proposed an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill that would deny funding to firms that try to prevent raped employees from bringing their cases to court. The amendment passed 68-30. Guess which party the 30 senators who voted against this were from? Yes, our friends the Republican party. Kos:

Of the 40 Republicans in the Senate, only 10 voted for the Franken amendment, including all four women in the Senate GOP. Of the six Republican males who voted for the amendment, all of them represented states outside the deep South -- Bennett (UT), Hatch (UT), Grassley (IA), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN), and Voinovich (OH). The other 30 men, including luminaries like David Vitter, John Ensign, and John McCain, didn't think the amendment warranted passage.

This is interesting. According to Republicans, a fake pimp and ho, reported to the police, was apparently so beyond the pale that they've worked to strip ACORN of all federal funding. But denying employees actual redress from gang rapes is no big deal?

Will the GOP soon introduce a new Constitution Amendment that reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting the ability of corporations to gang rape their employees"? Is support for corporate gang rape already in the GOP platform, or does it need to be added at their next meeting? Is there a huge corporate gang rape lobby that is funneling millions into GOP pockets, or did they vote this way out of personal conviction?

As predictably regressive as the modern GOP has become, it's shocking to see that they still have the ability to shock.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pissing off European Dairy farmers is a bad idea...

Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
(brazenly ripped off by me without asking anyone's permission)

...unless you like your milk very fresh. Image stolen from the New York Times.

Friday, October 02, 2009

"Dust Storm" in St. Louis at Washington University

If you're in St. Louis this weekend, come see the show. It's me! It's free! (But I'm gettin' paid big bux (for the performing arts) whoopee!)

Saturday 8:00-9:30 p.m., Steinberg Auditorium, Danforth Campus, University of Washington.

Sunday 4pm, same place.

For more info on the show, see here.