Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dead of Night Express

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were David Dayen (dday) and Dave Waldman (KagroX), and they talked about the filibuster - that Rand Paul's filibuster wasn't actually a real filibuster (because he wasn't preventing or even delaying cloture), that an actual "filibuster" (the silent kind to which they've all become accustomed) was happening at the same time but nobody noticed, and Senators - particularly powerful Senators - really have no interest in real filibuster reform. And, of course, the "sequester".

This is interesting. First Atrios (as Duncan Black) has a couple-few columns in USA Today talking about how we need to expand Social Security and how the 401K experiment has failed and how real pensions are disappearing, like this one a few days ago. And at first, nothing much happens, except that this week something did:
First there was a bit of yes-but-no from CBS (that didn't even mention his name), but then Thomas B Edsall has a column at the NYT site about "The War On Entitlements" that actually tells the truth about the problem Americans are facing and the real political position in America: "So why don't we talk about raising or eliminating the cap - a measure that has strong popular, though not elite, support? When asked by the National Academy of Social Insurance whether Social Security taxes for better-off Americans should be increased, 71 percent of Republicans and 97 percent of Democrats agreed. In a 2012 Gallup Poll, 62 percent of respondents thought upper-income Americans paid too little in taxes."
And then, to my surprise, Josh Barro has a piece up at Bloomberg called "Don't Cut Social Security, Expand It."

Alex Pareene explains what Obama is really doing with The undead, unnecessary, unhelpful Grand Bargain: "The recent Obama charm offensive is designed to convince Republicans that he is very sincere in his efforts to get a Serious Debt Deal, involving 'entitlement' cuts and tax reform. Here's a fun secret: Tax reform (in this case referring to eliminating or scaling back 'tax expenditures') is technically a conservative policy priority, even if elected Republicans refuse to ever support it for real. This is a compromise in which conservative policy is being offered in exchange for conservative support for a conservative policy. The sequester and Obama's Bargain quest mean that Republicans can choose between allowing a Democrat to 'take credit' for cutting the two most popular programs in the country or they can just live with the already-passed government spending cut that they are also able to blame on the president. Because the party's 'brand' is effectively beyond tarnishing, and because they are still guaranteed control of the House and veto power in the Senate for the foreseeable future, their bargaining position is actually much stronger than even they seem to realize." (via)

Liz Warren wants to know how much money-laundering you have to do to invite a prosecution.

It's worth your efforts to bookmark New Economic Perspectives, where Bill Black posts regularly. Recent examples include:
"Sequestration - Fourth Austerity Shoe Drops"
"The latest failed effort to blame the Community Reinvestment Act for Accounting Control Fraud"
"Representative Conyers needs our Support to Kill the Sequestration's Austerity"
"'Pervasive' Fraud by our 'Most Reputable' Banks"
"The Sequester Is Awful And Obama Didn't Even Try To Stop It"
"Why Obama Refuses to Kill the Sequester" ("I wrote last year about the fact that President Obama had twice blocked Republican efforts to remove the Sequester. President Obama went so far as to issue a veto threat to block the second effort. I found contemporaneous reportage on the President's efforts to preserve the Sequester - and the articles were not critical of those efforts. I found no contemporaneous rebuttal by the administration of these reports.")
"Reinventing Government: the 1995 Speeches announcing the Road to Ruin"

Maureen Dowd's piece on Dick Cheney (via) would almost seem like vindication if it wasn't, y'know, Maureen Dowd. Still, all your worst suspicions have been confirmed.

How the Iraq war hurt Republicans

Robert Parry, "Rethinking Watergate/Iran-Contra"

Dept. of No One Could Have Predicted: "Senator Joseph Lieberman to Join Senator Jon Kyl as Co-Chair of the American Internationalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute."

The trouble with public schools - and why we need charter schools - is that in public schools it's a lot harder to pay your boyfriend $95,000 instead of just $40,000 to be the school chef. Of course, the best reason to support charter schools is still so rich people can get richer.

New blog on prosecutorial accountability - or, rather, prosecutorial misconduct.

Doonesbury on GOP soul-searching for the winning election strategy

Another cool photo of the Milky Way, seen from Mt. Rainier.

Map of travel times on commuter rail, from Manhattan stations (via)

School of Thrones, Episode 1. (Related: Game of Thrones artwork for those who have too much money to spare and aren't sensible enough to send it to an independent, unpaid blogger.)

Started watching the BBC's period jazz drama Dancing on the Edge the other night and I'm recommending it to everyone. There's an amusing back-story about how Angel Coulby had never even told her agent she could sing and had never sung in public before she auditioned for the role of the band's singer, Jesse Taylor. And when she sings swingin' jazz in this show, you see a very different energy from the kind we saw from her as Gwenevere in Merlin - and, for that matter, from the Jesse Taylor we see here off-stage. Ladies and gentlemen, The Louis Lester Band!


  1. Dept. of No One Could Have Predicted: "Senator Joseph Lieberman to Join Senator Jon Kyl as Co-Chair of the American Internationalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute."

    Democracy Inaction!

  2. Now you Limeys can now Laugh Bitterly -- the soundtrack is only on Amazon's UK branch, and BBC America shows no hide nor hair of it on their sked... But Dead of Night Express is *catchy*.


  3. I suspect that the real reason that Obama supports the sequester (or at least is just fine with it happening) is that he will have enormous power to shape the defense cuts. The Pentagon is the one area of the budget that has been sacrosanct, and its budget is larded with all kinds of things even the Joint Chiefs don't want.

    And I suspect Obama thinks that the cuts outside of defense will cause so much anger that the Republicans will be forced to negotiate.

    But, like Bill Black, I'm just guessing.

    1. Hope springs eternal, eh, Charles?

      Wanting Defense cuts doesn't sound like the Obama we've come to know.

    2. He wants "entitlement cuts", Charles.

      As Obama seeks budget cuts, Democrats to vow protest

      Lori Montgomery

      While president pursues a grand bargain with the GOP, Democrats are seeking small trims.

    3. Avedon, the Pentagon wants defense cuts. Yes, they don't want nearly enough, but... well, see this article:

      In their more candid moments — almost always when speaking with a guarantee of anonymity — the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders acknowledge that the painful sequestration process may ultimately prove beneficial if it forces the Defense Department and Congress to reconsider the cost of cold-war-era systems that are still in inventory despite the many changes made to the military in the last 10 years.

      ITTDGY, it's doubtful that Obama wants entitlement cuts. No politician really wants entitlement cuts, because the public hates it. These guys have their egos. If you look at Republican strategy, it is not to cut entitlements: it is to get Democrats to cut entitlements so the GOP can blame them for it. If they wanted to cut entitlements, they would have done it when they ruled the roost. Instead, they created Medicare D, a new entitlement.

      What I would agree to is that Obama probably sees entitlement as a chit, to be traded against something else, rather than as a moral obligation. He may still believe he can achieve a Grand Bargain That Will Ensure His Place in History, though if he does, he's delusional. He may figure that cuts to Medicare and Social Security will cause such public upheaval that it will cause political realignment. I really don't know. But I am pretty sure he does not want entitlement cuts.

    4. He may still believe he can achieve a Grand Bargain That Will Ensure His Place in History, though if he does, he's delusional.

      Bill Clinton made a hundred million in speaking fees the last decade, after selling out his base while he was President.

      Remember, Obama created the Catfood Commission and picked its co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles back in January-February of 2010. The GOP had no power of any sort at that time, except power that Obama gave them.

    5. The Pentagon wanted cuts during most previous administrations, and it didn't happen then, either. That decision is made by politicians, and they all know if they vote to cut military spending, they'll be hammered with it come election time, so it never happens, no matter what the Pentagon asks for.

  4. The silent filibuster is simply corruption. There's an argument for the original filibuster -- in a deliberative body, a member gets to make his or her case for a minority view until a strong majority decides that the arguments must conclude. It did not descend into decision rules on what constitutes relevant discourse. The speakers got to make issues they believed in highly visible to the public. It's one of those defensible procedures that can be and was misused, but it does have a reasonable basis.

    Eliminate the deliberation, and you've eliminated the validity. You've simply adopted a super-majority rule that violates the basis of democracy. And of course, the silence of the maneuver keeps the minority policy from being visible, another nice stab to the body of democracy.

    The "silent filibuster" is not a procedural rule that needs reform. It is corruption that needs to be rooted out.

    1. Absolutely. I don't regard the silent filibuster as a real one. I have my issues with the filibuster in general, but this is, as you say, sheer corruption.

      Be that as it may, Paul's "filibuster" had the talking, but it wasn't a filibuster, either, since it all happened before a call for cloture and Reid in fact delayed the call just so Paul could talk for a while and look good. You have to wonder why.

      Well, unless you already knew that the party likes these people being where they are....

    2. Yes. And unfortunately the people of Nevada re-elected Harry Reid, who outright lied about his intention to reform the filibuster.

      I hope they don't make the same mistake again.

    3. When we give Arizona back to Mexico, S. Nevada goes with it.

      It would be a blessing if it were to blow away before it dries up. We don't those people moving here. We've enough morons.

      No fear...