Archive for September 2013
Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Published: September 30 at 8:36 am
Here’s how today’s Wonkbook was supposed to start: We’re about 16 hours from open enrollment in Obamacare going live. The law, which has dominated American politics for three years even as it’s been an abstraction to most Americans, is about to become very real.
But here’s how it actually has to start: We’re about 16 hours away from a government shutdown. That’s more than enough time for the House and Senate to both pass a bill averting a shutdown. But the odds of that happening are increasingly remote — and that’s because Obamacare is set to begin in 16 hours.
On Saturday, Speaker Boehner agreed to load the continuing resolution with a one-year delay of Obamacare, a repeal of the medical-device tax, and a “conscience clause” assuring health-care providers they don’t need to offer birth control if they don’t want to. They wrote a bill, in other words, that the Senate can’t accept. His right flank was ecstatic.
“Chants of ‘Vote! Vote! Vote!’ echoed through the room,” report Robert Costa and Jonathan Strong. “Standing in the back, Boehner’s deputies watched the scene and smiled. ‘People went bonkers,’ says Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona. Representative John Culberson of Texas was so enthused that he yelled, ‘Let’s roll!’ after hearing Boehner’s remarks. Culberson later told reporters he was alluding to the cry of United 93 passenger Todd Beamer.”
All this for a bill that House Republicans know the Senate will reject.
So the federal government will probably shut down tonight. And, at about the same moment, Obamacare will go live, as the shutdown does little to impede the law.
There’s a silver lining in this for Obamacare, as well as a real danger.
The Obama administration has been a bit afraid of October 1st. After all, no major product launches without a hitch, and Obama is more major, and facing more politicized scrutiny, than almost any product the federal government has ever launched. The fear was that things would go wrong on October 1st and the press, looking for dramatic stories of Obamacare glitches, would swarm the anecdotes, giving the public the impression that the law was a failure even as most of it was working fine and the bugs were being quickly fixed.
But with a government shutdown and a looming debt-ceiling crisis obsessing the media and the country, the media simply has less bandwidth to cover the rollout of the health-care law. That gives the administration, as well as the states, a bit more breathing room to find and fix bugs in the early days without seeing the law declared a failure.
The downside for the law is that less focus on Obamacare means fewer people hearing that the insurance marketplaces have gone live, and thus fewer people knowing they should go and sign up for coverage. The Obama administration, some of the states, and a consortium of outside actors all have plans to promote the law through paid media in the coming weeks and months, but the launch could’ve earned them a lot of valuable free media.
But all of this speaks to why the Republican Party is so frightened. Until now, Obamacare has been an abstraction. You can repeal an abstraction. Tomorrow, it becomes a reality. And reality is a lot harder to repeal.
Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer backed off on his suggestion earlier this week that Twitter allows President Barack Obama to use more than 140 characters in his tweets, but some Republican primary voters evidently still have doubts.
Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling tested Fleischer’s debunked and ultimately retracted conspiracy theory in a survey released Friday, finding support and uncertainty among Republicans nationwide. The poll showed that 13 percent of GOP primary voters think Twitter does permit Obama to exceed the 140 character limit while a majority — 52 percent — said they weren’t sure. Thirty-six percent said they don’t think Obama enjoys a larger character limit than the rest of Twitter users.
The former press secretary under George W. Bush was widely ridiculed after he said that a tweet from the @BarackObama Twitter account — which is run by Organizing for Action — had gone over the 140-character limit and wondered if the president gets to “play by different rules.”
But there were actually only 136 characters in the tweet that Fleischer questioned and, moments later, he was forced to walk back his suggestion.
FAREED ZAKARIA (CNN) : President Clinton, you’ve seen the agreement that the United States and Russia have reached on Syria, you’ve heard some of the criticisms. What do you think of it?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I think if it is implemented, a big IF, it is a good thing. And I agree with the president and Secretary Kerry and everybody else who has been involved in this that the United States needs to stand strong against chemical weapons, against the proliferation and use of them.
We ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention when I was president. It passed 74 to 26 in the Senate, had big bipartisan support. The effects of chemical weapons are horrid as we have documented in these pictures.
The United Nations issued a very strong report and the Secretary General says there’s no question that sarin gas was used on people in the larger Damascus area and elsewhere. So, I think it’s a good thing to do.
Now, there are some who say well, you know, this gives the initiative to Putin. And who cares how it came up? John Kerry got asked, “Well, what can we do to stop you from bombing?” And he said “make the problem go away.”
So Putin says “OK, I’ll do that.: And so they say well, this puts Russia in a position of leverage and it guarantees that Assad is going to be in power for a while longer.
That’s a separate issue. But there is inherent and enduring benefit in taking a step that has the potential to rid the world of these chemical weapons because it’s going to be difficult for anybody else to use them if this happens.
Now, we’re a long way between where we are today and whether this happens, but it’s worth doing.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Sunday that top Republicans urged him to go after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the latest indication that the junior senator from Texas has alienated members of his own party over his strategy to defund Obamacare and risk a government shutdown.
Cruz was a guest on “Fox News Sunday,” which Wallace hosts.
“This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington and I say that because as soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz,” Wallace told his panel before asking GOP strategist Karl Rove why Republicans were upset with Cruz.
“Well, because this was a strategy laid out by Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz without any consultation with their colleagues,” Rove told Wallace.
Ezra Klein, Published: September 21 at 9:56 amE-mail the writer
Larry Summers’s campaign to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wasn’t doomed by any of the typical doubts about a potential Fed chief. Senate Democrats weren’t worried that Summers was too tolerant of inflation or insufficiently committed to quantitative easing. In fact, they weren’t worried about his opinions on monetary policy at all.
Summers fell because at least five Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee doubted his bona fides as a bank regulator. But even that doesn’t get at the whole truth. Summers really fell because those Senate Democrats — and many other liberals — don’t trust the Obama administration’s entire approach to regulating Wall Street. For all the talk of Summers’s outsized personality and polarizing past, he really lost because he was a stand-in for Obama.
Most clashes between the White House and liberals are disagreements over what’s politically possible rather than what’s optimal policy. On health care, the White House would have liked a public option but couldn’t find the votes. On the stimulus, the White House would have liked a bigger bill but didn’t see a way to pass it through Congress. On taxes, the White House would have liked more revenue but wasn’t willing to go over the fiscal cliff to get it. Liberals often disagree with the tactical compromises the White House makes to pass legislation, but the underlying philosophical divide is narrow.
The conflict over financial regulation is different. There, the White House really does disagree with its liberal base. The Obama administration didn’t oppose breaking up the big banks on tactical grounds. It opposed breaking them up because it thought that was bad policy. The administration would have opposed doing it even if Democrats had 80 votes in the Senate.
“When there was an opportunity to strengthen financial regulation in 2009 and 2010, the administration was less than enthusiastic,” says Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been a strong advocate of tougher financial regulations. “They didn’t support the Brown-Kaufman amendment to break up the big banks. Larry Summers isn’t a fan of the Volcker rule. There was no interest in bringing back Glass-Steagall.”
I just got back from seeing music at Radio Bean. Apparently, some of Burlington’s finest musicians decided to celebrate Leonard Cohen‘s birthday today.
It was a long day at work. I got out at 5:30, and after sitting on the couch for a couple of hours, dragged myself up, and took the walk to the Bean. The rain was lightly falling as I slid into the coffee house to the gentle and powerful sound of Joe Redding. I caught a couple of songs, did not know any of them, but really liked them. They were really good songs,, and his deep voice and steady guitar sounded great. Granted, there were a lot of people talking, who, unfortunately, missed out on something subtle, strong, and nice.
Next up, was The Peasant Dramatic. I think it was the some singer/guitar player that played with Hana Zara last time, but I could be wrong. He played guitar and sang Everybody Knows, Lullaby, then followed by a great song I did not know. There were a lot of songs I did not know for the evening, but I liked them all.
Aaron Flinn followed with more unfamiliar, yet intrinsic musical flowings. He played the first one mostly straight, but threw in a few shots to the top of the neck of the guitar in between chords, adding the extra drive. I missed the title of the next one, which was as good as the first. He closed with a killer Tower Of Song.
Up next was a singer/guitar player that I’ve seen several times, but am not sure of his name. From the lineup, I think he is Erich Pachner. Anyway, he played very downbeat, maybe dark Americana, yet subtly driving, in that Leonard way deep;y cool songs. It’s too bad most of the audience talked over it. I had to put in some effort to listen, but there was a wonderful coolness to the songs he played.
Lee Anderson came up and read some Leonard lyrics.
Steve Hartmann followed by singing and playing electric guitar, and setting up some fun loops and effects. His only song was Hallelujah, and he sang it quiet, and he sang it loud, It was masterfully done. Sometimes I feel I can describe music with words, and sometimes you just have to be here to hear it. This was one of those songs.
Lee Anderson came up and read some Leonard lyrics.
Hana Zara came on and took a moderately noisy room to the place you could hear a pin fall. When she plays her songs, the lyrics are so visual, so her style nicely matched Leonard’s words. Gypsy Wife was a nice journey. Suzanne lulled the room to near immaculate silence. She introduced Because Of as a song sung by a young girl written about an old man. I was note for note entranced.
Lee Anderson came up and read some Leonard lyrics.
Ryan Miller followed with another song I did not know, but thoroughly enjoyed. He sang and played electric guitar, and had that nice Cohen slow feel. He followed with a sweet First We Take Manhattan. He switched to a laptop Casio keyboard and gadgets for the next two. Again, I did not know them, but they were darkly nice.
Lee Anderson came up and read some Leonard lyrics.
A mini Weefolkestra followed. Joe Adler sang and played guitar. Eric Segalstad played mandolin, Aya Inoue sang, Dan Daniels (?0 played stand up bass. Johnnie Day Durand brought out the soaring high end, on saw. They sounded great together, and played a rousing version of (song titles approximate) Dance Me To The End Of Love, Amen, House Of Mistery (Nancy?), Famous Blue Raincoat, Who Shall I say…Is Calling (?)
Song titles aside, it was a fun night of great songs, played uniquely by great musicians. What a lovely way to spend a rainy Saturday.
242 Main St
Yesterday was a long work day and I was feeling drained. I got out at 7 but did a quick turn around at home, and headed downtown. I arrived at Twofourtwo Main to find that none of the bands had started. I hung out for a bit, then BE AGGRESSIVE hit the stage. They were loud, fast and fun. They are a guitar bass/vocals, drum trio. The drumming is pretty snappy punk, but the guitar and bass were a bit more metal. They played a bunch of cool songs, then in the middle, played their eponymous song, that keeps winding up on my internet radio show. At that point, each song got better and better, and I was flailing happily by the end of the set. New guitar player, Pete, was constantly jumping and adding tons to the energy. John Otis Bro kept the low end of the songs driving and screamed out the vocals while Kevin used the drums to propel the songs. They were lots of fun and I want to know when they are around in the future!
After a quick tear down/set up, Poxy hit the stage. Their songs are short and fast and furious. Their longest song on their EP Pucker Power is around a Ramonesish two and a half minutes, but most are shorter. On stage at 242, the guitar/vocals, bass, drums trio showed poise and confidence and rocked the place hard. They played a coupe of the ones that barely last a minute. They did the cover of Earth Angel, that starts nice and slow, then rips through the middle section at breakneck speed. They played some new songs where they stretched the songs out a bit and played with a fast then slow dynamic. The whole show felt like 30 or 40 minutes, but clocked in closet to 20. It was a joyous few moments, and I can’t wait to see them again. They seem to be growing a lot and it will be fascinating to see where they go.
During the break, the realization that I had to be up at 7am took hold. I let my tiredness lead, and took the quick walk home. If I had started work later on Saturday, it would have been fun to check out the other two bands who played, and/or head to Nectar’s to see Wave of the Future and Savage Hen, but sometimes there is only so much you can do. I’m richer for having seen what I did, and am happy that I caught two of the bands I most wanted to see. Thank goodness there is no more music that is dragging me out again in the near future, and least not until tonight.