Posts Tagged ‘Joe Biden’



Ironic Potheads, Obama Mojo MIA, EJ in the Zone

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Pot post-mortem: Who knew the most interesting, intriguing and ironic question of the entire election would turn out to be: WTF did North Coast potheads vote against Proposition 19?

Calbuzz kudos to Bob Salladay of California Watch for breaking it down in a nice piece that reports how the dope legalization measure lost big in weed-rich Humboldt and Mendocino counties, which mirrored the statewide vote of 53-to-46 against, while Trinity County smoked Prop. 19 in a 60-40 landslide.

Prop. 19 undoubtedly failed because some of the state’s largest counties voted against it, not sparsely populated areas in Northern California. But that’s not stopping supporters of the initiative from lashing out at pot producers in the so-called Golden Triangle. Here’s one comment that has been getting attention:

“Lets grab machetes and head up to Humboldt… Humboldt, your little community just pissed off a ton of people who are sick of paying your inflated crop prices!”

The arguments against Prop. 19 centered in part around the layers of regulatory oversight imposed by the initiative. Some worried about a provision restricting growing to a 25-square-foot plot of land, even though the initiative allowed for larger cultivation amounts approved by local authorities….

Many felt that asking pot growers to vote for Prop. 19 was like asking bootleggers to overturn Prohibition: Why would they give up such enormous, tax-free profits?

Bottom line: the free spirits who’ve built the market in California don’t want the damn government hassling them with taxes and regulations. In other words, they’re Republicans, as Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer aptly demonstrates today.

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P.S. Also check out John Hoeffel’s look-ahead political analysis which seems to point to the inevitability of legalization, perhaps as soon as 2012.

What ever happened to the guy we elected? As Democrats across the nation, at least those without the good sense to live in California, descend ever-further into a pit of political despair following the Republican wipeout, perhaps the most depressing development has been the total weenie act being performed by a self-pitying Barack Obama.

After a sulky, day-after press conference in which he more resembled a spoiled teenager stuck in detention than what you call your Leader of the Free World, Obama sunk to new depths in a sad sack appearance on “60 minutes.”

As Huffpost blogger and business executive coach Kathleen Reardon excellently reported:

I waited last night for the confident Democratic President of the United States to appear on 60 Minutes but he never quite arrived. In fact, the president who did arrive said when asked by Steve Kroft about his promise to change Washington:

“That’s one of the dangers of assuming power. And you know, when you’re campaigning, you, I think you’re liberated to say things without thinking about, ‘Okay, how am I gonna actually practically implement this.’”

What? Nah! He didn’t say that, did he?

Washpost columnist Gene Robinson took a broader and politically more  trenchant look at the president’s woe-is-me session with Kroft.

Obama was reasonable, analytical, professorial – but also uninspired and uninspiring. I’m just being honest, if not generous; when Kroft asked whatever happened to Obama’s “mojo,” the president gave the impression that he’s been wondering the same thing.

“Do you get discouraged? Are you discouraged now?” Kroft asked.

“I do get discouraged,” Obama replied, according to the transcript of the full interview. “I thought that the economy would have gotten better by now. You know, one of the things I think you understand – as president you’re held responsible for everything. But you don’t always have control of everything, right? And especially an economy this big. There are limited tools to encourage the kind of job growth that we need. But I have fundamental confidence in this country. I am constantly reminded that we have been through worse times than these, and we’ve always come out on top. And I’m positive that the same thing is going to happen this time. You know, there are going to be setbacks, and we may take two steps forward and one step back, but the trajectory of this country is always positive.”

Well, it may be unfair, but presidents aren’t allowed to be discouraged. They aren’t allowed to talk about the limitations of the job, or the fact that they are held accountable for everything from inclement weather to the lack of a championship playoff system in college football. Presidents are not permitted to acknowledge familiarity with the concept of “one step back.” And good things aren’t “going to happen,” in the presidential lexicon. They’re already happening.

We keep wondering when the Democrats will get serious about pointing out that the Republicans who went before them — like George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger — have left behind them a path of utter devastation, from the national economy to a $25 billion California deficit. Wonder if Jerry Brown is studying what a weak-ass job President Obama has done making it clear that he’s had to clean up a pile of doggie doo left on his doorstep?

Meanwhile, truly masochistic erstwhile Obama fans won’t want to miss Politico’s take out on the president’s political perils (warning: do not attempt to read this if you are a Democrat taking Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft or suffer from suicidal ideation), although Jason Linkins helpfully lightens things a bit with a nice takedown of the piece’s extraordinary Beltway-centric perspective.

E.J to the rescue: Our old friend E.J. Dionne, who long ago set down the theoretical framework for Bill Clinton’s Third Way centrist politics, appears to have been taking an extra helping of progressive pills in recent weeks, as he’s been on a real roll with columns urging Democrats to stop whining and stiffen their spines.

After his world scooplet interview with Never Say Die Nancy Pelosi, his  smackdown of the post-election instant conventional wisdom industry and his lead-the-way analysis of some of the actual factual reasons behind the GOP House takeover, our boy outdid himself on Thursday with a terrific piece in which he picked the docile and doleful Dems up by the scruffs of their necks and tried to shake some sense into them.

Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.

Worse, Democrats tend to internalize the views of their opponents. Already, some moderate Democrats are claiming that all would have been well if Obama had not tried to reform health care or “overreached” in other ways. Never mind that Obama’s biggest single mistake (beyond the administration’s projection that unemployment would peak around 8 percent) was giving in to Senate moderates and not demanding the much bigger stimulus plan a weak economy plainly needed.

In fact, moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP’s ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country’s problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest..

Give Republicans credit for this: They don’t chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser’s game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance..

A working class hero is something to be: If, like us, you’ve been too busy with the Odyssey of eMeg to have caught The Onion’s recent series lampooning Joe Biden, NYT biz writer Jeremy Peters is on the spot, explaining the nuances of the counter-intuitive humor behind these very funny pieces, and pointing to the best examples.

Why Killing AB32 is a Long Shot and Other Bad Bets

Monday, March 29th, 2010

We happen to have in our hot little Calbuzz claws some summary results from a February poll by FM3 (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz) for the defenders of AB32 that found that after voters are read the Attorney General’s title and summary for the measure to repeal AB32 they oppose it 46-37%.

According to the survey — 600 likely November voters, +/- 4% — opposition grows when voters realize oil companies are behind the drive to overturn AB32. Which won’t be hard to argue because it’s TRUE, as the Sac B Minus and others have noted. In fact, says Steve Maviglio, who’s hacking and flacking for the save AB32 forces, more than 72% of the money behind the effort to overturn AB32 has come from — Michael Huffington drum roll please — Texas oil companies you just can’t trust.

Another reason to like the opposition on this one: since the creation of initiatives in California, “no” has beaten “yes” two-thirds of the time. The only other polling we’ve seen was back in July, when PPIC asked whether people support the state law reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Support for what is a description of AB32: 66% favor, 23% opposed.

We’re not sure what the effect will be of having Gov. Schwarzenegger — who has long been a defender of AB32 — suddenly skim back his support by calling for a “more carefully phased approach” in implementing the law. But as we get deeper and deeper into the campaign season, Gov. Schwarzmuscle becomes increasingly less significant. And we expect Crusty the General Brown to hammer on the climate-change issue relentlessly — in part because the environment is an issue that resonates with moderate, non-partisan voters who will ultimately decide the election.

Dumb and dumber: One of the dumbest, and most common, mistakes committed by political writers the world over (even Calbuzz may have succumbed once or twice) is to assume that the future will look like the present.

As Walter Shapiro notes, arguing persuasively in Politics Daily against over-interpreting the impact of health care reform on the mid-term election, the issues that are hot at the end of a campaign are seldom those that pundits focus on in spring or summer:

Cable TV news and hyperdrive Internet publications like the Politico tend to divine major political implications from everything, with the possible exception of Starbucks introducing a soymilk Frappuccino. The institutional bias that governs this type of political coverage is to overreact to the here and now. The working assumption is that the future will be just like the present except for the addition of a few random fluctuations to enhance the story line.

The Shapiro Thesis is, of course, the operating assumption underlying the apparent equanimity of Steve Poizner’s handlers in the face of eMeg’s 8,000 point lead in the Republican primary, and of Jerry Brown’s Zen-like shrugs at the sight of Whitman surging past him in the polls, on the strength of her all-eMeg-all-the-time TV offensive.

While Her Megness so far has had the luxury of framing and defining the election on her terms, should she turn out to be the Republican nominee for governor, things are likely to look very different down the road a piece.

Here’s a look at three low-radar factors that may mushroom into major matters in Whitman’s November match-up with Jerry Brown, or even the final weeks of Poizner’s uphill struggle against Ms. Head and Shoulders Potato Head:

The CEO factor – For now, eMeg keeps gaining traction for her core message that executive business experience is just about the perfect fit for what ails the government of California. But as we’ve noted repeatedly from the first weeks of the campaign, running a business has almost exactly nothing to do with managing the day to day political cross currents and rip tides of Sacramento, a point that is well amplified in a must-read piece by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano and Michael Hirsh:

Very little that happens inside a corporate suite is like governing a state or a country. CEOs, like generals, can issue orders and expect them to be carried out. Jobs and budgets can be pared by fiat, with little public controversy. It’s not nearly as simple for governors or senators—even presidents. Their authority is never absolute. They are constrained by the separation of powers and forced to ride the tiger of public opinion; they must persuade, cajole, and arm-twist to get their way.

As Harry Truman once said about his presidential successor, Dwight Eisenhower: “He’ll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.” Beyond that, there’s rarely been a time in American industry when CEOs have been so discredited. The last “CEO presidency”—George W. Bush’s—ended up in a ditch. The CEOs of Wall Street have provoked outrage by awarding themselves record bonuses during the worst recession in decades—a recession they mainly caused.

The Goldman Sachs scandal – eMeg’s past shady, and legally questionable, dealings with the world’s largest greed head investment firm is the case study
that precisely makes the point about the dangers of CEOs grabbing the levers of government power, which is one major source of the seething resentment of voters across the nation.

What kind of business relationship can Californians expect their state to have with Goldman Sachs and firms like it if Meg Whitman becomes governor? Here’s a clue: In a report called “Corporate cash boosts Whitman,” the Associated Press reported that “The biggest donations came from New York investment bankers, hedge fund managers, attorneys and others.” If there’s one thing these guys know it’s how to prime the pump.

Not that Whitman’s old pals at Goldman haven’t already been profiting off California’s misery. They were hired to manage some multibillion dollar state bond offerings but, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, millions in fees didn’t stop Goldman from secretly undermining California’s credit rating. That hurt the very sales they were hired to manage. As the Times states, the firm “urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds” by “proposing a way for … clients to profit from California’s deepening financial misery.”

Ideology – The unintended consequence of Poizner running so hard to the right in the primary is that, for the moment at least, Whitman often appears to be a moderate Republican and, thus, a more attractive and more formidable candidate for the general election race against Brown.

But Press Corps Elders George Skelton and Peter Schrag have dug into eMeg’s much-trumpeted 48-page policy agenda (which the nit-picking Dan Morain estimates actually to be only about 20 pages, after subtracting the page presentation gee-gaws and glam shots of Herself) and concluded that any moderation perceived in eMeg’s views is mostly accidental, a perspective Brown has already seized on in his recent populist pronouncements.

Meg Whitman’s Republican rival calls her a liberal. He’s not even close. Political writers often describe her as moderate. That misses the mark too.

Supporting abortion rights — even state funding of abortions for the poor — doesn’t automatically make her a moderate. Not when she’s prepared to whack benefits for welfare moms — slash almost any program — to avoid raising taxes.

She opposes same-sex marriage but supports recognizing those unions allowed before Proposition 8 passed. That doesn’t make her a moderate either. Not when she insists on eliminating 40,000 state jobs.

Calbuzz bottom line: It’s usually a mistake to confuse rookie phenoms of spring training with the veteran ballplayers who usually make the big plays in the World Series.

Fuck you, you fucking fuck: Kudos to Carl Cannon for putting into clear historic context Joe Biden’s healthy cussing kudo to the President moments before Obama signed the health care reform legislation, a usage much panned by the prudes and prisses of the internets and cable TV. As Cannon notes the f-bomb has a proud and rich history in American politics, not least as used by his own father, the renowned Lou Cannon, upon beholding the beauty of a Sandy Koufax perfect game.

How Obama Punted Away Real Health Reform

Monday, December 21st, 2009

ObamaHealthCareUpdate: Today’s Calbuzzer comments reflect a contentious debate raging in the blogosphere about the virtues, or lack thereof, of the Senate bill. While Calbuzz is triangulating like crazy – it’s a lousy bill but pass it anyway ‘cuz somethin’s better than nothin’ – others are whacking deep into the weeds on this.

If you care to join them, here’s a guide to the best arguments string: Jane Hamsher, founder of Fire Dog Lake, posted 10 reasons why the Senate bill should be killed, and was promptly attacked by the Washpost’s Ezra Klein,world’s leading authority on practically everything. Then Jon Walker of FDL attacked Klein’s attack, and we give the final world to Nate Silver,the smartest person in the world, who attacked Walker’s attack of Klein’s attack of Hamsher.

———-

In a case of life imitating art, comic blogger Andy Borowitz provided the most accurate and trenchant commentary about the Democrat’s misadventure on health care reform, as he offered a look at  details of his own, newly unveiled,  “CompromiseCare™” program“:

– Under CompromiseCare™, people with no coverage will be allowed to keep their current plan.
– Medicare will be extended to 55-year-olds as soon as they turn 65…
– A patient will be considered “pre-existing” if he or she already exists…
– You’ll be free to choose between medications and heating fuel…
– You will be entitled to natural remedies, such as death
.

And so on. The Borowitz Plan would be a riot if it didn’t come to so close to the truth.

The sad fact is that Barack Obama’s wimp-out on his signature issue has resulted in a legislative end game defined by a default bill in the Senate that’s godawful. Riddled with half-measures, the bill is framed and defined by the institutionalized transfer of hundreds of billions of public dollars to the same, rapacious private insurance industry that shaped the dysfunctional system supposedly being transformed.

Even its worthwhile nods to reform – efforts to end the industry’s disgraceful practices on pre-existing conditions, rescissions and lifetime benefit caps – are largely dependent upon regulatory enforcement by the states, woefully over-matched by the legal firepower of insurance companies, as David Dayen  argues most persuasively at Fire Dog Lake.

So now, Obama will be left holding the bag on weak, compromise legislation repellent to Democratic advocates on the left and Republican opponents on the right.

Worse, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that less than one-third of Americans say that the stinky cheese that Obama now supports as “reform” is a good idea – a number that has steadily eroded since he jettisoned his support for the public option. Worse, more people, by 44-41%, say it would be better to do nothing than to pass the measures before Congress.

Yes we can!bidensmirk

The strongest argument for nose-holding passage of the health bill in its current form is made in a NYT op-ed by Vice President Joe Biden. But Biden’s take-whatever-we-can-get-and-declare-victory stance avoids the hard fact that the White House made one fundamental strategic error, followed by a series of tactical blunders.

Strategically, Mr. Smartypants Rahm Emanuel and the geniuses in the White House political shop should have counted noses at the start to determine if there was a threshold of support for a public option – which also should have called something more politically palatable, like “health insurance competition” or “consumer choice” – or an expansion of Medicare. If they couldn’t see a way to put the votes together, they should have taken on some other signature issue — jobs would have been a good one.

Instead:

–Obama frittered away his mandate. After stomping John McCain and leading the way to Democratic domination of both houses of congress, he retreated to a passive posture in which he uttered Yoda-like platitudes about reform while letting the food fight in congress shape the legislation.

–Obama quickly signaled the special interests were still in charge. About the only substantive moves by the White House were a) to dump, before they even got started, the progressive’s goal of a single payer system and b) to break his campaign promise of transparency by cutting an early, backroom deal to minimize the impact of any bill on the pharmaceutical industry.

–Obama shined on his political base in the name of pursuing “bipartisan” harmony with people whose only interest was sticking it to him. Back in August, when Obama began backing away from support for a public option, we warned that he was setting himself up for failure with his fetish Fairy_largefor fairy tale bipartisanship.

In the political fight of his life, Obama has been putting his energy and emphasis almost exclusively on the can’t-we-all-just-get along aspect of his message, in a desperate bid to pass a bill – any bill – that he can spin as an alleged victory, even if represents right-center policies and politics.

With Democrats in the rare position of controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, however, he needs to stop singing kumbaya and start busting some heads by fighting fiercely for the populist – and, yes, partisan – principles that led millions to support the progressive promises of his campaign. And that means taking on, not just the other party, but some of the obstructionist Senators in his own party…

Obama’s we’re-all-in-it-together action, in place of a principled fight, has simultaneously succeeded in emboldening his Republican enemies and alienating his progressive base, in the name of imaginary bipartisanship and placating the self-absorbed Lieberman-Nelson-Snowe “centrist” axis, whose members keep dumping on him from a great height for his trouble.

What’s even more troubling is the suspicion that Obama’s kumbaya strategy was timid by design, aimed at avoiding any effort to make real change in the status quo, viewing process as more important than  policy. As Rep. Anthony Wiener, the most articulate  champion of substantive health reform, told Politico:

This has been a fairly transactional presidency, and the president did nothing to insulate himself from the compromises — which were inevitable — by making it clear at the outset what his values were on some of these important issues. While being transactional may help you get through the days in Washington and get things on the scoreboard, it creates a weird disconnect that most people in the country don’t know what you want and don’t feel they should rally to your side.

In a pair of must-read pieces, here and here, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald makes the case that, after the massive Wall Street bail-outs, abdicating to Goldman Sachs and wimping out on credit card reform, Obama with health care has now fully revealed hiobamapostermself as a triangulating advocate of corporate power,  his soaring populist rhetoric be damned.

As was painfully predictable all along, the final bill will not have any form of public option, nor will it include the wildly popular expansion of Medicare coverage. Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this — the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional “centrists.”

Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives. The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start — the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

So whether by incompetence or design, the White House has left health reform advocates (boy is Ted Kennedy missed) with little choice but to support badly flawed legislation, an argument summed up in Biden’s op-ed: “I share the frustration of other progressives that the Senate bill does not include a public option. But I’ve been around a long time, and I know that in Washington big changes never emerge in perfect form.”

Not exactly change we can believe in.