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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brilliant but Clueless

Abu Muquawama has a brilliant post on Brett Stephens (not the subject of this post -- he is clueless all right). In the post Abu Muquawama writes this

"Haifa Wehbe, meanwhile? Well, judge for yourselves, but whereas Lady Gaga is a Tisch School-trained provocateuse, Hizballah-supporting Haifa strikes me as a less sophisticated one-trick pony pretty much mixing sex with music with, well, more sex."

Then presents this video as evidence

First Abu Muquawama is brilliant (as demonstrated by the rest of the post) but also clueless about that video. SEx and more sex ?!? My impression is that the video is very sophisticated, brilliant, and witty video and I don't understand a word of Arabic.

Second Haifa Wehbe is beautiful, has a great voice and is a brilliant actress, but, she's clueless about politics if she really supports Hisballah.
King of Irony Karl Rove

will never be surpassed. He just let protesters make him run away from a book signing even promoting "Courage and Consequences: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight".
Such a pity that he has a little experience with consequences as with courage.

Of course the correct title would have been "Cowardice and Getting Away with a Felony."

I hasten to add that I oppose loud disruptive protests of someone else's event. "Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans" "among others" should not have disrupted the event (signs and t-shirts with slogans would have worked without disrupting). However, they clearly did not make a serious threat of violence.

Rove is, of course, a coward. This is typical of bullies.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Truth Knowledge and Julian Sanchez

He wrote

But if there really is no timeless frame of reference, then the only sense in which it’s at all coherent to talk about knowledge and certainty is internal to an epistemic system. There is nothing transcendent to lose—all we could ever have meant by “truth” or “knowledge” all along, if we were succeeding at meaning anything, was the domesticated local version.
I comment

I just arrived (from Brad DeLong) to this clearly ongoing investigation. I will boldly assert that there is an elementary error right at the end

"all we could ever have meant by “truth” or “knowledge” all along, if we were succeeding at meaning anything, was the domesticated local version. Just click your heels"

Up until then, you (Sanchez) have argued that there can't be unconditionally objective knowledge -- justified true belief. For what my opinion is worth, I agree that there can't be knowledge except for knowledge within a system (you put it better).

Suddenly, however, you assert that if there can't be objective justified true belief, then there can't be objective truth or objectively true beleifs.

How did that follow ? You prove that there can't be epistimelogically objective truths and then casually assert that there can't be ontologically objective truths either.

I don't follow.

I am thinking of moral questions. I assert that evidence and logic can give us no guidance on questions in pure ethics (more or less by definition of "pure ethics"). There are statements in pure ethics which I believe with no doubt. I am sure they were true before I existed, will be true after I die and would be just as true if I changed my mind.

For example, I don't think it would be a good thing to torture everyone for the rest of time while also artificially inseminating people so there would be more and more people to torture. If I were presented with such a world, I might doubt the evidence of my eyes and hope I was dreaming, but I would not doubt that what I seem to see is bad.

What am I supposed to say about my beliefs ? I admit nothing along the lines of knowledge at all and have faith in the absolute objective truth of my beliefs.

There seems to be a strong belief that we should not believe something if that belief is unsupported by evidence. Note the word "should." The argument against faith in objective moral truth is based on an assertion of objective moral truth.

One might think that absolute confidence in a statement and absolute confidence that it has nothing to do with evidence and logic can't fit in the same mind. I have both beliefs. I exist. There must be room in your philosophy for my existence -- you might find me appalling or pathetic, but you better not try to convince yourself that I don't exist.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Robert J Waldmann on Robert J Samuelson

I think that not Paul has managed quite a sweep. His op-ed is hammered by Jonathan Chait, Steve Benen, Ezra Klein (in the same paper !), Brad DeLong, and Menzie Chin.

update: and the editors. With videos.
That's impressive. Hard to believe that I have a criticism to make that they missed. Expecially since I am not willing to read the column and will discuss only one clause of one sentence

"If the administration has $1 trillion or so of spending cuts and tax increases over a decade, all these monies should first cover existing deficits -- not finance new spending,"

NotPaul is totally confused. Klein notes that the spending cuts and tax increases would have been politically impossible without the new spending. I add that about half of the total would have been economically disasterous.

The tax increases, elimination of the extra 14% per enrollee of spending for Medicare Advantage, removing the middle man from student loans and end of the black liquor tax loop hole generated savings which could have been used to reduce the deficit.

However, that still leaves a large part of the total spending cuts which were reduction in Medicare payment rates paid to hospitals nursing homes and home health agencies. These cuts would bankrupt hospitals etc if it weren't for the new spending. Hospitals etc will get less per medicaid/medicare patient but they will get more from medicaid because there will be many more medicaid patients. Also they will get more from people who get private insurance partly with the help of the subsidies.

In practice a large part of the spending cuts and new spending are the same dollars going from the same Federal government to the same hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies. Just with different patients' names on the bills. This is how the new law can cut Medicare spending without cutting Medicare benefits or bankrupting care givers.

This does not mean that nothing changes. Currently hospitals attempt to extract money from the uninsured. This nets hospitals little money, but is very painful to the uninsured (good bye credit rating). This causes the uninsured to delay seeking care until they are very sick. It also causes the uninsured to go to emergency rooms not doctors' offices.

However, the change in the names on the bills paid by the CMS and the shift from money going CMS to hospitals etc to money going from the Treasury to families to insurance companies to hospitals etc does not create a huge opportunity to cut the deficit. Same money starting the same place and ending the same place. No wasted opportunity to cut the deficit.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I told Paul Krugman so

About 21 months ago Paul Krugman had a question

lower and middle-income Americans would be substantially better off under the Obama plan. But where is the money for health care reform?

I proposed an answer

there are two puzzles in Obama's proposals
1) how does he plan to pay for both health care reform and his middle class tax cut ?
2) why is he raising the social security tax even though it is probably not needed to pay old age and disability pensions ?

I think the two questions answer each other. I think that Obama is planning to pay for health care reform with the donut FICA increase (taxing individual labor income over $250,000).

Now we know. Yes most of the money for health care reform came from planning to have the CMS squeeze hospitals and nursing homes, then much from eliminating the Medicare advantage boondoggle (not eliminating the program just paying private insurance companies the same per policy holder as the CMS spends), then from the tax on cadillac health plans.

However, when cutting that unpopular tax, expanding subsidies, making the special deal for Nebraska universal and making the special deal for collectively bargained health insurance benefits universal, Obama was short a few hundred billion. So in the Obama compromise proposal (the first proposal from the Obama administration) the donut tax returned.

The bill imposes new taxes on wealthier people. Individuals making more than $200,000, and families making more than $250,000, will have to give up more of their paycheck to the Hospital Insurance payroll tax. Instead of paying 1.45 percent like most workers, they’ll pay 2.35 percent. And a new 3.8 percent tax will be added to income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, and rents.

OK so it's described as an increase in the Medicare plan A tax not the social security old age and disability pension tax. It starts at income of 200,000 or family income of 250,000. It applies to capital income too. The rate is lower than I guessed way back then (I just assumed it was 6.25%). Still I now type "I told you so."

It was always there in his mind in case it was needed.
Robert's List of Reasonable and Reasonably Honest Conservatives

I want to see Krugman's list

OK to avoid offending too many people, I will restrict my list to bloggers, pundits and politicians. I won't try to list reasonable and reasonably honest conservative economists -- I know too many. I count people who call themselves libertarians. I am not going to list personal friends (friends -- I like to keep them).

Hmmm this is difficult. OK economist pundits count.

Greg Mankiw
Tyler Cowen
Alex Tabbarock
Jim Henley
Orrin Kerr
Bruce Bartlett
Eugene Volokh (not reasonable re appropriate punishment of an Iranian murderer)
David Brooks (not always honest)
Reihan Salaam
Arnold Kling (not really reasonable but very honest)
Richard Lugar
Charles Hagel
Olympia Snowe (not really conservative or honest but I'm getting desperate)
Mark McClellan
Scott McClellan (not really et. but gets extra points for near honesty in a press secretary)
Richard Clarke (oh you don't think he's conservative -- read "Against all Enemies")

Uh oh. Many of these are economists after all. Also many are not going to be considered conservative for long. It is pretty much not allowed to be both reasonable and reasonably honest.

I'm sure I missed some. Suggestions in comments are welcome.

I fear that I will be crossing names off this list. I predict that some will cease to be reasonably honest and some will cease to be conservatives.

update: Andrew Samwick

update II: Oh how embarrassing. I left off Julian Sanchez even though I said libertarians count.

Also thanks to Alphonse in comments I add

Daniel Larison.
True Origin of Tea Party Movement revealed

This video which I didn't film while dressed as a pimp shows that the tea party movement was actually founded by insider traders on Martha's Vineyard

(Via Ezra Klein long long ago that is before January 20 2009)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Evolution of Language

The current pronunciation of "to Fukayama" is "to Shales."

I'm kicking myself. All I had to do was type ""'This Week' deals mainly in domestic politics and inside-the-Beltway palaver, an area where Amanpour is widely considered to deficient.*" and I'd of had links from Kevin Drum, Dougj, Glenn Greenwald , Eric Boehlert, Adam Serwer ,and ... Paul Krugman.

* I think I could even have gotten away with typing "to be deficient" instead of "to deficient." Or maybe he meant "too deficient." Does the Post have copy editors ?

It's enought to drive a man shrill.
How does one write this

"Three "to"'s are two too many to remember" ?

I was trying to explain English spelling to my daughter and said that. She laughed (she has the kind of sense of humor required to enjoy jokes about English spelling).

She said post it on your blog. But I can't. The second word must be spelled three different ways.

I just can't handle English spelling and dont even mention punctuation
Ballance in a cold Climate

It is getting harder and harder for The Washington Post to achieve ballance. It is hard to be enough more than fair to a party which is denouncing special deals while abstructing the removal of those special deals to make them seem non-appalling. But when the going gets tough the tough get going, and Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery are tough.

They write "Democrats circulated data from a new Gallup/USA Today poll that suggested public opinion on the legislation had started to shift in their favor." Note they don't describe, you know, the data. They are "49%, said passing the bill was "a good thing" as opposed to just 40% who said the passage of the reform bill was bad for the country."

That's not has started to shift in their favour. That is has shifted in their favour as the polls has a statistically significant plurality in their favor. Maybe Gallup is just not considered a reputable polling firm.

Now I think the issue is partly that Newspapers do not steal each others' polling data. The poll was commissioned by USA Today. There may be a norm that you don't publish data produced at some other newspapers expense even if you have them (ooops I published the data. Sorry USA Today).

But "started to shift in their favour" is an extreme understatment *and* the fact reported by Gallup is presented as Democratic spin.
The Slaughter House Rule in 12 Dimensional Chess

It has been almost odd how much time Republicans spend denouncing alleged procedural irregulatiries in the enactment of the Health Care Reform Law. Their claims are absurd. Also no one outside of the beltway would care much if they were valid.

I have an idea. First, using deem and pass would have been a little odd and, if not dishonest, at least not totally frank and open. The Democrats talked about deem and pass up until almost the last possible moment.

My guess, first of all, is that Republicans were prepared to make a huge issue out of the absense of an up or down vote on the the Senate bill and they are having some trouble adapting to the fact that there was just such a vote. But I wonder if maybe this isn't an accident.

I mean you have to admit that the Democrats find it very convenient that the Republicans spent time and effort preparing to denounce them for doing something they didn't do. Maybe the whole Slaughter House Rule deem and pass proposal was a head fake -- a trick to distract the Republicans.

Now this might not be true. It is possible that in internal discussions the Democrats agreed to use deem and pass, that it became clear that it would be a public relations disaster, that it is hard and risky to renegotiate after reaching an agreement, and they got their act together just in the nick of time.

But you have to admit that my theory answers a nagging question which is why the hell were the Democrats talking about deem and pass when it was clear that that approach would have only costs and no benefits ?

If I'm right, I think we have to change the assessment of Nancy Pelosi as one of the political geniuses of all time. Not the part about genius, the part about "es" and "one of."
The plan I see the plan !

I have a practical proposal for dealing with a problem. The problem is that journalists don't report important facts often enough. Therefore readers and viewers don't know the facts. The problem is that journalists tend to assume that if a careful news consumer would know something then "everyone knows that."

A solution would be for them to commission a poll which investigated their readers' knowledge. They won't just do this. Polls are expensive. People don't like to be quizzed and public ignorance is always shocking. Newspapers will be reluctant to spend money in order to insult their readers.

So how about two polls, one of their subscribers and one of the general public. Washington Post readers don't know as much as we should (I admit I read it and so do you) but we know more than US adults on average. So the Post can find out how ignorant its subscribers are *and* flatter them.
Well that was quick.

I have been convinced by the arguments of lots and lots of people that reform will be more popular now that it passed. Crucially people who think current HCR doesn't go far enough won't say the oppose the bill because they want it to be amended, since it isn't a bill at all anymore it's a law (oh I like that -- the health care reform lawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww).

I didn't expect public opinion to turn on a dime
A new Gallup poll set to appear in tomorrow's USA Today shows public opinion is turning around on Democratic health care reform efforts now that the bill has reached final passage.

A plurality of voters surveyed in the poll, 49%, said passing the bill was "a good thing" as opposed to just 40% who said the passage of the reform bill was bad for the country.

I won't do the arithmetic just now, but the change from earlier Gallup polls is definitely not due to sampling error. A 95% interval for change fraction yes minus fraction no poll to poll is less than plus or minus 2/45 or around 4.4% and recent pre-lawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Gaullup polls all showed at least a plurality against.

Of course Republican hacks will turn on a dime too and now argue that public opinion doesn't matter, because the people were propagandized.
Who has been most unfairly treated by the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Committee ?

I'd say Kenneth Arrow. There are people who deserve the prize and haven't received it, but he has only received one single solitary Nobel memorial prize which means they owe him ... well let's count.

1. The market for lemons. I was pleased when Akerlof got the prize, but it is a fact that Arrow described the adverse selection problem in 1970 and explaine why this means the market is unsuited to the provision of health insurance.

2. The Arrow impossibility theorem. People had been trying to design a good electoral system for centuries when Arrow managed to brilliantly define the necessary properties of such a system and easily prove it didn't exist.

3. Stochastic dynamic general equilibrium theory. This is due to Arrow and Debreu who generalized the one period general equilibrium model to a stochastic inter-temporal model. What exactly did Kydland and Prescott add ? They simulated a very special case. Arrow gets bonus points for noting that the assumption of rational expectations in the Arrow-Debrue model is implausible.

4. Yeah rational expectations. Why did Lucas win the prize ? He said the Lucas supply function has nothing to do with the business cycle, so what's left is applying rational expectations to a model of the whole economy. That is Arrow and Debreu (I have never understood why general equilibrium theory is called micro not macro).

5. Maybe there should be a prize for endogenous growth theory (I'm not saying their should be). If so, Arrow should share it as he developed the Romer 86 model in 1962 (he wasn't the first).

I don't think so, so I think Arrow has been robbed of only 4 prizes.

The Nobel prizes in the sciences are given for a discovery. There is no limit of one per customer (Curie, Sanger, Bardeen I don't know who else). The Nobel prize in economics is given for being a very prominent economist. Awarding Arrow a well deserved second prize would help change this. Also he certainly seems to be a nice guy.
The End Days Are Upon Us

Richard Cohen wrote an excellent column !

Just read it.

Also E.J. Dione thinks that Washington Post opinion page readers need an explanation of how conservatism can be valuable. He contrasts worthwhile conservatism with the nonsense which passes for conservatism these days. It is almost as if he thinks that Washington Post Opinion opinion page readers aren't provided with examples of worthwile conservatism.

I wish I were being sarcastic, but I'm not. I am absolutely convinced that conservatism has a useful, sometimes necessary, role to play in the debate, and that readers of the Washington Post editorial page are not exposed to that kind of conservatism in spite of the much more than ample representation of dishonest conservative hacks.

To be clear I cound George Will as one of those dishonest hacks. Pomposity is neither integrity nor intellect.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

McJoan's extensive typo

McJoan wrote "We can thank Ben Nelson for one thing in the reform bill--the Medicaid expansion included for all states was the result of his politically disastrous deal for Nebraska." Hhh??!?!?

The medicaid expansion has been in every draft of the bill. The change in the newly signed bill due to Nelson is the special deal for Nebraska. If the reconciliation bill passes, there will be a further change indirectly due to Nelson -- full federal funding for the medicaid expansion.

As of now, the medicaid expansion is, for states other than Nebraska, a partialy federally funded mandate.

If the text of the post asserts that the medicaid expansion was added at the last minute. Since this is, by far, the most important and progressive part of the bill which was uhm not immediately warmly embraced by dailyKos, I almost wonder if that text is not a large typo. But of course it is, the words "full federal funding of the" were accidentally omitted between "the" and "Medicaid."
Adam Nagourney finds a way

I read Nagourney's article on how passage of the health care bill is politically bad for Republicans with interest. It is remarkable that read it at all. I wanted to see if he could find ballance in spite of the unusually pernicious liberal bias of the facts.

He did, after quoting Republicans denouncing the bill writing

Yet there are elements of the bill, particularly in regulating insurers, that could well prove broadly popular, and it could be years before anyone knows whether the legislation will have big effects on health care quality and the nation’s fiscal condition.

The first statement is an extreme understatement. Regulating insurers is already broadly popular as is expanding medicaid, subsidies for people moderate incomea and the (not passed yet) surtax on the wealthy. This has happened it is not something that could well be.

Much more importantly there is the Criticism ... Yet ... effect on quality and the deficit will only be known years from now. The word yet definitely asserts that the fact that these effects won't be observed soon is bad for Republicans, that is the effects will be bad (I don't know if he counts the quality of health care for the currently uninsured as part of the overall quality of health care).

I think a reality based description is "Republicans should be damaged by their false claims about the bill, yet it could be years before anyone knows whether the legislation will have big *beneficial* effects on health care quality and the nation’s fiscal condition as non partisan experts predict." I would not suggest that Nagourney write that either in a news article.

A neutral statement about how we won't know who is right for years would be OK. The assertion that it is bad for Republicans that we won't know is the assertion that they are right on the consequences of the policy. It is inappropriate to make such a claim in a news article and, besides, since Nagurney doesn't know or care about policy, he's not the one who should be allowed by News editors to express an opinion.
What Is To Be Done

Kevin Drum predicts that there won't be a string of big progressive victories after health care reform. I agree with the conclusion, but only because I expect Republican gains in the mid terms. He has an additional argument.

There's plenty of work left to be done, but when it comes to the big ticket items we've gotten about 80% of what we set out to get over the past century. The one major item missing has been national healthcare. And now, finally, we're on the road to getting it.

I respectfully disagree. This might be an overparsing of the number 80%, but I perceive a whole lot of huge things to be done.

First what about progressive taxation ? That was a goal of the progressives in the 19th century as well as in the 20th. The current tax system (including state and local taxes) is barely progressive at all . There is overwhelming popular support for a more progressive tax code. Try to remembe any poll anywhere on any issue in which less than 60% of US adults didn't support increasing the taxes of the rich. I am quite sure there is no such poll at Look under "social security" and "health care reform" as well as under "taxes." This is a huge winning issue for the Democrats and progressive taxation is uhm progressive.

Second would be national funding of schools. The inequality of school budgets is another US specific outrage. This is not at all like progressive taxation. Such a policy proposal would be extremely unpopular. This will require another century of struggle (probably more).

Third we had welfare but now we have TANF a program which just did not address the recession. The end of the entitlement actually mattered. I think that the entitlement AFDC was replaced by the fixed budget TANF, because people didn't like the word "entitlement." However, it means that TANF roles barely increaced during the recession at a time when more TANF is despearately needed.

Here the problem is that what is needed to prevent horrible suffering is to increase funding for a necessary but extremely unpopular program. Not going to happen any time soon.

Finally what about the rest of the world ? Remember foreign aid ? I'm not listing it because it is the only program less popular than welfare. I am listing it because it is the issue I care most about.

The reason there won't be a string of big victories which involve expanding spending programs is neither that we can't afford such an expansion, nor that American liberalism has achieved its goals. It is the remainng goal (you know elimination poverty) just doesn't have enough popular support to be at all feasible.

On the other hand, the radical idea of a progressive tax code would be good policy and good politics. The Democrats won't introduce such a code, but they could and should.
I Like This

After Republicans decided to save their objections for the Senate floor, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), the committee chairman, pushed forward with a financial-regulation bill that sheds several compromises reached with opposition lawmakers and instead hews more closely to the blueprint advocated by the Obama administration.
Could it possibly be that Democrats have decided not to negotiate with themselves, not to make concessions in exchange for nothing, to, you know, govern ?

Nah. No way. But at least I can dream.

And I really really like this report of Republicans in disarray.

with Republicans on the committee lacking consensus among themselves on some issues, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican, decided to forgo action on the proposed amendments. He plans to negotiate with Dodd behind closed doors.

And oh my oh my read the bankers' lobbyist's talking point

Edward L. Yingling, chief executive of the American Bankers Association, said the bill would impose harsh rules on traditional banks, putting them "at an even further disadvantage to non-banks and reduce the ability of our industry to support the economy."

Sure sounds to me that the bankers are saying that the non-banks ought to be regulated more and the different reckless fools in finance are turning on each other.
I'm trying to comment here on, among other things, this

So what’s the deal here? Is Stupak just stupid? Is he a charlatan exploiting the gullibility of a few easily-blinded, pro-life Democrats in the House to snatch some quality time in the political spotlight?

Or could he possibly be Nancy Pelosi’s secret weapon, signing on to play the heavy in a well-conceived script designed to grease the healthcare bill through the House without the kind of ransom shenanigans we saw repeatedly in the Senate at the eleventh hour?

Back in December, first we had the Ben Nelson travesty. Then, Joe Lieberman had his way with the Senate healthcare bill.

That is some grade A tinfoil. Hell not tinfoil, gold foil. It is true that the Stupak show helped Pelosi. I'm sure this was not Stupak's aim.

Also in the Senate you called the winner of the slow bicycle rare incorrectly. Nelson and Lieberman had a totally ruthless competition for the coveted position of 60th vote. In the end Nelson, not Lieberman, won by crossing the Yes line 60th.

Recall. Lieberman's plan was to refuse to participate in the team of 10 negotations so the team of 10 compromise would be the opening bid of the Democrats and Sanders negotiate with Lieberman. He demanded and obtained removal of Medicare buy in.

But Nelson outflanked him to the right (or more exactly to the more shamelessly egomaniacal and publicity hungry) suddenly proposing that hte medicaid expansion be decided by state governments (suddenly removing support for one of the key features of the bill and the one most dear to liberals and progressives).

While Nelson was extorting the cornhusker kickback, Lieberman was officially supporting the bill, one of 59 Senators trying to reason with Nelson.

So Lieberman only managed a half Nelson, the last ransom note was the full Nelson.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Looking Back ?

I don't think so.

Duncan Black writes
Looking Back

My marker for Obama was whether he'd get a health care bill with a public option. He didn't. A year ago passage of some sort of health care reform seemed inevitable, and not a tremendous challenge. Only a year of dithering and bipartisaning and gangs of wankers and pre-compromising and, frankly, failure to put forward something simple and popular jeopardized it.

The bill's more good than bad, but it isn't what we should have gotten. It isn't what we voted for.


In fact his claim was that the reform would make things better than the status quo ante if and only if there were a public option. I suspected at the time that this was a bluff -- that he was threatening to Hamsher if Obama didn't deliver a public option.

His current claim that what he said was the outcome would be better than expected (not better than the status quo ante) if and only if there were a public option is absolutely false.

In 2 minutes of googling, I didn't find the link to the first post in which he clearly asserted that reform without a public option would be worse than nothing, but here is proof that D Black's current claim about the thought of D Black is not accurate.
He wrote

Thursday, June 18, 2009
Public Option

As Hunter says, there isn't meaningful reform without a public option. More than that, reform without a public option is actually likely to make things worse, pouring even more money into the corrupt insurance industry and giving them even more political power.

And someone should inform Baucus that if he wants to get a good CBO score he just needs to include a robust public option. But saving money is less important that keeping insurance companies happy, so that's not going to happen.

-Atrios 14:25

Note the absense of an actual argument in the older post. Black can't argue that the Senate bill is worth than nothing unless he ignores everything in the Senate bill except for the individual mandate. He never even tried.

I'm pretty sure this was strategic. Black thought that it would be a bad bargaining strategy to say that a bill without a public option would be better than nothing. However, even if one's old statements were made strategically and were not uhm totally frank, one should see them when looking back.
My This is Historic

The passage of the health care bill is so important that even Dana Milbank got serious for a day. In fact, his article is beautiful (I always liked Dana Milbank).

Also he manages to be almost completely balanced with just a trace of ballance (tm). He described how the Democrats were dignified and the Republicans loud mouthed rabble rousers. That's just what happened.

As for the trace of ballance he wrote (in the obligatory historic in spite of sentence)

Then came the town hall meetings, the death panels, the granny killing, the images of Nazi concentration camps, the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Joe Wilson's "You lie!" moment, the middle-of-the-night and Christmas Eve votes, the Massachusetts special election, the Stupak Amendment, the Slaughter Plan, the filibusters, the supermajorities, the deeming and passing.

Note the Slaughter plan and "deeming and passing" are the same thing counted twice for ballance *and* that there was no actual deeming and passing. There was a regular vote on a regular bill which will be a regular law when it is signed by The President.

Also note that working hard because the minority is obstructionist ("middle-of-the-night and Christmas Eve votes") is presented as similar to debating by lying and by calling your opponents Nazis.

Finally the House voted to remove the Cornhusker kickback, although it is still in there unless and until the Senate passes the reconciliation side-car bill.

He just can't resist entirely for an whole article. but the closing is good.

"Hell, no, you can't!" Boehner shouted at the Democrats.

"No, you can't! No, you can't!" echoed the protesters outside.

But they could. And at 10:45 p.m., after 14 months of trying, 219 Democrats finally did.

I'm not sure the "finally" is appropriate in a news article, so an event in my personal history -- I just typed that Milbank may not have been balanced enough. posts something useful

They have a what the health care bill means for you interactive.

It is a bit over polite. I typed in the claims of family income of $1,000,000 per year and claimed to be on medicaid. The program said "There will be no change in your insurance coverage." I suppose that's accurate, but it might also have said "stop trying to mess with my central processing unit."

The program also does not have an option to note that I am not legally resident in the USA. Totally aside from undocumented aliens, has many readers who surf over from other countries as I do.

Still the feature is great. It asserts, correctly, that coverage will improve or stay the same, and that taxes only increase if family income is over 250,000.

The part I like best is that it does not have the option of "I'm on a Medicare advantage plan" or "My employer pays over whatever a year for my insurance" which would lead to "The reform does not mandate any cuts in your coverage, but it will indirectly cause your insurance company to provde a less generous package."
From the sublime to the meticulous

or Picky Picky Picky

This is very odd. I have, uhm, a relaxed attitude towards Grammar (and a much much more relaxed attitude about spelling). Yet I note something odd about NY Times copy editing. There are two recent op-eds which use knows as adjectives.

In his beatiful magnificent column on health care reform which you should just read, Paul Krugman wrote "health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval,"*.** The adjective popular is paired with the noun disapproval. I guess he listed to the commenter who advised "ignore the style sheet and just do what yuan do."

Maureen Dowd's opened her remarkable Thersites approved column on Nuns' sense of justice with this sentence "Angry nuns have been calling Congressman Bart Stupak’s office to complain about his dismissive comments on their bravura decision to make a literal Hail Mary pass, break with Catholic bishops and endorse the health care bill."

What's wrong with that sentence. Well first of all I don't see how the Nuns' brave decision was literally a pass (what did they throw -- ink ?). But second what is the word "bravura" doing there ? Bravura is and Italian (and maybe Spanish for all I know) noun. Why is Dowd using it as an adgective ? It is clear she means "very brave." Why didn't she write "very brave"? Furthermore, in Italian, bravura has nothing to do with bravery. The translation is "ability" or, more exactly given current usage, "outstandingly great ability."

It is related to the ajective "bravo" or able (with hints of "good" or "virtuous" but no hint of "brave") in the way that "redness" is related to "red."

Now believe you me most use of words from a foreign language with meanings different from their meaning in that language goes the other way. The English words "opera" and "piano" have meanings only remotely related to "work" and "soft," but you will probably not guess what the Italian word "body" means and I am still trying to understand what Italians mean by "feeling."

Still the misuse of a foreign word distracts from the bravura otherwise demonstrated by the column.

*Could be "Public opinion on health care went from wide approval to wide disapproval" or to avoid excessive parallelism and clarity "Public opinion on health care went from enthusiastic approval to wide disapproval"

** see what I said about my relaxed attitude. Look at all those punctuation marks in idiosyncratic order
219 Ayes

At 216 Y applaus and the chant "Yes We Did. Yes We Did."

Yes they did !

Tears of Joy !!!
200 Yes
The House is voting ! 12:47 left on the clock 172 Yes votes
Boehner Does It Again

Punk Staffers laughed when they heard him argue that the President can't interfere with the right of private firms to do whatever they damn well please with the taxpayers' money.

"House Republican leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) argued that no executive order can ... 'direct the private sector." He warned, "Make no mistake, a 'yes' vote on the Democrats' health-care bill is a vote for taxpayer-funded abortions.'"
OK so I'm working on the Washington Post's paraphrase, but what could Boehner have meant if he didn't mean to say that the Federal Government can't make payments to the private sector dependent on the private sector not using the money to pay for abortions or golf trips or whatever.

Note I didn't say payments under the health care bill. According to Boehner the President can't prevent defence contractors from billing the government for abortions.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Long Time Downloading

So they are voting on health care reform today and, DougJ suggested "It's been a long time coming" by Sam Cooke. The funny thing is it just won't download from youtube. Not from balloon juice, not directly. With patience I got a cover.

I wonder why so many people are streaming "Long Time Coming" that Youtube can't keep up.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we are in the presence of history.
I get e-mails

Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts
Thanks for subscribing to this periodic correspondence. We hope you find the information useful. As always, let us know your questions, comments or concerns. Our contact information is provided at the end of this e-mail.

March 20, 2010
Dear Friends,
After careful review and absent any last minute changes on reconciliation, I will vote YES on health care reform.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Let us now Praise Fred Hiatt

You know I found it painful to type that, but I have no choice.

He invited Marjorie Margolies back from the ash heep of history to discuss the one vote that cost her her seat in congress.

Margolies is a heroine to be honored and respected. I can't help being sexist and ask "what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this ?"

OK Tin Foil time. Her points are that she voted her conciience and lost her seat and that was the right thing to do. I'm not sure anyone else could do more to convince her unworthy successors to not vote their conciences. I don't really think that Hiatt published the column to undermine health care reform.

I note that I consider the ash heap of history to be a very honorable place to reach and that, while I did use the word "girl" to refer to an adult, I do not think I am worthy to shake her hand. The "girl" came to my mind because I recalled the case of hte adult man who called her the 3M girl and, when questioned said he was a boy and that his point is that males and females are different in case no one had noticed.

I do not recall the name of that adult man and I don't want to. He is unworthy of the ash heap of history.
Cris Cillizza writes a balanced article*

One of his articles is the very source of the word ballance so I guess I should call him Chris ciliza in this post. By the way he blamed the ballance in that article on an anonymous editor who he didn't name to preserve the principle that no one at the Washington Post is accountable.

I will only discuss the headlines and subject headings (OK that's all I read so sue me). An anonymous editor wrote the upper headline, which sets new standards for arrogance. An anonymous Washington Post editor wrote the lower headline which actually makes sense and corresponds to the article. I don't know who wrote the subsection titles. My comments in italics

"Five Myths a challenge to everything you think you know.

Five myths about the health-care reform battle

1. This could have been a bipartisan bill."

The upper headline not only insults the intelligence of the average Washington Post reader, it insults the intelligence of the Washington Post opinion editor. There may be some people who think the bill could have had bipartisan support, but no one who follows the news at all could possible believe that myth -- no not even Fred Hiatt nay not even David Broder himself.

But it goes way beyond that. For example, my belief that I know that 2+2=4 was not challenged at all.

"2. Democrats gave up on the public option too soon."

First, they haven't all given up on the public option. It is possible that the Senate bill plus reconciliation side car are not the very last health care reforms for all time. It is even possible that another bill will pass this very year. Certainly Obama, Pelosi and Reid haven't admitted that they have given up on the public option.

Second critics of the leadership's approach argue that reconciliation should have been used from the start for all budgetary aspects of the bill.

"3. Scott Brown changed everything."

No one believes that. For example, I still have two hands so Scott Brown didn't change the number of hands I have. Brown's electino did change one very important thing. It forced Democrats to use the reconciliation process. Now recall alleged myth 2. My view is that Democrats gave up on using the regular Senate order to give the American pulbic a public option at the last possible minute. But their using reconciliation. Just as giving up on doing it now isn't plain giving up, giving up on doing it via reconciliation isn't giving up on doing it via the regular order.

I'm not saying the public option should be a part of the reconcilation side car (say the tire or the seat). I'm not saying the proposed sidecar is all paint job with no Wheel or seat. I'm just saying that a key decision about the public option was made very quickly without public debate after Scott Brown's election rendered the earlier decision moot. Fine by me to have two reconciliation bills (a side car and a trailer ??? watch out there's a hazardous vehicle on the road to serfdom). Not so fine to me to fail to notice that Brown's election made Lieberman irrelevant.

"4. The public is undecided about health-care reform."

This is a faux clever paradoxis based on an equivocation. When normal people say the public is undecided, they mean that there isn't a majority for yes and there isn't a majority for no. This is true. To be cute Cilizza has decided to pretend that to say the public is undecided means that a majority of the public of people answer "don't know" when asked for a yes or a no.

A similarly widespread myth is that the public has decided about health care reform as asserted by Cillizza, but by "the public" I mean my pet hamster and not a bunch of people who live in the USA.

"5. How lawmakers vote on health-care reform will be the top issue in the 2010 midterm elections."

Huh ? The top issue will obviously be "Whose fault is it that the unemployment rate is over 9% ?"

My answer Jane Hamsher, because I am in the mood to blame her.

So the article is silly. But it is balanced. The dishonesty of the Republicans' claim that the bill could have had bipartisan support is noted and no corresponding accusation against the Democrats is added for ballance.

*update: I stand corrected by Tim Fernholz. The article is ballanced. I mostly just read the headings (as I admitted). I had no idea how one could make a non-absurd argument the parties could share the blame for hte fact that the bill couldn't be bipartisan. I still have no such idea, but Cilllizzza made an absurd argument.
The Bluedog whisperer

Exra Klein remains convinced that he understands bluedog psychology. I continue to disagree.

He writes of blue dogs "From their perspective, this is a better bill than it was before."

I think he has assumed that one can reduce policy to one dimension : left-right.

For example, it is clear that the Senate bill is unappealing to, among everyone else in the whole world, Bluedogs, because of the cornhusker kickback. This is not a left-right issue -- this is a sleazy and extremely dumb vs primate level intelligence issue (as is proven by the fact that Nelson doesn't support the kickback any more).

Even counting the reconciliation sidecar as read and passed, it is not clear to me why blue dogs would prefer a mixture of an excise tax and a tax on high incomes to the surtax on the super rich.

This is a move to the right *and* a change which creates an excellent issue for Republicans. The surtax is very popular. The excise tax is very unpopular. Representatives who fear the voters should be much more reluctant to vote for an excise tax.

Now it is true that bluedogs don't seem to care about public opinion at all. They are deficit hawks and care about paygo. The explanation (due to among others Matt Yglesias and probably Ezra Klein) is that their aim is to get on TV by appealing to the elite beltway journalistic consensus.

But now their seats are in danger. I can imagine that they suddenly really really don't want to vote for an excise tax.

Most of this is neither here nor there. All vulnerable Democrats have no interest as strong as passage of a health care bill -- any health care bill.

The dynamic is that they need the bill to pass but don't want to vote for it. I predict a very tense roll call as each blue dog hopes some other blue dog will take one for the team.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Robert's English and English-Italian dictionary

palinly adverb stronger version of "plainly false" so that a "palinly " false statement is more obviously false than a plainly false statement.

palin adjective: palinly false

A "palin" statement is more plainly false than a plain ordinary plainly false statement.

note 1: Irregular*, palin is not the adjective corresponding to palinly)
note 2 *Not* to be confused with the proper noun Palin -- nothing to see here folks move on.

palinamente: palinly

not to be confused with palesamente which translates plainly.

palinese: palin

not to be confused with "palese" which translated "plain." rather palnese translates "palin" or "extremely plainly false"

*I think an adjective is irregular because it doesn't have the normal meaning deduced from an adverb (or does that mean the adverb is irregular -- are adjectives primary and adverbs secondary somehow?). This is the effect of learning Italian where such rules usually work. In English many noun-verb-adjective-adverb sets are irregular in this sense, since some are derived from German and some are derived from French.

This is a strength and advantage of the English language. The logic of languages which aren't such dogs lunches is deceptive and makes people think they have discovered the nature of truth when they are only studying the grammer of their native tongue. Aristotle distinguished logic and grammer, but not very much. If asked, he would be unembarrassed and simply assert that it was impossible to reason correctly in barbarous tongues. Not knowing classical Greek, I am reluctant to accept this view.

Now look at that, from Palin to Aristotle in a single blog post. Betcha ya can't do that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ron Wyden and Ezra Klein promote the big Republican Lie

The really big one, the key to their strategy since 1980.

Senator Wyden is working with Sen Gregg on tax reform. He clearly has learned nothing from watching the Republican co-sponsors of Wyden Bennet (including Bennet) vote against cloture on health care reform.

Klein writes

Republicans and Democrats get into a lot of fights about how high taxes should be and what they should fund. But Wyden and Gregg have largely sidestepped those fights by holding revenue more or less steady and are simply attempting to clean up the code. "We think there's very fertile ground for a bipartisan initiative, which takes the tax laws and makes them dramatically simpler and maintains their progressive nature," Gregg says.

The Wyden-Gregg plan takes the six income brackets currently on the books and compresses them into three (15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent). It gets rid of the alternative minimum tax. It triples the standard deduction available to all taxpayers,

This would be a reasonable description of the state of play except for one huge gigantic immense issue which you want your readers to ignore -- progressivity. Given revenues Democrats want the tax code to be more progressive and Republicans want it to be regressive. This is a huge issue. You segue to presenting income tax brackets.

You are pushing the Republican line that income tax brackets are about the level of taxes, that all go up or all go down but it is impossible to increase the tax rate on high incomes and lower the tax rate on lower incomes. You don't even pretend you have an argument. You just jump from a scaler choice (high or low) to three numbers -- a vector.

You are participating in an absurd blatant obvious trick that has been the core and basis of Republican political strategy since 1980. If you were a Republican, I would, at least, give you points for audacity, but you are a Democrat and, in this post, writing as a fool (usually you are brilliant).

Wyden is an major reform energiser bunny and a total maniac about bipartisanship. Even Obama has noticed that it is a bad idea to try to deal with Republicans. How many of the Wyden plan's Republican cosponsors voted for the much more moderate Senate health care reform bill or their no votes by saying the bill wasn't radical enough ?

I think it is safe to guess that Gregg would vote against any bill based on his joint work with Wyden. That's what Republicans do.

In exchange for Gregg's time, Wyden is willing to surrender on a vitally important policy issue on which the public overwhelmingly agrees with Democrats and opposed Republicans.

Wyden and Klein are, by inclination, policy wonks. They are sensible centrists who wish they were technocrats (they respect Democracy, but they wish the people chose to elect technocrats not ideologues and partisan hacks and so do I).

Under the circumstances, this means that they have to fight fight fight the Republicans by any legal means. One just can't support policy based on reality and open minded analysis of data without trying to weaken the Republican party by any means possible. They have proven again and again that they are not honest partners in any negotiation and that they will always pull the football away.

I'd support Wyden if he proposed his plan without the cut in the top marginal tax rate (so 43% as currently scheduled not 34%). There is no reason to cut that rate. There are huge deficits streaching as far as they eye can see which will start crowding out investment fairly soon when we are out of the liquidity trap.

The people overwhelmingly overwhelmingly want higher taxes on the rich.

Republicans will fight higher taxes for the rich (of course). They will fight any bill supported by Democrats (of course). The terms of the struggle should be a simpler much more progressive tax code vs the status quo.

It is much better policy. It is much better politics. It is not done, because it would be called demogoguery and class warfare by super rich pundits who clearly base their views on the issue on their group interest.

Klein isn't a Republican. He isn't even rich. Why the hell is he going along with this scam ?

And yes the Senator Ron Wyden who is afraid of being called a class warrior is this Senator Ron Wyden

why the hell is he proposing a top marginal income tax rate of 35% ?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

That's not Cricket. It's not Poker either.

Jonathan Chait uses poker as a metaphor for politics. He quotes Tom Edsall writing years ago.

Republicans are much less risk-averse than Democrats, and taking risks is crucial to poker. [skip] Democrats, conversely, are the party of risk-aversion- -supportive of the safety net, opposed to new weapons systems, and sympathetic to protective trade policies.
[skip]. Another argument for the view that Republicans make better poker players is that poker rewards what feminists have long considered one of the worst attributes of men: the capacity to "objectify" the other. In poker, friends, colleagues, and even loved ones become subjects of manipulation and deceit-- sources of cash who must be persuaded to make mistakes and to misjudge their strengths and your weaknesses.

This is very odd for a number of reasons. First of all there are two excellent ways to lose at poker -- to be highly risk averse and to be highly risk loving. The archetypal poker loser is not the guy who folds instantly all the time, but they guy who bets on inside straights (check the archetype archive of comics and old Hollywood movies and low quality hard boiled fiction).

Second supporting new weapons systems is a sign either of risk aversion, parochialism or corruption. For the nation, a new weapons system is a certain cost which is also supposed to reduce some risk. The risk loving approach is to skimp on new weapons systems. I think Edsall is right here. People don't support new weapons systems because they think they reduce risk. They want federal money sent to their districts states or contributors, they have taken legal bribes (if no the old fashioned kind). Also they care a lot about which nation has the biggest studliest missiles (Ah if only Helen Caldicott had a book to go with the title "Missile Envy"). It has nothing to do with risk neutrality or risk loving.

Finally, objectifying someone and exploiting someone are different. Objectifying involves ignoring the thought processes of others. Poker involves manipulating others. Men may be more prone to objectify but men, this man at least, isn't stupid enough to say that women are manipulative (what and give up all future hopes of whoopy just for a blog post ?). We are however, stupid enough to come very very close to saying that so we are nailed anyway. So are Republicans.

Finally, who in official Washington is very very good at poker ? Who financed his senate campaign with his poker winnings ? Barak Obama that's who.

Look he is about to either win or lose a huge huge pot. The odds are nerve wracking. Just slightly better than 50 50. So far he has gotten to senators to complain about a lack of leadership from the White House (the Clintons did not hear that complaint).

The man plays 11 dimensional chess to relax between hands.

Chait shouldn't be surprised that the Republicans are bluffing and inadvertently showing their hand at the same time. They are terrible poker players.
It's just that Democrats are a poker playing team with players of the kind that shouts "stop bluffing" when their team mate is bluffing.

Monday, March 08, 2010

No no no my dear Mike Allen, you are obtuse, Kent Conrand is merely abstruse.

Mike Allen wrote of Kent Conrad "Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) made this confusing argument last week on “Face the Nation,” we weren’t sure he was being deliberately disingenuous. It was, in fact, spin. Now, he’s made the same case in a similarly obtuse WashPost op-ed,"

I think it is clear that Mr Allen meant to type "abstruse" rather that obtuse. They aren't homonyms, but, hell anything that Makes Mr Allen more like Matthew Yglesias is a good thing.

I only find it funny that Mr Allen is being obtuse.

Reminds me of the apocryphal time that Mrs Johnson found Samuel Johnson in bed with another woman and said "Samuel I am surprised" and he replied "no no no my dear, I am surprised, you are merely astonished."

Saturday, March 06, 2010

It depends on what the definition of "leads to" is

Charles Krauthammer is being deceptive as usual.

He wrote

"What did he suggest to address the plague of defensive medicine that a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests and procedures being done for no medical reason."

There are two interpretations of that sentence. One is that he claimed that the Massachusetts Medical Society demonstrated that all (100%, 13 out of 13, 17 out of 17) un-necessary referals, tests and procedures are due to defensive medicine.

This can't possibly have been shown. Also it is not conceivable. Doctors are human and they make mistakes for reasons other than fear of malpractice suits.

Or did he just claim that 25% of referals etc were shown to be un-necessary and asserted that defensive medicine has something to do with that. That without defensive medicine it would be maybe 24%.

For that matter, maybe 26%. It could be the effect of fear of malpractice suits is that there are fewer un-necessary procedures because some doctors are afraid of being sued when un-necessary procedures have adverse consequences.

I mean defensive procedures ? How many physicians have been sued for not performing a procedure ?

Doesn't the similarity of the estimates for referals and tests on the one hand and procedures on the other provide near proof that fear of malpractice suits is not a major factor ?

So what does he assert is the fraction of procedures that are -necessary procedures caused by defensive medicine ? It could be 25% or 1% or -1%. You consider the number 25% definitely an estimate of the effect of defensive medicine. I think you fell for his trick.

I just re-read my opening sentence and I wish to retract the claim. I can't be confident it is true. I said he is usually deceptive. That implies that I can think of an honest argument made by Charles Krauthammer. None comes to mind, so I can't rule out the possibility that he is always deceptive. I apologize for my careless wording, which is inexcusable in a comment which contains the numbers 100% etc. I couldn't swear that I know that Krauthammer is deceptive less than 100% of the time.

Friday, March 05, 2010

What me Worry ?

An evangelical Christian hate group called “Repent Amarillo” is reportedly terrorizing the town of Amarillo, Texas. Repent fashions itself as a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, “spring break events,” and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a “Warfare Map” of its enemies in town.
Calling Repent an “American Taliban,” blogger Charles Johnson notes that the group’s moniker “Army of God” is a rough translation of “Hezbollah.” Led by a man named David Grisham, a security guard at a nuclear-bomb facility called Pantex,
Paul Kurgman defined the last decade as "The Onion years" as "The Onion" became our nations most reliable forecaster. When they posted a fake Bush inauguration address in which he promised at least one war as big as Desert Storm, they thought they were joking. The joke was on them and Iraq.

So what will the teens be ? I'm afraid they will be the LaRouche years -- where US politicians will manage to out do the paranoid fantasies of the Larouchies.

Today I had the genuinely frightening experience of agreeing with whole clauses in a LaRouchie press release

"endless bailouts for Wall Street swindlers, while demanding budget cuts which will increase the death rates among the poor, the sick, the elderly and the unemployed – are not acceptable, and will not be tolerated."

Makes sense to me. Oh noooooooooo I agreed with 34 words *in a row* in a LaRouchie publication (previous record 7). Have I gone insane. Please please tell that that I'm insane. The prospect that official Washington has become such a huge target that Larouchies can't manage to miss it is too frightening.

To reasure myself and my readers (or reader) I hasten to add that the Larouchie in question was claiming that Obama was demanding budget cuts which would etc. He hasn't ... yet. And maybe he's discovered that there are some things more important than being bipartisan. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

George Orwell and the Health Care Summit

Newt Gingrich has concluded that George Orwell would have opposed the US health care reform bill. I do not usually agree with Mr Gingrich so I take special pleasure in agreeing with him on this point.

Orwell's views on health care reform were clear. He supported the Bevan reform, that is, government takeover of health care. Given his stated views on the subject, one can only assume that he would oppose the Senate bill, the House bill and single payer as insufficiently socialist.

I might add that he was bitterly disappointed by the timidity of the Atlee government. Oh and his political ideal was Aneurin Bevan "With Bevan in 10 Downing street and me as his eminence grise we could get the country to rights in no time" (I am quoting from memory).

Bevan resigned in protest from the Atlee government, because they watered down his health care reform (which was as noted above a government takeover of health care). The breaking point came when they decided that the public treasury not pay for eyeglasses and dentures.

Yes dentures played a central role in the break between the moderate and left socialist wings of the labour party.

My understanding is that Mr Gingrich has a PhD in History.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bill Halter is running for the US Senate.

He is challenging Blanche Lambert Lincoln the head of Democrats for millionaires.

His aim is to win against apparently huge odds with a plain old egalitarian populist campaign. I have been arguing for years that this is the way for Democrats to win. I sure don't think his chances are good, but, if his performance doesn't surprise the political commentators, then I will declare myself to be a fool.
This claim, that claim and this third claim are and are not true depending on what the definition of "and" is.

Recently New York Times public editor Hoyt got a whole lot of attention for arguing that
"made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn."

implies that "O'Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on Acorn counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time."

Now Lamar ! Alexander is horning in on his turf saying

"The reconciliation procedure is a little-used legislative procedure -- 19 times it's been used. It's for the purpose of taxing and spending and reducing deficits.

"But the difference here is that there's never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way.

Notably reconciliation has been used to pass Bush's tax cuts which increased the deficit and were of budgetary size *and* magnitude greater than health care reform let alone the health care reform sidecar bill which may actually be passed using the reconciliatoin procedure.

Ah but it depends on what the definition of "and" is. Did Alexander claim that the reconciliation procedure has only been used for bills which changed taxation and spendiong and reduced the deficit ? If so, his claim is false, since the Bush tax cuts did not affect spending and increased the deficit. Or did he claim it has only been used for bills which affect spending and for bills which affect taxes and for bills which reduce the deficit ? That's true, just as the following would be true

"It's for the purpose of taxing and spending and increasing deficits. " In any case, Senator Alexander himself has voted to use the reconciliation process to advance each of those admirable aims.

And again. Does "But the difference here is that there's never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way." mean that there has never been something of this size run through the Senate in this way and there has never been something of this complexity run through the Senate in this way or does it mean there has never been something at least this big and at least this complex run through the Senate in this way ? The second interpretation and the history of the Senate together imply that another true staement would be "But the difference here is that there's never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way." The additional qualifiers size and magnitude don't affect the truth value of the statement. So why did Alexander use them, both of them, redundently, with repetition, one after the other ?

Obviously he is trying to trick people into thinking that reconciliation has never been used in order to aid passage of a bill involving as many dollars as the Senate health care reform bill. He knows that is false and chose his words.

Note other things he doesn't say. He suggested that reconciliation is for reducing the deficit. In that sentence he doesn't even suggest that the Republicans have never used it for something other than its intended purpose. The next sentence discusses what was done in the past.

Of course, since the CBO forecasts that health care reform will reduce the deficit to use it to pass the bill (as the Democrats didn't) would be to use it for its original purpose. Ah but Alexander didn't say that the bill won't reduce the deficit (he knows it will) and he didn't say that, for the purpose of Senate rules, the CBO score is questionable (he knows it isn't).

Note he also didn't say that the health care reform bill will be passed using the reconciliation procedure. He said "run through" oh no ooops he slipped. He said "run through the Senate" wrong. The bill that will go through the Senate using reconciliation will be small and fairly simple. He could have managed a technically true claim by sayring "run through congress" since the reconciliation fix or a credible promise of a future reconcilation fix is needed to get the Senate bill through the House.

Still, my overall impression is that Sen Alexander is smarter than I thought. He managed to mislead with only one, easily corrected, error of fact. I'm sure he had help composing his misleading statement, but he remembered (most of) his lines.
To obamanate v.

To open an argument with obsequious apologetic throat clearing maneuvers which concede much too much.

see also

Obamanation n.
gerund of "to obamanate."
Obamanation a.
present participle of "to obamanate."


Opinions on shape of earth differ. Both sides once had a point. Early round earth advocates made claims unsupported by solid data and definitely over-estimated the curvature of the Earth. Christopher Columbus thought that China was as close to Europe as America really is USA. However evidence, which became available long after both sides made their good points, should lead reasonable people to agree that the earth is round.

as quoted by Julianna Goldman and Ian Katz
"round earth advocates['] ... claims unsupported by solid data."