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Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that the launch and current operation of the federal health insurance exchange website is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad thing.  Was it a case of bad management?  Yes.  Bad engineering?  Yes.  Should people be fired?  Yes.  Bad optics?  Yes.  The worst thing since Zombie Hitler taking over Jerusalem?  No.

Jesus tapdancing chriiiiiist already.  It’s a fucking website.  Yes, a website.  A fancy complicated thing that the government wouldn’t have even rolled out if this were 2003.  (Remember forms?  The DMV?  The Social Security Office?  The IRS phone line?  Fax machines?  Stamps to mail shit in?)

I think we’ve all come to realize that about 75% of the shit that Andrew Sullivan gets hysterical about is gonna end up being a huge nothingburger when looked on in retrospect.  And, boy howdy, is he fucking hysterical right now:

The Obama team waited until the website roll-out to make their case – hoping, presumably, to capitalize on what they imagined would be a great online experience. Then came the mismanaged disaster

If the federal government were a business, and the ACA were a new product, its stocks would be in the toilet right now. If Apple made an iPhone that experienced massive failures on the consumer end from the start, it would be withdrawn…

The president now needs to rise to this occasion or have his own singular policy choice, like Bush’s, become a synonym for government incompetence. Confess, Mr President. Americans forgive failures explained forthrightly. They rightly never forgive those who cannot plainly and clearly admit error and take responsibility.

Yes, CONFESS!  Rend your garments and wail out upon the congregation how “Yes!!  I have SINNED, Lord!  Forgive me of my trespasses!!”

This is such a depressing example of how fucking shallow we’ve become and how utterly obsessed we are with optics uber alles.

Will enrollment in the new health insurance programs be impacted in the short term?  Yes.  Will Obama and the Democrats get egg on their face?  Yes.  Might we have to delay the individual mandate for a bit?  Probably.

But, hey, NEWS FLASH!  Websites get fixed.  In the interim and for years to come, millions upon millions of people will have their lives transformed by finally being covered by affordable health insurance.  These are people who will become free to start small businesses without being shackled to the sweet health plan they get by working at DepressedTech LLC…  People living on the edge of medical bankruptcy who will have a better chance to not have their lives ruined for the foreseeable future by a sudden unexpected illness…  People who won’t be tossed in the ditch once some crafty insurance adjuster ferrets out a preexisting condition…  People who will remain alive because they didn’t avoid getting treated for a dangerous condition “because they just don’t have the money right now.”

Ferfuxake, nearly 10 million young adults have gotten health insurance over the past few years just by virtue of the fact that they’ve remained covered by their parents’ health plans.

I know a fuck-up is a really sexy, exciting thing to put on the news.  Congressional Republicans haven’t stopped wetting themselves over the orgasmic opportunity to hold hearings to sternly find out the “Who, What, Where, When, and Why!” of this most catastrophic communist betrayal of these United States since suggesting that our kids eat healthier foods, the President lying about quitting smoking, BENGHAZI!11!!!, Michelle Obama giving a mean look to the Statue of Liberty!!

If literally the worst actual, factual thing you’ve got to bitch about is a buggy website, then how’s about we all get a little fucking perspective, justifiably needle the President about it for a while and then take, like, a million long, deep breaths.


I remember back in 2006, after Democrats won Congress in the midterms, that the conventional wisdom about the new Speaker and Majority Leader broke down like this: Pelosi was allegedly this very liberal, independent, activist leader, while Harry Reid was a stolid centrist without much in the way of dynamism. It’s interesting to consider this now nearly seven years later, when you can make a fairly solid case that the reverse is now true. At this point Harry Reid is the Democratic leader I trust the most on budget issues, both in terms of issue positions and the ability to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi has let herself become Obama’s proxy on practically every issue that’s come up recently and often not on the right side, nearly to the point of becoming a rubber-stamp. There are good reasons as to why she might have chosen to do this–running the House minority doesn’t count for much at this point in time, so drawing closer to Obama makes her stronger in some ways–but it’s sad, and it’s wrecked my estimation of her as any kind of independent force. Can you imagine Pelosi agreeing to chained-CPI if proposed by Bush? Of course not, and it suggests that she’s become ideologically compromised by her relationship with Obama. Admittedly, Pelosi was always more pragmatic than her image would have you believe, and Reid at the moment is far from perfect in a number of ways (e.g. filibuster reform). But it’s hard to argue that Reid has kept the faith with progressives to a greater extent than Pelosi has the past couple years. Given the latter’s (most likely) irreparable damage with the electorate and large number of enemies, I find myself unexpectedly thinking that a clean sweep of the Democratic House leadership would not be a bad thing at all, might increase Democrats’ House prospects since it takes the bogeyman of Speaker Pelosi off the table, and perhaps going with a few non-septuagenarians in there (crazy I know!) might better reflect the base of the party right now.

So the question then becomes: who would replace Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn? I’ve heard John Larson‘s name batted around as a leadership prospect a number of times and I’d definitely endorse that move, every time I read him quoted in news articles he sounds smart, sharp and candid. He’s served in the House leadership twice and even resembles Tip O’Neill if you squint a little bit. It seems also very likely that Chris Van Hollen would figure in, given his leadership role, relative youth and DCCC leadership. I also think this would be a good move. Probably he’d be a solid choice for whip. Which would leave the Majority Leader post empty and, obviously, a House leadership team with three white men would go over like a lead balloon (as well it should). Looking at the House leadership chart here leaves one with a couple of good options–the symbolism of giving the post to John Lewis would be sweet, and it would be a fine valedictory given his age and distinguished career. But Xavier Becerra would also be a good choice, as there isn’t a large history of Hispanics in House leadership offices (Ted Cruz’s de facto role notwithstanding), and the post would be a logical next step from his current post as caucus chairman. Plus, he’s originally from the Sacramento area, which is obviously a plus for me–the last famous politician originating from the area was disgraced former Sen. John Ensign, and we could use a bit of redemption.

[Today*] is the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, so celebrate the occasion by reading this by Daniel Larison on why Kennedy wasn’t actually a conservative, a theory only really employed by Boomer men whose politics drifted to the right, but still want somehow to connect with the cool counterculture of their youth. Really, it’s nothing more than that.

There are plenty of ways to look at Kennedy and to appraise him. I’ll go with the angle that he’s a poster boy for campaign finance reform. Kennedy certainly didn’t have the nomination locked down early in the 1960 cycle, as Robert Caro’s fourth LBJ book tells us, many of the power brokers in the Democratic Party had concerns about his Catholicism and experience. While it’s obvious that Kennedy’s Catholicism was a surmountable obstacle in retrospect, the anemic margin of his victory against Nixon suggests that it still had some negative effects, and Hubert Humphrey would probably have enjoyed a comfortable victory given the political environment of the time. But concerns over his experience and competence were pretty much dead-on, as Kennedy had spent over a decade on Capitol Hill and obviously had learned nothing about how it worked (partying with George Smathers being more fun than cultivating relationships with powerful figures, obviously). His record on domestic policy showed his uselessness in that arena, and his foreign policy record wasn’t much better, a mixed bag at best. The point of a nomination process is for the party to pick its best possible nominee, and it’s difficult to argue that Kennedy was that person, or that he would have won absent the ungodly sums spent by old Joe, something that even the most skeletal campaign finance structure should have curtailed. Does Kennedy get the nomination if he loses the West Virginia Primary to Humphrey? Does he win that primary without all that money flying around? In both cases it’s doubtful, despite Kennedy’s gift for campaigning, his charm, and what we’d now call an incredible talent for spin, one so good he managed to get entire generations of people to think he was a great president when the record does not bear that out. Obviously, campaign finance reform was completely nonexistent in the 1960s. Had it been around, it’s likely Hubert Humphrey would have been the 35th President of the United States and would likely have served two terms, something which would have been better for everyone involved (Kennedy included).

[* Ed. Note: The 50th anniversary is on November 22, not October 22.  Sorry for the error.  But no apologies for the awesome post. :-P ]

gavel2I think there’s enough evidence to say that, were the midterm election to be held today, Democrats could definitely retake the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, it’s not being held today. Certainly, the possibility is out there and is being taken seriously by most everybody, which is important psychologically for many reasons. But at risk of being a grinch, it’s worth saying that simply retaking the House with a bare majority would not necessarily mean rapid enactment of progressive change.

For starters, while the Blue Dogs (and in particular the classic Southern conservative white variety) are pretty much gone, there are still several lying around. A House majority that hinges upon “Democrats” like Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre is simply not going to enact much wide-ranging legislation. Of course, one or both of them might lose in what are extremely Romney-supporting seats, but that would mean taking 19 seats instead of 17, which is a difficult enough task. But even if that were accomplished, it’s certain that some of the new arrivals would be conservative Democrats as well. For example, here’s highly-touted Arkansas hopeful Pat Hays:

Hays criticized the 2010 health care law as too expensive and vague, even as he criticized House Republicans’ push to defund the law, which prompted the government funding standoff. Hays said he wouldn’t have voted for the law if he were in Congress, and wouldn’t rule out supporting efforts to repeal the overhaul or delay part of its implementation.

He also criticized the computer problems that have frustrated Americans trying to enroll online for insurance plans under the health law.

This is, to be fair, very standard red state Democrat-style rhetoric on the Affordable Care Act, and in practice people using it have stuck with the party on every vote related to the ACA. But it stands to reason that voting for the ACA is a big determinator of an overall willingness to vote for tentpole liberal legislation. And given available seats, we’re probably going to see a lot of Pat Hays types finding their way to Washington in the event that the House changes hands. However, it also stands to reason that a Democratic House with the barest of majorities would be able to pass funding bills very easily and implement procedural changes (like statutory debt ceiling abolition) with relative ease, which would be a huge improvement over the Boehner House*. The problem in that case would again be endless GOP Senate filibusters, though unlike in 2009 there will be no staunch filibuster-defenders in the Senate Democratic Caucus after Carl Levin leaves office next year.

Of course, it’s impossible to know how likely any of this happens to be. I’ve long been convinced that Democrats will gain House seats in 2014, and IMO grabbing even a handful would have to be considered a huge victory. Retaking the House in a midterm would be a political defeat for the GOP akin to losing another presidential election, and would mark the fourth time out of five the party’s lost big in a federal general election. You have to imagine that this would give some ballast to the David Frum-style reformist conservatives out there, though it’s certainly possible even that would avoid a reckoning for the Tea Party.

* Term used with all due sarcasm


This is correct, but I’d go further than saying that Cruz is merely well within the mainstream of Republicans. I’d say that he’s the obvious, undisputed leader of Republicans. Admittedly, if his strategy is to win the GOP nomination in three years then he’s been doing a lousy job of setting himself up for it, since that’s one of those things that requires people to like you and that’s just not the case with Tailgunner Ted. But…he doesn’t need many people to like him to keep doing what he’s been doing, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to imagine a way for Republican establishmentarians to undermine him without tearing their entire edifice down.

The reason why Cruz is uniquely suited to this role is that he’s the logical conclusion of nearly all the trends the party has been encouraging over the past couple years. Cruz is an intense xenophobe, though he also checks off the “minority who really hates Barack Obama” box. His intellect is respected and his academic qualifications are sterling, and he uses them to make all manner of silly, sophistic arguments. In other words, he has book larnin’ but he’s not a scientist, man. He has no chink in his ideological armor and is fully on board with “soft” revolutionary techniques to drive the conservative agenda. All of this is stuff that the GOP has been pushing since before Cruz ever arrived, and Cruz is a product of his party and its environment, someone who has mastered what it takes to get FOX News to admire him, and who has no interest in convincing anyone else. It’s not surprising that many of the people who created this environment are horrified at what their ideas look like taken to their natural conclusion. But this is why Republicans will be completely unable to stop him: they hate him, but to defeat him would require undermining those trends and the GOP cannot do it. It would be like Big Brother not only declaring peace with both Eastasia and Oceania, but subsequently arguing for pacifism. It would require undermining too many pillars of the established order that it probably wouldn’t even be possible, wouldn’t be accepted by any level of the party. As we saw during the shutdown, many Republicans are entirely unwilling to give up on wildly unrealistic goals simply because they believe that they will be able to Green Lantern out a win. Cruz probably doesn’t believe that those wins are possible, so much as that seeming to fight for them is unlikely to hurt him personally.

Cruz seems like someone likely to self-implode on account of his ego, which is something that obviously could happen, and probably will eventually. But make no mistake about it, it’s his party for the time being.

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Has anyone else seen this show? I caught an episode solely because someone I know had a guest spot on it, but I was unaware of anything that had to do with the show. But it appears that it’s a program that is so misguided only a network programmer could love it:

  • The premise of the show is that Ichabod Crane got put to sleep by a spell and wakes up in contemporary Sleepy Hollow. First off, this is a particularly dumb premise because it’s Rip Van Winkle who goes to sleep for an extended period of time, not Ichabod Crane, though I could understand why Rip Van Winkle wouldn’t be an ideal character to create a TV show around (dumb name, obviously not a very dynamic presence). But basic intelligence would suggest that adapting a fable would involve actually using the elements of the story, rather than just taking a few names and throwing in a bunch of extraneous elements.
  • The concept seems to be a mash-up of police procedural and supernatural horror. This is a fairly common mash-up, from The X-Files to Supernatural (I’m assuming from what I’ve heard, I’ve never seen it) to Fringe. Of course, the first and last of those for sure would never be mistaken for generic TV cop shows, while Sleepy Hollow largely would be, as it’s shot, lit, and edited exactly like them. It is typical of creative bankruptcy in television to use a public domain story as just another angle for creating just another cop show, though it’s less thought through even than most, because so many of the details make no sense (Det. Crane still wears Revolutionary War-era garb, so apparently his entire wardrobe survived for 200 years as well? Were his clothes cursed too?). In the real world (or, in something close to the real world where time travel were possible), you have to imagine that a time traveler would have an extremely hard go of it, with no connections and no marketable skills, they’d pretty much be forced to become a novelty act at the hands of a cruel manipulator to survive. But in this reality, Crane’s incredible story is apparently completely unknown to the public, and doesn’t even faze people when they hear it.
  • As for the cast: the guy playing Crane has a certain watchable quality, though the rest of the cast strikes me as pretty generic and/or miscast (Orlando Jones of all people shows up as the shift lieutenant at the police station, for some reason). There’s no Scully-Mulder or Olivia-Peter kind of central relationship here to root for though I suppose in all fairness it’s still pretty early.
  • But the kicker here is that the episode I watched, which was about a bunch of German descendants of Hessian troops trying to find a MacGuffin to rule the world or something–yes, seriously–got so much of the history wrong and displayed an outright contempt for history and historians. Breaking out the “everything you know about history is wrong” canard is an expression of extraordinary disrespect for the work historians do. It’s impossible to get rid of all the gaps in the historical record, but the thing about history is that it keeps improving with new discoveries. So no, the Hessians weren’t secretly part of some kind of apocalyptic cult, they were mercenaries who were there because the British Empire was a bit overextended globally at the time, and because the Brits historically have loved getting people who were not them to fight their wars for them (the Hessians also helped Wellington beat Napoleon at Waterloo, though presumably we will find out in season two of Sleepy Hollow that this was part of a plan to allow Napoleon to fake his own death and having a spell put upon him to become Hitler, or some such). I generally despise counterfactual historical fiction because it’s incredibly difficult to justify the device with the story that is told, and the only generally successful example I can think of is Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle. However, it’s common because any old fool can generate a scenario in a couple of seconds. (Time traveler gives the South machine guns? Brilliant!) For my historical fiction, I prefer an approach like Gore Vidal’s, which presents the facts while filling in the gaps with imagination. I really wish he’d lived and written this show. Could you even imagine?
  • The general execution of the story can be expressed in this way: a captured German guy commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule hidden in a false tooth. That’s smart TV: a plot device that only works if you never imagine the character chewing.
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Ed Kilgore links an interesting little fact about where the ACA implementation is working best:

But 14 states plus the District of Columbia are managing their own markets. Mostly it’s places you would expect—progressive outposts like California, Washington, and New York—where Obama and his policies are most popular. […] But the websites in other states are now running and, while it’s difficult to get a precise sense of how each one is operating, most appear to be functioning well.

This gets me thinking that Scott Brown’s election, funnily enough, was a bit of a lifesaver for the implementation of ACA. What the guy’s election basically did was force the House to pass the Senate version of the healthcare bill, which included statewide exchanges, rather than wait for a conference of the two that would have included one national exchange. Given how terrible the federal website has been, it’s good that at least 1/4 of the states are up and running, including most of the biggest ones. Partial functionality is better than nothing.


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