Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007.


The Live SOTU Live Blog

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Bush Administration, DMIsotu2007

Here we go. The legislators are filing into the chamber. The Dick is wearing a purple tie. The speaker is in a mint green suit. I always notice colors.

Remember, if you want to read along, the text is here.

The First Lady is in cherry red. The chief justices are in black. The Secretary of State is in black. I believe that’s Elizabeth Dole in a magenta pants suit.

It’s 9:06 and no President yet.

It’s 9:08 and no President yet.

OK, there he is. Navy suit, light blue tie.

9:12 and they’re still applauding. Speaker Pelosi just said “Welcome Mr. President,” and she has gaveled the room quiet and introduced the president.

I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own — as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker.

Big cheer, standing applause.

The Creature looks pleased with himself. He isn’t as scared as he was in the recent “surge” speech.

Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate — and I congratulate the Democratic majority.

Applause.

Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not. Each of us is guided by our own convictions — and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we are all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this Nation’s prosperity … to spend the people’s money wisely … to solve problems, not leave them to future generationsto guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.

He said that with a straight face.

Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on — as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.

Translation: Play ball with me, or else.

Here are his three domestic priorities.

First, we must balance the Federal budget.

Snowball’s chance in hell.

We can do so without raising taxes.

Seems to me aplause only comes from one side of the hall. Dems are sitting on their hands.

We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 — and met that goal 3 years ahead of schedule.

He did that by off-budget spending and by inflating the deficit projections.

The second thing he wants to do is get rid of earmarks, which everyone wants to do until it’s their earmarks.

With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid — and save Social Security.

Yeah, by keeping your mitts off of ’em.

Now he’s calling for expanding on the “success” of No Child Left Behind.

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care.

Big applause.

I discussed the health insurance part of the speech in the last post., but here it is again:

When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. We will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.

At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.

My second proposal is to help the States that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing Federal funds and use them to create “Affordable Choices” grants. These grants would give our Nation’s Governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts … help small businesses through Association Health Plans … reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology … encourage price transparency … and protect good doctors from junk lawsuits by passing medical liability reform. And in all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.

I don’t have time to take this section apart properly, but it just plain doesn’t provide anything for people with below-average incomes, and it doesn’t help people with average incomes much, either. The “patients and their doctors” line got a big ovation, but the fact is that as long as private insurance companies are involved, private insurance companies get the last word.

Here comes the immigration part of the speech.

We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won’t have to try to sneak in — and that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers, and criminals, and terrorists. We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers — so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country — without animosity and without amnesty.

He’s also doubling the size of the border patrol.

OK, here’s the annual “we are too dependent on foreign oil” section of the speech. No switch grass this year, though.

The parts of the speech about energy conservation sound familiar; I’m wondering who has made these promises in the past.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 — this is nearly 5 times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks — and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Needs lots of fact checking.

I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Wouldn’t that raise the price of gas and oil?

As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the Federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty as well — to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Of course, that responsibility only applies when there’s a Republican in the White House.

We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us — unless we stop them.

Since 9/11, has he ever made it through a speech about anything without mentioning 9/11?

Yet one question has surely been settled — that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.

And if we don’t do that, we pick on other people and make new enemies!

The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a Nation at war.

Translation: As long as Bush and his war industry buddies have anything to say about it, America is still a Nation at War.

By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty.

Must … not … throw … lamp … at… television.

In the 6th year since our Nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this Government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.

Translation: bullshit bullshit bullshit

To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us.

I thought they hated us for our freedom.

In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution … drove out the Syrian occupiers … and chose new leaders in free elections.

And in 2006 we saw Israel bomb the hell out of Lebanon and put Hezbollah back in the saddle.

Now he’s explaining how awful it all is in Iraq and how those extremists are doing unacceptable things. He’s gone off script a bit, I think.

Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

“Victory” being a bugaboo in Bush’s head. Essentially he’s going through the “surge” part of the speech here. Many people not applauding.

We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

Why did you let al Qaeda escape Afghanistan, Dipstick?

If you can’t stand the lies and bullshit, click here for a preview of Senator Jim Webb’s rebuttal. (Yay!)

Now they’re applauding the troops. (applaud)

Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next 5 years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Volunteer civilian reserve corps? Let me guess — it’ll save Halliburton from having to pay people.

He wants to save the people of Dafur, which got a big standing ovation. Nobody is against the people of Dafur.

He wants to fight HIV/Aids and malaria in Africa, which is fine. But no mention of New Orleans.

Now he’s acknowledging people in the gallery. Dikembe Mutombo is sitting next to Lara Bush. Julie Aigner-Clark (Baby Einstein company), Wesley Autrey (saved a man from being killed by a subway in Harlem – big applause), Tommy Rieman (Silver Star in Iraq) are the other recognees.

We’re into the last four paragraphs, and before too long Bush will be telling us that the State of the Union is strong. I’m way more interested in what Senator Webb is going to say.

Ugh– smug Bush grin. He believes this shit.

Well, it’s over but for the clapping. Dems look less than wildly enthusiastic.

Olbermann: Not a particularly bad speech. Not a particularly good speech.

Hey, is Joe Lieberman there? Bush didn’t seek out Holy Joe to smooch him.

Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw are discussing references to Hezbollah and wondering why he is equating the with al Qaeda. That isn’t new, though is it? All Muslim militants are the same in Bush World.

Here we go — JIM WEBB!!

Remember New Orleans!! And now that Dems are here, maybe we’ll do something about energy.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

This is a good, honest, no-bullshit speech.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

Well, you can read the speech here. This is a much better rebuttal than the Dems have presented after past SOTUs.

Chris Matthews: Jim Webb is a liberal conservative. [I meant to explain to Matthews that Webb is a liberal, not a conservative.]

Well, that was the speech. Go ahead and discuss. I’ll post a round-up of reaction tomorrow.

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SOTU Live Blog

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Bush Administration, DMIsotu2007

Live blogging will begin at 9 pm. If you can’t stand the suspense, you can get a sneak preview of part of the speech at Raw Story. The excerpts don’t include much about health care, which may mean nothing, or it may mean there will be less about health care in the speech than originally leaked. Bush has a history of faking people out with pre-SOTU leaks that don’t, in fact, make it into the SOTU.

“Bipartisanship” promises to be the overriding theme of the speech. “Bipartisanship” means, of course, that the Dems should do what Bush tells them.

Courtesy Bob Geiger:

Update: Here’s the full text.

Update update: Here’s the part of the speech about health care:

Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.

At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.

I don’t see how this is going to help families living on less than $60,000 a year. Even $4,500 isn’t going to cover much of the insurance cost for a family of four.

My second proposal is to help the States that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing Federal funds and use them to create “Affordable Choices” grants. These grants would give our Nation’s Governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

Nothing about taking money away from Medicare, but who knows how they propose to pay for this without raising taxes.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts … help small businesses through Association Health Plans … reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology … encourage price transparency … and protect good doctors from junk lawsuits by passing medical liability reform. And in all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.

Translation: Government will see to it that health care decisions will be made by insurance companies, as they are now.

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Slaying the Jabberdick

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Bush Administration, Dick Cheney

From Think Progress:

Under oath, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby told a grand jury that he first learned that Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent from conversations with the media. In fact, he first learned that information from Vice President Cheney himself. …

– “Vice President Cheney himself directed Scooter Libby to essentially go around protocol and deal with the press and handle press himself…to try to beat back the criticism of administration critic Joe Wilson.”

– Cheney personally “wrote out for Scooter Libby what Libby should say in a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.”

– “Scooter Libby destroyed a note from Vice President Cheney about their conversations and about how Vice President Cheney wanted the Wilson matter handled.”

Digby:

Norah O’Donnell is asking Andy Card and Leon Panetta if the president is going to have to ask Dick Cheney to resign as a result of what’s being alleged at the Libby Trial. (They both punted.)

And just think — Dick the Dick is supposed to show up and sit next to Nancy Pelosi at the SOTU tonight. Wheeee!

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Tonight’s the Night!

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Bush Administration, Health Care

Be sure to drop by tonight for blow-by-blow live blogging of the State of the Union address. You are welcome to watch the SOTU along with me and add your commentary to the comments. Or, you can blow off the SOTU and add your commentary to the comments, anyway. I don’t know that it matters. You know the boy ain’t gonna say shit. I only plan to watch so I can see Nancy Pelosi looming in the background.

However, there are some things we can watch for, like whether the creature can pull off looking confident, or if he says something that hasn’t already been leaked. Advance word is that the creature plans to focus on domestic policy; stuff that isn’t so much, you know, Iraq.

The President is expected to announce a major health care initiative, which I discussed earlier this week, here and here. Today we have the exciting news that The Dumbest Health Care Plan Ever!™ has gotten even dumber. Christopher Lee and Lori Montgomery write for the Washington Post,

The best solutions to the problem of nearly 47 million Americans lacking health insurance are to be found in states across the country, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Monday.

President Bush will propose in his State of the Union address tonight, Leavitt said, that the federal government redirect some money from programs such as Medicaid and Medicare into a new grant program to help states devise and implement plans ensuring access to affordable health insurance.

Leavitt, who did not specify a funding amount, said the new Affordable Choices Initiative would help fuel efforts already underway in states such as Massachusetts and California to guarantee access to basic health coverage for everyone.

“The aspiration for all Americans to have access to a basic insurance policy at an affordable price is a widely held sentiment,” Leavitt said. “There will be two diverging philosophies on how to solve this problem. One will be to have the federal government ensure everybody, and the other will be, ‘Let the states lead.’ “

The Massachusetts Plan hit some rocks recently when somebody figured out that the “affordable” insurance the plan promised would cost $380 on average per month for an individual, and “up to $580 per month for a 56-year-old.” The catch is that insurance is mandated, so poor, uninsured folks in Massachusetts are expected to scrape this money together somehow or be in violation of law

But from a wingnut perspective, the Affordable Choices Initiative would not only slice a few pennies off the cost of health insurance, it would gut Medicare and Medicaid in the bargain! Win/win!

WaPo’s Lee and Montgomery continue,

Meanwhile, another Bush health care proposal drew a chilly reception from some Democrats. Bush will urge the creation of new tax breaks for the purchase of health insurance, especially by those who do not get coverage through work. Bush advisers acknowledged Monday that the plan initially would cost the federal government millions of dollars in lost revenue, but said that would be offset by more revenue in later years and the plan would pay for itself within the first decade.

And you know that whenever a Bushie says a plan will “pay for itself” — we’ll be robbed.

[Update: Ezra has more details on The Dumbest Health Care Plan Ever!™]

Here are some links to keep you busy as we anticipate the big event:

Bush To Face Skeptical Congress

Diminishing clout presents challenges for Bush

From Hero to Goat

How chilly a reception in the House chamber?

Nearly two-thirds in U.S. have given up on Iraq

Saving Their Seats, and Maybe the Country

Stale of the Union

State of Indifference

State of the Union: Irate

[Update:] Trying to Change the Subject

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