Congressman Ozark Billy Long: Cheap Shot Artist? Nope. He’s No Artist

cheap shot artist:
An individual who raises the act of taking a dishonorable, lowbrow, disrespectable action to an artform. This is accomplished either through frequent and conspicuous use of cheap shots or a particularly noteworthy low blow.

—from the Urban Dictionary

Geeze.

I had heard that my congressman, the former auctioneer Ozark Billy Long, participated in the farce that was Wednesday’s hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “implementation failures” of the Affordable Care Act. But even I, a long-time critic of the congressman, never dreamed he would make such a cheap shot-shooting splash on the national stage.

Here is the painful transcript of Ozark Billy’s moment in the anti-ObamaCare sun. And keep in mind that he had plenty of time—almost three and a half hours during the hearing itself—to formulate his questions:

OZARK BILLY LONG: …thank you, Secretary, for being here today and giving your testimony. Earlier in today [sic] you said that “I’m responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” I’ve heard you referred to, maybe yourself, as the point person for the rollout, the architect of implementing Affordable Care Act, so you are kind of the President’s point person, are you not, for this rollout?

SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Yes, sir.

OZARK BILLY LONG: I, uh, earlier, you were asked—and there’s a lot of things striking about the rollout of this and about the Affordable Care Act altogether—but the thing that’s most striking to me is that when we have the point person for the rollout here, and you’re not going into the exchange. Now, I’ve heard you say that—and you’ve got some advice from the folks behind you—but I’m asking you today could you tell the American public, if your advisers behind you, if they happen to give you some wrong information, if it is possible for you to go into the exchange like all these millions of Americans that are goin’ into the exchanges, will you commit to forgo your government insurance plan that you’re on now and join us in the pool? Come on in, the water’s fine, all the congressmen, all of our staff, have to go into the exchanges. We have to go into the D.C. exchanges.

And I will say that I tried to get on the website, I was successful during the hearing earlier, and I got to the D.C. exchange, which is where I have to buy from, and I got part way through and then when I got to the point where I had to enter Social Security number, billy long cheap shot artistI could not bring myself to do that from what I’ve heard from people like John McAfee and folks about the security, will you tell, if your advisers are wrong, and it is possible, for you, and I’m not saying it is, but if it is, if it is possible for you, to forgo your government program you have now, will you tell the American public that, yes, I will go into the exchanges next year like everyone else?

SEBELIUS: Sir, the way the law is written—

LONG: It’s a yes or no—let’s say that you’re wrong on that. Yes or no. If you’re wrong, will you yes or no…

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation to the American public…

LONG: You what?

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation…

LONG: I want you to go on and research it…if, if, if you’re wrong…will you go into the exchanges? If you can, will you? That’s a yes or no; if you can, will you?

SEBELIUS: I will take a look at it. I don’t have any idea…

LONG: That’s not an answer. That’s not a yes or no.

COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN FRED UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

LONG: You’re the architect of the whole program and you won’t go into it with the rest of the American public…

SEBELIUS: I did not say that, sir. I think it’s illegal for me—

LONG: —If it’s not illegal, if it’s legal will you go in? …Come on in, the water’s fine…

UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN (D-California): Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request…

SEBELIUS: (turning to someone behind her and muttering) …don’t do this to me…

WAXMAN: …Madame Secretary, I’d like you to answer for the record: if you were able to do what the gentleman just suggested…and went into the [exchange] to buy an individual policy, would you be able to find one that would protect you from cheap shots…?

Yikes. Cheap shots, indeed.

First of all, besides the cheap shots and incoherent mess that was Long’s questioning, when he asks Sebelius, “will you go into the exchanges like everyone else?” we know that “everyone else” will not be going into the exchanges. It will typically be only those Americans (about 15 million) who don’t get coverage through their employers or through Medicare or Medicaid or who are self-employed or who are owners of small businesses trying to provide insurance for their workers (or members of Congress and their staff who were, unfortunately, put into the exchanges by a Republican provision that Democrats adopted).

Second, Sebelius already has health insurance and doesn’t need to go into the exchanges. Her employer is the federal government and, by law, her employer must provide her with affordable insurance, which it does. And since apparently she is enrolled in Medicare Part A, she couldn’t go into the exchanges without withdrawing from that program, which would be dumb since it is, uh, free. Thus, in order for her to sufficiently prove to Billy Long that she loves ObamaCare, she would have to give up her government-provided health benefits, quit Medicare, and start paying out of pocket for her health insurance. Dang, I wonder why she doesn’t do that?

Third, when Long says that Sebelius “is the architect of the whole program,” he is either lying or he doesn’t realize that the architects of this program were largely Republicans, who, before Obama embraced their enhance-the-private-insurance-industry scheme, were all in favor of enhancing the private insurance industry. And if Sebelius were the architect of the program, she would understand it much, much better than she does and would be able to explain it much, much better than she has so far.

Fourth, when Ozark Billy referenced John McAfee, I thought he was kidding. John McAfee, besides being the founder of the anti-virus software company that used to haunt our computers, is actually a “person of interest” in a murder case in Belize. He is one weird cat. House Republicans solicited his “expertise” on October 14, those Republicans being in desperate need of a clown to complete their anti-ObamaCare circus act.

Instead, they settled for Ozark Billy Long, whose cheap shot artistry was long on cheap and short on art.

Geeze.

Here is the entire hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,  and you will find the complete display of Long’s lack of artistry near the end, at 3:23:22 or so:

Here is a clip:

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Insurance In A Red Solo Cup

Tennessee congresswoman congressman* Marsha Blackburn, a twangy Tea Party zealot, loudly said to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today:

You’re taking away their choice!

She was talking, of course, about the Affordable Care Act’s disdain for insurance plans that don’t meet the law’s new standard for coverage. Except that the truth is those inferior plans, plans that essentially are rip-offs for consumers, were actually protected in the law. As HealthCare.gov puts it:

If you are covered by a plan that existed March 23, 2010, your plan may be “grandfathered.” 

The site also explains the difference between the new standardized plans and the grandfathered ones:

___________________________________

All health plans must:

Grandfathered plans DON’T have to:

In addition to the above, grandfathered individual health insurance plans (the kind you buy yourself, not the kind you get from an employer) don’t have to:

___________________________________

Leaving aside the hypocrisy of Republicans yelling about taking away people’s health care choices, when they have all supported the Ryan budget plans that, as Jonathan Cohn points out, would cause “between 14 and 20 million Medicaid recipients” to “lose their insurance,” let us instead focus on the inaccuracy of Blackburn’s hysterical claim, “You’re taking away their choice!”

Now, it is indisputable that there are many folks, people who have to purchase insurance on the individual market, receiving notices that their current plans, junk or not, are being discontinued. Insurance companies have to, by law, notify policy holders 90 days in advance if they will not offer the same plan next year. But discontinuing those insurance plans is the decision of the insurance company. It should be shouted from the housetops that they don’t have to discontinue them. If the policy existed on March 23, 2010, the companies can keep on selling their junk, as long as there are folks willing to buy it.

And apparently some small number of people prefer the junk. I like the way Wonkette’s Doctor Zoom put it:

Obama’s ‘You Can Keep Your Plan’ Failed To Anticipate How Much Americans Love Cheap Crappy Plans That Cover Nothing

Unfortunately, the crappy insurance lovers among us are also very noisy. They have been giving GOP lawmakers a lot of ammunition with which to shoot at ObamaCare. And although we know the shooting will never stop, we can hope that mainstream journalists will stop listening to the shooters and pay more attention to the victims of Republican attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

gop insurance planFinally, just before congresswoman congressman Blackburn told Kathleen Sebelius about how ObamaCare was “taking away their choices,” she offered up an analogy that went like this:

I will remind you that some people like to drive a Ford, not a Ferrari, and some people like to drink out of a red Solo cup, not a crystal stem. 

Ahh. Forget for a moment that in most cases people with crappy insurance aren’t really driving Fords or drinking out of plastic cups. They’re actually not really driving or drinking at all. They’re on foot and thirsty. But the congresswoman’s congressman’s analogy accidentally reveals the strength of the Affordable Care Act: It’s offering Ferraris and crystal to those who haven’t been able to afford them! I guess that’s why they call it the “Affordable” Care Act, huh?

In any case, since Ms. Blackburn brought it up, since she mentioned those red Solo cups, it reminded me of a god-awful country song by a god-awful reactionary country star named Toby Keith:

Now a red solo cup is the best receptacle
For barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals
And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles
If you prefer drinking from glass

That sort of sums up Republican thinking on this issue, doesn’t it?

__________________________________________________________________

* She prefers it that way.

What The President Should Know And When He Should Know It

Barack Obama, I found out today, is a liar. Oh, yeah, that’s right. Here, see for yourself:

President Obama Lied, Millions Will Lose Insurance Under Obamacare He Promised They Could Keep, Says Report

Lest ye think the Republican talking point in that headline is confined only to right-wing websites like the one above, well, you should know that the basis of that headline is a report by NBC News. Yes, that NBC News. The one that is supposed to be in bed with Obama and the Democratic Party.

Here’s how that story began:

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

I won’t here go into why that and similar stories are essentially ridiculous—most of the relatively small number of people affected will lose their “junk” insurance plans in favor of better ones—but I do want to go into another Republican talking point that is making the rounds, even the rounds outside of conservative media: Obama is either “detached” from his administration because he doesn’t know what is going on, or he actually knows what is going on but won’t admit it.

Thus, if you believe the Republican Party and its conservative pundit defenders (not to mention non-conservative pundits who should know better, like Dana Milbank), President Obama should, among other things:

♦ Know everything going on at HHS, and especially know how to write the code that makes the ObamaCare website work;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the IRS, and especially know when conservative groups think, mistakenly, that they are getting undue scrutiny;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the NSA, and especially know every phone call the agency is “listening” to or every email it is “reading”;

♦ Know everything going on at ATF, and especially know when the agency is about to double-down on a Bush-era “gunwalking” tactic designed to catch Mexican drug cartel kingpins;

♦ Know everything going on at the State Department, and especially know the status of diplomatic security in Benghazi;

♦ Know everything going on at the Justice Department, and especially know when the Attorney General is about to issue a subpoena against a reporter, especially a reporter from Fox “News”;

♦ Know everything going on in every agency of the government, at all times, to the minutest detail;

♦ And if he doesn’t know everything that is going on, at all times, to the minutest detail, that itself is a scandal, a big, big, scandal.

♦ On top of all those things he should know, he should also know that he is required to wine and dine Republicans regularly, so they can persuade him to “reform” Social Security and Medicare beyond recognition, all in exchange for not shutting down the government again or placing a large stick of dynamite under the economy and lighting it this time.

Yes, the President is expected to know all these things.

What’s The Matter With Kansas? Nothing That An Election Can’t Fix

Way back in February of this year there were signs. Public Policy Polling began a piece on a survey conducted in Kansas, my old home state, this way:

Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 37% of Kansas voters approve of him to 52% who disapprove. He meets with near universal disapproval from independents (22/66) and Democrats (14/81), but what really drives his numbers down is that even among Republicans just 55% approve of him to 30% who disapprove. 

Now, for those of us who have been witnessing the race to the bottom in Kansas—engineered by Tea Party fanatics in the state—that poll in February was good news. But the news is even better now because Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate who is turning heads in the Sunflower State. A poll conducted by SurveyUSA found:

Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term…Today, the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking edges the Republican ticket of Brownback and Jeff Colyer, 43% to 39%.

Can Paul Davis actually win? Should Democrats even dare to dream that big? Well, the SurveyUSA pollsters also found that Brownback’s approval rating is a meager 34%. If it remains that low, maybe the dream can come true.

Another poll (“Kansas Speaks 2013”) conducted by Fort Hayes State University found that only 33.9% of people who voted in 2012 are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with Governor Brownback’s performance, while a whopping 45.5% are either “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

And satisfaction with the Tea Party-controlled Kansas legislature is worse. Of those who voted in 2012, only 27.3% are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with their lawmakers, while 44.4% are “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

Until the 2012 election, there were moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate who would occasionally work with Democrats to keep the Tea Party zealots, who dominate the House, from burning the government down. However, the Koch brother-funded zealots knocked off enough moderates—and that is a relative term; they were pretty damned conservative—in 2012 to take control of the entire state government, with Brownback as the Chief Zealot.

Perhaps the major reason there has been a turnaround in public opinion is due to education funding in the state. Here is a recent headline from The Topeka Capital-Journal:

kansas education cuts

Public school funding has become a major issue in Kansas. A district court in the state ruled in January that the way the Tea Party extremists, led by Brownback, went about cutting income taxes and shortchanging public schools last year was unconstitutional, a decision that has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader who is currently leading Governor Brownback in the polls, has made the Tea Party’s stingy education funding a big part of his gubernatorial campaign. As the Topeka paper point out, Davis,

has said the district court appropriately acknowledged the governor’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations directly conflict with our constitutional obligation to fund public schools.”

Davis’ message may be resonating. Here is a graph from the “Kansas Speaks” survey:

education funding in kansas

As you can see, even 50% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing education funding for K-12. That’s a big bleeping deal. (And almost 40% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing funding for higher education.)

I know—I know—it is way too early to get excited about all this. I know we can’t be the least bit confident that a majority of Kansans will next year decide to reject Tea Party governance. But, dammit, at least we have some hope.

For those of us here in Missouri, we have our own zealots to worry about. Earlier this month, Rex Singquefield, who is Missouri’s version of a gazillionaire Koch brother, wrote a glowing article on the alleged success of Kansas’ cut-taxes-on-the-wealthy-and-they-will-come experiment. The Forbes piece (“How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri On Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow”) has Singquefield saying:

Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership. Lower income tax rates have in fact stimulated the economy by reducing the price both of work and conducting business in the state, not to mention that lower rates have predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business environment.

Singquefield’s “close look” at the data is so close that no one with normal vision can see it, unless, of course, they want to see it even if it ain’t there. I think that’s called hallucinating, or something akin to it. Whatever it’s called, Steve Rose, writing for the Kansas City Star, isn’t buying it:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Rose admits that it is “way too early” to know if the tax-cutting “experiment” in Kansas will eventually do what the zealots claim, but he says:

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

As I said, at this point we can only hope he’s right.

Why Christian Conservatives Don’t Care If The Country Falls

What is it about the mixture of Christianity and conservatism that makes many folks who call themselves Christian conservatives say and do things that seem to be neither Christian nor conservative?

As a former Christian conservative myself, I think I can offer some insight into why putting the two things together so often results in such toxic ideological vapors.

I think I can explain the behavior of a Ted Cruz, a Michele Bachmann, a Glenn Beck, a Sean Hannity, a Rush Limbaugh, a Bill O’Reilly, and a Sarah Palin. I think I can explain why their brains release ideological gas so noxious that it not only threatens the well-being of liberals, but it is now poisoning the blood of other conservatives. As they continue to fight their “culture war,” these Christian conservative zealots are now openly attacking members of their own political party, members who lack sufficient ideological holiness or militancy. Why would they do that? I think I know why.

I think I know why Tony Perkins, who leads one of the most powerful Christian conservative groups in the country, the Family Research Council, would say something that would lead to a headline like this:

Right-wing Christian: Liberals are the real theocrats because they want to help the poor

Perkins says that the government has no responsibility to care for poor people because the Bible expects individual Christians to do so. Then, committing the unforgivable sin of contradiction, says that, “As Christians, we’re responsible for the policies of this government because it’s us.” Yes, he said that the government is “us” but that “us” has no responsibility to take care of poor folks. Perhaps God can sort that one out.

In the mean time, I think I know why Christian conservative Pat Buchanan would generate a headline like this:

Pat Buchanan to GOP: Better to destroy the country than give in to Obamacare

Writing for a strange but influential Christian website called World Net Daily, Buchanan commented on the government shutdown and the subsequent “all-time low” approval numbers for Republicans:

Republicans should refuse to raise the white flag and insist on an honorable avenue of retreat.

And if Harry Reid’s Senate demands the GOP end the sequester on federal spending, or be blamed for a debt default, the party should, Samson-like, bring down the roof of the temple on everybody’s head.

Wow. I said I think I know why these people say and do such things. And now perhaps you can see why, too. It’s right there in Buchanan’s allusion to Samson, the Old Testament hero who was given supernatural strength to fight his foes, including the thousand Philistines that he allegedly slaughtered on one occasion using only the jawbone of an ass.

What Buchanan was alluding to was Samson’s suicide mission to destroy a pagan temple. Here is the biblical account of the end of Samson’s jihad:

Then Samson called out to the Lord, “Lord God, please remember me! Make me strong just this once more, God, so I can have revenge on the Philistines, just one act of revenge for my two eyes.” Samson grabbed the two central pillars that held up the temple. He leaned against one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He strained with all his might, and the temple collapsed on the rulers and all the people who were in it. So it turned out that he killed more people in his death than he did during his life.

ted cruz takes down the templeYou see? You see why Ted Cruz is doing what even people in his own party find destructive? You see why Tony Perkins doesn’t want the government feeding the poor? You see why Pat Buchanan would rather see the government fall down on everyone’s head than for Republicans to give an inch? Because these people believe government is a pagan temple. Because these zealots believe liberals and Democrats are pagans worshiping a false god in that pagan temple. That’s why.

That’s why Christianity and conservatism is such a toxic mix. Christianity gives these people what they think are their holy orders to fight the Culture War, the war against paganism. And conservatism, using the vehicle of the Republican Party, gives them what they think is Samson-like power to ultimately win it.

Even if it means taking the country down.

Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo

Here is a headline from The Washington Post:

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government

The elements in this headline, the damage and the dissatisfaction, point to two things, two important things, that every American should understand about the conservative movement, as it is now constituted, in our country:

1) Conservatives have designed their own parallel universe, one in which facts like “Major damage to GOP after shutdown” can’t exist.

I think it is fair to say that Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity represent very well the core constituency of the conservative movement, don’t you? Well, here is what Sean Hannity said to Ann Coulter on Monday night:

All those people that were doomin’ and gloomin’ Repubicans for the shutdown were wrong.

And the classless Coulter said:

The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I’m so proud of these Republicans, and that is because they have branded the Republican party as the anti-Obamacare party.

So, it’s that easy. There was no damage done to the Republican Party. Poll? Poll smoll.

2) Creating “broad dissatisfaction with government” is the entire mission of the conservative movement.

In their parallel universe, conservatives rejoice over the second finding in that poll. They want people to be dissatisfied with government because they believe government is, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “the problem.”

One would have thought that anti-government, laissez-faire conservatism could never have come back after the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression. It should have been dead forever. But it wasn’t. It came back in 1964 after its adherents forcefully took over the Republican Party, a feat that resulted in the shellacking of their uber-conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the presidential election that year. The movement should have been permanently dead after that. But it wasn’t. As Thomas Frank wrote in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation:

The conservatism that made such a huge comeback in the seventies and eighties was a mutation specifically adapted to survive a disaster of the 1929 variety. By which I do not mean that conservatism abandoned laissez-faire, its raison d’être, but that from now on it would present itself to the world as a form of opposition to the established order…It would wallow in preposterous theories about the secret treason of the ruling liberals and encourage the darkest imaginable interpretation of the government’s every deed…

Even as he presided over that hated federal government, Ronaldus Magnus, the tutelary deity of movement conservatism, said at a news conference in 1986:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

So, you can see why that headline in The Washington Post doesn’t bother zealous conservatives one bit. They deny the first fact, that much damage has been done to the Republican Party, and fully embrace the second.

Posted below is the conversation between Hannity and Coulter I referenced, in case you make a healthful habit out of not watching these folks live. But I think you should watch this five-minute segment because it tells you so much about why these people do what they do. Not only will you hear them denying reality and inventing their own, you will hear Sean Hannity repeating the lie about Consumer Reports, claiming that it is “telling people to stay away” from the ObamaCare website. That lie became so widespread—it even found its way into “straight” reporting—that Consumer Reports published an article titled,

Obamacare opponents have misrepresented Consumer Reports’ position

HealthCare.gov problems do not negate benefits of new health law

So, with that in mind, hear the echoes in the chamber:

What Does ObamaCare And Microsoft Have In Common?

Here are two paragraphs from a recent CNN story on the ObamaCare website mess:

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen tried to enroll in Obamacare as an experiment. It took more than a week for her to create a login and password. When that finally worked, error messages plagued her efforts when she tried to log in. Almost two weeks went by before she succeeded in logging in and proceeding with an application.

An insurance industry source told CNNMoney’s Tami Luhby that insurers are receiving faulty information about new customers, including duplicate forms, and missing and garbled information. They are in discussion with regulators and the administration to address these issues.

Journalist Mike Barnicle, whose role on MSNBC’s Morning Joe involves giving voice to the ignorance of the Common Man—a role he was born to play—said today about the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces:

The larger point is they keep using the word “unacceptable.” This is outrageous; it’s not unacceptable. They’ve had two years to pull this program together—in a country where you can go out to San Jose, California…and find five people to put together a website in about six seconds…

Oh, yeah? Ever heard of Windows RT? It is the version of Microsoft’s operating system that runs certain portable devices the company sells that feature processors marketed by a British company called ARM Holdings. According to PC Magazine, ARM chips are “the most widely used microprocessors worldwide.” In fact, the ARM processor “powers most smartphones and tablets today,” says Time Tech. So, you might say Microsoft’s Windows RT is a big bleeping deal, when it comes to software. And you might say that the geeks at Microsoft, and the executives who are running the company these days, would make sure they get the recent software update right the first time. Nope.

Here is a story released late last night from Computerworld and titled, “Microsoft yanks Windows 8.1 update for Surface RT after ‘Blue Screen of Death’ reports“:

Microsoft on Friday yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update from its Windows Store after some Surface RT owners reported their tablets had been crippled…

The snafu was an embarrassment for Microsoft, as its Surface RT tablet, which debuted a year ago, has been the only Windows RT-powered device that has sold in any meaningful quantity.

People responsible for this embarrassing snafu are like the “five people” Mike Barnicle says could “put together a website in about six seconds,” when he is criticizing the Obama administration for the poor rollout of the insurance marketplace website. The point here is that Microsoft, no doubt, has plenty of talented people at its disposal to produce software that works. But you know what? This stuff ain’t easy. If it were, people like Mike Barnicle would be doing it.

I want you to read the following paragraph from the Computerworld story:

While other reported problems with the Windows 8.1 update seemed to be rooted in device driver incompatibilities — understandable considering the breadth of the Windows ecosystem, which relies on a bewildering array of hardware components and peripherals, each with its own vendor-built driver — the fact that the Windows RT 8.1 update bricked the Surface RT, which has a single set of specific components and drivers, magnified the mistake.

Get that? “A bewildering array of hardware components and peripherals, each with its own vendor-builit driver.” Now, imagine the complexity involved in putting together, without any problems, a system that not only has to run or support the insurance exchanges for 36 states, but it also has to interface with various insurance company systems—as the government sends crucial data through the pipeline—as well as interface with other state and federal computer systems, like, for instance, the IRS. Add to all that the initial overloading of the system—almost 9 million unique visitors in the first three days—by people interested in seeing what coverage was available and its cost. So, it is understandable that the thing has problems.

That being said, the level of problems we are seeing, and how the development and debut of the site has been managed so far, is, despite Mike Barnicle’s rejection of the word, unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. There’s no better word for it. The site needs to be fixed and fixed very soon. Many of the state exchanges are working relatively well and people are enrolling. It’s necessary, if we are ever to figure out whether the ObamaCare experiment will work nationally, to get the national enrollment portal working and working well.

Because, as the severely critical, left-leaning Ezra Klein wrote recently:

…it’s important to see the Affordable Care Act as something more than a pawn in the political wars: It’s a real law that real people are desperately, nervously, urgently trying to access. And so far, the Obama administration has failed them.

____________________________________________________________________________

NOTE: I kid you not: As I was about to publish this piece, my browser crapped out and I got this message:

google crome crashDamn! Why can’t the geeks get it right?

How Ted Cruz May Save The Republican Party

Ezra Klein wrote a piece the other day titled, “If Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Democrats would have to invent  him.” The great Ezra ended with this:

Over the last 24 hours I’ve seen some Republicans complaining that President Obama and the Democrats are trying to break them. Their anger is misplaced. They should be angry at Ted Cruz for putting Republicans in a position to be broken.

I am sure there are many Republicans who are angry at Ted Cruz. But one of them isn’t Mitch McConnell. In fact, if Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Mitch McConnell would have to invent him. Why? Because Cruz has done what I didn’t think it was possible to do: make McConnell look good in comparison.

Mitch McConnell is as shrewd as he is slimy. And anyone, even a Ted Cruz, who can make the greasy craftiness of the Republican Senate Minority Leader look like adult reasonableness is now an asset to a Republican Party that is in desperate need of a public relations makeover. And the extreme behavior of Ted Cruz, Jim DeMint, and that strange gaggle of goofy zealots in the House of Representatives have allowed the establishment extremists, people like McConnell and Orrin Hatch and others, to come off sounding like voices of reason.

This development, my friends, should trouble Democrats.

McConnell, who has been a part of the Republican wrecking crew, has now assured the country there will be no more government shutdowns. Ahh. Ain’t that nice? Hatch, who is about as conservative a man as one would ever want to meet, called out DeMint’s groupthink tank, the Heritage Foundation. How great was that? Other Republicans, right-wingers all, have denounced the tactics of torpedo-toting teapartiers and are getting credit for doing so from the Beltway press corps.

One might be tempted to think that such behavior is a good thing, particularly a good thing for the country. But in this case it’s not, unless we all want to live in a society governed by ultra-conservative, if not ultra-nutty, policymakers. The reason that what we see happening on the right may spell trouble for Democrats and ultimately for the country is pretty simple. It’s all tied to the concept of triangulation. Let me borrow an image from Wikipedia’s entry on it:

What we will soon see, as 2014 gets here or before, are Republicans like McConnell (who is up for reelection next year and who is hoping to become Majority Leader if his party can win six extra Senate seats) trying to put themselves firmly, if falsely, on that “middle ground.” They will first confess that shutting down the government to defund ObamaCare was extreme behavior. Then they will concede that threatening the full faith and credit of the country was also out of line. They will then pivot to and run on two issues: anxiety over ObamaCare and anxiety over the national debt. They will say that there has been extreme behavior on both sides, but now the real threat to the country is with Democrats, who want to impose on the public a monster bureaucracy—an imposition that is now off to a horrendous start—and who want to raise more taxes and spend more money despite the $17 trillion debt we face.

While all this triangulating is going on next year, the anti-establishment extremists like Ted Cruz and the reactionary, recalcitrant radicals in the House will continue to do what it is they do. But increasingly more “adult” Republicans will speak out against them, posing as moderates who just want to tame the bureaucracy and get a handle on our debt. In reality, though, they share the goals, including many of the same social issue goals, of the anti-establishment radicals. They differ mainly in the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve them. And as time passes and the campaigns begin, money from business interests will flow into the coffers of non-Tea Party Republicans, money that once poured into the campaigns of those anti-establishment right-wingers who have caused much of the dysfunction we see today.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all this will be easy for Republicans to accomplish, particularly because Democrats have a lot of ammunition with which to fight back, mainly the ability to tie McConnell and other Republicans to Tea Party radicalism. But the triangulation strategy represents the best way Republicans have for winning the Senate and for keeping the House in Republican hands, especially if the press continues to present McConnell and other establishment extremists as the adults in the room.

As for 2016, such triangulation is how Chris Christie will, I predict, eventually win the Republican nomination for president. (He has already begun to use a version of the strategy and right-wing donors are anxious to dump truckloads of cash on him.)  Some people believe that the governor of New Jersey, who dared put his arm around Hussein Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is too disliked by primary-dominating conservatives to get the nomination. But how soon we forget that John McCain and Mitt Romney were also hated by those same conservatives. All it takes to get these people on board, albeit reluctantly, is the idea that Republicans can actually win a national election and achieve the power necessary to undo the damage that the Kenyan socialist has done to the country. It will also become obvious that most of the money men on the right, unfettered by campaign finance laws, are betting on Christie.

And should Chris Christie win not only the GOP primary but the national election, and should Republicans also win control of both houses of Congress, look out. A President Christie would be, in terms of the things Democrats hold dear, a very radical president indeed. Whether it is cutting rich people’s taxes, cutting government services and social programs, deregulating the economy, decimating unions, rolling back reproductive and gay rights, or any number of things on the reactionaries’ wish list, Christie and a Christie-friendly Congress could change the country in ways Ted Cruz only dreams of.

And, alas, all of it could happen thanks to him.

We Now Know How Many Dangerous Radicals There Are In Congress

Here is the sad reality facing the country:

The final vote in Congress to temporarily open the government and to temporarily preserve the full faith and credit of the United States:

House of Representatives: 285 in favor (198 Democrats and 87 Republicans) and 144 against (all Republicans).

Senate: 81 in favor (52 Democrats, 27 Republicans, 2 Independents) and 18 against (all Republicans).

Thus: We now know there are at least 144 Tea Party radicals in the House (62% of all Republicans) and at least 18 Tea Party radicals in the Senate (40% of all Republicans). That’s about 58% of all congressional Republicans. Think about that: 58% of all congressional Republicans are nutty enough to wreck the economy in the name of Tea Party radicalism.

Let me repeat: Nearly 6 in 10 of the current complement of Republicans in Congress are radical enough to not only shutdown the government and keep it closed, but radical enough to severely damage the credit worthiness of the our centuries-old Republic and blow a hole in the economy.

God bless America.

Odds and ends:

♦ Democrats, once again, saved the country from utter chaos and ignominy.

♦ My own congressman, Ozark Billy Long, voted with the radicals. He obviously doesn’t give a damn about the viability of government or the full faith and credit of the United States. But the local paper and local television news outlets will never question him about his irresponsible vote or hold him accountable for it.

♦ Every single Missouri Republican in the House voted with the zealots. Yes, every one of them.

♦ A strange woman, apparently an official House stenographer, began yelling on the floor of the House during last night’s vote, saying something about our Freemason Constitution and that God will not be mocked. Poor lady. God is mocked every day in that Republican-controlled chamber and obviously since God has thus far failed to stop the mockery, she thought she’d give him a hand.

♦ After the Republican surrender, Rush Limbaugh now says the Republican Party is “irrelevant” and “made a decision not to exist.” God, for once I hope he’s right.

♦ The quack masquerading as a doctor on Fox “News,” Keith Ablow, said that President Obama’s language about the GOP “holding the whole country hostage” is simply the President “going back to when his dad abandoned him, when his mother left him with his grandparents.” Obama is, said the quack, extending his victimization “to this country.” Just part of another day of fair and balanced broadcasting on the Republican News Channel.

♦ Georgia congressman Jack Kingston told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last night that the estimated $24 or 25 billion or so that the government shutdown and debt default scare cost the American people was worth it because it allowed Republicans to send a message to the public that they don’t like ObamaCare. I don’t think such stupidity needs any additional commentary from me.

♦ Club for Growth and Heritage Action and Freedom Works all put out an alert on the vote, warning legislators they would be using it to score their loyalty to Tea Party conservatism. We know it worked because of the 62% of House Republicans who followed the zealous lobbying groups and the 40% of Senate Republicans who did so. If that doesn’t scare you, you are unscareable. Right wing lobbyists are slowly ruining the country.

♦ We now know that Tea Party Conservatism doesn’t believe in personal responsibility—they oppose the individual mandate in ObamaCare that the Heritage Foundation originally championed—or in national responsibility—they voted to say to hell with paying the country’s bills. What kind of conservatism is that? If Edmund Burke were alive, he would fall over dead.

♦ How petty are these extremists? Look at this:
russert tweet

Obama’s “victory speech” was, of course, not a victory speech. He could have rubbed it in the faces of these extremists, but he didn’t. Why? Because unlike his political enemies, he has class.

♦ I want to mention one particular senator who gets much credit for being a reasonable Republican. He ain’t. His name is Tom Coburn and he’s a right-wing freak. He has been a cheerleader for not raising the debt ceiling. As Huff Po reported:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted with Cruz, but nevertheless said he thought the fiasco had been entirely predictable because it was obvious Democrats and the president would never end Obamacare, and they control two of the three relevant parts of government. He had a tart piece of advice for Cruz and others: “Have a coordinated strategy that’s based on reality rather than one that’s not.”

Coburn voted with Cruz and then advised him to have a strategy based on reality? Thank God Coburn is getting the hell out of the Senate. He has lost his mind.

♦ Finally, for the record, here are all the Republicans who voted against the shutdown-debt ceiling deal. May their names live on in utter infamy:

HOUSE:

Robert B. Aderholt (AL) Justin Amash (MI) Mark Amode (NV) Michele Bachmann (MN) Andy Barr (KY) Joe L. Barton (TX) Kerry Bentivolio (MI) Rob Bishop (UT) Diane Black (TN) Marsha Blackburn (TN) Kevin Brady (TX) Jim Bridenstine (OK) Mo Brooks (AL) Paul Broun (GA) Larry Bucshon (IN) Michael C. Burgess (TX) John Campbell (CA) John Carter (TX) Bill Cassidy (LA) Steven J. Chabot (OH) Jason Chaffetz (UT) Chris Collins (NY) Doug Collins (GA). Michael Conaway (TX) John Culberson (TX) Ron DeSantis (FL) Jeffrey Denham (CA) Scott DesJarlais (TN) Sean Duffy (WI) Jeffrey Duncan (SC) John J. Duncan Jr.(TN) Renee Ellmers (NC) Blake Farenthold (TX) Stephen Fincher (TN) Chuck Fleischmann (TN) John Fleming (LA) Bill Flores (TX) Randy Forbes (VA) Virginia Foxx (NC) Trent Franks (AZ) Scott Garrett (NJ) Bob Gibbs (OH) Phil Gingrey (GA) Louie Gohmert (TX) Robert W. Goodlatte (VA) Paul Gosar (AZ) Trey Gowdy (SC) Kay Granger (TX) Sam Graves (MO) Tom Graves (GA) Morgan Griffith (VA) Ralph M. Hall (TX) Andy Harris (MD) Vicky Hartzler (MO) Jeb Hensarling (TX) George Holding (NC) Richard Hudson (NC) Tim Huelskamp (KS) Bill Huizenga (MI) Randy Hultgren (IL) Duncan D. Hunter (CA) Robert Hurt (VA) Bill Johnson (OH) Sam Johnson (TX) Walter B. Jones (NC) Jim Jordan (OH) Steve King (IA) Jack Kingston (GA) Doug LaMalfa (CA) Raul Labrador (ID) Doug Lamborn (CO) James Lankford (OK) Robert E. Latta (OH) Billy Long (MO) Frank D. Lucas (OK) Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) Cynthia M. Lummis (WY) Kenny Marchant (TX) Tom Marino (PA) Thomas Massie (KY) Michael McCaul (TX) Tom McClintock (CA) Mark Meadows (NC) Luke Messer (IN) John L. Mica (FL) Candice S. Miller (MI) Jeff Miller (FL) Markwayne Mullin (OK) Mick Mulvaney (RC) Randy Neugebauer (TX) Kristi Noem (SD) Richard Nugent (FL) Alan Nunnelee (MS) Pete Olson (TX) Steven Palazzo (MS) Steve Pearce (NM) Scott Perry (PA) Tom Petri (WI) Joe Pitts (PA) Ted Poe (TX) Mike Pompeo (KS) Bill Posey (FL) Tom Price (GA) Trey Radel (FL) Tom Reed (NY) Jim Renacci (OH) Tom Rice (SC) Martha Roby (AL) Phil Roe (TN) Mike D. Rogers (AL) Dana Rohrabacher (CA) Todd Rokita (IN) Tom Rooney (FL) Dennis Ross (FL) Keith Rothfus (PA) Ed Royce (CA) Paul D. Ryan (WI) Matt Salmon (AZ) Mark Sanford (SC) Steve Scalise (LA) David Schweikert (AZ) Austin Scott (GA)  James Sensenbrenner (WI) Pete Sessions (TX) Jason Smith (MO) Lamar Smith (TX) Steve Southerland (FL) Chris Stewart (UT) Steve Stockman (TX) Marlin Stutzman (IN) William M. Thornberry (TX) Michael R. Turner (OH) Ann Wagner (MO) Tim Walberg (MI) Greg Walden (OR) Jackie Walorski (IN) Randy Weber (TX) Brad Wenstrup (OH) Lynn Westmoreland (GA) Roger Williams (TX) Joe Wilson (SC) Rob Woodall (GA) Kevin Yoder (KS) Ted Yoho (FL)

SENATE:

Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), David Vitter (La.).

If you ever hear any of these people raging against wasteful government spending (as Tom Coburn does every time he opens his mouth) or droning on about the national debt, you can tell them to go straight to hell, as they voted to waste billions of dollars, break the legs of the economy, and thereby significantly increase the national debt.

“By Keeping Republicans Together,” John Boehner Did “The Country A Favor,” So Says Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell

I thought I was hallucinating. But I played it back on my DVR and it was all too real.

Wanna know why Republicans believe they can take the country to the brink of catastrophe and not pay a price for doing so? Because Beltway journalists like Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell will, without laughing, have this exchange on national television, on “liberal” MSNBC:

HALPERIN: The second guessing about Republicans, not just strategy but tactics throughout the last several weeks, are really gonna be extraordinary. There’s gonna be a lot of questioning about how to go forward. It’s gonna be interesting. I think Speaker Boehner has handled this in a way where he can put this on the floor, get a lot of Democratic votes. My hunch is that there are a lot of Republican votes in the Senate, which we expect. We could get a lot of Republican votes in the House and questions about his speakership, questions about his own leadership, I think may be put off.

And I think this agreement is not bad in the sense that it gives both sides a chance to try to deal with some of these bigger entitlement issues and tax issues over the next few weeks and averts the crisis. And John Boehner may have done himself and the country a favor by keeping Republicans together long enough to say, we tried a lot of different things; we made some mistakes. This is the best we can get at this point to avoid what he has said all along and believed all along was essential, which was to avoid a default by the federal government.

MITCHELL: Fair points all.

Anyone who has watched this debacle knows one thing for certain. John Boehner hasn’t handled this in any way that deserves one jot or tittle of praise. That he gets it from two Beltway reporters tells us so much about why right-wing zealots believe in their bones that they can hold the country hostage and get away with it.

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