Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sound Advice

20 comments:

Dean said...

It would be sound advice if the democrats were talking about the nuclear option. They're not.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, my hat goes off to Dean and Rachel Maddow for exposing your video for what it is--crass propaganda designed to fool the gullible and those who have neither historical memory nor any understanding of the workings of government. I think it is time we stopped using polite words like "misrepresentations" and "distortions" to characterize these deliberate and calculated lies.

Your video would have us think that the Democrats are about to exercise the "nuclear option" to pass the health care reform bill. They are not. They are attempting to use a process known as "reconciliation," which allows consideration of contentious bills without the threat of filibuster. The nuclear option is an extreme measure that uses a simple majority (51) to eliminate the filibuster process altogether.

Reconciliation has been around since 1974 and has been used to pass a long list of bills related to budget, taxes, deficit reduction, college costs, and health care (e.g., COBRA and CHIP).

The "nuclear option" was first threatened by a Republican (Bill Frist of TN) to end the Democrats' filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by George W. Bush. The use of the nuclear option was narrowly avoided through the efforts of a group of seven Democratic and seven Republican senators who agreed to oppose both the nuclear option and filibusters of judicial nominees except in extreme circumstances.

Rachel Maddow's analysis is spot on. What we are witnessing is a "deliberate attempt on the part of Republicans to define nuclear down--to conflate these two totally separate things to demonize the way that Democrats have to pass health reform right now."

Republicans cannot call this what it is--"reconciliation"--because, Maddow says, "they have a really long record of using reconciliation."

I have no idea how many posts you have "pulled" over the years, but I can think of many that should have been (e.g., your Kevin Jennings slanders), and this one is certainly a prime candidate. It belongs in the same category as your story about the removal of "In God We Trust" from a new US Dollar coin. (The story turned out to be a fraud, and you pulled it.)

I believe you compromise your personal and professional integrity by allowing your site to be used as a conduit for outright lies and slanders. Anyone who claims to offer moral guidance for others should be hypervigilant about speaking the truth.

I would recommend your pulling this post altogether.

John said...

When someone cites Rachel Maddow in support of his position on ANYTHING, he is immediately exposed as one who cannot be taken seriously. Ms. Maddow is an inconsequential lightweight. So Dean, to suggest that someone of Gil Bailie’s intellectual depth should pay the slightest attention to what she says is absurd on its face. And Doug, let's be frank: since you categorize Gil's blog under the headings "hate speech" and "religious-based bigotry" on your own blog,such as it is, your self-righteous recommendations as to how Gil should manage his own blog (“I would recommend your pulling this post altogether”) would be funny if they weren't so boorish.

As for the video posted by Gil, it is telling that Dean and Doug, and Ms. Maddow before them, triumphantly argue that the end run around a potential filibuster that the Democrats are now discussing, as a means of enacting Obamacare by a mere majority since they don’t have the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture, is not a true "nuclear option". {That term, it is true, was first used by Trent Lott to refer to a parliamentary maneuver to end filibuster where the Republinans did not have the necessary 60 votes to invoke cloture.) However, this triumphalism is based on a semantic shell game which is itself based on a distinction without a difference.

The current movement by the Democrats to utilize Reconciliation as a means of enacting its health-care bill is clearly an effort to evade the likely filibuster which would ensue in the Senate if a final bill were ever brought to the floor for a vote. Thus, it is different from the "nuclear option" in methodology but exactly the same in effect. It is a way to avoid a filibuster (rather than to end one which has already begun as in the true "nuclear option") altogether because the Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to end one via cloture. And the means by which the Democrats propose to avoid filibuster- Reconciliation-is a process created in 1974 as part of the congressional budget process to fine tune revenue and spending levels which could not be filibustered in the Senate. It was never intended to be used as the Democrats are now proposing. Therefore, the video posted by Gil, filled as it is with vigorous denouncements of the earlier Republican effort to avoid filibuster by parliamentary maneuver, throws great light on the current Democratic effort to achieve just such a result in connection with the health-care bill.

In the video, we are told by Sens.Obama, Biden, Dodd, Clinton, et al, that the filibuster provides a check on simple majority rule where "51% of the vote is not enough". We are also told that the filibuster serves the useful purpose of "slowing things down" in order to allow for debate on important matters. We are also told that the filibuster is a way to avoid the "tyrrany of the majority" and to check the arrogance of power.

As the headline of Gil's post suggests, all of this is "good advice" for the current majority party.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Thank you, John.

Obviously, Doug is not a fan of free speech or tolerance.
Obviously, Gil is a fan of both, since he allows many, if not all, of Doug’s comments here.

Christopherus said...

Obama is making the U.S. more like Greece, not less.

Gordon said...

John,

Very well stated and entirely correct.

I will say Maddow is almost hypnotic in her smug confusion. About two minutes through the video she actually says this:

(A) The nuclear option is about doing away with the filibuster “to get rid of the ability [sic] to require a 60 vote supermajority.”

(B) “What Democrats are a talking about is something totally different... Passing health reform through reconciliation. Passing health reform with 51 votes instead of 60. Not the nuclear option.”

In other words, the nuclear option is about removing the requirement for 60 votes while the Democrats are talking about something totally different, removing the requirement for 60 votes. Got it? To be fair, I watched the video over and over, assuming I must have missed something. Nobody can be that stupid. But alas!

Doughlas Remy said...

John, what you’ve said about the relative merits of Rachel Maddow and Gil Bailie is entirely a matter of opinion and I will defer that discussion for some other time.

You said that I had categorized Gil’s blog under the headings “hate speech” and “religious-based bigotry” on my own blog. Were you simply inattentive when you visited my site, or was your imagination biasing your perceptions? What you’ve said is simply untrue. There are no such categories on my site. I do have a category called “Hate Crimes Legislation,” where you will find an article that applauds Gil for his openness in allowing diverse viewpoints on his site. Elsewhere, I have been very critical of Gil’s positions, his rhetoric, and his occasional disregard for the truth, and I do have a category for “anti-gay bigotry.”

As to my recommending to Gil that he retract this post (and others), that is both my right and my moral obligation. I fear for the future of the Internet medium when it becomes so awash in lies that the truth cannot be heard. And I fear for the future of our democracy when politicians, pundits, preachers, and polemicists can openly lie about their opponents and blandly expect to be believed.

I have very high standards on my site. Time and time again, I have researched a topic with a view to writing it up, only to discover that my premises were faulty or that my sources were unreliable. When that has happened, I’ve jettisoned the article. On other occasions, I’ve been informed by visitors to my site that my information was in error, and I have quickly pulled the article containing that information. As a matter of policy, I do not keep factually false information on my site.

Some disputed claims are a matter of opinion, and others are simply either true or false. Republican claims about the nuclear option, as presented in Gil’s video, fall into the latter category. They can be easily disproved by a casual search on the history of reconciliation and the nuclear option. Once they have been disproved, there is no excuse for continuing to air them.

If there is any semantic shell game, it is clearly being played by Republicans claiming that reconcilation and the nuclear option are the same. You yourself claimed that they have the same effect. But they do not. There is both a distinction and a difference. The nuclear option would do away with the filibuster altogether. It is much more drastic than reconciliation, and that is why it is called the “nuclear option.” Reconciliation has been used many times by both Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation involving taxes, budget, and health care. The nuclear option has never been used and no one is now proposing that it should be. If Republicans are opposed to the reconciliation process, then they shouldn’t use it. But their claims that Democrats are attempting to use the nuclear option are simply lies.

I have been following Gil’s blog for several years, and my distinct impression, based on analyses that I’ve published here and on my own blog, is that Gil does not check his sources, he does not check the veracity of his stories, and that, indeed, the truth-value of these stories is not nearly as important to him as their potential for discrediting his adversaries. Worse still, he seems unconcerned that his site may have become a repository of toxic misinformation. This is a very sad state of affairs, indeed.

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

melster said...

Dear Gil,

I am finding myself increasingly compelled...( perhaps called is the better word )to undergo media fasting this Lenten season. The escalating demonizing from all sides too easily sucks me in.

So in my self-imposed partial fast with media I am finding myself more and more in a kind of perpetual state of intercession for our troubled world.

In the silence of my fasting I have discovered that I was praying for the presence of few saintly men and women to enter the madness as holy leaven in all these earthly matters. I found that I was praying for the conversion of hearts, mine included, made stone through all the accusatory finger pointing.

I seek the face of Christ...trusting that even a small mustard seed of grace has the power to infuse a transfiguring Light more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.

Just some thoughts

Melanie Statom

melster said...

Dear Gil,

I am finding myself increasingly compelled...( perhaps called is the better word )to undergo media fasting this Lenten season. The escalating demonizing from all sides too easily sucks me in.

So in my self-imposed partial fast with media I am finding myself more and more in a kind of perpetual state of intercession for our troubled world.

In the silence of my fasting I have discovered that I was praying for the presence of few saintly men and women to enter the madness as holy leaven in all these earthly matters. I found that I was praying for the conversion of hearts, mine included, made stone through all the accusatory finger pointing.

I seek the face of Christ...trusting that even a small mustard seed of grace has the power to infuse a transfiguring Light more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.

Just some thoughts

Melanie Statom

John said...

Doug,

If I understand your response, I was wrong in asserting that you "categorize" Gil's blog on your site as "hate speech" or "religious-based bigotry” because neither of these is listed under the category "Categories" on the right side of your blog home page. However, it is true that Gil's blog is listed under the "SUBCATEGORIES" of both "hate speech" and "religious-based bigotry" further down the right side of the same page.

Your position, it seems to me, is very much akin to your, and Ms.Maddow’s, position on the Democrat’s current legislative “strategy”. The Dems are trying to make an end run around the 60 vote requirement to end a filibuster but the Republicans are liars for using “nuclear option” to describe it because that term is reserved for a different procedural attempt to make an end run around the 60 vote requirement to end a filbuster. (As Gordon so cogently described this position: “In other words, the nuclear option is about removing the requirement for 60 votes while the Democrats are talking about something totally different, removing the requirement for 60 votes”) Just so, you do not “categorize” Gil’s blog as “hate speech” or “religious-based bigotry”, you subcategorize it under those headings and therefore my supposed innatentiveness and/or bias should become the focus rather that your ridiculous characterizations of Gil’s work and views.

As for your continued attempt to portray Reconciliation as anything but a cynical attempt to end run the filibuster, a time-honored and invaluable tool to check the arrogance of power by the majority party du jour(If necessary, please feel free to revisit the video posted by Gil for a spirited defense of the filibuster by some dyed in the wool Democrats), you are clearly in over your head. You claim that the "nuclear option" would "do away with the filibuster" while ignoring the fact that the Democrat' s ploy is an attempt to do the exact same thing. And it is irrelevant that Reconciliation has "been used before...". The important point is that Reconciliation is a fiscal tool which was never meant to provide a vehicle to pass legislation on the magnitude of the current health-care bill.

Doug, as you did on the question of “Maddow v Bailie”, you should simply quit while you’re behind. And while you're at it, if you insist on being heard on Gil's site, please drop the pretense that your niggling harangues are anything but mini-temper tantrums. Like so many supposed “enlighted”, “inclusive” and “open-minded” progressives(?), you reserve these qualities only for those who agree with you.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

I agree that a “casual search” of “reconciliation and the nuclear option” will disprove the video. At the most superficial level they are completely separate. So maybe we should go a little deeper than the boilerplate twaddle at Media Matters and MSNBC.

I’m assuming you know the “nuclear option” was Trent Lott’s new word for the “constitutional option,” which has been around since the Republican filibuster to keep us out of WWI. (See a great history of the “constitutional option” by M. Gold and D. Gupta in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Volume 28, pp. 206-272).

But “nuclear option” is a generic political term -- the Tories, for example, used it in reference to Labour tactics in long before Trent Lott --- and it applies any procedure that blows up the traditional rules of a legislature. Using a simple majority to gerrymander your opponents out of office is a nuclear option. Using 51% to dock the pay and budget and office space of the other 49% is a nuclear option. Exercising the “constitutional option,” using 51% to end the tradition of 60%, is a nuclear option. So too would using majority vote to make future decisions by coin flip.

My point is that “nuclear option” refers to a kind of outcome. And if you build a new healthcare system out of this budget tool that meant to fund, not design and create, there’s absolutely no legislation that can’t get squeezed into that same sausage tube. That will allow the majority party to leave the filibuster technically intact without ever being obliged to allow the minority to use it again. Reconciliation becomes, in essence, pluripotent, allowing the majority to respect the filibuster only when it chooses to (i.e., when it has 60 votes anyway). As such it is a perfect example of a “nuclear option.” Democratic spin aside.

Beyond that, I agree with John that this sort of back and forth is a waste. I consider Girard, Balthasar, JPII and Benedict XVI the most significant and profound minds of the past 200 years. Gil is where they come together. This might be hard for you to believe after my wordy posts, but I'd rather just shut up and listen to Gil for a while.

Gordon said...

John,

Sorry for duplicating many of your points, no doubt in inferior form, but we must have posted at the same time.

Maddow v. Bailie? I spit out my diet coke at that. Very funny image.

Doughlas Remy said...

John, my sincere apologies for misjudging you. You were in fact quite correct in spotting the “hate speech” and “religious-based bigotry” categories on my site. Your word “categorize” prompted me to look only at the “categories” list, where those terms did not appear. So, point well made. However, I would point out that the “Southern Poverty Law Center” also appears under the “Hate Speech” category, and they are an organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry. The inclusion of a blog under a particular category may be taken in several ways, one of which, of course, is that the topic of the category is under discussion on the blog. And certainly that would be true in the case of Gil’s site.

But I make no secret of my strong disagreement with many of Gil’s positions, as I said. And I believe that retractions and apologies are always called for when one is presented with clear evidence of an error in one’s judgments or conclusions. I welcome reasoned criticisms of my own viewpoints because I recognize how easy it is for any one of us to be mistaken, and I am interested in getting at the truth. If I were not, I would not be blogging on a site where I am a magnet for controversy. I would find a group of like-minded folks dedicated to bashing the enemy du jour. And as I said, I applaud Gil for allowing me to express my views here, even when they are so radically at variance with his own. However, what seems so conspicuously absent on Gil’s site is the openness to correction that I myself have just demonstrated to you. I have rarely seen Gil modify a position in any way, admit an error, make an apology, retract a post, negotiate over an issue, adjust a conclusion, or publicly question his own assumptions. Are we in the presence of a saint and a true prophet? I think not. Gil is a man of faith, and I believe there to be a direct connection between that strong faith and the lack of intellectual flexibility that I have just described.

More later, as time allows...

Gordon said...

One final note about Rachel Maddow's condescending lecture schooling us about the "normalcy" of using Reconciliation for a health bill.
Seems Kent Conrad (D-ND), the Senator who chairs the committee that handles Reconciliations, sees things differently.

Here's what he said Sunday on Face the Nation: “…reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction… The major package of health care reform cannot move through the reconciliation process.… because of the Byrd rule which says anything that doesn’t score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill. The only possible role that I can see for reconciliation would be make modest changes in the major package to improve affordability, to deal with what share of Medicaid expansion the federal government pays, those kinds of issues, which is the traditional role for reconciliation in health care.”

In other words, not only has it not been done before, legally it can't be done. (Who really thought using Reconciliation for Obamacare was going to be legal?)

This reminds me of that scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is trapped in a movie line behind some blowhard ranting on about Marshall McLuhan's theories. And Allen pulls the actual Marshal McLuhan from behind him to tell the blowhard he doesn't know what he's talking about. Then Woody adds, "Don't you wish life was really like that?"

Sometimes it is.

John said...

Gordon, Your citation of the Marshall McLuhan scene in "Annie Hall" was on the money. And it means that you and I probably have at least 2 other things in common, besides, that is, our admiration for Gil and his work. We both enjoy movies that are both intelligent and funny; and neither of us has had to prove that we're over 21 for a good long time!

Dean said...

Gordon, John, et al:

Let's clear up something really important here, because it seems to have been forgotten. No one's talking about passing health care reform through reconciliation. You might remember December. The Senate had a very long debate, followed by a Republican filibuster. There was a vote to end that filibuster, which was successful. And on Christmas Eve, senators registered a vote, and health care reform passed, 60 to 39. The Senate has already approved health care reform, with 60 votes, through an entirely conventional process. The next time the Senate votes on a reform-related measure, it's very likely to a small budget fix -- not the huge legislative package -- after reform is already finished. The next step isn't passing health care reform through reconciliation; the next step is passing a budget fix that improves the legislation that's already passed. That, of course, is why reconciliation exists.

The Democratic arguments in response to Republican complaints are plentiful and accurate, but ultimately irrelevant. The GOP is arguing that it would be outrageous to pass health care reform through reconciliation, but no one is recommending passing health care reform through reconciliation. The other talking points don't much matter when the premise of the Republican argument is proven to be inexorably flawed.

"People forget that the American political system is designed to stop anything getting done. Civil rights bills, even after Kennedy’s assassination, were filibustered for 37 days straight. Bill Clinton’s healthcare bill failed; Bush’s social security reform failed. The Senate, with its arcane procedures, is a brick wall against change — just one senator can, in effect, stop everything. Rural states with barely anyone in them have two senators each, while the national capital, Washington DC, has none. The population represented by senators who favor health insurance reform dwarfs the population represented by senators who don’t. As Churchill once said: “Americans always do the right thing after they have exhausted every other alternative.” And that’s what the founders wanted. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature." - Andrew Sullivan

Rachel Maddow put her energy into the wrong argument. She's polemical, that's why I like her. She's a fighter. I admire her passionate exasperation at trying to sift through the largely frustrating spectacle of obstructionism in the Senate, and the very real obfuscation of facts and language used by both sides to further their goals, when they both do the same things and have for many years. As for Rachel Maddow being "lightweight" and "inconsequential", not only has she revealed herself capable of holding her own in any number of situations, but on balance she does it all with insight, poise and a real sense of humor. Something I've noticed is in short supply here at the Alamo.
(continued)

Dean said...

Part II
As for the reconciliation process, it has been used 22 times since 1974, 16 times by the Republicans. Various forms of health care reform have been inched along by 9 reconciliation efforts since 1981. It's done in almost every session of congress, just like Maddow said. Health care and reconciliation actually have a lengthy history. "In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process," says Sara Rosenbaum, who chairs the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University.

Major health care reform has been an ongoing issue in this country for well over 60 years.   Enough is enough.  We need reform.  A public which mandates that reform by voting in a new congress is not being "tyrannous" because the people they elect to do something about it are frustrated by obstructionist minority opposition at every turn.  

Flaubert said, "Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times." He could just as easily have been referring to partisan politics. The bias you see in the media depends on where you sit in the political spectrum. It doesn't take much time to find something in the media that mirrors or neglects one's prejudices or world view, and then lambast the other side for not seeing things clearly or honestly. This process is as old as time, but technology has amplified and accelerated the effect. We have become voyeurs of the instantaneous in both our loves and our loathings. This is what the media does to itself, and what those who are caught up in it do to one another via imitation and emulation. You of course both know this, yet you present this failure as though it were a novelty from which you both, in typically dismissive terms, believe you are somehow excluded.

I didn't post the above link to start a war. It is not a contest between Rachel Maddow and Gil Bailie. I merely answered one piece of propaganda with another. It's common practice in the age of YouTube for station editors to go into their archives, track down someone undermining their own rhetoric from a few years earlier, or saying things they deny ever having said. It creates great "gotcha" theater. The Daily Show has made a brilliant reputation for themselves doing precisely that, and with far better effect. As for McLuhan, who I have right here, he says this: "Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition." It's of course hoped that Gil's intellectual depth wont be damaged by these tawdry concerns, and that he can be counted on not to enshrine his own talking points while excluding others. If you see this post, you'll have even more reason to praise him.

Gordon said...

John, you’re right on all counts. I’m even old enough to have been carded the same night I saw Annie Hall in the theater.

In my case it’s also true that appreciation for Gil’s work and film combine: I’m at my desk rewriting a screenplay that might have been made 9 years ago (an actor who once wanted to do it is nominated for an Oscar this year — but now he’s too old for the part) if not for the, dare I say, “nuclear” explosion that hurled me through the open doors of the Catholic Church and led me to suspend any thoughts of career until I could make sense of what had happened.

You can imagine what Girard’s insights do to the process of structuring a drama. Add to that Balthasar’s Theo-Dramatics, and that pesky old Thomistic idea that conscience is less cultural residue as a ferocious driver of behavior (especially the covering up of bloody scapegoat, the origin of culture, then drama). Perhaps forty years would have been enough time to piece all this together without Gil Bailie. Thank God we’re in this together.

John said...

Dean, You're a little late to the dance as this conversation has run its course. Nevertheless, since you're an MSNBCer, I will refer you to one of your own, Chris Matthews(remember him, the guy with the leg all atingle?) ,on the subject of reconciliation and health care. In the clip linked below, he takes Mr Grayson, an absolute tool, to school on the prospects of using reconciliation in the way you propose. Of course, I'm sure that there's another youtube clip or quote somewhere that supports your view so the real question is whether, in the end, 51 Senators will sign off on using reconciliation not for some fine tuning but to move this bill, stuck as it is in committee, to the President's desk. You do have to ask yourself, after all, why there's such a debate, even among democrats, if the use of reconciliation in the manner you advocate is so "normal". Anyway, 'nuff said.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGTN7xWyWIg

Dean said...

John,
Late to the dance? It was my post that started the dance, remember? Next time I'll bring a partner who doesn't throw up all over my shoes and then ask me for an apology. I get my news from people, not from places. The system is never as important as the source. If Grayson is "a tool", I suggest that he's a hammer. But even hammers can't pound nails into hot air. Matthew's is like a gerbil on crack. I don't dislike the guy, but God I wish he'd shut up once in awhile. Grayson was trying to humor him. If he's so damn good at political maneuvering, and knows best how to fix what's wrong, why did he quit a profession he admires so much to become a newscaster, and a bad one at that who perpetually interrupts every guest he's ever had on? Why have them on at all if you're whole purpose is to tell them what they think, and then correct them when they don't spoon it back to you?

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

"Using the reconciliation process now for health care reform would not represent a dramatic break with the past. The sharp break with past practice occurred in 2001, when reconciliation was used for the first time to pass legislation that was not paid for and greatly worsened the nation’s fiscal position.

"Prior to 2001, every major reconciliation package enacted into law reduced the federal deficit. Until then, reconciliation had been reserved for legislation that met this standard of fiscal discipline. But the standard was tossed aside in 2001. In both 2001 and 2003, the reconciliation process was used to pass costly tax cuts that were not paid for and that have substantially increased deficits and debt.

"In response, at the start of the new Congress in 2007, the House and Senate formally adopted rules to restore a fiscal discipline standard to the reconciliation process by barring the process from being used for bills that would increase deficits and debt. If the reconciliation process is used in coming weeks for health reform legislation, that legislation will need to adhere to this standard — rather than to continue the sharp departure from it that the 2001 and 2003 reconciliation bills made."