Monthly Archives: October 2013

Flashback

From the Boston Globe, February 24, 2013:

It’s hard to get excited about these Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The air is warm and fresh. Everybody is in a good mood. Players in the clubhouse are especially relaxed. No one is looking for snitches or rolling their eyes at the mention of the new manager.

There were not a lot of fans for the first week of Red Sox workouts. We witnessed none of the Beatlemania of 2005. The Red Sox were not visited by many members of the national media. No sign of the ESPN bus. Sox workouts were not featured on live television. There was no daily presence from members of the New York newspapers.

This must be what it feels like covering the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton every spring.

The 2013 Red Sox have reinvented themselves. Surly, entitled ballplayers have been replaced by stand-up guys. Churl has yielded to character. Larry Lucchino actually said the $170 million Red Sox are a team of “scrappy underdogs.’’

Swell, just swell. Hope springs eternal and all that.

But here’s the reality, people: The 2013 Red Sox might be really bad. Worse, they might be really boring. Anybody talking about baseball in your neighborhood these days?

Two weeks and too many hours in the Sox clubhouse left me with a couple of impressions.

The Sox are a lot more likeable. Jonny Gomes really is the latter-day Kevin Millar. Stephen Drew has the manners of a West Point cadet. We were able to coax a smile out of Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury seems to understand the amusement we have with a player who is marking his final days at Fenway like some guy in Shawshank scratching lines on the wall of his cell.

But with one (spring training) game down and seven months to go, it’s apparent that the Sox have more questions than any other team in the American League East. It is difficult to pick them anywhere but last.

They will not be as bad as last year. This isn’t going to be a Pinky Higgins renaissance. The Sox have actual major league players this year, not the Pedro Ciriaco All-Stars who made out the lineup in the final days of the Bobby Valentine train wreck of 2012.

If, in fact, things go perfectly, the Red Sox actually could contend for a playoff spot. This is 2013, and five out of 15 make it in each league and it’s almost impossible to play yourself out of contention before August. The moribund Houston Astros have joined the American League. In this spirit, an optimist can make a case for the Red Sox.

I am going the other way this morning.

Where is there any evidence that the Red Sox have improved their starting pitching? It’s the starters who have killed the last two campaigns (starting with September of 2011 and running through all of last season).

Lester is supposed to be the ace, but he is coming back from a 9-14 season in which he gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. Next up is Clay Buchholz, who always looks good but gets hurt a lot; he strained a hamstring in the very first workout of 2013. Local pariah John Lackey is the third starter and made it to the mound Saturday for the first time since the end of 2011 when he was, statistically, the worst Red Sox starting pitcher of the last half-century.

Then comes veteran Ryan Dempster, who was cannon fodder when he moved to the American League last year. Finally, there is Felix Doubront, who is 25 years old and has managed to arrive in camp woefully out of shape in two of the last three seasons.

If any of these guys gets hurt (very likely) or don’t work out, the Sox turn to . . . Franklin Morales? . . . the maniacal Alfredo Aceves?

The bullpen looks strong. Let’s give Ben Cherington some props on the relief corps. Joel Hanrahan looks like a real closer and the Sox were smart to cut their losses with Mark “Schiraldi Eyes” Melancon.

Behind the plate, the Sox have depth, but not enough prime-time quality. There is a connection between the ineffectiveness of Sox starters and the insertion of Jarrod Saltalamacchia into the starting catching role in 2011. Salty has good power, but there is a big hole in his swing (.222 with 139 strikeouts last year). David Ross looks like a solid backup who’ll get plenty of playing time.

The first base situation is alarming. Mike Napoli is an old 31, hit .227 last year, has played only 133 games at the position, and has a degenerative hip disease. Don’t be surprised to see Lyle Overbay as an alternative.

We know the Sox are set at second base (Dustin Pedroia) and third base (Will Middlebrooks), but I worry that Middlebrooks will be asked to do too much to protect David Ortiz. It might be too much for a kid with only a half-year of big league at-bats.

Drew is in his walk year and should be OK at short. But he hit .223 last year.

The outfield looks like Gomes in left, Ellsbury in center, and Shane Victorino in right. Not exactly Rice, Lynn, and Evans, is it? Gomes is a winner but is best deployed as a platoon player. Ellsbury’s power numbers were way off last year. Victorino looks like a guy whose best days are behind him. Better hope he’s not Kevin Stevens or Joseph Addai.

Finally, it’s tough to feel good about Ortiz. He turns 38 this year, and is coming off an Achilles’ tendon injury — an injury he sustained running the bases in front of an Adrian Gonzalez home run last July. Ortiz doesn’t have contract incentive (he finally got his two-year deal, a lifetime achievement award from the Sox), and he is concerned that the Sox did little to find him lineup protection.

Sorry. The juice glass is half-empty today. These guys could be really bad. And really boring. “Scrappy” doesn’t sell in Boston in 2013. Not after everything that’s happened. For $170 million, a little more prime-time talent would have been nice.

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RT @funnyordie: Congrats to every adult male in Boston who will spend a year acting like they personally won the World Series!

Like alcoholics to think they can quit anytime, those with untreated personality disorders are unqualified to assess themselves. #bipolar

When you trade in your reality for a role, you give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. – Jim Morrison

Don’t like a male dominated society, women? Then live your life the way you would want your daughters to live theirs. #bereal #bestrong

Lester is in control. Good times in Boston tonight. #WorldSeries

Will The Red Sox Win The World Series?

The 109th World Series, starting tonight in Boston, pits the 97-win Red Sox against the 97-win St. Louis Cardinals, the first time since 1999 each league is represented by teams with its best records.

It should be one for the books.

The oddsmakers favor the Red Sox, but not by much.

Each team has its strengths and weaknesses.  Boston steals bases (fourth in the majors); St. Louis does not (29th). Boston hits home runs (sixth); St. Louis does not (27th). Boston strikes out (8th); St. Louis does not (26th).

The Cardinals have young pitchers (2nd youngest) and the Red Sox have old pitchers (third oldest). The Cardinals' pitchers throw ground balls (2nd in ground ball-to-flyball rate) and the Red Sox' pitchers do not (23rd). The Cardinals play in a pitchers' park (Busch Stadium saw the third fewest total bases) and the Red Sox play in a hitters' park (Fenway Park saw the fifth most total bases), and the Red Sox have home field advantage.

The ethos of the Red Sox is their tenacity and scruffiness, exemplied by their beards which make them look like extras in the opening scene of Les Miserables.  They started the season with the catch phrase "relentless", and they have lived up to it.

The ethos of the Cardinals is in their youth, particularly their pitchers.  Their team has been led by pitchers who are 22 and 23 years old.  This is a team that will be a force for the next several years — something that can't be said about the Sox.

And that's where the game will come down to.  Pitch counts.  In the postseason, Boston batters have forced 157.1 pitches and Cardinals pitchers have thrown only 130.6 pitches.  Who wins and who loses, I believe, will come down to whether or not Boston players can grind down the Cards' pitchers, or whether the Cards' pitchers keep throwing premium stuff, forcing the Red Sox to swing and miss.

Sadly, the Red Sox will lose their DH — either Napoli or Ortiz — when playing in the NL park.  But I don't think that will have as big an impact as the pitch counts.  If the Red Sox can wear down the Card pitchers — not over each game so much as over the course of the series — then you get a tired Cards team going into Game 6 and Game 7, at Fenway, with the DH, and with the tiny foul ball territory (forcing more pitches).  And that's when the Red Sox take it.  Most likely, in a memorable Game 7 at Fenway, the site of so much incredible baseball legendary games.

The players to watch are (1) Ortiz for the Red Sox — if he's hitting deep and has the good eye against the Cards' fastballs, it's over (on the other hand, if he walks a lot, he's less of a threat); and (2) Allen Craig for the Cards — coming off of a month-long injury, he can't ease back into peak condition; he has to be there.

And me?  I'm rooting for Red Sox rookie Xander Boegarts to deliver.  Just 21 years old, I saw him play in Winston-Salem last year (he was on the opposing team – a Red Sox minor league team).  And I remember him being a standout.

Homeland Review As We Step Into Season Three

Yeah, I don't know what the writers are thinking.  I like Dana as a charactor, but to make this season about teenage runaways?  Well, that's a different show.  The success of Homeland, Season One, was that you didn't know who to trust in a show about international terrorism.  And that was awesome.  When it started to become a show about the Carrie-Brody romance, it started to lose its shine.  Thankfully, we're not dealing with the Carrie-Brody romance anymore, but now we have to watch Brody's daughter and some crazed ne'er-do-well troubled teen?  Why?

As for Carrie — well, we had a nice twist which meant that Saul did not throw her under a bus.  That was nice, except it sort of retroactively changes how we felt about poor Carrie being involuntarily stuck in that hospital.  Not so involuntary, so we don't have the sympathy we once had.

Great acting by Claire Danes is keeping this show alive for me with her biploar tenseness, but if they season doesn't turn around soon, I may abandon this show.

Red State Leads In Obamacare

It's true — the federal government websites for signing up for the Affordable Care Act are glitchy.  And an embarrassment to the Obama Administration.  And Obama will suffer repercussions for that.

But when Obama says that websites are glitchy, and the Affordable Care Act isn't, he's right.  Obamacare isn't the websites.  Not even close.

And the other thing is, the glitchy websites are only for those states (like North Carolina) that decided not to set up their own health exchage.  If you live and work in Kentucky, and you want to sign up for health care, the Kentucky website is hunky-dory, thank you very much.  That's right, Kentucky — the home state of Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

Post Shutdown Polls

Post-shutdown polls are coming in and they are brutal:

The numbers:

* Dems lead in the generic ballot matchup by 49-38. Among independents — a key midterm constituency — those numbers are 46-35.

* Only 21 percent of Americans approve of the way the Congressional GOP is handling the federal budget, versus 77 percent who disapprove. Among independents: 20-78. Among moderates: 14-85.  Among seniors: 18-79. Fewer than one in three regard the GOP favorably.

* Only 20 percent think Republicans are “interested in doing what’s best for the country,” while 77 percent think they’re “interested in what’s best for themselves politically.” Among independents: 14-83. Among moderates: 18-81. Among seniors: 24-74.

* Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown by 53-29; moderates by 60-24; indys by 49-29; and seniors by 46-35.

Crucially, large majorities think the shutdown damaged the country. Eighty six percent say it has damaged the U.S.’s image in the world, and 80 percent say it damaged the U.S. economy.

Will all this change by the time of elections?  Many say yes.  And perhaps that is true.  But coming up from a disadvantaged position is worse than coming from an advantaged one, and this is bad news for the GOP.

UPDATE:

Check out these numbers from the latest ABC/Washington Post poll (Sep. 15 results) on what Republicans did to themselves during their government shutdown:

Barack Obama, net approval: -1 (0)

Democratic Party, net favorability: -3 (+7)

Republican Party, net favorability: -31 (-14)

Tea Party, net favorability: -33 (-14)

So while Democrats and President Obama saw their net ratings drop by 10 and 1 points, respectively, Republicans and tea partiers saw their ratings drop by 17 and 19 points, respectively.

Someone is doing it on purpose? Awesome. #thewalkingdead

Government Shutdown Is Over (For Now); “Nobody Won” Says Obama…

… and he's right in a sense.  The Democrats didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything; the Republicans didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything.

On the other hand, the Democrats weren't trying to gain anything, and the House Republicans were (they wanted to defund Obamacare), sosomebody did lose in all this.

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And then there's public opinion:

The Tea Party's standing with Americans is at its lowest point since the movement took shape in 2010, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

The survey, conducted from Oct. 9-13, reports that nearly half (49 percent) of the public now view the Tea Party unfavorably, compared with 30 percent who view it favorably. Since February 2010, when Pew first began gauging opinion on the Tea Party, unfavorable views have nearly doubled, and the number of "very unfavorable" views has tripled.

In June, when Pew last polled on the Tea Party and before the latest Washington budget battle fully ratcheted up, 45 percent said they held an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, while 37 percent reported they had a favorable view.

Michael Dimock, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish that one of the issues is that people don't really know what the Tea Party is about.

"There's not really a consensus about what the Tea Party is, whether it's kind of an outside group trying to steer policy or whether it's working within the Republican Party itself," Dimock says.

The poll, which was in the field as congressional Republicans continued their push to remove financing for President Obama's health care law as part of a deal to reopen the government, found that the Tea Party's popularity is falling even among Republicans.

Pew reported that 53 percent of Republicans now view the Tea Party favorably, down from 62 percent in June; and 27 percent view it unfavorably, up from 23 percent in June.

To show you just how crazy the far right has gotten, they've even lost Ross Douthat.  Even him!

But with tonight’s vote done and the government open once again, I want to return to the theme of my Sunday column, and stress once more the essential absurdity of the specific populist gambit we’ve just witnessed unfold, drag on, and now finally collapse. However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

This means that the still-ongoing intra-conservative debate over the shutdown’s wisdom is not, I’m sorry, the kind of case where reasonable people can differ on the merits and have good-faith arguments and ultimately agree to disagree. There was no argument for the shutdown itself that a person unblindered by political fantasies should be obliged to respect, no plausible alternative world in which it could have led to any outcome besides self-inflicted political damage followed by legislative defeat, and no epitaph that should be written for its instigators’ planning and execution except: “These guys deserved to lose.”

And it’s important for conservatives and Republicans to recognize this, and remember it, because what just happened can happen again, and next time the consequences may be more severe. The mentality that drove the shutdown — a toxic combination of tactical irrationality and the elevation of that irrationality into a True Conservative (TM) litmus test — may have less influence in next year’s Beltway negotiations than it did this time around, thanks to the way this has ended for the defunders after John Boehner gave them pretty much all the rope that they’d been asking for. But just turn on talk radio or browse RedState or look at Ted Cruz’s approval ratings with Tea Partiers and you’ll see how potent this mentality remains, how quickly it could resurface, and how easily Republican politics and American governance alike could be warped by it in the future.

The Deal

Looks like the House is getting ready to vote to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling in return for…. stripping members of Congress, their staff and White House appointees and employees of their Obamacare subsidies.

Sounds good to me.

Oh. Please Sarah. Weigh In.

Politico reports:

President Barack Obama is risking “impeachable” offenses with the way he is handling the debt limit debate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a post on her Facebook page Monday.

“Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense,” Palin wrote.

That has to be the most densely packed stupid that I have seen in a long time.  Where to begin?

First of all, Obama has no control for defaulting on the national debt.  If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, we default, but Obama hasn't created an impeachable offense.

Secondly, I don't know how he could raise the debt limit without Congress, but if he could, how can that both be an impeachable offense while avoiding one?

It's scary that some people actually think she makes sense.

The WWII Vet Protest

Just below a picture of Sarah Palin from this weekend's march, Fox News writes:

Veterans marched on Sunday in Washington in protest of the partial government shutdown that has kept them and other Americans from visiting war memorials across the country, with support from several star conservatives.

“This is the people's memorial,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a crowd of several hundred gathered near the WWII Memorial on the closed National Mall, which has become a national symbol of the shutdown and the country’s response. “Simple question: Why is the federal government spending money to keep veterans out of the memorial? Why did they spend money to keep people out of Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore? Our veterans should be above political games.”

And you had people like Ted Cruz there speaking in front of the Oathkeepers:

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But it turns out, the actual vets group that organized the march wasn't too happy that the tea party types took over.  In underlined red letters on the front page of their website:

The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain. The core principle is about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner.

And on Facebook:

We have, as a group, been prevented from certain groups that have piggy-backed off our grassroots efforts, to effectively create a comprehensive media message campaign. We made the mistake of trying to partner with some Washington insiders that thwarted many of our genuine concerns for keeping this apolitical and grassroots. While we support many of those groups common causes for Veterans, we do not support the manner in which they go about it. We chose instead to not incite or create panic.

What's amazing to me is how completely the narrative of this group was co-opted. Their objective was, indeed, to hold gatherings at closed memorials, but with the express intention of showing gratitude, and they specifically talk about how visitors should pick up after themselves. There's no fury at the park workers, no insults thrown, no ugliness in the intial posts…

 

The Strangest Sentence Ever Written About The Whole Government Shutdown Thing

Say what, Politico?

President Barack Obama may get the clean debt limit extension he’s been demanding, but it wouldn’t be a clean victory.

By adopting the House GOP plan to raise the debt ceiling, Obama would avoid a potentially crippling blow to the economy and, in the White House’s view, finally break Republicans of their habit of seeking concessions each time the debt ceiling needs to be raised.

But the downsides are significant. The federal government might not immediately reopen, there’s no guarantee Republicans would stop using the debt limit as leverage in the future and Obama could find himself in the same position once the temporary extension expires.

And yet, Obama may have little choice but to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s offer because it delivers what the president wants: a debt limit hike with no ideological strings attached.

Rrrrright.

That's kind of like saying, "If the Detroit Tigers don't hit the ball in the next several games, the Boston Red Sox have little choice but to accept the American League Championship."

How Low Can They Go?

The longer this government shutdown drags on the worse the polling situation gets for Republicans. The latest NBC/WSJ poll has some incredible results.

The poll found 46 percent of Americans think the shutdown is extremely serious and another 27 percent say it is quite serious. The blame for this serious situation is falling primarily on the Republican party. Only 31 percent of Americans think President Obama is to blame while 53 percent believe congressional Republicans are to blame.

The result is an amazing swing in the generic ballot. Last month Democrats lead 46 percent to 43 percent for Republicans. Now Democrats lead 47 percent to 39 percent. If the election were held today Democrats would likely take the House.

The Republican party’s brand is now the lowest it has been in the roughly 20 years NBC has being polling. Only 24 percent of the country has a positive opinion of the Republicans party and 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

This is polling finally bad enough to likely scare Republicans into folding.

Day 9 And No End In Sight

Nobody thinks this is government shutdown thing is fun anymore.   As John McCain said on the floor of the Senate, everybody realizes that there is not going to be any change re: Obamacare.  Everybody realizes that, at some point, the debt ceiling will be raised.  So why not just DO it?

But the rightwingers holding the government hostage don't want to give up without a concession (lest they look bad, although of course, they already do).

The buzz today is about Rep. Paul Ryan’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. He wants a grand bargain and not once mentions Obamacare. Not once.

 

Day 7 And We’re Still Shutdown

And here's good commentary on why:

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Also….

Disapproval of congressional Republicans’ budget wrangling after a weeklong shutdown has shot up to 70 percent, with 51 percent disapproving “strongly,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

At the same time, President Obama’s approval rating has ticked up due to improved marks among moderate Democrats and independents. No group, however, earns positive marks for their handling of budget negotiations overall.

Washington Post-ABC News poll

 

Um, Okay

These procedural rules make no sense, but whatever:

House Democratic leaders believe they have hit on a new way to potentially force House Republican leaders into allowing a vote on a “clean CR” funding the government without any defunding of Obamacare attached.

At last count, as many as two dozen House Republicans appear prepared to vote for a clean CR. With Democrats included, that means a majority of the House of Representatives would vote right now to reopen the government. But the House GOP leadership won’t allow such a vote.

Dems have hit on a way to use a “discharge petition,” which forces a House vote if a majority of Representatives signs it, to try to force the issue. Previously, it was thought this could not work, because a discharge petition takes 30 legislative days to ripen, so if this were tried with the clean CR that passed the Senate, this couldn’t bear fruit until some time in November.

But now House Democrats say they have found a previously filed bill to use as a discharge petition — one that would fund the government at sequester levels.

The bill in question is the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act,” which was introduced in March by GOP Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma. As the Congressman’srelease describes it:

If Congress fails to approve a budget by the end of each fiscal year, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would ensure that all operations remain running normally without any interruption of services by automatically triggering a continuing resolution (CR) or short-term, stop-gap spending device. The bill creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, auto-CR funding would be reduced by one percentage point and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days.

This afternoon, Dem Reps. Chris Van Hollen and George Miller will announce that they are introducing a discharge petition for the Lankford bill. They will discuss the procedural ins and outs of this move. The upshot: Once the petition is filed, they will begin rounding up signatures from both Democrats and Republicans. If they can get 218 signatures, a House vote to reopen the government will happen.

Dems say that if they get enough signatures, they’d be able to force a vote by October 14th. Given that House Republicans are now talking about letting the government shutdown battle spill into the fight over the debt limit — which expires on October 17th — it’s very possible the government could still be closed at that point.

Sounds like a bit of a Hail Mary to me.

Republicans Applaud Capital Police But Prevent Them From Being Paid

Speaker John Boehner tweeted how everyone owes a debt of gratitude for the way DC police handled the crazy woman who tried to run into the White House yesterday.

They police do indeed deserve the praise they are getting.

One thing Capitol police are not getting, though—at least not while Boehner lacks the professionalism and bravery to stand up to the most extreme elements in his caucus and hold a vote on a clean continuing resolution—is their paychecks.

Capitol Police officers aren’t subject to furloughs, so they’re still on the job. But – like all federal workers who are deemed essential and are working during the shutdown — their next paycheck won't be until the shutdown ends.

Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget says that workers who are exempt from furloughs will receive pay for their time at work. But that can only happen after Congress passes and the president signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders says, this is "a national disgrace":

“I suspect at the end of the day they will get paid, but they have mortgages to meet, they have college loans to meet,” Sanders said. “These are not millionaires. They are struggling people who have families and kids.”

Yup

Shots Fired In Capital

All in lockdown.

Capital police are responding — even though they are working without pay.

UPDATE: Some women with a child in the car tried to ram White House gates, then she sped to Capital Hill.

She was shot and killed by police.

RT @RonanFarrow: Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.

RT @LOLGOP: If only there was way to find out if the Senate’s bill could pass the House.

Hot Mic Conversation Shows This Is About Optics And “Winning”, Not About Americans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) were caught on a hot mic Wednesday night while discussing their party's messaging on the government shutdown. 

 

Paul ran into McConnell, who was wired for an interview, in front of a camera after wrapping his own interview with CNN, according to Western Kentucky news station WPSD

"I just did CNN and I just go over and over again 'We're willing to compromise, we're willing to negotiate.' I think — I don't think they poll tested 'we won't negotiate.' I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again," Paul said of the Obama administration's stance on the shutdown.

"Yeah, I do too, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly," McConnell said.

President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Wednesday night to discuss opening the federal government and raising the debt ceiling, but the meeting brought the two sides no closer to ending the budget impasse.

In the video recording, Paul was confident that the GOP's pivot from demanding Obamacare be defunded to seeking out compromise would succeed.

"I think if we keep saying 'We wanted to defund it. We fought for that but now we're willing to compromise on this,' I think they can't — we're gonna, I think — well I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this I think," he said.

Cruz Taken To Woodshed

TPM:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took heat from his Republican colleagues Wednesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the government shutdown, Politico reported.

At the meeting that was hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee, one GOP senator after another pressed Cruz to offer a proposal to end the shutdown, according to Politico. The junior senator from Texas reportedly had no solution nor could he explain how he would defund the Affordable Care Act – an effort led by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that served as the impetus for the current shutdown.

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” an unnamed senator told Politico. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch."

At one point in the meeting, Republicans pressed Cruz to tell them what he would have done had the party united behind his call to filibuster a House-passed continuing resolution to keep the defunding hopes alives. Only 19 Republicans backed Cruz's attempt to block the bill.

“He kept trying to change the subject because he never could answer the question,” the anonymous senator said. “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy – it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice."

The meeting turned quite heated when Cruz was asked if he would renounce the attacks lobbed at Republicans by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a powerful organization that targets moderates in the party.

"I will not," Cruz reportedly said. 

The Senate Conservatives Fund has marched in lockstep with Cruz on the defunding campaign, even expanding its scope to target House Republican incumbents.

I hear rumblings from some corners that this shutdown stunt is the beginning of the end for the Tea Party conservatives.  I'm not that optimistic, but it really does look like their brand is hurting.

First Thoughts On Homeland, Season 3

Showtime's Homeland may have achieved some sort of record for greatest fall from grace for a TV series.  The first season may have been the best-crafted season of any television drama (although Breaking Bad's season four gives it a run for its money).  You had Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a returning war vet and terrorist, and the only person who thought he was dangerous – CIA agent Carrie Matheson — who nobody could believe because of her erratic behavior.  Was he a killer?  Would she get him?  Or sleep with him?  Or both?  The whole season kept you on the edge.

Unfortunately, the producers and writers didn't know what to do with the main characters in Season Two.  Nicolas Brody's ambivalence and hand-wringing didn't make for good television.  In Season One, all the characters were clearly driven and knew what they were doing, even if the audience didn't.  In Season Two, there seemed to be more introspection with all the characters, and the love affair between Carrie and Brody which was doomed to begin with.  So the tension was much less.  Unlike Seasons One, you didn't feel like you were hurtling toward something bad and you couldn't stop.  Not that the entire season was bad — the "Q&A" episode may have been the best of the whole series — but it didn't pull the charactors as tightly as the first season.

Fortunately (without spoiling things too much), Season Two ended with a huge game-changing shocker — well, it was in the penultimate episode — which had the effect of rebooting the series in a way.  What would Homeland do with its clean slate?

The season opener this week bodes well for Season Three (spoiler alert).  Brody did not appear at all.  Presumably, he'll be back at some point, but right not, it's good that the series is sticking with what works — a dysfunctional CIA, and new enemies.  Saul throws Carrie under a bus, and it is painful to watch, but we know that the story always gets interesting when Carrie is isolated.  Plus, as perversely pleasing as it is, she's off her meds (trying holistic treatments), and her bipolar Dad seems to play a bigger role.  We know the series always goes to a new level when Claire Danes is allowed to give us instability, and making us wonder if she's being unstable or really smart (for her part, Carrie thinks that being under lithium may have blinded her to missing key clues that would have uncovered the terrible tragedy that ended Season Two).  Yes, the photos with strings are back out. 

We still hang around Brody's family, and although his daughter Dana remains an interesting character, we're not sure why.  It's a bit unfortunate, because there probably was some more meat there in Season One for Brody's wife… but if Brody takes a back seat this season (and he really needs to), then so does his family.

But the Brodys notwithstanding, the writers seem to know they can't replicate Season One with the same cast of charactors.  What role Brody ultimately plays remains to be seen.  But so far, so good.

About those WWII Vets

When I consider the behavior of the right over the past 48 hours, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

First, they force the shutdown.  And try to blame Democrats.

When that doesn't work, they say that the shutdown is no big deal, because – hey, there are still air traffic controllers and all.  They say this despite the fact that, only a few weeks ago, they were outraged ("think of the children!") when Obama closed White House tours.

Then suddenly some WWII vets arrive in D.C. and want to visit the WWII memorial, which is closed because all national parks are closed.

And so outraged Republicans makes sure those vets get to see the memorial.  Hmmm.  I guess government shutdowns do affect people.

But here's the saddest thing you'll read about the whole drama unfolding:

At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.

This isn't about WWII vets.  And the Republican party has no proirities.

Anyway, as we enter Day 2, Ezra Klein sums it up nicely:

The top story all day was that Republicans had shut down the federal government because President Obama wouldn't defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. The other major story was that the government's servers were crashing because so many people were trying to see if they could get insurance through Obamacare.

So on the one hand, Washington was shut down because Republicans don't want Obamacare. On the other hand, Obamacare was nearly shut down because so many Americans wanted Obamacare….

It was strange and slightly perverse to watch Obamacare open and be flooded with people desperate to sign up for health insurance even as the government closed because Republicans wanted the law ripped out, or at least delayed. In some quarters, Republicans mocked Obamacare's technical problems, but the jokes were wan: Overwhelming demand for the law is not a boon to the GOP's position.

This is, of course, precisely what Republicans were scared of: That a law they loathe would end up being enthusiastically embraced by millions of Americans — and thus proving permanent. It's Obamacare's possible success, not its promised failures, that unnerve the GOP.

Government Shuts Down; Obamacare Begins

(1)  I have to start with one crazy lady Bachmann said to crazy website outlet, World Net Daily:

Pulling no punches, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND exactly why she thinks President Obama and Democrats are unwilling to negotiate with the GOP over Obamacare’s well-documented problems.

“I think the reason is because President Obama can’t wait to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care.

“Because, once they enroll millions of more individual Americans, it will be virtually impossible for us to pull these benefits back from people,” the congresswoman explained.

“All they want to do is buy love from people by giving them massive government subsidies,” Bachmann summed up.

I have a question for Ms. Bachmann — is giving people what they want a BAD thing?  Isn't that what representatives are supposed to do?  If people LIKE those benefits, doesn't that mean they are, you know, a good thing?  

And what the hell is wrong with giving people something for their money?  People pay taxes for the betterment of themselves and their country — so what's wrong with something that does just that?

(2)  Who said that government was the problem, not the solution?

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(3)  They really are idiots at Fox & Friends:

 

(4)  The Vitter Amendment would put congressional staffers on the hook for their entire health insurance.  That puts them in a worse position than the rest of the work force, because for most employees, their employers help pay for the plan.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I hope it passes.  Because then you'll have a LOT of pissed of GOP staffers.

(5)   “It’s kind of an insult to lemmings to call them lemmings…”

–  

Rep Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) on the far right members of his party who pushed for a government shutdown. 

(via New York Times)

 

 

(6)  Rockin' Shutdown:

 

 

 

 (7)  Rightwing bloggers have been mocking the Obamacare websites which started today — both the federal and state exchanges where people can sign up for health insurance.  It seems that many of the websites aren't working.  "Ha, ha" say the rightwing bloggers.  "Typical Obamacare stuff.  Doesn't work".

Keep laughing.  The reason they're not working is because they are so popular:

Heavy volume contributed to technical problems and delays that plagued the rollout Tuesday of the online insurance markets at the heart of President Obama’s health care law, according to state and federal governments, with officials watching closely for clues to how well the system will work and how many people will take advantage of it.

On Tuesday morning, people trying to shop for coverage athealthcare.gov, the federally run exchange that serves as the marketplace for residents of most states, met with messages citing high traffic and advising, “Please wait here until we send you to the login page” or “The system is down at the moment.” A state-run exchange in Maryland also posted a message saying it was “experiencing connectivity issues” and asking visitors to try again later. Other states reported scattered problems.

New York State’s exchange began operating at 8 a.m. and received 2 million visits in the first hour and a half, “which far exceeds what we were expecting,” said James O’Hare, a spokesman for the state Department of Health. Though some consumers encountered error messages or delays, the site was functioning and processing applications, though how many was not known, he said.

By 9:30 a.m., Kentucky’s exchange, which went live at midnight, had received 24,000 visitors and processed more than 1,000 applications, said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the state’s health care agency. “The high volume of traffic is causing a few technical glitches,” presenting problems for people who want to apply but not for those who are just browsing, she said.

Most predictions had been for a trickle of new customers at first, rather than a flood, on the online exchanges, where people can shop for competing health plans and see if they qualify for federal subsidies. Polls show that many Americans remain uncertain about the purpose of the exchanges and unconvinced that the law will help them.