Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Delayed, But Not Denied

I’m not sure if this is a brilliant tactical move on the part of the President or a tacit admission that getting Obamacare fully enacted will be more difficult than anticipated:

(CBS News) The delay of a key provision in President Obama's health-care law is being called a major setback for the president's signature issue.

The controversial provision that requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide coverage or face fines is being delayed by a year. The rule is now on hold until 2015 - after the 2014 midterm elections.

That last clause is the key: “after the midterm elections.”

This move prevents Republicans in Congress from running against the rollout of the legislation, especially as there will likely be hiccups and false starts along the way at the beginning of implementation.

And it gives the Democratic heir to the Presidency – because let’s face facts, no Republican is going to win in 2016 – a leg up to point to the successes of the Obama legacy, including his signature advance in progressive thinking.

Not surprisingly, Max Baucus, who is to Democratic politics what Vidkun Quisling was to Norwegian sovereignty, has called the entire piece of legislation a “train wreck.”

It probably wouldn’t have been such a train wreck if serious efforts to bring you and the other party-unfaithful into the fold.

Indeed, it’s particularly galling to see this parallel:

With next year's midterm elections looming, that kind of feedback troubled leading Democrats like Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who staked a lot of political capital on the law. He said, "I just see a huge train wreck coming down."

On Tuesday night, Republicans who remain staunchly opposed to the law, which passed without a single GOP vote, said the announcement was vindication. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, "Even the Obama administration knows the 'train wreck' will only get worse."

Weaker Boener. Senator Baucus. Both use the same blast-fax metaphor.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Hoist On His Own Petar

The problem with becoming the story rather than a part of the story is this:

Snowden has been stuck in a Moscow airport's transit zone since arriving there on June 23 from Hong Kong after releasing explosive allegations about Washington's vast global spying programme.

The 30-year-old lashed out at the United States late on Monday, accusing US officials of pressuring foreign leaders to refuse him refuge after Washington charged him with espionage for going through with his leaks.

"These are the old, bad tools of political aggression," Snowden said in a statement published by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks group.

"Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."

Actually, I think the purpose is to pressure you to come home and face criminal charges. Just like Daniel Ellsberg did. Just like Andrei Sakharov did in the Soviet Union. Just like Bradley Manning did.

Had you done that, stayed behind and took the heat, you could have given far more encouragement to future whistleblowers to come forward. You would have had a steadier platform to orate from.

Instead, you decided that wasn’t diva-ish enough. Meanwhile, your actions, including the leak, have done little if nothing to move the needle of public opinion. We were sheep before you revealed known facts, and we are sheep now. If anything, the backlash against you comes not from the government, but from the citizens of the United States.

And for what? You’re like the little boy in the back of the station wagon who points out the cop by the side of the road after he’s already turned on his lights and started his siren when dad is speeding. Gee…thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious!

You took an unnecessary risk, in other words, and then ran like a scared rabbit. And now that the trap has been snared, you don’t have a whole lot of ground to stand on here, whining about how unfair it is that your privilege to escape has been revoked. In other words, you planned to go in and steal “secrets” from the government without planning one step further down the road, there ain’t no one to blame but yourself.

Now you’ve become the story. Now any real discussion of the things you re-revealed will get lost because you’re just another fame-seeking moron look for his fifteen minutes.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Picture This

It’s January in the South. Two teams are gearing up to play a professional football playoff game, the semi-finals. The winner gets bragging rights to be the conference champion. The host city spent billions in taxpayer dollars on a stadium to keep the team local. Worldwide television is covering the game, Tens of thousands of live spectators and millions around the globe are watching two of the premier American football teams square off.

Meanwhile, outside, the masses of poor residents gather. They have signs protesting the amount of money the city has spent on this spectacle, and how it could have been spent creating jobs, or feeding and housing the poor. The police move in. Teargas flies, some of it filters into the stands, causing spectators to choke.

It would never happen here. But it did happen in Rio de Janeiro last night:

Mood changes do not come much more dramatic than the shift within two hours and four blocks near the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night.

Inside that small window, one neighbourhood was choked with angry protests, clouds of teargas and volleys of rubber bullets, while a short walk away joyful crowds sang, danced and exploded in celebration at Brazil's victory in the Confederations Cup final.

It was an odd sensation strolling from one to the other, past recently fired cartridges and fallen placards to garage forecourt TV screens where locals and police stared up together at the events on the pitch, in reality only a stone's throw or two away.

But it also brought home the contrast between the local street and the global stadium, which has been at the heart of the remarkable events in Brazil over the past two weeks as a series of largely spontaneous, somewhat inchoate but often huge demonstrations have coincided with and overshadowed Fifa's tournament.

The World’s Game. Not a crappy little “sport” that is mass marketed to the world as the best of America (really? An actual athletic endeavor every five minutes or so punctuated, or rather punctuating, beer and truck commercials is the best we can export?) The people protesting were the very population that provided many of the players on the pitch for the Brazilian team. Brazil bills itself as “o Pais de Futebol”  -- the country of football. More than 10,000 Brazilians play the game professionally worldwide.

And yet, the working classes protested. And protested for the entire tournament. And will protest next year when the World Cup is held in Brazil. And in 2016 when Rio hosts the Summer Olympics.

Sports are sports. Why do Americans treat them as if they are life?