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Ezra Klein summarizes:
Barney Frank walked back his unexpected comment that health care was dead now that Democrats only had 59 seats in the Senate. "I have realized that my statement last night was more pessimistic than is called for," he said, admitting that he had been "perhaps overreacting." Later on, he told Brian Beutler [God was I glad to see that come down on his twitter feed] that "I'm strongly inclined to vote for the thing."
News that Barack Obama had told ABC that he wanted a pared-down bill led to instant and aggressive push back from the White House. As they pointed out, he didn't actually say that in the interview (it was a reporter's interpretation), and they released their own statement saying his preferences remain constant (though the statement is notably vague). Sources also say that the White House is letting the immediate shock of Brown's election settle, and that the president will be significantly more involved in the days to come.
So the plan is to have the House pass the Senate version, and then to make any changes via the reconciliation process. Reconciliation is not capable of doing things like banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, but it can adjust budgetary matters such as subsidies and the exact dimensions of the excise tax on Cadillac insurance plans. It is by no means clear that we’ll win this, but it looks like we’re actually going to fight.
So not sure where the rally started, but someone’s done a good job calming the horses. Seems like the House leadership was keeping their powder dry until they had a chance to get everyone on the same page, we’ll see if the Speaker makes a statement soon. All that said, today was literally terrifying, those acting as the face of the party panicked because we went from 60 seats in the Senate to 59. To shorten a Kevin Drum round-up: this was disgusting. All that said, even though the best shot is the Senate version improved by reconciliation, this still has the potential to be the greatest liberal victory of all the years I’ve been alive, let alone the ones I’ve been politically aware.
Well, review the House Democratic reaction, it appears that the one way likely to pass anything comprehensive, just passing the Senate Bill in the House, isn't happening (see precedent for the pass the bill/ping pong strategy). It bloody well should, John Cohn explains why, but should and will are different things.
There are worthwhile things that could be done by reconciliation. Here's Ezra Klein:
Democrats could scrap the legislation and start over in the reconciliation process. But not to re-create the whole bill. If you go that route, you admit the whole thing seemed too opaque and complex and compromised. You also admit the limitations of the reconciliation process. So you make it real simple: Medicare buy-in between 50 and 65. Medicaid expands up to 200 percent of poverty with the federal government funding the whole of the expansion. Revenue comes from a surtax on the wealthy.
And that's it. No cost controls. No delivery-system reforms. Nothing that makes the bill long or complex or unfamiliar. Medicare buy-in had more than 51 votes as recently as a month ago. The Medicaid change is simply a larger version of what's already passed both chambers. This bill would be shorter than a Danielle Steel novel. It could take effect before the 2012 election.
If they can pull that off, I'll take it. There's also the option to cut a deal with Republicans by toning things down. That said, a more productive use of our time would be to clap hard and say we do believe in fairies and pull off a resurrection. As for me, I believe in incentives, I'm not sure how the Republicans have managed to achieve absolute loyalty, but I do know that the case for it is now even stronger than it was before. Obstruction is easy, stops governing agenda, and isn't punished by voters. They're going to keep pulling that move until we learn to play hardball, and if Rep. Barney Frank is rolling over, we haven't yet learned to play hardball.
In any event, I think I've just got to accept that the best we're going to get is reconciliation and even our House leadership is unwilling or unable to whip members into shape. Bleak unmitigated despair seems to be the appropriate response for now. Then we toughen up, drop our expectations, revise our strategies, and figure out what to go for next. My personal thought is that defeating the filibuster probably needs to take its place at the top of liberal's long-term agendas. We can't just wait for the stars to align and national crises to occur. But for now, I need a break. And a drink.
This disaster seems especially unfair. To have an earthquake hit in an area that doesn’t have reason to be particularly prepared for it and to strike so close to a major population center like Port-au-Prince seems particularly devastating. Haiti is particularly poor, even compared to other Caribbean nations, but in some ways things had been improving of late. I do tend to favor disaster aid as it tends to be one of the most effective form of aid, because recovery and dealing with temporary problems is easier than development. There is no question that this is devastating for Haiti, but that doesn’t mean despair and official government aid are the only way to go.
Via @MontgomeryCoMD a list of organizations accepting donations [I went with Doctors Without Borders as I’ve read a lot about them (aka MSF) in grad school [Also Lutheran World Relief, which from past research I know to have low overhead]]:
1) Text "HAITI" to "90999" to donate $10 to the Red Cross … (Update: I am told this only works in the US)
2) Text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti … Check out more on Yele Haiti. [I don’t know that group as well, but they’re apparently a longstanding foundation formed by Wyclef Jean to help Haiti]
Beyond the links, Chris Sacca covers a few ways to learn more about Haiti.
Photo from Globovision used under a Creative Commons License
Season 2 will probably be my favorite, but 3 was quite good. Overall, I think Avatar is now my favorite coming of age story and in my top 5 overall series, animated or not. It gets there through a wide range of strong characters, a beautiful well-realized world, and terrific comedy.
There are definite problems with the casting of the film, that said, season 2 does present one way to partially ameliorate it since there’s a new lead to cast.
I’ve finished Uncharted 2 and loved it (bias note, I’m friends with one of the game designers, but mine is hardly a unique opinion). Since the game has been out for a while and has been well reviewed I’m going to skip the consumer advising part of this post and instead give a link-fest: great, if familiar, characterization and writing; an example of the potential of authored, as opposed to self-authored, narrative in game; and polish that gets so many little things right. Instead I want to focus on the “Active Cinematic Experience,” to use Naughty Dog’s term. Brainy Gamer Michael Abbott mentioned an interest in doing a post on that topic, but if he did I’m not finding it (it may have come up in the podcasts; I listened to some of the Uncharted 2-relevant ones before playing the game). I don’t have his theater training, but I hope to have an interesting thing or two to say. I don’t know to what extent this was true of Uncharted 1; I just got my PS3 (Thanks Kate’s parents!) so I haven’t yet played the original and thus can’t compare them.
I think the main innovation of Uncharted 2 is keeping the player in control over the vast majority of set pieces without resorting much to quick time events. In the past days of gaming, many of the awesome things your character did occurred in cut-scenes or didn’t use the main mechanics of the game. One of the most common solutions was quick time events, basically making cut scenes more interactive by requiring the player to place a certain button when it flashed up on the scene. In the past year I’ve played Shenmue 2, a series known for originating the term, and in a given cut scene you may have to duck and weave around a crowded market, disarm someone as they draw a knife on you, or make a difficult jump to a distant rooftop. I enjoyed what I played of Shenmue 2, but I got stuck in part because of the reliance on quick time events. I’m bad at brawlers and the game gave me relatively little practice with the core fighting system. In some ways, quick time events were an advance over just watching a video, but as game play goes they’re pretty thin gruel.
Uncharted 2 doesn’t completely avoid quick time events. They show in a few of the boss and special enemy fights when you go to fisticuffs, but they rely on them far less than say, God of War, in combat. More important, the game has a variety of crazy sequences: fights on trains, gun fights on a truck convoy, escaping a collapsing building, etc. that allow for full control while doing things that would be cut scenes in other games. I think the hand-to-hand combat is also an example of this phenomenon.
Against unaware enemies you can pull off visually entertaining stealth attacks with a single square button press. In other cases you mash the square button to attack an enemy but need the triangle button to break out of grabs. The game helps you some, more with weaker enemies, by slowing down when you need to break out of a pin but this doesn’t break the organic feel in the same way that quick time events do.
So how did they pull this off?