Daily Archive: 07/13/2011

Jul 13 2011

Congressional Game of Chicken: McConnell’s Plan: Let Obama Do It

Confused? You aren’t alone. The latest twist in the Rube Goldberg labyrinth of political maneuvering by the GOP to limit Barack Obama to one term has everyone scratching their heads.

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “contingency plan” to let Obama raise the debt ceiling in a series of steps from now until after the 2012 elections at first glance looks like the greatest deal ever. On closer inspection of the term, may be the deal with the devil and it all depends on who you read, if you can figure out just what it is that’s being offered;

Basically the proposal is this: the deal that allows Republicans to vote no on raising the ceiling, then allows Obama to veto them and each time he must submit imaginary budget cuts which they can refuse to pass.

Got it? Well, neither does anyone else. McConnell seems to think that this will shift the onus of the artificial debt/deficit crisis that the GOP created onto the president. Reactions vary even within the left and the right:

Atrios:

What’s The Big Deal?

I don’t think it matters if they force Obama to come up with spending cut proposals that won’t go anywhere. He can just turn the whole thing into a farce, and do things like proposing to zero out the defense budget in year 10 or other things which obviously won’t happen.

Josh Marshall:

I don’t get why any Dems would see this as an “evil genius” move on McConnell’s part. Unless of course you’re inherently afraid of facing the voters with what you actually think is the best policy for the country (not a hypothetical for many Democrats). My take though is that it’s not evil genius at all. It’s hitting the escape hatch. It looks on the surface like it’s terrible politics for the Democrats but only if you never leave the DC bubble.

Judd Legum:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing a new plan that would give the Republicans everything they want – $2.5 trillion in spending cuts – plus 12 new chances to blame Obama for everything.

Steve Benen:

Following up on the last post, the details of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) contingency plan for the debt ceiling are still coming together. At this point, I’m still not sure what to make of it, except to marvel at its Rube Goldberg complexity.(If Republicans simply took five minutes to pass a clean bill, the way they did seven times in eight years when Bush was in office, it’d save everyone a lot of headaches.)

A couple of things seem clear at this point. The first is that McConnell realized the talks were going nowhere – Democrats would continue to ask Republicans to compromise and the GOP would continue to refuse. That doesn’t only lead to a catastrophic outcome, it also makes Republicans look ridiculous. He needed a safety valve to get out of this – one that wouldn’t need new revenue – and this new plan fits the bill.

The second is that McConnell cares far more about politics and process than policy outcomes. His new scheme is cowardly and kind of pathetic to the extent that it shifts power away from Congress, but it will force a whole lot of votes on the debt, which the Minority Leader hopes will make Democrats feel uncomfortable. If a proposal leads to votes that can be used in attack ads, Mitch McConnell is necessarily pleased. If the proposal allows Republicans to vote against debt ceiling extensions without crashing the economy, he’s even more pleased.

It’s the practical details of the process that I’m still fuzzy on. Greg Sargent reported:

   [A]s McConnell said today, you would need two-thirds of both Houses of Congress to block Obama’s requests for the debt ceiling hikes. If the House and Senate did pass resolutions of disapproval, Obama would presumably veto them – requiring two thirds of both Houses to override the vetoes. […]

   At bottom, McConnell’s proposal is the latest GOP line on the debt ceiling – it’s Obama’s problem, not ours – taken to its logical and legislative conclusion.

Right. When John Boehner said earlier that the entire crisis isn’t his “problem,” the Speaker was probably being literal, or at least aspirational.

The one question I can’t find a solid answer to is what, if anything, would be cut and by how much. The Hill reported the administration would be required to “suggest spending cuts” to accompany three separate requests to raise the debt ceiling, “but would not require such cuts.” Obama could not, under this scenario, recommend new revenue.

If that’s right, then McConnell seems to be blinking awfully hard.

In other words, in this little scenario, President Obama would have to offer proposals for spending cuts, with no corresponding measures to raise revenue. But it also appears that these proposed cuts from the White House need not even be serious – Obama could present plans he doesn’t take especially seriously, with the full expectation that Congress could and probably would reject them.

It would make the process needlessly ugly and stupid, but McConnell’s plan would seem to allow for a debt-ceiling increase with no guarantee of any spending cuts at all. Republicans would get a bunch of chances to grandstand, and rant and rave about Democrats, while putting all of the onus on the White House, but that’s not much. Republicans were going to grandstand, rant, rave, and point fingers anyway.

Digby

The deal is certainly preferable on policy grounds to gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in a Grand Bargain. But it isn’t clean and it isn’t free. It feels like the death by a thousand cuts instead.

And Redstate where they are apoplectic:

Mitch McConnell is right now talking about making a historic capitulation. So fearful of being blamed for a default, McConnell is proposing a compromise that lets Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling without making any spending cuts at all..

Polling shows Americans are focused on jobs and the economy as priorities and either don’t care or don’t understand the ramifications of this tempest in the DC cesspool. They want the government to focus on creating jobs and, actually, want taxes raised on the wealthy. Truthfully, unless these entrenched egomaniacs don’t start doing what they were elected to do, they should all be on the unemployment lines in January of 2013.

Jul 13 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Robert Sheer: The GOP’s Sick Priorities

How deceptive for politicians to stress “entitlements” when they talk about gutting Social Security and Medicare, two programs long paid for by their beneficiaries. The Republicans make it sound as if they’re doing us a favor, cutting government waste by seeking to strangle America’s two most successful domestic programs. And now Barack Obama seems poised to join their camp in undermining the essential lifeline for most of the nation’s seniors, many of whom lost their retirement savings in the banking meltdown.

These threatened programs are not government handouts to a privileged class, like defense contractors and bailed-out bankers, who do feel eminently entitled to pig out at the federal trough. On the contrary, Social Security and Medicare have been funded by a regressive tax that falls disproportionately on working middle-class income earners, while caps in the system leave the wealthy-most notably the hedge fund hustlers who helped cause today’s economic crisis-largely untaxed.

Jonathan Schell: The Fall of the House of Murdoch

New York – During the four decades since the Watergate affair engulfed US President Richard Nixon, politicians have repeatedly ignored the scandal’s main lesson: the cover-up is worse than the crime. Like Nixon, they have paid a higher price for concealing their misdeeds than they would have for the misdeeds alone.

Now, for once, comes a scandal that breaks that rule: the United Kingdom’s phone-hacking affair, which has shaken British politics to its foundations. Over the past decade, the tabloid newspaper The News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, targeted 4,000 people’s voicemail. The list includes not only royalty, celebrities, and other VIPs, but also the families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those of victims of the July 2005 terrorist attack in London.

New Tork Times Editorial: A Pathway Out of the Debt Crisis

Political gain, not economic sense or sound policy, has always been at the core of Republican strategy on the debt-ceiling talks – a cynical ploy to appear serious about cutting spending while actually holding hostage the nation’s strong credit rating. Now that the real risks to their strategy are becoming apparent, including the possibility of cutting off Social Security checks, the more experienced members of the party are beginning to rethink their plans.

On Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, proposed a convoluted fallback solution that would at least defuse the crisis his party created a few weeks ago by threatening to force the country into default on its national debts.

snip

All Mr. McConnell wants is the ability to yoke the debt increase to Mr. Obama, and his offer gives him two extra chances to do so. He hopes the maneuver will help his party win back the Senate and the White House, which remains a long shot. But at least he is no longer holding the economy hostage to his goals. It is now time for the House to reach a similar conclusion.

Amy Goodman: Soldier Suicides and the Politics of Presidential Condolences

President Barack Obama just announced a reversal of a long-standing policy that denied presidential condolence letters to the family members of soldiers who commit suicide. Relatives of soldiers killed in action receive letters from the president. Official silence, however, has long stigmatized those who die of self-inflicted wounds. The change marks a long-overdue shift in the recognition of the epidemic of soldier and veteran suicides in this country and the toll of the hidden wounds of war.

The denial of condolence letters was brought to national prominence when Gregg and Jannett Keesling spoke about the suicide of their son, Chancellor Keesling. Chance Keesling joined the Army in 2003. After active duty in Iraq, he moved to the Army Reserves, and was called back for a second deployment in April 2009. The years of war had taken a toll on the 25-year-old. As his father, Gregg, told me: “He was trained for the rebuilding of Iraq. He was a combat engineer. He operated big equipment and loved to run the big equipment. Finally, he was retrained as a tactical gunner sitting on top of a Humvee. Because there was really very little rebuilding going on.”

Jim Hightower: Tracking US Recession with the RPI (Regular People’s Index)

Economists and politicians keep their fingers on the pulse of the Dow Jones Average, following every tick of this narrow measure of Wall Street wealth.

But the truer indicator of America’s economic health is in the Doug Jones Average – how are workaday folks like Doug and Doreen doing? After all, the experts tell us that we’re now entering the third year of a glorious economic recovery from the Great Recession, so surely the bluebirds of happiness are chirping again in Dougland. But, listen: silence.

What killed off the bluebirds is the same greed of moneyed elites that caused the crash. Since the recession ended in July 2009, CEO pay is back in the stratosphere, corporate profits are up by nearly half, corporations are sitting on a record $2 trillion in cash, and the perky Dow Jones Average has soared by a delirious 90 percent, with nearly all of that gain being pocketed by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans who own more that 80 percent of all stocks and bonds. The sounds you hear up there are the pop-pop-pop of Champagne corks.

Tom Engelhardt: Is the Obama National Security Team a Pilotless Drone?

George W. who?  I mean, the guy is so over.  He turned the big six-five the other day and it was barely a footnote in the news.  And Dick Cheney, tick-tick-tick.  Condoleezza Rice?  She’s already onto her next memoir, and yet it’s as if she’s been wiped from history, too?  As for Donald Rumsfeld, he published his memoir in February and it hit the bestseller lists, but a few months later, where is he?

And can anyone be surprised?  They were wrong about Afghanistan.  They were wrong about Iraq.  They were wrong about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.  They were wrong about what the US military was capable of doing.  The country imploded economically while they were at the helm.  Geopolitically speaking, they headed the car of state for the nearest cliff.  In fact, when it comes to pure wrongness, what weren’t they wrong about?

Americans do seem to have turned the page on Bush and his cronies.  (President Obama called it looking forward, not backward.)  Still, glance over your shoulder and, if you’re being honest, you’ll have to admit that one thing didn’t happen: they didn’t turn the page on us.

Christine Hines: Lawsuit Abuse, Indeed

A product malfunctions causing severe injury to your eight year old son. A corporation lays off your neighbor without reason after thirty years of service and age discrimination is suspected. The scenarios in which you or someone you know and care about may need to go to court are limitless, as are the potential consequences if HR 966 gets passed.

The House Judiciary Committee just approved the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act,” HR 966 AKA “LARA.”

   Unfortunately, for anyone who cares about justice or about wise uses of their taxpayer dollars, HR 966 is yet another example of bills to add to the long list of “Clear Skies” and other let’s-call-this-bill-the-exact-opposite-of-what-it-actually-is-bills.

If the title wasn’t bad enough, the bill by Rep. Lamar Smith and Senator Charles Grassley, who sponsored the Senate version, S. 533, is deceptively cloaked in technical terms. What better way for Congressional lawmakers to slip this past ordinary citizens (the ones who will be at an even greater disadvantage if LARA moves forward as feared).

Jul 13 2011

“Collateral Murder”

One of the many things that PFC. Bradley Manning has been accused of is the release of the “Collateral Murder” video which depicted the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians and two Reuters journalists by an Apache helicopter crew in a suburb of Baghdad. Now former soldiers who were members of the ground troops are coming forward and speaking out about the video, illegal orders and how the media is unfairly depicting Manning to to cover up war crimes. These brave men are calling Manning a hero if he is indeed the person who released that video.

One of the responses was a criticism of how Manning is being used to propagandized the war by journalists, specifically referencing a personal profile of Manning by Stephen Fishman in the New York magazine. The article written by former Army Specialist Ethan McCord, who served in Bravo Company 2-16, the ground troops involved in the “Collateral Murder” video, is published in its entirety by Glenn Greenwald. Here is just a little of what Spec. McCord wrote:

Serving with my unit 2nd battalion 16th infantry in New Baghdad Iraq, I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:

“Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!”

We weren’t trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy. In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure.

snip

The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.

snip

Fishman removes politics from a story that has everything to do with politics. The important public issues wrapped up with PFC Manning’s case include: transparency in government; the Obama Administration’s unprecedented pursuit of whistle-blowers; accountability of government and military in shaping and carrying out foreign policy; war crimes revealed in the WikiLeaks documents; the catalyzing role these revelations played in democratic movements across the Middle East; and more.

Demonizing and discrediting those who expose the criminality and corruption is now the weapon of choice by journalists and the media that wish to be subservient to a corrupt government. As Greenwald said in his article:

Who needs White House fear-mongers, propagandists, plumbers and character assassins when so many in the establishment press compete so vigorously to perform those functions instead?

Manning is now being held at Ft. Leavenworth, KS after being subjected to months of conditions that amounted to torture in the brig at Quantico Marine Base. The U.N.’s top official on torture, Juan Mendez, announced last December that his office would formally investigate those conditions and has repeated requested private access to talk to Manning. He has been repeatedly refused permission by the Obama administration. Mendez is publicly accusing the Obama administration of violating U.N. rules. Considering the Obama administrations attack on whistle blowers and the continued refusal to prosecute the crimes they expose, they are very likely afraid of what Manning would say to Mendez.

Jul 13 2011

Evolution vs. Economics

Neoliberal Economics has as much credibility as Stalinist Genetics.”- ek hornbeck

Some people point out that Evolution is just a theory despite a clear fossil record, the evidence of written history (parts even since 4004 B.C. and so Bishop Ussher approved), St. Bernards and Chihuahuas, corn and potatoes, the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon.

And Molecular Biology, one of those pesky ‘hard sciences’ with mathmatical models that predict replicable observable results that can be tested by experiment and when tested have proven true.

Economics?  Not so much.  One could credibly argue that as currently practiced it has all the mathematical certainty of Astrology (the planetary alignment is what it is and stars do chart their courses) and all it’s credulous superstitious magical thinking non-underwear changing during a hitting streak nonsense too.

As practiced currently by the constantly wrong and surprised it’s equal mixtures perfect markets and Jungian mystical mass psychology.

It’s fueled by enormous vanity and a refusal to admit one’s failure in theory given the evidence of experimental results that equals or exceeds the defenders of phlogiston and Ether.

Herr Doktor Professor

If you come at the current Lesser Depression from my angle, there’s no great mystery. Consistency in modeling isn’t always a virtue, but still, it’s striking how much continuity there is in the analysis of slumps: there’s a clear line of descent with only moderate modification running from Hicks 1937 to liquidity-trap models of Japan (pdf) to models that add in debt/deleveraging. The situation we’re in seems fully comprehensible.

But at Chicago and elsewhere in the freshwater universe they’re playing Calvinball (and what a good coinage that was from Mike Konczal). All kinds of novel and implausible effects – effects that weren’t in any of the models they were using before the crisis – are invoked to explain why we’re in a sustained slump; strange to say, all of these newly invented models just happen to imply the need for tax cuts and a shrunken welfare state.

But I don’t think it’s just political bias: part of what’s happening, I’m sure, is intellectual embarrassment. These people come from a movement that declared, with great arrogance, that Keynesian economics was dead – then failed to produce a workable alternative, and now finds itself in what is very recognizably a Keynesian world. Recognizably, that is, to everyone but them, because admitting that Keynesian-type thinking is useful now would just be too humiliating.

Jul 13 2011

Le Tour- Stage 11

Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur 105 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The 11th Stage is the halfway mark time wise with 10 race days remaining after today including the Individual Time Trial and the Champs Elysees parade on the penultimate and final days.

This Stage is flatter than yesterday with only one category 4 and one category 3 climb.  It’s the last flat Stage until after the Pyrenees and 1 of 3 (including the Champs Elysees at the very end of Le Tour) left at all.

So you can expect the sprinters to put on a show.

Supposedly the Mad Manx is all pissed that former team mate Greipel beat him out by a wheel to score his first Stage victory ever yesterday (as opposed to Cavendish’s 17), but were I him I’d be far more concerned that I was 64 points behind Gilbert in the points competition.  Not that you can’t make up a lot of ground with a 45 point Stage victory, just that there aren’t a lot of opportunities left that suit his style.

Our first High Mountains start tomorrow and I’m not sure if despite all his bad luck Contador can be stopped.  He is 4:07 behind the leader Voeckler but Voeckler isn’t considered a marquee climber and Contador is reputed to be the best in the world.  The deltas to top contenders like Evans and the Schlecks are less than half that and margins in the mountains tend to magnify.

And he’s the home town favorite in the Pyrenees so it’s like Scuderia Marlboro UPC at Monza.

Despite their woes (3 riders down, Horner out, and Leipheimer mired in 36th) Radio Shack is a respectable 3rd in the team competition, only 1:02 behind Europcar and a mere 30 Seconds behind Leopard Trek.

So if there is going to be change it will be happening soon and then there are always surprises.

Coverage on Vs. starts at 8 am.

Jul 13 2011

On This Day In History July 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 13 is the 194th day of the year (195th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 171 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1930, the first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously on 13 July and were won by France and USA, who defeated Mexico 4-1 and Belgium 3-0 respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and in doing so became the first nation to win the World Cup.

Previous international competitions

The world’s first international football match was a challenge match played in Glasgow in 1872 between Scotland and England, which ended in a 0-0 draw. The first international tournament, the inaugural edition of the British Home Championship, took place in 1884. At this stage the sport was rarely played outside the United Kingdom. As football grew in popularity in other parts of the world at the turn of the 20th century, it was held as a demonstration sport with no medals awarded at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics (however, the IOC has retroactively upgraded their status to official events), and at the 1906 Intercalated Games.

After FIFA was founded in 1904, it tried to arrange an international football tournament between nations outside the Olympic framework in Switzerland in 1906. These were very early days for international football, and the official history of FIFA describes the competition as having been a failure.

At the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, football became an official competition. Planned by The Football Association (FA), England’s football governing body, the event was for amateur players only and was regarded suspiciously as a show rather than a competition. Great Britain (represented by the England national amateur football team) won the gold medals. They repeated the feat in 1912 in Stockholm, where the tournament was organised by the Swedish Football Association.

With the Olympic event continuing to be contested only between amateur teams, Sir Thomas Lipton organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy tournament in Turin in 1909. The Lipton tournament was a championship between individual clubs (not national teams) from different nations, each one of which represented an entire nation. The competition is sometimes described as The First World Cup, and featured the most prestigious professional club sides from Italy, Germany and Switzerland, but the FA of England refused to be associated with the competition and declined the offer to send a professional team. Lipton invited West Auckland, an amateur side from County Durham, to represent England instead. West Auckland won the tournament and returned in 1911 to successfully defend their title. They were given the trophy to keep forever, as per the rules of the competition.

In 1914, FIFA agreed to recognise the Olympic tournament as a “world football championship for amateurs”, and took responsibility for managing the event. This paved the way for the world’s first intercontinental football competition, at the 1920 Summer Olympics, contested by Egypt and thirteen European teams, and won by Belgium. Uruguay won the next two Olympic football tournaments in 1924 and 1928. Those were also the first two open world championships, as 1924 was the start of FIFA’s professional era.

Due to the success of the Olympic football tournaments, FIFA, with President Jules Rimet the driving force, again started looking at staging its own international tournament outside of the Olympics. On 28 May 1928, the FIFA Congress in Amsterdam decided to stage a world championship itself. With Uruguay now two-time official football world champions and to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country of the inaugural World Cup tournament.

The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. Indeed, no European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In total thirteen nations took part: seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.

World Cups before World War II

After the creation of the World Cup, the 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, did not plan to include football as part of the schedule due to the low popularity of the sport in the United States, as American football had been growing in popularity. FIFA and the IOC also disagreed over the status of amateur players, and so football was dropped from the Games. Olympic football returned at the 1936 Summer Olympics, but was now overshadowed by the more prestigious World Cup.

The issues facing the early World Cup tournaments were the difficulties of intercontinental travel, and war. Few South American teams were willing to travel to Europe for the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, with Brazil the only South American team to compete in both. The 1942 and 1946 competitions were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath.

Jul 13 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Jul 13 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Afghan president’s brother assassinated

By Mamoon Durrani, AFP

41 mins ago

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s younger half-brother, the government’s key powerbroker in the country’s south, was assassinated on Tuesday, depriving NATO of a vital if controversial ally.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot dead in his own home by a long-serving commander of his family’s personal protection force, said the police chief for Kandahar province, although the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing.

The 49-year-old was a shadowy figure, dogged for years by allegations of unsavoury links to the lucrative opium trade and private security firms, but others said he brought control to an otherwise chaotic domain.