Daily Archive: 05/27/2011

May 27 2011

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

Paul Krugman: Medicare and Mediscares

Yes, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a sore loser. Why do you ask?

To be sure, Mr. Ryan had reason to be upset after Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District. It’s a very conservative district, so much so that last year the Republican candidate took 76 percent of the vote. Yet on Tuesday, Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, took the seat, with a campaign focused squarely on Mr. Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare and replace it with a voucher system.

How did Ms. Hochul pull off this upset? The Wisconsin congressman blamed Democrats’ willingness to “shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue, trying to scare seniors to win an election,” and he predicted that by November of next year “the American people are going to know they’ve been lied to.”

E.J. Dionne Jr.: In a New York election, talking back to the Tea Party

When Richard Nixon won his 49-state landslide over George McGovern in 1972, Pauline Kael, the legendary New Yorker film critic, was moved to observe: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon.”

All of us can have our vision distorted by the special worlds we live in, and what was a problem for Kael in 1972 is now an enormous obstacle for conservative Republicans.

Both the leaders and rank-and-file of the Republican Party devoutly believe “the people” gave them a mandate last November to slash government, including that big-government health-care program known as Medicare. And never mind that many Republican candidates in 2010 criticized President Obama’s health-care law for reducing Medicare expenditures.

Rick Perlstein: America’s Forgotten Liberal

JANUARY was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the planet nearly stopped turning on its axis to recognize the occasion. Today is the 100th anniversary of Hubert H. Humphrey’s birth, and no one besides me seems to have noticed.

That such a central figure in American history is largely ignored today is sad. But his diminution is also, more importantly, an impediment to understanding our current malaise as a nation, and how much better things might have been had today’s America turned out less Reaganite and more Humphreyish.

Our forgotten man was born in eastern South Dakota to a pharmacist, a trade the son took over after the family moved to Minnesota. That biographical fact was the source for the derisive title of a 1968 biography, “The Drugstore Liberal” – that is to say, like a “drugstore cowboy,” a small-timer, not really a liberal at all, at a time, quite unlike our own, when a liberal reputation was a prerequisite for the Democratic presidential nomination. The unfairness was evident only in retrospect.

Johann Hari: A Turning-Point We Miss at Our Peril

We have the choice of burning all the oil left and hacking down all the remaining rainforests – or saving humanity

Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out. Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance. In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn’t betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all. They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn’t humiliate Germany, because it would catalyse extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower’s advisers urged him not to destroy Iranian democracy and kidnap its Prime Minister, because it would have a reactionary ripple effect that lasted decades. He refused to listen.

Another of those seemingly small moments with a long echo is happening now. A marginalised voice is offering us a warning, and an inspiring way to save ourselves – yet this alternative seems to be passing unheard in the night. It is coming from the people of Ecuador, led by their President, Rafael Correa, and it would begin to deal with two converging crises.

Ruth Marcus: Nancy Pelosi’s Donna Reed moment

Nancy Pelosi didn’t really say that, did she?

The Democratic House leader had a back to the 1950’s moment Thursday as she gushed over the special election win for a New York House seat by Democrat Kathy Hochul.

“She is a mom, two kids, two young children,” Pelosi said, then corrected herself. “Not young children – college age. To all the people out there who wonder who’s going to take care of her children – they’re college age.”

Whoa! Paging Donna Reed! Back in the day, Pelosi did not launch her career in elective office until her children were grown. But, note to the former speaker: Times have changed. Voters don’t freak out at the notion of mothers of young children working, as they say, outside the home.  Even, in fact, in the House. You might want to check with, say, the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who’s got three young children.

Joe Conason: The Gingrich Style

It is hard to see why anyone was surprised by Newt Gingrich’s self-ignited implosion in the earliest hours of his presidential candidacy. The career of the former House speaker and Georgia congressman is practically bursting with proof that he suffers from chronic paranoid hysteria — a condition that has done more to advance than diminish his status among conservatives.

They loved him until he aimed his vitriol against one of their own, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, deriding the Wisconsin Republican’s plan to gut Medicare as “right-wing social engineering.”

Inundated by denunciations from every quarter of his party and movement, Gingrich swiftly backtracked and apologized and tried to blame the media. But his former fans are perhaps beginning to realize what most Americans understood about him years ago — that he is wholly untrustworthy and unfit for leadership.

May 27 2011

Congressional Game of Chicken: Presidential Recess Appointments

Back in October, I wrote this article, Separation of Powers Game of Chicken, which discussed the use of pro forma sessions to block the president from making recess appointments. The reason I’m resurrecting this discussion is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled these pro forma sessions over the holiday weekend to prevent President Obama from appointing Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Board over the objections of Republicans. As with the blocking of Richard Diamond, an eminently qualified Nobel economist, to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve, it is Sen. Richard “no” Shelby (R-AL) who has said he will put a hold on Dr. Warren’s appointment if the president nominates her.

Republicans used the threat of a procedural blockade to make sure President Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to make recess appointments while the U.S. Senate is on a break next week, including naming Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Instead of allowing all senators and their staffs to leave Washington, Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled “pro forma” sessions, in which the chamber officially opens for the day, then gavels to a close right away. That can be handled by two lawmakers and aides.

Any time the Senate breaks for four days or more, the president has the power to officially appoint a nominee for a limited period without having to wait for a confirmation vote.

snip

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, kept the Senate in pro forma sessions during the final months of Republican President George W. Bush’s administration to block him from appointing nominees that Democrats had refused to confirm.

If Reid hadn’t decided to quietly schedule pro forma sessions, another procedure could have publicly forced him to do so. The House is required to agree to Senate recesses, and concurs as a matter of routine.

Confused? Is Reid a Democrat? Or has he secretly gone over to the dark side? It is time for the president and the Democrats to put on their “man pants” and call out these faux sessions that are constitutionally not legal sessions. I will repeat the arguments of why these pro forma sessions are not constitutional and do not stop the president from making recess appoints.

Victor Williams, Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of America School of Law and an attorney, writing for the The National Law Journal makes the argument that the pro forma sessions every three days during recess are little more “than a game of separation-of-powers chicken”. There is nothing in the Constitution and Appellate courts have ruled that “there is no minimum recess time required for a valid recess appointment”.

But there is no minimum recess required under any law. The three-day minimum recess is fiction – as fake as are the Senate faux sessions. Better to begin with nonfiction – the Constitution.

In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled: “The Constitution, on its face, does not establish a minimum time that an authorized break in the Senate must last to give legal force to the President’s appointment power under the Recess Appointments Clause.” In Evans v. Stephens, the 11th Circuit, following prior 9th and 2d circuit rulings, broadly affirmed the executive’s unilateral recess commissioning authority during short intersession and intrasession breaks.

Even the Senate’s own Congressional Research Service reports: “The Constitu­tion does not specify the length of time that the Senate must be in recess before the President may make a recess appointment.” . . .

The president’s constitutional appointment authority cannot be trumped, or even limited, by Senate scheduling shenanigans. In fact and law, the 111th Senate is now dispersed to the four corners for six campaign weeks. Gaveling open, and then gaveling closed, a half-minute meeting of an empty chamber is not a legitimate break in the recess. A Senate quorum could not be gathered; neither legislative nor executive business could be conducted. Constitutional law demands substance over form.

The faux sessions only further expose the broken institution and its failed, dysfunctional confirmation processes.

At bottom, recess appointments are a matter of presidential will. In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt set the standard when he recess-appointed 160 officials during a recess of less than one day.

Mr. Williams points out that George W Bush’s failure to call this should not be Barack Obama’s.

Perhaps it is George W. Bush’s fault that the media erroneously reported that Obama’s recess appointment authority is lost. When majority leader Harry Reid first used the pro forma tactic against Bush over Thanksgiving, 2007, the 43rd president failed to push back.

Bush did not recess appoint for the remainder of his term despite calls for him to call Harry Reid’s bluff. A commissioning of even one noncontroversial nominee to a low level position would have asserted the executive’s prerogative. His failure to do so may be mistakenly interpreted as setting a precedent. It does not.

As I have noted on this site, Harry Reid appears to have gotten the better of George Bush; bluffing is a basic gambling skill for separation of powers and Texas Hold ’em.

This government is in need of a major shake up. It’s time that the President and the Democrats stood up for the people who put them in office. End the game, call the bluff.

May 27 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs????

The Republicans in the House have been so busy with the really important issue of finding new ways to restrict a woman’s right to choose that creating jobs were left to wait until now.

On day 141 since the GOP took control of the House Republicans finally released their jobs plan. It was a minor distraction from their laser-like focus on your uterus. Racel Maddow takes a look at waht they’re trying to do in the House and states like Louisiana, Georgia and Florida.

May 27 2011

On This Day In History May 27

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 image to enlarge

May 27 is the 147th day of the year (148th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 218 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1813, former President Thomas Jefferson writes former President John Adams to let him know that their mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, has died.

Rush’s passing caused Jefferson to meditate upon the departure of the Revolutionary generation. He wrote, We too must go; and that ere long. I believe we are under half a dozen at present; I mean the signers of the Declaration.

A Rift

Despite their close friendship, Jefferson wrote that he and Adams were often separated by “different conclusions we had drawn from our political reading.” The two maintained their friendship despite their political differences until 1801, the year that Jefferson became president. As Jefferson wrote Mrs. Adams: “I can say with truth that one act of Mr. Adams’s life, and one only, ever gave me a moment’s personal displeasure.” By this, Jefferson was referring to last-minute political appointments made by Adams just before Jefferson succeeded him as president. Jefferson wrote that the appointments “were [selected] from among my most ardent political enemies” who could be counted on to work against his executive authority. Jefferson admitted to “brooding over it for some little time,” and during this period, they ceased writing one another.

A Reconciliation

When Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration that Adams and Jefferson worked to create, took it upon himself to renew their suspended friendship. He had no success until 1811, when one of Jefferson’s neighbors visited Adams in Massachusetts. The neighbor returned to Virginia with the report that he had heard Adams say, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” In response to these words, Jefferson wrote Dr. Rush: “This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all of the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives.” He asked Rush to persuade Adams to renew their correspondence. A letter from Adams was forthcoming, and they continued to write until their deaths.

This reconciliation began a rich correspondence that touched on myriad topics, from reminiscences about their contributions to the young nation’s history, to opinions on current political issues, to matters of philosophy and religion, to issues of aging. Their letters were also lighthearted and filled with affection. Jefferson wrote, “I have compared notes with Mr. Adams on the score of progeny, and find I am ahead of him, and think I am in a fair way to keep so. I have 10 1/2 grandchildren, and 2 3/4 great-grand-children; and these fractions will ere long become units.”

A Lasting Legacy

After fifteen years of resumed friendship, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other. Their deaths occurred — perhaps appropriately — on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that his friend had died hours earlier, Adams’ last spoken words were “Jefferson still survives.”

May 27 2011

Six In The Morning

Mladic health questions halt court hearing

Officials say interrogation will continue on Friday, despite former Bosnian Serb general’s poor physical condition.

Last Modified: 27 May 2011

 Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, captured in Serbia, has appeared in a Belgrade court, but his hearing was halted for doctors to assess his health, according to local media reports.

Mladic appeared frail and haggard during his court appearance on Thursday evening, and Serbian television station B92 reported that Milan Dilparic, the judge, had suspended the interrogation due to Mladic’s poor physical and mental health.

Mladic, who is accused of multiple war crimes charges, faces extradition to The Hague where he would be tried by a tribunal prosecuting cases relating to conflicts during the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia.

The 69-year-old, who commanded Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, as well as the four-year siege of Sarajevo.

May 27 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 26, 2011-

DocuDharma

May 27 2011

Own It, Live With It, Embrace It

Because we aren’t going to let you get out from under it….

Thus spoke Anthony Weiner on on May 24th, laying out the Republican plan to replace Medicare with an inadequate voucher program:

Today, House Republicans brought another bill (HR 1216) to the House floor that does not address jobs and wastes time in a futile attempt to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act. House Democrats are staging a “mini-filibuster” by “striking the last word” allowing them five minutes of time to discuss their strong opposition to the Republican-passed budget which ends Medicare as we know it and forces seniors to pay over $6,000 more a year.

   Weiner: I move to strike the last word Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, you may recall I was standing here approximately two hours ago waiting to speak with several other members on the efforts of my Republican friends to eliminate Medicare as we know it and for reasons that are known only to the Chair, I was denied the ability to do that. Well, I’m back. And just to review the bidding, here’s where it was before that order was made. We had the Chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, a good man, a guy I like, stand down in the well and say, ‘Oh, no’ (and this by the way is someone who is elected by the Republican members to represent them in races all around the country) saying that the Ryan plan wasn’t a plan it was and I’m quoting here, “a construct to develop a plan” and he said the proposal is not a voucher program and then he said it was a one size fits all, that Medicare was draining our economy is what he said.

  Well, ladies and gentlemen, that might be the rationale for our Republican friends wanting to eliminate Medicare, but none of those things are true. It is not a ‘construct to develop a plan’ it is the proposal of the Republican party of the United States of America to eliminate Medicare as a guaranteed entitlement. If you don’t believe me, go get the book that they wrote, go get the budget that they wrote, go get the bill that they wrote.

h/t to Crooks & Liars for the transcript.

The Ryan Budget plan has failed in the Senate with 5 Republicans opposing it, the Republicans are still embracing the proposal to eliminate Medicare. They are in denial about the loss of NY-26, long a Republican stronghold. to Democrat Kathy Hochul. The sadder part is the White House has also missed the message

Joe Biden group to tackle Medicare and Medicaid: aide

Vice President Joe Biden and top lawmakers will examine government-run health plans on Tuesday as they try to work out a deal to raise the United States’ borrowing authority, a congressional aide said.

h/t Marcy Wheeler

It would appear that the White House is willing to sell out future seniors to give political cover for raising the debt ceiling.

May 27 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Serbia arrests wartime military chief Mladic

by Stephanie van den Berg, AFP

2 hrs 38 mins ago

BELGRADE (AFP) – Serbia on Thursday arrested Europe’s most wanted man, former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, ending a 16-year manhunt for the general accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

President Boris Tadic said the 69-year-old had been detained by Serbian security forces, and predicted that the capture would foster reconciliation within the war-torn Balkans.

“Today, early in the morning, we arrested Ratko Mladic,” he told reporters.