Archive for January 7th, 2010

Promoting al Qaeda’s Agenda

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Matt Duss at The Wonk Room asks an excellent question: why are conservatives so committed to promoting al Qaeda’s “success”?

As I noted yesterday, it is true that one of the goals of terrorism is to elicit a wild over-reaction from the target government, resulting in greater publicity and a larger pool of potential recruits for the terrorists’ cause, and so any response has to be balanced against that. But the idea that “the strategic goals of al Qaeda” are better advanced by more security theater at American airports than they were by, say, inducing the United States to invade and occupy two Muslim countries and engage in a global campaign of kidnapping and torture, is just ridiculous on its face.

But this is largely beside the point, because conservatives like Kristol, Hume, and Doan aren’t genuinely (or at least primarily) interested in analyzing threats and policies to deal with them, they’re interested in promoting a specific, and politically advantageous, narrative about the nature of those threats. And apparently, the possibility of those threats serving as Al Qaeda propaganda is a price they’re willing to pay in order to achieve that political advantage.

Duss also cites an expert on Middle East media, who points out that:

… the exaggeration of al-Qaeda’s role works directly and devastatingly against American goals … It magnifies al-Qaeda’s perceived power, strengthening its own media campaign and feeding its most powerful propaganda instrument…

And yet here we have Charles Krauthammer and Wesley Pruden likening the failed underwear attack to the bombing of Pearl Harbor that killed nearly 2,500 Americans and propelled the United States into World War II. Let me repeat:

… the exaggeration of al-Qaeda’s role works directly and devastatingly against American goals.

As Duss points out:

 In March 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed “We are being hurt by al-Jazeera in the Arab world…There is no question about it.”

“The quality of the journalism is outrageous — inexcusably biased — and there is nothing you can do about it except try to counteract it.” He said it was turning Arabs against the United States.

“You could say it causes the loss of life,” he added.

Later that year, Fox News ran a story entitled “Al Jazeera: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror?” Given how committed Fox News and other conservative media seems to be to waving Al Qaeda’s flag for them, maybe we should be asking the same question now about them.

Indeed. And another question should be, why aren’t these people being called out for their dangerous anti-American rhetoric by the rest of the media?

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Pelosi Pushing Against Excise Tax, Obama Commits to Affordability

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

While Obama and Dem Congressional leaders might have agreed to “a fast-track alternative” on the non-conference conference, there are still critical issues to be worked out, and Pelosi doesn’t appear ready to roll over for the White House or Senate on a key issue.

[A]ides say she’s particularly steamed that the White House wants her to largely adopt the Senate bill in its entirety. And she’s particularly unhappy that the White House has thrown its weight behind the Senate bill’s chief funding mechanism: an excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” insurance policies, which she and many in her caucus have long believed violates President Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. According to one aide, that–not the public option–was likely the reason she ribbed Obama at her press conference yesterday, quipping, “there were a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.”

The House proposes paying for its bill by imposing a surtax on high-income Americans. And though there’s been speculation for months that the final reform package will include a combination of both sources of revenue, Pelosi, who’s already had to accept the demise of the public option, wants the excise tax gone.

Those “high-income” Americans that would be subject to the surtax are actually millionaires–couples making more than $1 million, a much, much fairer solution than the Chevy excise tax. Given everything progressives have had to swallow in this process, a fairer tax structure is little to ask for the price of their votes. Bloomberg reports that one option being considered for compromise is revisions to the Senate’s “0.9 percent Medicare tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year in salary and on joint filers who make more than $250,000.”

Another top priority for the House is affordability. From that same Bloomberg article:

Providing subsidies for low-income people to buy insurance will be “a critical part of this discussion” with the Senate, Van Hollen said. The House version “is much more generous” for people who earn more than the poverty level and don’t qualify for Medicaid, he said.

The Senate version would provide $426 billion for such subsidies while the House would offer $602 billion. “Since we are asking people to share in the responsibility for purchasing health care for the first time, we need to make sure that it’s affordable,” Van Hollen said.

HuffPo reports that “Obama agreed at Tuesday evening’s meeting to help strengthen affordability measures beyond what’s in the Senate bill.” That’s good news for the millions of Americans who should not be forced into buying insurance they can’t afford.

Of course, the excise tax and affordability issues come back to the same basic principle that all Democrats should be able to agree upon: “reform” on the backs of an already stretched thin middle class is no reform at all.

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Late afternoon and early evening open thread

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments
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NRCC’s Andy Seré & his totally not-gay but ambiguously shirtless “friends”

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Whenever my friends and I want to get together and talk about totally nailin’ chicks and stuff, I suggest we take our shirts off, and maybe even shave our chests.

Is that weird?

The NRCC’s Andy Seré doesn’t think so. Americablog’s John Aravosis explains:

The National Republican Campaign Committee has a child running their press outreach, and apparently the GOP frat boy thinks it’s funny to insinuate that Democrats are gay, simply based on innuendo (which is ironic, when you see his photo). You see, the NRCC spokesman informs us, repeatedly, that the candidate in question cares about “his body image.” And we all know what it means when a guy cares about his body image.

In unrelated news, it must have been one hell of a party that same NRCC spokesman, Andy Seré, attended last May, according to his Facebook page. The Fete was called the “GOB Freedom Festival.” It caught my eye since “gob,” among other things, is gay slang for oral sex, and for young gay sailors (and, an even odder coincidence, the party was for a military friend coming back to the states). It gets even odder when you look at the photos from the GOB “festival” that I found on Facebook. (The NRCC chap is listed on the GOB page guest list as having attended.) The photos are below. Now, I’m not going to comment on the body image of Mr. Seré’s friends, but let’s just say that Manhunt may get a run for their money.

Man, that’s wacky!

See what you think. Here’s young Mr. Seré’s Facebook page:

Lookin’ totally hetero, right? Well, let’s say he’s not necessarily tripping anyone’s radar. Some people think they’re better at detecting subtleties of sway than others, of course. And Andy’s no exception!

Here’s how Andy and his… friends… roll “after hours,” as they say. Anyone for a shrimp cocktail? How about a shave down and an apron?

And just so no one gets the wrong idea about them hanging out semi-nude together for the weekend, here’s proof that they’re totally not gay (Not! Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!) — a shot of them cradling their “guns” and displaying their hardest Zoolander “Blue Steel”:

I sure hope none of the totally not-gay Andy Seré’s friends don’t have any problem with his photographing their shaven-chested bodies and sharing his “personal collection” with the world. I don’t know why they would, though. There’s no shame in such manly “pride.”

But I guess that’s not working for Andy, because apparently he’s had some of his buddies go to the press to talk about how much he likes bangin’ the ladies, and just how often the females of DC (watch out Mom & Dad America!) like to give it up for Andy’s totally not-gay penis. Which is just what most people would do, of course. And is totally not gay.

That’s not gay, right? Seriously. It’s not, right? Sweet. Thanks, dude. You want a non-gay rub down? No? OK, we’re cool, though, right?

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Perspective on House retirements

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Even with a couple more possible House Democratic retirements, the party is still running below the historical average.

“I’m not sure exactly what the pattern’s going to be, but what I do know is we’re not going to see a wave of Democratic retirements like we saw in 1994,” Van Hollen, D-Md., told us.

“Let’s put this in perspective: As of right now this year we’re below the average number of retirements in the House on a two-year cycle. If you go back to 1994, you saw a high number — 28; we’re talking about 16, 17 retirements [on average in an election cycle]. We’re right now at 12 — maybe there’ll be a couple more.”

More perspective? More Republicans — 14 of them — have quit the House than Democrats.

Van Hollen also promises no more party switches. Anyone even considering going the Parker Griffith route probably saw the inevitable tea bagging that would follow their switches.

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ND-SEN: Schultz Can Run

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

On MSNBC today, talk show host Ed Schultz apparently suggested that he would be unable to run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan because of the Peace Garden State’s five-year residency requirement for officeholders.

Schultz was mistaken.

As a primary matter, the constitutional provision on its face only applies to state officers:

Art. V, sec 4:

To be eligible to hold an elective office established by this article, a person must be a qualified elector of this state, must be at least twenty-five years of age on the day of the election, and must have been a resident of this state for the five years preceding election to office. To be eligible to hold the office of governor or lieutenant governor, a person must be at least thirty years old on the day of the election. The attorney general must be licensed to practice law in this state.

(The officers established by Article V are the North Dakota governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner, attorney general, auditor, insurance commissioner, three public service commissioners, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, tax commissioner, and treasurer.)

More to the point, even if this provision in the North Dakota Constitution purported to apply to the U.S. Senate, it would be blatantly, unmistakably unconstitutional.  The only requirements for serving in the U.S. Senate are those in Article I, sec. 3, cl. 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.

“When elected.”  In other words, that day in November, and not a day before counts constitutionally.  (As to why it’s “inhabitant” and not “resident,” see Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention from August 8, 1787.)

In the 1995 case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas Constitution provision attempting to place term limits on the state’s federal legislators, with Justice Stevens writing for the majority:

Such a state imposed restriction is contrary to the “fundamental principle of our representative democracy,” embodied in the Constitution, that “the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969) (internal quotation marks omitted). Allowing individual States to adopt their own qualifications for congressional service would be inconsistent with the Framers’ vision of a uniform National Legislature representing the people of the United States. If the qualifications set forth in the text of the Constitution are to be changed, that text must be amended.

The Congress of the United States … is not a confederation of nations in which separate sovereigns are represented by appointed delegates, but is instead a body composed of representatives of the people. As Chief Justice John Marshall observed: “The government of the union, then, . . . is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat., at 404-405. [n.31]  Ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” A. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863).

The Framers deemed this principle critical when they discussed qualifications. For example, during the debates on residency requirements, Morris noted that in the House, “the people at large, not the States, are represented.” 2 Farrand 217 (emphasis in original) (footnote omitted). Similarly, George Read noted that the Framers “were forming a Nati[ona]l Gov[ernmen]t and such a regulation would correspond little with the idea that we were one people.” Ibid. (Emphasis in original.) James Wilson “enforced the same consideration.” Ibid.

Consistent with these views, the constitutional structure provides for a uniform salary to be paid from the national treasury, allows the States but a limited role in federal elections, and maintains strict checks on state interference with the federal election process. The Constitution also provides that the qualifications of the representatives of each State will be judged by the representatives of the entire Nation. The Constitution thus creates a uniform national body representing the interests of a single people.

Permitting individual States to formulate diverse qualifications for their representatives would result in a patchwork of state qualifications, undermining the uniformity and the national character that the Framers envisioned and sought to ensure.

Bottom line: if Ed Schultz wants to run for the U.S. Senate, he can.

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AR-Sen: Time for Lincoln to retire

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Democrats dodged a bullet with Sen. Chris Dodd’s retirement, solidifying their hold on a seat that was sketchy at best. Connecticut is off the board.

That leaves two incumbent Senators whose polling suggests a 2010 loss. The first is Nevada’s Harry Reid, who is currently lagging behind two no-name Republicans — Sue Lowden (42-50 per composite), and Danny Tarkanian (43.1-48.1). Democrats would be far better off in Nevada with a Reid retirement, but the party (and Reid himself) continue to operate under the assumption that his dominant cash advantage and the machine nature of the state (the unions are strong) will be enough to pull off a victory. This isn’t the kind of election where money can dictate results, but the machine may be enough. Maybe. In any case, the Senate majority leader isn’t going anywhere, for better or for worse.

The other embattled incumbent is Arkansas Blanche Lincoln. Set aside her woeful handling of the health care debate for the moment, and let’s just focus on her poll numbers:

Rasmussen, 1/5/10

Blanche Lincoln (D) 39
Gilbert Baker (R) 51 (the likely nominee)

Research 2000 for Daily Kos, 11/30-12/2/09:

Blanche Lincoln (D) 42
Gilbert Baker (R) 41

Zogby for the League of American Voters, 11/16-17:

Blanche Lincoln (D) 41
Gilbert Baker (R) 39

Zogby is probably the worst pollster in the biz, and the League of American Voters is a front group for big insurance and big tobacco (if there was ever an unholy alliance). Still, their numbers are little different than ours. Rasmussen is the GOP’s favorite pollster, and his spin is utter horseshit. His numbers may be overly optimistic for Baker, but Lincoln is still at that same place, stuck around 40 percent. The DSCC released a poll for this race back in October showing Lincoln leading Gilbert 50-37. There’s been nothing since, and you can bet they’re polling it repeatedly. Their silence since October is quite telling. If the numbers were still that good, they’d be releasing them.

So you have Lincoln under 50 percent, which is relevant because incumbents under the 50 percent mark in reputable polling only have a 50 percent chance of being defeated in their reelection bids.

In the 2008 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

Of those 11, the challengers won five: Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oregon. That’s a 45 percent success rate.  

All other incumbents running for reelection, those who didn’t suffer poll results under 50 percent, won handily. That’s a zero percent success rate for their challengers.

In the 2006 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

Of those 12, the challengers won six: Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. That’s a 50-percent success rate.

So over the last two election cycles, no Senate incumbent polling exclusively over 50 percent has lost his or her race. And of those polling at least once under 50 percent in a reputable independent poll, 47.5 percent of their challengers have been able to knock them off.

The closer those incumbents were to 50 percent, the more likely they were to survive. Lincoln, stuck at around 40 percent, is in dire straits. No incumbent dipping into the 30s survived in ‘06 or ‘08. Quite simply, she is unelectable.

Democrats have a thick bench in Arkansas, and could make a serious bid to hold the seat. But Lincoln won’t pull it off. She’s toast.

If Lincoln cares about her state and her party, she’ll do the honorable thing like Chris Dodd and retire. Otherwise, let’s hope Lt. Gov. Bill Halter forcefully retires her in a primary.

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Midday Open Thread

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Although U.S. car sales perked up in the last five months of 2009, they were still the Worst in 27 Years. America actually “lost” some 3.6 million cars last year because 14 million were scrapped, while 10.4 million were bought, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute. It was the first time since World War II  that scrapping exceeded sales and reduced the total cars on the road from the all-time high of 250 million by 1.5%. EPI’s Lester Brown thinks that’s a good thing.

    Market saturation may be the dominant contributor to the peaking of the U.S. fleet. The United States now has 246 million registered motor vehicles and 209 million licensed drivers — nearly 5 vehicles for every 4 drivers. …

    No one knows how many cars will be sold in the years ahead, but given the many forces at work, U.S. vehicle sales may never again reach the 17 million that were sold each year between 1999 and 2007. Sales seem more likely to remain between 10 million and 14 million per year.

  • Anti-abortion protesters have started wearing birght orange vests with the words “Pro-Choice Clinic Escort” outside a Louisville, Kentucky, clinic to trick patients into believing they are there to help them.
  • Not too surprisingly, scientists have found Serious Emotional Disturbances Among Children After Katrina.
  • Did anybody clap as Arnie made more promises he can’t keep in his last State of the State address?
  • If U.S. policy is going to have any chance of success in Afghanistan, Thomas Ricks writes, it will have to improve greatly, according to Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan written by Army Major General Michael Flynn and Marine Capt. Matt Pottinger (formerly of the rock band Blind Dog Whiskey). And that doesn’t just apply to the military escalation there:

    “An NGO wanting to build a water well in a village may learn, as we recently did, about some of the surprising risks encountered by others who have attempted the same project. For instance, a foreign-funded well constructed in the center of a village in southern Afghanistan was destroyed — not by the Taliban — but by the village’s women. Before, the women had to walk a long distance to draw water from a river, but this was exactly what they wanted. The establishment of a village well deprived them of their only opportunity to gather socially with other women.

  • Uthman al-Mukhtar reports that assassinations and bombings have brought fear back to Anbar province in Iraq.
  • Heather Hurlburt and Kelsey Hartigan of the National Security Network have co-authored a very nice piece debunking the same tired nuclear weapon mistruths repeated yet again by the Wall Street Journal editorial page. An excerpt:

    WSJ Claim:  The warning comes in a recent letter from 40 Republican Senators and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman reminding the President of his legal responsibility under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to present budget estimates for modernizing U.S. nuclear forces along with any new Start pact.

    Fact: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) already continually refurbishes U.S. nuclear warheads.  Every year, the Departments of Defense and Energy spend approximately $30 billion per year to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, and reliable. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 commits the US to “modernizing “the nuclear weapons complex” and “infrastructure” (ie the labs, research and safety and security facilities) – not, as the Senators and the Journal assert, “weapons.” [National Defense Authorization Act for 2010, p. 394.]

    – Plutonium Page

  • The view that Employer Health Costs Drive Wage Trends gets a debunking in a report from the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Why was the crotch bomber missed? Too much surveillance, not too little, says Glenn Greenwald.
  • It’s the end of the world for the Democrats, says John Mercurio at Politiscope:

    Ten months before the 2010 midterms, we apparently know this much for sure: Democrats face a doomsday scenario. They’ll lose anywhere from 10 to 400 seats in the House and eight to 100 in the Senate. … Elections in November have a funny way of tossing aside conventional wisdom from January (or, for that matter, late October).

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Republicans just want to be terrified

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Ben Smith:

King: Use word ‘terrorism’ more

New York Rep. Peter King, a leading Republican critic of the White House on terror policy, offered a piece of advice on Good Morning America today: Obama should speak the word “terrorism” more.

“You are saying someone should be held accountable. Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this,” host George Stephanopolous said to King.

“I think one main thing would be to — just himself to use the word terrorism more often,” said King, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

That’s right…the GOP’s #1 security guy in the House thinks President Obama’s biggest failing is that he just doesn’t say the word terrorism enough.

Well, if Mr. King is so darn eager to be super-terrified then why hasn’t he been listening to what the President and the Administration have actually been saying?

For example:

  1. 70 examples of remarks by the President mentioning terror or its derivatives.
  1. 83 statements or releases.
  1. And 64 press briefings.

So why doesn’t King know this? Maybe it’s because he’s off cowering in the corner somewhere. Or maybe he’s just a Dick Cheneyish liar.

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What’s Joe Worth In A "Not 60" Senate?

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

While the Senate sorts through its retirement news (Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd), the likelihood of the Senate staying at exactly 60 seems less and less real. And as a Connecticut resident, the last 24 hours couldn’t help but remind me about two recent Joe Lieberman columns. This one is snarky dialog between Gail Collins and David Brooks on the popularity of the (soon the be senior) CT senator:

David Brooks: The big theme of holiday conversation is what an atrocity Joe Lieberman is. Everybody agrees apparently. Most people who agree couldn’t even tell you what the Medicare buy-in is or what his position on health care reform is. They just know that in polite society it is imperative to detest old Joe.

Gail Collins: David, excuse me! I have been making this point for several years now. In fact I believe I announced in 2007 that Joe Lieberman was responsible for everything terrible that’s happened to the world since 1999.

and this gem from Jon Chait:

I think one answer here is that Lieberman isn’t actually all that smart. He speaks, and seems to think, exclusively in terms of generalities and broad statements of principle. But there’s little evidence that he’s a sharp or clear thinker, and certainly no evidence that he knows or cares about the details of health care reform. At one point during the 2000 recount, the Gore campaign explained to Lieberman why lowering standards for military ballots would be totally unfair and illegal, and Lieberman proceeded to go on television and subvert the campaign’s position. Gore loyalists interpreted this as a sellout, but perhaps the more plausible explanation was that Lieberman — who, after all, badly wanted to be vice-President — just didn’t understand the details of the Gore position well enough to defend it. The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate.

Now, without 60, health reform doesn’t pass the Senate in any way, shape or form, period. Republicans are too afraid of passing something that reminds people that Democrats at least try to help their fellow citizens when they are in power. But without 60, it also means that Joe Lieberman doesn’t matter the same way he did the last two months.

Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Tuesday he would join a Republican filibuster to block the final vote on any health care bill that has a government-run public health insurance option.

Is Joe Lieberman, RNC Convention speaker and McCain endorser, ready to change parties? If it happens, don’t let him fool you into thinking he was chased out. As Collins notes,

Joe Lieberman is not representing anybody but Joe Lieberman. I’ve thought that ever since his last election, when he got bounced by the Democrats and ran as the nominee of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Why wasn’t it Lieberman for Connecticut? Because it’s got to be all about Joe, that’s why.

It’s pretty much conventional wisdom that Joe can’t win [in 2012] as a Democrat in CT – too many bridges burned, cut into pieces, and sold on eBay.

Now that Dick Blumenthal will retain Dodd’s seat, he’s not available to beat Joe like an old rug in the next cycle. But don’t worry –  there’s plenty of people that would relish the thought. To protect himself (remember, it’s always all about Joe), he ran as the Republican against Lamont by making sure there was a weak Republican in that slot. Without Karl Rove’s help, he’ll have to do it on his own this time.

If Joe can’t be belle of the ball as an “independent Democrat” [in 2011 and beyond] , look to see him scramble for whatever suits him best. But after health reform passes, he’ll do it without cover from Senate Democrats, who may have their own bone to pick with him over a few issues here and there.

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