Friday, March 25, 2011

"No drama," applied to air war tactics?

Interesting point from "national security expert" Robert Farley:

On a related note, it’s remarkable that thus far we’ve heard very little in terms of the rhetoric of airpower. In particular, no one seems to be breathing the phrase “effects based operations” in reference to Odyssey Dawn. Instead of trying to overwhelm the entire Libyan state and defense network through coordinated attacks, airpower is being used for the relatively basic tasks of destroying air defenses, airfields, and fielded Libyan forces. This is quite a retreat from 2003 in Iraq, and certainly from Israel’s 2006 campaign against Hezbollah.


Sniffing cleaning fluid?

Probably didn't think this thing out.

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SRV - Rude Mood

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mural bias

The Republican governors' war on workers continues, this time in pictures!

Clashes at state capitols over organized labor have become commonplace this year, with protesters throughout the country objecting to proposed limits on collective bargaining and cuts in benefits. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has opened a new — and unlikely — front in the battle between some lawmakers and unions: a 36-foot-wide mural in the state’s Department of Labor building in Augusta.

The three-year-old mural has 11 panels showing scenes of Maine workers, including colonial-era shoemaking apprentices, lumberjacks, a “Rosie the Riveter” in a shipyard and a 1986 paper mill strike. Taken together, his administration deems these scenes too one-sided in favor of unions.

A spokeswoman said Mr. LePage, a Republican, ordered the mural removed after several business officials complained about it and after the governor received an anonymous fax saying it was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

UPDATE: House Republicans' war on workers is somewhat less fanciful.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forced empathy

This first-person(s) story of the four NY Times journalists captured in Libya could have veered off in to self-absorption territory. I mean, it is gripping and remarkably revealing, but you don't become a war correspondent if you don't crave that kind of adrenaline rush. But then there are a couple of examples of real self-reflection that makes you feel these four people are just that -- people:

From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body outstretched next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found.

If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.

No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.


We felt like trophies of war, and at a dozen checkpoints, we could hear militiamen running to the car to administer another beating.

“Dirty dogs,” men shouted out at each stop.

Over the years, all of us had seen men detained, blindfolded and handcuffed at places like Abu Ghraib, or corralled after some operation in Iraq or Afghanistan. Now we were the faceless we had covered perhaps too dispassionately. For the first time, we felt what it was like to be disoriented by a blindfold, to have plastic cuffs dig into your wrists, for hands to go numb.

It's because of journalists like these that I continue to pay a subscription to the New York Times.

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Elizabeth Taylor

RIP. She was a leading voice in fighting against HIV bigotry in the 1980s.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Like being in a room with nothing but furniture...angry furniture

Budget analyst Stan Collender is invited to speak to the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. That won't happen again.

I was also surprised by the invitation because I wrote the column to pour cold water on a number of the misstatements that were being made at the time about the debt ceiling. For example, some commentators were saying that not increasing it would lead to an immediate default and government shutdown. Because of that, the idea was rapidly making the rounds at the time that the debt ceiling could be used to force the White House to do things on the budget it didn’t want to do.

In other words, the column was telling the tea party that its apparent plan to use the debt ceiling as a lever with the administration was based on a misreading of how it worked and very likely wouldn’t succeed. Nevertheless, I was invited to attend and decided to go.

The meeting was held in a small room in the Capital building across from the members’ dining room and it was packed by the time it began. I didn’t actually count, but my recollection is that 15-20 members of Congress attended along with staff and other tea party supporters.

The meeting began with Rep. Bachmann introducing me. I then talked for about 25 minutes about the debt ceiling and essentially repeated what I had written in the column.

But I was just the opening act. The other three speakers were the tea party chairs from three states – Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida – and each one instructed the House members who were in the room what they expected them to do on budget issues.

Actually, “instructed is not strong enough; what they said to the members is best described as nonnegotiable demands. They insisted that no one vote for that first extension of the CR unless it included a provision defunding healthcare reform (they called it “Obamacare’). They also unequivocally insisted that no one vote to increase the debt ceiling. And, they were absolutely adamant that the spending cuts in the continuing resolution that the House members were so proud of were insignificant and that entitlements had to be tackled immediately.

One of the more interesting exchanges occurred when one of the House members who was there asked the tea party chairs if they really had expected them to have reformed Medicare in the first six weeks of the session. Another was when one of the members complained about having been booed at a national tea party meeting that had just been held.

But the most interesting exchange came when the tea party state chairs openly threatened the reelection of the tea party supporting members of Congress who attended. This was anything but subtle. One of the chairs specifically pointed at the members and told them that the tea party had elected them and would run someone against them in the next election if they didn’t vote as expected. This was beyond a “passionate” exchange: It was angry with a strong take-no-prisoners attitude.

And you thought Speaker Boehner cried a lot before. He'll be reduced to a puddle trying to reconcile a GOP agenda that is being co-opted by the party's most extreme -- and ignorant -- wing.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Let them eat...cotton

New York City officials estimate that 250,000 lucky duckies working poor in the city would have slipped into poverty without food stamps and tax incentives.

Food stams are, of course, fall under the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. And in this Great Times, when unemployment is, apparently, acceptably high, and Deficit Hawks throw their support behind new and improved air wars, the Republican led House is looking for places to nibble at the edges of our budget deficits. That means the USDA is in their cross-hairs. And what should be up for grabs at the USDA? The obscene subsidies to huge multi-national agribusiness enjoying the benefits of the rising cost of food?

Certainly not.

At the moment, 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go toward the production of just five crops — corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton. “Most of that 90 percent went to the large farming corporations,” said Annie Shattuck of the Institute for Food & Development Policy. “Much of those commodities were not used for food, but for animal feed and industrial applications. Cotton is not even a food.” Yet lawmakers on the Agriculture Committee feel that this wasteful spending is more important than helping Americans families weather the Great Recession.


Iraq lite

A third war. Another expensive one for which we don't seem to have an ending scenario for. An Italian with long experience in North Africa is not reassured.

Unfortunately, Libya did not have a powerful and US-dependent army to count on to calm down enthusiasm and excesses once the dust settled down. Nevertheless, the only course of action was to pretend that once the hateful dictator was removed, Libya, too, would find its own Road to Democracy. The party line was clear: condemn the dictator, show sympathy to the uprising, but otherwise do nothing at all, urgently.

Things, however, started to get really worrying once it became clear that, against all odds, Qaddafi had mounted a successful counterinsurgency campaign and stood a very good chance of taking full control of the country once again. We were thus faced by two equally unpalatable scenarios. First scenario: the insurgents manage to get rid of the dictator after all, but are likely to feel rather angry at Qaddafi's former friends who had not lifted a finger to help. And then, who could save us from the prospect of an Al- Chavez (see picture), a new strongman with no favours to return to the West?

Second scenario: Qaddafi squashes the insurgents. See first scenario: we would have to deal with the one we had condemned as an international criminal. Not a good prospect.

So, the course of action had to be taken to follow the adventurous route of a confused and politically troubled leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. Just before the end of the last quarter, a resolution was passed at the security council and a new war could start.

The rest we know. For the time being, we have an Iraq Lite: removal of the hateful dictator with other means than diplomacy, but this time with no ground troops - just hell from the air. At this very moment, the media are gloating in portraying and describing the feats of Mirages, Tomahawks, Tornadoes. What we don't know is what will emerge out of this mess.

And, amazingly, launched precisely on the 8th anniversary of the start of Operation Shock & Awe.

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Blue Monday, J.S. Bach edition

Friday, March 18, 2011

And then it snowed

Scenes from an epic tragedy.

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Arthur Lee & Love


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crisis averted


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In memory of...

There are no words.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alice D Millionaire

One of the most intriguing and accomplished figures of the Acid Tests and the entire Grateful Dead...industry, for lack of a better word... Owsley, aka, "Bear," is dead at 76.

Augustus Owsley Stanley III was born on Jan. 19, 1935, to a patrician Kentucky family. His paternal grandfather, for whom he was named, was a congressman, governor of Kentucky and United States senator. (Somewhat prophetically, given his grandson’s future pursuits, the elder Mr. Stanley was a vigorous public foe of Prohibition.)

Young Owsley, whose adolescent hirsuteness caused him to be known ever after as Bear, was sent to a military preparatory school in Maryland. He was expelled in the ninth grade for furnishing the alcohol that, as he told Rolling Stone in 2007, had nearly all his classmates “blasted out of their minds” on homecoming weekend.

He briefly attended the University of Virginia before enlisting in the Air Force, where he learned electronics. He later worked in Los Angeles as a broadcast engineer for radio and television stations. He also studied ballet and for a time was a professional dancer.

In 1963, Mr. Stanley enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. The next year, he encountered LSD, a transformative experience. “I remember the first time I took acid and walked outside,” he said in the Rolling Stone interview. “The cars were kissing the parking meters.”

Mr. Stanley had found his calling, and at the time it was at least quasi-legitimate: LSD was not outlawed in California until 1966. What he needed to do was learn his craft, which he accomplished, as Rolling Stone reported, in three weeks in the university library, poring over chemistry journals. Soon afterward, he left college and a going concern, the Bear Research Group, was born.

In 1965, he met Mr. Kesey, and through him the Dead. Enraptured, he became their sound man, early underwriter, principal acolyte, sometime housemate and frequent touring companion. With Bob Thomas, he designed the band’s highly recognizable skull-and-lightning-bolt logo. Mr. Stanley also made many recordings of the Dead in performance, now considered valuable documentary records of the band’s early years. Many have been released commercially.

Mr. Stanley remained with the band off and on through the early ’70s, when, according to Rolling Stone, his habits became too much even for the Grateful Dead and they parted company. (He had insisted, among other things, that the band eat meat — nothing but meat — a dietary regimen he followed until the end of his life.)

He'd been living in Australia since the 1980s to avoid the imminent Ice Age in North America.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Libya: The case has not been made

I can't believe I'm typing this, but, What Douthat Said.

Advocates of a Libyan intervention don’t seem to have internalized these lessons. They have rallied around a no-flight zone as their Plan A for toppling Qaddafi, but most military analysts seem to think that it will fail to do the job, and there’s no consensus on Plan B. Would we escalate to air strikes? Arm the rebels? Sit back and let Qaddafi claim to have outlasted us?

If we did supply the rebels, who exactly would be receiving our money and munitions? Libya’s internal politics are opaque, to put it mildly. But here’s one disquieting data point, courtesy of the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum: Eastern Libya, the locus of the rebellion, sent more foreign fighters per capita to join the Iraqi insurgency than any other region in the Arab world.

I don't know what to do about Libya, but I feel fairly confident that, as was the case eight years ago, the Liberal Hawks and the NeoCons don't either.

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After the tsunami

Friday, March 11, 2011

Slavery, fundamentally

The next time you hear some defender of treason in defense of negro slavery say that the Civil War was about "State Rights" and "smaller government," point them to the constitution...of the Confederacy.


House repeals all scientific "theories"

Brilliant, but as Steve Benen notes, the whole thing probably went right over his Republican colleagues' respective heads.

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Misery is the River of the World

Everybody row.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gutting the union has nothing to do with the budget

We knew this all along, but the Wisconsin State Senate confirmed it last night.

CHICAGO — A bill sharply curtailing collective bargaining rights for government workers in Wisconsin is due for a vote in the State Assembly on Thursday morning, where it is all but sure to pass. The State Senate approved similar legislation Wednesday with only Republican members casting votes; the chamber’s Democratic minority, who fiercely oppose the measure, remain out of the state.

The main provisions of the legislation, which increases health care and pension costs for public sector employees in the state as well as limits their bargaining rights, were also part of a larger budget bill that was passed by the Assembly last month, so final passage of this separate bill is considered a foregone conclusion.

The legislation was separated from the budget measure on Wednesday to break a three-week stalemate created when the Democratic senators all went to Illinois to deny the chamber the 20-member quorum required to take up bills that appropriate funds.

The quorum requirement for other kinds of legislation is smaller, and the Republicans’ 19 seats are enough for those measures. In the Assembly, the Republican majority is large enough to achieve a quorum for any kind of bill.

Once the bill was separated, the Republicans pushed the measure through the Senate in less than half an hour by a vote of 18-1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.

Democrats in the State Assembly complained bitterly, and protesters, who had spent many days at the Capitol, continued their chants and jeers.


The bill makes significant changes to most public-sector union rules, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages and limiting raises to changes in the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.

Wisconsin’s battle has been the leading edge of a wider fight over public workers and collective bargaining across the country. Similar, if somewhat less dramatic, fights have played out in statehouses in places like Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana, and more are expected.

By decoupling this from anything having to do with fiscal legislation, the vote proves that Gov. Walker and his state GOP allies have been lying all along. But shedding integrity, as Steven Benen writes, is apparently no big deal.

Of course, for Republicans, it was a worthy trade off -- they traded their integrity and credibility for a bill to gut Wisconsin's public-sector unions. To far-right officials, it was a sacrifice they were happy to make.

We'll have to wait and see how good Wisconsin voters' memories are.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

We few, we elite few, we band of brothers

Longtime readers know that I certainly found nothing inappropriate by such comments, other than the failure to understand that speaking freely to people you don't know may fuel the Mighty Wurlitzer of Outrage.

And Krugthug's view on blogs pretty much mirrors mine.

Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously. I know we’re supposed to pretend that both sides always have a point; but the truth is that most of the time they don’t. The parties are not equally irresponsible; Rachel Maddow isn’t Glenn Beck; and a conservative blog, almost by definition, is a blog written by someone who chooses not to notice that asymmetry. And life is short …

So, cue the (commercial) forces of anti-elitism!

As for efforts to cut funding for NPR, NPR receives a relatively small portion of its funding from taxpayers, but many local stations -- especially rural ones -- depend on it.

And I'm reminded of a conversation I had with someone outraged (there it is again) that my company was sponsoring an NPR program. I asked him, if NPR so outraged him, why did he listen to it. He explained that his job required driving in parts of the country in which local NPR stations were the only thing on the radio.

It'd sure be a shame if Congress eliminated such funding and the only things that guy could listen to were the voices in his head.

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"I was the rectal thermometer for the audience"

Tom Waits is about to go into the R&R HoF this month, so Fresh Air re-aired Terrie Gross's interview with the man.


Multi-culturalism and its discontents

This made me laugh yesterday.

DON GONYEA: There are still no officially declared candidates, but an overflow crowd still packed the huge Point of Grace Church in Waukee to see five Republicans make an early pitch for consideration: former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, Atlanta businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer.

But the first half of the program consisted of speeches not from the above list, but from event organizers and local politicians full of warnings of their own about the dire state of things in America under President Obama.

The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Gopal Krishna talked of spreading socialism and this...

Mr. GOPAL KRISHNA (Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition): We are concerned that a country that was founded on European-style Christian moral values has now become a multicultural haven for every weird and kinky lifestyle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

I didn't hear that laughter in the story, but maybe I was driving and simply laughing too hard myself as Mr. Krishna said, "wurd and keeeenky lifestyle."

Multiculturalism's a bitch, ain't it Gopal?

But then again, I'm just another racist liberal.

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Voyeurs on the Hill

Under what can only be classified as, "Um...gross," Justice Sotomayor talks about the confirmation process for single female judges.

After pre-approved questions from two Northwestern University School of Law professors, she was most revealing during questioning from law students, especially when one woman suggested that the questioning Sotomayor and the most recent other appointee, Elena Kagan, faced was laden with male-driven assumptions.

"You know, and I don't mean to be graphic, but one day after I'd been questioned endlessly, for weeks at a time, I was so frustrated by the minutiae of what I was being asked about and said to a friend, 'I think they already know the color of my underwear,'" the justice said.

"There were private questions I was offended by. I was convinced they were not asking those questions of the male applicants," Sotomayor said, alluding to questions about her dating habits. It was unclear if she was referring to private sessions, prior to her formal nomination hearing, with individual senators.

Continuing the conversational thread about dating questions posed to her, she declared, "I wondered if they ever asked those questions of the male candidates. But the society has a double standard."

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It takes one to know one, I guess

Peter King, as you likely know, is holding hearings on the potential for home-grown terrorism in the U.S. by Muslims. The NY Times reminds us this morning that King is in the perfect position to understand the potential for domestic terrorism and the dangers posed to innocent bystanders. He's supported it in the past.

WASHINGTON — For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

As Mr. King, a Republican, rose as a Long Island politician in the 1980s, benefiting from strong Irish-American support, the I.R.A. was carrying out a bloody campaign of bombing and sniping, targeting the British Army, Protestant paramilitaries and sometimes pubs and other civilian gathering spots. His statements, along with his close ties to key figures in the military and political wings of the I.R.A., drew the attention of British and American authorities.

A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said.

In later years, by all accounts, Mr. King became an important go-between in talks that led to peace in Northern Ireland, drawing on his personal contacts with leaders of I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, and winning plaudits from both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, the former president and the British prime minister.

But as Mr. King, 66, prepares to preside Thursday as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee at the first of a series of hearings on Muslim radicalization, his pro-I.R.A. past gives his many critics an obvious opening. The congressman’s assertions that 85 percent of leaders of American mosques hold extremist views and that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement have alarmed Muslim groups, some counterterrorism experts and even a few former allies in Irish-American causes.

Mr. King, son of a New York City police officer and grand-nephew of an I.R.A. member, offers no apologies for his past, which he has celebrated in novels that feature a Irish-American congressman with I.R.A. ties who bears a striking resemblance to the author.

Of comparisons between the terrorism of the I.R.A. and that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Mr. King said: “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

Well, I'm relieved to hear that. But I wonder what Mike Huckabee has to say about King's "views of the Brits?"


Stupid stunts

David Leonhardt is alarmed by "legislatures at the state and local level" cuts to spending at a time of fragile recovery.

I understand that Republican leaders honestly believe that spending cuts will help the private sector recover. Over the long term, they’re right that much of government needs to become more efficient. I’d just implore them to look at the evidence about the short-term effect of cuts.

Interest rates on corporate borrowing remain historically low, so there is no reason to think today’s government borrowing is making it harder for companies to borrow. The countries that have tried austerity (England and Germany) are struggling, while the leaders of the country that enacted the most aggressive postcrisis stimulus (China) talk proudly of its success.

Perhaps most persuasively, the people who get paid to make economic predictions say that federal cutbacks would harm the economy this year and next. The research firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimates that the House Republicans’ budget would raise the unemployment rate by 0.3 percentage points — which means about 500,000 lost jobs — by the end of next year. Economists on Wall Street, which isn’t exactly thrilled with the Obama administration, have made similar forecasts.

Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, puts it this way: “I wouldn’t be cutting spending over the rest of the fiscal year, because the economy still needs support.”

"Imploring" Republicans to enact sane policy may be the funniest thing I've heard all day. That said, Leonhardt is right in saying that the Obama administration needs to engage in this fight as well. Meeting Republicans "half way" is a fools' game. And if they are buying GOP arguments that "the American people" want deficits reduced instead of lower employment, than I don't know who's doing their polling analysis.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Camp followers

Look, I don't have a clue what to do about the rebellion in Libya, though it seems a pretty fair bad idea to invade a north African country and relying on air strikes seems pretty limited against ground assaults by pro-Qaddafi forces. But this once again proves that if there is an opportunity to invade another country, McCain and Lieberman are all in.

The most vocal camp, led by Senators John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, and Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent and another hawk on Libyan intervention, say the central justification for establishing a no-fly zone over Libya is that the rebel leaders themselves are seeking military assistance to end decades of dictatorship.

It is hardly an effort to impose American will in the Muslim world, Mr. Lieberman argued in an interview on Monday.

“We have to try and help those who are offering an alternative future to Libya,” Mr. Lieberman said, sounding much like Mr. Obama at the White House on Monday. “We cannot allow them to be stifled or stopped by brutal actions of the Libyan government.”

But even the critics acknowledge that the best outcome would be for the United States not to go it alone, but join other nations or international organizations, in particular NATO, the Arab League or the African Union.

Mr. Lieberman and others argue that the risks of waiting may be far greater than the risk of an early, decisive military intervention. He acknowledged that as in Iraq, the United States might unleash an uncertain future of tribal rivalry and chaos, in a country that has no institutions prepared to fill the vacuum if Colonel Qaddafi is driven from power.

Yet, he argued: “It’s hard to imagine any new government growing out of this opposition that is worse than Qaddafi.”

It's funny, only a few months ago, Qaddafi was seen as "brave" for forswearing nuclear weapons; now Joe Lieberman considers potential chaos and civil war preferable.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

In other words, acting the fool is not "inactivity"

Andrew Cohen looks at the 77 page brief defending the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, what idiots sneeringly call "ObamaCare," and finds it pretty convincing.

Here, it turns out, is where the Obama administration is eloquently defending the legitimacy of the Act and Congress' power to enact it. For example, here's how federal lawyers answer the argument that health insurance is not a federal matter:
"Millions of people without health insurance have consumed health care services for which they do not pay. These uncompensated costs—totaling $43 billion in 2008—are shifted to health care providers regularly engaged in interstate commerce. Providers pass on much of this cost to private insurance companies, which also operate interstate. The result is higher premiums which, in turn, make insurance unaffordable to even more people. At the same time, insurance companies use restrictive underwriting practices to deny coverage or charge unaffordable premiums to millions across the nation because they have pre-existing medical conditions."

Here is what the feds think of Judge Hudson's conclusion that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not authorize a federal law requiring people to buy health insurance. The Justice Department says:
"This analysis misconceives the nature of the regulated market and the governing Commerce Clause principles. People who attempt to pay for health care services out-of-pocket are no less 'in the stream of commerce' than people who pay with insurance. Further, when people consume health care without insurance to pay for it, others in the market bear its costs. The minimum coverage requirement is not an end in itself; it is a means of regulating the health care market."

And here is what the feds think of Judge Hudson's argument, since endorsed by Judge Vinson in Florida, that the Congress has no power to regulate commercial "inactivity" (i.e. the individual choice not to purchase health insurance). Federal attorneys wrote:
"Individuals do not remove themselves from the health care market or 'the stream of commerce' by attempting to pay for services out of pocket rather than with insurance. Congress may regulate the conduct of participants in the health care market even if the participants are 'inactive' in the insurance market. Thus, even assuming arguendo that the minimum coverage provision could be thought to regulate inactivity, Congress is not regulating inactivity 'as such,' but as an aspect of its regulation of active participation in the health care market" (citations omitted).

Judge Hudson erred in "analyzing the minimum coverage provision through the lens of 'inactivity,' rather than by reference to 'broad principles of economic practicality,'" the feds argue in a case poised to reach the United States Supreme Court first, sometime next year. Although the Florida challenge to the Act is larger in scope—more than two dozen states are plaintiffs in it—the Virginia challenge is slightly further ahead procedurally. It is likely, in any event, that the Court will join all of these cases together for one huge ruling that affects them all.

Until then? The feds offer a parting shot to Judge Hudson, Judge Vinson and other conservatives who are concerned that the legal precedent created by a judicial endorsement of the Affordable Care Act would lead one day to all sorts of federal intervention in local matters, ultimately resulting in the You Must Eat Broccoli Act. Federal attorneys wrote:
"At the end of the day, evaluation of whether an action by Congress is necessary and proper calls for a deferential examination of the legislation in question, its factual context, and Congress's reasons for acting. The analysis cannot be driven by hypothetical statutes that no legislature would ever adopt. Congress's commerce power to enact minimum wage legislation is not defeated because, hypothetically, Congress could use that power to set a minimum wage of $5,000 per hour" (citation omitted).

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Brother, can you spare a dime

Just to clarify, despite the rhetoric of GOP leaders and their various tea sucking supporters, the United States of America is not "broke."

Long term deficits are a problem...long term. In the immediate run, U.S. unemployment and stagnant wages are far greater threats to our standard of living than our relatively tiny non-defense discretionary spending.

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Blue Monday, Merle Haggard edition

Friday, March 04, 2011

Huckabee's nuanced views on single parenthood

The hypocrisy and cynicism is mindbendingly transparent.

The funny thing about dog whistles; they aren't especially effective when they are as loud and transparent as a train whistle.

And I do appreciate how concerned he is about poor single moms not having access to health care.


We're so pretty

Apropos of the following post.


Income inequality as public policy

In their new book, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson point to public policy as the source of income inequality and the growing economic pressure on the middle class. And there is very good reason for the middle class -- even, or especially, those not members of a union -- to pay attention to events in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana.

Mr. Hacker: We’re certainly not arguing that changes in the balance of power are the only cause of inequality and stagnating wages. The college premium has indeed grown, though it’s hard to see how this accounts for the most striking and distinctively American development – namely, the extreme concentration of economic rewards at the very, very top of the economic ladder. Most of those who have a college degree haven’t shared in the really big gains experienced by the top 1 percent or top 0.1 percent (average 2007 income: $7 million), which has seen its share of income more than quadruple since the early 1970s.

The big question is whether these outsized rewards could have been distributed more broadly given different economic policies. We’re convinced the answer is yes. The key to getting the answer right, we argue, is to look beyond the economics of rising inequality to examine the politics. Much of our book traces how major changes in policies governing finance, corporate governance, taxation, and industrial relations helped fuel the “winner-take-all economy.” These changes, we show, directly reflected the declining clout of middle-class voters and unions relative to a much more organized and mobilized corporate sector.

Mr. Pierson: We need to think more broadly about what shapes markets and the distribution of economic rewards. For instance, economists generally err in thinking that unions influence the income distribution mostly through direct negotiations with employers. Instead, we argue the most important role these forces play is to create some organized countervailing pressure in Washington. Cross-national research suggests that strong labor unions are associated with greater government redistribution through taxes and transfers. The United States is one of only a handful of countries where government taxes and benefits have become less redistributive as inequality has grown.

And failure to compensate for rising inequality through taxes and benefits is only the tip of the iceberg. From industrial relations policy to regulation of executive pay to financial deregulation, policy makers either remade markets in ways that encouraged inequality or stood on the sidelines (despite plenty of complaints and clear alternatives) as changes in the market outran existing policy rules. Especially after the financial crisis, it’s hard to deny that some of the big policy shifts that enriched those at the top have contributed substantially to the hardships faced by the middle class.

Conservative Republican crusades against collective bargaining and for making union dues "voluntary" and making it illegal to take public employees' union dues directly from their paychecks aren't about reducing deficits. They are about depriving unions of their members and their members' dues. They are about eliminating union clout as a countervailing political force against corporate control of public policy. And we are all -- or at least 99% of us -- victims of that.

And, the authors argue, the Republican party is no longer "conservative." It is radical in its ideas about economics, and that, along with the filibuster, have made financial reform all but impossible.

UPDATED for clarity

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Eye on Newt

Couldn't resist that one, sorry.

But, please, please make this happen!

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Another illustration of GOP governing philosophy: styrofoam

My new fave acronym, If It Pisses Off Liberals, or IIPOL.

Part of me wonders if the GOP policy brought back the environmentally-irresponsible cups just to annoy Pelosi, or if Republicans are choosing to thumb their noses at "green" policies, just because it makes them feel better about themselves.

I suppose it's possible that it's both.

I should be outraged, I suppose, but why give them the satisfaction?

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