Archive for June 2009
Welcome to DC, Senator Franken.
UPDATE: The Eldest suggests that we begin referring to Norm Coleman as “the quitter.”
One of the characteristics of the authoritarian mind is that it readily includes double standards. Here’s an example of a double standard, by Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress:
On a conference call organized by the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told a group of conservative activists that he needed their help to prevent Judge Sotomayor from being confirmed to the Supreme Court in a timely manner. “We need you involved in this process,” Thune told the call’s listeners, because Senate Democrats “are going to jam through this lifetime appointment rather than provide a full and fair review of her record.”
But Thune sang a different tune when President Bush was in office. Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) modeled Sotomayor’s 72-day confirmation schedule after the exact same 72-day schedule that was used to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts. Back then, Thune thought this schedule was more than adequate for him to make up his mind:
“Today marks the beginning of a historic and revered process. As we pay tribute to the legacy of former Chief Justice Rehnquist, we see many of the qualities that marked his tenure of excellence mirrored in Judge Roberts,” Thune said. “Judge Roberts brings with him a brilliant legal mind and a profound respect for the Constitution and the Court.
“I urge Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to put politics aside and allow a fair and efficient confirmation process to work. I look forward to hearing from Judge Roberts and have full confidence his experience and character will carry him swiftly through these important hearings.”
Perhaps Thune is simply having trouble understanding how Sotomayor’s confirmation schedule compares to Roberts’. To help explain this difficult concept to Sen. Thune, ThinkProgress has prepared this helpful chart:
This is important to know. Glenn Greenwald writes:
After numerous delays sought by the Obama administration, it is expected that a 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report — aggressively questioning both the efficacy and legality of Bush’s interrogation tactics — will be released tomorrow. A heavily redacted version of that document was already released by the Bush administration in response to an ACLU lawsuit and it remains to be seen how much new information will be included in tomorrow’s version.
In anticipation of the release of that report, there is an important effort underway — as part of the ACLU Accountability Project — to correct a critically important deficiency in the public debate over torture and accountability. So often, the premise of media discussions of torture is that “torture” is something that was confined to a single tactic (waterboarding) and used only on three “high-value” detainees accused of being high-level Al Qaeda operatives. The reality is completely different.
The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody — at least. While some of those deaths were the result of “rogue” interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that’s one reason we’ve always considered those tactics to be “torture” when used by others — because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions — that we Look to the Future, not the Past — are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.
The record could not be clearer regarding the fact that we caused numerous detainee deaths, many of which have gone completely uninvestigated and thus unpunished. Instead, the media and political class have misleadingly caused the debate to consist of the myth that these tactics were limited and confined. As Gen. Barry McCaffrey recently put it:
We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees. We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.
Journalist and Human Rights Watch research John Sifton similarly documented that “approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.”
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The ACLU has posted online numerous autopsy reports of detainee deaths in U.S. custody. These are documents prepared by the U.S. military, and they are as chilling as they are reflective of extreme criminality. Here are just a few illustrative examples (click on images to enlarge):
Continue reading. The details are both important and staggering. Some of thus murdered by torture were totally innocent—for example, the member of the Afghan Army (on our side, you know) who was mistakenly picked up.
With no limits on campaign spending by corporations, Congress would be completely in the hands of business—at least so many that it doesn’t matter. Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:
Instead of ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, a case that questions the legitimacy of corporate funding that supported an anti-Hillary Rodham Clinton documentary released just before the 2008 primaries, the court on Monday ordered reargument of the case in September. The court will then have to decide whether to overrule two previous decisions that upheld limits on corporate spending in federal elections.
Given the dynamics of the court, there is a great chance the justices will use the opportunity to overrule limits on how much money corporations can spend supporting candidates—whether or not Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed in time to hear the case in September.
Mary Kane of the Washington Independent has an interesting article titled "Who Will Investigate the Causes of the Financial Crisis?". It’s well worth reading, and the answer to the question is important, as another article in the Washington Independent, this one by David Weigel, shows what sort of answers the investigation will deliver, depending on who’s tasked with the investigation:
Jonathan Turley points to a resolution introduced by State Rep. Sally Kern (R) in Oklahoma, into a state legislature that flipped to the Republicans in 2008 and has become a petri dish for wingnuttery.
The “Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality” includes this language about the Democrats and the president:
WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and
WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and
WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and
WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer; and
WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;
I’m watching it now, thanks to Terry B., and it’s wonderful. It’s an entertaining history of the global warming controversy, but much more fun than that sounds. Watch it: Everything’s Cool. I think this is one that skeptics might enjoy, since it shows the ultimate source of their skepticism.
The House’s passage of the Waxman-Markey bill raises the possibility that the United States will finally do something on global warming. This prospect has the industry hacks screaming at top volume about the horrible fate that awaits the economy. Everyone should know not to take them seriously, as I will explain in a moment.
First, we should acknowledge the obvious: The bill is awful. It gives away permits to greenhouse gas emitters that should instead be auctioned. As a result, money that could be rebated to taxpayers or used to fund the development of clean technologies instead goes to the industries that are the source of the problem.
Second, the use of tradable permits rather than a tax is a rather questionable policy. Permits will almost certainly require more government enforcement bureaucracy than a system of taxes and subsidies. And, incidentally, permits will allow Goldman Sachs and our other Wall Street friends to make tens of billions of dollars on trading fees in the coming decades, a high priority for all Americans.
But a bad bill is almost certainly better than no bill. If Waxman-Markey doesn’t get through, it is very difficult to see another bill getting through this Congress. And there is no reason to believe that the Congress that gets elected in 2010 will be any less indebted to the corporate lobbyists.
The Waxman-Markey bill should be viewed as a foot in the door. It is a modest first step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions that both demonstrates a commitment and provides an opportunity to show the public that emissions can be lowered without imposing an enormous economic burden on the country.
Of course, the only reason that so many people believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will impose an enormous burden on the economy is that the oil and coal industry, and their friends in the media, have been pushing this tripe for more than a decade. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the cost of the Waxman-Markey bill at $22 billion a year in 2020. That will be equal to less than 0.1 percent of projected GDP in that year, or about $70 out of the pocket of each person in the country.
The coal and oil companies are greatly anguished over this prospective burden on American families, but let’s compare this burden to the burden posed by Iraq war levels of defense spending. Two years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to use its model to project the economic impact of Iraq war levels of military spending. They projected the effect on the economy of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP, an amount slightly less than the increase sustained in the years following the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Global Insight was selected because it is one of the oldest econometric forecasting firms in the country. Its model has been widely used for a wide variety of analyses and it certainly is not associated with progressive or anti-defense politics. Its model is also very much in the mainstream of the economics profession. It will not produce results that are qualitatively different than any other mainstream model.
The model projected that after 10 years of higher spending, GDP would be down by about $17 billion from baseline levels. After 20 years (2021 if defense spending stays high), GDP would be down by more than $60 billion from baseline levels, approximately three times CBO’s projection of the cost of the Waxman-Markey bill.
Of course, these projections don’t show the full loss to households, since they don’t include the money that must be diverted from taxes or obtained by borrowing to support the higher level of defense spending. These figures are just the lost output.
Global Insight projected that after 20 years of higher defense spending, annual car sales would be down by more than 700,000. Housing starts would be almost 40,000 lower. Exports would be 1.8 percent lower and imports would be 2.7 percent higher, leading to a trade deficit that would be almost $200 billion larger. The model also projected that there would be nearly 700,000 fewer jobs as a result of the higher level of defense spending.
In short, the economic harm projected from high levels of military spending is far larger than the damage projected from the Waxman-Markey bill. Given this situation, we would have expected that all the oil and coal industry folks, who are now so concerned about the average family’s well-being, would have been screaming about the economic pain that would result from sustaining the Iraq war levels of military spending.
Did anyone ever hear them raise this issue? Does anyone recall members of Congress giving speeches about how the job loss from the Iraq war levels of spending would be devastating? Does anyone recall any newspaper columns or editorials making this point? How about a news story that analyzed the economic impact of higher levels of military spending?
For some reason, job loss and economic pain associated with the military are just not worth mentioning…