I’m going to hope/assume that Eric Holder has changed his mind about the vital need for internet censorship relative to where he was ten years ago at a time when a lot of folks deemed the internet impossibly scary. One useful thing about confirmation hearings, though, is that you can ask people about stuff like that.
Julia Ioffe writes for TNR about the latest constitutional moves in Russia:
In the West, the amendment was met with a hearty round of “how could they’s.” It was perceived as a cynical play by Putin for another stab at the presidency, and, more fundamentally, as yet another giant crack in the foundation of an anemic democracy. [...]
These fears are not unfounded, of course, but for the regular folks, it’s far more simple. Fully 56 percent of Russians support the amendment because, heck, they like the president. Both of them! Of the people less favorably inclined–this third of the population mostly happens to live, by the way, in Russia’s two big (elitist?) cities–some disapprove because they don’t buy the government’s argument that they need more than four years to get everything done. In a country of red tape, city voters feel, perhaps ironically, that four years is plenty of time to achieve policy goals. More than half of the dissenters, however, defend democracy so fiercely as to render it moribund: Twelve percent of Russians say that a constitution is not for amending. Ever.
I like how the elected parliament voting to enact a popular measure constitutes a “giant crack” in the foundation of Russian democracy. Oh well. By contrast, in the United States we have a democracy so an unpopular senate minority has unlimited ability to block popular legislation that secures the support of a majority of the people’s elected representatives.
Meanwhile, the point about the cities is a good one. Most journalists and others who visit Russia go to Petersburg or Moscow — that’s where the action is. But opinion in those cities is atypical of Russian public opinion. And of course it’s a perfectly general problem. A foreign journalist posted in New York or Washington is going to get a misleading view of what the United States is like. And I think you’d say much the same is true of the major cities in just about any country.
Some problems with proposals to come to the aid of the Big Three:
A U.S.-triggered spate of global carmaker-bailout proposals may spark trade disputes over whether the Americans are unfairly trying to subsidize their industry or just making up for state aid foreign rivals already enjoy.
As the U.S. considers a lifeline for its automakers, officials in Europe, Canada and Asia are considering their own aid packages — even as the European Union threatens to lodge a complaint against any U.S. bailout to protect manufacturers from Renault SA in France to Fiat SpA in Italy.
China also may complain, though the government is considering helping SAIC Motor Corp. and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.
In a global economic slowdown, somebody‘s output of automobiles needs to decline. But if a US bailout spurs other countries to start assisting their car companies, then overall capacity and output won’t actually shrink and more money will be needed. Note that this problem gets even more severe if you assume that the United States is going to simultaneously undertake substantial expenditures on mass transit infrastructure. Ultimately, an endlessly growing market for new cars can’t be at the center of every major economy’s industrial policy.
On Wednesday, five major U.S. corporations launched a new business coalition with the investors’ activist group Ceres to call for immediate, muscular, and progressive action to fight global warming. The founding members of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) are Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Starbucks, Sun Microsystems and The Timberland Company. As right-wing business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce pretend that limits on pollution will destroy the economy, the members of BICEP recognize that the true threat is failing to halt catastrophic climate change.
The eight principles embraced by BICEP for national action on global warming reflect recommendations from the Center for American Progress, Green For All, 1Sky, and other progressive organizations, including a moratorium on new coal plants, no subsidies for pollution permits, aggressive efficiency standards, and green-job creation in low-income communities.
In addition, BICEP calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, in line with scientific recommendations — and more than double the target set by President-elect Barack Obama.
As Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres said in a press call, tackling global warming is integral to future economic strength:
Rather than ignore risk, address the risk and turn it into an opportunity. We need to send the right and honest market signal. Carbon pollution has a cost.
The full list of recommendations: Read more
I have no artistic abilities whatsoever, but I nevertheless find design to be an endlessly fascinating subject. And I think it’s clear that from a graphic design point of view, the Obama ’08 campaign was light-years better than anything American politics has ever seen. Thus, I found this interview with the creator of the “O” logo interesting. Still, it actually doesn’t get at the subject I’m curious about here. The logo was designed by a design professional, so obviously he was trying to do a good job. But what I’d really like to know is whether there was a conscious decision made by the campaign to try to reach higher, design-wise, than previous campaigns had done. That certainly seems to be what happened, but I’ve never heart it specifically articulated.
In its “sprint to the finish,” the Bush administration is working tirelessly to promulgate or alter a wide array of federal regulations that would weaken government rules protecting consumers, workers, and the environment.
As Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Wall Street Journal, “This administration will stop at nothing to jam through as many reckless proposals as they can before the clock runs out.”
The Wonk Room and ThinkProgress are keeping a close eye on Bush’s Backward Sprint to the Finish, and have compiled a document to keep tabs on both the proposed and already enacted changes. Here are some examples:
Cutting back Medicaid: New rules “narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid’s outpatient hospital benefit.”
Allowing mining near the Grand Canyon: A proposed rule by the Bureau of Land Management would prevent Congress from ordering emergency withdrawal of federal land from mining claims. The House Natural Resources Committee “issued such a withdrawal order in June for about 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.”
Allowing more emissions from power plants:: The Environmental Protection Agency is “finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas” by weakening the Clean Air Act.
Click here to download a pdf of the report.
Let us know in the comments if you come across any more last-minute regulatory changes during Bush’s final days in office.
As you probably know, it now looks like Tim Geithner for Treasury and Hillary Clinton for State. Geithner seems like a win-win — better-regarded by liberals than Larry Summers, but about equally well-regarded by centrists. Clinton at State is popular choice if the polls are to be believed, but I have doubts on a variety of scores — including the fact that I think she’ll be missed as a leader and spokesperson on health reform issues in the Senate. My primary preference for Obama over Clinton was that I thought his foreign policy judgment had been superior, and I know I wasn’t alone in that respect. For those of us in that boat, this has been a disconcerting turn of events.
I feel like crowing about how you’re going to sell two private jets in response to a jet-related PR fiasco is going to be counterproductive once people find out that you’ve still got three private jets. That’s way more private jets than normal people have. And it seems that GM CEO Rick Wagoner intends to keep flying private for all his personal and business travel.
These jets are not only a grotesque example of run-amok inequality in the United States, they’re an environmental disaster.
Spencer Ackerman points to the lack of Latinos among the appointments thus far made by Barack Obama. He suggests yours truly for Secretary of Commerce. I’d gladly accept the position, of course, and am also interested in being Secretary of Transportation or this White House urban policy office. And speaking of identity politics you can believe in, doesn’t it strike you as odd that neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times has any Hispanic op-ed columnists?
Earlier this week, Big Three automaker CEOs were ridiculed by members of Congress for taking private jets to Washington to plea for a federal bailout. Today, ABC reports that GM is putting two of its five corporate jets out of service allegedy “in response to the planes not being used” and not a reaction to the harsh treatment from Congress. Watch Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) criticize the auto execs:
Despite the downsizing, GM CEO Richard Wagoner “will still fly private for all business and personal travel” for “security reasons,” ABC notes.