There’s often little real “news” during the holiday season, but at times that makes the newspapers more interesting since it frees up column inches for important topics that aren’t necessarily all that newsy. For example, when DC announced a big slumlord crackdown, that was “news.” But what every happened to it? Is it working? Debbie Cenziper takes a look in today’s Washington Post and comes up with the boring answer “sort of.” But sometimes the truth doesn’t make a good headline.
Greg Sargent reports on RNC Chair Mike Duncan’s latest thinking:
In a frank and private memo sent today to Republican National Committee members, the RNC chairman acknowledges that the GOP has grown too addicted to ideology, places politics before policy, and is bereft of ideas — and that it’s imperative that the party shift towards a genuine effort to develop concrete policy solutions to people’s problems in order to rescue itself.
The memo, which we obtained from a Republican operative. was written by RNC chief Mike Duncan to explain the RNC’s decision — first reported by Politico — to create a new in-house think tank called the “Center for Republican Renewal,” which is devoted to coming up with new policies and ideas to chart a new direction for the party after November’s devastating losses.
I think this is a mistake. Ambitious people don’t like the idea that their fate is out of their hands. But an opposition political party’s fate is largely out of its hands. The Democratic Party’s recovery from its low ebb in the winter of 2004-2005 had very little to do with Democratic policy innovation and a great deal to do with the fact that the objective situation facing the country got worse. The time for the GOP to improve, policy-wise, was back then. Had the Bush administration been animated by better ideas, Bush might not have led to declining incomes, rising inequality, and catastrophic military adventures. But since he did, the GOP lost. And now the reality is that it’s the Democrats’ turn to govern. If things work out poorly, the GOP will get back in whether or not they have an ideological renewal, and if things work out well the Republicans will stay locked out.
But the time when it’s smart politics to have smart policies is when you’re governing. The public is okay at assessing results, and not otherwise that impressed by policy arguments.
The future of the Finnish military looks pretty badass. Just saying. Everyone needs to stay on notice — they’re a small country, yes, but a fierce one.
The Ray LaHood thing was upsetting to some transportation reform advocates, but it’s worth noting that Barack Obama’s introduction of LaHood very much casts him and the administration in the reformist mode:
Standing up for our workers means putting them back to work and fueling economic growth. Our economy boomed in the 20th Century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the interstate highway system. Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st Century. Doing so will not only help us meet our energy challenge by building more efficient cars, buses, and subways or make Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges – it will create millions of new jobs in the process.
Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant I am asking to lead the Department of Transportation – Ray LaHood. As a Congressman from Illinois, Ray served six years on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leading efforts to modernize our aviation system by renewing our aging airports and ensuring that air traffic controllers were using cutting edge technology. Throughout his career, Ray has fought to improve mass transit and invest in our highways. But he has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he has helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors. When I began this appointment process, I said I was committed to finding the best person for the job, regardless of party. Ray’s appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit – a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people.
Improving mass transit beats out “invest[ing] in our highways” in Obama’s recounting of the events, and LaHood is specifically cited as a bicycle advocate. If that’s the animating spirit of the LaHood-era Department of Transportation I’ll be very happy. For now, we’ll have to see who gets the subcabinet jobs.
Last night on Fox News, Greta Van Susteren asked Mike Huckabee about President-elect Obama’s decision to choose pastor Rick Warren — who has a long record of anti-gay views — to give the invocation at his inauguration. Huckabee — who also has a long record of anti-gay views — came to Warren’s defense:
HUCKABEE: Well it’s ridiculous for people to be upset at Rick Warren. He is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of this generation. I have known Rick for over 30 years. We were actually in seminary together in Fort Worth, Texas, back in the mid-1970s. He is today what he has always been, and that is a humble, gracious, thoughtful, very intellectually capable person.
Is this a sign of the times to come or a sign of the crimes to come? The UK Times reports:
Versace, the renowned fashion house, is to create the world’s first refrigerated beach so that hotel guests can walk comfortably across the sand on scorching days. The beach will be next to the the new Palazzo Versace hotel which is being built in Dubai where summer temperatures average 40C and can reach 50C.
The beach will have a network of pipes beneath the sand containing a coolant that will absorb heat from the surface. The swimming pool will be refrigerated and there are also proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach.
And in the understatement of the year, the Times adds:
The scheme is likely to infuriate environmentalists.
I’m guessing the resort will also be introducing Hummer golf carts and coal-powered jet-skis. Then again, maybe the snarkiness is premature. Maybe this will be a “sustainable” refrigerated beach:
One thing that’s occurred to me recently is that car companies seem to make up a wildly disproportionate share of the ads I see on television. But who knows — my TV viewing, like everyone else’s, is pretty idiosyncratic. But James Fallows summarizes a talk from Robert Paterson:
As one solution is tried it drives another problem. We all pull back and the consumer economy stalls. The auto industry and credit firms feeds the media (40% of conventional advertising). Papers and TV and Radio networks, many subject to LBO’s will have to fail as per the Tribune.
Yikes — 40 percent for autos and financial services combined.
Our guest blogger is Lisa Gilbert, a Democracy Advocate with U.S. PIRG.
A foul smell is overwhelming the scent of pine this holiday season as the nation learns more about corruption allegations facing Rod Blagojevich.
Governor Blagojevich has been accused of trying to hold the editorial board of the Tribune hostage for state funding, asking for gifts from contractors and hospital executives, and trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder. Blagojevich should resign effective immediately; however the activities that he so casually engaged in are a loud wake-up call to the undue influence of money on our political system.
The need to constantly seek enough money for campaigns is the reality of our democracy. The candidate with the most money spent on his or her behalf typically wins 85%-95% of elections. The relentless pursuit of this funding, oftentimes from those who have a stake in what happens in legislative decisions and appropriations, creates an environment in which money (and who it came from) can mean more than representing your constituents.
While we can’t stop people like Governor Blagojevich from seeking to game the system for personal gain, we can try to halt the tide of private contributions that lead politicians toward corruption. To do this, we need to clean up our election process by putting in place a strong public financing system.
The public supports this idea. In 2008, unprecedented numbers of small donors supported President-elect Obama. Following this historic upturn in involvement, small donors are looking for a fair system that will recognize their support. According to polling data from Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group:
Voters support a proposal for publicly funding elections that includes a ban on lobbyist contributions and accepting only small contributions by over a 5-to-1 ratio.
Even before the Blagojevich holiday scandal, the public was concerned about the corrupting influence of money on politics. 77% of voters also said that they worried that big gifts to politicians would keep Congress from working on critical issues like jobs and the economy.
The Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the 110th Congress by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), and Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.). President-elect Barack Obama was a co-sponsor on the bill, which will put in place a system where opt-in candidates qualify for funds to start their campaign by receiving a significant amount of small donations from individuals. Candidates will agree to take no large donations and to keep their own funds out of the race in exchange for this public funding. Small donations will be matched with public funding to help further level the playing field.
As Americans enjoy this Christmas and hope that under their trees they’ll find a universal healthcare system and green job creation, let’s give them a chance to be heard by their elected officials. President-elect Obama promised to reform the public financing system. Let’s hold him to his word, and transform the big money system that allows corruption at the Blagojevich level to flourish into a participatory clean system of public financing.
I don’t have a great deal to add to Paul Krugman’s great column from yesterday but I just want to make sure everyone reads it. One hopes we can rebuild our economy without such a huge — and hugely profitable — finance sector.
Report: White vigilante groups blockaded small town in post-Katrina New Orleans and murdered blacks.
Earlier this week, A.C. Thompson of The Nation revealed that after Hurricane Katrina, white vigilante groups patrolled New Orleans, blockaded streets, and shot at least eleven black men. It “was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it,” said one vigilante. Color of Change is organizing a campaign to tell Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and state officials to investigate the shootings, as “Louisiana’s broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes.” Watch Thompson’s video on his report:
Color of Change is also sending messages to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. Sign the petition here.