The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman notes that at a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Adam Ereli boasted that the Iraqi banking sector is taking advice from Citibank:
Beyond education and culture, in the field of economy and services, it’s worth noting that representatives of U.S. banks, JP Morgan and Citibank and others came to Baghdad on January 28th, participated in an international banking conference that explored correspondent banking relations that would deepen commercial ties between Iraq and the international community, business community. Citibank has already established correspondent relationship services agreement with Iraq’s Warka Bank that allows clients of both banks to execute cash payments, wire transfers and trade transactions to both corporate and retail entities in all Iraq’s cities and provinces.
Today, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in Congress, and the right-wing misinformation machine has gone intohigh gear in an attempt to defeat the legislation.
The number one falsehood perpetuated about the bill is that it would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing, posing a fundamental threat to democracy. In that vein, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) claimed today that because “85 percent of Americans” believe “you ought to have to have a secret ballot for the formation of a union,” the Employee Free Choice Act shouldn’t be enacted:
We believe you ought to have to have a secret ballot for the formation of a union. That’s what the American people believe. 85 percent of American people believe that ought to occur. That’s the safest for employees.
So a vast majority of Americans believe in secret ballot elections. Great! They will still have that option under the Employee Free Choice Act. After all, the bill simply gives employees the choice of how they want to form a union — whether by secret ballot election or by signing cards of consent — instead of leaving the decision up to their employers. And if we’re getting into poll numbers, 73 percent of Americans also approve of the bill’s main provisions.
Do you want its Cliffs notes version? Here it is from the House Committee on Education and Labor. Quote, “The Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish the NLRB election process. That process would still be available.” [...] It does not abolish the secret ballot. People get a choice. It‘s pretty simple thing to explain actually.
It’s pretty remarkable that Price feels okay touting the opinion of the American people, while disapproving of legislation that would allow them to act on that opinion.
Revisiting Barack Obama’s education speech, this bit near the beginning touched on some interesting themes:
I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.
I agree with Obama’s conclusion, but this Moon analogy seems terrible. It’s true that there was no zero-sum tradeoff between civil rights and the moon, but at the same time we obviously did have the luxury of just not going to the moon. The point I would make about education is that the quality of the education the current generation of children receive is critical to the economic well-being of the country 20, 30, and 40 years from now and if screw it up, you can’t get the kids back in school. We really don’t have the luxury of choosing, but Kennedy did.
The Lincoln business, meanwhile, is one of congress’ great untold stories. People generally don’t think about this very much, but one important consequence of secession was to radically shift the balance of power in Congress since almost every southern member was gone. Suddenly, the super-empowered northern-based Republican majority could pass all sorts of legislation on all sorts of topics. And legislate they did—Homestead Act, all kinds of trade protections, railroad schemes, etc. Just imagine would happen in congress today if the South seceded? It would change everything! And, obviously, it’s not as if there was less regional polarization back then. Conversely, what if Southern Democrats hadn’t seceded back in 1860-61 and had just instead decided to mount a ton of filibusters of all Lincoln’s key legislative priorities? Of course back then we didn’t have the present-day understanding that routine filibusters are okay. But just for fun, project today’s alleged supermajority requirement back to the election of 1860 and a Southern decision that obstructionism was a better path to the preservation of slavery than secession.
This morning, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) spoke to Pennsylvania radio show “The Morning News with Nancy and Kevin,” where he was asked who led the Republican Party. Specter replied that he was “trying to bring it back in a sensible, centrist approach,” and indicated that neither Rush Limbaugh nor RNC Chairman Michael Steele are worth listening to:
NANCY: Where do you stand with him [Limbaugh]?
SPECTER: Nancy, I think it’s a free country and we ought to let Rush Limbaugh express himself. I think that when the White House attacks him, they’re making a mistake for a couple of reasons. One reason is he’s got a right to say what he likes. And when you get into a fight with the White House, it elevates the guy who’s fighting with the White House.
KEVIN: Absolutely. What a mistake.
SPECTER: And National Chairman Steele, well he’s said so many contradictory things I wouldn’t pay a whole lot of attention to him.
Listen to it:
Twice, Steele has threatened to refuse to financially support Specter’s re-election and instead fund his challenger. When asked recently whether he would “pledge” not to fund Republicans who voted for the stimulus, Steele replied, “That is something that is absolutely on the table for me. I’m not backing down from that.”
“Beyond education and culture, in the field of economy and services, it’s worth noting that representatives of U.S. banks, JP Morgan and Citibank and others came to Baghdad on January 28th, participated in an international banking conference that explored correspondent banking relations that would deepen commercial ties between Iraq and the international community, business community.”
Last week on the Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer parroted right-wing talking points on global warming. His program emphasized that Monday’s climate crisis protest took place in the cold — a talking point pushed by Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) office and global warming deniers from Glenn Beck to Nancy Pfotenhauer. He then followed the Heritage Foundation’s reasoning to challenge Tony Blair on the urgency of establishing a cap on carbon pollution, asking if it is “wise” to “effectively impose a new tax on consumers” instead of dealing with “bread-and-butter issues”:
At a time of this extraordinary economic distress, not only here in the United States but around the world, why go forward right now as a priority with all of these global warming related projects? It seems there are so many other key bread-and-butter issues literally on the table. … Is it wise to go ahead, effectively impose a new tax on consumers right now, an energy-related tax, this uh, uh cap-and-trade if you will, to try to reduce carbon emissions right now? In effect that’s going to be higher costs on consumers who use either gasoline or other electricity, forms of energy. Is that wise at a time of economic distress?
Blitzer summarized: “You say do it now despite all the economic issues.”
Blitzer is missing a few key facts:
Obama’s Cap-And-Trade System Begins In 2012, Not ‘Right Now.’ Nobody is proposing to “impose a new tax on consumers right now.” Instead, global leaders, including President Obama, are working to negotiate the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2010. The United States needs to have a national climate policy as soon as possible in order to lead these negotiations. Instead of taking action to lead the international community to stop global warming, the Bush administration obstructed efforts. The seeming rush to action is a consequence of these lost years. [WRI, 2002; Platts 2/24/2009]
An Emissions Cap Drives Investment In A Clean Economy. As McKinsey & Company has found, putting a cap on carbon emissions corrects market failures by driving investment into efficiency and fuel economy improvements that actually saves everyone money. Then it spurs investment into the expansion of renewable energy, creating new jobs and a competitive advantage in the international marketplace. Economic analyses of the effect of an increasingly stringent cap, applied over decades, find that the economic impact of the transition to a clean economy is dwarfed by the high volatility of fossil fuel prices. [McKinsey & Co., 11/2007; EDF, 3/11/2008; NRDC 1/28/2009]
Global Warming Is A ‘Key Bread-And-Butter Issue’ That ‘Effectively Imposes’ A Tax On The Most Vulnerable. Global warming is only one of the most serious symptoms of our fossil-based economy, which benefits polluters at the expense of everyone else. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow out of the U.S. economy to oil suppliers; inner-city children suffer from asthma and communities in Appalachia are decimated by the coal industry. And deadly weather like Hurricane Katrina, Iowa’s floods, California’s wildfires, and Texas drought are becoming the new normal. Limiting carbon pollution is key to preserving prosperity today and for future generations. [U.S. Climate Change Science Program, 2008; Tufts University, 4/2008; MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change, 2009]
Cap And Trade Is Only ‘A New Tax’ If Polluters Pass On The Costs. A cap on emissions only raises costs for those energy producers who can’t find money-saving investments in efficiency and conservation. With the recovery act, Obama has already initiated major federal incentive programs for efficiency and clean energy that subsidize those investments. Obama plans to invest $15 billion a year from the cap-and-trade program to further drive clean energy investment and benefit the power industry. Only if polluters pass on additional costs to consumers — instead of, for example, taking executive pay cuts — will a cap-and-trade system “effectively impose a new tax on consumers.” [Barack Obama, 8/3/2008; Center for American Progress, 1/21/2008]
Auctioning the emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system would generate more than enough revenue to pay for this consumer relief. Less than 60 percent of the auction revenues would be sufficient to provide relief to a substantial majority of U.S. consumers.
Let me add, from my layman’s perspective, the arguments against “nationalizing the banks” seem entirely plausible, as do the arguments against declining to nationalize the banks. The only reasonable conclusion is that we’re screwed no matter what. But at bottom, it does seem absurd that the world’s governments should devote unlimited money over unbounded time to keeping trillions of dollars of bad loans from giving up pretenses.
This is definitely my fear. I think if you look at the Sweden situation, there’s good reason to think that what they did was the only reasonable course of action. I think it’s also true that if you look at the U.S. situation and compare us to Sweden, you can come up with a whole bunch of reasons to be skeptical that what worked well there will work well here. What you don’t come up with by doing this is with any better alternatives to a Swedish solution. It could be, in other words, that we’re just doomed either way. But even though I don’t think people should downplay the cost or feasibility concerns with a Swedish approach, insofar as the other approaches are unworkable, the best thing to do is still to really put our shoulders to the wheel and try to make a Swedish solution work.
Late last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would be seeking to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. “As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,” Holder said.
RNC chair Michael Steele sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday criticizing the decision and claiming that it is “step one” in the Obama administration’s grand plan to repeal the 2nd Amendment:
The Obama Administration has revealed its intention to reinstate the so-called “assault” gun ban — Step One of their plan to repeal the 2nd Amendment.
Having already taken advantage of our country’s current economic woes to speed the largest, most pork-laden spending spree in history through the Democrat-controlled Congress, the Obama team is again using fear tactics to impose bad policy.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced his desire to once again deny law abiding Americans their 2nd Amendment rights, using the ongoing violence in Mexico as justification.
Of course, Obama does not plan on repealing the 2nd Amendment. In fact, as FactCheck (and Holder) noted, Obama specifically stated during the campaign that he supports it. “Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms,” his campaign said.
Q: Should people have access to buy assault weapons?
STEELE: Society should draw lines. What do you need an assault weapon for, if you’re going hunting? That’s overkill. [...] If you want to talk about gun control, that’s where you need to start. We’ve got 300 gun laws on the books right now. At the end of the day, it’s about how we enforce the law.
So does this mean that Steele also wants to repeal the 2nd Amendment?