Yesterday, a group of West Point alumni came out of the closet in order to form Knights Out, an LGBT alumni organization pushing for the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military and hoping to serve as an “open forum” for LGBT alumni and their fellow graduates. From the group’s press release:
By publicly outing themselves, the 38 members of Knights Out ended once and for all the anonymity that has obscured from full view their service to the nation as West Point graduates. Knights Out seeks to reduce the stigma associated with sexual diversity by providing an open forum for discussion between out LGBT West Point graduates and their fellow alumni. Knights Out is well-positioned to help West Point maintain its status as the world’s premier leadership institution by swiftly and effectively adapting to the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which Knights Out believes is both imminent and inevitable.
Reports over the weekend that bailed-out insurance giant AIG will be paying $165 million in bonuses to executives “in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year” have sparked bipartisanoutrage. Even ultra-conservative Bill Kristol expressed his anger in a column yesterday, asking rhetorically, “[I]f capitalism is to survive, shouldn’t the Republican party, the party that defends democratic capitalism, be particularly vehement in denouncing its excesses? Isn’t this a pretty spectacular one?”
However, it seems that Dana Perino, former President Bush’s press secretary, didn’t receive the memo. On C-Span’s Washington Journal on Sunday, Perino defended the bonuses:
PERINO: And the people who are working there that are middle-class people, are expecting to get this bonus. If they do not get it, maybe they won’t be motivated enough to try to help the company turn around and getting the company to turn around and be more profitable is important for all of us.
Perino then chastised the “rhetoric in Washington” that “can try to make things so black and white, and make things sound so easy — demonize people when I don’t think that that’s fair.” Watch it:
It appears that Perino either doesn’t know who is set to receive the bonuses or is unaware what it means to be “middle class” (i.e. those American households that generally make between $40,000 and $70,000 per year). In fact, while as of Sunday, it was unclear what the salary range is for the executives who are set to get the bonuses, as The New York Times reported at the time, some of them will receive more than $3 million in bonuses alone.
A new Wonk Room analysis notes that under Bush’s tax system, these AIG executives will collectively take home $7.5 million more dollars more than they would have in the 1990s. But President Obama’s budget would effectively eliminate the Bush tax bonuses, allow middle class families to save as much as $800 per year, and invest in health care, renewable energy and education.
ThinkProgress interviewed Scott Evertz — director of the Office of National AIDS Policy from 2001 to 2002 — about his reaction to the report:
Shocking, but we shouldn’t be particularly shocked. We’ve known for some time that in the District and other place where we see severe economic disparities that the prevalence is as high in some of the countries that we’re assisting in Africa. I think what needs to be continued to be worked on is to recognize the differences in risk groups and the messaging and how you get messages into specific risk group populations.
Funding for government-sponsored domestic AIDS/HIV initiatives like the Ryan White Program flat lined during Bush’s tenure, as the administration focused its efforts around faith and community-based organizations preaching abstinence-only. In the District, the administration “called for renewing restrictions on the D.C. government’s ability to use its own funds for such purposes as a needle-exchange program for drug addicts,” despite city’s insistence that such programs were “crucial to curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS.”
Evertz, who himself “was forced out of his job at the White House in July of 2002” after bulking the conservative orthodoxy on needle exchange programs and safe-sex education for teenagers, rebuked the Bush administration’s one-size-fits-all approach to fighting the domestic AIDS epidemic.
“I think what needs to be continued to be worked on is to recognize the differences in risk groups and the messaging and how you get messages into specific risk group populations,” he said. “Abstinence until marriage has meaning to very few young gay people in the United States because they can’t get married. So I don’t think I’m being disingenuous to suggest that that message means nothing to a young gay person who’s struggling coming out.”
Earlier today, Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) introduced legislation that would direct Treasury Secretary Geithner to “recover AIG executive bonuses, increase transparency in bailout funds, and detail for taxpayers the communications between the Administration and AIG.” While Republican Leader John Boehner touted the legislation as the “two-pronged House GOP response to AIG revelations,” it seems to be a rehash of what President Obama is already doing to address the issue. As Obama explained yesterday:
In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury. And I’ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole. I want everybody to be clear that Secretary Geithner has been on the case.
Greg Sargent writes that the legislation appears to be “an effort to position the Republicans as the ones who are leading a populist rebellion against AIG and are trying to wrest those bonuses back.” In reality, it appears that the House Republicans are just playing catch up.
Yale and George Mason Universities surveyed 2,164 Americans last fall about their “climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and actions.” Details will be posted at midnight Tuesday here. Here is a first look:
92 percent supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power;
85 percent supported tax rebates for people buying energy efficient vehicles or solar panels;
80 percent said the government should regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant;
69 percent of Americans said the United States should sign an international treaty that requires the U.S. to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by the year 2050.
Americans say they are prepared to incure significant costs, as the figure above shows. In fact, they “support policies that would personally cost them more,” specifically (emphasis in original):
Conservative voucher fans sometimes tout school choice, as practiced in Sweden, as a good model for the United States to follow. And they’re right, there’s something to be said for the Swedish system. But as Dana Goldstein points out, what they do in Sweden is much closer to what we call charter schools in the United States than to a system of “vouchers.” Swedish independent schools “remain completely government-financed and are not allowed to charge tuition fees.” So, yes, this is a good model, but it’s basically the model that most progressives are already embracing. Meanwhile, people who want to eliminate public education in the United States are already largely looking past the voucher step and moving straight to education tax credits. Of course these people tend to work at the same institutions that have lately taken to arguing that refundable tax credits aren’t “really” tax cuts at all, so the larger trajectory is to move away from a system of taxpayer financed universal education to something where the well-off get a tax subsidy to educate their kids and poor children work as chimney-sweeps or something.
I, for one, will be sticking with the charter schools.
This afternoon on CNN, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pretended as though he had favored capping the salaries of bankers whose firms accepted TARP funds, claiming that his position has been that bailed-out companies “are going to have to operate in a different sort of way.” When host Wolf Blitzer asked whether Congress should have passed salary caps on bailout recipients, McConnell acts as though he had been in favor of such a proposal:
BLITZER: Should the Congress — and you are the leader of the Republicans in the Senate — have passed salary caps on these bailed out companies?
McCONNELL: We certainly had a chance with the amendment by Senator Snowe to prevent this kind of bonuses from being paid. But look, the day-to-day responsibility of oversight of TARP funds is at the Treasury Department.
McConnell is certainly right: Congress did have a chance to pass salary caps. However, he opposed such a move at the time, telling ABC News, “I really don’t want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do. … We have to resist the temptation to basically dictate to these businesses how to run every aspect of their operation.” On CNN today, McConnell accused AIG of “trying to have it both ways.” Pot, meet kettle.
This BHTV episode with Matt Welch was recorded last week, but the issue in this clip—will an ineffectual response to the financial system crisis sink an otherwise worthwhile Obama administration—remains highly relevant:
As The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday, when the Washington Post wrote up the report, they “put the word torture in quotation marks.” Appearing on CSPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, Danner took the press to task for engaging in a “semantic debate” over whether the U.S. committed torture under the Bush administration.
“One can continue to talk about torture is in the eye of the beholder, etc etc, but frankly, nobody of any legal reputation believes that,” said Danner. Later in the interview, he added that he was “frustrated by the practices of the press” that are “interfering with a clear debate”:
DANNER: I think the definitional question is extremely important, and as I mentioned a moment ago, I think it’s extremely important to get by it already. We’re debilitated in that by some degree by the practices of the American press, frankly, which is that as long as the president or people in power continue to cling to a definition that they assert is the truth — as President Bush did when it came to torture, he said repeatedly the United States does not torture — the press feels obliged to report that and consider the matter as a question of debate.
What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact.
But despite the evidence of this certainty, traditional media outlets still dance around using the word torture. Andrew Sullivan calls this the “the cowardice of the MSM.” Danner calls it “ridiculous” and “a fallacy.”
Via Brian Beutler it seems that “According to scientists, our mental abilities begin to decline from the age of 27 after reaching a peak at 22.”
This explains a lot. I started this blog when I was twenty, and it was pretty good and some folks read it. Then it secured a steadily growing audience throughout 2002 and 2003 and soon we were set for Matt Yglesias’ Golden Years of Blogging. But ever since 18 May 2008, the quality of this site has been slowly and steadily draining away. And it’s no accident—I’m getting dumber!