It’s become kind of a cliche to point out that the greatest beneficiary of the Iraq war was Iran. It’s a cliche because it’s true. But, as conservatives begin to ramp up their “engagement was a nice idea but now because Iran didn’t immediately give up everything we must bomb Iran” campaign, it’s worth considering who bombing Iran would really help.
First, Iran’s hardliners. Yes, we helped them by invading Iraq, but there’s so much more we can do for them by bombing Iran. As Karim Sadjadpour said here, he thinks that “Khamenei and Ahmadinejad would actually welcome a military strike,” which “may be their only hope to silence popular dissent and heal internal political rifts.” As I wrote the other day, it’s hard to think of a more efficient way to extinguish Iran’s reform movement than by either an Israeli or U.S. strike.
Second, Russia. Bombing Iran would effectively do for Russia what the Iraq invasion did for Iran: Vastly improve its strategic situation and bolster its influence in the region. While the international community is preoccupied with frantic efforts to stamp out the conflagration that would surely ensue after such strikes, Russia will see an opportunity to further expand its hegemony over its near abroad. And of course Russia will be very pleased to have oil shoot up to $200 a barrel, or more, as it very likely will.
Now look at the people who advocate strikes on Iran, and see if they aren’t the same people who are always railing against Russian and Iranian “thugs” — that is, the very people who will most benefit from bombing Iran. I’m sure there are other conservative betes noires who would be helped by conservative warmaking, I will share when I think of them.
Severalreports are describing Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) ‘Basic Health Plan’ amendment — which would give states the option to provide health care coverage to people with incomes between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty line (about 75% of the uninsured) — as a “quasi public option.”
States would use their purchasing power to negotiate for more affordable coverage options, improve efficiencies, and even lower the health care costs within the Exchange (by shifting lower income and disproportionately sicker individuals into the Basic Health Plan), but they would have to contract with private insurers. And there ain’t nothing public about private insurers. From the amendment:
Under this amendment, the federal government would provide funds to participating states in order to allow such states to provide affordable health care coverage through private health care systems under contract….State administrations would seek to contract with managed care systems, or with systems that offer as many of the attributes of manged care as are feasible in the local care market. A minimum medical loss ratio of 85 percent would be required of all participating plans….State administrators should seek participation by multiple health plans to allow enrollees a choice between two or more plans, whenever possible. A participating health care system can be a licensed health maintenance organization, a licensed health insurer, or a network of health care providers established to offer basic Health Plan Services.
In other words, the federal government would provide states with funds to establish Basic Health Plans for lower income Americans that would be completely run by private insurers. As Ezra Klein explains, and Cantwell freely admits during their interview, the proposal is “entirely orthogonal to the public option debate. It doesn’t create competition or transparency or experimentation.”
And remember, states have to chose to do this, and if they do, they could only offer negotiated rates to a small relatively small group of people. At the end of the day, this plan, like any state-based proposal, would lack the market clout to lower overall health care spending across the board, reform health care delivery, or hold private health insurers accountable.
Memo to media and deniers: If your “global cooling” piece revolves around Dr. Latif, you probably have the entire story backwards. But, at least for deniers, that is the goal.
In an interview today, Dr. Latif told me “we don’t trust our forecast beyond 2015″ and “it is just as likely you’ll see accelerated warming” after then. Indeed, in his published research, rapid warming is all-but-inevitable over the next two decades. He told me, “you can’t miss the long-term warming trend” in the temperature record, which is “driven by the evolution of greenhouse gases.” Finally, he pointed out “Our work does not allow one to make any inferences about global warming.”
The “coming decade” (2010 to 2020) is poised to be the warmest on record, globally.
The coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade since the authors’ calculations began in 1960.
Here is his Nature “forecast” in green (“Each point represents a ten-year centred mean” — more discussion at the end):
Now, with the caveat that Latif claims no “skill” in any forecast after 2015 — a caveat the media and deniers never print — as you can see, their model suggests we’ll see pretty damn rapid warming in the coming decade, just as the Hadley Center did in a 2007 Science piece andjust as the US Naval Research Lab and NASA recently predicted (see “Another major study predicts rapid warming over next few years “” nearly 0.3°F by 2014“).
How badly have the media [and deniers] botched this reporting unintentionally [and intentionally]? Let’s see:
Three mistakes in one New Scientist headline from last month — a record, I suspect. The headline would have been more accurate if it said, “World poised to see accelerated warming in the coming decade.”
Then we have these multiply-misleading statements:
NumbersUSA, “the leading immigration-restriction group,” is currently featuring a 20-minute video made up of a rambling patchwork of anti-immigrant activists explaining “why so many are willing to cross the border and overstay visas to remain in our country.” However, most of the video is focused on making the case against Mexican migration, despite the fact that there are also millions of undocumented immigrants from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines, Honduras, India, Korea, Brazil, China, and Vietnam.
The video features Michael Cutler, Mark Krikorian, and Steven Camarota of the “nativist lobby’s” Center for Immigration Studies, Dan Stein from the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, Cuban-American “activist” Roan Garcia-Quintana, and ex-politician Starletta Hairston. The activists provide conflicting narratives which suggest that “pro-amnesty” “liberals” should be more concerned about the deplorable conditions in Mexico while simultaneously suggesting that Mexico is not as bad as people think and therefore migration to the US is unjustified, harmful, and immoral. Stein goes as far to claim that the Mexican government is deliberately exporting its poverty:
KRIKORIAN: Compassionate pro-Amnesty people…often have a misperception about what the sending countries are like…But Mexico for instance is an upper-middle income country by world standards…it’s not poor compared to Congo or Pakistan…it’s not like they’re being consigned to Treblinka or something like that.
CUTLER: If you’re truly a liberal as I am, then you should be alarmed that people are leaving their families behind out of desperation to come here. That’s what a real liberal does. They need to be compassionate and understand the terrible situation that these people are in.
CUTLER: Mexico is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The third wealthiest man in the world lives in Mexico.
STEIN: If the objective of the Mexican government is to try to offload potential political opposition that might challenge its one-party political system, you want to try to encourage as many people who can’t find jobs to leave the country and make it not their problem, but make it our problem.
The video itself acknowledges that Mexico’s big problem is an unequal distribution of wealth and suggests that the Mexican government should get its act together and start providing for its citizens. Fair enough, Mexican politicians need to step up to the plate and start evenly distributing the wealth — but what about the other top-nine immigrant-sending countries whose GDP is below $168,580 million? Mexico may rank #13 in the world in terms of its gross domestic product, but other top immigrant-sending countries such as Honduras (#111), El Salvador (#95), Guatemala (#79), Vietnam (#60) and the Philippines (#47) are within the same range as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (#118) and Pakistan (#48). Of course Krikorian isn’t going to argue for an increase in immigration from Pakistan, Congo, or any other poor country. In fact, he’s even opposed to accepting political refugees from war-torn countries. Furthermore, Mexico is no Treblinka, but half the population is living in poverty with one fifth in extreme poverty. Regardless of whose fault it is (some would argue the US is at least partly responsible), the fact is that their condition will not improve overnight and for those who live hand to mouth, crossing the border into the US is the best means of survival and the only hope of breaking the cycle of poverty.
A few remarks from Rector, Krikorian, and Garcia-Quintana are particularly revealing of what their real concerns are. Garcia-Quintana, who considers himself to be part of an “old wave” of immigration, makes sure people know that his “family’s roots are in Spain,” and has described Mexican and Central American immigrants as “Indo-Hispanics” who “impose” their culture on him. In the video he explains that its the “new wave of people” who come to America “to change America.” Rector warns that the US is being flooded by people who do not share the same values and who threaten the nation’s prosperity while Camarota points out that the Hispanic population is “benefiting from affirmative action,” despite the fact that they are the descendants of people who arrived after the 1970′s civil rights era.
One of the most radical opponents of health care reform is Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA). He has said that a public option would “kill people.” Last Tuesday, Broun was confronted by a constituent at a health care town hall who explained that he has has gone into debt because he can’t afford insurance for his major depressive disorder. In response to his constituent’s story, Broun said that “people who have depression, who have chronic diseases in this country…can always get care in this country by going to the emergency room.” That comment prompted boos from the crowd. Towards the end of Broun’s answer, a constituent yelled, “That’s why we need a public option!” which brought cheers from the audience. Watch it:
As Georgia Liberal explains, “Treating major depression is not a one-shot deal. That is like saying cancer patients should get treatment one night in the E.R. and it is all better. You cannot treat chronic conditions in the ER.”
The perils of globalization are well-illustrated by this Stockholm drinking establishment located somewhere along my walk from the Östermalmstorg T-Bana stop and the Historiska Museet:
At first glance it appears to be merely one of the developed world’s two trillion Irish bars. But upon closer inspection it’s actually a Boston-themed bar. And not just Boston-themed, but seemingly specifically oriented around Boston sports teams, who proudly boast the most insufferable sports teams in the world.
I think Stockholm went wrong with the fact that its otherwise excellent subway system is called the Tunnelbana. This leads it to be illustrated with a “T” sign that’s eerily reminiscent of the MBTA’s own insignia.
Today, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared before the House Financial Services committee to comment on a whole host of regulatory reform issues, including the Fed’s newfound motivation to regulate compensation at financial institutions. During the hearing, Bernanke tried to drive the point home that the Fed is taking compensation reform very seriously:
As you may know, the Federal Reserve is about to issue guidance for comment on executive compensation, which will apply not only to the top five or ten executives, but way down into the organization, day-traders or anybody whose activities can affect the risk-profile of the company. And we view this as a “safety and soundness” issue.
At least rhetorically, Bernanke is hitting all of the right notes, and if the Fed’s actions matched his words, I’d be feeling pretty good about the prospects of getting compensation at financial institutions back in line. But then, the Financial Times reported today that the U.S. bank regulators, including the Fed, plan to “take a flexible approach to interpreting global guidelines on bankers’ bonuses” that were settled on at the G-20 meeting last week:
[T]he US is sticking to its belief that one-size-fits-all requirements do not make sense. The Fed’s view is that banks – subject to supervisory review – should be able to choose how to meet the test that compensation schemes should reward risk-adjusted performance and not encourage excessive risk-taking.
So on the one hand, Bernanke sounds gung-ho about reform, but on the other, the Fed admits that it will leave the ultimate decision on compensation up to the banks themselves (unless the “supervisory review” is especially rigorous).
But can we really count on self-regulation? Remember, this comes at a time when we’re seeing short-term incentives increase in executive pay packages, and Wall Street banks return to handing out guaranteed bonuses. And according to a University of Southern California Marshall School of Business survey, “while many directors think executive pay is a problem elsewhere, an overwhelming majority say it’s not at their own firms. Eighty-six percent said their own CEO’s compensation plan was ‘effective or ‘very effective.’”
“It’s nice to see the Fed make a play at populism,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). “It’s just I would suggest that it’s an ill-fitting suit.” Indeed, I still feel that most of the steps that the Fed has taken in recent weeks — from promising to regulate subprime lenders to Bernanke’s assertions on pay reform today — are meant to head off Congressional action (by providing assurances that past missteps won’t be repeated), but won’t amount to significant changes in the long-term.
ThinkProgress asked Dr. Colin Kahl, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, what the consequences might be if the war hawks had their way. “We’re a long ways away from that being an eventuality,” Kahl said, adding that the U.S. “is committed” to the “diplomatic track.” Noting that “military action is not desirable,” Kahl then laid out the sobering ramifications:
KAHL: [I]t will have an unpredictable set of consequences for the region but we can imagine a number of destabilizing ones. Depending on how Iran chose to retaliate, whether they chose to retaliate through the use of proxies in places like Iran or in Afghanistan through incitement of Shia communities in places like Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. Obviously if there was direct retaliation against U.S. forces in Iraq or Israeli interests. They could activate potentially activate or encourage Hizballah and Hamas to engage in reprisals and you can imagine the second and third order consequences of that on the peace process and on our outreach to the Muslim world and all of that.
“We don’t exactly know how it would unfold you have the prospects for unintended escalation and kind of losing control of what’s going on,” Kahl warned, adding that even though any military strike could delay Iran’s nuclear program, it could also “incentivize the Iranians to go all the way to weaponize” their nuclear material. Watch it:
Earlier this year, President Obama made it very clear that “regime change” is no longer the U.S. goal in Iran. When asked if the militaristic right-wing rhetoric undermines U.S. negotiations with Iran, a senior State Department official told ThinkProgress that it “could”:
I just saw the other day a quote from Ahmadinejad that talked about President Obama can’t even get his own job done let alone deal with us effectively. We should not underestimate the sophistication of Iran’s foreign policy apparatus and how they hear the messages from us and again, that’s one of the reasons we spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill is trying to make sure that the message they’re hearing from us are consistent.
Thankfully, Defense Secretary Robert Gates appears to have no interest in taking any advice from the neocons, saying on Sunday that “there is no military option that does anything more than buy time.”
Via John Holbo, it seems They Might Be Giants’s latest for kids projects involves a new song “Science is Real” that opens with a quote from German philosopher Rudolf Carnap:
Carnap did a lot of good work during his career, but as I tweeted it’s disappointing to see TMBG embracing his discredited view that “science is a system of statements based on direct experience and controlled by experimental verification.” That’s just not the case. It’s not how science works in practice and it doesn’t work in principle, either. Facts and theories are interdependent.
Nothing is ever observed that admits of a definitive, theory-independent observation nor does anything ever happen that can verify or falsify a single proposition in isolation. Obviously, observation and experimentation are integral to the work of scientists, but it’s a lot murkier and more complicated than that.
I think it’s unfortunate that people trying to enhance the social prestige of science and scientists (which is basically what the TMBG song is about) have this tendency to want to fall back on this kind of naive realism and positivism as their means for doing so. To understand why science is so impressive what I think you really need to do is not talk about how it’s “real” (whatever that means) but put it as a social practice alongside other social practices aimed at explaining the world. You’ll see that science is impressively progressive—when old theories get overturned by newer ones, our capabilities as a society and as a species are enhanced in really noteworthy ways. There’s no better set of ideas or practices out there. If you really really want to cling to Young Earth Creationism there’s no argument that can compel you to change your mind, but at this point in history creationist thinking is all about explaining away the successes of Darwinian theory it doesn’t actually contribute anything to enhance our understanding of things.