Earlier this month, News Corp. president Rupert Murdoch said that President Obama made “a very racist comment” when Obama inserted himself into the July spat between Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Officer Jim Crowley. Murdoch also said Fox News host Glenn Beck “was right” to say Obama is a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Today on Capitol Hill, Media Matters’ staffers asked Murdoch to be more specific about what “racist” comments Obama allegedly made, but Murdoch denied he had made the charge:
MMFA: Mr. Murdoch, can you be more specific about what racist comments the President allegedly made?
MURDOCH: I denied that absolutely. I don’t believe he’s a racist.
“But you said that he made racist statements,” the staffer noted as Murdoch walked away. Watch it:
A top White House adviser yesterday pushed back against the idea of paring down Senate legislation on energy and global warming and frowned upon emerging talk among some moderates to limit legislative efforts to capping greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
“Our position is, let’s do it all,” said Carol Browner, President Obama’s senior aide on climate and energy issues. “Slicing and dicing isn’t going to work. It’s time to finally have comprehensive energy legislation in this country.”
That’s Greenwire (subs. req’d) reporting today on a panel discussion that included Browner. She still has her (globally) warm sense of humor:
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier this week confirmed he plans to bring up the energy and climate bill on the floor next spring after work is done on both health care and financial regulatory reform. Asked about that timing, Browner said she expects to see Senate action in March or April. “The good news is spring comes early in Washington, earlier and earlier with climate change,” she joked.
I’ve been traveling, so I haven’t had time to dive into the idea floated by some, including Sen. Lugar’s office, of “combining power plant-only cap-and-trade legislation with building efficiency standards and stronger fuel efficiency requirements for the transportation sector.” I doubt that will be the endgame, since the more one looks into the idea, the less sense it makes.
Shortly after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) agreed to drop his opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominee for Ambassador to Brazil, interim Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL) decided to pick up where DeMint left off. DeMint had been blocking Thomas Shannon’s nomination over the Obama’s policy on the coup in Honduras; LeMieux, on the other hand, is accusing the former Bush nominee of being soft on Cuba.
According to an anonymous Republican aide, LeMieux is delaying Shannon’s confirmation over the role he played in initiating talks with Cuba on migration and direct mail service when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under the Obama administration. Yet while many suggest that LeMieux is trying to “burnish his Cuba credentials to help Crist,” he may not realize that Shannon’s actions were largely motivated by an effort to “bridge the gap” between Cuban Americans and their relatives in Cuba. The Obama administration has allowed Cuban Americans to visit their family members and lifted limits on money transfers to Cuban relatives, all while keeping in place long-standing trade restrictions. While still in office, Martinez chose to describe the developments as “good news for Cuban families separated by the lack of freedom in Cuba.”
Curiously, a new report recently revealed that wealthy supporters of the U.S. embargo against Cuba have contributed almost $11 million to members of Congress since 2004 and have been largely successful in blocking efforts to weaken sanctions against Castro’s government. In the meantime, long-time Republican Cuban Americans “drift[ed] to Obama” during the 2008 elections.
LeMieux was nominated and confirmed as Assistant Secretary by a Republican president and Republican-dominated Congress in 2005. Up until Obama’s inauguration, Shannon was working under an administration that approached Cuba with a heavy iron fist and often referred to Castro’s government as part of the infamous “axis of evil.”
Holding up Shannon’s nomination means the U.S. has limited diplomatic relations with the largest and most economically robust country in Latin America. Brazil also ranks fifth among the world’s most populated countries.
Though regulatory reform legislation has been moving in the House for weeks, the Senate only started today, with members of the Senate Banking Committee giving their opening statements regarding Chairman Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) reform bill. Republicans, who have already said that they will lend the regulatory reform effort zero support, were unanimously opposed to the bill, particularly the provision to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).
The Kanjorski amendment that was dealt with yesterday on the House side was an exercise in European politics where there was some belief that a group of thoughtful people can choose winners and losers in the marketplace that are still doing well, that aren’t at risk, and decide how those winners and losers should be structured. Well where does that stop? Is Coca-Cola, should they be broken up under the House bill? Wal-Mart, maybe, because they don’t have a union, should be broken up under the House bill? This is undermining the American advantage, especially relative to our European neighbors.
While Wal-Mart’s lack of unionization is a shame, Kanjorski’s amendment clearly states that it only pertains to financial institutions, which can be broken apart only for threatening the financial system, and only after more stringent capital requirements have proven ineffective in removing the threat:
Scott Valentin, the banking analyst at FBR Capital Markets, told DealBook that he expects the Kanjorski’s push will meet its demise in the Senate, as “Wall Street’s objections…will win out in the end.” Valentin “based his opinions partly on meetings he had with Senate Republican staffers the day before the final language of the bill was released.”
A new congressionally commissioned report just stuck it to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl is the leading advocate in the Senate for testing nuclear weapons and has led the charge against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – a treaty that seeks to stop countries from testing nuclear weapons.
Obama has made ratifying the treaty a major priority and there are hopes that the Senate will bring it up next year, yet conservatives led by Kyl are looking to block it. One of Kyl’s main arguments against CTBT is that it would prevent the U.S. from physically exploding nuclear weapons, which he insists we need to do to ensure the effectiveness of the US nuclear arsenal. Writing an oped in the Wall Street Journal last month titled Why We Need To Test Nuclear Weapons, Kyl wrote that “a ban on testing nuclear weapons would jeopardize American national security.” He asserted that “concerns over aging and reliability have only grown” and insisted that “the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons still cannot be guaranteed without testing them, despite more than a decade of investments in technological advancements.”
Unfortunately for Kyl, a new congressionally-commissioned study (pdf) conducted by a panel of independent scientists has proven him dead wrong. The study concluded that the current programs in place to maintain the effectiveness of the US nuclear arsenal – a program called the Life Extension Program (LEP) – have demonstrated that:
Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date.
In other words, there really is no need to ever test a nuclear weapon – something the US hasn’t done in the last 17 years – or build new replacement warheads. This study effectively undercuts one of the main arguments of CTBT opponents and should strengthen the push to ratify the treaty next year. As Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association concluded: “There is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing, and it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear testing by others. A growing list of bipartisan leaders agree that by ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. stands to gain an important constraint on the ability of other states to build new and more deadly nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to American security.”
There was some revisionism on Twitter earlier today trying to get me to raise my estimation of The Hot Rock which, while good, I think is relatively weak for a Sleater-Kinney album. “Burn, Don’t Freeze”, however, is absolutely excellent.
Mississippi Gov. and Repulican Governors Association (RGA) President Haley Barbour (R) attracted attention on Wednesday for praising former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, saying that she’s “a heck of a lot smarter than she gets credit for.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean Barbour thinks she’s ready to run for president. Today on MSNBC, Chris Matthews repeatedly asked Barbour if he thought Palin was qualified to be president. In response, Barbour would stop, stumble, and muster out weak statements like, “Constitutionally, she sure is” or “I don’t know anything that disqualifies her from being president” (perhaps subtle winks to the birther community that believes Obama is unconstitutionally unqualified?). Watch it:
People tend to prefer PPOs to HMOs. PPOs tend to be more expensive than HMOs. But HMOs tend to have a higher actuarial value. The average PPO is in the low 80s, while the average HMO is 93 percent.
The reason is that PPOs make up for their easy access to specialists by building in more copayments and cost-sharing. HMOs offer more first-dollar coverage, and though specialists are more irksome to access, there’s less cost-sharing. But people prefer ease of access to coverage, so the HMO’s actuarial advantage doesn’t translate into a market preference. In other words, actuarial value isn’t everything.
Danes have two insurance options to choose from for outpatient care. Group 1 is an HMO-style system in which all doctors’ visits are free, but in order to see a specialist you need to get cleared by your primary care physician. Group 2 is a PPO-style system in which there’s cost-sharing when you see a doctor (the government still pays most of the tab, but you need to pay some) but you have the right to go see a specialist directly. Group 1 includes a staggering 98.5 percent of the population indicating an overwhelming preference for cheaper over easier access.
I think the strong, but opposite, US and Danish preferences are mostly about status quo bias. In the United States, HMOs were a relatively new innovation and people have proved willing to spend a considerable amount of extra money to avoid them. In Denmark it’s the reverse, and the Group 2 option is an innovation after decades of non-availability, and Danes seem uninterested in giving up their traditional free medicine in order to get more flexibility.
Republicans often use immigration as a wedge to kill initiatives and policies they don’t like, but Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) most recent antics are quite a stretch. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee put Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in the hot seat over the decision to hold the trials of alleged 9/11 plotters on American soil.
Holder seemed baffled when Cornyn started drilling him on whether alleged 9/11 plotters will have an immigration status or be able to apply for asylum:
CORNYN: When the detainees come to the United States, will they have some immigration status?
HOLDER: I am not an immigration expert, I do not know what their status might be. I am confident however, given the fact that they would be here under the supervision of and as a result of being charged in a federal court that we would be able to detain them, that we would be able to hold them as we would do with anybody who has been charged with such serious crimes.
CORNYN: Are you aware of any more to their ability to claim asylum, or argued that they should not be able to be removed from the U.S. because of the convention against torture?
HOLDER: Again, I am not an immigration expert. One can be paroled in the United State solely for this purpose, but there’s no right to be here after[...]
CORNYN: Will you acknowledge that it’s possible — or let me ask you if you’d like into it — whether if a detainee claims an immigration status by virtue of their presence on U.S. soil it will allow them to immediately trigger tandem administrative and federal judicial immigration proceedings?
The National Immigration Law Center tells the Wonk Room that detainees will be brought to the U.S. but kept in custody on criminal charges — without an immigration status. In the unlikely event that they are acquitted, they could still be kept in custody and put in removal proceedings.
It’s unlikely that suspected 9/11 plotters would be granted asylum — let along a green card — even if they tried. Syracuse University points out that there’s a common misconception that the U.S. asylum system is abused by people who endanger national security. However, “asylum applications are subject to stringent review procedures by adjudicators in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and to rigorous background and security checks.” Terrorism concerns essentially lead to an automatic disqualification from asylum and immediate deportation.
In yesterday’s congressional testimony, Holder indicated that he was “confident justice would be delivered to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other accused plotters of the 9/11 attacks.”
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of DigiDani.
It’s not often that I get to endorse awesome pop cultural things that my friends are doing, since, um, I work in Washington, DC, and most of my buddies are policy wonks. But on Friday, at 9pm or thereabouts, I’ll be taking my skinny-jeans-and-vintage-bekicked self over to the Backstage at the Black Cat to see DJ Stylus spin old-school hip-hop with DJ Dredd. He’s promised to play some OutKast to satisfy my sweet tooth, but the evening as a whole will be more throwbacky than that. Check out these mixes from their last set, if you’re curious. Cover’s $7. Dress is fly. Maybe I’ll see you there.