Earlier today, a collection of RNC photos (now password-protected) featuring Michael Steele in various (and often bizarre) poses with interns began making the rounds on the internet. As it turns out, this isn’t the first brush with internet fame for many of the interns. At least five of the interns photographed with the party’s “urban-suburban” chairman are prominently featured on the widely ridiculed RNC website as ordinary “GOP Faces.” See the matchups here:
GOP's 'Faces' are RNC interns
It’s no wonder Republican consultant Mindy Finn so confidently confirmed that all the “Faces of the GOP” were actual Republicans. Would you like a chance to appear on the RNC website? No problem! Sign up here.
A little while back, a Twitter meme called #3albums started to spread, asking people to name the three most formative albums of their teenage years. I compiled a thoroughly defensible list: The Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album, Big Star’s #1 Record, and Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. The list was honest; certainly, my junior year of high school I listened to all three an absurd number of times. #1 Record is my favorite album to this day. But it was also safe. There is no context in which I would not feel comfortable defending any one of those records, not even among the most obscurantist of rock snobs. They’re good, I know they’re good, and I’m secure enough in that judgment to not care if anyone bashes them.
But then our blogmistress had to go and put her list together. And one of the albums was the Indigo Girls’ Swamp Ophelia. In the interest of radical honesty, I just checked my iTunes playcounts, and one song from that album–”Reunion”–has a grand total of 215 plays to its credit. The last play was in September 2006–and the last play for the rest of the album was a year earlier–but still: when I loved that album, I loved it to death. But damned if I wasn’t too embarrassed to admit it on Twitter. Same deal when I just saw that Natalie Merchant is releasing a new album after six years. “Jealousy” from Tigerlily? 192 plays. In both 10,000 Maniacs form and solo, she was more or less my soundtrack to freshman year. Tweetable? Not even barely.
This is weird. Listening to them again, I certainly don’t enjoy Merchant or the Indigo Girls the way I did early in high school, but they’re not embarrassingly bad. What’s more, in terms of non-musical impact they’re pretty close to ideal. While other kids were listening to say, Nelly or Limp Bizkit and getting the sort of gender politics one would expect from those acts, I was listening to explicitly, forcefully feminist material. The Indigo Girls talked about suffragettes as though they were history’s greatest badasses, while 10,000 Maniacs recorded a track in praise of Jezebel. Hell, Amy Ray’s solo material had me screaming “Lucy Stone-rs don’t need boners / Ain’t no man could ever own her” at the top of my lungs. There are worse sentiments for a fourteen year old boy to absorb. Indeed, I doubt I would have gotten into The Blow, Sleater-Kinney, and other explicitly feminist indie acts the way I did had I not grown up on Merchant and the Indigo Girls.
So consider this a belated #3albums: Swamp Ophelia, Tigerlily, and 10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged. Not because I still love them like the way that I used to do, but because gateway drugs to feminist indie rock are things to appreciate, not to disown:
Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, by a vote of 223-202. The bill overhauls the nation’s financial regulatory system by creating a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), providing a dissolution mechanism for dismantling failed financial firms (without using taxpayer money), and bringing some transparency to the derivatives market.
“This legislation brings us another important step closer to necessary, comprehensive financial reform that will create clear rules of the road, consistent and systematic enforcement of those rules, and a stronger, more stable financial system with better protections for consumers and investors,” said President Barack Obama.
Overall, 27 Democrats (and every Republican) voted against final passage of the bill, siding with the financial services industry and Wall Street banks against consumers and regular investors. After the jump is a full list of Democrats who either voted against final passage or in favor of Minnick’s amendment: Read more
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable. For example, here’s Steven Pearlstein on minority leader Mitch McConnell:
The bad Mitch, as most Americans know by now, is the charmless and shameless hypocrite who offers up a steady stream of stale ideology and snarky talking points but almost never a constructive idea. McConnell has decided that the only way for Republicans to win is for President Obama to lose, and he will use lies, threats and all manner of parliamentary subterfuge to obstruct the president’s programs.
Pearlstein contrasts McConnell with the good Mitch, Mitch Daniels, “a principled but practical conservative who respects the intelligence of voters and would rather get something done than score political points.”
One can only imagine how Republicans could have reshaped health-reform legislation in the Senate if it had been Mitch Daniels rather than Mitch McConnell running the show, striking deals with the White House and moderate Democrats to win concessions in exchange for a pledge not to filibuster.
I think this is largely right, but I agree with Ezra Klein that it vastly underrates the structural issues at work: “Governors have to make their state work. Minority leaders have to win seats in the next election. Telling this story in terms of good people and bad people doesn’t give enough weight to the structural incentives that make people of all sorts do good and bad things.”
We’re suffering from an incoherent institutional set-up in the senate. You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
Something that I don’t think is well-understood in the American conversation is that Pakistani perceptions of what’s going on are very divergent from the narrative that exists here in the states.
For example, Shahid R. Siddiqi had a piece in the Pakistani paper Dawn earlier this week arguing that Barack Obama’s plan to have US forces leave Afghanistan in 2011 to be replaced by an Indian garrison is doomed to failure:
The US-Indian belief that India can hold the fort for the US in Afghanistan is a fallacy. The Afghans being fiercely opposed to foreign occupiers, it would be naïve to expect that Indian forces would be welcome to stay after the Americans withdraw. Notwithstanding the support of the Northern Alliance and Karzai’s weak government, The Taliban, who are bound to gain political influence in Kabul sooner or later, will reject Indian military presence on their soil, as it will represent American interests.
Now this argument seems sound enough, except you may be wondering what this plan to have India “hold the fort” is. But as he explains:
The announcement by President Obama that his administration would begin to pull out its troops from Afghanistan after 18 months has given rise to apprehensions in Pakistan that he may install India as a proxy power to protect US interests.
Motivated by its sinister designs to weaken Pakistan, India is actively promoting an East Pakistan style insurgency in Balochistan. Once its military gains a foothold in Afghanistan it will squeeze Pakistan from the western border, while using rogue elements from the tribal belt, which it has already recruited, to destabilise Pakistan. Ample evidence of these activities was handed over to Indian prime minister by his Pakistani counterpart.
As far as Americans are concerned, this is crazy talk. And, indeed, it’s crazy talk. But the existence of the crazy talk is a reality, and it seems to me that US policymakers don’t have a real plan for it. I keep hearing that one objective of the war is to reassure the Pakistan government that they don’t need to cut a side deal with the Afghan Taliban to secure their interests in the region. But what you hear from Pakistanis is that the US, Hamid Karzai, and India (and possibly domestic insurgents in Pakistan) are all in cahoots.
Hill sources explain that this was inserted because CBO said premiums would “go through the roof” if insurers couldn’t cap benefits. The official quote from Jim Manley, Harry Reid’s spokesperson, says much the same thing. “We are concerned that banning all annual limits, regardless of whether services are voluntary, could lead to higher premiums,” he explained. “We continue to work with experts on how best to accomplish our goals of preventing insurance companies from imposing arbitrary coverage limits while providing the premium relief American families need and deserve.”
This doesn’t make too much sense, particularly because the House bill managed to avoid use “unreasonable” language without causing premiums to soar. To be fair, the House limits unnecessary care by using “medical management” in another section of the bill. The Senate bill was likely trying to get at the same thing, but did so in the broadest terms possible. Compare:
The House bill deploys the far narrower “medical management” language on page 109. “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit a group health plan or health insurance issuer from using medical management practices so long as such management practices are based on valid medical evidence and are relevant to the patient whose medical treatment is under review.”
The Reid language goes beyond this narrow provision and should be changed. Encouraging plans to manage unneeded care is one thing, allowing them to establish so-called ‘reasonable’ limits is another.
Earlier this year, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele ridiculed the notion that the Earth is warming, arguing instead that the world is actually “cooling,” citing the supposed examples of Iceland and Greenland:
STEELE: We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.
“I’m embarrassed for the Republicans,” one Discover Magazine blogger wrote of Steele’s comments. Yesterday, a reporter from the local Fox Tampa affiliate asked Steele how he knows the Earth is cooling. “I don’t!” Steele exclaimed:
Q: Global warming, you say the earth is cooling. Michael how do you know for sure?
STEELE: I don’t! I don’t! But apparently neither does anybody else! Ok? I don’t. All i know is every morning I come on, I turn on channel 13 and I’ll see what the weather man tells me okay?
Watch it (starting at 7:15):
Steele doesn’t know how he knows “we are cooling” because there isn’t any evidence to support that claim. It’s a political tactic the right wing uses to obstruct meaningful action to address climate change.
Climate experts and scientists reject the idea that a number of relatively cool years in the last decade are any indication of “global cooling.” “It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record…and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects,” U.N. World Meteorological Organization secretary-general Michael Jarraud said. In fact, independent statisticians have called the global cooling myth “not scientifically legitimate.”
Of course, the actual science is clear. This has been the hottest decade in recorded history. Climate change is real. The earth is warming, and it is man-made. But as Steele said during his Tampa Fox affiliate interview, “I’m still tryin’ to find a brother who will tell me, ‘This is the temperature that it should be,’ so, you know, we don’t know.” But just because Steele doesn’t know, doesn’t mean “we” don’t.
Greg Sargent notes a new Ipsos/McClatchy poll showing that “Republicans are increasingly isolated in their denial of global warming.”
Apparently John Bolton deems it objectionable to cite conflict-reduction as any kind of worthwhile aspirational value:
BOLTON: He says we have to acknowledge the hard truth we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. Well, no kidding. You know, homo sapiens are hard-wired for violent conflict, and we’re not going to eliminate violent conflict until homo sapiens ceases to exist as a separate species. And the whole notion you could even think about eliminating it not just in our lifetime but soon thereafter I think reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature.
For comparison’s sake, note that homo sapiens are hard-wired to use stone spears to hunt and kill grazing animals for food. And yet, hunting grazing animals has become a pretty marginal phenomenon in human existence. Doing it as a primary means of subsistence, as opposed to a hobby, has become even more marginal. Doing it with stone tools is even more marginal, though it does of course still happen.
In much the same way, the murder rate in contemporary industrialized societies is dramatically lower than what it was before the industrial revolution. And as Benjamin Friedman observed in his post on Obama’s speech, the reality, documented by the Human Security Brief, is that both interstate and intrastate wars have become rarer and less deadly in recent decades.
These are important elements of human progress. Whether or not it’s ever possible to truly eliminate violent conflict will have to remain a subject for speculation, but violent conflict has been massively reduced in the recent past and all signs point to the possibility for future large reductions. There’s a real danger than an attitude of cynicism will create self-fulfilling prophesies of violent conflict and renewed superpower rivalry.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm
The new AOSIS text, and China’s reaction
By Angel Hsu and Christopher Kieran, part of “Team China” tracking the Chinese delegation live from Copenhagen, re-posted from The Green Leap Forward.
Plenary sessions were closed off to observers today, which means that we unfortunately cannot beat the Earth Negotiations Bulletin with insights as to what went down on the negotiating floor. Nonetheless, we were able to get quotes from Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei (seated center; on his left is Su Wei, leading negotiator in the Chinese delegation) – the highest level Chinese government official that has spoken to date (Premier Wen Jiabao is expected next week). We also acquired the text of the big proposal that hit the COP today: “The Copenhagen Protocol” from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
1) Is “auditing, supervision, and assessment” (ASA) the new “measurable, reportable, verifiable” MRV?