Is it “conceivable” the media could report the news correctly? No, I’m afraid it is “unlikely.”
Today, in an extended set of remarks at a town hall meeting in Nashua New Hampshire, the President once again strongly endorsed a comprehensive bill that combines energy and climate policy — and sets a price on carbon:
The concept of incentivizing clean energy so that it’s the cheaper, more effective kind of energy is one that is proven to work and is actually a market-based approach.
In fact, he went on and on extolling the virtues of putting a price on sulfur trading in the Clean Air Act:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated her commitment to passing comprehensive health care reform during a conference call this afternoon, describing the measure as a “first among equals” in Congress’ broader jobs agenda. Pelosi insisted that she would have the votes to pass the Senate health care bill in the House if the upper chamber fist passed a reconciliation package of fixes.
“Don’t even ask us to consider passing the Senate bill until the other legislation has passed both houses so that we’re sure that it has happened, and that we know that what we would be voting for would be as effected by a reconciliation bill or whatever parliamentary initiative they have at their disposable,” Pelosi said in response to a question by TPMDC’s Brian Beutler.
Pelosi said that that “there are some pieces of legislation we can pass in tandem with the comprehensive bill” and predicted that the House would repeal insurers’ anti trust exemption next week.
Asked if the reconciliation package should include a public option, Pelosi said that the package would likely “be predicated on those areas of agreement that were signed off on before.” “The Senate never supported a public option. There is talk that yes, there would be 51 votes for it, but it never passed on the floor of the Senate.” “I have Senators calling me saying, ‘why don’t you put in a single payer?’ And then others saying, ‘why don’t you put in a public option’? Well, is there really a market in the Senate for these things?,’ Pelosi asked, adding “well, and then what, and then what?”
Pelosi reiterated that “we will not be deterred from getting something done, one way or another” and refused to discuss a ‘plan B’ if the Senate did not pass a reconciliation package. “Just because we reach a bump in the road, doesn’t mean we turn back, or that we just say, ‘let’s just cut it up in little pieces and throw it out there” Pelosi added. “We will get the job done for the American people one way or another. The best, and the way I’m committed to and my members are, is to pass the comprehensive bill.”
“For me, it’s not been a back burner. It’s right there in the same pot with jobs….All the burners are running on this stove.”
Today, former Federal Reserve Chairman and Obama administration adviser Paul Volcker appeared before the Senate banking committee to discuss the “Volcker rule,” which is the Obama administration’s proposal to bar deposit taking financial institutions from engaging in proprietary trading (trading for their own benefit, not for any particular customer).
As the Wall Street Journal reported, the bank’s themselves are gearing up to fight the rule. And they seem to have a few allies in the Senate, where one line of criticism today was that the Volcker rule would not have prevented the 2008 financial crisis, since the popular culprits — AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns — were not commercial banks and thus would have been unaffected.
Volcker addressed this criticism by explaining that, first, the administration is not claiming that this rule, in isolation, will shore up the financial system. It’s merely one part of a wider regulatory reform effort, including a resolution authority for dismantling failed, systemically risky firms without using taxpayer money.
But second, Volcker noted that we currently have a banking system where all of the large institutions are essentially subsidized by the taxpayer and can gamble with taxpayer backing, which is an untenable situation. So the Volcker rule is as much about correcting this as reacting to the last crisis. He even told Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) that should another financial crisis occur because new rules were not put in place “my soul is going to come back and haunt you”:
What I want to get out of the system is taxpayer support for speculative activities. And I want to look ahead. If you don’t bar that, it’s going to become bigger and bigger and it adds to what is already a risky business…The problem today is look ahead and try to anticipate the problems that may arise that will give rise to the next crisis. And I tell you, sure as I am sitting here, that if banking institutions are protected by the taxpayer and they are given free rein to speculate, I may not live long enough to see the crisis, but my soul is going to come back and haunt you.
While the Volcker rule would not have stopped Lehman Brothers from blowing itself up, as the New York Times pointed out, at conglomerates like Citigroup and Bank of America “proprietary trading, mainly in risky mortgage-backed securities, precipitated the credit crisis in 2008 and the federal bailout.” All of the banks were engaged in slicing and dicing mortgages, not for the benefit of their customers, but to bolster their own bottom lines. This is the sort of activity that the Volcker rule is aimed at.
And Volcker’s point about trying to prevent the next mess is important. During the financial crisis, all of the big investment banks (including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) became bank holding companies, which gives them access to federal guarantees and cheap loans. They still have those federal guarantees today and reportedly have no intention of giving them up. So they’re able to engage in all their usual high-risk trading, with money backed up by the taxpayer and none of the drawbacks of commercial lending. So it’s no coincidence that the big trading banks once again have booming profits while the institutions with more commercial lending are still stuck in the doldrums.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), firing back at reports that he would water down the rule, said today that “I strongly support this proposal. I think it has great merit.” Indeed, while no one step would have prevented the entirety of the financial crisis, that’s no reason for failing to put in safeguards that would have helped and that will make for a more secure system going forward.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) painted an Orwellian vision of health care reform yesterday, claiming that critics of the Democrats’ plan could be denied coverage. Citing an unnamed Japanese man who supposedly approached her in Washington, Bachmann suggested that critics of the Japanese government are placed on a “list” and prohibited from receiving medical care under Japan’s universal health care system. Saying “a government takeover of health care is the crown jewel of socialism,” Bachmann insinuated a similar situation could occur in “our future”:
BACHMANN:He said that in Japan, to wait and get health care is almost impossible. You get on a list and you wait and you wait and you wait. But he said this is something people don’t know: in Japan, people have stopped voicing their opinion on health care. There are things that are wrong with Japanese health care, but people are afraid of voicing. ‘Well why is that,’ I asked. [He said], ‘Because they know that would get on a list and they wouldn’t get health care. They wouldn’t get in. They wouldn’t get seen. And so people are afraid. They’re afraid to speak back to government. They’re afraid to say anything.’ Is that what we want for our future? That takes us to gangster government at that point!
Watch it (beginning at 0:50):
Other than one individual’s account, Bachmann provides no evidence to support her slur of Japan’s health care system, let alone any evidence to suggest that the same thing would transpire in the U.S. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Eric Roper “could not find evidence to back up the claim that Japan withholds health care from government critics.” He noted that a recent Washington Post article “describing the pros and cons of the Japanese health system makes no mention of it.”
Japan’s universal system has been able to keep health care costs far lower than those in the U.S., despite an aging population, allowing Japanese to visit a doctor nearly 14 times a year. Bachmann is also wrong when she claims that wait times make it “almost impossible” to receive care in Japan. As ABC News noted, “waiting lists are not a major problem” in Japan, and patients can even “go to a doctor without an appointment, but may have to sit for a long time in the waiting room.”
The Republican National Committee made a similar false accusation last August when it mailed a fundraising appeal that suggested that Democrats might use an overhaul of the health care system to deny medical treatment to Republicans.
This weekend, former Speaker of the House and conservative leader Newt Gingrich (R-GA) spoke at a gathering at the Southern New Hampshire University sponsored by STEWARD of Prosperity (Stimulating The Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt). During his appearance, Gingrich took a leading question from an audience member who suggested that the nation’s Founding Fathers would be opposed to the “illegal” immigration situation that the U.S. faces today. Gingrich resisted appealing to the right’s worse instincts and instead provided a sensible, pro-immigrant answer:
If somebody is zero threat to the United States and wants to come here as a student, or as a business-person, or as a tourist, it ought to be easy, not hard to get a visa. We currently have a system where it’s pretty easy to sneak into the country illegally, but fairly hard to get here legally. Now that doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t understand the model we’re currently using, and that needs to be fixed.
Gingrich aptly points out that the nation is currently operating under an inefficient, out-dated, and ineffective visa system. While many immigration hawks demand that undocumented immigrants go “to the back of the line,” Gingrich speaks to fact that there isn’t really a line for them to get in. The number of green cards available for low-skilled workers is capped at an inflexible number that doesn’t respond to fluctuations in demand and supply. Meanwhile, the numerical limits on family immigration have generated a visa back-log that has resulted in several family members having to wait decades to be reunited with their loved ones. Few potential immigrants meet the requirements necessary to be granted refugee status and the annual Diversity Visa program affords visas to a small number of persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Gingrich has undoubtedly started promoting a gentler alternative to the fear-mongering approach to immigration that many of his Republican colleagues have adopted. Nonetheless, not all of his positions are entirely sensible. This past summer, he told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that his solution to the nation’s broken immigration system would involve requiring undocumented immigrants to leave their homes, jobs, and U.S.-born children and go back to their home countries for a couple years until they receive a temporary worker permit to return to the U.S. During his speech in New Hampshire Gingrich further suggested “outsourcing” the temporary worker program to Visa, Mastercard, or American Express because the federal government wouldn’t be able to implement it. He also warned against becoming a “multi-lingual” country, despite the fact that he personally runs a political bilingual news and op-ed website called The Americano.
It turns out that the $199,530.00 funding for his efforts come from only four main sources, all from outside of D.C. according reports filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. … Jackson’s largest contributor is his own Maryland church based non-profit group, High Impact Leadership Coalition. [...]
The next largest contributor is the Colorado headquartered national group, Focus on the Family. … [T]hey were able to contribute $40,000 to harming gay families in D.C. … National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the national group dedicated to keeping gay people from marrying contributed $32,138.00. … Family Research Council, the D.C. based national gay bashing group, donated $25,000 through it’s 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, Family Research Council –Action.
No donations are from D.C. residents, unless you believe that Harry Jackson actually lives in D.C. His wife and son continue to live in their large suburban home. Jackson’s apartment in D.C. is the headquarters of Stand for Marriage DC.
The National Organization for Marriage is now telling its members to pressure Congress to pass a bill forcing a referendum on marriage in D.C. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has put forth “several prongs of attack against gay marriage in the district,” including a resolution of disapproval, a “possible lawsuit against the ordinance,” and a bill that would require a referendum by residents. In September, City Paper reported that a Human Rights Campaign poll conducted in the spring found “upwards of 65 percent support citywide” for same-sex marriage.
A while back, Jimmy Carter wrote a book called “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” making the point that perpetual Israel occupation & settlement of Palestinian land amounted to a policy of apartheid in the West Bank. The Anti-Defamation League wasn’t happy:
We have read your letter to American Jews. As much as the tone of this letter is different from that of your book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid,” or your many public interviews, the damage to the good name of Israel and the American Jewish community from your unwarranted attacks remains. As does our outrage.
No matter the distinction you articulate in your letter, using the incendiary word “Apartheid” to refer to Israel and its policies is unacceptable and shameful. Apartheid, that abhorrent and racist system in South Africa, has no bearing on Israeli policies. Not only are Israel’s policies not racist, but the situation in the territories does not arise from Israeli intentions to oppress or repress Palestinians, but is a product of Palestinian rejection of Israel and the use of terror and violence against the Jewish state. Nothing illustrates the stark difference better than Israel’s offer of withdrawal made at Camp David and its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Israel’s defense minister warned Tuesday that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, it will be either a binational state or an undemocratic apartheid state. [...] “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
One of the lessons I took away from the Carter controversy was that the use of the term “apartheid” seems to shut down people’s critical faculties and make them defensive. So I generally prefer to set it aside. The point is that there’s a political system in the West Bank where the Jewish residents have the right to vote, have privileged access to water, have exclusive access to some roadways, have privileged rights to travel, etc., none of which are shared by the non-Jewish residents. You can call it what you like, but it’s not democracy.
A 1995 document the North Dakota coal industry used before the legislature to show how carbon taxes would help wind and hinder lignite development.
In a bald attempt to defend coal industry profits, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) has joined a predominantly Republican push to overrule the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases are dangerous pollutants. Earlier this month, Pomeroy introduced the Save Our Energy Jobs Act (H.R. 4396), which would rewrite the Clean Air Act so that “[t]he term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.” Pomeroy’s justification for flouting the reality of the global warming threat is the need to defend the coal, oil, and gas industries:
This action could result in significantly raising local energy prices and endanger the 28,000 direct and indirect jobs that are connected to North Dakota’s coal industry, not to mention thousands of jobs connected to our manufacturing and expanding oil and gas industries.
Pomeroy’s claim that “regulations to address global climate change must only be enacted at the direction of Congress” is specious, considering that he voted against the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, which did exactly that.
This is nothing new. North Dakota’s coal industry successfully blocked the state legislature from taking action on global warming pollution in 1995, by noting that it would make wind power more cost-effective than coal. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), while extolling North Dakota’s wind power potential, has decided to side with coal when it comes to actual climate policy decisions, though he has not taken the extreme step of embracing Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) resolution to overturn the greenhouse gas endangerment finding, as Democrats Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) have.
North Dakota’s allegiance to coal has delivered low-price electricity, but at great cost. North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant, the Great River Energy Coal Creek Station, is one of the nation’s most polluting plants, spewing over 800 pounds of mercury, 24,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, four million pounds of coal waste, and a staggering 10 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.
North Dakota’s climate is beginning to spiral out of control. In the last twenty years, Red River floods expected to occur at Fargo only once every ten years have happened every two to three years. 2009′s unprecedented flooding made it the third year in a row with at least a “ten-year flood.” Pomeroy has two children — whose future he is putting at grave risk, all for the sake of donors like American Crystal Sugar ($99,025), whose facilities rely on coalplants, and the electric utilities who have given him $210,860.
Throughout my life, it’s always seemed to me that when we catch terrorists—from the 1993 World Trade Center plot to Timothy McVeigh to the Shoe Bomber (he got his miranda rights)—that what happens is they get arrested (killing people is illegal) and put on trial. Then if they’re found guilty, they’re punished. To the best of my knowledge, this wasn’t even at all controversial. But then came the Underpants Bomber and suddenly it’s horrible or something. To the extent that the Department of Justice has gone and put a website together all about the criminal justice system as a counterterrorism tool. Here’s a good post by Ken Gude on the same subject.
For some scattered thoughts of my own, I remember a time when FBI agents were considered pretty bad-ass. G-men. Dark suits, guns, intensive training at Quantico. Noting that something was a “federal crime” was meant to indicate that violators were likely to be caught and punished. Federal prison was a bad place to go.
Last, when discussing this whole subject it’s important to note that to the best of my knowledge, the conservative view is that the criminal justice system isn’t the appropriate way to deal with any sort of criminal. Conservatives didn’t like the Miranda ruling or any of the Warren Court’s other famous criminal procedure rulings. And since the Supreme Court became more conservative, right-wing justices have consistently sought to narrow the exclusionary rule, make it more difficult for convicted felons to get hearings for new evidence, etc. For all the “tea party” talk of freedom, and the right’s general blather about “limited government,” unrestricted violence by the agents of the state is a core priority for the right-wing. The view is that ideally you just detain people indefinitely. If forced, they get a military commission. If you have to have a civilian court, the accused shouldn’t have any rights. People should be tortured as a routine investigative technique. Wars should be routinely against foreign countries that haven’t attacked us. It’s a worldview soaked in violence and authoritarianism, and the relatively narrow question of what venue you try terrorism suspects in is just a small part of it.