Tonight, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin spoke to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, TN, an event that was ditched by other high-profile Republicans who disliked its for-profit model. After her speech, organizer Judson Phillips asked Palin several questions. One of them was about what needs to be done when there is a “conservative House and a conservative Senate.” Palin jumped right in and said, “We’ve got to rein in the spending, obviously.” However, she then seemed to forget her next talking point and glanced down at her left hand, as if there were notes she had scribbled down. She went on to talk about “energy projects.” Watch it:
Oliver Willis also caught Palin reading off of her hand. He points out that she made fun of President Obama during her speech for his use of a teleprompter.
It’s true that the old Polish system of government, requiring unanimity from an assembly of nobles, seems like a bad way to run a country. But I think the theory that this bad procedural rule was responsible for Poland’s elimination as a country isn’t all that well-supported by the evidence. Poland re-emerged as an independent country after World War I, but it found itself once again partitioned by Germany and Russia in 1939. Then after WWII it was formally independent, but in fact under Russian control.
Long story short, system of government aside, Poland is located in an unfavorably geographical position that makes conquest by Russia and/or Germany a very likely outcome. It’s a great triumph of that liberal international institution-building and norm-building has now created a situation where everyone can be very confident that Poland can stay independent. That’s a big win for Harry Truman and Jean Monnet and Helmut Kohl. But given the international situation that existed 200+ years ago, I think Poland was doomed one way or another.
Just two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of opening the floodgates of corporate donations into electoral politics, a class of Wall Street Republicans have assembled around a new GOP group that aims to capitalize on corporate America’s empowerment. According to The New York Times, the group aims to “develop and market conservative ideas…hoping to capitalize on the fundraising and electioneering possibilities opened up by a recent Supreme Court ruling.” “This administration as well as Citizens United — when you combine the two the prospects for funding these types of efforts are greatly enhanced,” said former senator Norm Coleman, one of the group’s organizers.
The Republican figures behind the American Action Network have a long history and symbiotic relationship with Wall Street. Here’s a breakdown of the key players in the group:
The Wall Street Republicans behind American Action Network
Robert K. Steel Former Goldman Sachs Exec & Wachovia CEO
Robert Steel spent close to 30 years with Goldman Sachs before joining his Goldman colleague Henry Paulson in the Treasury Department. Steel and Paulson helped ensure that Bush’s 2008 Wall Street bailout would leave Goldman “among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan.”
Kenneth Langone Home Depot Founder, Investment Banker Wall Street titan Kenneth Langone was called “The Man Behind Grasso’s Payday” after NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso was awarded $139.5 million amidst controversy over Wall Street excesses in 2004. Langone, chair of the compensation committee, defended the exuberant pay, arguing that Grasso was entitled to the amount. Then-NY AG Eliot Spitzer filed a lawsuit against the NYSE — including Langone — charging that “the board of the NYSE was misled about parts” of Grasso’s compensation. In 2004, a businessman in Florida also sued Langone for $1.8 billion. The suit charged him with “conspiring to interfere and interfering with business relationships,” as well as “extortion, defamation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and violations of the Florida Antitrust Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.”
Ed Gillespie Fmr RNC Chairman, Lobbyist
Ed Gillespie’s lobbying firm includes a host of clients whose interests are grounded in Wall Street: Enron, Citibank, Bank of America, Zurich Financial, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the “clean coal” front group ACCCE.
Fred Malek Thayer Capital Partners Founder
Fred Malek is a super-wealthy Republican operative who got his start with the Nixon administration. The former co-owner of the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush was responsible for a 1972 scheme that was investigated by the Senate Watergate Committee to politicize broad segments of the federal government in favor of reelecting Nixon. In 2004, Malek “was fined $250,000 for what the SEC called a ‘fraudulent scheme.’”
It is clear that the parties involved in forming the American Action Network all have a history of fighting for pro-corporate policies. Malek already summed up what we can expect from the group going into the future: “My strength is loyalty, my downfall is loyalty.”
When I was a teenager, the small movie theater next door to our apartment building mostly showed Asian movies and since teens are always in need of reason to get out of the house that don’t require you to be 21, I watched a lot of them. Last night I rewatched Hard Boiled which I saw back then, and while I didn’t find it quite as awesome as I had when I was 16, it’s pretty damn awesome. It struck me as a reminder, though, that we lost quite a bit when our own American summer blockbusters started shifting in a really CGI-heavy direction away from stunt-and-choreography oriented shoot-em-ups.
Even when John Woo’s action and plotting aren’t “realistic” in any meaningful way, there’s still a level of naturalism to what’s happening that’s far more gripping than anything cartoon Nav’i or giant animated robots can offer.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) plans to introduce an amendment to the budget that would deny “funding to the military for the costs of pursuing inquiries, dismissal proceedings and other procedures associated with enforcing” ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The NYT’s Caucus blog reports that “Gillibrand has considered such a proposal before but held off because she felt she did not have the 60 votes needed to get the measure through the Senate.” Congress’ new emphasis on freezing wasteful spending and the military’s support for ending the policy could generate votes from more fiscally conservative members. As Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) — who opposes repealing DADT — himself admitted, “I don’t think any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There’s got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there.”
Studies have indicated that the cost of discharging and replacing service members fired because of their sexual orientation during the policy’s first 10 years varied from $190.5 million to $363.8 million (if the high cost of training officers and other factors are considered).
Gilibrand’s amendment also suggests that Congress will begin to chisel away at DADT this year without instituting a full repeal. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) has signaled that Congress might adopt a moratorium on discharges but seemed to accept that Congress would have to wait for the Pentagon to finish its review before reversing the policy. Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen have testified that they would need a year to study DADT and then at least another year to implement a new policy.
Still, the Democrats’ timeline for repeal is unclear. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that “she’s unsure whether the House will overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he would support a moratorium as an interim measure. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that “by this year’s end, we will have eliminated the policy.”
On Thursday Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) appeared on The Michelangelo Signorile Show to argue that Congress should proceed with the repeal before the review is complete. “By the time the bill can be signed by the President, and it’s going to take a bill and it goes through the House and it goes through the Senate and he has to sign it and it will be 6 to 7 months. As quickly as we can do this, it will be by toward the end of the year.” “So Gates has plenty of time to study whatever the hell it is he thinks he has to study,” Frank said.
The center-right Washington Post publishes another inane attack on liberals
I’m going to invent a new word — CONservativeDESCENDING. It carries the traditional meaning “displaying a patronizingly superior attitude” but it only applies to people displaying such an attitude while adopting an anti-scientific position, while descending into disinformation and obfuscation that threatens all of our children and countless generations beyond them.
Before addressing the nonsensical thesis of the piece in as un-condescending a manner as possible, let me first note that the piece is doubly nonsensical being published in the Post, which is the home of the single most condescending person in the country — or at least the single most condescending person who has a media megaphone, the person who defines the word CONservativeDESCENDING. Indeed, while I defy you to find any liberal columnist for the Post who routinely displays a patronizingly superior attitude to conservatives, I defy you to find a George Will column that does not display a patronizingly superior attitude to liberals.
This is the crux of the matter. The policies we’ve been pursuing look to have had some efficacy. The situation is, in fact, turning around. But the scale has been inadequate to the size of the problem and consequently problems are still very severe. “Things are better than they would have been had we done what the other guys wanted” is an okay argument for wonks. But wonks and regular people alike would be more persuaded by “conditions are actually good now thanks to us.”
In a Christian Broadcasting Network interview Rep, Mike Pence (R-IN) (who appears to be doing a very good Michael Scott impression) shares his view that the U.S. shouldn’t decide its own policy toward Israel, but rather simply do what Israeli voters want:
PENCE: I have grown increasingly troubled at the mixed signals that this administration is sending to the various parties in the [Middle East] region. It feels for all the world that we are sliding back to the era of the Clinton administration where it was the ambition of the United States to be an honest broker in the region. I take issue with that.
I think President George W. Bush got it right. The United States certainly wants to be honest, but we don’t want to be a broker. A broker doesn’t take sides. A broker negotiates between parties of equals… America’s on the side of Israel. And to send any other message than our unwavering support, that we will stand with what the sovereign government and the people of Israel decide is in their interest, I think represents a departure from where the heart of the American people are at.
Given that Pence is said to have a fairly weak grasp of policy, it’s unsurprising that his recollection of U.S.-Israel relations during the Clinton administration is shaky. The idea that the Clinton era represented some sort of dark age of U.S. pressure on Israel is ridiculous. A number of commentators have suggested that the problem was precisely that Clinton was not acting as an honest broker in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, but rather, in the words of Clinton’s Middle East adviser Aaron David Miller, as “Israel’s lawyer.” As it turned out, that was bad for Israel. (And horrible for the Palestinians.) More importantly, however, it was bad for the U.S. As Miller noted, it’s only “When we have used our diplomacy wisely and functioned as advocates and lawyers for both sides, we have succeeded.”
It’s interesting that Pence thinks George W. Bush “got it right,” given that the Bush’s and Obama’s policies on Israel are nearly identical. Both presidents have used almost the exact same language in describing the contours of a just resolution to the conflict. The main difference is that Obama, unlike Bush, has actually shown an interest in holding Israel to its commitments and obligations, which some conservative groups have tried, dishonestly, to interpret as Obama being “anti-Israel.”
But what’s most amazing is Pence’s insistence that it’s somehow inappropriate for the United States “to send any other message than our unwavering support” for whatever “the sovereign government and the people of Israel decide is in their interest.” That’s just crazy. There’s no other country in the world of which a politician could say something like this and be taken seriously. The U.S.-Israel “special relationship” means that the U.S. has a special commitment to Israel’s continued existence and security, and that our two governments consult closely in regard to shared concerns. It doesn’t mean that the U.S. has to acquiesce to every Israeli policy decision, even when those policies negatively impact the U.S.’s own security and credibility, as does, for example, Israel’s ongoing attempt to engineer the Jewish ethnic control of East Jerusalem.
But, of course, there’s a rather large lobbying infrastructure in place to make sure that this is exactly how the U.S. interprets the “special relationship,” and which will relentlessly attack and fund-raise against politicians who suggest that certain Israeli policies are bad for the U.S., or that the U.S. actually has interests in the region that might not accord with whatever the current Israeli government wants. And it’s pretty effective.
In response, the Virginia Republican Party has ads that mock Rep. Rick Boucher and Rep. Tom Periello — both Democrats in conservative districts who support climate legislation — because they “think global warming is a serious problem for Virginia…so serious they voted to kill tens of thousands of Virginia jobs just to stop it.” The ad “features images of falling snow, stuck cars, and weathermen,” and urges viewers to call the congressmen “and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend”:
Call Boucher and Perriello and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend. Maybe they’ll come help you shovel.
– Wintertime temperatures have been increasing across the northern United States. Since the 1970s, December-February temperature increases have ranged from 1 to 2 degrees in the Pacific Northwest to about 4 degrees in the Northeast to more than 6 degrees in Alaska.
– Winters are getting shorter, too. Spring arrives 10-14 days earlier than it did just 20 years ago.
– Global warming is bringing a clear trend toward heavier precipitation events. Many areas are seeing bigger and more intense snowstorms, especially in the upper Midwest and Northeast.
– Global warming is shifting storm tracks northward. Areas from the Dakotas eastward to northern Michigan have seen a trend toward more heavy snowfall season.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, recently released an updated version of his “Roadmap for America’s Future” — a radical budget proposal that eliminates long-term deficits by essentially privatizing Medicare and Social Security and placing arbitrary, non-specific freezes on all non-discretionary spending.
Yesterday, the Republican House leadership refused to endorse the plan (while not coming up with any substantive objections) but that hasn’t stopped other conservative from lending it their full-throated backing:
– Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a co-sponsor of the legislation: We have a plan, [Democrats] have nothing.
– Former Congressional Budget Office Director and McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin: It’s commendable and very true to his conservative beliefs. I think it’s fabulous, it’s a great template for everyone that’s not just relying on smoke and mirrors.
– Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): Halting America’s slide into bankruptcy and economic stagnation will require bold solutions like Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future. The Roadmap uses common sense reforms to improve our health care system and bring Social Security and Medicare into the 21st Century.
While Price is willing to characterize Ryan’s proposal as common sense, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote that it’s “extremely serious — not as a budget proposal, but as a dystopian parable. It’s like reading 1984 for the next century, but with graphs.”
Ryan’s plan accurately reflects the reality that entitlements — and particularly health care spending — are the drivers of long-term budget deficits. But Ryan deals with those problems by simply dumping health care costs back onto the individual, throwing seniors into the wilds of the private insurance market, and subjecting Social Security to the roulette wheel of the stock market.
“This proposal would take Medicare from costing an expected 14.3 percent of GDP in 2080 to less than 4 percent. That’s trillions of dollars that’s not going to health care for seniors. The audacity is breathtaking,” noted the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein. Meanwhile, as I’ve pointed out before, private accounts of the sort Ryan proposes would have cost seniors tens of thousands of dollars in the 2008-2009 market plunge. And while Ryan emphasizes that the account money would only be put into investment funds approved “for soundness and safety,” as the the Cunning Realist has pointed out, failed investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were both “blue chips, the sort of companies that proponents of private accounts insisted any new system would be limited to.”
At the end of the day, everyone approving of this plan is signaling their support for gutting the social safety net as we know it. No wonder the GOP leadership doesn’t want to emphasize that in an election year.