I hope the optimists about the economic situation are right, but I think Kevin Drum’s pessimism may be more warranted. The oil thing, in particular, is a big concern of mine. Considering that demand from the developing world has only grown since the summer of 2008, it seems to me that any kind of real economic recovery in the rich countries is going to lead to renewed price spikes that we’re totally unprepared to deal with.
That means I’ll be doing a lot of media and trying to hone a simple, effective message for a far broader audience than Climate Progress readers. I have my own favorite phrases but I’d like to hear from you what you think works both in terms of sound-bites and overall framing.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), once a reliable vote in favor of nuclear arms reduction efforts, has now bought into the right-wing myth that our nuclear arsenal is deteriorating and that the U.S. needs to build new nuclear weapons. Lieberman on Fox News Sunday said he is “real hesitant” to vote for a New START treaty unless the US effectively builds new nuclear weapons:
LIEBERMAN: Anytime we are working on something with our old Cold War enemy, Russia, cooperatively, it’s a good sign. Anything we can do to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the world is a positive development. But in my opinion as we reduce the number of nuclear warheads… we have to make darn sure that are nuclear warheads are capable and modern and a lot of them are decades old. So I feel very strongly that I am going to be real hesitant to vote for this treaty unless we have a commitment from the Administration that they are prepared to modernize our nuclear stockpile.
In a demonstration of just how seriously Lieberman is taking these issues, as Chris Wallace shifted the conversation — noting that the treaty would need 9 Republican votes instead of 8 since “Lieberman was gone” — Lieberman audibly chuckled. Watch it:
On the one hand, this should mean that Lieberman’s vote is a slam dunk. The Obama administration has already demonstrated a massive commitment to modernizing the nuclear weapons infrastructure. Vice President Biden in a speech in February attacked the Bush administration for neglecting the nuclear infrastructure and called for a dramatic 10 percent annual increase in its budget.
But what Lieberman is really saying is that he agrees with those on the far right that want to needlessly build new nuclear weapons, nearly two decades years after the end of the Cold War. The far right insists that the U.S. is falling behind because it is not building new nuclear weapons and that our existing nuclear arsenal is deteriorating. This is a myth and demonstrates a complete, if not willful, ignorance of our approach to maintaining our nuclear weapons.
The U.S. continuously refurbishes and renovates its existing weapons, such that it doesn’t have to build new ones. This is by definition modernization. These refurbishing programs are getting the job done, according to an independent panel of scientific experts, called the JASON advisory group. As long as we continue these programs, as the Obama administration has committed to do, there is no need to build new nuclear warheads and weapons.
Yet building new nukes, along with conducting new nuclear tests, has become a right-wing dream. Lieberman is therefore willing to vote against a treaty — something that would have dire consequences for the US-Russia relationship, our mission in Afghanistan, and the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime — in order to symbolically demonstrate his support for the far-right’s dangerous nuclear agenda.
Peter Baker and Carl Hulse report:
The retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens presents a test for Republicans as much as it does for President Obama as they weigh how much they want to wage a high-profile battle over ideological issues in the months before crucial midterm elections.
In the aftermath of the polarized health care debate, some Republican leaders said they were reluctant to give Democrats further ammunition to portray them as knee-jerk obstructionists. But they also want to harness the populist anger at Mr. Obama’s policies and are wary of alienating their base when they need it most.
Note that evaluating the nominee on the merits doesn’t seem to be an option. I think it’s pretty clear that there’s no political reason to think a moderate nominee in the Breyer/Sotomayor/Ginsburg vein would actually fare any easier than someone from a more robustly progressive tradition. The decision about whether or not to launch a no-holds-barred campaign against the nominee will be undertaken for other reasons. But as best I can tell, Barack Obama (and many other leading Democrats) don’t actually think that reviving old-school judicial liberalism would be a desirable outcome. That, rather than any political calculus, seems likely to me to drive a moderate pick.
Last week, Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term, giving President Obama his second Supreme Court vacancy to fill. Today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) urged Obama not to select “someone that is so activist,” while Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that Republicans could filibuster “if the president picks someone from the fringe or somone who applies their feelings instead of applying the law.” On ABC’s This Week, conservative columnist George Will criticized conservatives for saying that they want judges who will strictly follow the law while simultaneously cheering decisions that overturn the work of elected officials:
There’s another test, and it’s wielded by my conservatives, and I think it’s mistaken. And that is, they say they’re against judicial activism. By which they mean they want the court to defer to the elected political branches of government. But if you look at what’s happened recently, the decision that most outraged conservatives was the Kelo decision on eminent domain. … The court did defer to the city government in Connecticut and it enraged conservatives. The recent decision that most pleased conservatives — Citizens United, overturning part of McCain-Feingold — was the court not deferring to the Senate.
Cokie Roberts noted, “that’s very relevant right now, because you have these 14 states’ attorneys general, saying that they want to overturn, the court to overturn the recently passed health care law.”
Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse offers an optimistic commentary on yesterday’s horrible plane crash in which so many high-ranking Polish officials died:
One thing strikes me: this tragedy is also becoming a triumph of Polish democracy, in two ways. First, the political institutions worked: the army leadership has been immediately replaced, Komorowski is now President ex officio, new elections are being announced. There’s been no question of coups, colonels, or emergency measures. Second, the Polish elites, no matter what their political flavor, say the same thing: they may not have agreed with Kaczynski, but this is a vast tragedy. Personal animosities and political cleavages have been buried, at least for the time being. So both formally, and in spirit, Kaczynski’s death brings this new maturity into focus.
Seems like a fair point. The mere fact of Communism’s collapse in Central Europe did not by any means guarantee that the successor regimes would consolidate as liberal democracies—just look at Russia and the various Central Asian ‘stans. But in Poland and elsewhere in the region, the past 20 years have been an enormous success. In the first instance, this is a triumph by the Polish (and Czech and Hungarian and Latvian and atc.) people and elites. But it’s also an underrated policy success by the leadership of NATO and the EU.
If neo-Confederates are interested in history, let’s talk history. Since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate symbols have tended to be more about white resistance to black advances than about commemoration. In the 1880s and 1890s, after fighting Reconstruction with terrorism and after the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act, states began to legalize segregation. For white supremacists, iconography of the “Lost Cause” was central to their fight; Mississippi even grafted the Confederate battle emblem onto its state flag.
But after the Supreme Court allowed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Jim Crow was basically secure. There was less need to rally the troops, and Confederate imagery became associated with the most extreme of the extreme: the Ku Klux Klan.
In the aftermath of World War II, however, the rebel flag and other Confederate symbolism resurfaced as the civil rights movement spread. In 1948, supporters of Strom Thurmond’s pro-segregation Dixiecrat ticket waved the battle flag at campaign stops.
Then came the school-integration rulings of the 1950s. Georgia changed its flag to include the battle emblem in 1956, and South Carolina hoisted the colors over its Capitol in 1962 as part of its centennial celebrations of the war.
All well-put. Meanwhile, I would note that apart from contemporary racial issues, something that links the mentality of today’s right to the mentality of the slaveowners and segregation proponents is the white southern political tradition’s very partial and selective embrace of majoritarian democracy. As long as national institutions are substantially controlled by white southerners, the white south is a hotbed of patriotism. But as soon as an non-southern political coalition manages to win an election—as we saw in 1860 and in 2008—then suddenly the symbols of national authority become symbols of tyranny and the constitution is construed as granting conservative areas all kinds of alleged abilities to opt out of national political decisions. Even if you think opposition to the Affordable Care Act has nothing whatsoever to do with race, the underlying political philosophy by which a George W Bush or James Buchanan is a national president but an Abraham Lincoln or a Barack Obama merely a sectional one remains incoherent and pernicious.
Tom Toles cartoon today is about the other “Safety Warnings” we are ignoring about coal:
This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) defended Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R-VA) omission of slavery from his proclamation on Confederate History Month. Barbour told CNN host Candy Crowley that it seems unnecessary to mention slavery because everyone knows that it was a “bad thing” and that people are exaggerating something that “doesn’t matter for diddly.” He also pointed out that the Mississippi Democratic legislature has approved a similar proclamation and has faced little criticism:
CROWLEY: The [Virginia] Governor didn’t even mention slavery in his proclamation. Was that a mistake?
BARBOUR: Well, I don’t think so…I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anyone who thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing — I think it goes without saying.
CROWLEY: What about the sensitivity of it? Because we heard from a number of African American politicians and just people on the street that were interviwed in Virginia going “this is offensive to celebrate something that was really about slavery and has no mention of it?”
BARBOUR: Well maybe they should talk to my Democratic legislature, which has done exactly the same thing in Mississippi for years. As far as I know, the Democratic legislature — we have a majority — both houses are Democrats. I’m unaware of them being criticized for it or them having their supporters feel uncomfortable with it. [...]
To me it’s a sort of feeling that it’s just a nit. That it is not significant. It’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter for diddly.
Slavery is an especially sensitive issue in a state like Mississippi, where the wounds are still fresh. Not until 1995 did Mississippi finally ratify the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Mississippi legislature finally passed a bill to repeal discriminatory Jim Crow laws that had been enacted in 1964 but ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by federal courts.
Some maintain that Barbour won his bid for Governor of Mississippi in 2003 in part because he pledged to keep intact Mississippi’s state flag design, which contains a miniature representation of the Confederate battle flag. Byron LaMasters of Burnt Orange Report has pointed out that Barbour has had documented connections with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, a neo-Confederate Organization that lashes out at “so-called neo-conservatives” that “have embraced the legacy of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.” Barbour, however, refers to himself as a “fat redneck with an accent” who holds himself to a higher standard.
Last week, Think Progress pointed out that both Mississippi and Georgia join Virginia in officially honoring the Confederacy while omitting any mention of slavery. McDonnell has since apologized, stating “the failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake.”
Our guest blogger is Brian Katulis, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In a NewsHour interview this week, New York Times correspondent Rod Nordland said Iraqis aren’t paying much attention to the Wikileaks video showing U.S. forces shooting Iraqis from a helicopter during the height of the 2007 surge of U.S. force because it confirms what they already think about the U.S. troop presence. That most Iraqis see the U.S. troop presence in a negative light still seems to surprise initial war supporters and many counterinsurgency (COIN) advocates. Here’s the exchange:
GWEN IFILL: Rod, there — on a related subject, there has been some discussion here, some controversy here about the release, the leak of a video of an Apache attack helicopter killing, among other people, some Reuters employees in 2007 in Iraq. Has that video been circulated widely there, and has there been reaction at all on the ground?
ROD NORDLAND: It has circulated widely here, but I think there was actually a somewhat muted response here, even compared to other Arab countries. Sad — sad to say, most Iraqis have a pretty cynical attitude toward the Americans. And incidents of this sort don’t really surprise them as much as maybe it does ourselves.
GWEN IFILL: So, there is no reaction at all from U.S. officials on the ground or from Iraqi officials about this particular incident?
ROD NORDLAND: Iraqi officials have been pretty preoccupied with the bombs going off today. American officials refer questions to Washington. It’s one that they really don’t want to touch.
Indeed, no one wants to touch this. The White House and Pentagon have seemed to downplay this story and not really dealt with it. Matt Armstrong commented on the Pentagon public affairs shop’s passive approach to dealing with the release, and Spencer Ackerman characterized the response as the Pentagon’s “fetal crouch.” My American Progress colleagues Zaid Jilani and Matt Yglesias both asked the important question of whether the U.S. military is trying to cover up this story. Many questions remain unanswered, yet few are talking and there’s not much of a debate about it outside of the blogsphere.
I’ve been surprised how muted the mainstream U.S. media coverage to this story has been, especially compared to foreign media outlets. In several interviews I did with foreign and new media outlets this week, I was asked why the US mainstream media and broader public don’t really seem to be paying attention to this story. And the best I can say is that most Americans are not paying attention to the fact that we’re in two wars. As I told David Dayen of Firedoglake, America’s not had a robust and engaged public discussion on the wars our country is fighting for a few years now. A New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this year found that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, combined with other national security and foreign policy concerns, barely registered among the top problems facing our country today.
But it was Rob Nordland’s observation about the Iraqi reaction to this Wikileaks video that I found most interesting – and it seems accurate to me based on some conversations I have had with Iraqi friends and my reading of the Arabic press in Iraq. Earlier this week, I took part in an hour-long news interview program on Iraqiya television, and the host didn’t bring up the story. Iraqi leaders haven’t said much about the Wikileaks video either (though they do have their hands full with negotiating over a new government and dealing with an increase in attacks this week.)
Nordland’s statement that most Iraqis being cynical attitude about Americans and incidents of this sort not really surprising Iraqis is an important observation – it challenges the conventional wisdom among many Americans about the Iraq surge and how Iraqis view American forces. There is a myth perpetuated in narratives peddled by many COIN advocates that ordinary Iraqis view U.S. forces as positive and constructive, and this fundamental misunderstanding leads some analysts like Tom Ricks to make specious arguments about extending the presence of U.S. forces beyond the redeployment deadlines outlined in the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
A few months before U.S. forces withdrew from urban areas last summer, nearly three quarters of Iraqi citizens (73 percent) said in an early 2009 poll that they did not have confidence in U.S. troops (strong confidence in U.S. forces was mostly found among Kurds, and the United States doesn’t have much of a troop presence in the Kurdish regions of Iraq). And this overall negative view about U.S. troops came at a time after Iraqis had recognized there were substantial gains in security. Incidents like the one depicted in the Wikileaks video have not been uncommon in Iraq, as former U.S. Army soldier Josh Stieber told Glenn Greenwald in this interview.
Watching the killings in Wikileaks video – again it was filmed at the height of the 2007 surge- it makes sense why Iraqis don’t seem to buy the notion that the U.S. military has been operating with an effective “population-centric” strategy in Iraq, even as some Americans seem to so badly need to believe that to be so.
This morning on ABC’s This Week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Wikileaks video was “not helpful,” but added that it “should not have lasting consequences.”