This is a really great column from Thomas Friedman; much more From Beirut to Jerusalem than The World Is Flat.
As he says, American news coverage of events in the middle east desperately needs more people who know what they’re talking about—people who speak Arabic, have experience in the region, etc.—and less fear about transgressing political taboos.
The heads of the Republican congressional campaign committees — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) — appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press today to discuss their party’s strategy for the November elections. Sessions began by saying that everyone knows exactly “what Republicans stand for,” but he quickly proved that even he doesn’t really know. Host David Gregory, visibly frustrated, repeatedly pressed the two campaign chiefs for substance, saying, “these are not specifics, voters get tired of that.” But all he got in return was vapid talking points, like how Republican candidates are “standing with the American people back home.”
Gregory correctly dismissed what he was hearing from Sessions as “gauzy,” and turned to Cornyn, saying, “I’m not hearing an answer here, what are the painful choices” that Republicans are prepared to make to cut the deficit? Instead of offering any ideas of own, and in direct contrast to the sense of urgency with which conservatives paint the deficit, Cornyn responded that he would wait for President Obama’s debt commission’s report, which will conveniently come after the election. Gregory replied, “wait a minute, conservatives need a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they need to cut?”:
GREGORY: I think what a lot of people want to know is, if Republicans do get back in power, what are they going to do?
SESSIONS: It’s quite simple that Americans do know the agenda that is before us. They understand what the President and the speaker stand for, and they understand what Republicans stand for. Republicans…very strong, standing with the American people back home. [...]
GREGORY: Congressman, congressman, that’s a pretty gauzy agenda so far. I mean, what specifics — what painful painful choices are Republicans prepared to make? … How do you [balance the budget]? Tell me how you do it. Name a painful choice that Republicans are prepared to say we have to make.
SESSIONS: Well first of all, we have to make sure as we look at all we spend in Washington, D.C., with not only the entitlement spending, but also the bigger government we cannot afford anymore. We have to empower the free enterprise system.
GREGORY: Congressman, these are not specifics, voters get tired of that.
SESSIONS: Oh they are. They are. … Let’s go right to it.
GREGORY: Do it!
GREGORY: Senator, I’m sorry, I’m not hearing an answer here on specifics. What painful choices to really deal with the deficit — is Social Security on the table? — what will Republicans do that will give them, like ’94, there was the Contract with America, what are voters going to say, hey, this is what Republicans will say yes to.
CORNYN: Well, the president has a debt commission that reports December the first, and I think we’d all like to see what they come back with.
GREGORY: But wait a minute, conservatives need a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they need to cut?
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review, called Cronyn and Sessions’ performance “disappointing” on Twitter, writing, “a consensus GOP agenda” is “badly needed…so these guys have something to say.”
In a candid moment on Bill Bennett’s radio show this week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) seemed to admit why Republicans refuse to give specifics. Republicans shouldn’t “lay out a complete agenda,” King said, because people might not like it.
Income derived from capital gains is taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income, which is supposed to encourage investment. But Uwe Reinhardt argues that “A major problem with the tax preference embedded in the taxation of capital gains is that the preference is so scattershot, rewarding both behavior that leads to economic growth and behavior that does not.” For example, “the maximum tax rate on long-term capital gains from the sale of collectibles such as coins and art in 2009 was 28 percent – still much below the highest tax rate on ordinary income.”
In terms of reform it, the frustrating thing is that everyone agrees that it would be better to have a progressive consumption tax than a progressive income tax. And yet, nobody does this and there’s no sign of a political move to do it. So if there were to be a major political push toward reforming the tax code, why not reform it all the way?
I tweeted recently that I think All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is a lot better than I’d heard it was, and some folks asked for elaboration and here goes:
I think you have to understand this book as a kind of fun, funny satire. You sometimes read haters say that the art is lovely, but the dialogue and the plot inept. I think people should think harder about that. The art is lovely, it’s clearly a book put together with some considerable care. The text, I think, references the idea that the grim ‘n gritty “Dark Knight” version of Batman was created as a deliberate effort to counter the “campy” Batman that was the legacy of the Adam West live action series. All-Star Batman is the Dark Knight as camp. This isn’t the most brilliant idea of all time, or even the best Frank Miller Batman story, but it’s a perfectly solid entry into the Batman ethos.
To give some policy gloss to the whole thing, I think Miller’s All-Star Batman also does a nice job of quietly illustrating how difficult it is to break out of a high-corruption equilibrium. When the police force is endemically corrupt, what can anyone do? A rationally self-interested citizen is going to just try to accommodate the corrupt powers that be. It might be nice to think (as in the Year One version of Batman) that an adequately motivated outsider could make a positive impact via vigilantism, but the reality is that any effort to bypass the constituted authorities is likely to only increase the overall level of chaos and violence.
Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have “signed contracts with BP to work on their behalf in the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process” that determines how much ecological damage the Gulf of Mexico region is suffering from BP’s toxic black tide. The contract, the Mobile Press-Register has learned, “prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.”
The contract, the Mobile Press-Register has learned, “prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.” Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama “” whose entire department BP wished to hire “” refused to sign over their integrity to the corporate criminal:
Today on CNN’s State of the Union, host Candy Crowley asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about the NAACP’s resolution calling on the Tea Party movement to condemn the “racist elements” in its ranks. McConnell, however, brushed aside accusations of racism, saying he’s “got better things to do”:
CROWLEY: Well, as you know, this weekend, NAACP said that the tea — there are racist elements in the tea party.
MCCONNELL: I am not interested in getting into that debate. What we are interested in is trying to have an election this fall that will respond to what the American people are asking us to do, which is to have some checks and balances here. [...]
CROWLEY: Nothing that you have seen on TV, including some of the signs that we’ve seen, albeit the minority at some of these tea party rallies, some of the posters that have been put up in the name of some factions of the tea party make you the least bit uncomfortable?
MCCONNELL: Look, there are all kinds of things going on in America that make me uncomfortable, both on the right and on the left. I have got better things to do than to wade in to all of these disputes and discussions that are going on out in the country. What we are trying to do is to make the president a born again moderate. We are trying to send enough conservatives to Congress this November to move him in a different direction.
Last year, McConnell was quick “to heap the most fulsome praise” on the Tea Party protests while “bashing the media” for portraying the protests unfavorably. Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, TeaParty365 co-founder David Webb said that the National Tea Party Federation “expelled” Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express “in the last 24 hours” for his “clearly offensive” satirical letter saying “coloreds” supported slavery.
We just got word that Archstone has finally closed on $151 million in financing to began construction on their residential project at First and M Streets, NE. The new project will deliver 469 apartments in the first phase with the now requisite rooftop pool, a library, a resident theater, and a fitness center. The plan is to deliver the first units by mid-2012.
I feel like this trend toward new apartment buildings including things like rooftop pools and other in-house facilities for residents is a bit regrettable. Most of these pools are pretty rinky dink and unimpressive (certainly the one in my building is) and it’d be better to see nice big public pools being built in growing neighborhoods if there’s a desire for swimming facilities. The fitness center dynamic is different, but I’d rather live in a neighborhood with a few good gyms competing for members than someplace where every large building has its own residents-only “free” gym (the cost of course shows up in your rent and/or fees anyway).
When I was in school, part of the appeal of studying at Lamont Library was that they had WiFi there. I imagine that in the future it will more and more be common to seek out places where you can’t get online as a place to go focus on certain study tasks.
Republicans continue to rail against the stimulus, even though economists agree that the program has created a significant number of jobs. Last week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers said the Recovery Act has saved or created 3.6 million jobs. A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also found that the stimulus “has increased the number of workers by between 1.2 million and 2.8 million” and projects that “3.7 million jobs could be attributed to the stimulus by the end of September.”
Today, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace presented Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) with the CBO number and asked him how he could still say that the Recovery Act has “failed” in the face of this nonpartisan evidence:
WALLACE: These are numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It estimates the stimulus has boosted growth between 1.7 and 4.2 percent, and it’s increased the number of people unemployed by 2-2.8 million. Congressman Pence, is that failure?
PENCE: Look, the reality is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that is that part of our government that tracks the economy when people are hired and fired, says that since the stimulus was passed, we’ve lost 3 million jobs overall. About 2.5 million jobs net. The reality is unemployment today over 14 million Americans are unemployed; that’s exactly what it was a year ago. The American people know. We can’t borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy.
WALLACE: But what about the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office just in effect saying, it would have been worse, and the fact is that it has boosted growth, it has gotten millions of people employed?
PENCE: Well, our economy is beginning to grow in a tepid way on the margins, I would argue in spite of the prescriptions of the physicians in Washington, DC. The American people know what’s necessary to get this economy moving again. It’s fiscal discipline in Washington, DC, and across-the-board tax relief for working families, small businesses, and family farms.
Basically, Pence seems to be saying that because unemployment hasn’t been completely eradicated, the stimulus must be a failure. But it’s important to remember the hole the country had to dig itself out of from the Bush administration, and the fact that unemployment would be even higher without the stimulus:
Many Republicans continue to go around and pretend that the stimulus hasn’t created any new jobs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Last week, ThinkProgress attended a job fair hosted by Rep. Eric Cantor where the businesses in attendance had received more than $52 million in federal stimulus funds. Other Republicans who voted against the stimulus have similarly had no problem taking credit for its success.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 18, 2010 at 10:24 am
On Wednesday, July 14th, Vice President Joe Biden and Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) Chair Christina Romer released CEA’s new fourth quarterly report on the economic and job creation impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The report finds that the loan guarantees, grants, and clean energy investments made under the Recovery Act — matched by billions of dollars in private investment – are successfully creating jobs today and growing clean energy industries of tomorrow. CAP’s Susan Lyon has the story.