It occurred to me today that it’s perfectly plausible to imagine a Republican winning the 2012 Presidential election and then being defeated in 2016 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. This, in turn, could very plausibly lead to Sandra Lee becoming de facto or de jure First Lady of the United States. And then what? Semi-homemade state dinners? The Chinese won’t even need aircraft carriers to emerge as global hegemon.
It’s kind of a cliché to observe that in the contemporary world, the concept of the “first lady” is badly outdated. But contemplating this goes to show how true that cliché is. The country does, in fact, need someone to play the hostess-in-chief role but that’s simply not compatible with the range of career options open to today’s women.
Wow. The big moves made by the Orlando Magic over the weekend strike me as really, really bad.
First, start with the Wizards deal. From DC’s point of view, basically we’re swapping Gilbert Arenas’ bad contract for Rashard Lewis’ bad contract. The upside for us is that there’s one less year on Lewis’ bad contract. That’s not huge upside, but it’s something. If the Magic are willing to help us out like this, good for them, but they should get something in return. Not a lot necessarily, but something. A second round draft pick. The right to swap first-rounders. A free cap. Something. Instead they got nothing. This deal hardly turns the Wizards around, but any time Ted Leonsis can get something for nothing I get a little more hopeful.
The Phoenix trade, meanwhile, is a mess. Vince Carter and Jason Richardson have essentially the same production. But Carter’s on a more favorable contract. So mildly bad deal. This then leaves us with Gortat and Pietrus for Hedo Turkoglu. Trading Gortat makes sense on many levels since he deserves more minutes than he can realistically get as Dwight Howard’s backup. He’s a valuable player, but not super valuable to the Orlando Magic so trading him to a team that needs a starting center makes sense. But they traded him for . . . Hedo Turkoglu, who’s not good. As best I can tell, this is superstition. The Magic played really well when Turkoglu was on the team. And he played very well during a high-profile playoff series against the Boston Celtics. But he wasn’t a particularly great player during that season, and he’s gotten worse since leaving.
Early Thursday morning, in the midst of a busy week in Congress where the DREAM Act, a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Obama-McConnell tax cut package were all considered, a vandal struck the offices of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) in Greenville, North Carolina. Police say a “white male with a thin build,” wearing a long coat and a backpack, approached her office and several other government buildings around 2 a.m. and spray-painted phrases like “Criminal Government,” “blind follow blind” and “what good is justice if the scales are bent.” (Some of these slogans appear to be lyrics to a song by the artist Mason Jennings). Swastikas, lightning bolts, and other symbols were also painted on several of the buildings. Unfortunately for the vandal, however, surveillance cameras in Hagan’s office were running and caught him in the act. Police are soliciting leads based on the video.
Watch video of the criminal mastermind in action, via WNCT:
Local news outlets interviewed several Greenville residents “outraged” by the vandalism. “Just the symbol alone, just what it represents, that just somebody would go to that level, it’s very upsetting,” said one man. “When you have these kinds of things go on, hatred symbols put up, it can be depressing, it can be demoralizing for the community,” said another. Earlier this year, five Democratic Congressional office were vandalized during the health care reform debate, and last year swastikas were also painted on the office of Rep. David Scott (D-GA). Just before the recent midterm election, Rep. Tom Periello’s (D-VA) campaign office was broken into and vandalized.
Committed to the obstruction of any Democratic priority, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that gives desperately-needed compensation to first responders who contracted serious illnesses while working at Ground Zero. While happy to exploit 9/11 heroes in support of their own agenda, not one Republican came to the Senate floor to explain their opposition to this bill. Their indifference towards the first responders, however, surfaced elsewhere. When confronted on Fox News, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) insisted that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were a higher priority. In the Senate rotunda, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stepped around a first responder asking for his support, telling him “I can’t help you.” And when some first responders planned to meet Senators in their offices, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) actually called the Capitol police.
Last week, an incensed Jon Stewart invited 9/11 first responders to the Daily Show to offer their thoughts on this callous behavior. “Disgusted” and “hurt” by their actions, the rescue workers admonished Republicans for using the holiday schedule and Senate process as an excuse to block desperately needed help. Recounting their criticism today, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) why he couldn’t “find a way to give these heroes peace of mind when it comes to health care.” Ignoring their emotional pleas, Kyl insisted that, while he didn’t want to deny care to those who desperately need it, he just refuses to do so “in a hurry”:
WALLACE: Senator, everyone — everyone — praises the first responders as heroes. You say you’re skeptical about the bill. Why not find a way to give these heroes peace of mind when it comes to health care?
KYL: First of all, they should have peace of mind when it comes to health care. The question is what and how? And when you try do it, as you said in your introduction, in a hurry, in a lame duck session, without a hearing, without understanding what the ramifications are and whether we can amend the bill, you’re doing it in the worst way. For example, there has already been a settlement for a lot of these people, a fund that’s been set up for them to receive funding. Will the people who are supporting this legislation be able to participate in that fund? Nobody has been able to say. Why $7 billion? What will the requirements for qualification be for the money?
Nobody wants to deny care to people who, and by the way these are primarily people who helped to clean up the site in the aftermath of 9/11 and there weren’t enough adequate precautions taken in some cases to deal with potential health issues and to the extent that they’ve become ill they do need to be taken care of. It’s one thing to make an emotional appeal to say we need to care for someone who did something good. It’s another to do it in a sensible way. And that’s all we’re asking for. You bring it up in the lame duck session with no opportunity to amend it and you’re probably going to make bad legislation. All this could have been done earlier I might add.
Kyl’s excuses fall flat in the face of fact. Any cries for more time ignore that both the Senate and House version of the Zadroga bill have been available to Kyl since 2009. If a year with the text wasn’t enough, Kyl was free to attend the bill’s June 2010 Senate hearing he insists never happened. Had he shown up, he would’ve learned that the bill is very clear on who is eligible for funding. First responders can pursue compensation established by the Zadroga bill to bolster any coverage already received from the current health fund set up in New York City.
More outrageous than Kyl’s constant lies is the truth behind GOP’s miscarriage of responsibility. The Zadroga bill was originally funded by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations that do business in the U.S. But because the party’s puppeteer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, insisted that ending the tax loophole would “damage U.S. relationships with major trading partners,” Republicans quickly and quietly lined up against the bill. In a last ditch effort to secure their support, Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) replaced that funding measure with a new offset that places “a 2 percent fee on procurement contracts for certain countries, combined with a visa fee.” Now, it seems Republicans are magically on board and, according to Gillibrand (D-NY), willing to pass the bill by Christmas.
I’m a strong believer in structural explanations for things, but I think Jonathan Bernstein goes a bit too far with this:
Now, the second part of what Yglesias said — how can anyone know what Romney will actually do it elected? I think the answer is, basically, the same way you can know that about anyone. He’ll follow party incentives, and institutional incentives, and other such things that have little or nothing to do with what he “really” thinks. And that’s mostly a good thing!
There’s a lot of truth to that. But still, I do think beliefs matter. One reason is that people engage in “motivated reasoning” all the time. A politician with a visceral loathing of gay people is more likely to interpret the objective incentives facing him as having anti-gay implications than is a politician who has warm personal relationships with gays and lesbians. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that President Tom Ridge would have pursued the 2003 Medicare bill with as much alacrity as George W Bush did, or that President John Corzine would have been as committed to the “cadillac tax” on high-value health insurance plans as Barack Obama was.
Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked the DREAM Act from securing 60 votes to pass cloture, denying hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants a path to legal status if they enrolled in college or joined the military. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) even said yesterday on the Senate floor that young people lobbying his office had wasted their time.
Today on the Sunday political talk shows, guests from a wide array of the ideological spectrum assailed the GOP for blocking the measure:
NBC’s ANDREA MITCHELL: The dumbest thing that the Republicans did was the DREAM Act. … that is going to turn out to be a real setback for Republicans because these are people who wanted to serve in the military and get educated and contribute to the society.
NEWARK, NJ MAYOR CORY BOOKER: To tell people who’ve been through high school, high school presidents going on to college some of the best brains who have no relation to their home country. This is crazy. It’s hurting America.
GOP STRATEGIST MARK MCKINNON: The Republican Party has got to recognize Hispanics are the huge growing demographic in this country. … We gotta send the right signal to Hispanics in this country in addition to the fact that it’s the right policy.
FOX NEWS’ JUAN WILLIAMS: The one thing that I regret…is the defeat of the DREAM Act for the immigrants and the immigrant kids. I just think, again, Republicans play politics with real lives, real people, real aspirations and they leave the immigration issue on the table when that’s the real business of the American people.
Bill Kristol complained to Williams that the real reason the GOP opposed the measure is because he claimed they didn’t know anything about it. “Do you know how many hearings there were in either house, in the House or the Senate on the DREAM Act over the past two years? Zero,” he said. “You know it’s almost anti-American, Bill,” Williams said in response, adding, “and the reason they couldn’t discuss it was because the talk show hosts in America the right-wing talk show hosts would beat up any Republican who supported a realistic effort.” Watch the compilation:
As usual, Kristol is wrong. As CAP’s Marshall Fitz noted, “this is not a new or complicated bill”:
The basic elements of the DREAM Act are straightforward, well understood, and have been considered numerous times over the last nine years. It has been introduced every Congress since 2001. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16-3 vote in October 2003. And it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee again in 2006 by voice vote as part of the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive bill, which passed the full Senate by a 62-36 margin.
So it seems that Republicans like to blame process when they’re just simply on the wrong side of history.
Is courtesy of Niklas Blanchard, who says: “Here’s an interesting comparison, but I defy you to counter it: Google (Labs) is the modern-day Bell Labs.”
Bell Labs was the R&D unit of the old AT&T monopoly. It’s not clear that it was a particularly productive investment for AT&T’s shareholders, but they came up with a lot of important stuff, including C & C++, UNIX, and the laser. Google, similarly, is plowing a very large share of its very considerable revenue into financing new ideas rather than just rebating it as dividends. The jury’s still out on the merits of this as a business strategy (and it’s really a boring “only time will tell” kind of scenario) but it’s already given the world a lot of neat products.
Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) is proposing an amendment that inserts language that says there is a relationship between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. In other words, Risch and other Senate Republicans are upset that the treaty doesn’t address Russia’s thousands of tactical nuclear weapons. There is a simple reason for this – START, which stands for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, deals with STRATEGIC nuclear weapons. This is like saying I oppose the START treaty because it doesn’t secure the US border or cure global hunger. It was never intended to address those things. While it would be great if START cured hunger, the fact it doesn’t should have no bearing on the merits of the actual treaty.
Strategic nuclear weapons are high-yield nuclear weapons designed to target population centers or impact an adversary’s ability to wage war, while tactical nuclear weapons are smaller battlefield nuclear weapons used in support of conventional forces. CAP’s Ben Morris-Levenson wrote earlier this year:
This difference highlights a crucial point: even reduced to the levels called for in New START, a strategic arsenal of 1,550 warheads renders any Russian advantage in tactical weapons insignificant in the broader context of deterrence. Nuclear deterrence at the strategic level relies on each side’s ability to annihilate the other… neither side will risk even a limited nuclear exchange because the consequences of escalation are so horrific that even minimal risks become unjustifiable. Russia’s “advantage” in tactical nuclear weapons is therefore largely irrelevant to American security.
Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons are a real problem, largely because due to their smaller size they are more prone to fall in the hands of terrorists. This is why both Republicans and Democrats agree that it is critical to have talks with Russia over its tactical nuclear weapons. But crucially to have these talks, it is imperative to ratify the START treaty.
James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense under Nixon and Ford, and leading arms-control skeptic, endorsed the ratification of a new START treaty in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this year. He did so largely on the grounds that to deal with tactical nuclear weapons “there is no alternative” but to ratify the START treaty, as START provides us with a “platform” to address tactical weapons.
In other words, in order to begin to address what is a major counter-terrorism concern – the danger of loose Russian tactical nukes falling into the hands of terrorists – we must ratify START. Schlesinger has long been a guiding light to the far right on nuclear policy issues, the Wall Street Journal even called him the right’s “nuclear yoda.”
Republicans may also complain that the Obama administration should have linked the two issues in negotiations, but this is just bad Monday morning quarterbacking. There has never been a treaty on tactical nuclear weapons therefore negotiating one would have taken considerable time. Given that the original START treaty was set to expire within the first year of President Obama taking office and that the Bush administration did no work to lay the groundwork for a New START treaty, let alone a treaty on tactical weapons, linking the two would mean that negotiations would probably still be going on – more than a year after the original START treaty’s expiration. Republicans were also silent in attacking the Bush administration for failing to address Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons.
The Risch amendment therefore is nothing but a poison pill amendment designed to force a renegotiation of the START treaty and therefore kill the treaty. Fortunately, just 51 votes are needed to kill Risch’s amendment and like the McCain amendment on the preamble, this should go down to defeat.