Last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) named William Smith as the chief counsel for the GOP on the Senate Judiciary Committee. David Ingram of Legal Times reports today that Smith recently compared support for same-sex marriage to support for pedophilia. In a blog post that has now been taken down, Smith responded to former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt’s speech to the Log Cabin Republicans by writing that he wondered “if next week Schmidt will take his close minded stump speech to a NAMBLA meeting. For those unfamiliar with NAMBLA, the acronym is for North American Man Boy Love Association.” Smith also compared same-sex marriage to bestiality. Neither he nor Sessions responded to Legal Times.
Yesterday there was an interesting outbreak of libertarian praise from a couple of Cato scholars for our neighbor to the North, citing not only Canada’s more liberal policies on cultural issues, but touting Canada as a libertarian economic model. It’s worth noting, however, that one important driver behind Canada’s ability to adopt this policy model is that the Canadian health care system, much-derided by the American right, is much much cheaper than the American system. If we had Canadian-style health care costs and Canadian-style trajectory of cost growth, we wouldn’t be facing nearly the same upward pressure on taxes.
It’s also worth considering that the guarantee of equal health care no matter what happens to you probably helps build political support for measures that Cato and I both support like liberalized trade and immigration policies. Another thing that’s alluded to in the Cato post but not really spelled out is that though Canada has cut tax rates recently, they have far fewer tax loopholes and deductions. In this regard, I think Canada really is a good model for the United States to follow. But the congress hasn’t exactly been leaping at the opportunity to adopt Barack Obama’s proposals to trim deductions for high-income individuals or to close loopholes for corporations.
Chuck Todd, the NBC political director, is incensed by a Center for American Progress Action Fund update on the clean energy jobs bill being marked up by the House energy committee. The update described Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) as “moderate Democrats” who announced their support for the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), driving Todd into a tizzy:
Did I read this right? Did CAP call John Dingell and former black panther Bobby Rush “moderates”? . . . Maybe on the energy issue, as far as CAP’s concerned, Dingell is a “moderate” since he’s always been on the side of the auto industry on key emissions votes. But should CAP really call these two moderates? Stuff like this in official press releases can immediately cost folks credibility with readers of said releases.
“Perhaps ‘fence-sitting Democrats‘ or ‘Democrats who are moderate on climate’ might have been a tad better,” Joe Romm points out on Climate Progress, “but this press release hardly deserves the harsh attack from Todd.” Dingell and Rush are two of the 18 committee members who the trade publication E & E News identified as undecided on Waxman-Markey. In fact, E & E News senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn described Rush as a “moderate” last week:
Even as Waxman said he could pass the bill out of his committee, at least a half-dozen moderate and conservative Democrats held back in declaring their support for the climate bill, including Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Diana DeGette of Colorado, John Barrow of Georgia, Baron Hill of Indiana and Melancon.
Both Rush and Dingell have voting records on energy issues that put them to the right of most Democrats, according to Oil Change International:
In fact, Dingell has not been merely “moderate” on energy issues, but practically indistinguishable from Republicans. Dingell, who has received millions of dollars from polluting industry, “has been one of the great obstructionists of action on making our automobiles more fuel-efficient and less polluting.”
Todd continues to read “tea leaves” to make prognostications about the prospects for climate change legislation. To maintain his credibility, perhaps he should pay more attention to facts and better reporters instead.
In recent days, conservatives have been on a media blitz accusing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of lying last week when she said that she believed she had been “misled” by the CIA during intelligence briefings regarding the use of torture. Last night on Fox News’s On The Record, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) continued this blitz, arguing that Pelosi did not want to “take accountability and responsibility for the actions that she took in 2002, 2003″ and is instead simply “blaming the CIA.”
When host Greta Van Sustern pointed out that “CIA has not been perfect” in recent years, Hoekstra explained that in his view it is okay to criticize the agency’s performance, but it is another thing to accuse the CIA of having misled Congress:
HOEKSTRA: I think you do go back and you break it into two different issues. One is the performance, how well, they’re doing their job. The second is whether they have misled or lied to Congress, two very, very different issues.
Yesterday on CNN’s American Morning, Hoekstra made similar remarks, referring to Pelosi’s claims as “outrageous accusations.” He also appeared last night on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and this morning on talk radio with Bill Bennett and Laura Ingraham.
Hoekstra’s repeated objections to Pelosi accusing the CIA of having lied to Congress is quite odd given the fact that he’s made nearly identical claims on multiple occasions. As Marcy Wheeler first noted, Hoekstra wrote a letter to President Bush in 2006 accusing the intelligence community of withholding information on their activities from Congress. “I have learned of some alleged Intelligence Community activities about which our committee has not been briefed,” Hoekstra wrote. He said that he believed the Bush administration’s failure to fully brief his committee could constitute “a violation of law“:
Similarly, in 2007, Hoekstra described a closed-door briefing by representatives from the intelligence community (including CIA) on the National Intelligence Estimate of Iran’s nuclear capability, saying that the members “didn’t find [the briefers] forthcoming.” More recently, in November 2008, Hoekstra concluded that the CIA “may have been lying or concealing part of the truth” in testimony to Congress regarding a 2001 incident in which the CIA mistakenly killed an American citizen in Peru. “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress,” Hoekstra said of the incident.
In response to a question I asked, Dana Goldstein and Ann Friedman offer up a very interesting discussion of gender, finance, and the financial crisis:
One thing they mention is this study showing that women are, on average, better investors than men. What’s more, my understanding is that there’s actually quite a lot of research demonstrating that women are, on average, better at risk-assessment. For example, women are much less likely to get into car accidents and nobody has any plausible theory of what compensating benefits men are receiving in exchange for our riskier driving.
It’s interesting to consider this, and then consider how male-dominated finance is, and then ponder what that tells us. It probably tells us something about a sexist culture and institutionalized gender discrimination on Wall Street. But it probably also tells us something about inefficiency in the whole market segment.
Our guest blogger is David Min, Associate Director for Financial Markets Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
A couple of weeks back, my CAP colleague Matt Yglesias asked whether Treasury might be trying to emulate the Japanese government’s response to its credit downturn, citing Richard Koo’s excellent book on the Japanese banking crisis.
Koo acknowledges that the Japanese response to its banking crisis, which consisted primarily of massive regulatory forbearance (propping up banks and putting off loss recognition) and stimulus packages to promote job creation, led to very little growth over time. But Koo challenges the conventional wisdom that the Japanese response was a failure, arguing in short that the massive devaluation of assets throughout the entire Japanese economy should have created a cataclysmic, Great Depression-like downturn, and that the fact that Japanese growth remained fairly stagnant was in fact a great victory.
Well, John Hempton over at Bronte Capital has just written a brief, but I think highly illuminating comparison of the Japanese experience with the roughly contemporaneous credit downturn in Korea:
Korea had a much worse recession than Japan. Vastly worse. Japan was just low growth for a very long time. By contrast the Korean economy crashed and burned. But it also recovered very fast and at one point (1999-2000) the Korean Stock market was 1932 Great Depression cheap. It bounced. It is my contention that the main difference between the Korean and Japanese crashes (and Korea’s case recoveries) was the funding of the banks. In this view Korea’s was so sharp because the banks simply ran out of money – and that caused massive liquidations across the economy – systemic failures.
One of the keys to the Japanese response to its banking crisis, according to Hempton, was its massive internal savings, which was fueled by a “multigenerational” ethos of saving instilled into “Japanese housewives” from a young age. So even though the Korean Chaebol industrial-bank complex model was similar in many ways to the Japanese Zaibatsu/Keiretsu model, the fact that heavy savings (even at zero percent returns) were not as embedded into Korean society meant that when the credit crisis hit, “the Korean banks — unlike their Japanese counterparts were short funds. Endless funding at zero interest rates was simply not possible.” Read more
On CSPAN’s Washington Journal last month, former House speaker Newt Gingrich was asked if he had been invited to join the latest Republican re-branding effort, the National Council for a New America. “No, I’m not in office right now. I’m very happy for them to go do it,” replied Gingrich. Watch it:
But now the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports that Gingrich is joining the group:
Newt Joins National Council: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) will join the National Council for a New America (NCNA), according to sources familiar with the move. The NCNA, the brainchild of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), drew some initial criticism from social conservatives within the party due to its heavy membership among establishment types like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. But, with Gingrich’s addition — and that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a few weeks ago — those critics may be quieted somewhat. It still remains somewhat unclear as to what the NCNA will do to help the Republican Party re-establish itself as a major power in the country. To date, the sum total of its activities has been a single town hall meeting in northern Virginia.
In a statement, Cantor said that he was “thrilled” that Gingrich was joining the group because he “is a man of bold ideas, and brings unparalleled expertise in creating real solutions designed to help Americans from all walks of life.” When the National Council was first announced, ThinkProgress noted that RNC Chairman Michael Steele was conspicuously absent from the organization.
At the time, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring, said that both Steele and Gingrich were excluded because they worked for “partisan” organizations. Politico’s Ben Smith notes that while he “was ostensibly excluded for the same reason as Gingrich,” Steele “has not yet joined the Council.”
Jeffrey Toobin offers a surprisingly hard-edged assessment of the Chief Justice for a New Yorker article:
Roberts’s hard-edged performance at oral argument offers more than just a rhetorical contrast to the rendering of himself that he presented at his confirmation hearing. “Judges are like umpires,” Roberts said at the time. “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.
Which I guess is fine. Except insofar as judging I don’t approve of isn’t fine. But I expect presidents I don’t approve of to appoint judges I don’t approve of. What’s not fine was the kind of bizarre slobbering over Roberts from the establishment that preceded his confirmation. It would be one thing if the sensible center had just been saying “look liberals, you have to suck it up; Bush won the election so he’ll get to appoint right-wing judges.” Instead, we were treated to gushing coos over Roberts’ brilliance and moderation for which there was never any evidence.
Nobody wrote any prominent articles slamming him as an intellectual mediocrity who owed his advancement to a certain generic white male handsomeness and his role as a loyal foot soldier in a powerful political movement. I’m not sure it would have made any practical difference in the world if commentators had taken a more realistic view at Roberts back then. But still, folks who called this all wrong would be a lot more credible if they would make some kind of account.
In a speech in Maryland today, RNC Chairman Michael Steele boasted about the renewed “energy” of the conservative movement. “The energy of our base,” he said, “is strong, it is real, and it is hungry for success.” “You can feel” this grassroots energy, Steele said, proudly touting the lobbyist-organized tea bag movement:
STEELE: Those of you who live outside of Washington know what I’m talking about. Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners and county party events. Those of you who toll in the vineyards, spending time in communities in diners, barbershops, and coffee shops, where real, everyday, hardworking Americans can be found. You know it’s real. You can see it, and you can feel it. This change, my friends, is being delivered in a tea bag. And that’s a wonderful thing.
The tea bag line was immediately greeted by loud applause. Watch it:
Directly after the speech, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked former Republican Rep. Chris Shays what “new ideas” Steele had proposed. “I didn’t hear any new ideas. But that’s the point — I mean, we need to be talking about ideas.” Watch it:
It’s easy to make striking claims about the decline in Republican Party self-identification over the past eight years. Their problem, maybe, is that they’ve lost the support of married people—down five points. Or maybe the problem is that they’re down six points in the west. But the real problem is that the decline is so across-the-board that it’s easy to pull facts out of context. What I think is interesting to do is understand that the overall Republican decline in self-identification has been five percentage points, so then we can try to set that as the baseline and see where their declines have been concentrated. Here, for example, are the normalized declines by age cohort:
The sinking tide brought the GOP down among all groups. But relative to the average, the Republicans are declining a lot among young voters whereas senior citizens are (relatively!) non-disillusioned. Similarly, the Republicans declined by a less-than-average amount from their already low standing among non-whites. The decline among the (substantially larger) group of whites was, by contrast, a bit sharper than average.