According to ESPN “At the moment, the big issue in evaluating the Magic seems to be what you think of Hedo Turkoglu and Vince Carter” and their experts put Orlando in distant third place in terms of who’s most likely to win the East.
This strikes me as much less relevant than the return of Jameer Nelson. In 42 games last year, Nelson averaged 31.2 points per game on a very efficient .612 TS% and had a 6.2 percent rebound rate. That’s really good. But he missed the second half of the season and most of the playoffs and then didn’t play well when he did get back in. But if you can add guy like pre-injury Nelson to your team, then you’re looking at a dramatic improvement. Can they? I have no idea. Nelson never played that well before, and maybe he’ll never reach those heights again. Then again, he was only 26 last season, maybe he’ll play better than he did and do it for 82 games. That’d be a great team. But if not, then not.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is trying to shore up his anti-ACORN bona fides. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports today that Jindal issued an executive order barring state funds from going to the community organizing group. However, there’s one small kink in Jindal’s plan:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order to keep any state money from going to the controversy-wracked Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has its national headquarters in New Orleans.
According to the state’s Division of Administration, no state agencies have existing contracts with ACORN.
Since recently released videos showing ACORN staff engaging in inappropriate and potentially unlawful activity, the group’s president said ACORN will conduct a “thorough review” of the organization’s operation. (HT: TPM)
Iran has some kind of regular anti-Israel parade day (because, obviously, that sort of thing does a huge amount to alleviate Palestinian suffering…) but this year it went a bit awry:
Conservatives had warned against using the annual pro-Palestinian march, known as Quds Day, as an excuse for renewed protests against Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose disputed re-election in June plunged Iran into its worst internal crisis in three decades.
But the protesters turned out anyway, wearing green, the color of opposition, and often walking alongside larger groups of state-sanctioned marchers bearing huge banners denouncing Israel. The protesters even flouted Iran’s support for pro-Palestinian militants, chanting “No to Gaza and Lebanon, my life is for Iran.” And when officials shouted “death to Israel” through loudspeakers, protesters derisively chanted “death to Russia” in response. [...]
The opposition leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami joined the crowds, drawing appreciative cheers and chants of support. Later, Basij militia members tried to attack Mr. Khatami and Mr. Karroubi, but defenders fought them back, opposition Web sites reported.
Meanwhile, Ahmadenijad took the occasion to opine that the Holocaust “is a lie” designed to bolster support for Israel. Earlier this week a prominent anti-regime ayatollah in Iran stepped up his rhetoric accusing the government of being a “military regime” and urging clerics to preach resistance.
Two weeks ago, I visited the Arctic. I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It had collapsed. Not slowly melted “” collapsed. I traveled nine hours by ship from the world’s northernmost settlement to reach the polar ice rim. In just a few years, the same ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.
Scientists told me their sobering findings. The Arctic is our canary in the coal mine for climate impacts that will affect us all.
I was alarmed by the rapid pace of change there. Worse still, changes in the Arctic are now accelerating global warming. Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Melting ice in Greenland threatens to raise sea levels.
Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
I am therefore all the more convinced we must act “” now.
To that end, on Sept. 22 I am convening a special summit on climate change at the United Nations for some 100 world leaders “” history’s largest-ever such gathering of heads of state and government. Their collective challenge: transform the climate crisis into an opportunity for safer, cleaner, sustainable green growth for all.
The key is Copenhagen, where governments will gather to negotiate a new global climate agreement in December.
I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.
Climate change is the preeminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments.
What is needed is political will at the highest levels “” presidents and prime ministers “” that translates into rapid progress in the negotiating room. It requires more trust among nations, more imagination, ambition and cooperation.
I expect leaders to roll up their sleeves and speak with “” not past “” each other. I expect them to intensify efforts to resolve the key political issues that have so far slowed global negotiations to a glacial pace. Ironically, that expression “” until recently “” connoted slowness. But the glaciers I saw a few weeks ago in the Arctic are melting faster than human progress to preserve them.
Sen. Max Baucus’s health care mark appeases top-line Republican concerns. Under the mark, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for coverage, federal funds cannot be used for abortion and the public option is no more (the list goes on here). But many Republicans are still raising the same stale objections; some are even inventing new reasons to oppose the legislation.
Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reiterated his concern about undocumented workers being eligible for coverage and public dollars being spent on abortions. Grassley has also developed a new-found opposition to the individual mandate — a policy that even health insurers support:
HEMMER: Now as I understand it, you want stronger language preventing federal funds from going to abortion. You want stronger language to make sure illegal immigrants are not covered. If you got those two big points, would you go for it?
GRASSLEY: No, there are other points as well, but let me mention other points that you didn’t mention. And one would be the individual mandate, which for the first time would have a federal penalty against people who don’t have health insurance. I could do that through re-insurance and risk pools, to make sure we get more people insured in a voluntary way and I’m very reluctant to go along with an individual mandate.
But just last month, when asked “how does this bipartisan group that you`re a member of get to more health insurance coverage if you don`t mandate that employers provide coverage,” Grassley replied “through an individual mandate and that`s individual responsibility and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility.”
During a June appearance on Fox News Sunday, Grassley said, “there isn’t anything wrong with it [an individual mandate], except some people look at it as an infringement upon individual freedom”:
But when it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then ought to lie the same way for health insurance. Because everybody has some health insurance costs, and if you aren’t insured, there’s no free lunch. Somebody else is paying for it….I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.
During yesterday’s interview however, Grassley found fault in the “automobile insurance” analogy, explaining to host Bill Hemmer that “owning a car and driving a car are voluntary, you don’t have to do it…in this particular case every American would have to have insurance or you would have a penalty,” he said.
Hypocrisy aside, Grassley’s ‘reinsurance scheme,’ along with his abortion and immigration objections, are simply wrong headed. Grassley would replace the individual mandate with reinsurance. To make-up for the cost of individuals who would only buy coverage once they become sick (and remember, under insurance reform, insurers would have to accept all applicants, regardless of pre-existing conditions), Grassley would allow insurers to pay into a “reinsurance fund” that would finance very high medical expenses. This way, he would protect the entire insurance pool from picking up the costs of individuals who purchase coverage after a crippling diagnosis.
This makes sense in the short term, but on the whole it’s bad policy. We spend about 75% of our health care dollars managing chronic diseases and comparatively little on preventing individuals from developing those diseases in the first place. Grassley’s initiative, in other words, would not do anything to catch folks on the front end of the illness, (like the mandate would) and fail to lower costs over the long term.
The abortion piece is no less peculiar. The Baucus mark preserves current policy by preventing federal money from funding so-called ‘elective abortions’ — abortions in cases of incest, life, or rape would still be covered. The mark forbids women from using subsidy dollars for abortion services and forces them to finance the procedure with private money. But Grassley is suggesting, like Tony Perkins does here, that a woman who wants to buy a benefits package that includes abortion services, should not receive any federal assistance– even if she’s using those dollars for unrelated services. In other words, women who purchase comprehensive packages — that include abortion services — must pay for the entire cost of the package (even if they qualify for subsidies).
At yesterday’s House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on FCC oversight, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) decided to carry the right wing’s water, objecting to the “strongly opinionated” Lloyd:
The information from Mr. Lloyd would indicate he’s not for putting Fairness Doctrine back in, he’s just for a whole different scheme that gets to the same outcome. I hope we don’t have a government speech czar in place that’s going to drive a whole different mechanism through the rule-making and challenging the licensees.
FCC Chairman Genachowski strongly defended Lloyd, unequivocally stating that the commission will not “engage in any censorship of broadcasters or anyone in the media on the basis of political views and opinions.” He also underscored the importance of promoting media diversity:
Diversity is another area where for a very long time there has been — I think there still is — a bipartisan consensus that it is an important objective of the communications policy in the FCC. The diversity goals are mentioned in hundreds of FCC decisions, they’re explicitly mentioned in the communications act, the Supreme Court has acknowledged it’s a role, and the idea of having diversity as an objective of the FCC and having staff focused on it seems to be a natural extension. [...]
He’s not working on Fairness Doctrine issues, he’s not working on censorship issues, he’s not working on these issues. He’s working on opportunity issues, primarily now around broadband adoption, focusing on making sure that broadband is available to all Americans.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps stressed that Lloyd is highly respected in the communications community and was instrumental in facilitating the DTV transition by reading out to non-traditional stakeholders. “[W]e want a place of intellectual firmament and different ideas” at the FCC, but “we rely on the judgment of the organization and the people at the top of the organization to make intelligent decisions about where we’re going,” said Copps. “As for the personal characteristics of this particular individual, I think they are of the highest, and I, for one, am pleased he’s at the FCC.” Watch it:
So basically, the right wing — following the lead of Rush Limbaugh and Beck — is distorting a report on media diversity to fear-monger about a doctrine that few support and attack a man who will have nothing to do with implementing policy at the FCC.
I’m glad to learn that Olympia Snowe is concerned that subsidy rates are too low in Baucus’ bill, because subsidy rates are too low in Baucus’ bill. Still, it’s important to recall here that as Kant wrote he who wills the ends must also will the means. In the case of subsidies, higher subsidies means more taxes.
Probably the best way to think about it is that the inadequate subsidies amount to a kind of tax on the lower middle class and what you need to do is replace that tax with something else. Since the expenditure would be progressive in its impact, you could do it with regressive taxes on public health hazards like sweeteners and alcohol and it would still be an overall distributively progressive measure. Alternatively, you could get the same distributive impact (but not the public health benefits) with a progressive tax modeled on the surtax outlined in the House bill. Or you could do what Barack Obama proposed in the first place and curb tax deductions for rich people. These strategies all work. But the point is that unless you’re willing to talk about some form of higher taxes, there’s really no point in carping about the subsidies. It’s taxes that fund subsidies.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed — by a vote of 253 to 171 — a bill reforming the Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) program, to cut out the senseless subsidies that the federal government has been giving private loan companies to originate loans. Instead of continuing to use the banks as middle-men, which drives up the cost of the loan program, the federal government would directly lend to students, saving $87 billion.
Not surprisingly, the states represented above are the epicenters of the private student lending industry. Ben Nelson, in particular, is staunchly opposed to the bill due to Nebraska being the home of the loan company Nelnet (which as the New Nebraska Network pointed out, is “infamous for manipulating the federal government’s student loan subsidies to swindle American taxpayers out of $278 million”). Nelson has flatly stated that he’s willing to continue the $87 billion subsidy boondoggle because eliminating it may result in the loss of 1,000 Nelnet jobs.
Fortunately, once a bill does emerge in the Senate, it can be passed via reconciliation (which removes the threat of a filibuster). However, it will still need the support of some of the industry’s targets if it is to ultimately become law.
Something that’s gone missing in neocon hyperventilating about Barack Obama not wanting to build an expensive-but-useless missile shield system in Eastern Europe, is that Eastern Europeans don’t want us to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Here’s Andrew Roberts of Northwestern University breaking it down:
More to the point, the public in both countries has been decidedly lukewarm about the treaty to put it mildly. Below is a graph of Czech public opinion showing that over the past three years, a nearly unchanged two-thirds of the public has been opposed to construction of the radar and an even higher percentage has desired a referendum on the issue (presumably in order to vote against it; the data used to construct the graph are available here.) And this despite considerable government propaganda and public antipathy towards Russia.
I don’t have similar data on Poland, but a poll from August 2008 (when the treaty was signed) showed that 56% of the public opposed the missiles and only 27% supported supported them. Support rose somewhat in October 2008 (after the Russia-Georgia crisis), but a majority still opposed the radar (46% to 41%).
It can’t be much of a betrayal of our Czech and Polish allies to decline to build a radar system that neither the Czech population nor the Russian population wants us to build. The right wants us to at great expensive build a missile shield that doesn’t work, in places it’s not wanted, to protect Western Europe from Iranian missiles that don’t exist, in order to antagonize the Russians. The fact that it would make the Russians happy to kill the system somehow makes it a bad idea to kill the system. The Russians would also be mad if we bombed their naval bases—is it appeasement to decline to do so?
Soon after President Obama announced that he would abandon President Bush’s plan to construct a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic (and replace it with a smarter, more effective one), the right wing predictably went into hysterics.
Last night on Fox News, Charles Krauthammer joined in, complaining that Russia can now take over all of eastern Europe (despite the fact that didn’t happen the last time he predicted such an event). But later in the program, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes took demagoguery’s top prize:
BARNES: And it’s reminiscent of that famous meeting in 1961 of John F. Kennedy, a rookie president like Barack Obama, then with Nikita Khrushchev. And what did Khrushchev conclude from that meeting? That it was a weak president. And what happened? You had the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Berlin Wall built in Berlin, obviously. Worse could happen here.
Nevermind the fact that Barnes’ historical analogy isn’t close to analogous, he actually thinks that President Obama’s new missile defense policy (which is not dismantling missile defense) is going to lead to something worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis and the creation of the Berlin Wall.
“Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, who, along the the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended the move. U.S. defensive missile capability will now address real threats, as the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss noted:
[Obama's decision] is another important step in reforming the structures of U.S. national security to deal with threats as they actually exist in the real world, and not as they exist in the fevered imaginations of conservative ideologues and the defense contractors who love them.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that criticism of the Obama plan is “not yet connected to the facts. We are not, quote, ‘shelving’ missile defense. We are deploying missile defense sooner than the Bush administration planned to do so.” Indeed, a more pragmatic approach that focuses on real, rather than imagined, threats.
Republican Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser, today endorsed Obama’s new policy. “I strongly approve of President Obama’s decision regarding missile defense deployments in Europe. I believe it advances U.S. national security interests, supports our allies, and better meets the threats we face,” he said.