Top five annoying Bush administration slogans:
Number three probably doesn’t count as a true slogan, but still.
Top five annoying Bush administration slogans:
Number three probably doesn’t count as a true slogan, but still.
Here’s an easy way to tell where someone stands on the Iran question: If they constantly refer to “the mullahs” (religious leaders) who rule Iran, then you’re most likely dealing with someone who is disdainful of U.S.-Iran engagement, who thinks that the only problem with the Bush administration’s 2003-06 hardline approach was that it wasn’t hard enough, and who buys the nonsensical “Islamofascist” construct that powered the “Global War on Terror.” You’re probably also dealing with someone who either hasn’t been following, or would like to ignore, the way that the Iranian system has been changing, especially in the wake of the June 12 elections, from one controlled primarily by “the mullahs” into one that, though still presided over by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and furnished with a fading veneer of religious legitimacy by a cadre of extremist clerics, is increasingly a military dictatorship controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
While using “the mullahs” in such a pejorative fashion may allow certain commentators to communicate their prejudices in a marginally acceptable way and stoke fear of scary guys in robes and turbans, it also elides one of the most important aspects of the current situation in Iran: The role of the mullahs in confronting “the mullahs.”
Flipping through the TV channels late last night, I landed on the 700 Club just as Pat Robertson was offering his, err, “analysis” of Iran. Suppressing with great difficulty the urge to turn away from the stupid, I watched as Pat assured his viewers that the Iranian people “hate those mullahs,” but then noted that the latest anti-government demonstrations had occurred at the funeral of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Montazeri, “one of the better-liked mullahs.” I could see on Pat’s face that he realized that he’d just kind of clowned himself, but this is the situation that a lot of conservatives find themselves in now. Having fulminated for years against “the mullahs,” they’re unsure how to react to an Iranian opposition movement powered in considerable part by mullahs.
And not just mullahs, but Islamist mullahs, such as Montazeri himself, who even though he had turned against what the Iranian Islamic Republic had become, remained a firm believer in the principles of the Iranian revolution, in the idea of an Islamic Republic, and in the appropriateness of Islam as the organizing force in society.
Noting Montazeri’s passing, neoconservative analyst Michael Rubin (who, though an occasional “mullah”-baiter himself, has also been very clear-eyed about the costs of a military strike on Iran, unlike many other neocons) gets part of the way there:
While the media focuses on popular protests in Iran, such as those which occurred in Iran after this summer’s flawed elections, the real Achilles Heel to the Iranian regime is Shi’ism. Simply put, it is hard for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to claim ultimate political and religious authority when he is outranked by many clerics who oppose him and his philosophy of government.
Rubin’s right: Shi’ism supplies a powerful anti-authoritarian critique, and Khamenei’s meager religious credentials make it difficult for him to convincingly push back against it (the fact that his government has been murdering people in the streets certainly doesn’t make it easier). It’s very important to recognize, however, that these critiques are not just being generated from within Shi’ism, but also from within Islamist Shi’ism of the same sort that enlivened the 1979 Iranian revolution. Having ceaselessly condemned Islamism as inherently inhumane and undemocratic, many conservatives are now simply unable to appreciate the manner in which Islamist arguments have been redeployed against the Iranian regime’s inhumane and undemocratic behavior.
Given the resonance of Islamist arguments, in both their Shia and Sunni variants, to significant numbers of Muslims throughout the world, developing a more nuanced view of the various trends that have too often been carelessly grouped under the scare-term “Islamist” is essential in order to cultivate a more serious and rigorous U.S. policy discussion about political reform not only in Iran, but in the broader region. We shouldn’t have any illusions that Islamists are our allies, but neither should we presume that they’re all necessarily our enemies. As events in Iran show, moderate Islamists can be an important source of religious legitimacy for the forces of reform.
The full contours of the dispute between Ed Kilgore and Scott Winship that provide the context for this Kilgore post are too complicated to summarize, but I wanted to highlight his point that “open primaries” don’t seem to be much of a cure-all for political polarization:
But if you are looking in this direction for a cure-all, consider that the two most ideological senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are both from open primary states. (Meanwhile, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Olympia Snowe are products of closed primary states.) And remember, too, that registered “independents” are not always “centrists.”
I think the point about Nelson, Lieberman, and Snowe is probably more important than the point about DeMint and Sanders.
I would also add that it’s not really clear to me what the problem with polarization is supposed to be. Indeed, the concept seems to embed two somewhat different ideas—one of party cohesion and one of ideological distance between the parties. But if you imagine a situation in which highly disciplined parties face off in elections for a highly majoritarian system—as you see in the United Kingdom or Canada—I think you find that convergence toward the center à la the median voter theorem tends to occur. It’s possible for party activists to force a party in such a system far off-center, as we saw with Labour’s infamous “no compromise with the electorate” manifesto in the 1980s, the pre-Cameron Tories, but parties like that just lose elections. And party activists eventually get tired of losing, as you see in the rise of Tony Blair, Stephen Harper repositioning himself toward the center, etc.
The American system, by promoting an overwhelming bias toward the status quo, encourages politicians to engage in “cheap talk” promises. There’s a very robust debate happening on the Internet right now as to whether or not Barack Obama really supported a public option. That’s an absurd kind of debate to be having. In a normal country, a government that wants to move to the center has to move to the center, and a government that wants to do what its activist base wants has to actually do what its activist base wants. US administrations get to exist in a kind of indeterminant state that confuses the public. And not because the public is dumb—even people who follow these issues professionally have difficulty figuring out what’s what.
Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Ensign (R-NV) announced yesterday that they would invoke an unusual Senate procedure — a “constitutional point of order” — to allow the Senate to rule by majority vote on whether the “Democrat health care takeover bill” is unconstitutional.
Significantly, neither DeMint nor Ensign cite a single judge, justice or reputable constitutional scholar who believes that health reform is unconstitutional. Instead, they rely entirely on a study by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, a radical “tenther” organization which has endorsed the view that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the federal minimum wage, and the federal ban on workplace discrimination and whites-only lunch counters are all unconstitutional. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), rebuts DeMint and Ensign’s constitutional claim by citing numerous constitutional scholars — including right-wing law professor Jonathan Adler — who all agree that health reform is constitutional. Moreover, as ThinkProgress has previously explained, even ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with the tenther attack on health reform.
Sadly, DeMint and Ensign’s attempt to change the meaning of the Constitution by invoking a constitutional point of order is an all too familiar tactic. As CQ reports, Republicans often invoke this procedure to claim that bills they don’t like must therefore be unconstitutional. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently invoked the procedure to claim that a $200,000 federal grant to an Omaha, Neb. museum somehow violated the constitution. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used it to protest a bill to enfranchise D.C. residents.
Raising a constitutional point of order is also the first step to invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” an elaborate set of procedural maneuvers Republicans dreamed up while they were still in the majority, that effectively declare the filibuster unconstitutional. Indeed, despite the fact that Ensign and DeMint now claim the right to filibuster anything the majority does, both senators believed the filibuster must be unconstitutional when it was being used against them. Ensign claimed that the Senate has a “constitutional obligation” to give President Bush’s most radical judicial nominees an “up-or-down” vote, and DeMint had even harsher words for Democratic senators who opposed majority rule:
The obstructionists should go to the Senate floor, make their arguments, allow senators to draw their conclusions on her nomination and then let us vote. If their arguments are so strong, they should be able to convince a majority to agree. Otherwise, they are simply smearing the integrity of a highly respected jurist to score political points against the president, at the expense of vandalizing the Constitution. . . .
There is a reason Americans elected George W. Bush and a large Republican majority in Congress. The majority of Americans trusted our judgment on judicial nominees. There is also a reason Democrats are in the minority. Most Americans did not trust them to make these decisions.
Now that DeMint and Ensign are in the minority, however, it simply must be the case that the Constitution protects minority obstructionism–and that bills opposed by the minority are unconstitutional.
In a long, rambling speech on the Senate floor, Ensign also cites an op-ed by right-wing attorneys David Rivkin and Lee Casey as proof that health reform is unconstitutional. The Wonk Room debunks Rivkin and Casey here.
,Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told Iowa reporters that he doesn’t think DeMint and Ensign’s effort “means much.”
Our story so far.
The anti-science crowd pushed the nonsensical meme that a big snowstorm in winter is somehow counter-indicative of human-caused climate change. I then discussed the actual science, which makes clear that is, in fact, nonsense, and, if anything, such a storm is consistent with climate science, though you “can’t make a direct association between any individual weather event and global warming” (see Was the “Blizzard of 2009″³ a “global warming type” of record snowfall “” or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)?).
That post incited the anti-science crowd at Newsbusters and elsewhere to do their misinformation thing, falsely asserting that I blamed the story on global warming, which I expected. But I was surprised that Newsbusters’ Noel Sheppard apparently doesn’t know the difference between wind speed and precipitation, apparently believing that all big snowstorms are blizzards, which they are not. Worse, if you read the comments to my original post, the anti-science crowd apparently believes that any extreme weather event that happens during the winter must be evidence against human-caused global warming.
UPDATE: Turns out Noel Sheppard is an economist who wrote a “special report” for Business & Media Institute on November 30, 2005 titled, “Media Myths: The Housing Bubble Is Bursting,” attacking Krugman and others for warning of the dangers of a housing bubble! I’m so reassured that “no housing bubble” guy now says we needn’t fret over climate change either…. h/t Krugman via Douglas in the comments.
And so we come back to a question I’ve asked many times, “Why do the anti-science disinformers try to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?”
After all, the science is crystal clear that many extreme weather events have increased in recent years “” and that there is a link to climate change. The point is such well-established science that even that bastion of denial, the Bush Administration, acknowledged it in a major 2008 report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. Yes, alarmists like Bush’s Commerce Sec. Carlos Gutierrez, Energy Sec. Samuel Bodman, and Science Advisor John Marburger III, signed off on the conclusion that:
Heavy precipitation events averaged over North America have increased over the past 50 years, consistent with the observed increases in atmospheric water vapor, which have been associated with human-induced increases in greenhouse gases.
And they signed off on the conclusion that those “Extreme precipitation episodes” now “account for a larger percentage of total precipitation. The most significant changes have occurred in most of the United States.”
Yet the disinformers and their allies try to attack, mock or shout down any talk of such a link whatsoever.
Lots of chatter on the internet about NRO contributor Mike Potemra’s views on Star Trek: TNG:
I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era — peace, tolerance, due process, progress. [...]
So, yes, as everyone’ saying this shows that conservatives are monsters. But then I think he says something that, if interpreted charitably, is insightful. He says conservatives like the character of Jean-Luc Picard, “a moral hardass,” a “compelling portrait of ethical uprightness.”
I think the right way to say this is that Picard is a conservative person living in a liberal socialist utopia. That’s not to say that he’s a closet version of an early 21st century American right-winger, someone who secretly yearns for the reintroduction of capitalism, religion, and the routine use of lethal violence. Instead, he’s a characterological conservative, someone who believes deeply in authority and tradition and who’s not inclined to subject the basic political values of the Federation to a lot of scrutiny.
But of course this is the trouble with basing your political value system on things like authority and tradition. It’s always changing! William F Buckley’s determination to stand athwart history yelling stop led him to a robust defense of apartheid as a system of government for the American South. At times in different countries, authority and tradition has meant backing absolute monarchy or vicious dictatorships. Or maybe conservatism means women can’t vote. Eventually, you wind up defending the United Federation of Planets just like Captain Picard. Earlier this week TNR did a fun look back at various instances of social progress that the right swore would doom America. By Picard’s time, it’s bound to be a much longer list.
I realize that Kick-Ass is gratuitously violent and profane. But when it comes to roles–and role models–for teenage girls, more of this please:
Yesterday, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, appeared on Dennis Miller’s radio show, which was guest hosted by comedian Nick DiPaolo. Towards the end of the interview, the conversation turned to the Obama administration’s decision to hold a trial in a New York City court for accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, which Price called “a remarkable abrogation of duty on the part of the attorney general and the president of the United States.” When DiPaolo said that he believed Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “have a disdain for this country deep down, both of them,” Price did not disagree, only softening it to “a disdain for our form of government”:
DIPAOLO: How much is it Holder and Obama wanting to put, you know, Dick Cheney and Bush on trial really? All this is going to come out obviously when these trials are held. Isn’t that what this is really all about? I really do think they have a disdain for this country deep down, both of them.
PRICE: Well, it it, it’s absolutely political move. One could not make any argument that said that we would be safer as a nation with these individuals coming here for trial. So, I think you’re right its an absolutely political move and a disdain for our form of government may in fact be in place. I think its an absolute philosophical block on what it has, what it has taken to allow this to be the greatest nation in the history of the world. With more success for more individuals than any nation ever. And they simply are seem to have blinders on, absolute blinders on for whatever it has taken to get us to that point, whether its from a national security standpoint, whether its from a liberty and freedom standpoint or whether its from an economic standpoint.
According to a report published by Jacqueline Stevens in this week’s The Nation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is confining an unknown number of people in 186 secret, unmarked, and unlisted subfield offices. Since the subfield offices are designed to hold detainees in transit, they are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. As a result, Stevens claims ICE has essentially been able to hold individuals charged with a civil infraction in “conditions approaching those no longer authorized for accused terrorists.”
Stevens describes B-18, a Los Angeles storage space converted into an ICE sub-field office, as an “irrationally revolving stockroom that would shuttle the same people briefly to the local jails, sometimes from 1 to 5 am, and then bring them back, shackled to one another, stooped and crouching in overpacked vans.” In 2008, former ICE Director James Pendergraph boasted that, “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” For one B-18 detainee, the worst part of her experience wasn’t the dirt, bugs, or clogged, stinking toilet — it was not knowing how long she would be held in a place where no one in the outside world could find her. B-18 detainees have also been left at the office overnight and forced to sleep on benches or the concrete floor without showers, heat, drinking water, soap, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, mail, attorneys or legal information.
ICE apparently “fixed the situation” after Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder were named in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center this year. Though the lawsuit was settled and the government promptly took steps to correct many of the problems, it’s still unclear whether the improved B-18 facility represents the norm, or just one of the few exceptions amongst the clandestine network of ICE sub-field offices.
According to an October report by Dora Shriro, then special adviser to Janet Napolitano, subfield offices represent three percent of the average daily detained population and 84 percent of all book-ins. Following Shriro’s report, DHS announced a series of reforms aimed at reining in the web of federal centers, state and county lockups, and for-profit prisons that constitute a multi billion dollar “patchwork” of detention cells created by the Bush administration. However, some critics pointed out that many of the reforms are “so fundamental that you have to wonder what they are replacing.” ICE refused Stevens’ request for an interview and offered no explanation for the lack of public disclosure of subfield office locations and phone numbers.
I think Mark Thoma has reaches a smart conclusion here about the need for macroeconomic policy to reflect epistemic humility rather than an effort to prove some particular theoretical view. He says “we should try everything that has a reasonable chance of working. That means quantitative easing, new spending on infrastructure, tax cuts to encourage investment and hiring, make work programs, whatever it takes to get both the economy and people working again.”
But this argument is embedded in a piece that’s primarily an attack on people urging the Federal Reserve to do more. I’m obviously not a macroeconomist, so I can’t really say that I have a particularly strong view about whether monetary or fiscal measures are likely to have a greater impact on aggregate demand. That said, as a licensed, bonded, and certified professional political pundit I do feel very strongly that aggressive monetary measures are more realistic, which is an important part of my calculus.
Why? Read Jon Chait:
Obama’s trickiest dilemma is that the public does not agree with–or, to put it less charitably, understand–the basis for his anti-recession strategy. Whatever your view of deficits, they clearly make more sense during a recession than during an expansion, when deficit spending can help fuel overheated growth. The trouble is, public opinion tends to get loose with the purse strings during boom times and tight during recessions, which is the opposite of what you want. During the 1990s boom, the public favored expanded social spending and tax cuts over paying down the national debt. Today, by overwhelming margins, they favor an immediate balanced budget, even in the face of economic catastrophe.
That is, of course, insane. But Republicans have taken full advantage of the public’s fiscal insanity. President Bush used to scoff at proposals to pay down the national debt, saying, “The surplus means the government has more money than it needs.” Nowadays, Republicans like John Boehner say things like, “American families are tightening their belts,” and, therefore, Washington should “lead by example and show the American people that the government can go on a diet as well.”
What sounds to the American people like simple common sense is economic malpractice, and vice versa. Thus the Democrats’ predicament: High unemployment is making them unpopular, but the only steps they can take to reduce unemployment are themselves unpopular. If the Democrats actually gave the people what they say they want–$1.4 trillion in spending cuts and/or tax hikes to eliminate the 2010 deficit–Republicans would capture approximately 100 percent of Congress in the next election.
This, however, is precisely one of the reasons we’ve outsources primary responsibility for macroeconomic stability to a quasi-independent technocratic institution that’s primarily influenced by elite opinion rather than mass sentiments. This model is problematic in some ways, but in principle one of its advantages should be an ability to do the right thing at a time when the public may be confused by analogistic reasoning. Unfortunately, the same skew in favor of elite opinion also seems to me to give the Fed a skew in favor of elite interests and joblessness is primarily a problem at the moment for the sort of people who aren’t likely to be invited to any FOMC members’ Christmas parties.