Like I said yesterday, originally I didn’t take Lincoln’s proposal seriously. It seemed like it was just a stalking horse, a way for her to look tough and get some good hometown headlines even while knowing that it would quickly get watered down. And that might still happen, of course. Her derivatives language still has to survive a merger with the Banking Committee bill, a vote on the Senate floor, and then the conference report. The odds of coming through all that unscathed are pretty remote.
But….you never know. Republicans are obviously feeling some heat on this, and it’s not as though anyone outside of Wall Street has any sympathy for the derivatives industry. For now, this remains a possible bright spot on the financial reform horizon.
Frankly, I don’t think her language should get through unscathed as some of the stuff (spinning off swap desks, etc.) really has nothing to do with the main point of this section of the bill which is to get derivatives centrally cleared and traded on exchanges. The real point of this vote is that three weeks ago people were talking about Dodd’s language getting watered down by the Agriculture Committee but thanks to some focus on the issue and Bill Halter’s primary campaign that didn’t happen. So what went down today is very good news.
I haven’t really been paying attention to the early phases of Sue Lowden’s proposal that instead of health insurance we should just “barter” for health care because I assumed she was joking. But apparently not:
Lowden could very plausibly be representing Nevada in the US Senate a year from now, so it’s worth noting how terrible this would be. Checkups for chickens might work if we were all farmers, but what’s a blogger supposed to do? Maybe I could offer the guy free publicity with a few posts touting his services. A Web designer could build a website for the doctor. But what does the designer do if he needs to see the doctor again? Or what if the doctor needs to run a test that costs money, do you mail a chicken to the lab? It’s frightening that anyone this ignorant of how a modern economy works could be anywhere near political power.
Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israeli security officials are “divided” over whether they need permission from the U.S. should Israel decide to attack Iran over its nuclear program. The Israelis fear that if new sanctions on Iran fail, “the Israeli and American positions on Iran could rapidly diverge — and Israel, if it chooses to attack Iran, would have no choice but to do so on its own.”
While top U.S. officials have been reluctant to focus on a military strike against Iran, let alone endorse an Israeli one, Fox News war hawk John Bolton said last night on the network’s business channel that the U.S should actually “be helping Israel if they’re making a decision that they might use military force against Iran.” However, on the O’Reilly Factor, another reliable Fox News armchair warrior Charles Krauthammer actually acknowledged that attacking Iran could prove pointless:
KRAUTHAMMER: Do we have enough intelligence? Do we know where their stuff is hidden? They have spoken about a second uranium enrichment place. Do they have others? And, also, how deeply buried and how hardened are the targets? Because unless we know if we have access with our equipment, our bombs, they may be ineffective. I think they have got to make assessment on the current intelligence which appears to us, at least on the outside, rather weak.
Watch the compilation:
Krauthammer is right. There is a strong possibility that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would be completely “ineffective” at eliminating its program, because, as the New York Times reported in January, “Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers” which has “shielded its infrastructure from military attack in warrens of dense rock” and has “obscured the scale and nature of its notoriously opaque nuclear effort.”
Moreover, bombing will most likely incentivize the Iranian leadership to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and accelerate its nuclear program toward weaponization. An attack would not only unify the country around the regime but also, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last year, “cement their determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them.” “Even a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert,” Gates has said.
Continuing my streak of B.o.B.-love, I am quite fond of “Airplanes pt. 2,” which features the intriguing combination of Hayley Williams of Paramore and Eminem:
A couple of thoughts:
1) I really like the details in this song. ”Let’s pretend like it’s ’98 / Like I’m eating lunch off Styrofoam trays,” is particular enough to situate the narrative, but general enough that we can nod along in recognition. Eminem’s half of the story is similarly situated in the steps in his particular rise. I like the counterfactual approach both of them are taking to their verses, listing all the things that made both of them who they are now, while leaving intriguing negative space instead of explicitly explaining what their lives and the musical world would be like without them.
2) Maybe it’s just that she’s not a soprano. Or that her chorus acts as a strong frame device rather than wisp of something pretty tossed in to break up the rhymes. But I really like that Williams is an equal in this song. One of the things that I appreciate about B.o.B. is that he often has a dude singing hooks, or has something like this. Listening to him made me realize that I often feel like the samples of women’s voices, or the women brought in to sing choruses on hip-hop songs often feel marginalized to me. It’s not that they don’t work aesthetically, but I like this alternate presentation.
3) This is not the best guest-verse Em’s ever done. Any time he’s relying on a single profanity to fill up space, or complains about his mother, that’s a sign to me that he’s backsliding. That said, I appreciate the harshness of the self-examination. And the intense focus on how to provide for family, and the shame of not being able to do it when you want to, in this line: ”He’s going to have a hard time explaining to Hailey and Laney / These food stamps and this WIC shit.” ”Mockingbird” is a better song overall about being white and working class (the description of stolen Christmas presents he’s unable to replace makes me tear up every time). But I’m glad he keeps humanizing poverty, even though he’s so far removed from it now.
As gay activistsorganizeagainst the administration’s reluctance to commit to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) — a member of the critical Senate Armed Services Committee — is saying that Democrats are “within a vote or two” of including repeal legislation in this year’s Defense Authorization bill. Yesterday, Udall hosted a press conference to reiterate his support for ending the policy this year:
The Pentagon is studying how to implement an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and while I agree that is a necessary step, I also believe strongly that we must repeal it this year. I will continue to work with other senators to ensure that the repeal is included in the Defense Authorization bill, which will be marked up in the Senate Armed Services Committee next month. But we still face an uphill battle, and we will need a bipartisan push to clinch this urgent effort. The stories these dismissed service members told me today are extremely powerful and compelling, and they’ll help as I urge my colleagues to support repeal. The countless men and women who currently are unable to serve our country honestly deserve a change. And I believe it’s imperative for our national security.
“I’m going to push everybody possible to see this happens this year. We’ve had this discussion long enough,” Udall told the Denver Post. “The Pentagon has taken some big forward steps that they’ve never been willing to take. I don’t under estimate the steps they’re taking, but in the end we need to change the law.”
Indeed, when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates first announced the formation of the study group in February, Udall proposed that Congress move concurrently with the study and has since co-sponsored Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) repeal legislation that would end the policy within 13 months of enactment and set benchmarks for the Pentagon’s ongoing review. To the frustration of many, however, President Obama has yet to endorse the measure or recommit to ending the policy this year. During today’s White House Press conference, Gibbs said the administration would wait for the Pentagon to complete its review before pushing for repeal.
Allen is a master aggregator, which leads some to dismiss Playbook as a cut-and-paste exercise. But that ignores Allen’s ability to break news (even if by only 15 minutes), to cull from e-mail only he is receiving, to get early copies of books and magazines and to pick out the prime nugget from the bottom of a pool report. He has a knack for selecting the “data points” that an info-saturated clan cares most about and did not know when it went to bed. Playbook’s politics are “aggressively neutral,” and Allen says his are, too — he refuses to vote.
I think the 15 minutes thing is really pernicious and by no means restricted to Allen. Journalism, as a vocation, highly valorizes breaking news. In part this is about making money, but it’s more fundamentally about the value system of the profession. You defend someone’s work by saying “that ignores Allen’s ability to break news” because breaking news is what it’s all about—the journalism equivalent of collecting championship rings.
But there are really two ways to break news. A Type 1 scoop is a story that if you don’t break, just won’t be broken. A Type 2 scoop is a pure race for priority. You get Type 2 scoops by becoming the favored destination for deliberate leaks, or by ferreting out information that will be officially announced soon enough (Joe Biden will be Obama’s VP pick!), or by chasing down an obvious-but-arduous-to-follow lead. These Type 2 scoops are structurally similar to “breaking news” but they don’t have any real value. Far too often in Washington we have a dozen reporters following something, and then at the margin three more tag along. Meanwhile, almost nobody is doing enterprise work around investigating non-obvious issues. You have way more people covering the White House’s response to the latest attack from Liz Cheney than covering the entire Department of Agriculture and nobody knows what scandals or stories or whatever we’re missing. And it’s largely because we place undue value on the idea of beating the other guy by 15 minutes.
Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took aim at this tactic yesterday evening. Employing a “little-used rule adopted in 2007 that requires a Member to report his anonymous hold [on a federal nominee] in the Congressional Record [six days] after a colleague has tried to clear the name,” the two senators took to the Senate floor to try and clear the backlog and ask for unanimous consent for votes on scores of federal nominees.
As Whitehouse and McCaskill began reading the names of stalled federal nominees, the Republicans at first didn’t even appear. Whitehouse then waited patiently for a Republican Senator to arrive on the floor. Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) finally appeared and began objecting to the two senators’ unanimous consent requests, ultimately blocking votes on 97 nominees. The Huffington Post has assembled a video compilation of Kyl blocking Whitehouse and McCaskill’s requests. Watch it:
“Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll learn who it is in the Senate that doesn’t want them to be nominated, who it is that doesn’t want them to be confirmed,” McCaskill said afterwards. Because of the rule that McCaskill and Whitehouse employed, the senators who have placed the anonymous holds now have six legislative days before they have to reveal who they are to the Congressional Record. However, as the Huffington Post’s Ryan Gram and Ben Craw note, the senators “may be able to wiggle out of going public by dropping their holds and picking them right back up, or teaming up with other Republicans and swapping the holds back and forth. It’s never been tried before.”
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has introduced a package of legislative reforms in the Senate that would eliminate the ability of senators to place anonymous holds.
Yesterday, veterans discharged under the Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy handcuffed themselves to the White House fence to protest the administration’s refusal to ending the policy before the end of the year. Park Police responded to the incident by closing down Lafayette Park and moving reporters “more than 300 feet back from the activists handcuffed to the fence in front of the north side of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.” On Tuesday, “the U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division provided contradictory accounts of who ordered the move,” but today, the Park Police officially apologized, saying it had “screwed up.” “We had some young officers who, when they were told to move the people back — which we typically do when we’re going to make arrests – they moved the people back a lot further than we typically do,” said Park Police spokesman David Schlosser. “That was a rookie, amateur error and they screwed up on that.”
This afternoon, The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld joked with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the incident and asked if the recent protests suggested to the White House that it had underestimated the LGBT community’s patience with the process to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Gibbs admitted that the Park Police engaged in “some overzealous actions” and reiterated the president’s long standing commitment to ending the policy. But when Evelveld asked if the administration is committed to letting the Pentagon study group complete its work before Congress acts on repeal legislation, Gibbs said that it was, effectively precluding any chance of ending the policy this year:
ELEVELD: He’s committed to letting the Pentagon work through it’s working group process until December 1st, is that true? He’s committed to that?
GIBBS: Yes. The president has set forth a process with the chair of the Joint Chiefs and with the Secretary of Defense to work through this issue.
ELEVELD: Before any legislative action is taken. That rules out legislative action this year.
GIBBS: Well, again — the House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government. The President has a process and a proposal I think that he believes is the best way forward to seeing, again, the commitment that he’s made for many years in trying to — changing that law.
Indeed, with the military committed to maintaining the policy until it finished its review on December 1st, the White House has been reluctant to lobby moderate senators to include repeal legislation in this year’s defense authorization act.
During his State of the Union, however, Obama pledged, “This year — this year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.” Similarly, at the Human Rights Campaign fundraiser in October, the president said he understood activists’ frustration with the slow process of repeal and urged them to continue lobbying leaders.
“Now, I’ve said this before, I’ll repeat it again — it’s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders — including me — and to make the case all across America,” Obama added.