You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Bernie Sanders: The American People Must STEP UP and Demand a Fair Deal
Greg Sargent, WaPo:
Why do the Tea Party and the right adamantly oppose Mitch McConnell’s proposal to transfer control of the debt ceiling to the president as a way out of an impasse that many think is badly damaging the GOP?
The answer, paradoxically, lies in the beauty of the McConnell plan: It was crafted to allow Republicans to repeatedly vote against raising the debt ceiling without actually stopping it from being raised.
McConnell and other GOP leaders know full well the debt ceiling must be hiked. But they also know full well that this is entirely unacceptable to large swaths of the base who now see this as their number one ideological cause celebre, on a par with the now-forgotten drive to repeal Obamacare. So his plan tries to solve both these problems at once. It provides for Republicans to vote to “disapprove” of each debt ceiling hike the President pursues. But since they need a veto proof majority to block each debt limit hike, those “disapproval” votes won’t actually stop the hikes from happening — keeping the business community happy and averting economic and political disaster.
The problem for GOP leaders, however, is that the Tea Party and the right are dead serious about this stopping-the-debt-ceiling-hike thing — reality and the consequences be damned. Solid majorities of Republican voters and Tea Partyers don’t even think failure to raise it will be a problem. Symbolic votes to “disapprove” of debt ceiling hikes aren’t enough. Anything short of stopping the debt ceiling from going up is unacceptable. The McConnell plan would surrender the GOP’s ability to do this. Therefore it’s a total cave-in.
Business leaders and sane GOP leaders want the debt ceiling raised and understand that failure will be catastrophic. The Tea Party wants a hike blocked at all costs. The problem in a nutshell is that there’s no putting that ideological genie back in the bottle. One party is going to have to walk out of this situation not getting what it wants. Hint: That party’s name begins with the letter “T.”
Right wing groups up the pressure: Illustrating my point above, Mike Allen reports that a coalition of right-wing groups has written a letter to GOP leaders putting them on notice: The Tea Party and the Club for Growth will withdraw support from any lawmaker who backs the McConnell “cut, run, and hide” plan — even if they oppose debt ceiling hikes later.
Former President Bill Clinton tells the National Memo that he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation’s debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me” in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement before the August 2 deadline.
Said Clinton: “I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy.”
He noted that you shouldn’t be able to say, “Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears.”
David Brooks follows up his previous article on the behavior of Republicans during the debt ceiling negotiations with another scathing piece to “identify the people who decided not to seize the chance to usher in the largest cut in the size of government in American history.”
“The Beltway Bandits. American conservatism now has a rich network of Washington interest groups adept at arousing elderly donors and attracting rich lobbying contracts… The Big Government Blowhards. The talk-radio jocks are not in the business of promoting conservative governance. They are in the business of building an audience by stroking the pleasure centers of their listeners… The Show Horses. Republicans now have a group of political celebrities who are marvelously uninterested in actually producing results… The Permanent Campaigners. For many legislators, the purpose of being in Congress is not to pass laws. It’s to create clear contrasts you can take into the next election campaign.”
“All of these groups share the same mentality. They do not see politics as the art of the possible. They do not believe in seizing opportunities to make steady, messy progress toward conservative goals. They believe that politics is a cataclysmic struggle. They believe that if they can remain pure in their faith then someday their party will win a total and permanent victory over its foes. They believe they are Gods of the New Dawn.”
He accused the administration of being a “wet blanket,” killing job growth by introducing so much uncertainty.
So has the private sector really shriveled under Obama? No.
This chart looks at GDP without net government spending (AKA the deficit, AKA the difference between how much the government is pumping in via spending compared to how much its taking out via taxes). What you’re left with, basically, is private sector growth.
It turns out growth is robust: The private sector is growing at just under 5% right now.
Not bad at all under an administration that supposedly hates business.
And of course, this fits in with what other data has showed: It’s the public sector that’s shedding jobs right now (as stimulus wears off), and the private sector adding them.
[…] Keynes — and others who later elaborated on his work, like Hyman Minsky — taught us that although markets are usually self-correcting, they occasionally enter destructive feedback loops in which a shock to, say, the financial system scares business and consumers so badly that they hoard money, which worsens the damage to the system, which further persuades other economic players to hoard, and so on and so forth.
In that situation, the role of the government is to break the cycle. Because businesses and consumers have stopped spending, the government breaks the cycle by spending. As clean as that theory is, it turned out to be a hard sell.
The first problem was conceptual. What Keynes told us to do simply feels wrong to people. “The central irony of financial crises is that they’re caused by too much borrowing, too much confidence and too much spending, and they’re solved by more confidence, more borrowing and more spending,” Summers says.
The second problem was practical. “What I didn’t appreciate was the extent to which we only got one shot on stimulus,” Romer says. “In my mind, we got $800 billion, and surely, if the recession turned out to be worse than we were predicting, we could go back and ask for more. What I failed to anticipate was that in the scenario that we found we needed more, people would be saying that what was happening showed that stimulus, in general, didn’t work.”
And even if Congress was willing to green-light more money, spending it turned out to be harder than the Keynesians had hoped. “Anybody who is honest and knowledgeable will say it is harder to move money quickly and well in reality than it is in the textbook model. I don’t think the idea that lots more money could have been moved is credible unless there had been a whole set of prior planning,” Summers says.
Prior planning, it turns out, is important. Keynesianism might be a theory of crises, but it requires planning during non-crisis periods. And looking back, we weren’t prepared to go Keynesian. At all.
For one thing, if you’re going to spend during downturns, you have to save during expansions. That wasn’t a big part of George W. Bush administration policy, of course.
Another clear takeaway is that formulas are more reliable than Congress. It would be much better if federal support for programs such as Medicaid and unemployment insurance was explicitly tied to the unemployment rate. Hoping Congress will act responsibly over any extended period of time isn’t, as they say, a plan. […]
But rather than improving on Keynes, the Republican Party has turned against him and the Democratic Party has stopped trying to defend him, much less continue to implement his recommendations.
“The polarization of fiscal policy is one of the worst legacies to come out of the recession,” Romer says, sighing. “Before the crisis, there was agreement that what you do when you run out of monetary tools is fiscal stimulus. Suddenly, it’s like we’re back in the 1930s.”
The dominant story of the current political debate is that the government is broke. We can’t afford to pay for public services, put people to work, or service the public debt. Yet as a nation, we are awash in money. A defective system of money, banking, and finance just puts it in the wrong places.
Raising taxes on the rich and implementing financial reforms are essential elements of the solution to our seemingly intractable fiscal and economic crisis. Yet proposals currently on the table fall far short of the need.
A newly released report of the New Economy Working Group, coordinated by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, goes beyond the current debate to call for a deep restructuring of the institutions to which we as a society give the power to create and allocate money. How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out the steps required to rebuild a system of community-based and accountable institutions devoted to financing productive activities that create good jobs for Americans and generate real community wealth. […]
Corporations are using their stores of cash primarily to buy back their own stock, acquire control of other companies, invest in off-shoring yet more American jobs, and pay generous dividends to shareholders and outsized bonuses to management.
It was not always so. In response to the Great Depression, our country enacted financial reforms that put in place a system of money, banking, and investment based on community banks, mutual savings and loans, and credit unions. These institutions provided financial services to local Main Street economies that employed Americans to produce and trade real goods and services in response to community needs and opportunities.
This system, which Wall Street interests dismiss as quaint and antiquated, financed the U.S. victory in World War II, the creation of a strong American middle class, an unprecedented period of economic stability and prosperity, and the investments that made America the world’s undisputed industrial and technological leader. […]
How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out details of a six-part policy agenda to rebuild a sensible system of community-based and accountable financial services institutions.
- Break up the mega-banks and implement tax and regulatory policies that favor community financial institutions, with a preference for those organized as cooperatives or as for-profits owned by nonprofit foundations.
- Establish state-owned partnership banks in each of the 50 states, patterned after the Bank of North Dakota. These would serve as depositories for state financial assets to use in partnership with community financial institutions to fund local farms and businesses.
- Restructure the Federal Reserve to function under strict standards of transparency and public scrutiny, with General Accounting Office audits and Congressional oversight.
- Direct all new money created by the Federal Reserve to a Federal Recovery and Reconstruction Bank rather than the current practice of directing it as a subsidy to Wall Street banks. The FRRB would have a mandate to fund essential green infrastructure projects as designated by Congress.
- Rewrite international trade and investment rules to support national ownership, economic self-reliance, and economic self-determination.
- Implement appropriate regulatory and fiscal measures to secure the integrity of financial markets and the money/banking system.
How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule is the product of extended discussions among representatives of a diverse group of organizations committed to deepening and reframing the conversation on financial reform to focus attention on the serious financial system restructuring required to build a strong new American economy adequate to the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. It may be freely shared, reproduced and distributed with appropriate citations.
Legendary long distance swimmer Diana Nyad, 60, will attempt to be the first person to swim the 103 miles from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage.
What does swimming 103 miles for 60 hours straight do to a human body?
As soon as the Gulf Stream water reaches the optimal temperature — not too hot, not too cold — 61-year-old Diana Nyad will set off for one of the greatest tests of human endurance, ever. She will swim from Havana, Cuba to the Florida coast — a 103-mile swim.
As she swims for an anticipated 60-some hours, pausing only to tread water and refuel, her glycogen levels will get depleted, her core body temperature could rise or drop dangerously, and she’ll risk dehydration and lose muscle mass.
“With this type of swim, I would be interested in tracking things like hydration levels, core temperature, lean muscle and fat changes,” said Bruce Johnson, who researches extreme activities at the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and exercise researcher, said that the hardest part for the body likely won’t be the exercise itself, which he calls “moderately paced,” but the lack of sleep, maintaining a healthy body temperature and getting enough fuel to the muscles.
Thermo-regulation will be key. If the water temperature gets too high, Nyad could risk dehydration and hyperthermia, which can cause the blood pressure to drop and the brain and other organs to overheat. “Once the brain gets hot, you really start to shut things down,” Joyner said. “And the urge to exercise can go away.”
If the water temperature gets too low, she’ll risk hypothermia, which, untreated, could lead to heart and respiratory failure. She’ll need a minimum of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures ranging from 86 to 98 degrees inside the Gulf Stream.
When it comes to fuel, each extreme athlete has their own well-tested formula. Frank Shorter, a marathon runner who won the gold medal in the 1972 Summer Olympics, was known for drinking flat coke. Danny Miller, a 31-year-old super long distance runner, who has completed two 100-mile runs and more than 20 ultra-marathons, gets by on potato soup and Oreos.
Sleeping is not an option, and resting isn’t really rest — the closest she’ll come is pausing to tread water. Extreme athletes often report hallucinations on long, sleepless treks. Miller recalls seeing a Hawaiian luau in the woods during one ultra-marathon run, complete with tiki torches, barbecues, beer and people dancing. During another, his vision got “bubbly,” as if the world was underwater.
Hallucinations are caused by a number of factors, Joyner said: sleep deprivation, low glucose levels and other metabolic changes.
And physical tests aside, the water adds its own collection of environmental and logistical challenges. Strong currents have been known to drive swimmers off course.
Nyad will also be swimming in water populated by menacing marine life. In fact, she’ll be the only person who has ever done the swim without a a strong metal “shark cage” pulled by a boat and built to withstand ramming by sharks. A sting by a Man of War jellyfish could be dangerous — venom from these jellyfish shoot straight to the brain, and can cause nausea, convulsions and hallucinations. Nyad writes about it here.
Nyad commented on many of these potential problems herself in a letter that she posted on her blog:
“The first half will bring potential dehydration, due to the extremely hot water temps,” she wrote. “But the second half danger will be hypothermia as I start losing weight and am immersed in a liquid much below normal body temps.”
She blogs about the difficulties associated with the powerful Gulf Stream: “swirling eddies throughout, Westerly counter currents off the Cuban coast, and potentially strong counter-tides off the Florida coast.”
Joyner said he was frustrated by the number of online comments on online stories about Nyad’s training and expedition that questioned why she was doing the swim, why anyone would do such a thing. “Those questions miss the point,” he said. “At some level, you’ve got to admire anybody who wants to test the limits of human potential in general, and her own limits, in specific…It’s a good thing we’re not all average.”
As to whether these ultra-endurance ultimately strengthen or harm the body? That’s a question with many layers, Johnson said.
People who build up slowly over the years seem to do okay, but ramping up training too quickly tends to lead to problems, he said. He points to the Tamahara Indians, who are known for walking and running extremely long distances from a young age. “They do well over many years without extensive late-in-life problems,” he said.
And while single extreme endurance events can lead to a significant loss of muscle mass and injury, he said, “highly trained people seem to recovery quickly and do well if hydrated and fueled appropriately. Their ability to recover, repair, etc. seems to be quite good and maybe enhanced.”
Plus, he adds, “swimming has less trauma than running due to the lack of an impact from the foot strike. So, less breakdown. Worries are more related to maintaining core temperature if water is cold, cooling if water is hot, and hydration and fuels.”
The Institute of Medicine recommended on Tuesday that health care insurers cover the cost of birth control under the new federal health care law. This was just one of the findings on preventive health care services for women from the Institute, the branch of the National Academies of Science tasked with providing research and information on medical topics. But like pretty much everything dealing with women’s health these days, this has turned into a debate about abortion.
The Department of Health and Human Services will get to make the ultimate decicion about whether insurers will be required to provide birth control free of charge, but this is a good indication that it will. The new health care law requires insurers to cover preventative health care, and the administration directed the Institute to determine what that should include. This could be a big deal, as many women regularly shell out large amounts for birth control copayments. (I’ve personally paid up to $50 a month in the past, so I’m hardly an impartial party on this particular issue.) But just like the battles over Title X family planning funds in Congress this year, this recommendation has anti-abortion groups riled up. Specifically, they’re concerned that this could lead to Plan B, or the “morning after pill,” being covered by insurers.
I caught this segement on NPR this morning, before the new guidelines were announced, with Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council:
The other problem, says Monahan, is abortion. Specifically, abortion opponents argue that some emergency contraceptives — so called morning-after pills — can cause very early abortions by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs into a woman’s uterus.
“So those 7 to 10 days before a baby can implant, Plan B can prevent implantation and thereby cause the demise of that baby. So we’d be opposed to those drugs being included because they act as abortifacients.”
Anti-abortion groups believe that this constitutes abortion, even though medical organizations like the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been clear that this is factually incorrect; pregnancy does not begin until a fertilized egg is implanted. Plan B is recommended for a number of reasons: in cases of rape or incest or when a condom breaks.
The abortion debate, of course, distracts from the very real reasons that access to birth control is an important issue for women. Half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned; reproductive rights advocates believe that access to free birth control could be a significant factor in reducing that number. And many women also use birth control for medical reasons other than preventing pregnancy, like controlling hormone imbalances, reducing the severity of menstrual cramps, or dealing with acne.
A Southern California man was wrongly convicted of online threats against Barack Obama two weeks before Obama was voted president in the November 2008 elections, a divided federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
“Re: Obama fk the niggar, he will have a 50 cal in the head soon,” read one of the messages posted on the Yahoo finance site by Walter Bagdasarian.
About 20 minutes later, Bagdasarian posted another statement after 1 a.m. on October 22. “Shoot the nig country fkd for another 4 years+, what nig has done ANYTHING right???? long term???? never in history, except sambos.”
After Secret Service agents traced the remarks to him when a message board member tipped them off, Bagdasarian was found guilty of two counts of criminal threats to a presidential candidate. The La Mesa man was sentenced to two months in a halfway house. He appealed.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco concluded that Bagdasarian’s statements were “particularly repugnant” because they directly encourage violence. “We nevertheless hold that neither of them constitutes an offense within the meaning of the threat statute under which Bagdasarian was convicted” (.pdf), the appeals court wrote.
The three-judge appellate panel, ruling 2-1, said Bagdasarian’s speech was lawful, perhaps because of a loophole in the law.
“The evidence is not sufficient to support a conclusion that a reasonable person who read the postings within or without the relevant context would have understood either to mean that Bagdasarian threatened to injure or kill the presidential candidate,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority.
Reinhardt noted, however, that the statements “intended to encourage others to take violent action.”
“The threat statute, however, does not criminalize predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president,” Reinhardt wrote.
There are many unstable individuals in this nation to whom assault weapons and other firearms are readily available, some of whom might believe that they were doing the nation a service were they to follow Bagdasarian’s commandment. There is nevertheless insufficient evidence that either statement constituted a threat or would be construed by a reasonable person as a genuine threat by Bagdasarian against Obama.
The government argued Bagdasarian had a .50-caliber weapon at home, the same model he listed on the message board. “Nobody who read the message board postings, however, knew that he had a .50-caliber gun,” Reinhardt wrote.
In dissent, Judge Kim McClane Wardlaw wrote that “history undermines the conclusion that a reasonable person would interpret Mr. Bagdasarian’s ‘50 cal in the head’ comment as a joke or mere political rhetoric.”
Reading the two statements charged in the indictment in isolation, the majority dissects them to conclude that they were not even threats. It fails to consider the ominous backdrop of America’s history of racial violence, the uniquely racial and violent undercurrents of the 2008 presidential election, the entirety of Mr. Bagdasarian’s postings on October 22, two weeks before the 2008 election, and the listeners who not only perceived the posts as threatening when they were made, but who acted on that perception.
[…] According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term “chloroform” was searched once through Google. The Google search then led to a Web site, sci-spot.com, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s. […]
Mr. Bradley’s findings were not presented to the jury and the record was never corrected, he said. Prosecutors are required to reveal all information that is exculpatory to the defense.
“I gave the police everything they needed to present a new report,” Mr. Bradley said. “I did the work myself and copied out the entire database in a spreadsheet to make sure there was no issue of accessibility to the data.”
Mr. Bradley, chief executive of Siquest, a Canadian company, said he even volunteered to fly to Orlando at his own expense to show them the findings.
Cheney Mason, one of Ms. Anthony’s defense lawyers, said it was “outrageous” that prosecutors withheld critical information on the “chloroform” searches.
“The prosecution is absolutely obligated to bring forth to the court any and all evidence that could be exculpatory,” Mr. Mason said. “If in fact this is true, and the prosecution concealed this new information, it is more than shame on them. It is outrageous.”
“This was a major part of their case,” Mr. Mason added.
The State Attorney’s Office in Orlando did not return messages seeking comment. […]
“I had translated the data into something meaningful for the police,” he said. “Then I turned it over to them. The No. 1 principle for them is to validate the data, and they had the tools and resources to do it. They chose not to.”
Soon after giving testimony, Mr. Bradley learned during the defense portion of the case that the police had written a first report in August 2008 detailing Ms. Anthony’s history of Internet searches. That report used NetAnalysis, a different software. […]
Concerned that the analysis using CacheBack could be wrong and that a woman’s life might be at stake, Mr. Bradley went back to the drawing board and redesigned a portion of his software to get a more accurate picture.
He found both reports were inaccurate (although NetAnalysis came up with the correct result), in part because it appears both types of software had failed to fully decode the entire file, due to its complexity. His more thorough analysis showed that the Web site sci-spot.com was visited only once — not 84 times.
Mr. Bradley, fearing that jurors were being given false information based on his data, contacted the police and the prosecution the weekend of June 25. He asked Sergeant Stenger about the discrepancy, and the sergeant said he was aware of it, Mr. Bradley said. He waited to see if prosecutors would correct the record. They did not.
“They needed to get that right,” Mr. Bradley said.
[…] Morgan didn’t defend the hacking but added, “I’ve known Rupert and James Murdoch for a very long time. Rupert Murdoch made me one of the youngest editors in Fleet Street history when I was 28 years old. I owe him a lot. I wouldn’t probably be here without his help.”
And Morgan wasn’t done gushing. “I also know Rebecca Brooks very well,” he continued, “One of my oldest friends. And I’m proud to be their friends. This is a very tough day for them… My summation of the thing was that nobody proved, I don’t think to any neutral observer, that Rupert Murdoch had any personal knowledge of what was going on with this phone hacking. Or James Murdoch for that matter, or Rebecca Brooks.”
“What you have seen are clearly management failings,” Morgan said, “in how they controlled this story when it first came up…. It’s been very damaging for the Murdoch family, for the corporation, but, at the end of the day, money talks – I think that the stock price of News Corp. rose six percent today, so clearly the market believes that no death charge blow was landed.”
Morgan’s appearence on Blitzer’s show was one of the lengthier defenses Morgan has offered of his old boss, but it was by no means his first. Throughout the day, as Brooks and the two Murdochs appeared before a Parliamentary Inquiry, Morgan sounded off on Twitter. “Nothing unusual in Rupert’s desk-whacking,” Morgan tweeted during Rupert’s appearance before the Committee. “He did that in every meeting I ever had with him. To convey both pleasure & displeasure.”
It is a rare thing for a host on CNN—a network that has defined its brand by news and not opinion—to be so open about his sympathies in an unfolding news story. And one he’s covering, at that. CNN wouldn’t comment for this story, but sources close to the network point out that Morgan has offered his opinion on other stories in the past and that, given how close he is to this one (in that Morgan is in the unique position of having worked for Murdoch at the very paper in the center of this scandal), it would be odd for him not to offer personal commentary.
The New Republic:
One of President Obama’s more provocative comments from Friday’s press conference was an argument he made to fellow liberals:
If you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you’re a conservative. And the reason is because if the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, two years, five years, is debt and deficits, then it’s very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained, how do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure.
If you care about making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order, so that every time we propose a new initiative somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say, “Ah, more big spending, more government.”
It would be very helpful for us to be able to say to the American people, our fiscal house is in order. And so now the question is what should we be doing to win the future and make ourselves more competitive and create more jobs, and what aspects of what government is doing are a waste and we should eliminate. And that’s the kind of debate that I’d like to have.
But is it true? Would securing a major deficit reduction package reduce opposition to government spending and, perhaps, build support for liberal initiatives in the future? I put the question to three prominent public opinion experts on Friday.
[…] While many of the more ideological Republicans in Congress perceive themselves as bravely standing on principle, the broader public sees them as adding to the dysfunction of a city and a process that were already screwed up.
A CBS News national survey of 810 adults conducted July 15-17 (margin of error plus or minus 4 percent) and released on Monday morning showed that only 43 percent of those polled approved of President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling negotiations and only 31 percent approved of what Democrats in Congress have done on the issue. But that amounted to a rousing public cheer compared to the jaw-dropping 71 percent disapproval for Republicans on the issue. Only 21 percent of respondents approved of GOP efforts.
There’s no particular reason that Republicans should care that only 11 percent of Democrats approved of the job they were doing (82 percent disapproved). But those who represent districts that are anything less than rock-solid Republican should worry that only 17 percent of independents approved and that 73 percent disapproved. Granted, the Democrats in Congress weren’t much more popular among independents: Only 23 percent approved of their performance on the debt ceiling, and 66 percent disapproved. Independents were noticeably more supportive, however, of Obama’s performance in the talks—37 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved. […]
All of this just increases the potential for the upcoming congressional election to pivot not on party but on incumbency. After kicking the daylights out of Republicans in 2006 and 2008 and then out of Democrats in 2010, it is more than a little plausible that many voters will want to kick out a bunch of incumbents from both parties next November.
Maybe they should consider that in last year’s election, despite all the GOP’s momentum, only 36 percent of those who voted called themselves Republican. That’s precisely the same percentage as four years earlier, when the party was taking a beating. Republican turnout didn’t budge. Democratic turnout did drop by 2 points in 2010 compared to 2006, with the independent share of the vote picking up 2 points. Turnout doesn’t vary that much, and it will be up across the board in 2012, because there will be a presidential election.
Do they think that, notwithstanding Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, conservatives and tea party supporters will vote for Democrats as a protest? Oh please. No matter what, 90 to 95 percent of those who identify with a party will vote for that party’s candidate for Congress. Just look at the last two wildly different midterm elections. In 2006, a lousy year for Republicans, 91 percent of voters who identified themselves as Republicans voted for the GOP candidate for Congress (93 percent of Democrats voted for the Democrat). In 2010, a great year for the GOP, 95 percent of Republicans voted for the party’s candidate (and 92 percent of Democrats voted Democratic).
Yes, GOP party cohesion went up 4 percentage points in the good year over the bad year, but it was the swing by independents that made the difference. In 2006, independents were angry at President Bush, disillusioned with the Iraq war and by myriad Republican scandals. So independents voted for Democrats for Congress by an 18-point margin, 57 percent to 39 percent. Four years later, that same group of independents was unimpressed by the economic-stimulus package and opposed to Democratic initiatives like the cap-and-trade bill and health care reform. So they vented their collective spleen, voting for Republicans over Democrats, 56 percent to 38 percent—an 18-point swing in the opposite direction.
Independent voters are overwhelmingly nonideological and don’t like Washington, politicians, or political parties. They hate the fighting and the sophomoric, partisan towel-snapping that is routine here. Independents are pragmatic. They just want the place to function.
In 25 years of column writing and almost 39 years of watching this town, I’ve seen a lot of one-term and two-term wonders passing through Congress, their names largely remembered only in back issues of The Almanac of American Politics and in political trivia contests. A disproportionate share of those mostly forgotten wonders had short careers because they obsessed about their base and ignored independent and swing voters. Democrats did it in 2009 and 2010, and Republicans are doing it now.
Three people who have worked with Michele Bachmann tell The Daily Caller that the congresswoman suffers migraines that “incapacitate” her for days at a time. According to the sources, the migraines occur once a week and Bachmann takes several medications to combat them. On at least three occasions in 2010, she went into the hospital as a result: at fundraisers in May and October and when her communications director resigned in July. “The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills,” says an adviser to Bachmann’s 2010 congressional campaign. “Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control.” The migraines are induced by stress, according to The Daily Caller, whose sources say they are discussing the matter because they worry it could affect her performance as president and become an issue in a general election against Barack Obama. Bachmann’s spokeswoman told The Daily Caller that she takes medication for migraines but disputed the characterization of them as “incapacitating.”
[…] Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are of a piece with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama’s nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It’s nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party – an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.
True, the constitution gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” on executive branch appointments. And from the early days of the republic through the end of the 19th Century, the Senate and president fought regularly over the precise boundaries of that power – most famously when the Reconstruction Congress passed a law forbidding then-President Andrew Johnson from removing a cabinet official without congressional permission. It was his decision to flout that law that drew impeachment and, very nearly, his removal from office.
But since that time the Senate has deferred more to the president on appointments, partly on the theory that a modern society needs a president who could staff the executive branch with like-minded officials. Although senators have frequently raised substantive and ideological objections to nominees, explicitly or implicitly, they did not engage in such wholesale, blanket opposition to appointments based (explicitly or even implicitly) on governing philosophy. As the Senate’s own website confirms, the Senate voted down nominations “only in the most blatant instances of unsuitability.” The obvious exception has been judicial appointments. But even those have increased dramatically in the last few years and, besides, those are lifetime appointments to an entirely separate branch of government.
What makes this ideological policing even more pernicious is the fact that it’s policing by a minority. The formal letter threatening to block consumer board appointments includes 44 Republican senators, less than a majority but enough to block nomination with filibuster. If the Senate still operated by majority rule, Berwick, Bryson, Diamond, and Warren would likely be busy running their agencies right now. Instead, they are serving as lame duck recess appiontees — or not serving at all.
The problems of the nomination process, of course, are legendary at this point. They are not entirely new and they reflect, in part, institutional changes like an increase in the number of positions requiring Senate confirmation. But, by most measures, the problem has gotten worse in the last few years, particularly with Obama in office. And this sort of brazen refusal to confirm appointees on ideological grounds really does seem like a turning point.
In the case of the Consumer Protection Board, Senate Republicans have said they would not confirm anyone who does not agree to restructure the leadership of the agency from a single person to a multi-member body. They insist that a legitimately passed law be changed before allowing it to function with a director – a modern-day form of nullification. Same with the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There is nothing normal or routine about this. The Senate policing of non-cabinet appointments is sometimes more aggressive but the current practice goes well beyond that, more like pre-Civil War days than 20th century practice.
Ah, yes, nullification. The ostensible philosophy behind that idea was the need to protect rights of a permanent minority, namely the slave-holding states of the South, lest they never have a say in policy. But Republicans aren’t a permanent minority in need of special constitutional protections. They’re a faction trying to bully the majority. And they’re getting away with it.
Mr. 9/11, who owes his entire career to the chaotic death and destruction of that day, couldn’t wait to betray the victims of those terrorist attacks in lieu of supporting his benefactors at News Corp:
“Give people the presumption of innocence,” Giuliani told CNN’s Candy Crowley in New Hampshire on Thursday. “I think that just how high up it goes is a big question and one we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions about” …
Giuliani maintained confidence in his longtime friend despite allegations that the News of the World tabloid may have hacked the phones of September 11, 2001, terror attack victims in New York City. Giuliani was mayor of the city at the time of the attacks.
“He’s a very honorable, honest man,” the former mayor said. “This can’t be something that he would have anything to do with.”
He’s just a perpetually disgusting wet fart of a man.
Mike Allen reports that Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of The Home Depot, is leading yet another effort to persuade New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to make a late entry into the presidential race.
“A bunch of Republican bigwigs — uncommitted, moderate to liberal fundraising types — have been invited to meet with Christie in Manhattan this afternoon (some in person and some by speakerphone) ‘to try to convince him to change his mind and run for president,’ said one top Republican who was invited. On May 31, Christie met in New Jersey with a delegation of Iowa donors who had the same message. Christie continues doing everything you would do if you wanted to keep the 2012 option open. Friends say he’s convinced he wouldn’t win, and won’t do it. But the unsettled field has to look tempting. And Christie might struggle with reelection, so may be politically stronger now than in 2016.”
To conservatives, this has been a galling spectacle. A president who spent his first two years in office taking spending to a historic high is accusing them of fiscal irresponsibility? A president who spent the spring demagoguing House Republicans for their willingness to restructure Medicare is citing a much more modest set of cuts as evidence of his fiscal seriousness?
But this fury misses the point. Obama has been playing the reasonability card so successfully because his opponents won’t (or can’t) play one of their own.
And here’s what the public has to say about current events relating to debt ceiling and deficit reduction, as of this morning:
Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders’ handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties’ conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their intransigent resistance to raising taxes.
President Obama earned the most generous approval ratings for his handling of the weeks-old negotiations, but still more people said they disapproved (48 percent) than approved (43 percent) of what he has done and said.
This is a no-win situation, mind you. As Brendan Nyhan notes, Obama will take a hit on this as well, simply because he’s in charge.
Poll: 71% shun GOP handling of debt crisis
was not the headline the Republicans wanted to see. Nor was this:
Even half of the Republican respondents (51 percent) voiced disapproval of how members of their own party in Congress are handling the talks. Far fewer Democrats expressed disapproval of their own party’s handling (32 percent) or President Obama’s (22 percent) of the urgent quest to raise the nation’s debt limit ahead of a looming default on Aug. 2 if action isn’t taken.
Hello, media. The tea party is a minority, even if the House is scared of them. Just another reminder.
What we get is still very much up in the air. But there will be no default.
[…] Last week, President Obama told reporters the public is already “sold” on the need for a balanced approach to debt reduction, causing House Speaker John Boehner and the right to push back, insisting that Americans agree with their spending-cuts-only approach.
It was a bizarre line for Republicans to complain about, since their position isn’t popular at all.
Referencing a collection of polls Greg Sargent pulled together last week, we now have five recent national polls asking the public for their preference: do they want a debt-reduction plan that only relies on cuts or do they want a combination of cuts and increased revenue (the only-revenue approach tends to poll under 5%). The results are entirely one-sided as my new chart helps show:
The blue columns show public support for a balanced debt-reduction plan including cuts and revenue; the red columns show support for reducing the debt exclusively through spending cuts. Republican lawmakers genuinely seem to believe that their approach, the red columns, is the popular way to go. In fact, they’re so invested in this, they just might crash the economy on purpose unless the GOP gets exactly what it wants.
Whether Republicans realize it or not, they’re losing this debate, pushing the nation to the brink with a policy Americans don’t like.
Most Americans think the Republicans in Congress have got Wall Street and large corporations’ backs, while President Obama prevails on protecting the middle class and small businesses: an edge that helps explain his better-than-dismal job approval in the teeth of a terrible economy.
By a wide 59-26 percent, the public sees congressional Republicans as more concerned than Obama with protecting the economic interests of Wall Street financial institutions, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds. Americans even more broadly, by 67-24 percent, put the GOP ahead when it comes to looking out for the interests of large business corporations.
The tables turn – albeit with much narrower margins – on other measures. Obama leads the GOP by 18 points in looking out for middle-class Americans, 53-35 percent. He also has a 10-point advantage, 47-37 percent, as being more concerned with the economic interests of “you and your family.” And he leads by 9 points, 48-39 percent, on protecting small businesses.
The president’s advantage on small businesses is particularly notable, given the GOP’s efforts to portray his policies as damaging to small-business job creation. While Republicans are fully aboard, independents, the linchpin of national politics, say by 46-39 percent that Obama cares more than GOP leaders about the economic interests of small businesses, a fairly close call but with a tilt in the president’s direction.
This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that Obama also leads among independents by 19 points on aiding the middle class, 52-33 percent, and by 11 points as caring more about the economic interests of and “you and your family.”
APPROVAL -– Obama has a 47 percent overall job approval rating, steady since April (excepting a bump in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden). While just a point from his career low last fall, that’s better than might be expected, given persistent high unemployment, the broader economy and frustration with the budget debate in Washington.
In summer 1992, for example, the last time economic discontent ran this high, the first President Bush plummeted to 33 percent approval, en route to losing his re-election bid.
The perception that Obama’s looking out for average folks looks to be a key element of his comparative durability. His approval rating exceeds 75 percent among people who think he cares more about protecting their economic interests, as well as those of the middle class and small businesses alike. Views on who’s better for Wall Street and corporate America, by contrast, don’t interact nearly as strongly with the president’s approval rating.
It matters in part because of Obama shortfalls in his base. At 77 percent, his approval rating among Democrats is at a career low in numerical terms: it has been in the 70s just twice previously, 78 and 79 percent last September and December. At 73 percent, his approval from liberals is a point from the low. Across the spectrum, he’s got a mere 9 percent approval from Republicans, down 7 points from last month, and just 21 percent among conservatives, another low.
In the middle, though, 55 percent of moderates and 48 percent of independents -– the latter 6 points better than the low -– approve of the president’s work, enough to keep him steady overall.
A new Public Policy Polling national survey finds Rep. Michele Bachmann has taken the lead among likely Republican voters in the GOP presidential race.
Bachmann leads with 21%, followed by Mitt Romney at 20%, Rick Perry at 12%, Herman Cain at 11%, Ron Paul at 9%, Newt Gingrich at 7%, Tim Pawlenty at 5% and Jon Huntsman at 3%.
Key finding: “Bachmann’s rise has been fueled by her appeal to voters on the far right- and their skepticism about Romney. Romney has the lead with centrist Republicans (23-17) and with those defining themselves as only somewhat right of center (24-17). But among ‘very conservative’ voters only 48% have a positive opinion of Romney to 34% who view him negatively, weak numbers, and Bachmann’s capitalizing on that with a 26-15 lead over Romney, who’s in third place with that group of voters.”
A quarrel between the House and Senate over union organizing by airline and railroad workers could lead to a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA’s operating authority expires on Friday. The agency has operated under a series of 20 short-term extensions since Sept. 30, 2007, because lawmakers have been unable to agree on a long-term funding bill.
The FAA’s 15,500 air traffic controllers are essential employees and would continue to work even if the agency’s operating authority were to expire, Republican lawmakers told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown declined to comment on the agency’s plans in case its operating authority expires.
However, former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said it’s likely that other workers would face furloughs. The agency employs about 32,000 workers in addition to controllers. The extent of the furloughs would depend in part on how much cash is available in the federal trust fund for aviation programs and how long the shutdown goes on, she said.
In the event of a shutdown, airlines would no longer have to collect ticket taxes, which average about $60 per round-trip ticket, aviation industry officials said.
The root of the dispute is a labor provision in a long-term FAA funding bill passed by the House in April. The Republican-sponsored provision would make it more difficult for airline and railroad workers to unionize by overturning a National Mediation Board rule approved last year. It allows employees in those industries to form a union by a simple majority of those voting. Under the old rule, workers who didn’t vote were treated as “no” votes.
Senate Democrats, who passed their own long-term FAA funding bill in February without the labor provision, have insisted that the labor issue be removed from any final bill.
With negotiations at a stalemate, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., introduced a bill last week to extend the FAA’s operating authority for the 21st time. Previous extensions had been routine, but this time Mica added a provision eliminating federal subsidies for airline service to 13 rural airports.
One of the airports is in Ely, Nev., home state of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Another is in Morgantown, W.Va., which is in the home state of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over FAA legislation. A third is in Glendive, Mont., the home state of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who has jurisdiction over the aviation tax portions of the bill.
Total cost savings would be about $8.5 million, lawmakers said.
In a letter delivered to Mica late Tuesday, Rockefeller accused the GOP lawmaker of inserting the airport provision into the extension bill in retaliation for senators’ refusal to accept the labor provision.
“Your attempt to punish the Senate by hurting small-community air service has backfired. This language only guarantees that the Senate will reject the FAA extension,” Rockefeller said. Unless the House lawmakers agree to remove the airport language, they risk a shutdown of the FAA, he said.
Mica acknowledged that he inserted the airport language into the extension bill partly as a means to “send the Senate a message that we want this finally resolved.”
The long-term funding bill approved by the Senate in February included a provision ending subsidized air service for 10 of the 13 airports that would be affected by the provision in the House extension bill. Mica said he “tweaked” that language to include three more airports – in Nevada, Montana and New Mexico – because their subsidies amount to more than $1,000 per ticket.
The blame for the delay belongs to Reid, who has been unwilling to negotiate on the labor issue, Mica said.
“We can resolve this in a one-hour conference,” he said. “The time to stop messing around is now.”
I’m just not really sure who got stabbed this time, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
The president has “long called for a legislative appeal for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on families,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing. He said the president “is proud” to support the Respect For Marriage Act, “which would take the Defense of Marriage Act off the books for once and for all.”
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
In February, the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA in court.
On Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the new bill, which would repeal all three sections of DOMA — which federally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman — including section 1, which is the name; section 2, which instructs states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states; and section 3, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally performed same-sex marriages.
Geoff Nunberg, npr:
Geoff Nunberg, the linguist contributor on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, is the author of the book The Way We Talk Now.
Sometimes people avoid even saying the word. Not long after the Republicans took the House last fall, Lesley Stahl interviewed John Boehner on 60 Minutes. Boehner told her the Republicans were ready to govern, and she said, “Governing means compromising.”
He answered, “It means working together.”
“It also means compromising,” she said.
“It means finding common ground,” he answered.
She kept pushing him about why he was unwilling to say “compromise,” until he finally answered, “I reject the word.”
Now on the face of things, it’s disconcerting to hear a politician refusing to say “compromise.” It reminds me of the American tourists I once overheard in a rug bazaar in Morocco telling the merchant, “Mind you, now, we don’t haggle.” But as the debt limit drama continues, visiting the C-word would be imprudent for any prominent Republican. Polls show that Republican voters are far more resistant to compromise than Democrats are right now, and “no compromise” has become the rallying point for what has been dubbed the “Hell, No Caucus.” You hear that tone from the other side, too — Paul Krugman urged President Obama to draw a line in the sand against political extortion. But it hasn’t become a Democratic battle cry.
But then “compromise” is what Freud would have called an ambivalent word. On the one hand, compromise is the basis of human society itself. Edmund Burke put it succinctly in 1775 in a famous speech calling on the British Parliament to conciliate with the American colonies. “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise.”
But the word “compromise” faces in two directions. It looks forward to the bargains we strike, but it also looks backward at what we had to sacrifice to get there. That explains how the word can also mean “betray” or “put at risk,” particularly when it’s followed by a noun like “security” or “honor.” That’s what we’re thinking of when we praise somebody as uncompromising. “Uncompromising” is a word you use for someone who sticks to his moral principles, not for a seller who won’t drop the price of his house after it’s been on the market for 15 months.
That backward-looking meaning is always in play when people reject the word. They’re not focusing on the process of horse-trading, but on the moral risks of making concessions. As Boehner went on to explain in that 60 Minutes interview, “I am not going to compromise on my principles.”
You have to allow Boehner some latitude there. With the possible exception of Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm, nobody gets through a week without realizing they’ve compromised their principles. I’m reminded of that every time I buy a book from an online retailer rather than from my neighborhood bookstore. And politicians understand that they have to shave a little off their convictions to get anything done — as Burke said, that’s what it means to govern in a democracy. But Burke also stressed that there were limits: “None will barter away the immediate jewel of his soul.” The question is, when do we reach that point?
That’s the subject of a fine recent book by the Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit called On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. For Margalit, a “rotten compromise” is the morally unacceptable accommodation with what Kant called radical evil, like Chamberlain’s pact with Hitler at Munich in 1938. But history is not always that clear-cut. Churchill may have been justified in making a deal with Stalin in 1941 when it seemed necessary to defeat Germany, but what about at Yalta in 1945, handing over Eastern Europe when the war was all but won?
Of course most of the issues we have to wrestle with don’t raise moral questions that are that momentous or stark, even if partisans try to make them sound that way. But even so, the choices we make say something about our character. In fact, Margalit suggests that we really should be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals. As he puts it: “Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are.”
That feels right to me, though I might change the emphasis: What tells most about us is the compromises we refuse to make. Often that just depends on our political views: Some people draw the line at cutting ethanol subsidies, others at motor voter laws. But there are other kinds of principles we evoke to avoid making concessions. We may resist compromising with opponents because we don’t want to confer legitimacy on their cause or beliefs, as in, “We don’t negotiate with so-and-sos.” If we’re sectarians or ideological purists, nothing is negotiable; even tiny concessions seem like capitulations to the forces of darkness. Or sometimes we stand on principle for the heady satisfaction of showing that we can’t be pushed around, or to demonstrate our unwavering loyalty to our party, our regiment or our clan. You can be sure it was all about principle for the Montagues and Capulets, too.
All those principles weigh heavier in a polarized world; compromise gets harder as the sides become more alien and inscrutable to each other. And sometimes we can’t even be sure ourselves if the reasons we give are the true ones. I’m like that sometimes. I’ll announce, “I won’t compromise my principles,” but when it comes to the crunch, the only real principle at stake is that I don’t want to compromise.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A humpback whale which was freed from almost certain death by three men off the coast of California repaid the favour to its rescuers with a breathtaking display of breaches and dives.
The amazing hour-long performance was caught on camera moments after the creature was cut free from fishing nets.
When the boat came across the whale it was trapped with its tail and flippers hopelessly entangled in the nets.
The whale watchers first thought the humpback was already dead as it was floating on top of the water.
But then it let out a loud breath through its blow hole.
Michael Fishbach decided the best thing to do was to get into the water and snorkel alongside the stricken whale.
He said: ‘As I swam alongside the animal our eyes met.
‘There were no words we could share but I wanted to let the whale know that we were there to help.
‘It took some effort to stay focused given the great emotion of the moment.
‘The sight of this large and beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming.
‘I must admit I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued but could still kill me with one panicked movement.’
He said the whale’s tail was so entangled that it was weighed down by about 15ft.
Michael got back on the boat and tried to cut the net off the whale with a small knife.
The trio managed to free one of the fins but the whale sensed freedom and swam away, pulling the boat with it.
But eventually it surfaced again and more net was cut away.
After about an hour of working the whale was totally free.
They pulled the remaining fish net onto the boat and watched the whale give a dramatic show of freedom.
For the next hour they watched the whale breach around 40 times and then dive down waving its tail above the water.
Michael said: ‘We all believed it was a least a show of pure joy, if not thanks.
‘We were all proud and thrilled that we saved this fantastic young life.
‘It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.’
On the video a small girl can be heard saying: ‘I know what she is doing. She is showing us that she is free.
Her mother replies to her: ‘I think she is showing us a thank you dance.’
Michael spends two months every winter photographing whales in the Sea of Cortez.
He is the co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy (GWC) Blue Whale Protection Program, set up to protect whales along the California coast from ship-strike caused injuries and death.
Find your members of Congress by clicking on your state on the map to the right or filling out the following form:
- Address Search: Enter your address to determine who represents you in Congress.
- ZIP Code Search: Don’t feel comfortable submitting your address? Enter just your 5 or 9 digit ZIP code!
- State Search: Select just your state to list your state’s Congressional delegation.
- City Search: Enter a city and state (without a ZIP code) to identify the members of Congress representing that city.
Senator Bernie Sanders: Please join me in opposing any deficit reduction agreement that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid – programs that are of vital importance to millions of our fellow citizens. Please sign the enclosed petition and I will convey your concern to the White House and congressional leaders.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.