Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cap & Trade & Stoopid Wingnuts Fainting

Think Progress: House passes American Clean Energy and Security Act.

In a 219-to-212 vote this evening, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which will “for the first time put a price on carbon emissions” in the U.S. In the final minutes of the debate, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) threatened to obstruct the bill by reading 300 pages of amendments, but eventually relented and read only a few sentences from selected portions. Progressive Media compiled a video detailing the major arguments both for and against the bill. Watch it:

Despite promises that Republicans would rally against the bill, several members defected to support it, including Reps. Dave Reichart (R-WA), Mike Castle (R-DE), Mary Bono Mack, Mark Kirk (R-IL), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and John McHugh (R-NY). 44 Democrats voted against the legislation. Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Pat Kennedy (D-RI) both returned to the floor for the first time after tending to significant health issues to support the legislation.

Yglesias: Waxman-Markey and the Economy

When you listen to conservative members of congress denouncing the Waxman-Markey bill’s sure-to-be-devastating impact on the economy, it’s worth keeping this post from Conor Clarke in mind:

Here’s an easy way of visualizing the costs of Waxman-Markey. The chart below shows projected U.S. GDP with and without Waxman-Markey (drawn from the data annex of the EPA’s big estimate). Projected U.S. GDP without the bill is in orange; it’s sitting behind projected GDP with the bill, which is in grey. The visible orange stripe is the difference between the two scenarios:


I don’t think it can be seriously denied that this is a small price to pay to avert a global catastrophe. The problem with Waxman-Markey is that it wouldn’t, on its own, actually avert said catastrophe. But this isn’t a flaw in the bill’s design, it speaks to the global nature of the problem—no one country’s activities can prevent catastrophe, you need coordinated action by all the world’s major economies.

As Conor says “The big question is whether this bill will increase or decrease the chance of such coordination.” I’ve heard some clever people who don’t want to be silly denialists about the threat of climate change, and who don’t want to be silly alarmists about the threat of Waxman-Markey, but who don’t have a self-conception as belonging to the same political coalition as Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi attempt to argue that the answer is “decrease.” But I’ve never heard any of the people actually charged with the international negotiations say that. As best I can tell, everyone involved with the Copenhagen process, everyone involved with the U.N., and all the climate negotiators from the major European countries are hoping for something like this bill to pass in order to give the international diplomatic process additional momentum.

  • Hilzoy adds:

    Think about it. Cap and trade is completely in line with standard market economics: you identify an externality that the market does not capture, design a market system to capture and price that externality, and rectify a market failure. The Democrats, who favor the bill, have a huge margin in Congress. They water it down in various ways to make it more palatable to various wavering people. And after all that, it still only passes by seven votes.

    That's sad. I hate to think what will happen to it in the Senate.

    It's also a testament to the power of special interests. Consider the bill's emissions credits. President Obama proposed to auction them all, which would have allowed them to be distributed to those businesses to whom they were most valuable; the proceeds from the auction would have gone both to rebates to consumers and to funding a continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Oh no! shrieked various utilities and other corporations that would have had to pay for those auctioned credits. And lo! our representatives caved, which means that the money that would have paid for our tax cuts is no longer there.

    I'm really glad it passed: it's a lot better than nothing. But it could have been better still.

  • Yglesias: Process and Substance: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

    Ezra Klein remarks on our present dilemma:

    I think that analytically honest political commentators right now should be struggling with a pretty hard choice: Do you try to maximize the possibility of good, if still insufficient, outcomes? Or do you admit what many people already know and say that our political process has gone into total system failure and the overriding priority is building the long-term case for structural reform of America’s lawmaking process? Put another way, can you really solve any of our policy problems until you solve our fundamental political problem? And don’t think about it in terms of when your team is in power. Think of it in terms of the next 30 years, and the challenges we face.

    I think that this is a bit of a false choice. Normally, procedural and substantive reforms go together. Certainly you saw that the substantive legislation of the Civil Rights and Great Society period were intimately related to reforms of how congress operated. The New Deal required a revamping of Supreme Court constitutional doctrine and the construction of a modern administrative state apparatus. Even in 2009, it’s important to recall that the essential backdrop of today’s Waxman-Markey vote (substantive) was Henry Waxman’s successful challenge to John Dingell to helm the Energy & Commerce Committee.

    For Waxman, there was no contradiction between seeking a substantive reform of energy policy and seeking a procedural shakeup. The problem is that very few other senior Democrats seem to be thinking Waxman-style. In particular, almost nobody in the United States Senate seems willing to admit that the Senate’s rules are a huge impediment to sound public policy rather than cute and lovable quirks.

  • Steve Benen: COMING UP ACES...
    Hilzoy noted overnight that the House, in a very close vote, approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), 219 to 212. In the end, 44 Democrats broke party ranks and joined the minority in opposition -- including a few who had told the leadership otherwise -- while eight Republicans voted with the Democratic majority.

    The legislation's flaws notwithstanding, yesterday's vote was a very big deal. The NYT noted that this is the "first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation ... could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction."

    Under the circumstances, a handful of Democratic leaders have definitely earned a pat on the back.

    "It has been an incredible six months, to go from a point where no one believed we could pass this legislation to a point now where we can begin to say that we are going to send president Obama to Copenhagen in December as the leader of the of the world on climate change," said [Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey (D)], referring to world climate talks scheduled this winter.

    When Markey says "no one believed we could pass this legislation," that's not an exaggeration. This was more than just an ambitious long shot; this was widely seen as nearly impossible. When House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) vowed to get this bill out of committee, onto the floor, and over to the Senate before the 4th of July, some literally laughed at him.

    And yet, here we are. Looks like Waxman was the right person for the job.

    Credit also has to go to Speaker Pelosi and President Obama, both of whom were tested on this, twisting arms on legislation Congress didn't want to pass, and both passed their tests nicely. The Hill called yesterday's vote "one of the biggest victories of [Pelosi's] tenure" as Speaker, which is an entirely fair assessment.

    As for the eight Republicans who supported the measure -- Reps. Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Mike Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John McHugh (N.Y.), Dave Reichert (Wash,), and Chris Smith (N.J.) -- this should probably be seen as a sign of at least some progress. For one thing, the legislation likely would have failed without them. For another, a few of these GOP lawmakers are planning to run for statewide office next year, suggesting they see a political upside to being on the right side of climate change when seeking a promotion.

    And let's also not forget that House Republicans have been strikingly disciplined and in lock-step this year, giving Democrats exactly zero GOP votes on measures like the budget and the economic stimulus package. The Republican leadership would have loved nothing more than to see a united front against ACES yesterday, but it obviously didn't happen.

    Now, onto the Senate. Does it stand a chance? Stay tuned.

  • DougJ adds: Climate contrarianism

    Get ready for a lot of contrarianism about the cap-and-trade bill. Yglesias has a pretty good take down:

    I’ve heard some clever people who don’t want to be silly denialists about the threat of climate change, and who don’t want to be silly alarmists about the threat of Waxman-Markey, but who don’t have a self-conception as belonging to the same political coalition as Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi attempt to argue that the answer is “decrease.” But I’ve never heard any of the people actually charged with the international negotiations say that. As best I can tell, everyone involved with the Copenhagen process, everyone involved with the U.N., and all the climate negotiators from the major European countries are hoping for something like this bill to pass in order to give the international diplomatic process additional momentum.

    Commenter Hob describes the rhetoric perfectly:

    “Everyone thinks recycling is better than throwing all our shit in the river, but if you look beyond the conventional wisdom of our hippie overlords, you may be surprised to learn…”

    Obviously, the only truly rational position here is to do nothing until we’re sure that aliens won’t pelt us with small asteroids traveling at 99 percent of the speed of light.

Think Progress: Rep. Rob Bishop says passage of clean energy bill will be as tragic as the death of Michael Jackson.

Yesterday on Fox Business, anchor David Asman hosted a round table dedicated to smearing the Waxman-Markey clean energy economy legislation. The discussion, including Fox Business’ Cody Willard and the Heritage Foundation’s David Kreutzer, lacked a single proponent of the bill. Concluding the segment, Asman asked Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) — an opponent not just of clean energy legislation, but of green jobs in general — if the bill would pass the House. He responded with a morbid comparison:

ASMAN: Congressman Bishop is there any chance at all that this thing won’t pass tomorrow?

BISHOP: Well there’s hope, we’ll see if — I mean you guys covered a national tragedy today, let’s hope we don’t give you a tragedy tomorrow as well.

Watch it:

Earlier during the programming (the segment aired at 7:30 eastern time), the death of Michael Jackson was announced.

Think Progress: Rep. Broun receives applause on the House floor for calling global warming a ‘hoax.’

During the floor debate this morning over the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) received a round of applause from GOP colleagues when he claimed that man-made global warming is a “hoax” with “no scientific consensus.” Broun, citing misleading statistics, also claimed that the bill would hurt the poor and “kill jobs:”

BROUN: Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus. … And who’s going to be hurt most [by ACES] the poor, the people on limited income…the people who can least afford to have their energy taxes raised by MIT says $3100 per family. … This bill must be defeated. We need to be good stewards of our environment, but this is not it, it’s a hoax! … [APPLAUSE.]

Watch it:

Broun’s tired hoax claims aside, Broun’s $3,100 talking point is contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that that the average cost of the legislation would be only 48-cents a day, the price of a postage stamp, and that “households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020.” A report by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts also found that the bill would create 1.7 million new jobs, including 59,000 new jobs in Broun’s homestate of Georgia.

  • Steve Benen adds:

    The "$3,100 per family" line has been debunked over and over again -- the MIT scholar Broun cites has specifically tried to explain to Republican lawmakers that it's completely bogus -- but they just can't seem to stop using it.

    Regardless, the general inanity of the speech is what's troubling. Ideally, the two major parties would at least agree on reality. Reasonable people would look at the evidence and recognize the seriousness of the climate crisis. From there, Democrats and Republicans could argue fiercely over how best to address the problem.

    But policymakers can't work together to tackle problems when one side prefers to believe the problems don't exist.

Think Progress: Gingrey Compares Democratic Leadership To The ‘Forces Of Darkness’ In Iran And North Korea

Last week, several Republican House members compared themselves to Iranian protesters, claiming that being in the minority in Congress was just like being violently oppressed in Iran. “I wonder if there isn’t more freedom on the streets of Tehran right now than we are seeing here,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and John Culberson (R-TX) made similar comparisons on Twitter.

Despite the online uproar that followed the egregious comparisons, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) went even further today. Complaining about the proposed rules for debate on clean energy legislation, Gingrey compared Democrats to the “forces of darkness” in Iran and North Korea:

GINGREY: Madam speaker, thank you. I rise in opposition to this rule and to the underlying legislation. I’m just not sure to which I’m more opposed. Americans are watching as from Iran to North Korea, the forces of darkness are attempting to silence the forces of democracy and freedom. The irony is on this day, the Democratic process and the nation’s economic freedom are under threat not by some rogue state, but in this very chamber in which we stand. Good people may disagree on the impact or the merits of this bill. But no one can disagree with the fact that the speaker and her rules committee have silenced the opposition.

Watch it:

UpdateIn his Washington Examiner column this week, Newt Gringrich compared the fight against the climate change bill to Soviet oppression of the Polish Solidarity Movement for freedom in the 1980s.
Think Progress: Glenn Beck claims supporters of cap-and-trade are either dumb, ‘greedy,’ ‘wicked’ or ‘treasonous.’
On his radio show today, global warming denier Glenn Beck played an audio clip of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine speaking favorably of cap-and-trade, but saying it would be “difficult” to do it in Virginia alone. “This is something that is much better done, either on a very huge regional basis or a national basis,” said Kaine. Kaine’s comments caused Beck to accuse cap-and-trade supporters of being “the dumbest people to ever walk the face of the Earth,” “greedy,” “wicked” and even “treasonous“:

BECK: And these people know it. They are either the dumbest people to ever walk the face of the Earth, which I think some of them are. They are just greedy and just want their own power and their own control, which I think some of them are. Or, they believe in a different system other than the Republic, which I think some of them do. They are, they have exposed themselves as incompetent. They have exposed themselves as wicked. They have exposed themselves, quite honestly I think, as treasonous. I think some of them are treasonous. They have exposed themselves. Now the question is are there enough people in America still that believes in liberty and freedom and the Constitution?

Listen here:


Friday, June 26, 2009

Your Friday Wonks

Atrios: This Might Make It Harder For Us To Conduct Strip Searches Of 13 Year Old Girls

Nate Silver: The Environmental Indifference Point
Ezra Klein has an interesting catch on the new Washington Post poll, which asked people which asked people whether they'd be willing to pay a certain amount each month in additional electricity costs if it supported a cap-and-trade program that "significant lowered greenhouse gases".

When the monthly cost is $10, 56 percent supported cap-and-trade and 42 percent opposed it; when the cost is $25 per month, sentiment shifts to 44 percent in favor and 54 percent against.

Ezra drew a graph on this but let me draw my own, even wonkier one:

The indifference point works out to $18.75 per month, or $225 per year; that's when as many Americans apparently oppose cap-and-trade as support it. Meanwhile, the CBO recently estimated that the Waxman-Markey bill under consideration by the House would raise the average household's electricity bill by $175/year or $14.58/month as of 2020. That would qualify it as popular, although only barely so, with about 52 percent supporting and 45 percent opposed.

Obviously this is a highly speculative exercise for any number of reasons -- the margin of error in the polling, the margin of error in the CBO estimates (which the same conservatives who loved what the CBO had to say about health care suddenly find ample reason to doubt -- although truth be told, the economics of climate change tend to be pretty fuzzy), and so forth. But the sticker shock on this particular bill doesn't seem too bad, even if Americans aren't willing to dig too deeply into their pockets to tackle climate change overall.
Ezra Klein: An Insufficient Respect For Charts

Brian Beutler catches House Minority Leader John Boehner trying to make the graphical case against cap-and-trade. It's a doozy:


"This is how the process will work," said Boehner, although, as Brian archly observes, the chart describes no process whatsoever. It's just...boxes. Near to one another. This is what happens when you don't take charts sufficiently seriously. You'll notice that there's a legend in the bottom right corner explaining what the color of each box refers to. But it only defines four of the nine colors. Instead, each row looks like notes from a particularly boring round of Taboo. Row three, for instance, was clearly prompted by the clue "household expenses."

  • Beutler adds:

    "If you look at this chart, this is how this process will work," Boehner said, referring to the above illustration which outlines no process whatsoever. "With the EPA being in the middle, look at all of these different agencies that are involved. This is the most elaborate thing that I have seen and you know, I have been here a while and I've seen some pretty crazy things, but I have never seen anything this ridiculous."

    Family trees are also pretty complicated, so maybe Boehner thinks people should stop procreating.

    The Waxman-Markey bill does, of course, require the involvement of a great number of government agencies. But that's the nature of landmark legislation. I think over time, Boehner will find that "it's too hard!" isn't an objection that will really fly politically. But maybe I'm wrong.
Ezra Klein: Against the Big-Bang Theory of Legislation

Here's a fact: We will not save health care this year. Or next year. Or the next. Here's another one: We will not pass legislation capable of averting climate change this year. Or the next. Or the next.

We might pass legislation improving the health-care system, expanding coverage to tens of millions of people, and instituting some needed delivery-side reforms. We might pass a bill that begins to clamp down on the carbon we emit. But, as Tim Fernholz argues, it doesn't end here. After eight years of stasis on these issues, it begins here. Quoth Fernholz:

As we see a lot of big, landmark style bills coming to the floor in the coming months and stress out over whether they are "good" or "bad," failure or success, and instead look at legislating over the longer term as a process of constantly pushing toward better policy. Obviously, congress' institutional structure -- it's very hard to pass anything substantial or with any kind of speed -- creates an incentive geared towards achieving huge breakthroughs, since you may only get this chance -- and this majority -- once...But there's no law saying that Barack Obama and the rest of the Democrats can't take another bite at the health care apple -- or energy, or financial regulations, or whatever -- after the mid-terms or, hell, as soon as the first bill passes.

Tim's editor Mark Schmitt has also written along these lines. It's what he calls "the Audacity of Patience":

For all the romance of Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 100 days, history suggests that presidents do not get a mandate as a mechanical function of their electoral margin, but in fact they build it over time. They earn it not by winning but by governing. They assemble coalitions and use them again and again, and build institutions and make them work. While many good policies and necessary emergency measures were passed in the first 100 days of the New Deal, the innovations that lasted -- those that defined politics until Reagan -- came later, after FDR had consolidated power, forced the Supreme Court to accept a new set of assumptions about government's role in the economy, and won the 1934 mid-term election. Similarly, Reagan did not win a decisive mandate for conservative policies in 1980; rather, like Obama, he was the beneficiary of a coalition made up of equal parts support for his conservatism and revulsion at the previous administration's incompetence. It was not until August 1981, when he assembled bipartisan coalitions to pass his budget- and tax-cutting plans, that Reagan can be said to have had a mandate for conservative policies.

Mark doesn't mention this explicitly, but another force for revisiting legislation is that, sometimes, things work. And then we make them bigger. Medicaid, for instance, has grown over the years. So too has Social Security. And S-CHIP. And, for that matter, the FDIC. Passing legislation doesn't settle the argument over its worth. But seeing it in action can often go a ways towards answering the question. And if the answer is that this approach appears to ease the problem at an acceptable cost, we often build on it.

One way of understanding the health reform and cap-and-trade bills currently under consideration is as large-scale experiments of new(ish) policy approaches to enduring problems. Neither legislative initiative will be big enough to solve the problem it's meant to address. But both should be big enough to answer the question of whether they could solve their respective problems.

Ezra Klein has A Question of Priorities

As we speak, the Senate is toiling to cut the health care reform bill from $1.6 trillion to $1 trillion over 10 years. Health economist Uwe Reinhardt puts those numbers into context:

A price tag of $1.6 trillion seems immense if one contemplates the figure in the abstract. It is, however, only about 4 percent of the total cumulative health spending of $40 trillion, the amount government actuaries now project for the decade from 2010 to 2020. That is also less than the 6 to 7 percent that total national health spending has increased each year in the past decade.

And $1.6 trillion is only about 1 percent of the amount of G.D.P. that America can reasonably be expected to produce in the next decade (about $150 trillion to $170 trillion).

That 1 percent would not be lost to G.D.P., of course, because health spending is part of G.D.P. Rather, it would be a diversion of G.D.P. — away from other uses, and toward providing the otherwise uninsured with the peace of mind that comes with health insurance and access to timely health care. It would represent merely a change in the composition of G.D.P.

That last is an important point. The president has declared that health reform will be paid-for. The relevant committee chairmen have agreed. This isn't a question between borrowing $1 trillion or $1.6 trillion. It's a question of spending priorities. The president, for instance, has proposed limiting the itemized deduction rate to 28 percent for taxpayers making more than $250,000 (the rate for most of us is between 10 and 15 percent). This would raise more than $300 billion over 10 years.

But the Senate has been unimpressed by the proposal. A world, however, in which we cut coverage to bring costs under $1 trillion but leave the itemized deduction, is a world in which we have explicitly decided that we would prefer to spend that $300 billion helping wealthy Americans lower their tax bills rather than helping low-income Americans afford health insurance.


After months of legislative legwork, arm-twisting, and compromising, the Waxman-Markey energy reform legislation will likely get a vote on the House floor today. The NYT has a good editorial, urging its passage.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act would, for the first time, put a price on carbon emissions. The bill has shortcomings. But we believe that it is an important beginning to the urgent task of averting the worst damage from climate change. Approval would show that the United States is ready to lead and would pressure other countries to follow. Rejection could mean more wasted years and more damage to the planet. [...]

The centerpiece of the legislation is a provision that aims to cut America's production of greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by midcentury -- the minimum reductions scientists say are necessary to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

Its mechanism for doing so is a cap-and-trade system that would place a steadily declining ceiling on emissions while allowing emitters to trade permits, or allowances, to give them flexibility in meeting their targets. The point is to raise the cost of older, dirtier fuels while steering investments to cleaner ones.

The two seasoned politicians behind this bill -- Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts -- have also insisted on provisions that would mandate more efficient buildings, require cleaner energy sources like wind power and provide subsidies for new technologies.

The AP did a nice job putting together a Q&A with frequently asked questions about the bill. Of particular interest was its description of how the reform legislation will affect Americans' lives: "It fundamentally will change how we use, produce and consume energy, ending the country's love affair with big gas-guzzling cars and its insatiable appetite for cheap electricity. This bill will put smaller, more efficient cars on the road, swap smokestacks for windmills and solar panels, and transform the appliances you can buy for your home."

This is not to say, however, that it's nearly as progressive or as ambitious as it could be. Indeed, some of the chamber's most liberal Democrats (see Kucinich, Dennis) will oppose the bill for not going far enough. David Roberts added, "The green world is ... fluctuating between rage (kill it!), dread (we're screwed), and resignation (it's better than nothing)."

And even under optimistic scenarios, nearly everyone seems to agree that Waxman-Markey, if it passes the House, and if the Senate doesn't screw it up, and if it does what it's supposed to do, will still only be a first step in the right direction. No one is under any illusions that, if the bill becomes law, policymakers can just clap the dust off their hands and say, "Global warming? Problem solved."

But first steps still need to be taken, and Waxman-Markey is about the best bill anyone can hope for, all things considered.

So, is thing going to pass? In a 435-member House, 218 is the minimum necessary for passage. As of late yesterday, Waxman-Markey had 184 "yes" votes, and a whole lot of "maybes," with a lot of wrangling going on behind the scenes.

Republican leaders think the votes aren't there for passage; Democrats think it'll cross the finish line; and President Obama is doing his part to push those on the fence. We'll know soon enough, but keep in mind -- if the Democratic leadership is counting heads and can't find 218, they'll probably scrap today's vote and reschedule.

Tom Ricks: Why Pakistan is going down the tubes

John Schmidt, who used to be political counselor in the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, has a good piece in the new issue of Survival explaining why he thinks Pakistan is doomed, and why it is a fool's errand to expect the Pakistani political establishment to help the United States achieve its goals:

At the root of the country's problems is a feudal political establishment primarily interested in promoting and preserving its own narrow class interests and unable or unwilling to seriously address the myriad threats the country faces. Unless and until this dynamic changes, Pakistan cannot he counted on to help the United States in its struggle against the Taliban or even to stop the spread of radical Islam within its own borders. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the nature of Pakistani political culture, nor in the performance of the Pakistani political class since the founding of the state, that provides any grounds for optimism."

Basically, Schmidt argues, the country is a kleptocracy:

The highly contentious and sometimes violent nature of Pakistani politics does not reflect deep-seated differences of approach on policy issues, but rather a struggle between competing networks for the right to control state resources. . . . Although often regarded as a class apart, the Army functions in many ways like just another political party, keen to preserve its on prerogatives."

My thought: It's even harder to change the political culture of your allies than it is of your enemies.

Tom Ricks: Iraq, the unraveling (XII): Bombs away

On the eve of the pullout from cities, everything appears calm. Except in Mosul, which is a special case. As is Basra. And Kirkuk. And now east Baghdad.

A friend passes along this day report from the Iraqi capital:

1. Three mortar rounds landed in Abu Nawas Street close to the 14th of July bridge, the mortars landed on the residential area known as the solar energy apartments wounded three civilians and caused material damages to parked cars.

2. An IED exploded in Al Hurria Square in Karradah resulted the injury of three civilians

3. An IED exploded in Al Baladiyat area of E Baghdad targeting on foot patrol of Iraqi Army, Iraqi Army officer was killed and two civilians were injured

4. IED exploded in Orfali sector of Sadr city without casualties

5. An IED exploded near Al Shaab football stadium of E Baghdad targeting US Army convoy without knowing if it caused casualties

6. An IED exploded in AL Bayaa Bus Station of SW Baghdad resulted the death of 2 and injury of 4

7. An IED exploded near Al Shaab Football stadium also targeting US Army convoy in the same spot, resulted the burn out of one Humvee.

8. An IED in Ur injured two civilian injuries, and a magnetic IED attached to a van blew up and injured three more civilians. No end to it today, it seems."

I sure am glad this war is over.

Yglesias: The Hill’s Committee Disaster

Barack Obama is trying to kill the F-22. The relevant congressional committees, by contrast, are trying to keep the F-22 alive, and they’re doing it by shifting money out of nuclear waste cleanup. Now the Obama administration is threatening to veto the authorizing bill unless Congress obeys the request of his administration (and the Defense Department and analysts everywhere) to kill the damn thing. Stan Collender hails this move and rightly so.

But it’s also an illustration of America’s desperately dysfunctional institutional structure. One basic problem of democratic governance relates to concentrated interests versus diffuse ones. Organizing broad groups of people to advance the public interest in the face of entrenched opposition is difficult. And the committee structure is like it was designed to make this problem as bad as possible. The upshot of the way congress does business is that agriculture policy is made by a special minority of legislators who represent the interests of agricultural producers. And energy policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of energy producers. And defense policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of defense contractors. If you just announced an unexpected swap and had the Armed Services Committee set farm policy and the Agriculture Committee do procurement, you could get better results.

It used to be that institutional reform was an important priority for progressives and in the 1970s they managed to make some progress on curbing the authority of committee chairman. I think it would be smart to continue to put emphasis on that kind of thing—encouraging policy to be set by broad national governing coalitions rather than idiosyncratic committees that are easily captured by interest groups.

  • Think Progress: Despite a veto threat from the White House and against the wishes of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Congress yesterday “moved forward with plans to build more Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets.”

Sargent: Poll: Independents Trust Obama — Not GOP — On Big Issues

One of the running themes of this blog (and many others) is the deepening isolation of the GOP, which is partly fueled by the drift of independents towards President Obama and Dems.

I’ve now received some new polling that seems to bear this out: On four big issues, majoritites of independents trust Obama, while small minorities trust GOPers in Congress.

This week’s big Washington Post poll asked respondents who they trust to handle health care, the economy, the budget deficit, and terrorism. The poll didn’t include a partisan breakdown, but WaPo’s polling director sent it over to us, and here’s where indys stand:

* On health care, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 26% trust GOPers in Congress.

* On the economy, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 31% trust the GOP.

* On the budget deficit, 52% of indys trust Obama, and 30% trust the GOP.

* And on terrorism, 53% of indys trust Obama, and 36% trust the GOP.

To recap: On every one of these major issues — even terrorism — majorities of indys trust Obama, and small minorities trust Congressional Republicans. Given that pundits often wonder whether all-hallowed independents will be turned off by Obama’s ambitious agenda, you’d think this storyline would enter the media narrative.

One other thing: These numbers do not bear out what I suggested yesterday — the apparent movement of rank-and-file Republicans away from their leaders on key issues. In this breakdown, GOPers are strongly aligned with their leadership.

    Gearing up for his re-election campaign next year, Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, arguably the chamber's single most conservative member, is doing what all candidates in his position are doing: raising money and unveiling legislation.

    Here's his latest pitch to supporters:

    I believe the only way to take back our freedom is to return to the constitutional principles our founding fathers promised in 1776. It's upon those principles I announced my conservative alternative to President Obama's liberal healthcare plan just yesterday.

    I can't do all this alone.... I trust that conservative activists are willing to stand behind the ideas I've been pushing in Washington, so I've set a loft [sic] goal of raising $17,760 in $17.76 increments over the next five days.... All you have to do is click here and donate $17.76.

    I suppose this preoccupation with 1776 is a cute little fundraising gimmick, but it's also rather embarrassing. As Alex Koppelman explained this morning, "[T]he Constitution wasn't written until 1787, 11 years later. The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, but it didn't contain 'the constitutional principles our founding fathers promised.' In fact, there was a whole other system of government in place in the U.S. before the Constitution was written."

    Given the constant references in DeMint's pitch, it seems like the kind of detail he's want to get right.

    And what about the Republican senator's "conservative alternative to President Obama's liberal healthcare plan"? Well, as DeMint sees it, Americans would be given vouchers -- $2,000 dollars for individuals, up to $5,000 for families -- to go buy private insurance. Voila, universal coverage.

    How would this lower health care costs? DeMint doesn't say, probably because it wouldn't lower costs at all. Instead of using competition to challenge insurers, DeMint would instead direct untold millions to insurance companies. He'd pay for it by scrapping TARP.

    What happens when TARP money runs out? DeMint doesn't know. What happens with Americans who can't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions? DeMint doesn't know. What's to stop employers from scrapping their own plans and simply telling their employees to take the DeMint voucher? DeMint doesn't know. What happens when costs continue to spiral out of control? DeMint doesn't know.

    Andrew Leonard said the South Carolina senator's "plan" takes us "to a Republican fantasy-land so devoid from any moorings in reality that one is forced, willy-nilly, to admire it, irrespective of its merits. It takes true chutzpah to pull something like this off."

Yglesias: Bayh Bunch Eager to Move on Education Reform

Self-described moderate Democrats aren’t always the blogosphere’s favorite kind of Senator, but this set of ideas laid out in a new letter from Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) and nine of his colleagues (Tom Carper (D-DE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI)). in the moderate Dems working group are important and correct:

Saying that “now is the time to explore new paths and reject stale thinking,” Bayh commended President Obama for his focus on teacher quality and noted a recent report by McKinsey and Company that highlights the achievement gaps that persist among various economic, regional and racial backgrounds in the United States and the gaps between American students and their peers in other industrialized nations. Based on this report, the senators noted that “had the United States closed the gap in education achievement with better-performing nations like Finland, Iceland, and Poland, our GDP could have been up to $2.3 trillion higher last year.”

In the letter, Bayh expressed support for new pay-for-performance teacher incentives and expansions of effective public charter schools. He also endorsed the Obama administration’s desire to extend student learning time to stay globally competitive and called for investments in state-of-the-art data systems so school systems can track student performance across grades, schools, towns and teachers.

There’s a lot packed into there, but fortunately I wrote a pretty long post on the McKinsey report back when it came out if you want to explore some of their key findings. Extended learning time is something that CAP has done alot of work on over the years. The basic idea is that we need to recognize that some children, particularly those from low-SES backgrounds and English language learners, simply present unusually difficult challenges and we ought to invest in the resources necessary to give them additional time in which to learn.

Pay-for-performance is always controversial, and of course the specific details of the proposal matter. But there’s tons of evidence that the gap in terms of student achievement outcomes between what the most effective and least effective teachers accomplish is enormous. Under the circumstances, anything we can do to help retain the most effective teachers, help encourage the most effective teachers to work where they can do the most good, and inspire the less effective teachers to either improve or move out of the profession can do a lot of good. CAP did two recent reports on teacher quality, one about tryingto find ways to assess teacher performance accurately and one about reformingtenure.

As we had opportunity to note the other day, health care and education are the growing parts of our economy. Under the circumstances, it’s vitally important to find ways to improve the performance of our health care and education institutions. On health care, there’s obviously a high-profile debate happening in congress right now. On education, the issue hasn’t been joined as squarely yet, but presumably it will be soon and the outcome will be critical. You can read the full letter here.

Seelye (NYT): Pastor Urges His Flock to Bring Guns to Church

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1 raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November.
Sully does a great job gathering and sharing informed responses from his readers, especially on topics where he disagrees. He really serves as an honest broker.
Sully: The Public Plan: Dissents To The Dissent

This dissent produced quite the backlash. A sample of some of the better dissents to the dissent:

I am an antitrust lawyer with an economics degree, so analysis of monopolies is a big part of what I trained for and my job. The e-mail is mostly content-less gibberish. It shifts back and forth using the same “monopoly” label to describe three separate and analytically very different concepts, which are “monopoly” “exercise of monopoly power” and “monopsony.” If a public option plan eventually turns into a single-payer system because it gets the best prices or is subsidized, what we will have is a monopsony in the market for covered medical services, which unlike the exercise of monopoly power does not generally harm the public.

The talk about “suboptimal” amounts of medical coverage also makes no sense, because there is never a way an imperfect market can determine what the “optimum,” is, and even a perfect market will require us to adopt one of the typical definitions of “optimum” such as Pareto or Kaldor-Hicks, which I am happy to but many moral traditions would not agree with.

You can most clearly see the reasoning in the e-mail is faulty by thinking about current “single-payer” markets. Right now the government is the only domestic buyer of fighter jets and interstate overpasses. Can we therefore conclude using the same logic that the number of fighter jets and interstate overpasses produced is somehow “suboptimal”?

I’m not arguing for single-payer here. Rather I am arguing that people who attempt to make a priori arguments about economic policy using vague memories of freshman econ concepts are sprouting nonsense. Even the most general rules like “price controls don’t work” and “price-fixing always hurts consumers” are riddled with exceptions which require careful research to identify.

Another reader adds:

Your reader's dissent of the day regarding public option seems misinformed. His argument depends entirely on his false belief that the public option is advantaged by some government subsidy that isn't available to the multitude of private options. This is simply wrong. Proponents of the public option ranging from Senator Schumer to Jacob Hacker explicitly recommend against any special subsidy. Instead, all plans--private and public--would be funded by premiums.

Now, it might be possible to argue that a public plan is "subsidized" by not having to produce profits. This is absurd. Opponents of government programs often argue that private corporations have certain indispensable advantages--nimbleness, responsiveness to demand, innovation, etc. These supposed advantages don't magically disappear, do they? So the point is not whether a public or private insurer has a competitive advantage; it's whether those advantages benefit consumers and society. The best way to answer that question is to let competition for customers in a vigorous market decide. That's what the public option offers and that, in the end, is exactly what its opponents hope desperately to avoid.

Yet another reader:

Your reader dissent on the public option mischaracterizes the subsidy, and in doing so, fails to make a valid point. The public option is not what will be subsidized, but instead low- to middle-income individuals' purchase of health insurance. Effectively, under all the public option proposals floating around, those who can't afford coverage will receive a subsidy from the government (whether as a voucher or tax rebate) to buy health insurance on the market. They can buy the public option with their subsidy. They can buy a private plan with their subsidy. Whether the public plan will out-compete the private plans is a separate question, but your reader's description of the subsidy, and the corresponding analysis is fundamentally flawed.

Robert Reich makes this point (and others) at TPM.


The public plan won't be subsidized by taxpayer money. Sure, implementation of a public option would require some seed capital to set up the infrastructure for such an endeavor. But beyond that it should not receive any subsidies nor have I seen evidence to suggest it would. The reality is that the system is not competitive today and having a public option that's focused on cost containment and quality rather than profit margins would provide genuine competition to a market that badly needs it.

If we do not have a public option then any rules we put in place to contain costs will be routed around by insurers. If we say they can't charge more in premiums they'll raise out of pocket costs. If we say they can't raise out of pocket costs they'll cut benefits. It becomes this cat and mouse game where ultimately the costs are not contained in any meaningful way. Having a mandate will just make the situation worse by pumping more cash into a broken system without any means to insure that costs are ultimately reduced.

On the other hand, if we have a public option then we can actually deregulate the private insurers to a large extent. We can give them free reign to price their plans as they wish. We'd just have some requirements that prevented them from discriminating based on preexisting conditions and clearly disclose their pricing and coverage. As such they can raise premiums, lower premiums, offer different benefits packages, etc, and the government doesn't get put into a position of needing to regulate this. They just have to compete against what the public option is offering and they'll live or die based on the merits.

Second to last:

My brother runs a large multi-specialty (but mostly primary care) physician practice in a rural state.Their group is already on the verge of opting out of Medicare because of the low fee schedule, and because they are comfortable they have earned enough patient loyalty and other goodwill to survive as non-participating providers. If their group (representing about a third of the primary care physicians in the area) opted out of a “public option” plan it would be pretty difficult to sell that “public option” plan in that area. If the second large primary care practice in the area also opted out, then only the most price-conscious consumers would even consider buying the “public option” plan.

People are willing to pay more to have access to their own doctors, especially when the alternative is long waits for appointments and, often, lower quality care. If premium price savings come at the expense of quality and availability of care, then many consumers will base their buying decision on factors other than just the lowest premium. This would give the private insurers an opportunity to compete with the public option by courting providers (through higher reimbursement, risk sharing, etc.) to enable them to promise greater choice and higher quality. If anyone doubts the strength of these market forces, consider the continued existence of fee-for-service plans (usually higher cost) notwithstanding the advent of HMOs (lower cost but more restrictions on access to care).

Your dissenter might point out the large barriers to care. But ours is a wealthy country. If a "public option" actually got and used monopoly power in a way that led to the horrific rationing and degradation of care your dissenter anticipates, you can be sure a competing insurance company would be able to raise enough capital to enter (or re-enter) the market.

Last one:

You can make a (mostly) non-ideological argument against the public plan as follows - if it's so much better, everyone will choose it, and eventually there won't be any other providers. At that point /public sentiment/ will have been changed such that further political decisions are made (such as moving completely to single-payer, or preventing private companies from ever re-entering the market) that will eventually be disastrous and irrevocable.

Of course, that argument has an awful lot of ifs, and it pre-supposes that future politicians won't be able to make coherent arguments when necessary. Sure, it's POSSIBLE, but that's an awful lot to hang virulent opposition to the concept of a public plan.

Froomkin's Last Column

White House Watched

Today's column is my last for The Washington Post. And the first thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you to all you readers, e-mailers, commenters, questioners, Facebook friends and Twitterers for spending your time with me and engaging with me over the years. And thank you for the recent outpouring of support. It was extraordinarily uplifting, and I'm deeply grateful. If I ever had any doubt, your words have further inspired me to continue doing accountability journalism. My plan is to take a few weeks off before embarking upon my next endeavor -- but when I do, I hope you'll join me.

It's hard to summarize the past five and a half years. But I'll try.


So now I'm off. I wish The Washington Post well. I'm proud to have been associated with it for 12 years (I was a producer and editor at the Web site before starting the column.) I remain a big believer in the “traditional media,” especially when it sticks to traditional journalistic values. The Post was, is and will always be a great newspaper, and I have confidence that it will rise to the challenges ahead.

I'll be announcing my next move soon on and also to anyone who e-mails me at Please stay in touch.

Good Guys & Bad Guys

QOTD, Matthew Yglesias: Nobody will ever be able to tell friends he’s hiking on the Appalachian Trail again.

Josh Marshall: The Choice

Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) ...

On Thursday, Rockefeller admitted he expects little bipartisan support.

"There is a very small chance any Republicans will vote for this health-care plan. They were against Medicare and Medicaid [created in the 1960s]. They voted against children's health insurance.

"We have a moral choice. This is a classic case of the good guys versus the bad guys. I know it is not political for me to say that," Rockefeller added.

"But do you want to be non-partisan and get nothing? Or do you want to be partisan and end up with a good health- care plan? That is the choice."

  • Robert Reich: "What Can I Do?"
    Someone recently approached me at the cheese counter of a local supermarket, asking "what can I do?" At first I thought the person was seeking advice about a choice of cheese. But I soon realized the question was larger than that. It was: what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?

    People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters, who believe he's a good man with the right values and he's doing everything he can; and cynics, who have become disillusioned with his bailouts of Wall Street, flimsy proposals for taming the Street, willingness to give away 85 percent of cap-and-trade pollution permits, seeming reversals on eavesdropping and torture, and squishiness on a public option for health care.

    In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president -- even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama -- can't get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him. As FDR said in the reelection campaign of 1936 when a lady insisted that if she were to vote for him he must commit to a long list of objectives, "Maam, I want to do those things, but you must make me."

    We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.
hilzoy: "Hot Air", Indeed.

Here's an exchange from ABC News' special on Obama's health care proposal:

"Q: If your wife or your daughter became seriously ill, and things were not going well, and the plan physicians told you they were doing everything that could be done, and you sought out opinions from some medical leaders in major centers and they said there's another option you should pursue, but it was not covered in the plan, would you potentially sacrifice the health of your family for the greater good of insuring millions or would you do everything you possibly could as a father and husband to get the best health care and outcome for your family?

OBAMA (after talking about his grandmother): I think families all across America are going through decisions like that all the time, and you're absolutely right that if it's my family member, my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

Ed Morrissey calls this Obama's Michael Dukakis moment", and writes:

"Oopsie! So ObamaCare for thee, but not for me? Hope and change, baby! (...)

If ObamaCare isn't good enough for Sasha, Malia, or Michelle, then it's not good enough for America. Instead of fighting that impulse, Obama should be working to boost the private sector to encourage more care providers, less red tape and expense, and better care for everyone."

It's worth taking this apart a bit. It is true now, and would be true under any remotely plausible insurance scheme, that sometimes insurers will not pay for treatments, on the grounds that they are too experimental and unproven, or that they just plain don't work. That is true under our current system, and it would remain true under Obama's plan.

It is also true, both under our present system and under Obama's proposal (and, for that matter, any other proposal out there) that people who want medical care that is not covered by insurance can get it, so long as they are willing to pay for it themselves (or find someone else to pay for it.) Thus, if Bill Gates wants to try some very expensive unproven treatment, he can. If I wanted that same treatment under the same conditions, I would not be able to have it.

If this counts as "ObamaCare for Bill Gates but not for me", then it exists now, and will continue to exist under Obama's plan, and any other plan under even remotely serious consideration. Curiously, we have the same system for all sorts of things. Cars, for instance: much as I love my Prius, I would really, really love to have a vintage Jag. Unfortunately, I can't afford one. I imagine that Barack Obama can. Oh no: he's a hypocrite again: it's ObamaCar for him but not for the rest of us, who can't afford vintage Jags! I could go on -- ObamaFood, ObamaLivingRoomSets, and so forth, but you get the point.

The main difference between ObamaMicrowaves and ObamaCare is that the government does not so much as try to ensure that everyone will have a toaster oven. So Obama and I get what the government provides in the way of toaster ovens, namely nothing, and then we have the option to buy more. This is what we call "the market", and it means that some people end up better off, toaster-oven-wise, than others.

With health care, by contrast, we guarantee that certain kinds of people -- the elderly, children, veterans, federal workers, etc. -- will get health insurance, which in turn provides them with health care -- at least, it's supposed to. As I said above, it will not pay for experimental treatments, or treatments that don't work. Nonetheless, unlike toaster ovens, the government provides some people with a decent level of health care; as with toaster ovens, they are free to get more.

Obama's health care plan would extend insurance to more people; ideally, to everyone. The point is to put a floor under everyone -- and a decent one. It's also to give them more choices about the health insurance they or their employers purchase. The point was never to put a ceiling on how much people can spend, or to make absolutely sure that Bill Gates has no advantage over anyone else, as far as health care is concerned.

Nothing -- nothing -- about this idea is in any way inconsistent with the idea that someone who can pay for health care that his or her insurance company declines to cover should be able to do so. The alternative would be to forbid people to get any care that is not covered by their insurance. Again, that is something that no one has seriously proposed. Surely Ed Morrissey isn't faulting Obama for not proposing to forbid people from buying health care on his own -- is he?

dday: Name That Lobbyist

This is a heck of an interesting project by NPR - during the markup of the health care reform bill in the Senate on June 17, one of their photographers snapped a picture of everyone in the audience. 99.9% of the time the cameras point in the other direction, at the lawmakers. This one points in arguably the right direction, at the lobbyists and stakeholders who will be just as responsible, if not more so, for the final shape of the bill. And they've asked people to help them identify the faces in the picture. So far there are a number of named lobbyists whose firms have earned millions from health care industry clients over the past year.

If we have any Washingtonian readers, help NPR ferret out these names by emailing to dollarpolitics-at-npr-dot-org or on the ubiquitous Twitter @DollarPolitics. We have an odd system in this country where the people who often write our bills are anonymous while the people who take their orders are well-known. We should maybe reverse that process and add some accountability into the mix at the same time.

Yglesias: Heritage Slams Mythical Defense Cuts


The Heritage Foundation has a blog post complete with chart claiming to demonstrate that “Obama plan cuts defense spending to pre-9/11 levels”. As Benjamin Friedman lays out this is nonsense:

This is a standard rhetorical device for defense hawks (see the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Mitt Romney and lots of others) so it’s worth pointing out that it’s misleading. The unfortunate truth is that Obama is increasing non-war defense spending this year and seems likely to increase it at least by inflation in the near future.

It’s true that defense spending will probably decline as a percentage of GDP, assuming the economy recovers. But that’s because GDP grows. Ours is more than six times bigger than it was in 1950. Meanwhile, we spend more on defense in real, inflation adjusted terms, than we did then, at the height of the Cold War. The denoninator has grown faster than the numerator.

By saying that defense spending needs to grow with GDP to be “level,” you are arguing for an annual increase in defense spending without saying so directly. That’s the point, of course.

Since economic growth causes real wages to rise over time, there is some reason for thinking that a military sized appropriately to the strategic environment would need real increases in spending to maintain its level of capabilities. But one way or another, the crucial issue is that the appropriate level of defense spending is determined by the nature of the strategic environment, not by the pace of economic growth. The US economy grew rapidly during the 1990s but the level of military threats facing the country didn’t—thus, a decline in defense expenditures relative to GDP was appropriate.

One interesting trope both in the substance and rhetoric of this argument from Heritage is the idea that 9/11 ought to have touched off a large and sustained increase in defense spending. On the merits, this is a little hard to figure out. It’s difficult to make the case that the 9/11 plot succeeded because the gap in financial expenditures between the U.S. government and Osama bin Laden was not big enough. Would an extra aircraft carrier have helped? A more advanced fighter plane? A larger Marine Corps? Additional nuclear weapons? One of the most realistic ways an organization like al-Qaeda can damage the United States is to provoke us into wasting resources on a far larger scale than they could ever destroy. The mentality Heritage is expressing here is right in line with that path.

Greenwald: Neocon enemies, using diplomacy, reach deal for Shalit's release

Last night, I noted the sudden and obviously hypocritical concern about detainee abuse emerging from The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb now that the transfer of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the Palestinians to Egypt appears imminent and it's time to exploit his detention. In service of that same mission, Goldfarb also tries to attribute this deal for Shalit's release to the heroism of Benjamin Netanyahu, excitedly claiming that, if it happens, it will cause the Israeli Prime Minister's "approval numbers [to] skyrocket, further undermining Obama's leverage over him" (i.e., Israel will be able to continue to expand settlements on land that isn't theirs).

But as Omooex points out in comments, the Haaretz article which Goldfarb himself cited makes clear that it was not Netanyahu, but numerous other parties -- Jimmy Carter, Egypt, Syria and the Obama administration -- who engineered the agreement to transfer Shalit from Gaza to Egypt (followed eventually by his release to Israel, pending the release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners):

The move is part of a new United States initiative that includes Egyptian and Syrian pressure on Hamas . . . The idea to transfer Shalit to Egypt in exchange for the release of Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians being held in Israeli prisons was raised about a year ago during a visit by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Damascus, Jerusalem and Gaza. . . . Carter raised it again on his visit earlier this month, during which he met Noam Shalit, Gilad's father. . . . The European source said Shalit's transfer to Egypt was the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered agreement hammered out between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions, in coordination with the U.S. and with Syria's support.

In other words, the deal for Shalit's release was secured by some of the neocon's most despised enemies (Jimmy Carter and Syria), with the help of a President they insist hates Israel (Barack Obama), relying on tactics they have long scorned (diplomacy, negotiating with Terrorists, including Hamas). Of course, Jimmy Carter -- who neocons endlessly smear as being Israel-hating and even anti-Semitic -- did more to advance the interests of Israeli security than every neoconservative keyboard-tough-guy combined (indeed, more than virtually any single individual on the planet) when he engineered the 1979 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, which -- even 30 years later -- continues to pay dividends for Israel in the form of this apparent agreement for Shalit's release. Identically, the Shalit deal is possible only because, as Haaretz notes, Hamas knows that there is now an American administration willing to negotiate with hostile parties, rather than trying to feel "tough" by ignoring and/or threatening them:


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The media we have . . .

Sully: Michael Jackson: Cardiac Arrest?
That's what TMZ is reporting. So cable coverage of Iran is now over.
Sully: The Confusion Of MSM Journalism

A reader nails it:

The NPR ombudsman's defense of editorial policy to not call it torture reflect a general confusion amongst the mainstream journalists about the difference between political action and truth telling. Political action is an attempt to change the world. Describing the world the way it is is not an attempt to change things and is not political action.

"... the role of a news organization is not to choose sides in this or any debate. People have different definitions of torture and different feelings about what constitutes torture. NPR's job is to give listeners all perspectives, and present the news as detailed as possible and put it in context."

Using clear language to describe the way the world is, though it may be contrary to the approved euphemisms, lies, or image crafting of public officials, is not siding with anyone. There is no real and meaningful debate about what is torture. Lying and promoting the now obvious lies and false imagery of public officials on the other hand,is an attempt to change the world. That serves various interests, and that is taking sides.

Among those directly responsible for the maintenance of the torture regime for so long are those MSM reporters who refused to call it what it is.

Atrios: Gannon
The strange thing about the Gannon affair was how "nothing to see here, move along" was the general attitude of those in the press.
  • Boehlert: UPDATED: Why the Village is so mad at Nico Pitney

    Within hours of online writer Nico Pitney asking a single question at a WH presser, the WashPost's Milbank swooped into action, loudly mocking Pitney's involvement as being terribly troubling and phony. But please note that in 2005 when it was revealed that right-wing partisan James Guckert had been waved into the WH press room nearly 200 times without proper credentials, wrote under an alias (Jeff Gannon), and asked Bush officials softball questions, Milbank remained mum. (He wasn't alone.)

    According to Nexis, Milbank never wrote about the Gannon story.

    But Pitney, the national editor for one of the most-read and widely respected online news outlets? His singular WH presence sent Milbank into an immediate tizzy.

Atrios: And They'll Hand Him A Large Megaphone
I have no doubt Ralph Reed will have no problem getting tons of free media. It's how things work in the Village.
  • Benen: RALPH REED?....
    Wait a second. Ralph Reed believes he can show his face in public again? He thinks he has the credibility to once again be a political player?

    Ralph Reed, the Republican operative who built the Christian Coalition into a potent political force in the 1990s by mobilizing evangelicals and other religious conservatives and who did similar work to help George W. Bush win two presidential elections, is quietly launching a group aimed at using the Web to mobilize a new generation of values voters. In addition to targeting the GOP's traditional faith-based allies -- white evangelicals and observant Catholics -- the group, called the Faith and Freedom Coalition, will reach out to Democratic-leaning constituencies, including Hispanics, blacks, young people, and women.

    "This is not your daddy's Christian Coalition," Reed said in an interview Monday.

    Now, as a substantive matter, the idea of yet another religious right group seems pretty silly. There are already plenty of organizations and ministries, doing the same work, on the same issues, chasing the same donors with the same culture-war message, with the same goal in mind. The problem isn't a dearth of groups; it's that the American mainstream has already rejected the movement's message.

    But putting that aside, Ralph Reed is trying to make a comeback? I know it's been a few years, but the Abramoff scandal left Reed a humiliated disgrace. It wasn't just some embarrassing misunderstanding; the scandal ruined him. Permanently.

    Remember this one, from June 2006?

    Yet another delightful characterization of Ralph Reed, courtesy of today's McCain report on the Abramoff scandal. This one comes courtesy of Jack Abramoff himself, via his discussion with Marc Schwartz, a public relations representative for the Tigua tribe in Texas.

    Let's pick up the report on page 148. Schwartz was evaluating whether the tribe should hire Abramoff as its lobbyist: To Schwartz, Abramoff appeared to have the right credentials. Abramoff claimed to be a close friend of Congressman Tom DeLay. He also discussed his friendship with Reed, recounting some of their history together at College Republicans. When Schwartz observed that Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied "as far as the cash goes."

    Or, how about this one?

    Ralph Reed, email to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, 1998: "Hey, now that I'm done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

    Or this?

    E-mails and testimony before McCain's panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a "cancer" on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up "grassroots" Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.

    And now Reed wants to launch the "Faith and Freedom Coalition"? You've got to be kidding me.

C&L: Michael Savage Vows to Put Pictures and Info of Media Matters Employees on His Web Site

Ed Schultz Psycho Talk: Schultz hits Michael Savage in his Psycho Talk segment for this:

Savage vows to post "full pictures and other pertinent information about" Media Matters employees on his website:

He urges "all people in the media who have been harassed by this Stalinist group, Media Matters" to do the same.

John Amato:

Michael Savage continues with the behavior that David Neiwert has been reporting on repeatedly. How the right wing talk show hosts help promote violence in our society with their over the top rhetoric. What does Savage expect to happen to MM employees by posting their personal information on his website? There can only be one outcome. Violence against them.
Media Matters is not afraid and came back with this video. Good for them.