Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday Morning

White House: Weekly Address: Health Reform's Benefits in 2010

The President discusses the benefits of health reform that Americans will receive in the first year, and how reform will help build a new foundation for American families.

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Are Republicans welcome at the tea party? Jan. 8: Mark Leibovich talks with Rachel Maddow about the subject of his upcoming New York Times Magazine story, the power and influence of the tea party movement on the Florida Republican Party.

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Republican lawmakers were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the economic recovery package that rescued the economy from the abyss. A year later, GOP officials are still railing against the economic life-preserver.

Well, at least most of the time. Occasionally, Republican lawmakers who hated the stimulus brag about how great its provisions are for their state/district. Take Delaware's Mike Castle, for example.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) has staggered to the right, voting against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the stimulus), financial regulation reform, the recent jobs package, and health reform. Running for the U.S. Senate this year, Castle has cast aside his image of a GOP moderate and joined his conservative colleagues in their reflexive opposition. But despite his right-wing voting record, Castle is attempting to drum up positive media coverage by claiming ownership over one of the progressive measures he voted to kill.

In the past two weeks, Castle has blasted multiple press releases publicizing stimulus funds awarded to his state. In his most recent release, he not only calls the money "imperative," but in "announcing" the funds, he tacitly claims credit for securing them.

What impresses me is not just the hypocrisy, but how common this is. It seems as if every few weeks we see yet another congressional Republican who thought the recovery package was an awful idea, but who nevertheless thinks the federal recovery efforts for their constituents is a great idea.

About a month ago, it was Rep. Bill Shuster (R) of Pennsylvania. A few weeks before that, it was House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia.

Over the last several months, Bobby Jindal, Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the same club. They all have two things in common -- they (1) railed against recovery efforts, rejecting the very idea of government spending improving the economy; and (2) later discovered they liked stimulus spending after all, and felt it was important to help the economy in their state.

The phrase these guys are looking for, but can't bring themselves to say, is "Thank you, Mr. President, for rescuing the economy from the recession we helped create, and which we would have made worse had we been in power."

NYT Editorial: Jobs and Politics

If there’s a silver lining in the December jobs report, it is this: Nothing concentrates the minds of politicians like rising unemployment in an election year. Unless Congress and the White House push a robust job-creation agenda — starting now — worsening joblessness is a distinct possibility, even if the economy in general recovers in the coming months. That means the unemployment rate could still be high or even climbing when the midterm elections near. That may be the best hope for concerted federal action to put Americans back to work.

At 10 percent, the unemployment rate was unchanged from November to December. But the only reason it held steady is that 661,000 jobless Americans were not counted as unemployed last month because they had not looked for a job in the four weeks preceding the December survey. If they had been included, the jobless rate would have been closer to 10.4 percent. Over all, an estimated 3.6 million out-of-work people have been uncounted since the recession began in December 2007. They include people who had not recently looked for work and those who would have entered the work force in normal times, like recent high school and college graduates, but remained on the sidelines as jobs disappeared.

Here’s the rub: As soon as the economy shows more signs of life, those missing workers are likely to start looking for work. That would add to the ranks of the officially unemployed, causing the jobless rate to rise, perhaps dramatically — unless jobs are being created to absorb the labor glut.

The private sector alone is unlikely to create enough new jobs, even as the economy recovers. Employers are more likely to add hours to the truncated workweeks of existing employees than to hire new workers. They may also prefer to make temporary workers permanent rather than add new staff.

And even if hiring were unexpectedly strong, it could not repair the severely damaged job market anytime soon. The economy lost another 85,000 jobs in December, bringing the official total job loss over the past two years to 7.2 million jobs. But with the population growing — and with revisions to earlier data expected to show larger losses than previously reported — the economy is probably coming up short by 10 million to 11 million jobs. The job growth that would be needed to recoup losses of that magnitude in the next three years — some 400,000 jobs a month — is simply not in the cards.

Responding to the jobs report on Friday, Mr. Obama reminded Americans that $2.3 billion in tax credits — passed by Congress last year as part of the fiscal stimulus — would soon begin to spur the creation of some 17,000 green technology jobs. He also called on Congress to approve another $5 billion in spending for more clean energy manufacturing. And he urged lawmakers to move on legislation for several job ideas he put forth last month, including a plan for public-works employment and bolstered small business lending. That’s a start, but now he has to get Congress to act.

The jobs he saves may be those of members of Congress from his own party.

Sullivan: Sorry, Jonah, Conservatives Do Back Abu Ghraib


[Re-posted from earlier today]

It's somewhat interesting to see the layers and layers of denial begin to peel back a little at National Review. Jonah Goldberg endorses a reader's view that

This is driving me crazy. Peter [Beinart] argues that aspects of the "War on Terror" are recruiting tool, and cites Abu Ghraib. NO CONSERVATIVE IS DEFENDING ABU GHRAIB so this is a strawman. It's not merely fallacious, but slanderous in its implication that conservatives thought Abu Ghraib was fine.

Let us leave aside the simple fact that even at the time, many conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and James Inhofe refute this. Limbaugh called the techniques at Abu Ghraib a "brilliant maneuver." Inhofe said he was more outraged at the outrage than the offenses. Are Limbaugh and Inhofe not conservatives in Goldberg's view? Will National Review run a correction for this untruth? Or would that be too much cognitive dissonance even for them?

But we don't have to go back in time. On the same page in the same week that Jonah publishes this, Marc Thiessen is aggressively defending the exact techniques used at Abu Ghraib as things we should be proud of! Is it possible to be against Abu Ghaib and in favor of almost all the techniques revealed at Abu Ghraib? Capt10 Sure. In fact, that's been the "conservative" position for six years now.

Let's run down the Abu Ghraib techniques that we saw in those photos, shall we? Stress positions? Supported by NRO. Forced hooding and stripping? Backed by NRO. Mock executions? Backed by NRO. Forced nudity? Backed by NRO. Multiple beatings? Backed by NRO. Use of dogs to terrify? Backed by NRO. Sexual abuse? In some respects - such as smearing fake menstrual blood on the faces of naked, shackled prisoners - NRO found nothing wrong with that either.

Now remember what other "enhanced interrogation techniques" National Review also now supports that did not actually occur at Abu Ghraib: freezing prisoners to near death with ice, water and naked exposure to very low temperatures; repeated near-drowning of human beings tied to a board; sleep deprivation up to 960 hours; slamming a human being repeatedly with a neck collar against a plywood wall; forcing human beings into upright coffins for long periods of time and tormenting them with phobias, like the rats in Orwell's 1984. Any conservative who says he or she supports these "enhanced interrogation techniques" pioneered by Cheney therefore logically supports almost every atrocity at Abu Ghraib. So man up, Jonah. Quit the lies and own this or disown it. And no "well I haven't thought about this that much" or 'there's no evidence linking Abu Ghraib to Cheney - when the Senate's own bipartisan report directly and unanimously linked the techniques at Abu Ghraib to the Bush White House.

In fact, in its support for "enhanced interrogation techniques," NRO doesn't merely support what happened at Abu Ghraib but believes that prisoners there were treated better than they should have been. On the same Corner blog, one NRO contributor last week actually proposed grouping prisoners in one ethnic group and murdering them in one go with a missile, even though many were admittedly innocent. And Jonah wants to say that conservatives at National Review oppose the techniques at Abu Ghraib!

The only conceivable way for conservatives to oppose Abu Ghraib but support the use of the techniques revealed is that they wanted prisoners tortured by real professionals, not Lynndie England.

This was Krauthammer's original position - the creation of a elite cadre for torturing prisoners (something even the Nazis didn't do). These conservatives are fine with Rumsfeld's approval of stripping a human being and tying a leash around his neck and parading him around as a dog as part of an ongoing attempt to destroy that individual's sense of self and reality. But if someone down the line of command obeys the Rumsfeld order and it gets out, they oppose it. In fact, they will pretend to be shocked by it. They will also ensure that the person at the bottom of the line is punished and that those who ordered them get away with impunity. The only thing wrong with Abu Ghraib for National Review is that it was photographed and we found out about it. And that's also why they opposed dissemination of other photos that showed the same exact techniques at other locations in the war on terror.

For Cheney, the only thing wrong with Abu Ghraib was that it was exposed. Since America is America, torture becomes not-torture when Americans do it. Since the US president has no legal or constitutional limits to his use of violence in wartime and since captured prisoners are no different than active combatants, war was unleashed on men already shackled and isolated in torture cells across the globe.

This was one of the darkest moments in American history. And National Review aided, abetted and endorsed every bit of it. And wants to bring it back.

Giuliani: a noun, a verb and no clue Jan. 8: Rachel Maddow, despite going out of her way to give Rudy Giuliani the benefit of the doubt, is unable to find a way to interpret his answer in an ABC News interview that doesn't make him a cynical liar.

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