Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's the deal here?

Human Events magazine has a major business sending out emails about different advertisers products. This one just came in.

Dear Fellow Conservative:

Civil War buffs, Southern partisans, and everyone who is tired of liberals vilifying America's greatest heroes -- must have this book on their bookshelf. It shatters the stereotypes and exposes the truth about the South, slavery, and states' rights.

Get your guide to the Civil War now -- it's FREE.


Thomas S. Winter
Editor in Chief, Human Events

I thought the Southern right had sort of thrown in the towel on slavery. But I may have misjudged that. In any case, always a big market for treason.

The Senate was almost allowed to vote up or down on extended unemployment benefits, but Democrats came one vote short of ending a Republican filibuster.

The Senate failed once again late Wednesday to advance a plan to restore jobless benefits for people out of work more than six months, leaving millions of unemployed workers in limbo until after the July 4 recess.

The measure fell one vote shy of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he was prepared to provide that vote, but that Democrats had rejected his request to pay for at least half of the $34 billion measure with unspent funds from last year's stimulus package.

Voinovich's offer wasn't exactly constructive -- he was prepared to let the Senate vote, just so long as Democrats agreed to spend less on economic recovery. The fact that such an offer is both foolish and counter-productive seemed to elude the Ohio senator.

The final vote was 58 to 38 -- yes, in our Senate, 38 trumps 58 -- but it was actually a 59-vote majority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch from yea to nea for procedural reasons.

To their credit, two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, finally agreed to end the filibuster on jobless aid. Democrats, then, only needed one more vote, and hoped Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) or Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) would come through. They refused.

The good news, if you could call it that, is that Democrats will likely get a 60th vote once the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) vacancy is filled. But with the caucus still one vote short, the leadership had no choice but to adjourn last night. The Senate will reconvene a week from Monday, on July 12.

In the meantime, as of tomorrow, 1.3 million jobless Americans will have lost their benefits. By the time Byrd's replacement is named, the total will be 2 million.

When was the last time Congress allowed benefits to expire with unemployment rates this high? It's simply never happened.

Boehner's bungle is Democrats' gain
Rachel Maddow reports on efforts by Democrats to politically exploit impolitic, and frankly dumb, statments by House Minority Leader John Boehner.

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Ezra Klein: Is Eric Cantor a policy wonk?

I've always been a bit puzzled by Eric Cantor. The word on him, as this Politico story says, is that he's "a serious wonk," which makes him a counterpoint to John Boehner, "a backslapper who loves golf and socializes with his friends."

But I've never seen much evidence that Cantor is a serious wonk. His policy positions range from "whatever the rest of the caucus is supporting," which makes sense given that he's part of the House leadership, to sort of wacky ideas, like his bailout alternative in which the federal government would insure all mortgages. At the health-care summit, there were plenty of Republicans -- Paul Ryan, Lamar Alexander, and Tom Coburn, among them -- who made compelling presentations. Cantor, as you can see in the clip atop this post, was the guy who brought props.

What Cantor does seem to be is an excellent fundraiser and messager, and in the one point of tension that Politico actually does identify between Boehner and Cantor, it was Boehner who sided with policy and Cantor who went for fundraising and messaging.

At issue was the structure of "America Speaking Out," the group that was supposed to craft the Republican Party's renewal agenda. "Cantor wanted the program run out of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which would have allowed party leaders to capture names and then hit those people up for cash and campaign help." Boehner wanted it run out of the Hill, where he could use congressional policy staff to work on the ideas and then sell the proposal as a serious policy effort. Boehner won, it seems. But Cantor's position was not the one you'd expect from a serious policy wonk. When's the last time you've heard of the DCCC or the DNC coming up with a smart policy idea?

But maybe I'm missing something on Cantor and my readers can enlighten me. Is he known for mastery of a particular issue? Does he have some really smart policy initiatives that he's promoting in the House? What's the deal here?

There’s been quite a lot of discussion of this whacky video Alabama Republican Rick Barber is running. If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty damn entertaining, though I think they should have had the singer cry (they do close-ups of his watery eyes several times, but the waterworks never quite materialize):

There are images of slaves, concentration camps, and the like that flash after Barber gets an Abe Lincoln impersonator to agree that taxes are the same as slavery. Barber has been criticized, not inappropriately, for this. The general consensus seems to be that he’s too angry, that he should try to sound more like David Brooks giving a seminar at the Aspen Institute. In interviews, however, he seems, as Ruth Marcus (not my favorite, but I like that she interviewed this nut), puts it “affably extreme”.

In today’s political world, when someone says something cray, it’s treated as a “gaffe” or an example of insufficient civility. But the truth is that some candidates, especially Tea Baggers, really do believe in very crazy things. Barber and Rand Paul aren’t just mistake-prone or uncivil or angry, they’re something far worse: candidates with insane, irrational political views.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are little more than figurative jokes these days, but the LA Times tells me that today's questioning of Elena Kagan was literally a joke:

Perhaps no amount of cramming could have readied her for the question asked of her by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma: Can the government, he wondered, pass a law forcing Americans to eat fruits and vegetables?

To Kagan, at first blush, the question must have seemed absurd, maybe even a joke. "It sounds like a dumb law," she replied off the cuff. Then, realizing Coburn was serious, she segued into sort of the windy, contextual, cautious analysis that she has employed to answer most of the questions asked of her over the last two days.

But she had fallen into Coburn's trap by answering more like the law professor she is than by simply responding like most people would. She never just said: "Of course it can't."

Within hours, a video detailing the exchange was atop the Drudge Report website, hundreds of thousands had viewed it on YouTube, and conservatives were having a field day. Her equivocation fit ideally with the narrative Republicans are trying to fashion during these hearings — a story of a federal government out of control and a Congress running amok.

We are truly ruled by idiots. At least, we will be if Republicans win control of Congress in November. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Angle not so sharp outside media bubble

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the answers by Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle in her first interview outside the right wing media bubble.

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Conservatives hoping to complain about President Obama's response to the BP oil spill disaster tend to have trouble with specifics. The right is certain they want the president to do more, but struggle when asked to elaborate in detail.

In recent weeks, one of the more common complaints has to do with the Jones Act. Liz Cheney, assorted Fox News personalities (Beck, Ingraham, Carlson), Sarah Palin, John McCain, Dick Armey, the Heritage Foundation, and random House Republicans have all said if Obama were serious about the federal response, he would have waived the maritime law.

In keeping with recent trends, the argument has already been debunked, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from repeating it. McClatchy is the latest to try to set the record straight.

That statute, established in 1920, requires that all goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned ships crewed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Critics say that's needlessly excluded foreign-flagged vessels that could have helped. [...]

Armey and the other Republican critics are wrong. Maritime law experts, government officials and independent researchers say that the claim is false. The Jones Act isn't an impediment at all, they say, and it hasn't blocked anything.

"Totally not true," said Mark Ruge, counsel to the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, a coalition of U.S. shipbuilders, operators and labor unions. "It is simply an urban myth that the Jones Act is the problem."

In a news briefing last week, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he'd received "no requests for Jones Act waivers" from foreign vessels or countries. "If the vessels are operating outside state waters, which is three miles and beyond, they don't require a waiver," he said.

There are currently 24 foreign vessels from nine foreign countries in the Gulf, helping with the response effort. How many needed a waiver to participate? None. How many vessels have been turned away because of the Jones Act? None. In fact, just this week, a dozen more offers of foreign assistance have been accepted. The Jones Act had no bearing on any of this.

But the right just keeps lying, suggesting Obama refuses to waive the law due to union pressure. Michael Sacco, the president of the 80,000-member Seafarers International Union, told McClatchy that claims of organized-labor interference in the cleanup efforts were "ridiculous."

Something to keep in mind the next time we hear the argument, which if recent history is any guide, will be made once again any minute now.

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