So you think congressional Republicans are the only right-wingers who like to append their pet (and sometimes, wedge) issues ? like the Keystone pipeline ? to must-pass legislation like the payroll tax-cut extension? Guess again? it looks to be a trans-Atlantic syndrome.
Turns out that David Cameron, Britain?s Tory Prime Minister, went to Brussels for the EU summit last week with exactly the same strategy. As the heads of government of the other 26 member states debated German Chancellor Angela Merkel?s proposal to regulate national budgets more tightly (itself a wildly irrelevant idea to the crisis of Greek, Italian and Spanish solvency, but that?s another story, which I wrote about in today?s Post), Cameron cleared his throat and proposed a series of measures designed to protect the City? the London-based banks that dominate the British economy and helped bring about the crash of 2008. Cameron was operating under the theory that the Germans and the French so desperately needed unanimous support for their budgetary proposal (unanimity is required to change the EU?s governing charter) that they would exceed to his demands, even though they rightly revile the City, and Wall Street, for creating the mess they were trying to clean up.
Many of Cameron?s proposals, which he had not previewed with any other European leaders, though some had requested that he do so, were highly technical, and bringing them up in a post-midnight meeting turned out not to be such a hot idea. ?Nobody understood what Cameron wanted? nobody,? one unnamed European diplomat told the Financial Times. (The FT said he came from a generally pro-British country.) Cameron?s set of proposals, which included rules that affected voting procedures for regulatory user charges, the FT continued, ?may have looked reasonable to him, but it was totally baffling to a gathering of leaders grappling in the early hours with questions of economic survival?. The British seemed to believe that Mr. Cameron could win his City concessions by delivering them at short notice at 2am, bouncing leaders into accepting them.?
But the leaders would not be bounced. The proposals, said Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat chief whip in the European Parliament, went down ?like a rat sandwich.?
Hard to say what infuriated Cameron?s fellow leaders more ? the substance of his proposals or the way he introduced them. (See, again, the GOP?s Keystone Pipeline.) Substantively, what the other European leaders feared was that Cameron was maneuvering to block future financial regulations not on the table that week in Brussels, most particularly the creation of a financial transaction tax (which is supported by Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy). It?s still not clear if Cameron?s proposals would have had that effect, but inasmuch as he had left no time for the leaders and their aides to study them, they were dead on arrival anyway. Merkel, and most emphatically Sarkozy, made clear that they?d make their changes through a 26-nation accord, however clumsy that might be, rather than accept Cameron?s proposals in return for his vote, which would have enabled them to enact their budgetary reform through the more legally unchallengeable route of an EU-wide, all-27-nations-on-board, change to the EU charter.
At one level, Cameron?s miscalculation suggests that the Tory Party of yore? a Wodehousian collection of toffs and twits? may, at its highest levels, be with us still. But the arrogance and insularity behind that miscue is, as I said, a trans-Atlantic attribute of today?s Anglo-American right-wingers, who love nothing more than attaching their laundry lists to essential legislation. The difference is, Europe could say no to Cameron. In the U.S., where the Republicans control one house of Congress and have veto power in the other, some of that laundry list ends up as law.
The Energy Report: You’ve been tracking macroeconomic trends and their impact on energy commodities for decades and since 2004 through your Shadow Government Statistics newsletter. In a Nov. 10 piece on the trade deficit, you wrote: Massive fundamental dollar dumping and dumping of dollar-denominated assets may start at any time with little or no further warning. With the U.S. government unwilling to balance or even address its uncontainable fiscal condition and with the Federal Reserve standing ready to prevent a systemic collapse so long as it is possible to print, spend, loan or guarantee whatever money is needed, it puts the U.S. dollar at increasing risk of losing its global reserve currency status. Much higher inflation lies ahead in . . . → Read More: John Williams: Can Domestic Natural Gas Cut the Deficit?
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The House made its way, business-like, through the conference report on the defense authorization bill (with the indefinite detention provisions), voted on a couple suspension bills, and debated but postponed votes on a few more.
The Senate voted on and rejected both balanced budget amendments, passed a few measures on voice vote (including an Intelligence Authorization bill), completed the Rule XIV process on the House payroll tax cut conglomeration train wreck, and approved a big batch of military promotions.
Looking ahead to today:
Current official schedule in the House: five suspension bills.
Current official schedule in the Senate: one judicial nomination (9th Circuit), the defense authorization conference report, and just maybe, the above-mentioned House Republican payroll tax mess.
Why put it that way? Because the current continuing appropriations law expires on Friday, and there's the threat of a partial government shutdown (again) if something isn't passed before then. And right now, the vehicle for getting something put into place hasn't got the requisite support. Nor do Senate Dems believe the Republican House will stick around to work out a deal on the payroll tax, et al., if the Senate agrees to an omnibus appropriations bill. And they want both of those things taken care of before anyone goes home.
So we can't say for sure at this point exactly how either house will really spend its day, or for that matter, whether this will be their last in DC for the first session of the 112th Congress.
One way out, of course, would be to pass yet another short-term continuing appropriations bill that keeps things operating at current levels (or as Republicans would have it, and have succeeded in having it in the past, at current levels minus some arbitrary level of cuts), and just punt the payroll tax, UI extension, etc. until later. The only question then would be, when's later? In the few days between Christmas and New Year's? Or might they let those things expire briefly and then fix them retroactively?
We'll just have to sit here like idiots and wait to find out, I guess.
Today's floor and committee schedules appear below the fold.
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteWelcome to the new America. With the "last minute" changes to the National Defense Authorization Act, the White House Press Sectary announced that President Obama will sign it contrary to his earlier threat to[...]
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE?
Happy Birthday, I-X!
On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified. For the benefit of Rick Perry and people like him who can't keep lists of more than two items in their head, let's review:
I. You can say anything you want except "Fire!" in a crowded theatre or "Let's elect Michele Bachmann President" in a roomful of people with functioning brains; you can peaceably assemble in public spaces to call out the government when it's acting like a dick, but only between 8am and 8pm Monday through Friday and 9am and 4pm on weekends. (Wisconsinites: don't forget to pay Gov. Walker his "assembly fee" before you gather.); the press has total freedom, except where riot police are evicting peaceful protesters from a public place with pepper spray, bulldozers, rubber bullets, sound-wave cannons, concussion grenades, dogs, lasers, tasers and/or clubs, in which case IT NEVER HAPPENED.
Special Bonus: The United States is technically neutral on religion, except during prayers in Congress and invocations at inaugurations and at the end of any presidential speech, and also in the Pledge of Allegiance and on your money and...oh, never mind.
II. Guns---Fuck Yeah! (?and bazookas, too, right? Right!)
III. You don?t have to let soldiers in your house. But if they're offering to clean the place, come on in!
IV. No searches and seizures without a warrant unless the information is gathered via a government-approved, immunized telecommunications company which is paid via your tax dollars to suck up all your communications like a vacuum cleaner and spit it out at the NSA, where an agent will sort through it all, especially your "secret" cache of porn, for which he thanks you kindly.
V. The amendment to invoke when you've been naughty.
VI. We Americans have an ironclad, unshakable and inviolable right to a trial by a jury of our peers. Or, y'know, maybe not.
VII. What? Two jury amendments in a row? I'm losing interest in your list, founders.
VIII. No cruel or unusual punishment shall be authorized by anyone except whoever happens to become America's 20th Republican Vice President.
IX. If the score is tied after nine amendments, we go into extra innings.
X. States don?t gotta do nuthin' if they don't wanna, and if you don?t agree then we're gonna secede. Also known as the "sore loser" amendment.
To quote James Madison: "Eh...they'll do in a pinch."
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Earlier this week, President Obama stood with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the South Court Auditorium of the White House to announce that ?a war is ending.? Two days later, the president visited Fort Bragg to offer an encomium to post-9/11 veterans. ?Your service belongs to the ages,? he told the assembled troops.
By the end of the year, all U.S. combat troops in Iraq will have slipped across the border into Kuwait, and America?s war there will be over.
The president?s political staff carefully crafted the public-relations campaign around the war?s end. The issue, after all, is a political IED. Obama had to take credit for keeping a campaign promise while avoiding the appearance of enjoying a political victory lap among the ashes of a war that cost 4,483 American lives.
The president also had to avoid portraying the end of the war in any way that conjures memories of George W. Bush?s fatefully premature victory ceremony in 2003?the now-infamous display of hubris in which the former president landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit and gave a speech in front of a banner that read ?mission accomplished? days before Iraq descended into a chaotic and bloody insurgency. Any whiff of such a blunder ran the risk of making the president seem naÔve about the many challenges facing the nascent democracy.
Presidential caution, however justified, need not dampen progressives? the sense of accomplishment. Those who spearheaded the movement to end the war should take a moment to step back and examine their success. The end of the war has finally arrived.
Without the progressive movement, America would be approaching only the ninth year of John McCain?s hundred years war in Mesopotamia. Recent Republican presidential debates and op-eds from conservative true believers underscore the fact that an end to the war was not a foregone conclusion.
To be sure, the U.S. will retain its largest diplomatic presence of any country in the world in Iraq. And due to restrictions on U.S. troops, American diplomats will be protected by legions of private security contractors. But American youth will no longer patrol the streets of Baghdad, Basra or Fallujah, praying that they get through the day without rolling over a roadside bomb or wandering into a sniper?s crosshairs. Instead of a never-ending and strategically stupid conflict, Americans and Iraqis will now interact through staid speeches and formal diplomatic meetings. Memos have replaced mortars.
This week?s events are the closest thing the 9/11 generation will see to the surrender on the decks of the USS Missouri that so clearly marked the end of World War II. The end of today?s wars, like modern warfare itself, will be murky, complicated and tickertape-free. But the psychological break is important. And this month, with the last American combat troops leaving Iraq, that shift in mindset will be complete. The process of healing the wounds of war can now begin?starting with thousands of veterans who have come back in need of jobs, education and medical care.
The end of the war also finds Iraq grappling with the legacy of war as well as a host of political and social issues that continue to be beyond the reach of military solutions. As Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group has pointed out, the Iraqi government is made up of a broad coalition of parties that remain deeply divided, a dynamic that caused a nine-month delay in forming a government last year and will continue to frustrate day-to-day governing.
On top of that gridlock, Iraqi prime minister Noori al-Maliki continues to consolidate power. The last few months have seen several raids to purge alleged ?Baathists,"?former members of Saddam Hussein?s ruling party?from government. With the raids, Maliki took aim more at his political opponents than would-be coup plotters and raised fears that Iraq might return to strongman rule.
Iraq still lacks an oil law that would establish the terms for how the revenues from the country?s massive reserves, the world?s fourth-largest, will be divided between the central government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. Recently, the Kurdish government inflamed tensions with the central government by initiating a deal with Exxon Mobil to develop oil in disputed territories.
The effects of war on Iraqi citizens have been profound. Aside from the estimated 100,000 Iraqis who were killed during the war, approximately 1.3 million people are still internally displaced in Iraq, and about one million are emigrants, mostly in Syria and Jordan.
Iraq will also face the challenge of ensuring its sovereignty and independence. Although Iranian influence is overhyped, huge gaps remain in Iraq?s ability to secure its airspace and borders. The changes to regional politics wrought by the Arab Spring also pose significant challenges. Maliki continues to back the Syrian government, even as the body count and international condemnation of the Bashar al-Assad regime mount. What?s more, Maliki?s response to protests in his own country by Sunni Arabs calling for more representation in government has not been encouraging.
American politicians like to say that as violence has slowed and ?politics has broken out? in Iraq. But politics has broken out in the U.S. as well, thanks in large part to the efforts of progressives. Today, both countries find their interests better served by ending the U.S. war and shifting their relationship to one of two sovereign states interacting on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interests. It?s been a long time coming.
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteExtractionism: taking money from others without creating anything of value; anything that produces economic growth or improves our lives.MSNBC talk show host, Dylan Ratigan has a new book, Greedy Bastards, coming[...]
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Newspapers, linguists, politicos, magazines and blogs are always looking for end-of-year hooks for stories. One perennial favorite is to choose?unilaterally, or via a poll or reader suggestions?the word or phrase that either best characterizes the past year or that went viral for one reason or another. The American Dialect Society† sponsors an annual contest, to [...]Related posts:
GOP raises concerns about early retiree fund: “The healthcare law?s program for early retirees is an example of the law?s broader flaws, House Republicans charged Wednesday.” [Sam Baker]
Oregon pursues coordinated care: “The Oregon Health Policy Board worked into the evening Tuesday on refining details for a plan to carry out health reform designed to save costs, integrate care and win approval from the Legislature in February. ” [Oregon Live]
Massachusetts to consider a public option: Beacon Hill lawmakers “are planning to hear testimony on two bills designed to create universal health coverage in Massachusetts. The Joint Committee on Health Care Financing has scheduled a public hearing Thursday on the bill that would create a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurance plans.” [Boston Globe]
Feds winning battle against health care fraud: “Federal prosecutors brought a record number of cases of health care fraud in fiscal 2011, a new report said, with Florida and its huge Medicare-dependent population remaining the epicenter of fraudulent claims. The latest data, drawn from federal records by the Transactional Records Access Records database at Syracuse University, showed total prosecutions jumped 68.9 percent to 1,235 cases compared to 2010, a record increase.” [Merrill Goozner]
Gov. Haley wasted millions on study of exchanges: “The fix was in before South Carolina’s Health Planning Committee ever met to discuss health care reform in the Palmetto State, according to emails Gov. Nikki Haley’s office tried to keep hidden.” “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” Haley wrote back in March. As Palmetto Public Record reported last week, that’s exactly what happened — though it took eight months and a million dollars in taxpayer money to reach that conclusion. [Palmetto Public Record]
Medicaid costs eat up state budgets: “These days the health program for the poor is claiming a bigger slice of states’ spending than even K-12 education, says a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers. All told, Medicaid is expected to grab 23.6 percent of states’ spending in fiscal 2011, up from 22.3 percent the year before.” [NPR]
The Obamacare game: “Supporters of President Obama?s healthcare reforms launched an online game Wednesday to highlight the law?s provisions. The new site is operated by ‘Thanks, Obamacare,’ a coalition of Colorado-based healthcare advocates formed in October to build support for healthcare reform and try to reclaim the ‘ObamaCare’ label.” [Sam Baker]
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