Archive for November, 2010

With GOP cooperation, Senate keeps earmarks

Let’s rack up a big win for bi-partisanship. The Senate has just voted to keep earmarks.
With eight Republicans voting to keep the procedure — which allows them to funnel money to favored projects outside the regular budget process — earmarks will stay in place. Banning earmarks has been among the rallying cries of tea partiers, who insist that ending the longtime practice is necessary to rein in government spending.
In fact, earmarks represent a tiny portion of federal spending. But, so far, the tea party activists haven’t been able to muster enough power to even rein in that small portion. They managed to browbeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and get him on their side. After initially resisting the ban on earmarks, McConnell — who showed great skill in bringing pork barrel projects home to Louisville — decided to get on board.
But eight Republicans did not. (Seven Democrats voted to ban earmarks.) From the NYT:

Under an agreement between the Democratic and …

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Portland terror suspect was probably turned in by his family

Many Americans stand ready to accuse all Muslims of supporting terrorism and waging jihad. Those folks claim that the U.S. government should engage in active profiling of all Muslims, even if they are loyal Americans.
But the recent arrest of 19-year-old Mohamed Mohamud, who wanted to blow up a Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, shows how important it is for U.S. legal authorities to treat Muslims with respect and to cultivate their support. According to Time magazine, the FBI only knew about Mohamud’s activities because his family turned him in.

Mohamud’s mother and father and his two sisters have remained silent since his arrest. (The Oregonian identified the parents as Mariam and Osman Barre; they reportedly split up a few years ago.) However, a prominent member of the Somali community in Portland (estimated to number 8,000) says a relative played some role in helping to put the FBI on the young man’s trail — though that relative was almost certainly …

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A Wall Street Journal endorsement of “worthy immigration bill”

The Wall Street Journal is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox. While both news organs propagate Murdoch’s conservative politics, they do so very differently. The WSJ is the news outlet for respectable conservatives, those who are still tethered, if precariously, to the reality-based universe of data, research and facts.

That’s not to say the WSJ’s editorial page is above intellectual dishonesty. It is not. It has strained mightily to prove something which is false: that tax cuts alone can create enough jobs to spur federal revenues and tame the deficit. And its opinionators plays all sorts of other intellectually shady games in order to support establishment Republican views.
Nevertheless, it was surprising that the WSJ came out last week in favor of the Dream Act, which would put young adults here illegally on a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or complete two years of college. The writer’s preamble included the requisite Democrat-bashing …

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Too little, too late for black farmers

WASHINGTON — I am a descendent of good country people who turned the soil, planted seeds, watered roots and nurtured the tender shoots that sprang from the earth. They did it when they had to. And they did it when they didn’t. They did it because the land was theirs, and that has made all the difference.

I’m lucky. I was born to parents who both came from property-owning families, tough rural folk who toiled from “can see to cain’t,” who labored under a scorching Alabama sun, who battled drought and bugs and bankers to keep the land for their children and their children’s children.

Not all farmers managed to keep that inheritance. Some lost their land to the vicissitudes of nature — drought and flood, frost and plagues. Others simply gave up and sold for what little they could get. Farming has never been an easy way of life.

But black farmers were dogged by an additional difficulty: the racism of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Local bureaucrats denied them …

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On New START, GOP leaders put politics before patriotism

WASHINGTON — Condoleezza Rice believes the U.S. Senate should ratify a new arms control treaty with Russia. So does her successor, Hillary Clinton. Henry Kissinger wants it, as does Madeleine Albright.

Sen. Dick Lugar, top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a high-profile supporter of the treaty. So is former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who once worked with Lugar to create a program to dismantle nuclear weapons.

That all-star backing for the New START treaty would seem to suggest that its ratification will be a simple matter. You’d think conservative Republicans, after learning that current and former military leaders also back New START, would find the treaty an easy call to bi-partisanship.

Well, you’d be wrong.  A contingent of GOP Senators has decided that the opportunity to weaken President Obama abroad and embarrass him at home is more important than patriotic duty. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Senate Republicans’ point man on the …

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Obama, defend TSA. Don’t back down!

A meme is developing around President Obama that could threaten his political future. That meme, fueled by critics on the right and the left, suggests that Obama is a weakling, a spineless empty suit who is too willing to compromise, a wimp with no principles he would rather fight than defend.
It was that narrative that James Carville played into last week when he declared, “”If Hillary [Clinton] gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he’d have two.”
Bill Clinton, who knows the heart and soul of the American electorate, once famously declared, “When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.” How much more support would they lend to a leader who is strong and right?
For all the carping from airline passengers over the intensive new security screenings, it’s time for Obama to come out and strongly defend them. Whenever administration officials suggest that they will adjust overly zealous measures, their …

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Warren Buffett: Rich should pay more in taxes

According to recent polls, about two-thirds of Americans believe that taxes should rise to help bring down the deficit and pay for services that the nation needs. They don’t believe that bringing tax rates back to the levels of the Clinton administration would ruin capitalism, extend joblessness and bring America closer to (gasp!) Europe.
Neither does Warren Buffett, one of the nation’s richest capitalists. He told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that the rich ought to pay higher taxes:

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Sarah Palin’s Alaska is a welfare state

There is no place in the United States more illustrative of cognitive dissonance — more rife with deep internal contradictions — than Sarah Palin’s Alaska. It’s a wonder that its residents heads don’t explode.
You know all about Alaska, right? You know that its citizens pride themselves on a fierce independence, an all-American self-reliance and a deep-seated resistance to the federal government. Palin considers Alaska a prime example of the “real America.”
However, despite all of that myth-making, Alaska is the nation’s most glaring example of a welfare state. Its citizens couldn’t make ends meet without federal and state largess. From The New York Times:

No place benefits more from federal largess than this state, where the Republican governor decries “intrusive” federal policies, officials sue to overturn the health care legislation and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, voted against the stimulus bill.

Although its unemployment rate sits at just 7.9 percent, …

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We need immigrants to help pay the deficit

WASHINGTON — If you’ve spent any time pondering those dense reports on cutting the deficit, you know that there aren’t any pain-free answers around. Any remedy will hurt since it will have to include raising taxes and reducing benefits.

Recommendations for taming the deficit include raising the retirement age, raising the federal gas tax and ending the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Ouch!

But there is a palliative that would ease the pain: Put 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to legalization. And don’t touch birthright citizenship!

Yes, you heard that right: Granting legal residency to illegal immigrants will eventually help sop up some of the federal budget’s red ink. I know that’s counterintuitive since so many citizens have come to believe that Mexican landscapers and Guatemalan maids are a drain on the treasury. But the fact is that their relative youth is just what the U.S. economy needs.

The explosion of the long-term deficit is largely …

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Nancy Pelosi’s high ethical standards

I didn’t see this coming: The House ethics panel has recommended a tough punishment for Charlie Rangel, the 80-year-old former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Despite his tearful plea for mercy, the panel recommended censure, which is the second toughest punishment at their disposal.
There are a couple of obvious ironies here. The first is this: Rangel might have avoided this embarrassing public spectacle and received a lesser punishment if he had taken the plea deal the ethics committee offered him over the summer. But he rejected it. As a former prosecutor, Rangel should have understood the risk of rejecting the plea.

The second irony is this: It was the iron will of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who pledged to “drain the swamp” and elevate ethics in the House, that led to Rangel’s predicament. Over the strenuous objections of incoming House Speaker John Boehner, Pelosi insisted on establishing an independent Office of Congressional Ethics to …

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