Archive for February, 2010

Congressmen say congressmen did nothing wrong

This is a classic example of Washington protecting Washington, from the Washington Post:

The House ethics committee ruled Friday that seven lawmakers who steered hundreds of millions of dollars in largely no-bid contracts to clients of a lobbying firm had not violated any rules or laws by also collecting large campaign donations from those contractors.

In a 305-page report, the ethics committee declared that lawmakers are free to raise campaign money from the very companies they are benefiting so long as the deciding factors in granting those “earmarks” are “criteria independent” of the contributions. The report served as a blunt rejection of ethics watchdogs and a different group of congressional investigators, who have contended that in some instances the connection between donations and earmarks was so close that it had to be inappropriate.

“Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts …

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Tonight, some travelin’ music about suicide machines

Kawi 750 1

She used to be my baby….

Well, earlier today a few us took some time out of the political bickering to swap motorsickle stories, and it got me in the mood for some travelin’ music of the two-wheel variety …

At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line

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Tax hikes, and layoffs, needed to balance Ga. budget

When Gov. Sonny Perdue introduced his proposed 2011 budget in January, he balanced it in part by including a “bed tax” on hospitals, projected to raise $300 million in new revenue. The reaction of his fellow Republicans was dismissive.

Once again, some whispered, Perdue was showing his political roots as a former Democrat.

Real Republicans knew that tough as it might be, the state deficit would be closed exclusively by spending cuts. Pledging devotion to conservative principles, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston and top appropriators in both the House and Senate committed themselves to rejecting tax hikes.

However, after slashing the state’s current budget to keep pace with falling revenues, and after seeing the impact of slicing hundreds of millions of additional dollars from the 2011 budget, the tone has begun to change. Having seen the nightmare numbers themselves, legislative leaders are coming to accept, as the governor had earlier, that cutting our …

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What just happened in health care … and what’s next

Politico has a nice piece dissecting who lied, who exaggerated, etc. Its conclusion?

Obama exaggerated. Boehner lied. Reid was incorrect. Ryan is wrong.

An army of partisan fact checkers bombarded the media through seven hours of the health care summit with such deep thoughts — replete with cherry-picked data — confirming the adage that there’s lies, damn lies and statistics.

Some of the jabs were dead on, but some were merely meant to back up partisan talking points. Still, there were plenty of factually challenged statements

The AP’s Alan Fram lays out the history — and future — of reconciliation, the course that Democrats seem increasingly likely to pursue. He writes”

“History shows that with the tables turned, Republicans have embraced the process. Of the 22 reconciliation bills Congress has sent a president since the procedure was first used in 1980, 16 were approved by a Republican-controlled Senate, including for President George W. Bush’s big 2001 tax cut.”

The …

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Where do conservatives think we can slash the federal budget?

John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University, dove deep into the results of a 2008 survey conducted as part of the American National Election Studies. He came back with something fascinating. (The ANES is an ambitious effort to probe the evolving thoughts of the American electorate over time. After the ‘08 elections, for example, ANES researchers conducted more than 2,000 face-to-face interviews.)

In one question, respondents were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 7, from extreme liberal to extreme conservative. In another question, they were asked whether they would support a reduction or elimination of federal spending in any of 12 different categories, from public education to highways.

Sides first identified those respondents who said they were conservative or very conservative. He then compiled that group’s answers to the question about possible cuts in federal spending. The results were posted at Salon, along with the following …

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Health-care debate is mere theater, and we need more of it

Republicans are deriding today’s health-insurance reform summit as “political theater.”

Well, yes it is. But it’s curious that the GOP is so dismissive of the concept, given that they have managed to stave off health-care reform this long by their own sly use of political theater, including tea parties and townhall meetings.

Theater and politics have been intertwined since the earliest days of ancient Greece. At its heart, debate is improvised theater, and there’s nothing illegitimate or unsavory about it. You bring your ideas, I bring mine, and let the audience decide for itself. That’s true of presidential debates, and it’s just as true of debates on a single important policy issue, such as health insurance.

As Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, described it in the New York Times today: “The meeting at Blair House is not about the participants in the room, it’s about the TV audience.”

That’s exactly right. No minds will change among …

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A conscious effort to deceive is unacceptable

Over at Andrew Breitbart’s site, the day’s featured video is a compilation of remarks by Barack Obama, Harry Reid and other Democratic senators back in 2005, in which they strongly condemn Republicans for considering what was called “the nuclear option.”

At the time, the Democratic minority in the Senate was filibustering to block confirmation of some of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Frustrated, Republicans threatened to retaliate by rewriting Senate rules to permanently strip minority senators of the right to filibuster such nominations.

That was hardly the only change being contemplated. Rewriting Senate rules requires a two-thirds majority, which the Republicans didn’t have. So the Republicans were threatening to strip the minority of its historic right to filibuster by ignoring the equally historic requirement of a two-thirds majority to change Senate rules. If carried out, such a revolution would permanently alter the core nature and tradition of the Senate.

Hence, …

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Blaming government for fiscal crisis is scapegoating

I do not blame President Bush or his party for the Great Recession that occurred on his watch. Yes, there were things he should have done that might have prevented the situation from getting as bad as it did, and there were things he did do that made the situation somewhat worse than it needed to be. When crunch time came in the latter half of 2008, when things really started to fall apart in dramatic fashion, he and his Cabinet responded competently if not perfectly, even if they had to repeatedly strongarm fellow Republicans in Congress to do the smart and necessary thing.

But ladies and gentlemen, we were headed for a fall regardless of what government did, and the fault was our own, as a people and as a culture. We as Americans started believing our own press releases, as the saying goes, and we stopped doing the things that got us where we were. I blame Bush for a lot of things — I still believe he will go down as one of the worst presidents in our history — but I cannot …

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Wow! The Republicans were right about the stimulus after all

So who was right?

The congressional Republicans, who have gone around the country claiming that the stimulus bill has created no new jobs and stimulated no new economic growth, or the congressional Republicans, who have gone around their home states and districts bragging that stimulus projects would create a lot of new jobs?

Well, The Congressional Budget Office has looked into the question, and it turns out that the Republicans were right! The stimulus bill has indeed produced a lot of new jobs and increased economic activity.

According to the report:

In sum, CBO estimates that in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2009, ARRA’s policies:
– Raised real GDP by between 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent;
– Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.5 percentage points and 1.1 percentage points;
– Increased the number of people employed by between 1.0 million and 2.1 million;
– Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 1.4 million to 3.0 million compared with what those …

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Iraq’s glidepath largely out of U.S. hands

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post was an early and ardent advocate of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, rhapsodizing as far back as 2002 that regime change in Iraq would have “the potential to catalyze a long-overdue liberalization of the Middle East.”

Such dreams we had back then, huh?

Eight years later, after the United States spent more than $700 billion and 4,000 lives, Diehl sees the potential for a much less positive outcome of the adventure he touted.

Iraq, he now warns, could become “a cleric-dominated satellite of Iran or a cauldron of sectarian conflict,” and he wants President Obama to do something to stop it.

Tellingly, Diehl offers not a single specific as to what that “something” might be, and for good reason. With U.S. forces drawing down as a result of a legal agreement with the Iraqi government, and with so much of our manpower being shifted to Afghanistan, our leverage over Iraq’s future is declining rapidly. We can cajole and threaten and promise, but our days …

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