From the MoJo Blog:
— By Kevin Drum | Sat Oct. 9, 2010 10:25 PM PDT
Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine) writes that the Senate has become increasingly nasty and partisan. For example:
During the past two years, the minority party has been increasingly shut out of the discussion. Even in the Senate, which used to pride itself on being a bastion of free and open debate, procedural tactics are routinely used to prevent Republican amendments. That causes Republicans to overuse the filibuster, because our only option is to stop a bill to which we cannot offer amendments.
It’s true that Harry Reid has filled the amendment tree a little more often than his predecessors: nine times in the 110th Congress vs. six times for Bill Frist in the 109th. And while I can’t find a tally for the 111th Congress, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were higher still. But is Collins seriously trying to suggest that this is the direction that causality runs? That Republicans are only resorting to filibusters and other delaying tactics because they haven’t been allowed to offer serious, substantive amendments more regularly?
I’m willing to be schooled by a congressional expert on this, but reality seems just the opposite: Republicans have adopted a whole host of aggressive delaying tactics since they became a minority party, and one of them is the practice of offering dozens or hundreds of dilatory amendments in order to suck up endless floor time. The only way to avoid that is to fill the amendment tree, invoke cloture, and then try to round up 60 votes. If you don’t, your bill is effectively dead.
From Media Matters:
October 07, 2010 4:45 pm ET
Fox’s Megyn Kelly hosted Dana Perino to portray calls for an IRS audit of a Republican slush fund promoted by Karl Rove as a politically motivated “conspiracy,” ignoring that such calls have been issued by non-partisan organizations that called for similar audits of Democratic-leaning groups in 2004. They also furthered the bogus claim that the White House illegally accessed the tax information of Koch Industries.
October 07, 2010 2:00 pm ET
Conservative media are pushing a deceptively cropped video of Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) to claim he “doesn’t believe the national debt is real.” In fact, the context of Hare’s remarks make clear he was referring to the “myth” that you can’t “just can’t spend” to put “people back to work” because “this country is in debt,” an opinion with which liberal and conservative economists agree.
October 07, 2010 1:38 pm ET
Fox News hosts and contributors have recently dismissed estimates of food stamp programs’ stimulative effect on the economy as “some strange multiplier effect study,” “liberal math” and a “complicated economic multiplier theory.” In fact, economists agree that food stamps are one of “the most effective ways to prime the economy’s pump.”
Jake Whitney interviews Andrew Bacevich, October 2010
Why fight wars our president doesn’t believe in and we can’t pay for? asks retired colonel and military historian Andrew Bacevich.
Sacrifice. It’s a word Andrew Bacevich uses when discussing U.S. national security policy. While he pays respect to the tiny percentage of Americans who currently fight our wars, he also laments that more Americans don’t help shoulder those wars, and decries our politicians for having stopped asking anything of the American people. Bacevich, though, knows what it means to sacrifice. A retired U.S. Army colonel, Bacevich served in post-war Germany, fought in Vietnam, and taught at West Point. In 2007, he lost his twenty-seven-year-old son, Andrew, Jr., in Iraq. While Bacevich refuses to speak about this in interviews (“what is private ought to remain private”), one can surmise that the tragedy was compounded by Bacevich’s profound opposition to the war. Indeed, Bacevich fundamentally disagrees not only with current U.S. militarism in the Middle East but with the unwieldy behemoth that the American national security state has become.
Bacevich’s opposition, however, was not born of a father’s anger over a lost son. It is the opposition of a scholar, teacher, and author who has spent nearly half his life studying American foreign policy and seeing, sometimes from the inside, its uneven, often terrible results. It is an opposition that gathered particular urgency after 9/11, and since then Bacevich has proved an unrelenting and increasingly influential critic of U.S. national security policy. As Bacevich views it, that policy continues to follow a playbook that was penned sixty years ago and no longer makes sense, if it ever did. Blind adherence to this playbook has resulted in our current predicament: 370,000 troops stationed in more than thirty-five countries, a Middle Eastern war that looks increasingly like a quagmire, a defense budget that is bankrupting the country, and, worst of all, a political system that has become little more than theater.
From the Danger Room:
David B. Buckley, you lucky ducky, you just got one of the most thankless jobs in government. Buckley came on board yesterday as the new CIA inspector general, the internal-affairs watchdog for the nation’s chief spy agency. If history is any guide, he’s in for a world of bureaucratic pain.
CIA Director Leon Panetta was all smiles about Buckley in a statement released this afternoon. Not only did he praise the “absolute integrity and commitment to the rule of law” of the ex-Treasury Department inspector and longtime Hill staffer, but he said a “robust, independent” inspector general is “essential to our success.”
Sure, he says that now. But for practically Panetta’s entire tenure, the agency has been without an inspector general. During that time, the CIA massively upped its drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan, an operation that United Nations officials and some U.S. law professors consider legally dubious.
And the reason why there hasn’t been a CIA inspector general for the last 14 months is instructive when considering the headaches that Buckley is likely to inherit. The last inspector, John Helgerson, conducted a thorough investigation into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogations,” finding that agency interrogators waterboarded a top terrorist 183 times in a single month and staged mock executions to get others to talk.
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
George Soros announced a few weeks ago that he is giving $100 million to Human Rights Watch—conditional on the organization to find a matching $10 million a year from other donors. He’s been rewarded with ringing cheers for his disinterested munificence.
The relationship of “human rights” to the course of empire is nicely caught in two statements, the first by HRW’s former executive director Aryeh Neier: “When we created Human Rights Watch, one of the main purposes at the outset was to leverage the power, the purse and the influence of the United States to try to promote human rights in other countries.”
Set this remark, startling in its brazen display of imperial self-confidence, next to Soros’s recent statement on National Public Radio PR, that in the expansion of HRW prompted by his big new donation “the people doing the investigations won’t necessarily be Americans.… The United States has lost the moral high ground and that has sort of endangered the credibility, the legitimacy of Americans being in the forefront of advocating human rights.”
Soros the international financier made his billions as a currency speculator; he could destroy a country’s reserves, hastening its social disintegration. Then Soros the philanthropist could finance HRW’s investigations into the abuses his operations helped to induce. He offers in his single person an arresting profile of liberal interventionism in our era, in which direct economic and political destabilization (mostly calibrated in concert with the US government) has easy recourse to the moral and political bludgeon of a human rights report, which is in turn used to ratchet up the pressure for a direct imperial onslaught—whether by economic sanctions, covert sabotage, aerial bombing or a blend of all three. The role of human rights NGOs in NATO’s attack on the former Yugoslavia is a prime example.
George Mason University has confirmed that it is investigating allegations of plagiarism by Professor Edward Wegman, author of the hockey stick hatchet job “Wegman Report”. According to USA Today, the investigation began earlier this year after a letter of complaint from Raymond Bradley (as in Mann, Bradley and Hughes) whose textbook Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary was extensively copied and crudely altered in the report to Congress. USA Today credits the investigation by Canadian blogger Deep Climate and the extensive report on errors in Wegman’s document compiled by John Mashey (covered here last month). Wegman declined to comment, but has confirmed that litigation is involved. Informed speculation suggests that this may be related to copyright issues — likely to be a problem for anyone who lifts 30% of a report from other people’s work. The story has also been picked up by the Washington Post, and Andy Revkin at Dot Earth has dubbed the affair SkepticGate. This scandal may be about to go mainstream — and not before time.
A detailed investigation into the genesis of the 2006 Wegman Report — much beloved of climate sceptics because it was critical of the “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstructions of Michael Mann (et al) — has shown it to be deeply flawed, stuffed with poorly-executed plagiarism, and very far from the “independent, impartial, expert” effort it was presented as to Congress. The new 250 page study, Strange scholarship in the Wegman Report (exec summary, full report) by John Mashey (with considerable assistance from Canadian blogger Deep Climate) finds that: