In order to have any chance of surviving as Speaker of the House, Boehner needs to produce legislation that is completely unacceptable to the White House and the Senate. Their opposition is a feature, not a bug. Consider how he sold his plan to Laura Ingraham: “President Obama hates it. Harry Reid hates it. Nancy Pelosi hates it. Why would Republicans want to be on the side of President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi [is] beyond me.”
Why anyone would think that a plan loathed by the Majority Leader of the Senate and the President of the United States would be signed into law is beyond me. And since then, Boehner has moved the plan considerably to the right. But that’s because he’s not legislating. He’s just trying to survive.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Then, Congress passed the stimulus bill, the fall in growth dwindled to 0.7 percent in the second quarter, and, by the third quarter of 2009, we had 1.7 percent growth. “We went from negative to positive at precisely the time that the stimulus was providing maximum benefit in terms of tax cuts and spending increases,” Zandi says. “The numbers actually reinforce the importance of the stimulus in jump-starting a recovery.” What the stimulus didn’t do, however, was raise employment to the levels that the White House had predicted — partly because the economy was in worse shape than anyone, even the official data-crunchers, knew.
Of course, the stimulus only lasted two years, winding down in the end of 2010. And what happened then? As Dean Baker, an economist at the Center on Economic and Policy Research observes, “The downward revision to the first quarter data coupled with the revision of the fourth quarter growth to 2.3 percent from 3.1 percent, suggests that the winding down of the stimulus has seriously dampened growth.” Zandi agrees: “If fiscal policy had simply stayed neutral, the numbers suggest we would have had around 2 percent growth these past two quarters, which isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than what we actually had.” Except fiscal policy wasn’t neutral—it was shrinking. The stimulus wound down, that extra government spending started disappearing, and, with it, economic growth dwindled.
- The U.S. has claimed that Iran is sending money to Al Qaeda in Pakistan through a Syrian intermediary. The Treasury Department has documents, they believe prove this connection. Iran denies the reports.
- The Libyan rebel military leader, Abdul Fattah Younis, has been killed by assailants in Benghazi. Details remain hard to come by and the situation remains fluid. At the very least, the Libyan rebels have lost their chief military tactician and NATO has lost a favored partner.
- There is fresh violence in Syria today as security forces have fired on protesters in the southern city of Deraa and earlier today an oil pipeline was bombed. Over at Abu Muquwama, Andrew Exum considers how the unrest in Syria damages Hezbollah's legitimacy in Lebanon.
- Speaker Boehner canceled the planned debt ceiling vote last night because he didn't have they votes. His staff is said to be making revisions to make it more palatable to the tea party caucus (which would make it less palatable for Senate Democrats) and House members have been told to stay in DC this weekend and plan to be in session. There are reports that the South Carolina delegation is the issue, and that the SC representatives are taking their marching orders from Sen. Jim DeMint (SC). Ezra Klein considers what's next in this fight, and posits that Boehner, having all but failed in a vote of confidence in his speakership, may move the bill slightly to the left to earn from Democrat votes. Your editor suggested this path a couple weeks back.
- And in more bad news the U.S. economy grew by just 1.4% in the second quarter of 2011. First quarter growth was trimmed down to an anemic 0.4%.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
- Libyan rebel fights launched an offensive in the western mountains, and won then lost a government controlled town.
- The EU is warning of the potential for more violence after a flare-up in Kosovo.
- Amnesty International has reported that over 500,000 Ivorians have not returned home despite the ouster of former president Gbagbo. The report details people are afraid of ethnic attacks and notes that atrocities have been committed by supporters of Gbagbo and current Ivorian president Ouattara.
- China has blamed a failed signal(NYT) for the high-speed train crash that killed 39 people on Saturday.
- As reported yesterday, Boehner tried to whip his caucus in to line ahead of today's vote in the House on his own bill to avert American default. The Washington Post considers Boehner The Crier versus Boehner The Arm Twister. Many believe the vote is a test between pragmatists and purists in the Republican caucus. And the S&P would likely keep the U.S. sterling bond rating, if default is avoided, despite the fact that the legislation currently under consideration doesn't fundamentally change the U.S. deficit situation. I break down Tea Party Nation founder, Judson Phillips, op-ed a little later this morning.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
- The mayor of Kandahar was killed by a suicide bomber today. The Taliban have claimed responsibility. Even has the Taliban claim a string of assassinations, U.S. counter-terrorism officials say Pakistani based al-Qaeda could collapse soon.
- North Korea is demanding a peace treaty with the United States before entering into six-party talks about the recluse countries nuclear program. The Korean War effectively ceased following an armistice agreement in 1953, but the two countries remain in a technical state of war.
- The UK has dismissed the remaining representatives to the Qaddafi government from the country and has recognized the rebel forces as the legitimate government of Libya. For the latest coverage on the rebel advance, check this out(NYT).
- Aid airlift to Somalia have been delayed by UN bureaucracy, according to al-Jazeera. In a strange turn, al-Shabab has banned samosas (during a famine no less) because their three corners could remind people of the Holy Trinity.
- Young Israelis have taken to the streets and set up tent cities to protest high housing prices in Tel Aviv.
- The CBO scored Boehner's plan and found it would only cut $850 billion, but The White House defended the plan, even has it threatened to veto it. Boehner's staff, disappointed by the CBO score, took to their chainsaws to find more cuts. Meanwhile, Reid, Boehner, and McConnell are all inching closer to a deal. There is still some doubt that Boehner could find the votes in the House, especially among the tea party faithful who don't think blowing off the debt ceiling will be a big deal, despite the over 70 million checks that could not go to regular Americans and the warning from new IMF head, Christine LaGarde that default would be, "a very, very, very serious event...for the global economy." This editor wonders how Republicans, and the tea party especially, can be so virulently against any tax increase because they feel it will stifle the economy, and yet seem quite content to let the U.S. default on its loans, which would do far more to wreck the economy.
- House Democrats are seeking an end to the stale-mate that has defunded parts of the FAA.
- Secretary Clinton is urging Congress to rethink legislation that is working its way through the House that would add "onerous" restrictions on foreign aid.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
- The man who is allegedly responsible for last week's bombing and shooting rampage in Norway admitted responsibility, but entered a plea of not guilty. He said he wanted to save Europe from "Muslim domination." It is a reminder that "rhetoric is not cost free" whether espousing Muslim or Christian superiority.
- Hamid Karzai encourages Afghans to realize NATO support is winding down, but also says any future NATO or US military involvement must be done on Afghan terms in a double game that seeks to return to the country to the darkness that engulfed it during the Taliban's rule.
- Thousands of land mines slows the progress of Libya's rebels.
- India and Pakistan are set to begin peace talks tomorrow. The continued enmity between the two South Asian countries has prompted more then one nuclear showdown and distracted Pakistan from the threat within its borders for years.
- The UN will airlift food to the famished regions in Somalia this week.
- Dueling speeches were broadcast over the airwaves last night in the debt ceiling/deficit debate. Obama called for shared sacrifice, while Boehner said Washington spending is out of control. House GOP freshmen are apparently out of ideas after Cut, Cap, and Balance is tabled in the Senate. It's worth noting that the federal government hasn't been in compliance with the figures in Cut, Cap and Balance since the 1950s, which is to say neither Reagan, nor either Bush would have been in compliance. Meanwhile, market watchers are waiting for the bond market's patience to run out. Cataclysm to follow.
- Meanwhile, in another area of no compromise, the FAA has had to furlough employees as Congress has not passed an extension for funding. It would be the 21st such extension, but it has been sullied by strings attached by the House that the Senate does not agree with.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
- Protests have broken out in Syria following Friday prayers in solidarity with the besieged residents of Homs.
- Al-Shabab rejected the UN claim that the ban on aid had been lifted, condemning the residents in al-Shabab territory to face a dire famine.
- Qaddafi refused to negotiate with the Libyan rebels, according to an audio message released yesterday.
- The EU has reached a deal to attempt to shore up Greece's finances and avoid default. Greek debt, as a percentage of GDP stood at 143% last year.
- North and South Korea have expressed an interest in restarting 6-party nuclear disarmament talks.
- Countdown to economic calamity continues. Obama and Boehner are reportedly working on a deal that would cut $3 trillion from the debt over 10 years, but includes no immediate tax alterations. Democrats are furious. Ezra Klein focuses on market distorting tax policies Republicans refuse to consider. George Will pantomimes Mitch McConnell and Nero at once. Charles Krauthammer doesn't like any deal he's heard, but likes Obama less. The Onion puts it in perspective. U.S. government debt as a percentage of GDP was just shy of 60% last year.
- The formal end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will come today.
- Jose Vargas has had his license revoked in Washington.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
- As the Murdochs apologize, but deflect responsibility, Prime Minster Cameron came in to Parliament yesterday for his verbal drubbing as well.
- Two representatives of the Kashmiri American Council have been accused of funneling millions of dollars from Pakistan's ISI to lobbyists in the United States to gain favor with U.S. legislators in both parties. The charges are likely to do no good to already severely strained US-Pakistan relations.
- A headscarves rift appears to be forming between Iran's clerics and President Ahmadinejad, according to The Washington Post. This editor doesn't don't a rift, but wonders if the headscarves issue is more smoke then fire.
- The last war criminal sought by the UN Balkan war crimes tribunal has been arrested according to Serbia's president.
- The FBI is in contact with several Syrian activists in the United States, for fear they may be under increased threat given the violence currently in Syria.
- The newly reformed Gang of Six has released a debt ceiling/deficit reducing plan that is gaining traction in the Senate and has garnered qualified support from Speaker Boehner and President Obama. Representative Cantor, however, remains intractable on revenues. Details continue to emerge about the plan, but if fully implemented it would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion dollars over 10 years and would bring debt as a percentage of GDP down to 70% in the same time frame. Ezra Klein breaks down the deal a bit more. The Washington Post Editorial calls the proposal a "new hope" sans Luke Skywalker. In the background of the Gang of Six proposal is a new Washington Post-ABC poll that shows there's plenty of blame to go around, but Republicans are considered more to blame. Perhaps most notable, 79% of independents don't think Republicans are willing to make a deal.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
- "Death squads" are moving through the streets of Homs in Syria, according to people on the ground. Reports of the dead range from 7 to 30.
- The U.S. has told representatives to Qaddafi that it's time to leave. This follows on the heels of last week's recognition of the rebel government by the U.S.
- Karachi is trying to calm itself after an outburst of ethnic violence in Pakistan's largest city.
- Rupert and James Murdoch will face Britain's Parliament today in connection with the phone hacking scandal.
- FIFA is investigating wide spread match fixing(NYT) in soccer, organized by criminal syndicates in southeast Asia.
- Republican lawmakers are pushing ahead with a balanced budget constitutional amendment, which no one expects to pass (and would be disastrous for the country, in this editor's opinion). Meanwhile, the Senate is trying to find compromise. Ezra Klein explains Keynes to a generation that's gotten it wrong.
- Bank of America reported a $9.1 billion loss in the second quarter, after a mortgage security settlement payout to investors. Goldman Sachs reported a $1.05 billion profit(NYT), which is better Y2Y, but didn't meet expectations.
- Borders is seeking permission from a judge to liquidate the remaining 399 stores the company still has open. Liquidation would spell an end to the company and would cause the companies 10,700 employees to lose their jobs.
- Cisco Systems will cut 6,500 positions, or 9% of its workforce, in an effort to reduce costs. 2,100 will leave through early-retirement, while 4,400 will be laid off.
Monday, July 18, 2011
- The head of Scotland Yard has resigned following the arrest of Rebekah Brooks in connection to the ever widening phone hacking scandal. Rupert Murdoch and his son James are set to appear to before Parliament this week.
- The U.S. is accepting applications for $65 million in grants to promote democracy in Egypt.
- Targeted assassinations of Karzai associates continue in Afghanistan, as the Taliban quickly claims credit.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's deal is gaining momentum as Congress is set to spend the week engaged in kabuki theater, heading towards an increase in the debt limit. The White House still hopes for a big deal, but as Jacob Lew asked on Meet The Press yesterday, "Do we have a partner to work with?" Sadly, your editor does not believe they do.
- Presidential hopefuls burned through $32 million so far, in a new campaign spending report. Newt likes private jets, but not paying the bill. Mitt spent 18% of his budget on administrative costs. And President Obama spent about $5 million organizing fundraisers. Beyond the horse race and personal proclivities these kind of disclosures reveal, it concerns this editor the volume of cash spent in politics these days.
Friday, July 15, 2011
- The United States stepped up its intervention in Yemen, using combined drone and conventional air assets to strike a police station overrun by militants in Abyan province--the nature of this operation would indicate the drones were regular U.S. military and not CIA operated. At the same time, different militants ambushed a government convoy near Taiz.
- U.S. recognition of the Libyan rebels inches closer as the so-called Contact Group acknowledges the Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libya. Libyan rebels briefly lost control of Qwalish, Wednesday, but retook it by overwhelming Qaddafi's troops, demonstrating new found ability to coordinate and stand-and-fight.
- McConnell and Reid are working on a debt ceiling plan of their own. Meanwhile, last night, the President gave everyone 24-36 hours to figure it out.
- Cain doubles down on anti-Muslim bigotry.
- Corn for ethanol overtakes corn for food.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
- The Egyptian army is telling protesters, who have returned to Tahir Square, to disperse, but the protesters have refused. They want an end to the military rule that has been in place since the army took control from Mubarak.
- The hacking scandal in the UK has jumped across the pond, as British PM Cameron promises to investigate if news outlets that are part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.
- Violence marred the funeral ceremony of Wali Karzai in Afghanistan yesterday.
- The UN World Food Programme is prepared to work with al Shabab in Somalia to distribute food aid, as the region faces a tremendous drought.
- Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday, for his heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2008. Petry has the quote of the day when he said, "I consider every one of our men and women in uniform serving here, abroad, to be our heroes."
- Senator McConnell's plan for the debt-ceiling would stave off default and a credit crisis, but it also kicks the deficit can further down the road.
- President Obama and the DNC raised $86 million in the second quarter of 2011.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
- The brains behind the operation to kill bin Laden has been placed under cover for his own protection. At the same time, amid the growing row between Pakistan and the United States, Pakistan is making noise about removing troops from the old NWFP. And the Guardian reported today that the CIA ran a truly clever fake vaccination program to try to acquire DNA of bin Laden relatives to verify the man's presence in Abbottabad--some public health advocate have expressed concern over this rouse.
- Anthony Shadid in the New York Times reports on Egypt's unfinished and ongoing revolution. And, unfortunately, Tunisia has all but fallen out of the news.
- French deputies voted overwhelmingly to fund France's involvement in NATO operations over Libya, while the French foreign minister indicated that a political solution may be in the offing.
- As the GOP struggles to regain the initiative with the fight over the debt ceiling (or at least begins to blame the old Bogeyman, the media), Minority Leader McConnell has a new phased plan for raising the debt ceiling.
- Santorum, icecream-aholic. Or something.
As Ezra Klein reminded us this morning, on the whole the American people like compromise, even if a majority of Republicans do not. From everything that’s been written, it would seem like Boehner knew he had a sweet deal with the Obama administration and was inching toward taking it until he was out-flanked by Cantor and the far-right of the Republican party. I think Boehner ought to work with Obama to make this deal work and abandon Cantor and the tea party. I think Boehner needs to appeal to the cadre of remaining Republican moderates in the House and work with Obama and the Dems to avert what would be an unmitigated economic disaster.
Sounds kind of crazy, I know. But stay with me here. I believe there is a segment of the Republican party that’s filled with people who want a government to govern, and I think that part of the party knows how good a deal they have. They’re best personified by this column(NYT) from NYT Columnist David Brooks. And I think this is the part of the Republican party that Speaker Boehner represents. The trouble is this is now the minority wing of the Republican party. Time and time again, Obama chased the Republicans rightward (a whole other problem for progressives), forcing Republicans to abandon several smart ideas they’ve had in the past decade. They had to abandon them because Obama, the Other, embraced things like individual mandates and cap-and-trade. But I believe there is a sizeable number of Republicans remaining who aren’t Grover Norquist zealots and genuinely believe it’s the job of people in Congress to compromise in the pursuit of governance. I’m just hoping those same David Brooks’ Republicans are spoiling for a showdown with the tea party.
Which brings me back to Speaker Boehner and his opportunity. Given Boehner’s sensibility, he is not long for his own party lest he abandon his remaining moderation. If he can rally his fellow remaining moderates to get this deal done he will almost certainly lose the speakership, he will likely face a primary challenge, and he may well lose his seat, but it’s a play for his legacy. He could force the showdown between David Brooks Republicans and tea party Republicans. By falling on his own sword he may save the Republican party from permanent minority status. And history tends to smile fondly on politicians who put the national interest (and indisputably it’s in the national interest to increase the debt-ceiling and cut the deficit) ahead of fleeting personal aggrandizement.
Perhaps I’m overly optimistic. Perhaps I’m reading Speaker Boehner wrong. But if he is going to be robbed of his influence, why should he hold ceremoniously to a title and let his fellow Republicans run the economy off a cliff? Andrea Mitchell was on The Chris Matthew Show this week reiterating how much these negotiations and the compromise that will be reached is about leadership. I couldn’t agree more and I think this is an opportunity for Speaker Boehner to demonstrate his leadership and his shot to write his name into the history books of great Speakers of the House. If a deal doesn’t get done and the credit of the United States gets downgraded, well that path carries a legacy as well.
- Wali Karzai, Hamid Karzai's half-brother, was killed by a"friend" in his home in Khandahar earlier today. The Taliban has claimed responsibility, but there is some question as to the claim's authenticity.
- The day after Syrian protesters stormed the American embassy in Damascus, Secretary Clinton says President Assad has "lost legitimacy." The Syrian government didn't much like that.
- Israel's parliament has passed a law making it illegal to boycott Israeli settlements, in other words if an Israeli recording artist boycotts a planned show in a West Bank settlement, they can be sued for damages.
- An unusually heavy barrage of U.S missiles has killed at least 38 militants in Pakistan.
- The sides seem farther apart in debt-ceiling negotiations as Obama and Boehner hold dueling press conferences. Meanwhile, the rise of Eric Cantor and the marginalization of John Boehner. Also, quote of the day during this tit-for-tat goes to President Obama when he said he could not ask, "middle-income seniors to bear $500 or more additional costs when [Republicans] couldn't ask the most well-off to give an extra $5 to getting the deficit down." and Ezra Klein thinks liberals should be thanking Eric Cantor.
Monday, July 11, 2011
- Pro-Assad demonstrators attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus, today. The attacks were clearly orchestrated by the Assad regime and clearer still a violation of international law. What happens when a state looses protesters to attack an embassy? It gets sued.
- In the wake of South Sudan's independence, the UN Security Council voted to end the UN peacekeeping mission there.
- Things keep getting worse for Rupert Murdoch.
- Debt ceiling drama continues as President Obama today ruled out a short-term stopgap measure. But the GOP seems to be moving yet further from compromise--and its radical presidential nominees are saying crazy things. Here's an examination of the 1979 sort of default.
- Politicians on both sides of the aisle--but a few more Republicans than DFLers--in MN are continuing to cash pay checks while the rest of the State's employees are furloughed with the State government shutdown.
- Palin still refuses your Editor's requests to just go away.
- Tensions are rising between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber has killed six people in northwest Pakistan.
- Qaddafi's son alleges in an interview that his father's government is negotiating with France directly, which France denies.
- A high-ranking U.S. official met with Yemen's President Saleh in Saudi Arabia and urged him to step down.
- A horrendous blast at a military base in Cyprus has killed 11.
- The UN is calling for action to assist with the "worst humanitarian disaster" right now in Somalia, due to a drought.
- The debt ceiling negotiations are set to continue today, the the parties still seem far apart and despite what was once a shared vision for a grand bargain, Speaker Boehner backed off of a major deal because it would likely have included $800 billion in tax increases, despite over all savings of over $4 trillion. Paul Krugman reminds us(NYT) that much of our economic woes come in now small part from the excuses men (and women) create.
- The case for nuclear fusion research directed by the government. Did we wait for private investment to start the Manhattan Project?
- Also, America F**k Yeah! The U.S. women play in the semi-final match against France on Wednesday at 11:30am ET.