Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 22, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S MINI-REPORT.... Today's edition of quick hits:

* Jerusalem: "With Israel's construction freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank due to end this weekend, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were seeking an elusive formula on Wednesday to keep their new peace talks going while both sides warned that if the talks ended, violence could erupt. As if to illustrate that warning, Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in and around the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday after an Israeli security guard fatally shot a Palestinian resident of Silwan."

* In a surprise move, Senate Republicans decided not to replace Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The caucus did replace her, though, in the Senate leadership with John Barrasso of Wyoming.

* House Republicans will unveil "The Pledge to America" tomorrow. I'll have plenty of coverage once it's released.

* Look for Senate Dems to give the Disclose Act another try tomorrow, but it's probably best to keep expectations low.

* Justice Antonin Scalia and women's rights really don't go together well.

* In an apparent attempt to make my head explode, disgraced Republican lobbyist Ralph Reed insists he's "proud" of the work he did for Jack Abramoff.

* Michael Tomasky makes it plain: "A black guy with an alien name who was called a Muslim and a terrorist got elected president of the US by saying that he would raise taxes on people above $250,000. To which a Blue Dog would say, well, he lost my district by 15 points. To which I say, well, you're not black with an alien name who's being called a Muslim. Get out there and show some guts for a change."

* A pet peeve: when folks exaggerate the length of the Senate Dems' 60-vote majority. Kevin helpfully sets the record straight.

* Wait, the RNC is still paying Sarah Palin's legal bills? The 2008 campaign was nearly two years ago, but the expenses are apparently ongoing.

* On a related note, Craig Smith makes my day a little brighter, noting that "former half-term governor" line is catching on.

* Apparently the rate at which Americans finish college is not improving much.

* If you haven't seen Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) remarks on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" from the Senate floor last night, they're well worth watching.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

Any chance we can get top Dem blogger Josh Marshall to take his eyes off of Saint Gidget's ass for a few minutes and post something on this? Or is he too far bewitched?

How about Jon Stewart?
Or is he too busy making Obama-didn't-give-me-a-pony pieces?

What a pity party of whining, lame, unfocused assholes the top visible Dems have become.

Posted by: koreyel on September 22, 2010 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats are dropping the ball on the tax debate in another reason by sticking completely to the Bush plan, as E.J. Dionne wrote at TNR a few days ago:

But notice that this entire battle is being framed around Bush's proposals. The parts of the Obama stimulus program that never get discussed—one reason why it may be so unpopular—are its many tax reductions.

John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and White House chief of staff under President Clinton, noted the Obama tax cuts also expire at the end of this year: "I don't understand why we're only talking about extending George W. Bush's tax cuts, which are heavily skewed to help the wealthiest Americans, yet no one's discussing President Obama's cuts, which are exclusively focused on middle-class families."

I don't understand it, either. The stimulus included not only the broad Making Work Pay tax cut that gave most families an $800 refundable tax credit, but also the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, which were especially helpful to lower income families.


Tell me again: Why is it more important to preserve millionaires' tax cuts than to continue helping these far more vulnerable Americans? Why are Republican leaders who argue that failing to extend all of the Bush tax cuts would constitute a tax increase not saying exactly the same thing about the Obama tax cuts? Is it blind ideology, an exceptional solicitude for people with very high incomes, or the fact that Obama's cuts were packaged into the dreaded stimulus?

Perhaps if we had a Congress capable of real debate, we could have a wide-ranging discussion about creating a tax cut package that has the same or less revenue impact as the Bush plan, instead of having a menu of only two options. In my fantasy policy world, we could think about an increase in the gas tax that would be offset by payroll tax reductions to reduce our dependence on oil. Or trading a return to Reagan era income tax rates for reductions in payroll tax. Or cutting away some of the health insurance tax break in exchange for income tax reductions. But that's a fantasy world... Posted by: meander on September 22, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

* Wait, the RNC is still paying Sarah Palin's legal bills? -- Steve Benen

Obviously, she wasn't gonna pay those bills herself; she's got other priorities. It's a good thing though, that the RATS (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) made sure that RNC can afford to keep $arah lawyered up. They don't have to spend their money elsewhere, now that all those shadowy entities tend to the business of buying elections...

Posted by: exlibra on September 22, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry. Obviously, it's Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia that make up the RATS quartet...

Oh, and meander (17:43). It appears that the tax cuts -- even for the middle class -- aren't such a great deal, even for that middle class:
These may be different tax breaks but the principle is likely to be the same.

Sigh. It's like we used to say in Poland: "This is bad and that's no good"

Posted by: exlibra on September 22, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Israel: I don't think they're ever going to accept full, genuine statehood for Palestine (esp. with the current division of power and into regions.) Why not a special protectorate, in return for getting settlements stopped and the ones outside the "wall" dismantled?

"The Pledge to America" - shouldn't Democrats be putting out these flashy, appealing performance art pieces? They should have already, and it should have been good stuff about universal health care, watchdogging (I didn't know was a word until my spellcheck passed it - but not the word "spellcheck"!), wind down wars and executive privileges, etc.

Exlibra, I love the "RATS" thing, didn't hear it before. Drop me a line, I'm still at same email.

Posted by: neil b on September 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

How about Jon Stewart?
Or is he too busy making Obama-didn't-give-me-a-pony pieces?

What a pity party of whining, lame, unfocused assholes the top visible Dems have become.

Whipping votes and rallying the party aren't exactly, you know, Stewart's job.

Posted by: dr. bloor on September 22, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Pledge to America" sounds pretty lame, but at least this time they won't paint themselves into a corner with a "contract" that they can't fulfill. Never use a term with legal meaning when you're lying in your teeth and planning to f*** over the poor rubes who vote for you.

Posted by: T-Rex on September 22, 2010 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

So Scalia thinks the constitution only protects men and corporations, but not women. Nino enjoys this reputation for having a serious legal mind, but far too often (think Bush vs. Gore) he just wings it with whatever feels right to him.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on September 22, 2010 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Best. Malware. Ever.

Schneier's post on the Stuxnet worm.
And from his second link, the Christian Science Monitor :

Cyber security experts say they have identified the world's first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target - a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant.
The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security experts now say Stuxnet's arrival heralds something blindingly new: a cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical world - to destroy something.
At least one expert who has extensively studied the malicious software, or malware, suggests Stuxnet may have already attacked its target - and that it may have been Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which much of the world condemns as a nuclear weapons threat.
The appearance of Stuxnet created a ripple of amazement among computer security experts. Too large, too encrypted, too complex to be immediately understood, it employed amazing new tricks, like taking control of a computer system without the user taking any action or clicking any button other than inserting an infected memory stick. Experts say it took a massive expenditure of time, money, and software engineering talent to identify and exploit such vulnerabilities in industrial control software systems.

Posted by: koreyel on September 22, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

If anyone missed President Clinton on Monday night’s Letterman, you really need to watch it whenever they release the video. The second segment is absolutely brilliant. They only have a clip of him discussing Chelsea’s wedding up on the website.

I’ve never seen anyone else with such an ability to explain complex economic issues to the American people in ways they can completely understand. The audience repeatedly broke out in applause.

His discussion of how to create millions and millions of new jobs and grow the American economy is amazing. Forget about selling ice cream to Eskimos, he could convince them to build ice cream factories.

Posted by: Joe Friday on September 22, 2010 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's ironic that Republicans are so keen on Pledges and Contracts -- things that imply individual responsibility.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 22, 2010 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

House Republicans will unveil "Their Plague to America" tomorrow...there, fixed it.

Hopefully in November there will be enough voter pesticide administered to combat the threat of even more Republican pestilence plaguing our democracy and the future of our nation's children.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 22, 2010 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

More specifically, like Jon Chait,

White Like You, yes, we know.

Steve, by linking to The New Racist you only encourage and promote their racism. Please stop.

Posted by: some guy on September 22, 2010 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing! Obama is getting bashed for not immediately repealing TWO of Clinton's fuck ups and Clinton is getting called AMAZING!!

Posted by: Alli on September 22, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

I give Palin the rhyming title of The Quitter with a Twitter.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 22, 2010 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

"former half-term governor" line is catching on
I really do prefer "half-wit former governor".

Re the middle class tax cuts and additional tuition credit: they paid for our recent vacation to DC, and I told my senator so in person, and thanked him for voting for the stimulus. Please let your reps and senators who voted yea that you appreciated any cuts you received. They are not stepping up to claim credit for voting for it, the health care bill, etc. and pointing out how this is helping the economy and working people.

Posted by: Hannah on September 23, 2010 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Re Sen Franken: wow. He is the only senator with that perspective, how wonderful that he shared it.

Also re Franken: we sat in the Senate gallery last week for some votes. The senator was talking with others, as they all were, waiting for the vote to finish, with another on the way. Very frequently raucous laughter wafted up to the gallery, very clearly, it was the junior senator from Minnesota. Made me laugh, too.

Posted by: Hannah on September 23, 2010 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

When I saw McCain's senile rant about DADT, all I could think of was 'Thank god he and the quitter are not running the country'

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