Political Animal

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August 22, 2011 5:30 PM Monday’s Mini-Report

By Steve Benen

Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Libya: “Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remained at large Monday, and loyalist forces still held pockets of the city, stubbornly resisting the rebels’ efforts to establish full control, but there was little doubt that the Libyan leader’s four-decade grip on power was ending.”

* The Gaddafi regime is collapsing sooner than anticipated, forcing Western countries to scramble to put together post-conflict plans for Libya.

* Egyptian/Israeli tensions reach their highest point in three decades: “Diplomats scrambled to avert a crisis in relations between Egypt and Israel on Saturday, and the Israeli government issued a rare statement of regret for the killing of three Egyptian security officers by an Israeli warplane.”

* Iran: “Two American hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than two years have been convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in jail, according to a news reports.”

* Just when it seemed like this would be a quiet hurricane season: “Hurricane Irene swept just north of the Dominican Republic on Monday after pummeling Puerto Rico, and forecasters saw the storm strengthening to a major hurricane off the Southeast U.S. coast by the weekend.”

* The workers didn’t get a new contract just yet, but the Verizon strike ended over the weekend, two weeks after it began.

* The world probably didn’t need an easier way to enrich uranium, but General Electric has developed a successful new laser-enrichment technique.

* The Keystone XL pipeline, which would “carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast,” is generating controversy.

* Juan Cole has an interesting item noting the “top 10 myths” about the war in Libya.

* A long-awaited memorial honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opened to the public today, near the Washington Mall.

* “Insufferable” seems like an entirely fair adjective to describe the L.A. Times’ Andrew Malcolm.

* Not suspicious at all: “The e-mail accounts of Rick Scott and most of the governor-elect’s transition team were deleted soon after he took office, potentially erasing public records that state law requires be kept.”

* Something’s wrong with this picture: “[T]he total cost of tuition, room, and board at Amherst College, for instance, is $53,370 a year. Even relatively affluent people can’t easily manage to shell out $53,000 at one time. And so Amherst uses a company called Tuition Management Systems to help make tuition payments more affordable. But TMS charges a 2.99 percent fee for every credit charge transaction. That’s $1,595 a year.”

* And on a personal note, today is my third anniversary here at the Washington Monthly. I’m delighted to be here, and I appreciate all the support.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Heraclitus on August 22, 2011 5:37 PM:

    IRAN: "Two American hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than two years have been convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in jail, according to a news reports."

    Whew, thank goodness Iran doesn't treat US citizens as harshly as the US treats non-US citizens. 8 years in jail, imho, seems better than indefinite detention and torture at a black site located in an undisclosed country.

  • neilt on August 22, 2011 5:40 PM:

    I was kind of hoping you'd mention the passing of Jack Layton - the leader of Canada's federal NDP (social democrats) due to cancer.

    Most Canadians I know are in shock, there's an impromtu memorial going on at Toronto City Hall as I write, and from the looks of things, hundreds have shown up.

  • bmcchgo on August 22, 2011 5:41 PM:

    ...And I can bet that I've been reading Political Animal for most of those 3 years.

    Keep up the great work Steve!!

  • howie on August 22, 2011 5:49 PM:

    I didn't believe that Political Animal could be improved on when KD left, but this blog is my first stop every morning.

    Stick around, Steve.

  • mellowjohn on August 22, 2011 5:49 PM:

    mazel tov!
    (now celebrate by getting rid of/replacing the hated captcha.)

  • doubtful on August 22, 2011 5:49 PM:

    Congrats, Steve!

  • sduffys on August 22, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Congratulations Mr. Steve! From meek ol' CarpetBagger to this... I've loved the transtion and the broadened experience with all other Washington Monthly output/columns as well.

    SDS

    PS - only, only one side despair: the color question was sooo much easier than captcha!

  • Elizabelle on August 22, 2011 6:02 PM:

    Happy 3rd Anniversary, Steve.

    You're doing a wonderful job with Political Animal. Lots of reasoned analysis, and well written.

    (And I am still reading Kevin Drum too. Have both blogs bookmarked.)

  • Brenna on August 22, 2011 6:04 PM:

    Happy Anniversary Steve!

    This reader adores you. You're a sane voice in a wildly crazy world.

    (Captcha is a pain)

  • hells littlest angel on August 22, 2011 6:17 PM:

    Congratulations to the hardest working man in blog business! PA is my first stop just about every day at 8:00 AM.

  • Scott on August 22, 2011 6:31 PM:

    The NY Times editorial on the Keystone XL pipeline is malarky. As multiple studies have concluded, the Canadian oil is no more "acidic" than much of the oil already flowing through the tens of thousands of miles of pipeline we have in this country. Further, the Times ignores the key question in this debate. Hopefully, we will one day be much more aggressive in reducing oil consumption globally, but for right now and for the foreseeable future, the U.S. (including everybody reading this post) will be using oil.

    The question is where will that oil come from? The ancillary question is to whom will Canada sell its oil? If use more oil from Canada, our democratic ally whose environmental standards are every bit as stringent as our own, we will use less from Venezuela and the Middle East, autocratic regimes who are not our friends and who use their petro-dollars to repress their own citizens and fund anti-American activities. Also, a pipeline is a far safer and cleaner means of transporting oil than tankers traveling over stormy oceans.

    Further, stopping construction of this pipeline -- which will generate thousands of privately-financed jobs in the U.S. -- will not stop Canadian development of its oil. Instead, if rebuffed by their neighbor, they will deliver it to other markets, most likely China. That means transporting the oil on tankers across the stormy Pacific to a nation that is only slowly adopting tough environmental standards for the refining of oil. How the Times thinks this is a positive outcome is beyond me.

  • Schtick on August 22, 2011 6:48 PM:

    Three years? Has it really been three years? Seems like just a few months ago I was following you on the Carpetbagger. Matter of fact, I think it's still bookmarked on my old computer.
    Happy Anniversary, Steve and thank you for what seems to be your endless hours of work on here.

    crapcha....how forminit....how indeed

  • mudwall jackson on August 22, 2011 6:52 PM:

    Just when it seemed like this would be a quiet hurricane season: “Hurricane Irene swept just north of the Dominican Republic on Monday after pummeling Puerto Rico, and forecasters saw the storm strengthening to a major hurricane off the Southeast U.S. coast by the weekend.”

    Steve,

    Considering your South Florida ties, you ought to know that hurricane season doesn't really begin until late August. You can say a season is quiet only in retrospect, say around Nov. 30.

  • latim on August 22, 2011 7:01 PM:

    Congratulations Steve!!! You are the hardest working blogger in the known universe and a day without reading your column just wouldn't be a day for me.

  • Joe Friday on August 22, 2011 7:09 PM:

    "Egyptian/Israeli tensions reach their highest point in three decades"

    Of course, this is all a rather transparent charade by Israel to block the United Nations from recognizing Palestine next month.

  • KJ on August 22, 2011 7:12 PM:

    Three years? It seems like just yesterday I was adjusting my bookmarks- deleting Carpet Bagger and adding MOJO. Congratulations. I enjoy your blog daily.

  • John B. on August 22, 2011 7:16 PM:

    Odd, that SB' the "Political Animal" doesn't mention the latest Gallup poll showing O losing to every GOP candidate except Bachmann. How's that triangulation and 11th dimension chess working out?

    What concerns me is this is shaping up a lot like '68 did for Hubert Humphrey. Having alienated the left by continuing to support a failed administration policy (Vietnam) and evidence of that failure visible in every American community, Hubert campaigned on a platform of continuing the same policies He didn't "pivot" to oppose the policy until the last ten days of the campaign -- and by then it was too late. No one believed him anymore.

    Now, obviously there are differences with today. But most of them do not bode well for Obama.

    One is that at an early stage in the campaign Humphrey was not seen by anyone as an architect of the reviled Vietnam war. Obama just might be seen by enough as responsible after a full term in office.

    Another is that Humphrey didn't change his campaign strategy until it was way too late. Obama still has time. A third one was that liberals remained a major part of Humphrey's base at a comparable period to now, whereas O has been peeing on that part of his base for two years, He's lost them already.

    Most importantly, perhaps, when Humphrey finally came around and tried to lay down a marker for himself as anti-war his heartbase didn't seemchange to belay in it. He hadcertainly no passion, by then, for thehimself cause. Not unlikea Obama's weak effort to "pivit" to jobslay -- rightand before heading out for ahimself vacation.

    Who knows? Maybe there is time enough for Obama to mend. fences with his liberal base. But not much. And he certainly can't do it by continuing to appease the right.

  • Rochester on August 22, 2011 7:24 PM:

    3 years!?!?! I can't believe 3 years have slipped by. I still have you bookmarked as "Carpetbagger Report", LOL!

    Seeing you quoted around the net, and appearances on TV, one can assume you're doing well. And it's well deserved.

  • desraye on August 22, 2011 7:39 PM:

    "the latest Gallup poll showing O losing to every GOP candidate except Bachmann. How's that triangulation and 11th dimension chess working out?"

    LMAO It's gallup. They only polled those on landline phones.It's also summer. People are not engaged right now.

    " He's lost them already."

    LOL Really? He's has almost 80% approval with liberals.
    You need to stop smoking that stuff.

    "Maybe there is time enough for Obama to mend. fences with his liberal base. "

    Which liberal base are you referring to?

  • Dorothy on August 22, 2011 7:43 PM:

    congratulations and Thank You! Political Animal is the ONLY news worth reading.

  • Danp on August 22, 2011 7:45 PM:

    Three years already? That means my serious relationship to you must go back at least 5 years. When does palimony kick in?

    Seriously, great job and many thanks.

  • Joel on August 22, 2011 8:13 PM:

    "The Gaddafi regime is collapsing sooner than anticipated, forcing *the GOP* to scramble to put together *post-hoc explanations for how a black Democratic president could do what a white Republican president could never do for* Libya.

    Fixed it.

  • Doug on August 22, 2011 8:33 PM:

    Add my congratulations to those above, Mr. Benen! Hopefully you'll still be here, assuming you WANT to be here, so we can celebrate your Silver Anniversary in 2033.

    re: John B @ 7:16 PM -

    "...obviously there are differences with today."
    Quite. The major difference being that it wasn't certain that HHH would be the nominee until shortly before the convention. Had RFK not been assassinated, the odds are that HE would have been the Democratic candidate and that HE would have gone down to defeat against Nixon. Doesn't jibe with the myth, of course, but then FACTS rarely do.
    Having been there, I can say that 'way too many people fell for Nixon's campaigning on a "strategy" to get us out of Viet Nam when he, in fact, had none. Basically RMN pulled the same trick in 1968 that McCain tried to pull in 2008: "Elect me, I have a secret plan to solve all our problems!" It took five more years of fighting and bombing before Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accords.
    THAT'S what happened. "Liberals", angry at Humphrey for being honest, called him every vile name imaginable rather than turning their anger on the person who was, obviously, deliberately misleading the voting public. Republicans didn't need to attack Humphrey, the "liberals" in his own party were doing the job for them. I put quotation marks around "liberals" because I have always presumed that, while their emotions play a part in how liberals see the world, REAL liberals base their actions on facts.
    Nor can I find ANY evidence of President Obama "peeing" on his liberal base. I can find an incredible amount of opinionating, whining and even temper-tantrums, but no EVIDENCE of such a thing occurring. By the way, that "liberal base" you refer to in actuality is comprised of, at most, about 30% of those who call themselves Democrats. Therefore, Mr. Obama's "base" ISN'T the "liberals", it's the REST of the party; as well as as many independent voters he can attract.
    Any "liberal" who, at this point, is lost to Mr. Obama, never really supported him in the first place. They supported the person they IMAGINED him to be and now blame him for causing their disappointment. Just as teenagers blame their parents, or whoever, for proving to them that it's their BFF who's spreading those lies about them.
    A perfect example of juvenile behavior, actually...

  • Cha on August 22, 2011 8:35 PM:

    Congratulations, Steve! And, congrats to our Country too for your excellent 7 day a week reporting.

    I agree about the captcha..I really hate it. It terrorizes me.

    @desraye- "Which Liberal base?" That would be the whinging wing that stayed home during the 2010 election but still think they can whine their heads off.

    Not any base of mine..and the African Americans who I see online are a much stronger reality base than the hair on fire types.

  • John on August 22, 2011 9:02 PM:

    Congrats, Steve! Political Animal is my first online stop every day; you're a voice of sanity and reason in a political world overrun with madness and hacks. Keep on writing!

    Now, about Skeletor and the "missing" emails; isn't it odd how these Republican regimes (first Bush, now Scott) always manage to, ahem, "lose" key emails just around the time the press starts filing FOIA requests for them? Just like Nixon's "18-minute gap," it's funny how crucial information -- information that the public has a right to be let in on -- always seems to go missing with these people.

  • Tom Dibble on August 22, 2011 9:11 PM:

    [T]he total cost of tuition, room, and board at Amherst College, for instance, is $53,370 a year. Even relatively affluent people can’t easily manage to shell out $53,000 at one time. And so Amherst uses a company called Tuition Management Systems to help make tuition payments more affordable. But TMS charges a 2.99 percent fee for every credit charge transaction. That’s $1,595 a year.

    It sounds like a lot, but blame the credit card companies, not the school or processor. 2.5% is normal for card-present situations (where the retailer is physically handling or verifying the presence of a card), and higher rates are charged for card-not-present transactions. 2.99% isn't outrageous.

    What's wrong here is that you are using a round peg (short-term revolving credit account) for a square hole (large long-term debt). Don't do that.

    If you are going to be paying tuition, it is best to not use a credit card. A purchase that big should be using cash or an official loan, not a revolving credit account.

  • millerintn on August 22, 2011 9:19 PM:

    Txs for all your great coverage. No one does it as good as you. Congratulations, and keep it coming.

  • stinger on August 22, 2011 9:25 PM:

    Congratulations, and many more years! But take a vacation sometimes, okay? I'm afraid the 7-days-a-week schedule will cause burnout, and we need you!

    (captcha's getting harder to read, and the shoe spammers are still getting through.)

  • maryc on August 22, 2011 9:41 PM:

    Congratulations. Thanks for all you do Steve, you are deeply appreciated.

  • Danaeb on August 22, 2011 9:47 PM:

    Now YOU, I'd like to have a beer with. You are so smart in such a calm way. It's a joy to read you.

  • exlibra on August 22, 2011 9:58 PM:

    Only your anniversary would motivate me to a yet another battle with the Craptcha, which has gone totally, pretzelly, nuts in the past 3 days. Happy anniversary, Steve! Keep it up; even if I won't comment (I fought the Craptcha and the Craptcha won), I'll continue to read, having followed you here from the Carpetbagger.

    And, since I'm about to have a battle of wits with Craptcha *anyway*, I thought I'd try for two birds with one stone.

    @7:16 PM, John B said, snidely:

    "Odd, that SB' the "Political Animal" doesn't mention the latest Gallup poll showing O losing to every GOP candidate except Bachmann."

    You ought to have *checked first*, dahlink, before you let loose your snidey-poo. As things stand, you only confirmed the grey matter deficiency, so typical of your elephantine co-travellers:

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_08/beware_of_horserace_polls_15_m031715.php

    "tsistit curves", with the first "word" "crossed out" with a squiggly line. Hopefully, the tit cyst will prove benign, and won't affect the natural curves in any way.

  • MatthewRMarler on August 22, 2011 10:31 PM:

    It's foolish to say that the regime fell sooner than expected, because the "days, not months" turned into months after all.

    However, I congratulate the Obama administration, and wish them success in the next stages working in some fashion with the rebels to institute a better government. The allies were wise, I think, to refrain from acting like a colonial power, and to persevere in delivering about the right amount of military assistance to the rebels. Even though it took a long time. Persistence was a key to success.

  • MatthewRMarler on August 22, 2011 10:37 PM:

    The Gaddafi regime is collapsing sooner than anticipated, forcing Western countries to scramble to put together post-conflict plans for Libya.

    The plans that get carried out will be the plans that the Libyans work out among themselves. It won't be a pretty development because for 40+ years they have been denied practice at working out plans. but they'll get help from UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, and other UN organizations. We can hope for something better than the Iranian, Syrian and Saudi Arabian governments -- at least I hope that such hope is reasonable.

  • neil b on August 22, 2011 10:42 PM:

    What is this all about, is it something we should approve of?
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/61851.html
    FTC finally kills off Fairness Doctrine, other rules - under Obama's orders!

  • neil b on August 22, 2011 10:45 PM:

    (BTW, congrats Steve Benen.)

  • some guy on August 22, 2011 10:54 PM:

    It’s against this backdrop that the president, against a credible Republican challenger, only trails by two points? I’d expect him to be faring much worse given the larger circumstances.

    now that is some quality cheerleading.

    I look forward to mid-November, 2012, when Steve will write that last sentence as "I’d expect him to have lost much worse, given the larger circumstances."

    Cheeleaders gotta cheer!

  • a. rand on August 23, 2011 12:02 AM:


    who is john galt?

  • Gretchen on August 23, 2011 12:27 AM:

    Congratulations, Steve. You're my first stop every morning. I'm with Stinger, wondering how you keep up the good work 7 days a week.
    I loved the part in the article about Scott where he says he doesn't email much to make sure he's in compliance with the open records law. Meaning, don't put anything in writing and you won't get caught. Great.

  • GRACIOUS on August 23, 2011 2:14 AM:

    I have been reading your writing for a long time, since back in the carpetbagger days, and I still think you produce the best blog. Thanks for your fine mind and your well constructed sentences.

  • John on August 23, 2011 3:48 AM:

    Congratulations. This is an incredibly informative site. I visit it every day.

    Regarding the uranium enhancement process, this idea has been kicking around for decades. Because of the slightly different masses of the two isotopes of uranium the binding energies of the electrons are just slightly different. If a beam of light could be formed with precisely the exact energy of one isotope that isotope could be ionized leaving the other one neutral. At this point separation is trivial.

    I remember working on this as an exercise in atomic physics class at Michigan back in the 70s. Considering it has taken 40 odd years to solve the problem should be an indication of the fantastic precision required. However, the way our technology is developing this will become easier and easier to solve by a wider pool of people.

  • Diana Decker on August 23, 2011 6:37 AM:

    Congratulations. Your work is wonderful. I come here for sanity and balance and brain food. Please, please keep it up.

  • Marko on August 23, 2011 7:53 AM:

    Happy Anniversary Steve! Keep up the great work. And, I know I'm going against the grain here, but I DO like the Captcha function. It beats the snot out of having to register, then login with a password, and having to bookmark/remember all that. Instead, I can browse to this page from anywhere, read the comments and post anonymously with my nick.

    That's the way most Internet sites used to be until the serious spamming and flame wars started. Captcha stops most of the spam, and the administrators here do a terrific job of weeding out the trolls. Other than that, this site is uncensored and we are free to speak our minds to a pretty good audience that is "mostly" sane (lol), progressive and extremely intelligent. And for that, I thank you, the administrators and the owners of the site.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Steve,
    Congratulations!

    And thank you, thank you, thank you, for your hard, hard work, and the information and luaghs to give us.

    It's a saner world with you writing in it.

    Many happy returns!!!!!!!!!!

  • zandru on August 23, 2011 9:20 AM:

    Three Years Already?!?

    With your prodigious, high-quality output, that's more like a couple of decades in blog-time. Thanks for your many great analyses, Mr. B, and keep up the great work! You're my primary "read", along with TPM, Krugman and Joe Monahan (New Mexico news & analysis).

    Hmmm. I ought to add the BBC, for a wider perspective...

  • Kathy J on August 23, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Congratulations on your third anniversary!! I hope you have many more doing what you do. Thank you!!
    Kathy

  • QuestionEverything on August 23, 2011 4:24 PM:

    Thanks Steve for all that you do. Don't go anywhere for at least three more years or at least continue to blog somewhere for at least that much time.

    You have a gift and we appreciate your work. I don't know how you do it, every 45 min to an hour (I've seen 20 minutes or less, before) you're knocking out another one. It would take me half a day, at least, to come up with what you do in under an hour. And it wouldn't be as cogent or have the same impact.

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