Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Last (Wildlife) Refuge of a Scoundrel

Tucked into the fiscal relief package for Puerto Rico this spring was a provision to give away a national treasure that belongs to all Americans — 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal had nothing to do with the economic recovery of Puerto Rico. But it would have handed an important victory to extremists in Congress and state legislatures who want to grab national lands and turn them over to the states to be sold or leased. The measure to give Puerto Rico nearly one­-sixth of the island of federally protected coves, beaches and subtropical forests had the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, who is a leading proponent of an agenda to dispose of America’s public lands.

Fortunately, Hispanic and conservation groups helped rouse opposition to the effort, and the provision was taken out of the bill.

But that was only one of several efforts in Congress and elsewhere to dismantle the nation’s system of more than 560 wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands totaling about 150 million acres of land and water. Opponents of federal land ownership also want to dispose of hundreds of millions of acres of forests and rangelands owned by the American people. If they succeed, not even the national parks will be safe.

The lawmakers behind these attacks are determined, as they put it, to “reduce the federal estate” and give these public lands to cash-­hungry states or territories, where they could be leased, drilled, logged or sold to the highest bidder.

Don’t Give Away Our Wildlife Refuges, Jamie Williams, op-ed, New York Times, today

I remember when, back during his 2012 presidential campaign Mitt Romney, speaking somewhere out west, suddenly (or so I thought) included a rant about the vast amount of land the federal government owns, and said he would propose that most of it be turned over to the states.  I believe he made clear that this included most, if not all, national parks.

I was stunned, but quickly learned in reading a couple of articles about Romney’s proposal—there were, best as I could tell, only a couple articles mentioning it—that this is a top item on the wish list of some west-of-the-Mississippi Republican mega-donors, who want to be able to buy the land on the cheap.

It’s also of course a key theme of Cliven Bundy-type ranchers, although Bundy himself and some of the other virulent ones don’t even recognize current federal ownership of the land.  And that’s not where the votes are, in the Electoral College, anyway.  And it’s not why Romney, who already had the Bundy-crowd vote, was saying this.  Publicly.  What Romney wanted was a sort of quid pro quo, and the votes of the donors themselves wasn’t what he was after.

But the few pundits who noted Romney’s statement and commented on it pointed out that although Romney apparently didn’t realize this, most Americans, unlike members of his family, can’t afford lakefront summer homes.  And some can’t afford to stay in resorts.  Nor buy their own leafy acreage in a former wildlife preserve or national park in order to have a place to put down a tent or park an RV.

Romney never mentioned it again.  But I wondered why Obama didn’t.

Well, actually, I knew why.  It’s the same reason that election year after election year, the Democratic candidates, for reelection or election to the Senate or the House don’t mention the things the Republican members of Congress have proposed, sometimes successfully, that are appalling policies dictated by their donors, and that the public does not know about: Apprising the public of these things isn’t on the list of recommendations their political consultants advise them to do.  If it’s not a culture-wars issue or something else that most of the public already knows about, it won’t be on any of their consultants’ list of things to mention.  And if it’s even slightly complex, or the Wall Street folks don’t want the Dems to talk about it, then it’s per se not on the list.

Especially—especially—if it means “nationalizing” the election by pointing out what actually will happen if the Republicans gain control or keep control of the Congress.  As opposed to what will happen if the Dems do.

What won the election for Obama in 2012 was a series of ads run in the spring of that year by a sort-of-independent super PAC that educated the public about what Romney actually did as a venture capitalist, coupled with the 47% videotape in the early fall.  But the spring super PAC ads were attacked by some establishment Dems, including Bill Clinton, and by a few centrist pundits with ties to Wall Street, as class warfare and as attacking capitalism.  And the issue was not “nationalized” for congressional elections, even though the Republican budgets and antiregulatory proposals and other proposed legislation—some of it slipped into an unrelated bill at the last minute, a constant in fact with that crowd—because as always, the Dem consultants were horrified at the prospect of a nationalized congressional election.

“As always” included the 2014 elections.  And best as I can tell, this year’s congressional elections, too.

I had envisioned Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—the two highest-profile progressives—neither of whom is on the ballot this year, and therefore both who are free to do so, barnstorming the country in an effort to apprise voters of the really ugly things that the Republican Congress keeps trying to force via one or another trick, on behalf of the party’s establishment donors.  Including the divestment of federal lands of all sorts to Republican donors via pass-through to, and then from, the states—not only in and of itself but as lucid illustration of the extremes to which the Republican Party is a party of oligarchs.

A party.  Invitation only.  Admission is steep but well worth the price for invitees.  And that whatever else you can say about the Democrats, their donors aren’t trying to turn vast public lands into private preserves of the Republican donors’ industries.

Oh, the horror of nationalizing the congressional elections.  (If you’re a Republican oligarch, not if you’re, well, not.)

Sanders has been aggressively soliciting campaign contributions, via Act Blue, for certain progressive congressional candidates.  And a few days ago he began soliciting contributions for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in an email with the subject, “Time to elect a Democratic Senate”, or some such.

But I think he and Warren have been held back somewhat by Clinton’s open, aggressive courting of high-profile Republicans.  And now, as of yesterday, her weird and awful selection of—good graceKen Salazar as her transition team head seems to like a deliberate slight to progressives.  Young voters, at least outside of Colorado, don’t know about him, so she thought this would be freebee, but given social networking, it may well not be.  But Sanders and Warren know about him.  How do you campaign for a progressive Congress to team up with, well, someone who thinks Ken Salazar should head her presidential transition team?

I don’t know who it is that has her ear and is so enamored of uber-triangulating Colorado pols, but it’s someone who thinks it’s still the 1990s. Okay, I do know.  Probably. It’s Bill Clinton—the same person, I’d wager, who told her to jump right on it in going after those Republican endorsements and those Republican donors.  No time to waste.  And no time was wasted.

Maureen Dowd, in a stunning column last Sunday perfectly titled “The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee,”, got pretty close to the heart of why Clinton is so widely viewed as untrustworthy.  And as long as she remains under her husband’s spell there will be no easing of that view.

I’ve repeatedly analogized Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, but both parties have nominated puppets as their presidential nominees.  I’ll certainly vote for Bill Clinton over Paul Ryan.

Although if Edgar Bergen’s name appears on my ballot, all bets are off.  I like transparency in presidential candidates.  And, who knows?  Maybe he likes the national parks system enough to mention its political endangerment while campaigning.

____

POSTSCRIPT:

In November, 2012, asked a question he did not like by a reporter for The Gazette of Colorado Springs regarding Salazar’s association with [a] hauler who shipped wild horses to slaughter plants, Salazar told the reporter, “If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out”. Salazar later apologized.

Wikipedia

Great.  Also great:

US presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has raised eyebrows with the hiring of Washington DC powerbroker and vocal Trans-Pacific Partnership supporter Ken Salazar.

Mr Salazar will head Ms Clinton’s White House transition team.

The appointment adds weight to speculation Ms Clinton, who became a TPP opponent when running for president, was a closet supporter of the proposed landmark pact between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and seven other Pacific Rim nations.

“The TPP is a strong trade deal that will level the playing field for workers to help middle-class families get ahead,” Mr Salazar, a former Colorado senator and interior secretary under President Barack Obama, co-wrote in a USA Today op-ed in November.

“It is also the greenest trade deal ever.” Ms Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have both vowed to nix the TPP, a move that contrasts with Mr Obama’s pro-TPP stance. Ms Clinton’s vice president running mate Tim Kaine was also pro-TPP.

If Ms Clinton wins the November 8 presidential election, Mr Salazar will guide her in the months leading up to Mr Obama’s January exit from the White House. It is during that “lame duck” period Mr Obama has the best hope of pushing the TPP proposal through Congress.

Mr Salazar, who has worked at the influential Washington DC firm WilmerHale that has lobbied on trade policy, has also shown support for fracking and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline,” Molly Dorozenski, campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy, wrote.

“If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.”

On a trip to Australia in 2012 as US secretary of state Ms Clinton declared in Adelaide the “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade”.

Clinton supporters query pro-TPP hiring, Peter Mitchell, NZN US Correspondent – NZ Newswire, today

Dowd has it right.

Added 8/17 at 8:06 p.m.

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Why didn’t Clinton set up two email addresses for herself, one for her personal emails, the other for her work emails, on @clintonemail.com? Just wondering.*

In many ways, [Clinton] did a good job at her press conference on Tuesday. The part of her speech talking about her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral arrangements being off limits, that certainly resonated. She absolutely was right when she said, “No one wants their personal e-mails made public.”

Hillary Clinton Is Turning Into Richard Nixon and Bill Belichick, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, today

One thing that surprises me about analyses of Clinton’s press conference is the apparent consensus among pundits, including some liberal ones who are not supportive of her, that she was effective in gaining empathy for her desire to keep her personal emails from public view, so that no one wonders why, then, she (unlike most people who work for organizations) chose to commingle her personal and work emails not just on one server but in a single email account. She was, after all, absolutely right when she said, “No one wants their personal e-mails made public.” Ergo, ….

No dispute whatsoever: No one wants their personal e-mails made public.  Which is why (presumably) most people who work for organizations—private or government—take pains to separate their private correspondence from their work correspondence, by using their work email account mostly* for work-related correspondence, and their personal account entirely or almost entirely for personal emails.

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A Kiss From a Used-Car Salesman—and why it’s important to tie Romney’s “47%” comment directly to his Orwellian lies

As for the second of those three questions—Is he a cold-hearted conservative or a moderate Republican from Massachusetts?—I think there’s a third possibility.  I think he’s George Orwell.

Or, rather, that he’s channeling George Orwell.  Not Orwell, the person.  Orwell, the writer.

Orwell, of course, is most famous for his book 1984, in which politicians and government officials say exactly the opposite of what they mean.  Thus, the term “Orwellian,” which is not limited to politicians’ statements, but which refers to the use of common language terms that have a fixed meaning, and using them to suggest exactly the opposite of what those terms actually mean—and exactly the opposite of what the speaker does mean.

Up means down, left means right, black means white.  You get the picture.  Some people will think that when you say “up,” you mean “up.”  Others will understand that when you say “up,” you mean “down.”  It’s sophistry, con artistry. 

It’s also a key tactic that dictators use to gain or keep power.  Hitler, of course, used it routinely.  But so did Mao Tse-tung.  In fact, another word for “Orwellian” was, during the Mao era, “Mao Speak.”  You just change the definition of common words to mean exactly the opposite of what the words have meant.  That way, you can continue to claim that you’re doing something in particular, or will do something in particular, when you’re actually doing or planning to do the opposite.

In democracies, when politicians do that, it has another synonym: lie.  Or at least that’s been so until now.  On Wednesday night, Romney changed the meaning of many words and phrases so that they mean the opposite of what they have meant.  Not the least are the words “win” and “debate,” at least as the former normally is applied to the latter, although it was largely the news media that redefined “win,” and of course Jim Lehrer helped with the redefinition of “debate.”

But another word that underwent a quick transition Wednesday night from its normal meaning to the opposite of it is “plan.”  As in, he has a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions.  The word “plan” normally means, y’know, a recommendation or intention to change something from its current status.  The phrase “a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions” normally means a requirement that insurance companies provide medical insurance to people who have preexisting medical conditions such as, say, multiple sclerosis or breast cancer, beyond what federal law already requires.  That is, beyond the status quo. 
Which is that people who have, say, multiple sclerosis or a malignant breast tumor and have had no healthcare insurance within the previous three months can get treated at the emergency room, and then maybe file for bankruptcy if the hospital actually does provide, um, treatment for these medical problems.  Then again, Romney had redefined the word “treatment” even before the Wednesday debate, so I guess we now have to understand the phrase “medical treatment” to mean something like, “But you have no insurance and you need the sort of medical procedure that isn’t done in emergency rooms.”  Romney already had redefined the word “plan” to mean promised goals rather than the specific, credible means of achieving them. 

But that redefinition had applied only to his economic plan—a plan that he said on Wednesday night might not work, and which—although it escaped the punditry—he seemed to be admitting that he (the successful businessman!) had devised without any actual economic basis for thinking that the revenue/tax-deduction ends could meet as designed.  But this second redefinition of the word “plan” was something else entirely, because by saying that he has a plan to provide healthcare insurance to people who currently are denied it because of a preexisting medical condition, he was telling them that he plans to something specific that he plans not to do.  And it concerns some truly fundamental things, in some cases life or death, in others financial security or instead financial devastation. 

What kind of person stands on a stage speaking to 67 million people, and just plain lies about something of that sort?  Dare I say it—the kind of person who speaks derisively about 47 percent of Americans, none of whom are Bain investors, have overseas bank accounts, hire PriceWaterhouseCoopers to tally their tax returns, and have their IRA accounts in the Cayman Islands.  Nor contribute to Republican PACs or attend Romney fundraisers in Boca Raton.  Or anywhere else.

Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times column today, uses humor to run through many, but by no means all (she’s only allowed a limited number of words per column, after all), of Romney’s bald debate-“winning” lies.  And she includes the preexisting-medical-conditions one.  But I think it’s Paul Krugman who, in his Times column on Friday, titled “Romney’s Sick Joke,” best highlights that this particular lie is particularly brazen and particularly pernicious.  And Ezra Klein points out that Romney’s mendacity about his plan for healthcare coverage—and in this context it is indeed a plan, as that word is defined the old-fashioned way—runs even deeper. 

It’s been said, accurately, many, many times now that this election will determine the basic nature of American government.  But until now, that’s meant budgetary, taxing and regulatory policy.  It now means something even more fundamental, in addition: Whether or not we allow a redefinition of the word “democracy.”  Romney asks us to believe in America.  It turns out that he means an America of the sort that George Orwell feared.

Or at least one run by a used car salesman.  Read the fine print on that contract.  And on that separate warranty you’ll be charged for. 

A kiss is not a kiss when it’s described as one by someone with a forked tongue.  

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Richard Williamson and John Bolton are Jewish! Recent converts, apparently. [Updated.]

Are Richard Williamson and John Bolton—two of Romney’s three main foreign-policy advisors, and reportedly the two most influential—Jewish?  Really?

Or are they simply under the influence of Dan Senor and other manipulative neocon Jews?  Sorta like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were.

Oh, please.

—-

WARNING: Every word of the above post except the last two is said facetiously.

But this is not: The Dylan Byers Politico post that I link to has this quote:

“[The] weirdest part of the anti-semitic tropes on the [Maureen] Dowd column is how lazy they are,” Max Fisher, an editor at The Atlantic who is leaving to launch a foreign policy blog at the Washington Post, tweeted.

Apparently, mimicking Mitt Romney’s pot-calling-the-kettle-black habit has become quite the thing this season among conservatives.  Or maybe Fisher did investigate and has learned that Williamson and Bolton really haveconverted to Judaism.

Oh, and by the way: I’m Jewish.  Happy new year.

—–

UPDATE: Much to my surprise, a link to this post appears on the Jewish American Heritage Month website, at http://www.jewishamericanheritagemonth.com/jewish/richard-williamson-and-john-bolton-are-jewish-recent-converts.php.

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Rush Limbaugh Says Tax Money Pays For Students’ and Employees’ Jogging Pants As A Welfare Entitlement

Seriously.  In the rambling press release that he self-styled an apology to Georgetown U. law student Sandra Fluke for calling her a slut and a prostitute, Limbaugh groused:

Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden we hate women. 

He then explained his position thusly:

I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.  What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?

So even as late as yesterday afternoon when he released the statement, he’s claiming that taxpayerswould be paying the part of employee and student healthcare premiums that cover contraceptives.  And that taxpayers pay for running pants, shorts and tank tops for employees and students who jog, but don’t pay for the Nikes and Reeboks. 

He apparently doesn’t read Angry Bear (see “Will ‘We’ Really Be Paying Sandra Fluke’s Healthcare Insurance Premiums?”, below.)  He should, though.  Dana Loesch, though, clearly does.

What? You’ve never heard of Dana Loesch?  Well, you’re in good company.  Mine.  I’d never heard of her until this morning, when I read the New York Times articleabout Limbaugh’s statements.  The article says:

At least one conservative commentator, Dana Loesch, appeared to back Mr. Limbaugh’s original sentiments, writing on Twitter on Saturday, “If you expect me to pay higher insurance premiums to cover your ‘free’ birth control, I can call you whatever I want.”

So, whatever the merits of her claim to a right to libel anyone whose medical insurance coverage and use raises “her” insurance premiums, Loesch at least does recognize the difference between private insurance premiums and coverage and taxpayer-funded welfare entitlements.  Limbaugh does not.   

Happily, a mainstream media pundit understands this non-trivial distinction, too, and mentions it.  In her New York Times column today, Maureen Dowd writes:

[Limbaugh] said insuring contraception would represent another “welfare entitlement,” which is wrong — tax dollars would not provide the benefit, employers and insurance companies would. And women would not be getting paid just “to have sex.” They’d be getting insurance coverage toward the roughly $1,000 annual expense of trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and to control other health conditions.

So, AB readers, do you think Dowd reads AB?  Nah.  She probably figured it out all by herself. But Loesch probably reads AB.  Okay, or Forbes online. (Thanks for linking to it, Tim Worstall!) For better or worse.  I mean, I’d hate to be, say, (as Bruce Webb points out in a comment to my earlier post) a skier or mountain climber who works for the same employer that Loesch does, or at least has the same insurance carrier that she has.

Wouldn’t want Loesch to accuse them of having murdered their mother, or something. 

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