Paul Krugman at The New York Times ponders in The Big Green Test—Conservatives and Climate Change whether Republicans who concede that climate change is happening from human-made causes are willing to support solutions if the Democrats propose them:
On Sunday Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and a lifelong Republican, had an Op-Ed article about climate policy in The New York Times. In the article, he declared that man-made climate change is “the challenge of our time,” and called for a national tax on carbon emissions to encourage conservation and the adoption of green technologies. Considering the prevalence of climate denial within today’s G.O.P., and the absolute opposition to any kind of tax increase, this was a brave stand to take.Rachel Maddow at The Washington Post writes Congress should make itself heard about U.S. troops in Iraq:
But not nearly brave enough. Emissions taxes are the Economics 101 solution to pollution problems; every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.
Yet there are a number of second-best things (in the technical sense, as I’ll explain shortly) that we’re either doing already or might do soon. And the question for Mr. Paulson and other conservatives who consider themselves environmentalists is whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers, and in particular whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers implemented by the other party. If they aren’t, their supposed environmentalism is an empty gesture.
There is a school of thought that if only America’s war in Vietnam had been longer, bigger and bloodier, it might have ended differently. But what happened after we left makes that hard to believe. We held things together as long as we could, but unless we were going to become a permanent occupying force, and maybe even then, we were only delaying the inevitable. [...]You can find more pundit excerpts below the fold.
Two and a half years after U.S. troops left Iraq, as we have watched Fallujah, Mosul and a swath of additional territory fall to Sunni militants, we are in need of such a debate. That is why it has been maddening to the point of distraction to see the media seek out supposedly expert analysis from people who made bad predictions and false declarations about the Iraq invasion in 2003. Whether they are humbled by their own mistakes or not, it is our civic responsibility to ensure that a history of misstatements and misjudgments has consequences for a person’s credibility in our national discourse.
On Capitol Hill, it’s even worse. After meeting with President Obama last week, congressional leaders emerged in rare bipartisan agreement: All said the president would need no further authorization from Congress for new U.S. military intervention in Iraq. They may agree on that, but they’re wrong: Neither the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force nor the 2002 Iraq war authorization obviously apply in this instance.
E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes A year of living negatively:
Is it any wonder that the GOP’s governing game plan for the rest of the year is to do as little as possible? Since the party can’t agree to anything that would pass muster with President Obama and the Democratic Senate, it will bet that Obama’s low poll ratings will be enough for Republicans to make gains in House races and, potentially, give them control of the Senate.Peter Dreier at the Los Angeles Times writes How Obama can help rebuild the middle class:
All of this is why 2014 will be the year of living negatively.
The prospect of months of attacks and more attacks reflects the depth of disillusionment with Washington. This is the best thing Republicans have going for them, but it might also provide Democrats with their clearest path to holding the Senate.
In a December speech, the president recognized that workers need more than a minimum-wage hike to join the middle class; they also need unions. He observed that "laws establishing collective bargaining" had "contributed to rising standards of living for massive numbers of Americans."David Sirota at In These Times writes Internet Privacy Concerns May Be Dividing the U.S. Government:
The president should heed his own words and require companies with federal contracts to bargain with employees over fair wages and working conditions in return for a commitment not to strike. The executive order should state emphatically that taxpayers should not subsidize corporations that mistreat their workers. It should give preference in federal contracting to companies with track records of good labor relations.
Too many companies with federal contracts routinely violate labor laws, firing or demoting workers who try to unionize. These firms do so without suffering any consequences, such as withdrawal of their contracts or fines sufficiently large to deter such illegal activities.
[I]t seems more than a bit hilarious that the U.S. government has just posted its latest annual announcement about “funding for programs that support Internet freedom.” In that dispatch, the U.S. State Department says it is looking to support “technologies that enhance the privacy and security of digital communications” and that are “less susceptible to intrusion or infection.”The Editors at The Nation are unequivocably Against Intervention in Iraq:
Yes, you read that right: The same U.S. government that has been one of the most powerful forces undermining Internet security is now touting itself as a proponent of Internet privacy and security.
Of course, when you are done laughing about this, remember that there may also be other, less funny subtexts to this story.
You could, for instance, believe this is just the State Department attempting to conduct diplomatic damage control in the wake of the NSA-related revelations. That’s not a crazy theory—after all, in the last year, those revelations have strained U.S. relations with countries like Brazil, China and Germany.
Then again, it is quite possible this is not only about optics, but is also a glimpse of a genuine and long-simmering conflict inside the government—a conflict between the security apparatus and the diplomatic corps.
For thirty-four years—through the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), the Gulf War (1990–91), the brutal US-led sanctions against Iraq (1990–2003) and the devastation that followed the US invasion in 2003—Iraq’s people have suffered unspeakably. Now the ISIS-led offensive is adding to that suffering. In seizing Falluja, Mosul and a string of other cities, ISIS has left devastation and mass executions in its wake, and it is aggressively provoking a revival of the Sunni-versus-Shiite civil war that left thousands dead between 2005 and 2008.Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers at Alternet write Ending Empire and the War Culture that Supports It are as Important as Confronting Wall Street:
But American military involvement in the latest eruption in Iraq, reportedly under consideration by President Obama, would be the wrong response to that suffering, morally and strategically. Even if limited to airstrikes, whether from F-16s, cruise missiles or drones, military action by Washington would almost certainly kill civilians, especially since ISIS is concentrated in heavily populated cities. Worse, such action would inflame, not ease, Iraq’s sectarian divisions, allying Washington more closely with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s monumentally corrupt and sectarian regime and against a seething Sunni population, and would send recruits streaming into ISIS’s camp.
The American public is sick and tired of war. It is a mistake for President Obama to decide that he can take military action in Iraq without congressional or UN approval. He likely made this decision because he knows that if Congress were allowed to consider the issue, there would be a tidal wave of opposition from constituents in an election year. If Congress really functioned as a check and balance, it would be warning President Obama that a military attack without congressional approval is an impeachable offense; that the Constitution is clear – only Congress has the power to declare war and a military attack is an act of war. The silence of Congress will mean complicity in another illegal military action and will again reveal the bi-partisan nature of the war machine.Anna March at The Weeklings writes Pope Francis’ new clothes: Why his progressive image is white smoke and mirrors:
If unchecked, it seems the most likely scenario is that the President will build intelligence to justify further intervention and will then use drones to bomb Iraq. The President, with the support of groups like Human Rights Watch, acts as if unmanned bombing is a legal military attack even though his drone policy is being questioned by the UN, the legal community and the public. This will ultimately lead to another US war in Iraq. [...]
If we re-occupy Iraq, we can expect a long-term presence. The (currently) most likely next president, Hillary Clinton, has a track record as a hawk. She has already signaled to the military-industrial complex that she is open to more war. Clinton recently said she was even open to staying in Afghanistan beyond President Obama’s already-too-slow exit from that country.
The image of Pope Francis is that he is a breath of fresh air, more progressive on social issues than his predecessor and a kinder, gentler pope. But when the facts are examined, you see that he is none of these things. There is an enormous disconnect between who the pope really is in terms of his policies and his public relations image, as crafted by the Vatican’s PR man, previously with Fox News. [...]Heidi Moore at The Guardian writes Wall Street and Washington want you to believe the stock market isn't rigged. Guess what? It still is:
While the pope transmits a populist vibe—particularly about the economy— he is an old-school conservative who, despite his great PR, maintains nearly all of the social policies of his predecessors and keeps up a hardline Vatican “cabinet.” He has done virtually nothing to change the policies of the church to match his more compassionate rhetoric. People excuse the pope, claiming that he doesn’t have much power to make changes, but this simply isn’t true. Further, it is ludicrous to suggest that a man who denies comprehensive reproductive health care (including all forms of birth control including condoms and abortion) and comprehensive family planning is a man who cares about the poor of this world. The bigotry of homophobia and sexism cloaked in religion are still bigotry and sexism.
No wonder "investor confidence"—the mass delusion that the stock market is trustworthy—has been in short supply this year. Nothing has done more to decimate it than Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys, which focuses on the predatory behavior of high-frequency trading. Nobody—including Congress—cared much about the "high-tech predator stalking the equity markets" before Flash Boys hit the bestseller list, reaching beyond the walled garden of the financial industry into American dining rooms and Washington hearing chambers. It didn't leave all spring.The Editors at the Billings Gazette write Move forward on Billings non-discrimination law:
So last week, Washington featured a lot of handwringing, in two separate Congressional panels, about how to convince Average Joe investors that the stock market is their friend—even when it obviously isn't. And it's great that elected officials and Wall Street millionaires are talking about investor confidence. But they're not talking about what really matters: investor protection. Guaranteeing that everyone gets a fair shake. Un-rigging the stock market.
Yet in Congress, the worry is all about appearances.
Twenty-one states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sadly, Montana isn’t one of them. Our City Council has authority to right that omission within our city limits. With more than 105,000 residents, Billings is becoming a big city that will need to welcome diversity if it is to grow into a better city.
We again call on our 11 council members to make the right decision, and support a nondiscrimination ordinance that protects the rights of all, inclusive of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual persons.