Ross Douthat says liberals should love Hobby Lobby... Maureen Dowd says America needs some of that hopey stuff... Jacob Heilbrunn says Neocons are learning to love Hillary... Fred Pearce shows that climate change can be beaten on the cheap... But first...
Dana Milbank explains why losing the Senate could be a good thing.
The walls seem to be closing in on the Obama presidency.Well, that's... no. Just... no. Hell no. Let's not stake what little remains of the government to an ant hill just so we can see if people wake up before the last scraps of flesh are removed. Okay?
Iraq and Syria are overrun with terrorists. Violence is flaring in Ukraine and on Israel’s borders. A humanitarian crisis is developing on our own southern border, but immigration legislation, like most all legislation, is moribund. Probes of the veterans’ health-care system, the IRS and Benghazi are sucking up attention and the administration’s time.
As President Obama fails to get any credit for the millions who have found jobs or gained health-care coverage on his watch, a nonpartisan Quinnipiac poll this week found that 33 percent of Americans consider him to be the worst president since World War II, besting (or worsting, as it were) George W. Bush and leaving Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon in the dust.
... The prevailing view is that a Republican Senate would only compound Obama’s woes by bottling up confirmations, doubling the number of investigations and chipping away at Obamacare and other legislative achievements.
Yet there’s a chance that having an all-Republican Congress would help Obama — and even some White House officials have wondered privately whether a unified Republican Congress would be better than the current environment. Republicans, without Harry Reid to blame, would own Congress — a body that inspires a high level of confidence in just 7 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup survey last month finding Congress at a new low and at the bottom of all institutions tested.
There would be no more excuses for Republicans’ failure to put forward their own health-care plan, immigration proposals, specific cuts to popular government programs, and pet causes involving abortion, birth control and gay rights. This would set up real clashes with Obama — who could employ the veto pen he hasn’t used a single time since Republicans gained control of the House in 2010 — and sharp contrasts that would put him on the winning side of public opinion.
Let's go in and see if there are better ideas this morning.
The New York Times looks at the IRS scandal. No, the other scandal.
There is a scandal going on at the Internal Revenue Service, but it has nothing to do with Lois Lerner or her missing emails. House Republicans have not given up on their noisy crusade to tie Ms. Lerner to what they imagine to be widespread political corruption within the Obama administration, but all they have proved is that the I.R.S. is no better at backing up its computer files than most other government agencies.Which is, of course, all part of the GOP Governance Cycle. Cut funding, conduct show trials, defame. Cut funding, conduct show trials, defame. Cut funding...
No, the real scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency’s budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service.
As the economist Jared Bernstein noted recently in The Washington Post, a weakened I.R.S. enforcement staff will be unable to make a dent in the $385 billion annual gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay — an unintended tax cut, mostly for the rich, that represents 11 percent of this year’s spending.
Ross Douthat just can't understand why liberals don't love having their religion dictated to them.
For a generation now, liberals have bemoaned the disappearance of the socially conscious corporation, the boardroom devoted to the common good. Once, the story goes, America’s C.E.O.s recognized that they shared interests with workers and customers; once wages and working hours reflected more than just a zeal for profits. But then came Reagan, deregulation, hostile takeovers, and an era of solidarity gave way to the age of Gordon Gekko, from which there’s been no subsequent escape.Ah, I love the smell of straw men on Sunday morning. Among the more minor infractions of these paragraphs (and the even more skewed ones ahead), let me point out that, for hourly workers, having the store closed on the day your employer deems holy is not "getting a day off" it's "not being able to make any money on a day that may or may not have any meaning to the worker."
There are, however, exceptions: companies that still have a sense of business as a moral calling, which can be held up as examples to shame the bottom-liners.
One such company was hailed last year by the left-wing policy website Demos “for thumbing its nose at the conventional wisdom that success in the retail industry” requires paying “bargain-basement wages.” A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering, as Demos put it, a clear example of how “doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.”
Of course I’m talking about Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store that’s currently playing the role of liberalism’s public enemy No. 1, for its successful suit against the Obama administration’s mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and potential abortifacients.
Maureen Dowd wonders just what this America place is about.
With our swaggering and sanguine image deflated by epic unforced errors, Americans are playing defense, struggling to come to grips with a world where we can no longer dictate all the terms, win all the wars and lead all the charges.Well, as long as one of our major political parties celebrates stupidity, rejects science, and declares that they hate the whole idea of government and still get elected to govern... Corgi butts better than we deserve.
“The Fourth of July was always a celebration of American exceptionalism,” said G.O.P. pollster Frank Luntz. “Now it’s a commiseration of American disappointment.”
From Katrina to Fallujah, we’re less the Shining City Upon a Hill than the House of Broken Toys.
For the first time perhaps, hope is not as much a characteristic of American feelings.
Are we winners who have been through a rough patch? Or losers who have soured our sturdy and spiritual DNA with too much food, too much greed, too much narcissism, too many lies, too many spies, too many fat-cat bonuses, too many cat videos on the evening news, too many Buzzfeed listicles like “33 Photos Of Corgi Butts,” and too much mindless and malevolent online chatter?
Are we still the biggest and baddest? Or are we forever smaller, stingier, dumber, less ambitious and more cynical? Have we lost control of our not-so-manifest destiny?
However, this is an interesting and nuanced article from Dowd. Read it... because next week she'll probably be back to some middle school nickname for Hillary and selected quotes from Mean Girls.
Jacob Heilbrunn thinks that the remaining neocons are running scared enough to look for love in a strange place.
After nearly a decade in the political wilderness, the neoconservative movement is back, using the turmoil in Iraq and Ukraine to claim that it is President Obama, not the movement’s interventionist foreign policy that dominated early George W. Bush-era Washington, that bears responsibility for the current round of global crises.What does the word "back" mean here beyond "being allowed to spew their BS on your TV"? Does anyone actually care who or what the neocons support?
Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.
To be sure, the careers and reputations of the older generation of neocons — Paul D. Wolfowitz, L. Paul Bremer III, Douglas J. Feith, Richard N. Perle — are permanently buried in the sands of Iraq. And not all of them are eager to switch parties: In April, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, said that as president Mrs. Clinton would “be a dutiful chaperone of further American decline.”
But others appear to envisage a different direction — one that might allow them to restore the neocon brand, at a time when their erstwhile home in the Republican Party is turning away from its traditional interventionist foreign policy.
The New York TImes on kids and guns.
An estimated one-third of American children live in homes with firearms, according to public health research, and 43 percent of these homes have at least one unlocked firearm lying about as an invitation to accidental mayhem.I'm perilously close to becoming a single issue voter on this subject.
The inevitable results are appalling. Federal data says that between 2007 and 2011 a yearly average of 62 children, age 14 and under, were killed every year while playing with a family gun left loaded and unsecured, and 660 were injured badly enough to require hospitalization.
But the actual toll could be even greater — with 100 youngsters or more shot to death each year in grossly careless family settings — according to a detailed new study of child deaths by firearm conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun research and lobbying organization.
Doyle McManus says that (gasp) there could be a downside to killer drones.
To wartime strategists under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the new weapon, like many innovations in the history of military technology, seemed at first like a silver bullet.So, you're saying that launching missiles that take out people in any nation because we've unilaterally decided that we can wage war across any border and define for ourselves what constitutes an enemy combatant while disregarded how many civilians we take out in the process, might potentially offend someone? I believe this was predicted by, hmm, pretty much everyone paying the slightest bit of attention before this whole mess began.
Drones with lethal missiles could hover for hours over potential targets, waiting for the moment to strike. They could kill suspected terrorists with relative precision, though not, as the CIA claimed in 2011, without any civilian casualties. Best of all, drones didn't endanger American lives; the pilots were safe and snug in Djibouti or Nevada.
Drone strikes may be an efficient way to kill terrorists, but they're no way to make friends.
In an almost-invisible campaign that started modestly under Bush and expanded dramatically under Obama, the U.S. has launched more than 1,600 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and even, in one case, in the Philippines, according to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations.
But consider how those drone strikes appear if you are an ordinary civilian in, say, northwestern Pakistan. You know you are in constant danger; a missile may strike your home at any time without warning. It's not clear who's shooting; the war and its combatants are officially secret. It's not clear how you can avoid becoming a target; members of Al Qaeda are fair game, of course, but what are their neighbors and cousins and grocery suppliers to do? And if something goes awry, there's no one to complain to; the CIA doesn't have a customer service desk, and the government of Pakistan claims (falsely, in most cases) that it has no control over foreign missile strikes.
Fred Pearce shows that stopping climate change may be much cheaper than we thought
Saving our skins might be surprisingly cheap. To avoid dangerous climate change, the world needs to boost spending on green energy by $1 trillion a year. That sounds scarily large, but we could cover a lot of it using the subsidies currently handed to fossil fuels. ...Nearly all this "cost" actually comes in the form of infrastructure investments that pay off in ways other than climate change. Helluva bargain.
The numbers work like this. Investment in low-carbon energy is currently $200 billion a year. But that isn't enough. For a 70 per cent chance of keeping below 2°C, the investment will have to rise to $1.2 trillion a year.
Spending is set to rise as energy demand increases and governments meet their existing climate commitments. The world is probably already committed to doubling green energy investment to $400 billion a year by 2050, says McCollum. But even with that, we still need to find another $800 billion a year.
That sounds like a lot to make up. But global investment in energy is already $1 trillion a year and rising, says McCollum. The problem is that much of that investment goes to fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency, government subsidies for fossil fuels are around $500 billion a year – six times more than subsidies for renewables.