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“What Matters Is Reducing Emissions”: How Conservatives Will React To Obama’s New Climate Regulations

President Obama is set to announce new rules for carbon emissions today, and what we’ll see is a familiar pattern. The administration decides to confront one of the most profound challenges we face. It bends over backward to accommodate the concerns of its opponents, shaping the policy to achieve the goal in ways that Republicans might find palatable. Then not only are its efforts to win support from the other side fruitless, the opposition is so vituperative that it veers into self-parody.

That’s what happened with the Affordable Care Act; not only was the law not “socialism” as Republicans charged, it was about as far from socialism as you could get and still achieve universal coverage. It involved getting as many people as possible into private insurance plans, where they could see private medical providers. But Republicans who had previously embraced similar market-based ideas decided that once Obama poisoned them with his support, they were now the height of statist oppression.

Something similar happened with cap and trade, a carbon-credit system, which before 2008 was considered a conservative alternative to heavy-handed government regulation, harnessing the power of the market to reduce pollution—one that had the support of many Republicans. But once Obama began advocating cap and trade, Republicans decided it was the most vile sort of government overreach. The new regulations the administration is about to announce allow for state cap and trade systems, but the administration is carefully avoiding using the term.

The essence of the administration’s plan, at least in the details that have been reported so far, is that it will set statewide targets for reduction of carbon emissions from existing power plants (which are the single largest source of such emissions), then let each state decide how it wants to meet those targets. A state could institute a cap and trade program, or it could do any number of other things. That’s supposed to be just the kind of federalism conservatives love.

We’re likely to hear a number of responses from conservatives to these new regulations. Some will say climate change is a hoax, and there’s no reason to worry about it. Others will say that though climate change is real, we shouldn’t actually do anything about it. Others will talk about how despite the state-by-state flexibility, these regulations will be “job-killing.” But the word you’re likely to hear more than any other is “lawless.”

Every time Barack Obama takes an executive action they don’t like, Republicans describe it as “lawless.” There are certainly times when Obama has tested the limits of presidential power, just like pretty much every president before him. But Republicans make this charge even if what he’s doing is squarely within the president’s rights. (I contend that they make this charge so often because at a fundamental level, they believe Obama’s entire presidency is illegitimate, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

It’s true that early in his presidency, Obama tried unsuccessfully to pass climate legislation (a cap and trade bill passed the House but died in the Senate), and is now doing through regulation what he couldn’t do through legislation. But there’s nothing lawless about that, so long as the regulations are within his authority. In this case, Obama is not only allowed to regulate carbon emissions, he’s required to do so by law. In a 2007 case called Massachusetts v. E.P.A., the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act mandated that the federal government take steps to regulate carbon emissions, and that’s what the EPA will be doing.

Even if the state flexibility fails to win over Republicans, it’s still a good idea. What matters is reducing emissions, and whichever way a state gets there is fine. The states will be able to learn from each other; if they accomplish the reductions in different ways, we’ll discover which paths were the easiest, most effective, and least expensive, and states can adapt over time with that knowledge. But the details won’t matter to the administration’s opponents; because Barack Obama is proposing these regulations, they must be job-killing socialism intended to destroy America.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Conservatives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Winds Of No Change”: Defining Moments For The Tea Party Movement And The GOP

In his latest New York Times column, Ross Douthat notes the civil war over the “GOP civil war” narrative of this election cycle, and argues the real proof of the Tea Party pudding will be in the 2016 Republican presidential campaign:

[T]here are several politicians, all elected as insurgents and all potential presidential candidates in 2016, who still aspire to be the Tea Party’s version of Obama: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. And because each embodies different facets of the Tea Party phenomenon, each would write a very different conclusion to its story.

A Rubio victory would probably make the Tea Party seem a little less ideological in hindsight, a little more Middle American and populist, and more like a course correction after George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” than a transformative event.

A Cruz triumph would lend itself to a more ideological reading of the Tea Party’s impact, but one that fit readily into existing categories: It would suggest that Tea Party-ism was essentially the old Reagan catechism in a tricorn hat, movement conservatism under a “don’t tread on me” banner.

A Paul victory would write a starkly libertarian conclusion to the Tea Party’s story, making it seem much more revolutionary — a true break with both Reaganism and Bushism, with an uncertain future waiting beyond.

I tend to agree with Douthat on his basic point: nothing quite defines a political party like its presidential nominees, which is why presidential nominating contests are important beyond their impact on general elections. But I still think he underestimates the extent to which the GOP has already internalized the Tea Party message, even as the Tea Folk are mostly conservative “base” activists who have been radicalized in recent years. Consider this line:

[T]he one thing about Republican politics that pretty clearly wasn’t “Tea Party” was the man the G.O.P. ultimately nominated in 2012.

Is that really true? Pretty early in the 2012 cycle, Romney embraced the single most important programmatic demand of the Tea Party Movement, the Republican Study Committee’s Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, which offered a permanent, constitutional limitation on the size and cost and therefore the functions of the federal government. And in the defining moment of the general election campaign, the 47% video, Romney embraced and articulated the resentment of “winners” against “losers” that was at the heart of the Tea Party Movement’s founding event, Rick Santelli’s Rant.

You can object that Mitt was just pandering, and didn’t really mean the things he said in those two instances, just as he really wasn’t the savage immigrant-basher he seemed to be when going after poor clueless Rick Perry–or for that matter, the Movement Conservative favorite he purported to be in 2008. But it really doesn’t matter, does it? He was pushed in that direction again and again by the prevailing winds in his party, and no matter who wins what 2014 primaries, or which flavor of tea is selling best at any given moment, the wind’s still blowing in that direction today.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Midterm Manifesto”: Senate Republicans Want The GOP To Make All Sorts Of Promises It Can’t Keep

Senate Republicans may be about to make the same mistake they often do when attempting to outline a platform: proposing policies that are impossible to implement.

Politico reports that a bloc of Senate Republicans, led by Lindsey Graham, “is agitating for party leaders to unveil a policy manifesto” that would explain to voters what the GOP would do if it took the majority in the midterm elections. This is yet another sign that the Republican Party realizes it needs a new political strategy, now that Obamacare has rebounded. A new “Contract With America”the party’s midterm platform in 1994, on which this 2014 manifesto would be modeledcould prove successful at the polls.

But as a governing strategy, this manifesto will only make legislating more difficult if the GOP takes the Senate. That’s because Republicans have a bad habit of overpromising.

In 2012, Mitt Romney promised a mathematically impossible tax-reform plan to lower all rates by 20 percent and cut the corporate rate, making up the revenue by closing unspecified tax preferences. When House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp released his tax reform plan in February, he attempted to cut rates and consolidate the tax code, but struggled to make up the lost revenue, eventually creating a top rate of 35 percent, implementing a bank tax, and taxing a percentage of capital gains as ordinary income. Republicans predictably ran away from Camp’s reasonable plan.

Marco Rubio has proposed reforming the federal government’s antipoverty system. But his plan is mathematically impossible: He proposes increasing benefits for childless workers, keeping them unchanged for everyone else, and not increasing the deficit. He has yet to release legislative language for the plan, but those three goals are irreconcilable.

It’s hard to imagine what Senate Republicans could unite behind that would appeal to most of the party. If tax reform ends up in a Senate Republican policy manifesto, it will only reinforce the impossible Republican standard of drastically lowering rates and eliminating tax preferences to avoid increasing the deficit. This is exactly what Representative Paul Ryan did in his budget this year, where he reiterated his support for two tax brackets with rates at 10 and 25 percent. Camp tried to do that, but came up short. The dual-rate structure simply doesn’t raise enough revenue. As the likely replacement for Camp as chair of Ways and Means, Ryan now has made tax reform very hard to accomplish.

Undoubtedly, the midterm manifesto would propose replacing Obamacarebut replace it with what? Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr and Orrin Hatch unveiled the Patient CARE Act in January, which actually had a lot in common with Obamacare. It didn’t earn much support among the GOP for that reason. What plan could Senate Republicans unite behind that does more than just repeal Obamacare?

Will the platform contain a balanced budget amendment, as Newt Gingrich and House Republicans included in their “Contract with America”? Republicans would face stiff Democratic opposition to such an amendment, but the GOP may also have to answer how they would close budget deficits if the amendment somehow became law. They certainly wouldn’t increase revenue. Instead, it would require even steeper spending cuts$1.2 trillion more than even Paul Ryan envisioned in his budget. The Ryan budget already takes such a huge cut from programs for low-income Americans that it is hard to see how another $1.2 trillion in cuts wouldn’t need to come from defense spending or Social Security. Those are two areas Republicans don’t want to touch.

All this speculation may be moot. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to offer an opinion on the proposed manifesto, according to Politico, while John Cornyn, the Senate minority whip, argued against it. “Even if we have a good election, President Obama is still going to be president,” Cornyn said. “I don’t think we should be in the business of overpromising.”

If only the party took that advice more often.

 

By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Dehumanizing Stew Of Self-Pity”: Concerning PUAs And Their Twisted Legacy

Was alleged Isla Vista mass murderer Elliot Rodger “driven” to commit his monstrous crimes by the narcissistic and misogynist ideology of sexual grievance he so obviously embraced? I don’t know. But it’s probably a good thing that this tragedy has cast a light on the subculture from which Rodger emerged, largely unknown outside its own ranks and that of the (mostly) feminists who have tried to draw attention to it. At the American Prospect over the weekend, Amanda Marcotte offered the best brief recap of the world of PUAs, or Nerds Gone Very Bad, as revealed in videos Rodger posted on YouTube (warning: some relatively mild sexual terms ahead):

This video and others that Rodger put on his YouTube channel were full of language that was immediately recognizable to many: He was speaking the lingo of the “pick-up artist” (PUA) community that feminists have been raising alarms about for many years now, arguing that it’s a breeding ground for misogynist resentment and may even be encouraging violence against women.

“Alpha,” PUA lingo for a dominant male, was in the video threatening the mass murder. Rodger identified as an “incel,” which means “involuntarily celibate,” a term that was developed on web-based bulletin boards devoted to PUA enthusiasts that weren’t finding much luck getting laid. His theories about what “women” are thinking and why they are denying him the sex he felt entitled to came straight out of the theories of mating and dating that underlie the entire concept of PUA. He followed many PUAs on YouTube and was a frequent poster at forums that purported to analyze PUA theory.

Pick-up artistry is a huge, if generally ignored industry, with self-appointed PUAs selling an endless stream of videos, books, and seminars purporting to teach “the game,” which is invariably packaged as a surefire way for men who learn it to get laid. PUAs like to portray themselves to outsiders as doing nothing more than trying to provide dating advice to men, in an environment where most dating advice is aimed at women. But there’s one major difference. Dating advice of the sort you find in Cosmo magazine and other women’s media usually starts from the premise that the advice-seeker has flaws that need to be fixed in order to make her more attractive. But pick-up artistry argues that men who can’t get laid are fine the way they are, and it’s women—the entire lot of them—who are broken. And that by accepting that women are the ones to blame here, the student of PUA can finally start getting the sex he feels entitled to.

Most PUA philosophy is based in a half-baked pseudo-scientific theory of the genders derived from evolutionary psychology. The argument is that women are programmed to overlook “nice guys”, sometimes called “betas,” who are gentlemanly and kind and and instead are drawn to cocky assholes who mistreat them, usually nicknamed “alphas,” Often, women are accused of “friend zoning” the betas, exploiting them for companionship and gifts while getting sexual satisfaction from the alphas. (It’s taken as a given that “alphas” are bad men who can’t treat a woman right and “betas” are nice, though the seething misogyny of many self-identified betas gives lie to that notion.)

There’s no scientific evidence to support this theory, but since it allows adherents to believe themselves to be unimpeachable victims and to blame women for their loneliness, it remains wildly popular, so much so that men seeking non-misogynist dating advice cannot find it in a sea of PUA literature.

If there’s anything more alarming than the PUA “community,” it’s the anti-PUA “community” of men who’ve tried some of the “tricks” for manipulating women into sex and have failed, making them even more confirmed in their hatred and fear of women and even more convinced denying women sexual self-determination is the key to their own happiness. That’s the milieu in which Elliot Rodger spent much of his time, and it’s hardly surprising his 141-page “manifesto” reflects it in every particular. Here’s the beating heart of his complaint:

Women are incapable of having morals or thinking rationally. They are completely controlled by their depraved emotions and vile sexual impulses. Because of this, the men who do get to experience the pleasures of sex and the privilege of breeding are the men who women are sexually attracted to… the stupid, degenerate, obnoxious men. I have observed this all my life. The most beautiful of women choose to mate with the most brutal of men, instead of magnificent gentlemen like myself.

This pathetic stew of self-pity, cultural backlash, half-baked evolutionary biology, and fantasy-projection is typical of the PUAs in a way that, say, the utterances of the Unabomber were never typical of even the most radical of environmentalists:

This sort of rhetoric is fairly common on some of the more embittered PUA forums, and the “men’s rights” forums that have quite a bit of overlap with them. (Jaclyn Friedman wrote about the “men’s rights” (MRA) movement for the Prospect, which you can read here.) The argument that it’s not women who are oppressed, but men who are kept down by women’s “unfair” systems of distributing sexual favors (for PUAs and MRAs, sex is a commodity, not really an activity) is the central organizing principle of both pick-up artistry and “men’s rights” organizing, so much so that the main text of “men’s rights”—Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power—features a woman’s naked butt on the cover, to drive home how men are supposedly helpless pawns of women’s game of sexual distribution.

Without–again–saying these twisted beliefs “caused” Rodger’s alleged acts, it’s troubling enough to know that there are a significant number of men in our society who harbor these toxic and dehumanizing attitudes towards over half the human population. It’s also illuminating in the sense of reminding us that the emancipation of women–far from complete as it is–has represented the demolition of a patriarchal system of enormous psychological as well as economic, political and religious power, which will not give up without a bloody fight.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Violence Against Women, War On Women | , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Judge In The Hand Is Worth…”: Judge Who Stopped Wisconsin Campaign Finance Probe Tied To Koch-Funded Junkets

The federal judge who ordered an end to an investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups during two recent recall elections regularly attended expenses-paid judicial conferences sponsored by conservative organizations including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — groups that have funded efforts against campaign finance reform.

In a 26-page decision issued on May 6, Judge Rudolph Randa of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin ordered prosecutors to immediately halt its long-running investigation into the campaign spending and fundraising activities of Walker, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups. Prosecutors were trying to determine whether the Walker campaign and the conservative groups were illegally coordinating campaign strategies at the time of the 2011 and 2012 recall elections in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth spent millions on ads during Wisconsin’s recall elections, supporting the governor’s collective-bargaining reforms. It requested that the federal court stop the investigation, claiming that the probe violated the group’s constitutional right to free speech.

Randa wrote in his decision that the Wisconsin Club for Growth had found a way to get around campaign finance laws. “That circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted,” the decision said.  “Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech.”

As the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy first reported, Randa has regularly attended expenses-paid judicial conferences hosted by George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center and funded by right-wing foundations like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and large corporations like ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical and Pfizer.

A Center for Public Integrity investigation last year revealed that conservative foundations and corporate giants were the most frequent sponsors of George Mason judicial conferences, which often serve state and federal judges a steady dose of free-market, anti-regulation lectures.

Most recently, court records show, Randa reported attending an October 2013 judicial conference hosted by the university’s Law & Economics Center. The three-day conference, titled “Antitrust Law & Economics Institute for Judges,” was sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John William Pope Foundation, among other conservative groups, corporations and individuals.

Previously, Randa attended George Mason judicial conferences in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth’s director, Eric O’Keefe, has connections to the Koch brothers.  Michael Grebe, the Bradley Foundation’s president and CEO, chaired Gov. Walker’s 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns.

A woman who answered the phone in Randa’s chambers Tuesday said he would not comment on cases that are still pending.

In siding with the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Randa told prosecutors to return all of the property seized during their investigation and to destroy copies of documents they obtained during their searches.

A day after his ruling, however, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Randa’s order ending the investigation, ruling that the judge overstepped his authority when he ordered that prosecutors destroy documents.

 

By: Chris Young, The Center for Public Integrity, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Scott Walker, Wisconsin Recall | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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