Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Digby Said

Another installment of What Digby Said, this time on Israel and the US reaction to the invasion of Gaza:
You know, it's one thing for people to dispute whether Israel's incursion into Gaza is disproportionate. It seems obvious to me that it is, but people can argue that in good faith. However, I'm frankly gobsmacked by the cavalier attitude of some Israeli and American politicians, like Michael Bloomberg, who blithely assert that a disproportionate response is exactly the right thing to do:
"The concept of proportional response is one of the stupider things I've ever heard in my life. If it was your family, would you want a proportional response? No, you'd want every single resource to be brought to bear to stop those who are killing innocent people."

Well then genocide and nuclear holocaust are logically on the menu too, eh?
By Bloomberg's logic Israel has the right to turn Gaza, the West Bank, and any number of Arab states into smoking parking lots of blackened glass. Of course, by the same logic, the Arab states and Palestinians have the right to do the same to Israel.

International laws only really work if every actually follows them. When nation-states stop doing so because of political expediency, well...bad things happen.

The New New Deal Deferred

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle today expressed serious doubts about getting Obama's stimulus package ready by the time the President-Elect is sworn in on the 20th.
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, expressed doubt on Sunday that the Jan. 20 goal set by some for getting a stimulus package before the new president could be met.

“It’s going to be difficult to get the package together that early,” he said. Instead, he told “Fox News Sunday,” lawmakers hoped to have it to the new president by mid-February. [Like the others appearing on the day's talk shows, Mr. Hoyer made his comments before it was known that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had withdrawn as the Commerce nominee.]

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, was more cautious about any deadline, saying simply, “We will work this just as quickly as we can.” As to the amount of a stimulus package, he said only, “It’s whatever it takes to bring this country back on a fiscal footing that’s decent.”

But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, agreed with Hoyer that the Jan. 20 goal was impractical.

Mr. McConnell also expressed reservations about the ideas of extending unemployment benefits to part-time workers or expanding government-assisted health care insurance. “Those are very big systemic changes,” he told ABC’s “This Week,” and so warranted public hearings and deliberate bipartisan discussions.

And he raised a caution about the notion that as many as 20 percent of the jobs to be created by a stimulus plan might be in the public sector. “Is that a good idea?” he asked. He also urged Obama to support an immediate middle-class tax cut — possibly lowering the 25-percent rate to 15 percent — saying, “This is the sort of thing we could have bipartisan agreement on.”
It's pretty clear that the stimulus will be held hostage until the GOP and the Blue Dogs get everything they want in it. I would expect we'll still be squabbling over this in June. Considering how fast Bill Richardson was shown the door, I think Obama will happily cave into the GOP demands in the name of expediency.

In other words, the package that does pass will be useless, and Obama will be blamed for it.

[UPDATE] News leaking tonight that Obama will entice the GOP with a $300 billion tax cut.
President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer about $300 billion in tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts -- which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years -- is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated, and may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely relatively heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

Which" individuals" and which "businesses" is the question, but the program appears to be aimed at the middle class.

The largest piece of the overall tax relief would involve cuts for people who pay income taxes or who claim the earned-income credit. It would serve as a down payment on the "Making Work Pay" proposal Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, providing a credit to offset Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes of $500 per individual or $1,000 per family.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama said he would phase out a similar tax-credit proposal at around $200,000 per household, but aides said they haven't settled on an income cap for the latest proposal. This part of the plan is similar to a bipartisan initiative launched in early 2008, which sent out checks worth $131 billion.

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. In effect, this would entitle companies to receive cash from the government that they otherwise couldn't have claimed.

We'll see how this goes over. I'm betting the GOP will want to pass the tax cuts now and will block the other $475 billion in fact, I can almost guarantee it.

Divide And Conquer

Twenty-four hours into Israel's ground offensive, the IDF has split Gaza in half, have surrounded Gaza City, and is claiming it now controls northern Gaza.
Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday, cutting the coastal territory into two and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas militants gained momentum.

The military used overwhelming firepower from tanks, artillery and aircraft to protect the advancing soldiers, and Gaza officials said at least 31 civilians were killed in the onslaught. The military said troops killed several dozen militants, but Gaza officials could confirm only four dead — in part because rescue teams could not reach the battle zones.

The ground invasion and live images of the fighting in Gaza drew international condemnations and dominated news coverage on Arab satellite TV stations, many of which aired footage of wounded Palestinians at hospitals. Hamas threatened to turn Gaza into an Israeli "graveyard."

Thousands of soldiers in three brigade-size formations pushed into Gaza after nightfall Saturday, beginning a long-awaited ground offensive against the area's Hamas rulers after a week of intense aerial bombardment. Black smoke billowed over Gaza City at first light as bursts of machine gun fire rang out.

The ground operation is the second phase in an offensive that began as a weeklong aerial onslaught aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire that has reached deeper and deeper into Israel, threatening major cities and one-eighth of Israel's population.

Politically, Israel's current leadership is toast. Benjamin Netanyahu and the hardliners from Israel's Likud party are waiting in the wings to take over in March on a platform of dramatically increased military action against Hamas. Looks like Tzipi Livni is jumping the gun to save her bacon.

Too bad it's coming at the cost of lives on both sides.

First One Out

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is out as Obama's Commerce Secretary, citing an investigation into a company that has done business with New Mexico's state government.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

"Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact," he said Sunday in a report by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

He said he plans to continue in his role as governor. "I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country."

The obvious question is why Richardson agreed to this in the first place if the investigation was pending, but it's possible the investigation just got under way. Still...Richardson and Obama's team must have known this was a possibility. On the other hand, Richardson is doing the right thing, there's no way the GOP would have allowed his confirmation with this investigation pending.

The other more cynical theory is that with Blagogate, Obama now has a zero tolerance scandal policy and he hasn't even been sworn in yet. Richardson was therefore told to withdraw. That of course leaves a number of controversial cabinet picks that may be withdrawing in the future.

I like Obama, but even I think this is starting to smell bad. Obama clearly didn't have a problem a month ago with Richardson, and neither did Richardson. Now this investigation is too much to handle? Something must have changed besides Blagogate, and that something is bad enough for Obama's team to decapitate Richardson. With talk of Richardson's people in New Mexico going before a grand jury, this one is looking serious enough for Obama to pull the trigger. Either this is a bad apple that had to be picked off the tree, or Obama is cleaning house across the board. Time will tell which this is.

Either way, the GOP can smell the blood in the water and they will now go after Obama's cabinet picks in full force: Eric Holder at Justice, Hilda Solis at Labor, and of course Hillary Clinton at State.

Who will replace Richardson, I wonder?

Franken Time

With the recount all but over, it looks like Al Franken has won election in Minnesota. But the problems are just beginning, and the Land of 10,000 Lakes may be the Land of Only One Senator for quite some time.
Minnesota's other senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune this week that if the state Canvassing Board -- which is tasked with tallying votes -- certifies a winner, the Senate should "consider seating that person pending litigation."

Klobuchar's statement prompted Cornyn, a Republican from Texas and the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to threaten a filibuster to block Democrats from seating Franken before an official certificate is signed by Ritchie and Pawlenty.

The governor and secretary of state are barred by Minnesota law from making the election official until all legal proceedings have been completed.

"It is very clear that the people of Minnesota and the courts in Minnesota should make the decision about who won the Minnesota Senate election and not political leaders in Washington, D.C.," he said.

Klobuchar spokesman Ross Corson told CNN that the senator had only said it would "be an option to look at for the Senate, to consider seating the person who is certified by the Canvassing Board."

The new Congress will be sworn in Tuesday, and it's unlikely a certificate would be signed by then. Speculation over what could happen in the interim included the possibility that the Democratic-controlled body would provisionally seat Franken if he remains in the lead.

"There will be no way that people on our side of the aisle will agree to seat any senator provisionally or otherwise," Cornyn said.

In other words, there's a very good chance that come Tuesday there will be only 98 Senators seated, and Illinois' Roland Burris and Minnesota's Al Franken will not be sworn in.

Related Posts with Thumbnails