20 February 2014
Of the myriad races conducted during the 2012 election, one little noticed one I was keeping an eye on was the Puerto Rican status referendum. While everyone else was paying attention to Obama v Romney, the citizens of this Caribbean archipelago, in a non-binding plebiscite, suggested that they would like to become the US's 51st state. Fifteen months later, is America any closer to stitching another star on to its flag?
The story begins around the turn of the 20th century, when the US entered a rather imperialist phase of its history, and, after winning the Spanish-American War, found itself in possession of, among others, the Greater Antilles island group called Puerto Rico. The US, growing uncomfortable with behaving like one of the old empire-building nations of Europe, eventually set about divesting itself of its colonies, or at least establishing a formal mutually agreeable relationship with them, as it did with Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. But Puerto Rico is an odd case.
The Supreme Court’s legal decision in Downes v. Bidwell (1901) became the first of the now-infamous Insular Cases. By allowing McKinley and Congress to implement protective tariffs upon Puerto Rican goods rather than granting them free access to the American market, the decision “decreed” that the Constitution “does not follow the flag.”
In The "Insular Cases" and the Emergence of American Empire, Bartholomew Sparrow has reminded us how the Supreme Court’s decisions had long-lasting ramifications for American imperialism. As late as 1922, in Balzac v. Porto Rico, the Supreme Court held that Puerto Ricans, while U.S. citizens, were not guaranteed the rights of the U.S. Constitution.
Marc goes on to explain the continuing relevance today:
If the Insular Cases still aren’t ringing any bells, they should: they recently played a crucial role in dealing with detainees held in U.S. military detention in Guantanamo Bay after September 11; and to this day they are still used to deny Puerto Ricans constitutional rights guaranteed to the rest of American citizens.
Those constitutional rights include the right to vote for president — although Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship in 1917, they can only exercise their suffrage if they move to the mainland. And while Puerto Ricans do have Congressional representation, it is in the form of a single non-voting delegate, rather than through representatives assigned proportionately by population. The upshot of all this, as Marc goes on to say, is:
Puerto Rico has remained a phantom limb of the American body politic — not quite an American state, not quite a U.S. colony, and not quite a sovereign nation. “The kind of imperial colonial status created at the turn of the century has never been eradicated,” notes Roger Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
That's why, in 2011, the United Nations' Special Committee on Decolonization told the US to hurry up and figure out exactly what its relationship with Puerto Rico was. The ensuing 2012 vote asked Puerto Ricans two questions: should the territory maintain its current status with the US (51 per cent said no) and should it subsequently seek statehood (44.6%), complete independence (4.05%), or sovereign free association with the US (24.33%), in a similar relationship to that America has with Micronesia, Palau, or the Marshall Islands.
Prior to the vote, both the Democratic and Republican parties held the formal position that the US should respect the wishes of the Puerto Rican people. After the vote, the White House said that it would indeed like to begin the process of welcoming Puerto Rico as the 51st state:
"To clarify, the results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question," White House spokesman Luis Miranda said. "Now it is time for Congress to act and the administration will work with them on that effort, so that the people of Puerto Rico can determine their own future."
Under the Constitution, it's Congress's responsibility to admit new states into the Union, and over the past year, it seems to have abrogated that responsibility. Few people seemed to care that a territory of 3.5 million people had requested the United States grant them the full privileges of citizenship, and the US was apparently willing to ignore that request. (It didn't help that at the same election in 2012, Puerto Rico elected a new governor, Alejandro García Padilla, who doesn’t support statehood.)
Good news, however! The Senate has introduced a bill seeking to conduct a binding referendum on the statehood question. The bill is sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and is identical to a House bill introduced last year by Puerto Rico's non-voting member Pedro Pierluisi, who belongs to the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.
This is an important next step, but there's still a long way to go. The issue of Puerto Rican statehood hasn't received much attention in the US media; are Americans, currently divided by a dispute over the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants who are distinguished in the popular consciousness as Latino, ready and willing to admit a majority Spanish-speaking state? And would partisan concerns present end up presenting an insurmountable obstacle?
Pierluisi says his bill is bipartisan, and the Republicans have historically said they wish to follow the Puerto Rican people's wishes. But would the GOP stick to that view if it meant introducing a swathe of new Democratic voters into the electorate?
Making Puerto Rico the 51st state would add two senators and six to eight representatives.
“These representatives are almost always Democrats and it would change the balance of power,” [Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a policy analyst on Latin America at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute] said. “For the same reason Republicans don’t want to give away their power in Washington, they are opposed to Puerto Rico becoming a state.”
As Hidalgo points out, Republicans have prevented moves to give the overwhelmingly Democratic-aligned citizens of Washington DC voting representation in Congress. Democracy and self-determination are dearly held values in the United States. Are the members of Congess willing to adhere to those principles even if it comes at personal political cost?
19 February 2014
- Will Arkansas start kicking people off Obamacare?
Reporting from Arkansas this week has focused on the apparent success Democrats had in securing Senate votes for passage, and the defeat in the House isn't yet seen as the end of the program. But if it is, it's a watershed: a state expanding coverage under the ACA, then rolling it back.
- Which American city has the most homegrown residents?
- Should we think of the American Revolution as a civil war?
Once we consider the American Revolution as a civil war, it’s easier to integrate the broader world of violence and division that often gets left out of the Revolutionary narrative: the Regulator movements of South and North Carolina, the march of the Paxton boys, land riots in Maine and New York, separatist movements in Vermont and Franklin, and the rural insurrections that swept the west up to the conquest of the Whiskey Rebels in 1794. As imperial sovereignty broke down, first in the borderlands and then in the heart of the colonies themselves, it left a disparate set of ex-colonists to construct new forms of authority. They did so in overlapping and piecemeal ways, creating struggles in the process that would continue for decades and centuries. New authorities won the allegiance of anxious Americans by offering protection for persons and property: in doing so, they promised to crush Indians and open new land for white ownership; in the south, they fought to restore the slave regime and reverse the effects of the slaves’ own “revolution within a revolution.” Among themselves, they struggled to allocate power—and to locate sovereignty—within the federal union.
- Barack Obama apologises for insulting art historians.
- The five last stand-alone diners in Manhattan.
18 February 2014
LBJ: I mean sure, there's that whole Vietnam thing. Take that away and he's a titan and a totally unexpected one. Alas.— Erik Loomis (@ErikLoomis) February 17, 2014
- The future of Congressional polarisation.
Mathematically, partisan polarization in Congress cannot continue to expand indefinitely. But there are several directions that polarization could take in the coming years. Probably most unlikely is a “hot” decline in polarization caused by a breakup of the party system (as occurred before the Civil War) sparked by some calamity like a major economic crisis. More likely would be a “cooling off” period in which one or both parties respond to electoral pressures by gradually shifting back to the ideological center, most likely via replacement (i.e., nominating more moderate candidates). Of course, polarization has been the norm in Congress throughout most of American history–it was the depolarized era in the mid-20th century that was the aberration–and perhaps it is more realistic to expect that congressional polarization may essentially stabilize at or near current levels for the foreseeable future. Indeed, it could even worsen if Democrats begin to mirror the Republicans’ jump away from the center with the rise of unabashed progressive politicians like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the possibility of greater popular support of European-style social democratic programs.
- "...our policy is color-blind but, our heritage isn't."
The face of Trayvon Martin is always with me, trapped in the amber of youth. What is bracing about these regular deaths is how easily I can slot myself into the same circumstance. Follow me in a Jeep, then follow me on foot and we might come to blows. Demand that I turn down my music, at 17, and you might well not like my response. And I do not think this is a fact of black magic, of pathologies, of my culture. I think it is product of 17. I ride the trains in New York and I see boys of all colors who are very loud, because they finally can be, and no one can stop them. I see them and smile, and remember my own days back in Baltimore, my first freedoms, talking shit and being out in the world.
- Presidents Day reminder: There's a weird male skew among White House occupants.
It’s not that women haven’t tried. Most people don’t know that the first woman to run for our highest office was Victoria Woodhull, way back in 1870, 50 years before women got the vote.
Undaunted by the fact that women could not vote and that she was not yet old enough to legally become president, Woodhull traveled the country campaigning for two years before the election. Her speeches not only advocated the vote, but also birth control, “free love,” and other positions that were a century ahead of her time.
- A history of the area code.
When it came to creating the area codes for the country, the engineers also made their plans with maximum efficiencies in mind. New York, the most densely populated area of the nation, got 212—2-1-2 containing the lowest number of clicks possible on the rotary phone. Los Angeles got 213—the second-lowest—while Chicago got 312, and Detroit got 313. Anchorage, Alaska, on the other hand, got 907, which required 26 clicks from the person doing the dialing. To make the system even more efficient and human-confusion-proof, engineers also ensured that codes resembling each other (say, Oregon's 503 and Florida's 305) were distributed far apart from each other on the map.
17 February 2014
- On the killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn.
I wish I had something more to say about the fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted for killing a black boy. Except I said it after George Zimmerman was not convicted of killing a black boy. Except the parents of black boys already know this. Except the parents of black boys have long said this, and they have been answered with mockery.
- American political parties: networked, not fragmented.
The network structure makes it difficult to know just who is in charge of the party at any given point, or even who is a member of it. Is the tea party part of the Republican Party right now? Probably. But what about Rush Limbaugh? The Club for Growth? Megyn Kelly? Karl Rove? Any one of these individuals or groups may be influential over whom the party nominates for office, but determining the chain of command can be very challenging, especially when they battle each other for influence.
- Democrats are looking to increase the minimum wage for waitstaff.
Under federal and state laws, restaurant owners can pay servers and other tipped employees less than the standard minimum wage — and as little as $2.13 per hour — leaving diners to make up the difference through gratuities. Under heavy lobbying from the restaurant industry, the federal tipped minimum wage hasn't been raised from $2.13 in more than 20 years.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) would raise the standard minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and peg it to inflation, while setting the tipped minimum wage at 70 percent of that rate, in perpetuity. The tipped minimum wage is currently just 29 percent of the standard minimum.
- The return of public-interest journalism.
Despite their differing origins and sources of funding, however, the Marshall Project and First Look Media share one thing in common: a commitment to high-quality, independent journalism, which tackles serious subjects and, when necessary, upsets powerful interests. In an era when it’s widely believed that online journalism has no place for in-depth reporting and muckraking, these developments caution against blanket statements.
Public-interest journalism is still under threat, especially at the local level, where cutbacks in editorial budgets have decimated many newsrooms. But it’s not finished yet. The Internet, while it undercuts the traditional media model, opens up interesting new possibilities. An explosion of information from official and unofficial sources has provided more raw material for reporters and commentators, especially in specialist areas such as finance, technology, and the law. And part of what the Internet takes away in advertising revenues it gives back in lower production costs, new formats for telling stories, an expanded potential audience, and alternative sources of funding.
In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors — C. Duane and Phyllis Ross — and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger in the August primary, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.
14 February 2014
- Kentuckians like Obamacare, still don't like Obama.
But if Obama loves Kentucky, the feeling is not mutual. A poll released over the weekend of the state’s voters found that just 34 percent of Kentuckians approve of the president, similar to the 38 percent here who voted for him in 2012. (Mitt Romney won 60 percent.) That same survey found that 49 percent of Kentucky voters want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite its success in the Bluegrass State, compared to 44 percent who did not.
- Republicans seem receptive to Obama's MyRA proposal.
When President Barack Obama introduced a new retirement savings plan during his State of the Union speech last month, the Republican response was uncharacteristically muted. Although Republicans were upset about the president’s new reliance on executive authority to push his agenda, they had few harsh words about the details of the retirement idea.Dubbed MyRA, Obama’s initiative is intended to allow workers who do not have access to other workplace savings plans to open an account overseen by the government that would invest in low-risk Treasury bonds. It’s a relatively modest proposal, one that would be entirely voluntary for employers and employees and would only guarantee low returns to minimize risk.
- Americans are increasingly in favour of normalising relations with Cuba.
A new Atlantic Council poll finds that 56 percent of Americans favor normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba. In Florida, traditionally considered the bastion of vehemently anti-Castro Cuban voters, it’s 63 percent. In Miami it’s 64. Democrats show greater support for lifting the embargo, but even 52 percent of Republicans now want normalization. A much smaller sample of voters of Cuban descent shows support for normalization over 70 percent.
- Wendy Davis's uphill battle for the Texas governorship.
“Women who have succeeded in politics have ranged from the calm, even sedate, problem solvers (Kay Bailey Hutchison and Susan Combs) to the more boisterous and gruff (Ann Richards and Carol Rylander),” Jillson says. “What you do not find in Texas, except in some fairly yeasty pockets, are feminist movement politicians.”
That may be part of the problem for Davis. “Wendy Davis’s strategic dilemma is that she came to broad public attention as a feminist movement politician with her famous filibuster against more stringent restrictions on abortion, but she knows she has to run her campaign on issues like education, roads, and water – mundane stuff that does not scare moderate suburban women away from her candidacy,” Jillson says. “The very effective, but entirely predictable, attack on her life story has stopped her transition from feminist fighter, (so-called) ‘abortion Barbie’ …to moderate, pragmatist and problem solver in its tracks.”
- Sizing up Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the White House.
But voters, we know from a long line of research, don’t really focus on these things when deciding on their next president. Their main concerns are the status of the economy, the presence or absence of war, and the perceived moderation of the candidates. If the economy is growing reasonably well in 2016, if we are not engaged in a massive bloody war, and if Clinton is not perceived as excessively ideological (relative to her Republican opponent), she’ll have a very good shot of winning the general election. A recession that year would likely doom her or any other Democratic presidential candidate. To a modest extent, her campaign skills and organization may make a difference (and there the view is mixed, as she may have both the Obama ground game people and the Mark Penn micro-trends people under the same tent).
13 February 2014
- Democrats' 2014 campaign strategy: Keep Obama away.
Obama’s unpopularity could cost Democrats the Senate, but vulnerable incumbents need the full resources of the White House to hang onto the majority. So the president and party leadership are exploring how to deploy Obama and his team in a way that minimizes complications for Democrats in places like Colorado, Georgia or Kentucky where his polls are underwater. The White House also needs to buck the historic trend of the president’s party losing seats in the midterm election of his second term.
- How politicians are dodging campaign finance laws.
Some candidates are also conveniently sharing video footage for potential use by independent groups for television ads through links that are sometimes difficult to find unless you know where to look.
For example, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley is running for the open Senate seat in Iowa. BruceBraley.com/video includes a trio of b-roll videos, but the webpage is found only by a small link at the bottom of the main page.
Need video of Braley talking with old people? No problem. There’s “Bruce Braley Stands With Iowa Seniors” — one minute and 23 seconds of gripping b-roll of the congressman with senior citizens layered with smooth elevator music, unencumbered by audio of Braley or a narrator actually talking.
- The problem with Congress's vote on restoring its military pension cuts.
True, that’s not huge bucks in the scheme of things. But the violation of this budget principle should not be taken lightly. A key point of the budget machinations that brought us to where we are today is that automatic spending cuts should be split between evenly between defense and non-defense (forget for a moment, that it’s not the discretionary side of the budget that’s responsible for our longer term fiscal challenges anyway). If Congress starts stealing from domestic programs to boost defense, it will unfairly and unwisely exacerbate already unsustainable pressures on domestic spending.
- Nevada is no longer defending the constitutionality of its ban on same-sex marriage.
The Nevada case in the Ninth Circuit is one of the furthest along among cases unfolding in federal appeals courts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in United States v. Windsor striking down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal marital benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married. Although the Court’s ruling did not settle whether states could constitutionally ban gay and lesbian marriages, a lengthening string of lower court rulings has interpreted the decision at least to seriously imperil the validity of such bans, if not to doom them outright.
- Is there a place for local news in America's burgeoning new journalism projects?
What are the implications for local coverage and civic engagement? The cratering of newspapers’ business models has led to a well-documented decline in local and state coverage as well as a corresponding surge of interest in mission-oriented nonprofits and other digital startups attempting to fill the void. But even the best, most engagement-oriented of these sites, like Voice of San Diego and Texas Tribune, represent the unbundling of state and local news from the rest of the newspaper.
13 February 2014
This is a good point from Dave Weigel:
[T]his is a useful hook for reminding the pundit class of how many people weren't influenced by the Reagan presidency. To have cast a vote for Reagan, in any of his races, you had to be born before November 1966. You'd be turning 48 this year. Fifty-four percent of the electorate is your age or older, but only about 40 percent of the overall population. Come 2016, there'll be as many voters who weren't old enough to vote for Reagan as voters who were. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz—all of them fit in that category. And yet our pundits still talk about a successful Republican, one who cuts into the liberal and independent white vote, as one who wins "Reagan Democrats." It's weird. It's like saying, when the Democrats won back Congress in 2006, that they had won back "Nixon Democrats."
Yep. Reagan's memory and ideas might still cat a large shadow over the American political landscape, but as a politician, he's rapidly receding into the realm of history. A lot of things about America have changed since the Gipper was in office — public attitudes on crime, race, drug policy, taxes, welfare — and this shouldn't be a surprise. Amerca has changed because, to a great extent, the collection of people who make up America has changed too.
12 February 2014
- What would Republican reforms to Obamacare look like?
If ACA repeal is near impossible and conservative reform, at least in red states, is near inevitable, how might reform play out? I asked Feyman to consider an interim step: the GOP wins control of the Senate in 2014.
A GOP Senate, Feyman said, "Might start pushing serious reforms. I can imagine them expanding age rating bounds, possibly pulling Medicaid funding from states that have expanded." Would they really take insurance away from millions of people? "They're going to play to their constituency," Feyman said. "As long as red states don't expand, it's feasible." Other options, according to Feyman, might include expanding the age bands to 5-to-1, reducing the cap for subsidy eligibility to 300% FPL (as in CBH), even funding state high-risk pools -- which implies opening the door to some kind of medical underwriting and/or undoing the individual mandate.
- Do voters get tired of politicians?
The big case here would be Ronald Reagan, who did his first film in 1937, 43 years before getting elected president. (Okay, maybe he wasn't "in the public eye" until "Knute Rockne All American" in 1940, but still.) But Drum discounts Reagan's film career, so maybe we shouldn't start the clock until Reagan begins doing his conservative speeches for General Electric in the late 1950s. That's still over two decades before becoming president. His record warning about the dangers of Medicare was recorded in 1961. And keep in mind that in 1984, after being in the public eye for nearly half a century, Reagan won one of the biggest Electoral College landslides in history.
- Eric Holder urges states to stop disenfranchising convicted felons.
There are 11 states that bar people with felony convictions from voting upon release from jail, even after they’ve completed probation or parole. Three states — Virginia, Florida and Kentucky — have a permanent felony disenfranchisement ban pending a successful appeal to the governor, but only after a lengthy application process and waiting period. Virginia began relaxing its felony disenfranchisement laws under its former governor Bob McDonnell and is expected to extend even more restoration rights to former felons under current governor Terry McAuliffe.
- How the US government spends millions to get Americans to eat more pizza.
On an average day, the report notes, pizza provides 6 percent of the total caloric intake for American children and 4 percent for American adults.But there's also a subtle policy angle here. Pizza is popular because it's delicious. But the roaring success of pizza isn't entirely a free-market story. "In recent years, [the USDA] has spent many millions of dollars to increase pizza consumption among U.S. children and adults," explains Parke Wilde of Tufts University.
- Where will the Obama presidential library be located?
The early odds are weighted well in Chicago’s favor. It’s the city the president represented in his first elected office, the place where first lady Michelle Obama spent most of her life and the base for many Obama senior aides, friends and top donors, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff. Two of the three founders of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, launched last week to begin the library planning project, are based in Chicago, while the other has ties to Illinois politics.
12 February 2014
Nothing about the contemporary Republican Party suggests it will grow more comfortable with a changing America. As such, the big question is not how this current crisis will end, but how soon the Tea Party contingent will force the next one.
That's how I ended a column I wrote for SBS Online last October, when the US government had been shut down by GOP intransigence and the country was facing the very real prospect that it might default on its debt. In the end, Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats made credible their refusal to negotiate over Republican hostage-taking, and the GOP surrendered, after inflicting some political cost on the President but much more on themselves. That might explain why, despite the continuing truth of my larger point — Tea Party Republicans are seeing their country transform into a place they do not recognise, and believe intransigence and obstruction to be the only remedy — tactical moderates in the GOP today agreed not to force another debt ceiling showdown:
The House passed a yearlong suspension of the Treasury’s debt limit Tuesday in a vote that left Republicans once again ceding control to Democrats, following a collapse in support for an earlier proposal advanced by GOP leaders.
In a narrow vote, 221-201, 28 Republicans voted with 193 Democrats to approve a “clean” extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority — one without strings attached — sending the legislation to the Senate for a posssible final vote later this week. Two Democrats and 199 Republicans voted no.
This represents a significant shift for a party that, just four months ago, was spoiling for a fight and keen to extract all it could from a president they were persuaded would give in to hardball tactics. Part of the story is that Obama demonstrated he wouldn't back down, as his opponents presumed he would, but the larger story is that the debt ceiling showdown/government shutdown did not benefit Republicans the way they thought it would. Although Americans told pollsters they didn't like government spending and they really didn't want to raise the debt limit, voters blamed the GOP for the shutdown by 22 points. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had the party's favourability rating at an all-time low during the dispute. Forecasters began immediately talking up Democratic prospects for the 2014 midterms.
The Republican Party leadership — and, evidently, enough of its caucus — has clearly decided that winning elections is more important than political purity, at least for the time being. A party that had spent so much of its time worrying about the wrath of primary voters is refocusing on the lure of general election ballots. Not that right wing pressure groups have announced surrender in the party's civil war:
Conservative advocacy groups reacted negatively to Boehner’s plan to bring the clean bill to a vote, with spokesmen for Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth urging members to vote “no” and including the vote on their scorecards, which serve as guides for their supporters. “When we heard that House leadership was scheduling a clean debt-ceiling increase, we thought it was a joke,” said Barney Keller, a Club for Growth adviser. “But it’s not. Something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party.”
The Senate Conservatives Fund, an outspoken tea-party group, blasted Boehner for his eleventh-hour decision in an e-mail, saying “Boehner must be replaced.” They also launched a petition seeking to encourage at least 15 House Republicans to refuse to support Boehner for speaker -- a move that would deprive him of a majority of the House.
Sean Trende demonstrates why the Republican mainstream is turning away from its militant faction:
As a general matter, the journalistic narrative hasn’t yet caught up with the deterioration of the Democrats’ political standing since the early summer. Polls showing tight Senate races in New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan are met with surprise and disbelief. But they are exactly what we’d expect to see given the president’s national job approval rating. I think they’re accurate barometers of the state of the races.
I noted at the end of last year that the Senate playing field in 2014 is substantially worse for Democrats than it was in 2010. If Democrats ultimately suffer losses in marginal seats at the rate they did in 2010, we’d expect them to lose nine to 10 seats. This time, I’m going to take a slightly different tack, and look at these races from the point of view of the president’s job approval.
Basically, Obama's approval rating is slumping — HuffPo's Pollster average has him at 42.4 per cent — and Republicans don't want disputes over the debt ceiling to distract from their argument against the President. They'd prefer the public to be thinking about the mess that was the Obamacare roll-out than to be reminded of the mess that is the Republican Party.
(Incidentally, Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy have an intriguing argument that the slide in Obama's approval rating has been halted and his numbers have actually been trending upward since October. I wouldn't get too excited about it, but if Obama's figures do turn around, it would prove likely that the process has already started and we just haven't noticed yet.)
A couple of other notes:
Yesterday I linked to an Alec MacGillis article praising Paul Ryan's newfound intellectual honesty. A day later, it seems like we shouldn't get too excited about any outburst of responsibility from the vice-presidential nominee (h/t Kevin Drum):
Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted for the increase. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, on the other hand, voted against the bill.
Let's not to be too hard on him though. This is essentially the same vote Obama (didn't) cast as a senator in 2006.
I was excited to see an editorial today from the Wall Street Journal making the eminently sensible suggestion of getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether:
What then? Some Republicans continue to see the debt ceiling as political leverage against President Obama. And once in a great while the debt ceiling has, with a willing President, imposed a modicum of spending discipline. That includes the 2011 sequester deal that lasted two years, and the Gramm-Rudman limits of 1985.
But Mr. Obama vowed after 2011 never again to let Congress use the debt limit to impose spending oversight, and he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have turned every borrowing-limit fight into another media-assisted episode of blame the GOP for risking a debt default. Republicans are never willing to shoot their debt-limit hostage, so the limit has now become Democratic leverage against Republicans. Why continue the pretense of fighting over a debt limit that doesn't limit debt?
Great idea! After all, Congress has already voted to spend the money the debt is required to cover. Why force votes on what is, essentially, a decision to pay a bill the Treasury has already racked up? But then:
Before it created the debt ceiling in 1917, Congress had to vote to approve each new government bond issue, specifying the amount to be borrowed and the terms. This is in stark contrast to today's practice, when Treasury is generally free to borrow at will until it hits the statutory borrowing limit. Congress could repeal the debt ceiling and go back to approving each new debt issue.
Returning to the pre-1917 practice might provide better negotiating leverage to limit taxes and spending. It would also make Congress again directly responsible for government borrowing, returning some political accountability for federal debt accumulation that hasn't existed for nearly 100 years.
Ah. No. The Journal is proposing the equivalent of a debt ceiling fight on every occasion the Treasury issues any bonds at all. And sanity seemed within such close reach...
11 February 2014
- Michael Sam, the NFL's out gay draft prospect.
The story had the potential to be the biggest sports story of the year. This wasn't an active player on the Denver Broncos coming out that affected one team — this was a player who could be drafted by any of the 32 teams. It affected the entire nation, every locker room, every front office, every sports talk show, every sports blog. It would also be a story that resonated throughout the year: later this month at the Combine, next month at Missouri's Pro Day, in May at the NFL Draft, then again this summer at OTAs, training camp and in September when the NFL season starts. The story would be a marathon, but the timing of the first step was crucial.
- Has Paul Ryan discovered intellectual honesty?
But credit where credit is due: on two different fronts so far this year, Ryan has made something of a stand for intellectual honesty and independence of mind, against strong pressures from his own side. The first involves the budget compromise he agreed to with Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat, specifically the provision to reduce cost of living increases for the pensions for retired members of the military while they are still of working age. The move, which is supported by Pentagon brass desperate to get ballooning personnel costs under control, will save $6 billion over 10 years. It will cost the average officer who retires in his early 40s an average of $70,000 or so over the course of his retirement — a total take closer to $1.7 million than $1.8 million, roughly a 3 percent reduction. That’s not an insignificant difference, but it needs to be put in the context of the fact that many retired officers are enjoying long and lucrative careers with military contractors and other private-sector companies upon leaving the military. And, again, the full cost of living increases will kick in once the officers reach 65.
- John Boehner's terrible, horrible, no-good immigration dilemma.
Obama is a convenient piñata for Republican leaders as they waffle on the issue. But he's not their real problem — he has overseen unprecedented deportations, a surge in border security and has relatively few executive orders. And if that were the primary concern, there's a way around it: Make the major provisions of the law take effect after Obama leaves office. Boehner's real problem, as studies suggest, is that tea party voters (who are essential to the GOP base) are uneasy with the changing demographics of the country and see reform — particularly legalization for people living here illegally — as an existential threat to the United States.
- Los Angeles's newest coffee shop: Dumb Starbucks.
So is this a real business?
Yes it is. Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our “coffee shop” is actually an art gallery” and the “coffee” you’re buying is considered the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!
Are you saying Starbucks is dumb?
Not at all. In fact, we love Starbucks and look up to them as role models. Unfortunately, the only way to use their intellectual property under fair use is if we are making fun of them. So the word “dumb” comes out of necessity, not enmity.
- Ted Cruz has a joke about Al Gore.
If it remains cold outside, I predict with 95 percent accuracy that Cruz will make this joke at next month's Conservative Political Action Conference.
- Student roundtable with Ambassador Dennise Mathieu
- Placemaking in Woollahra and Waverley
- Placemaking workshop
- Placemaking as a social movement: What if we built our cities around places?
- Launch of the Future Cities Collaborative
- Book launch: In the Interest of Others
- Developments in Global Oceans Governance and Conservation
- Public Knowledge Forum
- Women in Leadership project launch
- Advanced Biofuels Industry Day at PACIFIC 2013
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City – Part 2
- Minimal. Conceptual. Pop: A symposium on American Art from 1960-80
- The green visitor economy: Sustainability through innovation and strategic partnerships
- Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan
- Farewell reception for US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich
- What MOOCs mean for universities — revolution or evolution?
- The technology enabled higher education revolution
- Agriculture, Soil Health and Climate Change Forum
- Evidence based policy-making: Meeting the challenges
- Food and nutrition labelling: Can information promote healthier choices among consumers?
- Trans-Pacific Partnership and Beyond: Obama's Trade Policy
- US-China relations: Student roundtable with Bonnie Glaser
- US-China relations: Implications for US partners in Asia
- Todd Malan: The impact of US elections on business priorities
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City: Roundtable lunch
- The US Electoral College: An 18th Century Relic in the 21st Century
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Edgard Kagan meets US Studies Centre students
- William H. Janeway student roundtable
- Book Launch: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy
- Investing to promote innovation and sustainability
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City
- Reinventing Fire: Changing the energy rules for a growing economy
- Andrew Hoffman meets with Centre students
- The climate challenge: New business opportunities
- Student roundtable with US Senior Official for APEC Atul Keshap
- Roundtable lunch with US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones
- The US, Australia and China with Kurt M Campbell
- Alliance 21 Education & Innovation: Australia-US Policy Exchange
- G'Day USA 2013: Defence and Security Workshop
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- Low carbon jet fuel: The industry flight path
- AIRSHOW 2013 - Reception at Government House
- New South Wales Advanced Biofuels Industry Roundtable
- Evidence-Based Policymaking
- Australia/US Dialogue on Energy Security
- Dynamics of 21st Century Trade and Investment in the Asia-Pacific: An Australia-US Perspective
- Perth USAsia Centre launch
- Election Day Spectacular
- US Election: America at a crossroad
- Dow Sustainability Program presentation
- The Impact of the US Presidential Election on Australia & the Asia-Pacific
- Green Growth/Advanced Manufacturing
- The Problem with America's Job Market
- Intelligent Strategy
- Republican National Convention speeches live!
- Debate the future of America 2012
- Dr Esther Brimmer: The future of multilateralism
- Prospects for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region
- International Innovation in Higher Education Workshop
- City Revitalisation: Lessons for Sydney and its suburbs
- UPE10 Symposium - Dinner
- 2012 Agriculture and Environment Research Symposium: Soil Security
- Why aren't we talking about soil?
- The role of the media in US Presidential Elections
- Paul Keating: Reflections on the Shift of Economic Gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific United States Studies Centre
- UN Rio+20 Side Event - Responding to the Global Soil Crisis
- NASA: A Presentation
- Entrepreneurship and human rights: Knights Apparel’s ethical business model
- Roundtable Lunch with Kurt Campbell
- Super Tuesday Live!
- Pacific 2012 International Maritime Conference
- Karl and Ching Eikenberry
- US in the World Lecture - with guest Shanto Iyengar
- Bob Carr: Postgraduate Information Evening
- US In the World Lecture with guest Peter Hartcher
- Roundtable Event - Two Perspectives of Sustainable City Development
- Bill Chafe and Ray Nagin: Global America Lecture
- Washington Soil Security meeting
- John Howard: US in the World Lecture
- James Fallows in the US World lecture theatre
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- Graduation Ceremony America: Rebels, Heroes & Renegades
- Jeffrey Bleich: US in the World Lecture
- 2011 United States Studies Debates
- Fault-lines in Immigration Policy: The Harvard-Sydney Immigration Summit 2011
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The Decade Ahead
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Keynote Address by Robert McClelland
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Breakout Sessions Day 2
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - 9/11 at Home
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The US and Asia-Pacific Century
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Roundtable on the 9/11 Decade
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The Freedom Agenda and the Arab Spring
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Breakout Sessions Day 1
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Keynote Address by Allan Gyngell
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Rethinking American Power
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The War(s) on Terrorism
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Australian and American Perspectives
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Welcome
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Cocktail Reception
- Bob Hawke: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Washington DC Internship Program
- American Grace: How religion divides and unites America
- John Howard: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Soil Carbon Stakeholder Workshop
- Reception for US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
- City of the Future
- The Midterm Referendum on Obama
- Welcome reception for United States Consul General
- Jack Miles at the Centre for Independent Studies
- Waiting for the Preacher: Obama’s America in World Religious Context
- The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris
- Intelligence reform in the United States
- Book Launch: Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865
- Ethical supply chains: An executive roundtable
- Jeffrey Schott: Trade policy in the Obama administration and the outlook for Asia- Pacific economic integration
- Race in America, race in Australia: A public forum featuring Glenn Loury, Waleed Aly and Bob Carr
- Workshop on Inequality
- China-US relations: Partners or rivals
- Mark Tushnet: Current issues and controversies in the US
- Gail Fosler: What the financial crisis tells us about ourselves - A US perspective on economic and governance challenges
- Jonathan Greenblatt delivers lecture to undergraduate students
- Peter Katzenstein: Why the clash of civilizations is wrong
- Henry Cisneros on housing and sustainability
- James Hansen: What Australia should do about climate change
- War correspondent Mark Danner in conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Launch of the Dow Sustainability Program
- Sustainable supply chains
- David Brady: The Obama Presidency and the outlook for the coming year
- US Ambassador meets students at the US Studies Centre
- US Business Leadership Forum with Rupert Murdoch
- Celebrating the launch of American Review
- One year of Obama: A discussion with James Fallows, Paul Kelly, Robert Hill and Geoffrey Garrett
- James Fallows: One year of Obama
- Obama: One year in the making
- Meeting of the US Studies Centre Council of Advisors
- Costello discusses post-GFC financial reform
- Jim Johnson: How is Obama responding to the financial crisis?
- Jim Johnson seminar with US Studies students
- US Politics in the Pub: The rebirth of the Republican right?
- Dennis Richardson discusses the state of Australia-US relations
- "US in the World" High school lecture
- 2009 National Summit: Dinner
- 2009 National Summit: John Micklethwait Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Human health and sustainability - What are the challenges for globalisation?
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 2
- 2009 National Summit: Business solves poverty - The new approach to corporate social responsibility
- 2009 National Summit: Corporate social responsibility - How should business behave in the GFC?
- 2009 National Summit: Climate change and energy security - Looking towards the Copenhagen Conference
- 2009 National Summit: Breakfast
- 2009 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 1
- 2009 National Summit: Labour and human rights - Can we afford them in a global financial crisis?
- 2009 National Summit: Malcolm Turnbull Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Governing the global economy - Economic nationalism vs. Bretton Woods 2.0
- 2009 National Summit: Obama's America - Globalisation headaches and protectionist impulses
- 2009 National Summit: Peter Garrett Opening Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- 2009 National Summit: Masterclass
- Thomas Mann: The Obama Administration and its Outlook on the Asia Pacific
- Thomas Mann: The First 100 Days of the Obama Administration
- Robert Burgelman: Leading Strategically in a Turbulent Environment
- Robert Thomson: The Obama Administration and the Actions Shaping the Global Financial Crisis
- Barry Jackson: Evaluating the Obama Stimulus Package
- The Great American Recession: What Does It Mean For You?
- Edward Leamer: The Financial Crisis and the Outlook for the US
- Inauguration Watch: Manning Bar
- Inauguration Watch: Breakfast
- Harry Harding: China in the 21st Century and Policy Implications for Australia, the US and the World
- Christmas Function
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- The President-Elect: What Can We Expect?
- David Brady: The US Under the New President
- Election Day Spectacular
- Michael Parks and Simon Jackman: America at the Crossroads
- 'US in the World' High School Lecture
- Foreign Policy of Obama and McCain: Which is Australia's Gain?
- Mike Chinoy: Global Crisis Points - The War on Terror, Loose Nukes and American Foreign Policy
- James Gibbons: Replicating Silicon Valley - Lessons for Australia
- Vice Presidential Debate Screening
- Visit by the Australian Political Exchange Council’s 25th US Delegation
- Derek Shearer: Obama v McCain - Who Will Win, Does it Matter?
- John Howard Dinner
- McCain's Acceptance Speech: Republican National Convention
- New Horizons: Breaking into the US market
- Sydney Uni Live!
- Obama's Acceptance Speech: Democratic National Convention
- Hedley Bull Book Launch: Address by Bob Hawke
- Great White Fleet Centenary Ball
- Dick McCormack: Global Financial Risk and the Role of Central Banks and Regulators
- Jonathan Pollack: US-North Asia Relations
- Jeffrey Sachs Dinner
- ANZASA Conference
- Peter Scher: Will US Trade Policy Change After the 2008 Elections?
- Peter Scher: The Next President's Challenge - Global Trade and the 2008 Elections
- Matt Bai: US Political Journalism - The Next Generation
- Bob Pisano: Positioning Australian Screen Content in the US Marketplace
- Marvin Goodfriend: The Outlook for the US Economy and the State of the Financial Institutions
- American Foreign Policy After Bush: Frank Fukuyama in Conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Frank Fukuyama Meets US Studies Students
- Frank Fukuyama: Contemporary Issues Facing America
- Super Tuesday screening at the Manning Bar
- 2007 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2007 National Summit: Networking and Research Forum
- 2007 National Summit: America Then, America Now
- 2007 National Summit: Climate Change or Islamofascism
- 2007 National Summit: Dinner
- 2007 National Summit: How Countries Compete
- 2007 National Summit: Will the Next US Foreign Policy Look Surprisingly Like the Current One?
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 2)
- 2007 National Summit: Opening
- 2007 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- Role of Arts and Humanities in Building International Understanding: Harriet Mayor Fulbright
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 1)
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