Unexcited About The Midterms?

Jul 25 2014 @ 3:39pm

Enthusiasm Gap

You aren’t alone:

The Republican Party holds a clear advantage in voter engagement in this fall’s midterm elections, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center. Yet GOP voters are not as enthused and engaged as they were at this point in the midterm campaign four years ago, prior to the Republican Party winning control of the House of Representatives, or as Democratic voters were in 2006, before Democrats gained control of Congress.

Allahpundit puts the numbers in perspective:

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Don’t Forget Poland

Jul 25 2014 @ 3:20pm

As Marc Champion puts it, “The Council of Europe [yesterday] found the U.S. guilty of torture, illegal detention and administering unfair trials — and made Poland pay the penalty”:

That, in effect, is what happened at the council’s judicial arm, the European Court of Human Rights. The U.S. wasn’t on trial, of course, because it isn’t subject to the court’s jurisdiction. Poland, however, is. Call it the cost of being a loyal U.S. ally.

The case concerned two suspected terrorists the U.S. picked up — Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in Dubai and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husaynin Pakistan — and took on a tour of so-called black rendition sites that ended with Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Poland was among several European countries suspected of facilitating the air flights and providing detention locations at which the Central Intelligence Agency, alone, conducted the questioning.

The seven judges, who included a Pole, found that the Polish authorities did indeed help the CIA, should have known the men would be tortured and denied the right to a fair trial, and did nothing to prevent these things from happening. … The court ordered Poland to pay 100,000 euros ($135,000) in damages to each of the two, who remain imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Poland is like “Black sites? What black sites?”:

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Really? No Benefit Cuts?

Jul 25 2014 @ 2:51pm

Suzy Khimm questions how Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan will pay for itself without them:

While Ryan says his plan is budget neutral, it does not appear to account for the additional cost of hiring case managers, imposing new work requirements, and creating a new bureaucracy to administer them. That could mean less money for benefits and more for services to administer them, said Donna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “There are things about it that sound good, but when you get to the reality of it, it just falls apart,” she said, adding that federal agencies have often struggled to allocate limited resources to staffing and find enough skilled case workers.

“This individualized case management, the work requirements – all of that is really resource intensive. How you’d do that without pulling from resources that help people meet their basic needs?” said Pavetti, CBPP’s vice-president for family income support policy. She points to a state-level program called Building Nebraska Families, which proved effective at moving more welfare recipients to work through intensive home visits, but which was also costly, averaging $7,400 to $8,300 per participant.

In a more comprehensive critique of the plan, Pavetti faults Ryan for ignoring the tradeoffs and limitations it implies:

The case of “Steven,” whom Ryan also highlights, makes the point as well. A single 19-year-old non-custodial father, Steven is jobless and needs help to get off drugs.

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A Gift To Obamacare Foes

Jul 25 2014 @ 2:39pm

This 2012 video of Jonathan Gruber, a key Obamacare architect, is making the rounds:

The line of Gruber’s that stands out:

What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill.

Ed Morrissey pounces:

So is this a smoking gun in the Halbig case? Politically — yes. Legally? It certainly undermines one argument used by the administration to defend payment of subsidies through the federal exchanges, but it may not be entirely dispositive. What matters here is Congressional intent, not Gruber’s, to the extent that the statute itself appears ambiguous.

Aaron Carroll dismisses the video:

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It’s not just in American schools that they slaughter kids. To John Cassidy, the alleged shelling of an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun yesterday underscores the need for an immediate ceasefire:

Alarmingly, hopes for a ceasefire faltered on Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry left a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu without securing an agreement. According to a report in the Washington Post, Netanyahu was furious about a ban on commercial airliners landing in Tel Aviv that the Federal Aviation Administration imposed earlier this week, suspecting that “it was an attempt by the Obama administration to squeeze Israel to end its Gaza campaign.” The flight ban was lifted on Thursday night, but Israel and Hamas gave no indication that they were ready to reach a deal. A senior official for Hamas reiterated that it wouldn’t halt its rocket attacks until Israel agreed to end its blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister, told troops preparing to enter the Strip that the I.D.F. was on the verge of broadening its offensive. “We are preparing the next stages of the fighting after dealing with the tunnels, and you need to be ready for any mission,” Yaalon told the soldiers, according to the Post. “You need to be ready for more important steps in Gaza, and the units that are now on standby need to prepare to go in.” After Thursday’s tragic strike, where can Gaza residents take shelter?

Colum Lynch puts the strike on the school in context:

The tragedy at Beit Hanoun came during a particularly grim week for the United Nations.

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Why Am I Moving Left?

Jul 25 2014 @ 1:40pm


Tom Ricks penned a mini-manifesto of sorts yesterday on why he finds himself moving to the left. He’s always thought of himself as a centrist, but now finds himself drifting further away from American conservatism and Republicanism. Money quote:

I am puzzled by this late-middle-age politicization. During the time I was a newspaper reporter, I didn’t participate in elections, because I didn’t want to vote for, or against, the people I covered. Mentally, I was a detached centrist. Today I remain oriented to the free market and in favor of a strong national defense, so I have hardly become a radical socialist.

But since leaving newspapers, I have again and again found myself shifting to the left in major areas such as foreign policy and domestic economic policy. I wonder whether others of my generation are similarly pausing, poking up their heads from their workplaces and wondering just what happened to this country over the last 15 years, and what do to about it.

Good question, Tom. Like Ricks, I don’t believe my general inclinations politically have changed that much over the years. I prefer smaller government in general; I too believe in a robust defense; I have few issues with the free market; I think marriage and family are critical social institutions; I’m still a believing Christian; I have deep qualms about abortion and abhor affirmative action; I’m a fiscal conservative; want radical tax reform, cuts in unfunded entitlements, and culturally, I’m a libertarian, with a traditionalist streak alongside radical tendencies (so, for example, I both love the Latin Mass and intend to go to Burning Man next month). I haven’t renounced my precocious devotion to Thatcher and Reagan, even as I have out-grown them, as the world has as well.

But I am now regarded as a leftist by much of the right and to some extent, they’re right. In today’s polarized political climate, I have few qualms in backing president Obama over almost anyone in the opposition, and am genuinely insulted these days when some people call me a Republican. Tom laid out several critical issues which have now placed him on the left rather than the right in today’s environment. They’re well worth reading through. Here are my critical reasons, as of now, for wanting the Republicans defeated in any forthcoming elections.

The defense of torture. As disturbing as the deployment of torture by the Bush-Cheney administration was, the continuing refusal of anyone on the right to cop to it and make amends for it is a clear and present danger to our core decency. Calling it something else doesn’t cut it. Violating the sacred honor of the United States and a founding principle of Western civilization because of one man’s panic and extremism cannot be put aside. Today’s conservatism – in stark contrast to Reagan and Eisenhower and every civilized nation on earth – is now intertwined with barbarism. Until they revoke this and become fully accountable for it, I cannot in good conscience be a member of the “right.”

Political brinksmanship. The conduct of the GOP during the Obama administration has been a nihilist disgrace. In 2009, Obama inherited crises on every front: an economy in terrifying free-fall, a bankrupted Treasury, an even more morally bankrupt foreign policy, and two failed wars. He deserved some measure of cooperation in that hour of extreme national peril and need. He got none. From the get-go, they were clearly prepared to destroy the country if it also meant they could destroy him.

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The New (And Improved?) Paul Ryan

Jul 25 2014 @ 1:20pm

In his first take on Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan, Douthat welcomes the Wisconsin congressman into the fold of the reform conservatives:

Taken as a whole, this document basically eliminates the daylight that existed between “Ryanism” and reform conservatism on safety net reform. As I discussed two weeks ago, the reformocon quasi-movement has tended to view some of the projected discretionary cuts in the Ryan budgets as implausible and/or unnecessary, and generally prefers a revenue-neutral overhaul of the safety net that spends more on some programs (an E.I.T.C. expansion or wage subsidy, most notably) while cutting others and devolving others to the states. That’s basically what Ryan is proposing here, in a more detailed form than we’ve seen from any other figure of his stature to date, which means that there is now pretty clear unity (on this set of issues) between the House Budget chairman and the wonks who have praised him on entitlement reform, health care reform and other issues in the past.

Yuval Levin also situates the plan within the reformocon agenda and argues that it speaks to the health of the GOP. “Indeed,” he remarks, “it is becoming harder all the time to sustain the proposition that congressional Republicans aren’t engaged in the country’s major policy debates”:

In just the past year, we have seen proposed two major tax reforms, several pro-market Obamacare alternatives, several major safety-net-reform proposals, a higher-ed-reform proposal, several fundamental federal transportation-funding reforms, and several sentencing-reform proposals, among others. Some Republicans have also begun at last to take on corporate welfare, to rethink financial regulation, and to propose piecemeal immigration reforms that would address key problems discretely rather than in an all-or-nothing package that looks worse than nothing. Some of these proposals have been offered as bills, some have been more like policy papers, and of course none has gotten anywhere near the president’s desk. But has there been another twelve-month period when the minority party in Washington has put forward so many elements of a comprehensive domestic agenda?

The Bloomberg View editors give Ryan a pat on the back for rethinking his views on poverty and the safety net:

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Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 25 2014 @ 1:02pm

The latest round of cover contest:

“All Along The Watchtower” is an answer that’s too perfect, too obvious, to be fun. So I’ll go with Alien Ant Farm’s version of “Smooth Criminal”, which is nothing if not fun:

Another reader:

Thanks for the much-needed and timely mental health break! I usually just lurk and read, but I couldn’t help but send this one, since it came to mind immediately upon reading the contest description - Alanis Morissette covering Black Eyed Peas “My Humps in a slow ballad style:

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How Ukrainian Rebels See The World

Jul 25 2014 @ 12:42pm

Noah Sneider provides a glimpse:

There was hope that the tragedy of MH17 would force Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels to wake up from their post-Soviet fever dream. But following the crash, the parallel realities that exist across eastern Ukraine only became sharper. Prospects for peace have all but disappeared. Among rebels, blaming the Ukrainian forces for downing MH17 is an article of faith. Most locals (fed by the Russian media) agree, seeing it as a plot concocted in Kiev to discredit the separatist movement. And the Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, have pressed their offensive further, both at Saur-Mogila and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

After the recent downing of two Ukrainian fighter jets, Max Fisher sees “no reason to believe that the rebels have become any more cautious or restrained about shooting down airplanes since the MH17 disaster”:

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GOP caucus

Well, at least if you receive public assistance he does. Callie Gable outlines the main features of the anti-poverty plan Paul Ryan released yesterday, the centerpiece of which is the “Opportunity Grant”:

The Opportunity Grant would consolidate several existing aid programs into one funding stream to states, which states would then be required to offer to recipients of means-tested welfare benefits as part of a consolidated recovery and mobility plan. Disadvantaged Americans would each be pared with an individual case worker, with whom they would agree on personalized short and long-term goals (e.g., apply for child support or begin drug counseling) set out in “contracts.” Most important, Ryan is building on the success of the 1990s welfare-reform laws here: A key element of the contracts would be encouraging work, which, currently, only cash welfare requires. Food stamps, federal housing aid, utilities assistance, and more don’t have work requirements — this would essentially mandate that states opting for the Opportunity Grant implement work requirements.

Tyler Cowen is skeptical:

I’m not crazy about the complicated plan to monitor the lives of the poor in more detail (“…work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty.”) And my biggest conceptual objection is the heavy stress on block grants and letting the states figure things out. I’m not opposed to that in principle, and I might even favor it, but I think it’s often the lazy man’s way of avoiding talk about difficult trade-offs.

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