Monday, January 28, 2013

Catnip 1/28/13: Soon to be Dawn

Ferry Building Sunrise

Special focus on Congressional Republicans today...

Paul Ryan Embraces Spending Cuts He Said Would Devastate The Country
During an interview on Meet The Press on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) predicted that the sequester cuts are “going to happen” and made no concrete proposals for how to avoid the reductions. The tone represents a sharp rhetorical and policy shift for the onetime GOP vice presidential nominee, who warned during the 2012 presidential campaign that the cuts would “devastate” the country and undermine job growth.

Ryan: GOP Won’t Shut Down Government Over Budget Goals 
Ryan, the House Budget chairman, signaled that even though Republicans will push hard for spending cuts, they are “more than happy” to continue spending at levels written into law if the alternative is a government shutdown.... The budget chair said Republicans have no interest in raising revenues, either via higher tax rates or reforming deductions and loopholes, insisting that spending is the problem.

The GOP Searches for a New Strategy — in All the Wrong Places
In 2012, the Republican Party was hurt by its positions on immigration, abortion, gay rights, contraception, climate change and social-spending programs. Fidelity to these positions will only cripple it further over time, as the U.S. becomes more socially liberal and less white. Moneyed conservative outside groups and a GOP base that has lurched to the right lately are prepared to punish dissidents. Which is why it is no surprise that even now, in this period of reflection on the party’s failures, the GOP is letting its policies go largely unexamined.

Republicans think the sequester gives them leverage. They’re wrong. Now that Republicans have delayed the debt ceiling for three months, their next point of attack, they say, are the deep spending cuts in the so-called “sequester.” House Speaker John Boehner told the Wall Street Journal editorial board that the sequester is “as much leverage as we’re going to get.” He meant that to sound reassuring to conservatives. But I can’t figure out why they’re reassured... Having lost an election, and having tied themselves to a no-tax pledge, they’re so desperate for leverage, so desperate for a hostage they can actually shoot, that they’re willing to point the gun at their own head and threaten to pull the trigger.

Threat of automatic cuts costly to federal agencies 
The drastic $85 billion in automatic spending cuts Congress approved in hopes of heading off another deficit showdown may or may not occur, but federal agencies say the threat has been disrupting government for months as officials take costly and inefficient steps to prepare. A National Weather Service official is planning to shut down radars on sunny days in the South — and crossing his fingers that no unexpected storms pass through. New federal grants for medical research are being postponed, resulting in layoffs now and costly paperwork later. And military leaders, who are delaying training for active and reserve forces, are trying to negotiate millions of dollars in penalties that the Defense Department is incurring from canceled contracts.

Paul Krugman: U.S. has ‘running room’
Paul Krugman on Monday said the deficit isn’t his top concern and called for President Barack Obama to stay focused on job creation. “We still have substantial running room,” Krugman, the economist and New York Times columnist, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Advanced countries with stable governments — which I think we have, though I’m not entirely sure —that borrow in their own currency have a lot of running room. On my list of things to worry about, the long-term deficit is probably number five, number six.”

More Krugman: Makers, Takers, Fakers
Like the new acknowledgment that the perception of being the party of the rich is a problem, this represents a departure for the G.O.P. — but in the opposite direction. In the past, Republicans would justify tax cuts for the rich either by claiming that they would pay for themselves or by claiming that they could make up for lost revenue by cutting wasteful spending. But what we’re seeing now is open, explicit reverse Robin Hoodism: taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich. That is, even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.

E.J. Dionne Jr: The urgency of growth
The moment’s highest priority should be speeding economic growth and ending the waste, human and economic, left by the Great Recession. But you would never know this because the conversation in our nation’s capital is being held hostage by a ludicrous cycle of phony fiscal deadlines driven by a misplaced belief that the only thing we have to fear is the budget deficit.

Why President Obama is right about the GOP 
“Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it,” the president said. “It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again.”... While GOP strategists might dismiss Obama’s analysis of the way forward for their side as overly simplistic, there is considerable truth in what he says. And the direction the party decides to head on that very question will be a telling indicator of the nature of both the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 Republican primary fight.

Democrats, tea party unite vs. Mitch McConnell 
Tea party activists looking to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary may get some help from an unlikely source: Democrats. Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.

Boehner pledge to committee chairmen may cause logistical problems
Boehner recently told his colleagues he will no longer negotiate one-on-one with President Obama on high-stakes fiscal issues. Instead, he will return to “regular order,” meaning House GOP policymaking will start at the committee level. Returning power to committee chairmen on the debt-limit extension, sequester and funding the government has been praised by Republicans. But the workability of the strategy will be tested, given fast-approaching deadlines on those thorny matters. Boehner’s promise to allow the House to “work its will” has different meanings to different Republican lawmakers.

Beyond Selma-to-Stonewall 
Now that Mr. Obama has declared that he believes denying gay people the right to wed is not only unfair and morally wrong but also legally unsupportable, the urgent question is how he will translate his words into action. To start, he should have his solicitor general file a brief in the Proposition 8 case being argued before the Supreme Courtin March, saying that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Why Old Age Could Kill American Unions 
And yet, things stand to get much worse in the coming years, whether or not red state politicians keep passing right-to-work laws or factories go on another spree of layoffs. You see, unions aren't just shrinking: They're getting older. Significantly older. The graph below looks at the composition of union members by age over the past decade. Today, almost a quarter of union members are older than 55, up from around 15 percent in 2002.

The Time for a Polite Green Revolution Has Passed 
Whatever policy approach is next embraced, the path to meaningful action will require a fundamental paradigm shift. Climate is the defining issue of our generation. Yet it has not been dealt with directly in the United States because solving this problem will require confronting market capitalist forces that are considered fundamental to the American way of life. As Naomi Klein has noted, lowering global carbon emissions to the level that scientists advise will be achieved "only by radically reordering our economic and political systems." History teaches us that such dramatic change requires a visionary president unafraid to use the power of the executive office to take on deeply entrenched interests.

Shale gas boom now visible from space 
Oil companies at the heart of the US shale oil boom are burning off enough gas to power all the homes in Chicago and Washington combined in a practice causing growing concern about the waste of resources and damage to the environment. The rapid increase has made the US one of the world’s worst countries for gas flaring. The volume of gas flared in the US has tripled in just five years, according to World Bank estimates and is now fifth highest in the world, behind Russia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.

Drought is killing trees across the Midwest 
Hundreds of thousands of trees died in the historic drought of 2012, and many more will succumb in the next few years, scientists say... Indiana's white cedar and Florida cypress trees began dying in late summer, she says, and Alberta and Colorado blue spruce are succumbing now... A drought outlook released Jan. 17 by the federal Climate Prediction Center projected that drought conditions are likely to remain entrenched through April and could get worse in the Plains, Rockies and Southwest.

UC Berkeley: Students campaign for fossil fuel divestment 
UC Berkeley students are calling for the university to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of a nationwide environmental campaign to stop climate change. Environmental student groups have partnered with organizations such as in asking the campus administration to freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest within five years from direct ownership of funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.