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Posted at 12:26am on Jun. 16, 2007 Answering Andrew Sullivan

Blogfight!

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Andrew Sullivan responds to this post of mine (reproduced here) by saying that "The dynamic of Sunni tribes deciding they cannot tolerate Jihadist foreigners is the only paradigm that will eventually work - just as Iraqi Shiites will have to turn on Persian extremism." He then follows the comment by urging "[a] smart withdrawal that exploits these fissures as they occur." The problem with this analysis is that the NPR story I cite makes it clear that the reason Anbar is turning into a success story is that American troops are cooperating successfully with the sheikhs in Anbar. Each party is instrumental to the fact that Anbar is becoming a beacon of hope in Iraq. So a "smart withdrawal" is in fact nothing of the kind because it removes one of the ingredients to success in Anbar--the American military and the successful partnership it has fostered with the sheikhs in Anbar.

And no, I don't think for a moment that people in general have paid attention to the successes in Anbar or absorbed the broader lessons. Anbar is not a front page story by any stretch of the imagination. It is not even used as a front page rejoinder to the prominent, oft-trumpeted calls for withdrawal that Andrew echoes in his post. I have no problem with an open society such as ours entertaining calls for withdrawal--though I believe such a policy to be misguided to the point of absurdity if carried out at this point in time. But that debate is entirely one-sided right now and the people who bring up success stories like Anbar are drowned out by the hue and cry for withdrawal. Search the front page of any major newspaper, the bulk of any written, televised or radio story (the NPR story I cite being one of the more outstanding exceptions), and one finds this to be the case. I don't know how Andrew thinks otherwise, though I do wish that I could agree with him and thus find that the media was being fairer and more dispassionate in its analyses of Iraq.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 8:23pm on Jun. 15, 2007 Energy Bill Out of Gas

Bill Stalls Over Renewable Energy Provisions

By Mark I

“I suspect that somewhere, the Lorax is changing, his party affiliation.”

While the Senate is in a holding pattern on “comprehensive immigration reform” this week, it is debating an energy bill that seeks to increase the nation’s power utilities’ use of renewable energy sources. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is the chief sponsor of a provision that would require utilities to derive 15% of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, by 2020.

Senate Republicans have been fighting the proposal over concerns that it would lead to higher electricity costs for consumers. Today, they managed to prevent a vote on Bingaman’s proposal.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, the measure's chief sponsor, said the mandate is needed to stimulate expansion of fuel sources other than coal and natural gas. He said if his plan is enacted, greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will fall by nearly 7 percent from levels projected for 2020. […]

By a 56-39 vote, senators rejected a GOP alternative that would have allowed utilities to meet the requirement by also building more nuclear power plants and taking conservation measures.

Republicans balked and refused to allow a vote on Bingaman's measure.

If it’s greenhouse gas emissions that Democrats are looking to reduce, why did they reject the increased use of nuclear energy? Nuclear power is the only greenhouse gas emissions free source of energy. Nuclear is so green that France, of all places, uses it to generate over three fourths of its electricity. So opposed to nuclear power are the Democrats, that they are willing to support the felling of carbon absorbing trees to prevent its expansion.

Read on…

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Posted at 4:05pm on Jun. 15, 2007 Well, At Least Someone's A Leader

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Peter Pace did better by his duties than his bosses did in deciding whether or not to push for his renomination as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

In his first public comments on the Bush administration's surprise decision to replace him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace disclosed that he had turned down an offer to voluntarily retire rather than be forced out.

To quit in wartime, he said, would be letting down the troops.

Pace, responding to a question from the audience after he spoke at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday evening, said he first heard that his expected nomination for a second two-year term was in jeopardy in mid-May. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on June 8 announced Pace was being replaced.

"One thing that was discussed was whether or not I should just voluntarily retire and take the issue off the table," Pace said, according to a transcript released Friday by his office at the Pentagon.

"I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason," which is that no soldier or Marine in Iraq should "think -- ever -- that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.

"That is unacceptable as a leadership thing, in my mind," he added.

Good for the Chairman. Too bad his stand-up example was not followed or appreciated by his superiors.

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Posted at 4:03pm on Jun. 15, 2007 Searching For A Republican Legislative Agenda

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Mallory Factor reminds us of an item that should be near or at the top of any Republican legislative wish list:

Only 1,295 shopping days left until a massive tax increase hits America. That's right: Unless congressional Republicans aggressively focus on extending expiring tax cuts, taxpayers will soon enough be facing the biggest tax hike in American history.

Recall the history here: When President Bush's first tax cuts were enacted in 2001, the president had to agree to a sunset clause providing that, unless extended, the tax cuts would expire at the end of 2010. This unfortunate provision nevertheless helped secure enactment of the tax bill by making the fiscal impact of the tax cuts on the budget seem smaller than it would otherwise have been counted under congressional rules. As for the pro-growth tax cuts on dividends and capital gains passed in 2003, a sunset date originally set for the end of 2008 was extended last year by a Republican Congress to the end of 2010.

But with the Democrats now in control of Congress, the political landscape has drastically changed. Rather than having to actually vote to raise taxes, the Democrats simply have to wait until the money comes to them. Of course, that's your money they want to spend on new government programs, rather than giving it back to you to spend as you desire.

There's a lot at stake here. As bad as higher income and investor tax rates will be, consider the impact on the death tax. This tax has been gradually declining since 2001, and it will reach zero -- where it ought to be -- in 2010. But it will revert to its full, absurdly high pre-2001 rate in 2011. If you're an older American, you may not want to drink that champagne cocktail your children give you on New Year's Eve 2010.

As Factor points out further in the article, there really isn't that much time for the Republicans to effect an extension of the tax cuts. They will have to move fast and to demand at every opportunity that the tax cuts be extended and made permanent. Now that Republicans have proven themselves successful in staring down Democrats over the issue of earmarks, they should get to work on the issue of tax cuts and effect a legislative victory on that front. Not only would that be good policy, it would also position Republicans well for 2008 as efforts are made to recapture the majority in Congress and keep the White House in Republican hands.

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Posted at 4:00pm on Jun. 15, 2007 Defining Trent Lott's Role In The Republican Party

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Trent Lott is very useful as a Republican Whip. He can count votes with the best of them and when answerable to a smart and tough-minded Leader like Mitch McConnell, his negotiating skills and mastery of the rules are very useful for Senate Republicans as they work to deal with a Democratic majority.

Just don't let Trent Lott anywhere around political philosophizing. That doesn't end well:

Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

Yes indeed. How dare the people speak up and comment on what their elected representatives are doing in Washington. The nerve!

Seriously, what possesses people like Lott to make such mind-blowingly arrogant comments? For someone whose job security depends at least in part on coming across as a likable guy, he sure seems to have a problem doing it.

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Posted at 3:59pm on Jun. 15, 2007 Running Room For The Federal Reserve

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Maybe it can see its way towards easing off of interest rates now that this report has come out:

Wall Street barreled higher again Friday after the week's most anticipated economic reading indicated that inflation excluding the price of gas remained tepid last month, easing some concerns that have jolted stock and bond markets in recent sessions. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced about 100 points, nearing its record trading high.

The consumer price index showed prices rose at the fastest pace in 20 months in May as the cost of gas jumped. However, the so-called core personal consumption price index, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, rose a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent. The figure, which the inflation-wary Federal Reserve watches closely, was below the 0.2 percent increase Wall Street expected.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 5.20 percent Friday from 5.23 percent late Thursday after release of the CPI report helped ease emergent concerns that the Fed might raise rather than lower interest rates this year.

The notion of a rate hike gained traction last week when inflation concerns sent the yield on the 10-year note above 5 percent for the first time since last summer. Subsequent spikes in bond yields, which move in the opposite direction as prices, roiled stock markets last week and early this week.

Friday's session follows a two-day surge in stocks that arrived as inflation worries eased. Friday could see added volatility because of the expiration of four types of options contracts -- an occurrence known as quadruple witching.

"Today's numbers showed us that the little spook we had last week and earlier this week was misplaced," said Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management Inc.

In midday trading, the Dow jumped 104.70, or 0.77 percent, to 13,658.42.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 10:31am on Jun. 15, 2007 The Arrogance of Trent Lott

By Bluey

Trent Lott's famous quote attacking the Porkbusters is still prominently displayed on the top of the anti-pork website. When the Mississippi senator quipped that he was "damn tired of hearing from them," little did he know he would inspire a movement that has had a tremendous impact on government transparency and reducing waste. (If you don't believe me, just look at what House Republicans were able to accomplish this week on those two themes.)

Now Lott is at it again, only this time he's tired of hearing from the American people on the immigration bill. (Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt.) It seems Lott would prefer to govern from his ivory tower without ever having to hear a peep from the people who sent him to Washington. Talk about an elitist attitude.

Lott is quoted in today's Washington Post as saying, "I'm sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk-radio people who don't even know what's in the bill." And he offered this gem to the New York Times: "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

So, let me get this straight, Trent Lott thinks that 1) radio talk-show hosts are ignorant, and 2) they're a "problem" he wants fixed. I'd say Lott just put his foot in his mouth again.

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Posted at 12:45am on Jun. 15, 2007 Turning Things Around In Anbar Province

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

This story discusses Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's visit to Iraq and the immensely good news that he found when visiting Anbar province. Basically, the Petraeus counterinsurgency plan has been implemented to foster an alliance amongst the sheikhs in Anbar against al Qaeda. You know, the organization that according to people like Nancy Pelosi, is not responsible for much of the violence that goes on in Iraq. To be sure, the story notes that the return of a number of sheikhs to a newly stable Anbar might re-ignite rivalries that may put a strain on the alliance against al Qaeda in Anbar, but the story also makes it clear that the allies against al Qaeda are determined to ensure that this does not indeed come to pass.

Someone will, of course, need to explain why it is that what has been accomplished in Anbar cannot be accomplished throughout Iraq. Someone will need to explain why it is that we are even thinking of pulling the plug on the reconstruction effort in Iraq when we have a model of success to emulate. And someone will need to explain how the success in Anbar is an example of the supposed "incompetence" of the generals in charge of the reconstruction effort.

Dare we hope that such answers will be forthcoming? Or will it be the case that the very real story of a turnaround in Anbar will simply be swept under the rug?

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Posted at 12:37am on Jun. 15, 2007 I Give You What Is, Without A Doubt, One Of The Most Brilliant Policy Proposals I Have Ever Heard Of

Cross . . . The . . . Streams

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Via the Smithians. Behold:

Climate models predict that, if greenhouse gases are driving climate change, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a strong warming trend in the tropical troposphere, the region of the atmosphere up to 15 km in altitude, over the tropics. The IPCC states that this will be an early and strong signal of anthropogenic warming. Climate changes due to solar variability or other natural factors will not yield this pattern: only sustained greenhouse warming will do it. Temperatures in the tropical troposphere are measured every day using weather satellites,

Suppose each country implements something called the T3 tax, whose U.S. dollar rate is set equal to 20 times the three-year moving average of the estimates of the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly (departure from its 1979-98 average), assessed per tonne of CO2, updated annually. Based on current data, the tax would be US$4.70 per ton.

This tax rate is low, and would yield very little emissions abatement. Global-warming skeptics and opponents of greenhouse-abatement policy will like that. But would global-warming activists? They should -- because according to them, the tax will climb rapidly in the years ahead.

The IPCC predicts a warming rate in the tropical troposphere of about double that at the surface, implying about 0.2C to 1.2C per decade in the tropical troposphere under greenhouse-forcing scenarios. That implies the tax will climb by $4 to $24 per tonne per decade, a much more aggressive schedule of emission fee increases than most current proposals. At the upper end of warming forecasts, the tax could reach $200 per tonne of CO2 by 2100, forcing major carbon-emission reductions and a global shift to non-carbon energy sources.

Global-warming activists would like this. But so would skeptics, because they believe the models are exaggerating the warming forecasts. After all, the tropical troposphere series went up only about 0.08C over the past decade, and has been going down since 2002. Some solar scientists even expect pronounced cooling to begin in a decade. If they are right, the T3 tax will fall below zero within two decades, turning into a subsidy for carbon emissions.

Under the T3 tax, the regulator gets to call everyone's bluff at once, without gambling in advance on who is right. If the tax goes up, it ought to have. If it doesn't go up, it shouldn't have. Either way we get a sensible outcome.

More below . . .

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Posted at 12:35am on Jun. 15, 2007 No Class

Worst. Majority. Leader. Ever.

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

As we know, Harry Reid has a history of putting his foot in his mouth. He has chosen to do it again, and in doing so, he has made it clear that he has contempt for people far more accomplished than he:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "incompetent" during an interview Tuesday with a group of liberal bloggers, a comment that was never reported.

Reid made similar disparaging remarks about Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said several sources familiar with the interview.

This is but the latest example of how Reid, under pressure from liberal activists to do more to stop the war, is going on the attack against President Bush and his military leaders in anticipation of a September showdown to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, according to Democratic senators and aides.

Reid, who was bashed by Republicans for suggesting earlier this year that the Iraq war was "lost," is lashing out at top commanders while putting the finishing touches on a plan to force a series of votes on Iraq designed exclusively to make Republicans up for reelection in 2008 go on record in favor of continuing an unpopular war.

Reid, the senators and aides said, does not expect any of the Iraq measures to pass but hopes the effort will drive a deep enough wedge between wavering Republicans and Bush that, by September, Republican senators will break with the president and help end the war.

There's more. Read on . . .

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Posted at 10:02pm on Jun. 14, 2007 The Fix Is In: Reid, McConnell to Resurrect Amnesty Bill

By Bluey

You can't say I didn't warn you. The immigration bill is coming back, probably as early as next week. That's what Senators Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) agreed to today, leaving conservatives on Capitol Hill disappointed and alarmed.

A conservative Senate GOP aide told me McConnell caved under pressure from the White House and Democrats. "They are going to roll over conservatives. They scheduled debate time and a vote for next week knowing full well that Jeff Sessions would be out of town."

Sessions, a vocal opponent, will be in Alabama for a fundraiser with President Bush next Thursday. Sessions teamed with Senators Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) and David Vitter (R.-La.) last week to take a principled stand against the bill despite tremendous pressure from its supporters. Sessions' absence would put conservatives at a significant disadvantage.

My source said the fact that McConnell would agree to such an arrangement means that he's willing to disregard the interests of his own caucus to appease Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and other amnesty supporters. It also suggests the bill's supporters will do almost anything to ram it through even though just 20% of Americans want it.

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Posted at 3:30pm on Jun. 14, 2007 White House Tries to Bribe Critics in Exchange for Amnesty

Window Dressing at the Border

By Bluey

It's obvious the White House is still having a very hard time defending its immigration plan. President Bush's decision to cut a deal with Senators Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) to spend more money on border security is an attempt to placate critics of the immigration bill. We're not buying it.

If you'll recall, the White House started out by selling its plan based on the so-called "trigger" in the bill that required the enactment of several border security measures before illegal immigrants were given amnesty. But a closer look showed that the bill provided immediate amnesty and all of the triggers were already in current law and were things the Bush administration was already compelled to do.

Now the White House is proposing Trigger 2.0, which would provide approximately $4 billion for border security measures if Congress passes the bill and allows these funds to be paid back with amnesty fees paid by illegal immigrants. Nice try, but no. There is zero reason for Congress to tie amnesty to border security. The fiscal 2007 funds for the border security measures called for in the bill have already been appropriated and the fiscal 2008 funds have been planned from the start.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the goal is "to get money to the border right away." It sounds eerily similar to the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina: throw a bunch of money at the problem without ever assessing its effectiveness. Essentially, it's window dressing.

This administration has already admitted (in the first section of the bill, nonetheless) that it already can secure the border within 18 months. Now all of the sudden it needs a $4.4 billion deposit?

The response to Bush's deal isn't convincing the conservatives I spoke to on Capitol Hill. One Senate Republican staffer remarked, "It sounds like Bush is promising what he's already promised."

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Posted at 2:44pm on Jun. 14, 2007 In Which The Washington Post Jumps The Gun

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

So supposedly, the surge is not working. But of course, the report misses the factoid found here:

. . . U.S. commanders have urged the American public not to pass judgment on the plan's effectiveness until after all U.S. troops are fully deployed. That is due to happen Friday. In September, Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to present a report on the plan's effectiveness to leaders in Washington.

(Emphasis mine.) Since the troops are not yet fully deployed, why are media outlets like the Washington Post rushing to judgment?

Of course, there remain a great many challenges in stabilizing Iraq. No one doubts that. But a great deal of improvement has been made as well.

More after the jump . . .

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Posted at 2:42pm on Jun. 14, 2007 "We Can Deal With Hamas"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Ever since Hamas won elections in the Palestinian Authority, we have been urged by the bien pensant class to deal with them and to treat them like a legitimate government. Remember this?

Hamas deserves to be recognized by the international community, and despite the group's militant history, there is a chance the soon-to-be Palestinian leaders could turn away from violence, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday.

Carter, who monitored last week's Palestinian elections in which Hamas handily toppled the ruling Fatah, added that the United States should not cut off aid to the Palestinian people, but rather funnel it through third parties like the U.N.

"If you sponsor an election or promote democracy and freedom around the world, then when people make their own decision about their leaders, I think that all the governments should recognize that administration and let them form their government," Carter said. . . .

"If there are prohibitions -- like, for instance, in the United States, against giving any money to a government that is controlled by Hamas -- then the United States could channel the same amount of money to the Palestinian people through the United Nations, through the refugee fund, through UNICEF, things of that kind," he added.

Carter expressed hope that "the people of Palestine -- who already suffer ... under Israeli occupation -- will not suffer because they are deprived of a right to pay their school teachers, policemen, welfare workers, health workers and provide food for people."

More below the fold . . .

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Posted at 2:40pm on Jun. 14, 2007 "The Most Ethical Congress In History"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Very brazen, no?

Pentagon officials are bracing for a fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her desire to allow lawmakers' adult children to tag along on taxpayer-funded travel for free.

Pelosi wants them to be able to fill the role of lawmakers' spouses when the latter are unable to make a trip because of health issues or work commitments.

"It has been longstanding policy that, in the absence of a congressional spouse, the adult child of a member of Congress may accompany the member on official U.S. government travel abroad for protocol reasons and without reimbursing the U.S.

Treasury," Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. "Speaker Pelosi believes that a modern policy must reflect the professional responsibilities or health realities that might prevent a spouse from participating, and instead permit an adult child to fulfill the protocol needs of the official trip."

Pentagon officials say the policy is that the Treasury must be reimbursed at commercial rates for children who accompany members on such trips, often called codels.

Pelosi's office inquired about such travel on June 1, according to a Department of Defense memo obtained by The Hill.

In a June 8 memo, the head of legislative affairs for the Pentagon, Robert L. Wilkie, told Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he sees Pelosi's question as a first step toward challenging the policy.

"We were told that the Speaker would expect that members' children (of married and unmarried [members of Congress]) would not have to reimburse the Treasury," Wilkie wrote. "We expect future challenges from the House leadership on this policy."

Pentagon aides did not respond to requests for comment.

But taxpayer watchdog groups and ethics advocates said they were surprised Pelosi would seek more perks for members.

"One of the things she was praised for when she came in was her sweeping reforms on gifts and travel," said Craig Holman of Public Citizen. "It is very disheartening if she is, in fact, backsliding on this."

Read on . . .

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