Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Supreme Court Hampers EPA on Greenhouse Gases But It Could Have Been Worse

Photograph by Joseph E.B. Elliot/Library of Congress
Today, the Supreme Court failed to release almost all of the term's outstanding opinions for another day (or two, or three.) But it did issue an opinion dealing with the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with one the most pressing problems facing the world: climate change. Justice Scalia's opinion unnecessarily restricts the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, but the opinion could have been much worse. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency does deal with a real issue in the Clean Air Act. The act calls for the EPA to require permits from stationary sources that emitted between 100 and 250 tons or more per year of a pollutant covered by the act. In the context of carbon emissions, however, the quantities produced are much greater than for the typical pollutant, which would turn a statutory provision intended to exclude minor sources of pollution into a requirement to regulate these relatively small sources. Sensibly, the EPA...

Hillary Clinton Gets Tripped Up By the Blue-Collar Imperative

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Steven Senne HiIlary Rodham Clinton holds a copy of her new book "Hard Choices," at the start of a book signing at Harvard Book Store, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. W e—and by "we" I mean both journalists and voters—ask politicians to do and say a lot of preposterous things. But few are as absurd as the requirement that every candidate, no matter who they actually are, pretend to be a regular fella or gal. Sure, she may walk with the wealthy and powerful now, but rest assured, she grew up amidst the common people, so she understands their travails. Not only that, she retains her love of the simple pleasures enjoyed by all—woe be to the candidate who sips wine or takes in a classical music concert instead of downing a Bud and watching football. If she is actually wealthy, the candidate must wear that wealth so lightly you barely know it's there. Any mention of it must be accompanied by a furious denial that she is actually one of those snooty rich people who do...

How Many Gun Deaths Are There In Your State?

Your charty goodness is inside.
Since Washington is a fetid swamp of moral compromise and soul-sucking humidity, my family and I sometimes debate where we might go if we decided to move elsewhere. One of the possibilities that comes up is Colorado, since we have friends there and the state features lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. But I'm given pause by the fact that Colorado seems to have more than its share of gun massacres, and even if statistically speaking they aren't something to spend too much time worrying about, it's natural to have it weigh on your mind. Americans increasingly want to live around people who think like them , and that can extend beyond political beliefs to politically-tinged behaviors, particularly those meant to terrify people who have opinions different from yours. Like many a bleeding-heart liberal, I'd prefer to be able to stop in at my local Target and not have to share my shopping experience with a bunch of nutballs toting AR-15s . Call me crazy. If you're considering a...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Schweitzer #FAIL: Live By Authenticity, Die by Authenticity

Authenticity, thy name is bolo tie. (Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
Did former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer's presidential ambitions just go down the tubes? I've been criticizing the press' focus on "gaffes" for a long time , but there are some things that, once you say them, are hard to put behind you. Schweitzer, who has always been known for being unfiltered, invited National Journal reporter Marin Cogan up to his house in Montana , and the result was rather interesting: This was the week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency's treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. Schweitzer is incredulous that Feinstein—considered by her critics to be too close to the intelligence community—was now criticizing the agency. "She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, 'I'm a nun,' when it comes to this spying!" he says. Then, he adds, quickly, "I mean, maybe...

Should We Listen to Those Who Were Wrong on Iraq in 2002?

Dick and Liz Cheney announcing their new pro-strength organization.
Last week, I wrote a post over at the Washington Post expressing amazement that so many of the people who were so spectacularly wrong on Iraq in 2002 are now returning to tell us what we should do about Iraq in 2014. While it went out under the headline "On Iraq, let's ignore those who got it all wrong," I didn't actually argue specifically that they should be ignored, just that we shouldn't forget their track records when we hear them now (although I did allow that seeking out John McCain's opinion on Iraq is like getting lost and deciding that Mr. Magoo is the person you need to ask for directions). Then yesterday, after Dick Cheney popped up with a predictably tendentious criticism of Barack Obama, I wrote another post on the topic of our former vice president, and here I did get a little more explicit about how his opinions should be greeted, after running through some of his more appalling howlers: There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz,...

Weak Weakling Continues Weak Policies of Weakness

Flickr/National Guard
Conservatives are struggling to get over their disappointment that the Obama administration captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, but don't think they can't come up with another way to argue that Barack Obama is screwing everything up. If there's one thing they're certain of, it's that Obama is weak, and while until this weekend he was too weak to nab Khattala, now he's too weak to do what needs to be done with him. I'm pretty sure many on the right really wish we could torture Khattala, even if you can't say that in polite company anymore. In the absence of that, they'll demand that we take Khattala to Guantanamo, where presumably he will spill what he knows forthwith. Marco Rubio demanded that we "immediately" transfer him to Guantanamo. " In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence," said the senator, apparently under the impression that...

Why Are the Democrats So Unified?

This is not a mass movement. (Flickr/cool revolution)
Although you may not have heard about it yet, some people on the left are trying to organize opposition to military action in Iraq. Democracy for America, the group started by Howard Dean, is starting a lobbying campaign against any action. MoveOn has told its members to share a statement saying: "President Obama should reject the use of military force in Iraq, including air strikes. We must not be dragged back into yet another war." CREDO has gathered 80,000 signatures on a "Don't Bomb Iraq" petition . It's safe to say that if the White House is even aware of this organizing, they are utterly unconcerned about it. It's partly the old story of mainstream Democrats paying no attention to their left flank unless it's to dismiss it. (As the aphorism has it, Republicans fear their base while Democrats hate their base.) But it's also an indicator of a phenomenon that hasn't gotten as much attention as it should: the extraordinary unity of the Democratic coalition at this point in history...

Beware Simple Solutions On Iraq

The aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad. (Flickr/Salam Pax)
With the situation in Iraq growing more grave by the hour, we're going to be hearing a lot from the gang of cretins who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who will now be emerging to tell us that it was all a splendid American victory until Barack Obama came along and screwed the whole thing up. (I can't wait to see what Bill Kristol has to say when he appears on ABC's This Week on Sunday.) More than anyone else, we'll be hearing endlessly from President McCain, a man so uninformed he is unaware that ISIS, the group now controlling large parts of the country, is not actually the same thing as Al Qaeda. ("Al Qaeda is now the richest terrorist organization in history," he said after ISIS raided the bank in Mosul.) But reporters and TV bookers are beating a path to his door, so important is it that the American people hear his wise counsel. If there's one thing you should keep in mind as this develops, it's that anyone who says there's a simple solution to the problem of Iraq is...

Why The California Tenure Decision Is Wrong and Will Hurt Disadvantaged Students

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. E arlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Rolf Michael Treu held that California's teacher tenure system violated the state constitution. Treu's June 10 decision in Vergara v. California has been widely praised by education "reformers," up to and including President Barack Obama's worst cabinet...

Back to the Land

Flickr/Michael Wifall
Today the Pew Research Center released a gigantic and fascinating report on increasing levels of political polarization in America, and while many people will be picking over the data, there's one particular thing I want to point to. One of the questions they asked was this: "If you could live anywhere in the United States that you wanted to, would you prefer a city, a suburban area, a small town or a rural area?" The results were stark: Everyone has their preferences, of course. But I find it remarkable that a full 76 percent of consistently conservative respondents say they'd rather live in a rural area or a small town, as do 66 percent of those who are mostly conservative. And only a tiny 4 percent of the consistently conservative said they'd like to live in a city. Among Republicans as a whole , 34 percent said they'd prefer to live in a rural area, and another 31 percent in small towns. So my question is, what's stopping them? If you want to move to someplace in the middle of...

Why Republicans Hate Their Leaders: Eric Cantor Edition

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
T here have been a lot of analyses of What Eric Cantor's Loss Means in the last 36 hours, all of which run the risk of over-generalizing from one off-year primary election in one particular district. But as I've said before, the internal conflict within the Republican Party is the defining political dynamic of this period in history, and it's as good an opportunity as any to assess its latest quivers and quakes. As a liberal, I'm at something of a disadvantage when examining this conflict, because although I can look at what conservatives do and what they say publicly, I don't have access to the things they say when they talk to each other. So it's always good to hear from those who do and can remind the rest of us of what conservatives are actually feeling. Sean Trende offers an important perspective : First, analysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I've...

Four Fundamental Econ Facts Missed By Economist Cantor-Slayer David Brat

AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch
AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch Dave Brat speaks to hundreds of supporters after beating Republican Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, June 10, 2014. O n MSNBC Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked David Brat, the Eric-Cantor-slayer, Ayn Rand acolyte, and chairman of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College, about his viewpoint on the minimum wage. Here’s their exchange: TODD: S hould there be a minimum wage in your opinion? BRAT: I don't have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example— children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can't assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage...

Should We Be Concerned About Privatization of the V.A.?

Flickr/Coast Guard
Yesterday, the House passed a bill to address problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs on a 421-0 vote, a kind of unanimity usually reserved for resolutions honoring astronauts or declaring Necrotic Hangnail Awareness Week. The Senate's version is likely to be voted on in the next couple of days. It happened because of some features of this particular scandal : that both sides sincerely wanted to fix the problem, and that the opportunities for demagoguery were limited. While the bill has a number of provisions including steps to replace the outdated intake system and to hire more doctors and nurses, the one most directly intended to address the backlog of patients would allow veterans who haven't been able to get an appointment, or who live 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, to get care at private medical providers. Is this something for liberals to be worried about? Since we embrace nuance here at the Prospect , the answer is: maybe. It's important to remember that...

Beth Schwartzapfel Wins Sidney Award for Prospect's Prison Labor Exposé

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which "honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good," bestowed its monthly Sidney Award for June on Beth Schwartzapfel, author of The American Prospect magazine's longform investigation of prison labor, " The Great American Chain Gang ," in our May/June issue. "[E]xcluding prisoners from employment statistics skews our picture of unemployment," Schwartzapfel tells Lindsay Beyerstein of the Hillman Foundation, in an interview at the foundation's website. "If you include prisoners, and count them as unemployed, the already-dismal employment rate of young black men without a college education plummets fifteen percentage points, from 65 percent to 50 percent. I was—and still am—stunned by this information. But then I thought, wait a minute: Inmates aren't really jobless. It's just that no one is counting their jobs. " Schwartzapfel's exposé was assigned and edited by executive editor Bob Moser. "Beth is one of the finest criminal-justice...

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