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Christopher Hayes | The Nation

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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

Is This Seat Taken?

The first clue that Comcast had paid seat-fillers to keep people out of the FCC hearing might've been when several attendees started snoring....

White House Rules

As the economy coils rapidly into a recession, the Bush administration is using its regulatory power to cut the legs out from under already-floundering state finances and shift $50 billion in federal Medicaid/Medicare spending onto state budgets, the House reported yesterday.

Since his election, Bush has made no bones of his opposition to entitlement spending, and these days, Bush is pummeling away at such programs with an ever more vigorous hand. In 2006, he proposed cutting $60 billion over 10 years for Medicaid. In 2007, Bush pushed $77 billion in cuts to Medicaid/Medicare spending over the next five years. This year, as Bush prepares to leave office, his proposed cuts to Medicaid/Medicare's five-year budget have swelled to $200 billion.

It goes without saying that the growth in U.S. healthcare spending (which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected last week will balloon to $4 trillion in the next 10 years) has to be checked. But unilaterally using the executive's regulatory power to roll back entitlements blindly forces states to either pony up (no easy feat when 21 states face budget shortfalls) or, more likely, simply cut people from their rolls.

The first new rule took effect yesterday; without Congressional action, the second will go into effect in May. Four states are suing the White House to stop their enactment.

Her Turn

Ezra makes a point here about the sense that Sen. Clinton was the next in line and has been pushed aside by a younger male colleague. Clearly that psychological dynamic has some deep resonances for a lot voters, but it reminds me of an email exchange I had with an editor when I was a 23-year-old reporter, pitching my first-ever campaign piece. I wanted to do a profile of Nancy Kaszak, a local community activist in Chicago's Lincoln Park, who'd served in the state legislature, and previously run for congress in the 5th district. Back in 2002, with Rod Blagojevich running for governor, there was an opening and she had thrown her hat into the ring. I pitched a profile about her to my editor, noting that she was facing a millionaire challenger who'd just moved into the district (a man named Rahm Emmanuel), but that "by all rights it's her turn." My editor wrote back and said something like, "Chris, if you're going to cover campaigns the first thing you have to learn is that there's no such thing as "turns" in democracy."

I've never forgotten that advice, and as grumpy as it made me at the time, it's true. Experience counts, but it counts as much as the voters think it should count. There are no turns in democracy.

Leaderless Jihad

Anyone feeling menaced by the long shadows cast by the White House these days should check out David Ignatius's plug for former CIA officer Marc Sageman's new book, Leaderless Jihad. Sageman has a clear prescription for the U.S. handling of terrorism: drop the act. Quit ratcheting up talk about Muslim extremists--today's 'third wave' of jihadists are less extremists, more chatroom-based 'terrorist wannabes,' and glamorizing the 'global war on terror' just incites them further.

Five Rules for Writing About Women

Courtesy of the inimitable Dahlia Lithwick

FISA Cave In

I can hardly muster the energy to express adequate frustration over the House Democrats willingness to cave-in to the absurd and odious position that telecomm companies should receive blanket, retroactive immunity for the thousands of instances of non-warranted wiretaps they engaged in after (and maybe before!) 9/11. I'll outsource, instead, to Glenn Greenwald, who makes this, quite accurate, point:

And now, after picking this fight and letting it rage for weeks, they are going to do what they always do -- just meekly give in to the President, yet again generating a tidal wave of headlines trumpeting how they bowed, surrendered, caved in, and lost to the President. They're going to cast the appearance that they engaged this battle and once again got crushed, that they ran away in fear because of the fear-mongering ads that were run and the attacks from the President. They further demoralize their own base and increase the contempt in which their base justifiably holds them (if that's possible). It's almost as though they purposely picked the path that imposed on themselves all of the political costs with no benefits.

Even with their ultimate, total compliance with the President's orders, they're still going to be attacked as having Made Us Less Safe -- by waiting weeks to capitulate, rather than doing so immediately, they opened up critical intelligence gaps, caused us to lose vital intelligence, made us less safe, etc. But now, they have no way to defend themselves against those accusations because, at the end of the day, they are admitting that the President was right all along, that telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping are good and important things that the President should have had all along. So why didn't they just give it to him before the law expired? It was a loss for them on every level.

Pundit Accountability Project

From the press release:

The Pundit Accountability Project captures video clips of pundits' predications so they can be measured against actual outcomes. And users can track pundits by name, in an easy to use drop-down menu, which includes our first list of 23 pundits - typically the ones who have been most consistently wrong. (Howard Fineman is currently leading the pack - with predictions that Rudy was perfectly positioned for a Florida win, and that Ted Kenney would not be endorsing Obama.)

Long, long overdue.

A $736-Million Symbol of Progress

When the U.S. embassy in Iraq is built, it will be a $736-million gargantuan complex, the biggest U.S. diplomatic facility in the world. (For Sim-style renderings of the planned azure pool and adjacent gardens, see here.) But over eight months since its projected opening date, the project has sputtered under charges of slap-dash construction and multiple criminal investigations facing State Department employees.

Now, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) is losing patience with Condoleeza Rice, accusing her of withholding information from Congress about not only the US embassy's construction, but also Iraqi corruption. Last April, Prime Minister Maliki issued a secret order immunizing top Iraqi officials from any potential corruption charges (which Rice hasn't acknowledged). Last week, USAID announced plans to further minimize oversight in Iraq by reducing the number of its Baghdad-based auditors (which the State Department won't discuss).

Meanwhile as Rice continues to stonewall, the unfinished American embassy remains an ongoing symbol for the U.S. mission in Iraq. Fittingly for an administration that nearly five years ago declared "Mission Accomplished" in a war venture that continues to drag on, last December, the U.S. State Department certified the embassy as 'substantially completed'--even as it continues to lack basic infrastructure, remain uninhabitable and bleed taxpayer funds.

NAFTA Debate, Round 4,489,642

On my walk into the New York office, I was thinking through a post on NAFTA, but Robert Reich's post seems like a better jumping off point:

NAFTA has become a symbol for the mounting insecurities felt by blue-collar Americans. While the overall benefits from free trade far exceed the costs, and the winners from trade (including all of us consumers who get cheaper goods and services because of it) far exceed the losers, there's a big problem: The costs fall disproportionately on the losers -- mostly blue-collar workers who get dumped because their jobs can be done more cheaply by someone abroad who'll do it for a fraction of the American wage. The losers usually get new jobs eventually but the new jobs are typically in the local service economy and they pay far less than the ones lost.

Even though the winners from free trade could theoretically compensate the losers and still come out ahead, they don't. America doesn't have a system for helping job losers find new jobs that pay about the same as the ones they've lost – regardless of whether the loss was because of trade or automation. There's no national retraining system. Unemployment insurance reaches fewer than 40 percent of people who lose their jobs – a smaller percentage than when the unemployment system was designed seventy years ago. We have no national health care system to cover job losers and their families. There's no wage insurance. Nothing. And unless or until America finds a way to help the losers, the backlash against trade is only going to grow.

I'd dissent a bit and say that it may be true that theoretically the benefits of "free trade far exceed the costs," the economists' ideal of "free trade" isn't really what we're debating. We're debating actual trade agreements that are hundreds of pages long and negotiated by a democratically elected government. If you switch in NAFTA for "free trade" in that sentence, I don't think it's true that NAFTA's benefits have "far exceeded" the costs. Similarly, Reich thinks "the Dems shouldn't be redebating NAFTA," but NAFTA is the most infamous free-trade deal of the last several decades and a kind of placeholder in the trade debate that's unavoidable.

This Week on Tap

This week to break the impasse over the Senate-passed FISA bill, House Dems may split the legislation into two titles for separate votes--one that authorizes surveillance activities, and the other granting retroactive telecom immunity. After the votes, assuming mutual passage, the two would be recombined. By offering such a compromise, House Dems believe they can placate lawmakers that oppose retroative immunity and simultaneously move ahead to renew the law. Meanwhile the GOP is backing the plan, because on the second vote, it's likely enough Democrats will defect to provide the Bush administration--that is, the telecom companies--with Congressional cover. A FISA vote is expected before representatives leave for spring break on Mar. 17. This week, the House will also take up Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)'s mental health parity legislation (which would make it easier for mental health patients and addicts to get coverage) and the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, which would extend and reform national service laws.

On the Senate side, following the past year's slew of health and safety hazards posed by toys and other imported goods, members will take up legislation to increase the power of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Also this week, both the House and Senate will begin writing spending plans in separate committee sessions. The Senate will host hearings on disabled American veterans, mental health in the armed services, Kosovo, voter fraud and an FBI oversight hearing. The House will host a joint oversight hearing on future US commitments to Iraq, as well as hearings on CEO pay and the mortgage crisis, Cuba's future and a Department of Homeland Security oversight hearing.

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