Term limits working for better or worse (mostly worse)
Are you pleasantly surprised with how much got done these last few weeks? Are you glad to see the intellectual and ideological independence displayed by the leadership over the last You may not be aware of it, Democrats, but congratulations: You are in favor of term limits.
Who wouldn't be okay with attempts to ram through unpopular legislation (or repeal of it!) in spite of the electoral consequences? Sure, conservatives have complained about it, but they also have been waiting for the moment to shut down the departments of Commerce, Energy, and Education for years, and the one thing that stopped them back in 1994 was, well, 1996. Lame duck now, lame duck next week, lame duck forever!
New START passes, Cold War still over
It makes you wonder why it wasn't already an aphorism: Give Democrats control of the Senate and no electoral accountability, and in a matter of days they'll find a way to appease the Kremlin. In fairness, the Senate vote 71-26 to ratify the nuclear arms reduction treaty didn't strictly follow party lines, with 13 "yea" votes coming from Republicans including the Northeasterners who are probably so comfortable with winter they'd rather spend theirs in Moscow.
But this is a big victory for Obama who set out early in his career, even during the 1980s, to crusade against nuclear proliferation. The problem is that it's not the 1980s anymore, and, well, Russia's not exactly nice to its neighbors or to us for that matter. I mean, aside from providing support to Iran, which itself is sending troops into Iraq, and killing our own troops. But to not pass a treaty this. very. instant. would be an "unmitigated disaster" says The American Prospect's Matt Yglesias:
If the United States has a secret plan to conduct a massive strategic arms buildup and launch a sneak attack on Russia, this is excellent news. If not, then non-ratification is an unmitigated disaster. We'll be left in the position of crossing our fingers in the hope that nothing goes wrong in Russia, and praying that Russians interpret this as a sign of utter political dysfunction rather than the existence of a secret plan to launch a nuclear first strike.
Well, he clearly prefers mitigated disasters. Because we could have negotiated a different treaty not in the lame duck. One that doesn't limit missile defense or have a weak verification system in the first place. Ed Meese and Richard Perle:
To cite a couple of problems, under New Start, there is no on-site monitoring of mobile missile production facilities. This procedure was deemed necessary under the original Start treaty to help keep track of new mobile missiles entering the Russian force. There are also fewer on-site inspections, and Russia may declare certain locations to be maintenance areas, which are not subject to warhead inspection.
Secondly, New Start's verification provisions would provide little or no help in detecting illegal activity at locations the Russians did not declare, are off-limits to U.S. inspectors, or are hidden from U.S. satellites. Inspectors would inspect only declared sites, a precedent that could be invoked by others—Iran, for example—and must be regarded as unacceptable.
The Coburn method to compromise: Don't give up
Legislation to help the "first responders" to 9/11 was passed by the Senate, and Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., describe it as the "Christmas miracle we've been look for..." though I'm not sure how, exactly, Schumer will explain his belief in a "Christmas miracle" to his family. Maybe he could turn to Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., to talk about how to "do the right thing." (Watch this.)
But the real story is that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had opposed the original bill because of how much it would cost -- the bill as it stood was going to be ripe for fraud and trial lawyers. So I guess this would make Coburn ... Santa Claus? Sen. Schumer, please remember to leave out the cookies.
Dear Hollywood, more of this please
Comedian Russell Brand on WikiLeaks:
Most unsettling of all, though, is the petty, snickering attitude of those exposed within. Ambassadors, ministers and spies the world over employ the conceited, insular vernacular of a bunch of oily prefects. Kim Jong-il is described as "flabby", the former president of Haiti is "an indispensable chameleon character" and Prince Andrew likes falconry. Kim Jong-il is flabby? That's a bit personal. I can see that for myself - I don't need a dose of international intrigue to confirm that. And, may I ask, what would an "indispensable chameleon" do? Reptilian First Aid? I've never been in a situation where a chameleon could not be sacrificed if necessary. When the pressure's on, the colour-changing lizards are the first to be dispensed with. They get a worse deal than the travellers. As for Prince Andrew's interest in falcons: unless he's about to train a kestrel squad to swoop into Buckingham Palace and peck out the eyes of everyone between him and the throne, I'm not sure that it matters. I'm not saying the WikiLeaks site isn't a valuable resource, obviously it is; I'm just concerned that much of the world of espionage is so snide.
Alaska Supreme Court rules against Joe Miller
It's been 34 days since the Associated Press called it for incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but her challenger who defeated her in the primary, Joe Miller, has been suing over the counting of misspelled ballots. The Supreme Court said, "No." It would be one thing if Morkowscky/Muirkowsky/Morcowski had won by a slim margin -- but her 10,000 vote lead wasn't likely thanks to erroneous counting. Maybe Miller should drop the lawsuits and start traveling the country building up a conservative grassroots organization the way another Alaskan pol did.
For now, I'm canceling my Alaskan Daily News subscription.
Things you didn't know you couldn't live without
Things you didn't know you could know
Things you didn't know and didn't want to know
Things you never wanted to discuss with Barney Frank