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Monthly Archives: June 2010

WASHINGTON — With Republicans citing concerns about the growing national debt, the House rejected a bill Tuesday to extend unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for long stretches.

The House, however, is expected to vote on the bill again as early as Wednesday. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion Tuesday evening to force a vote by Thursday to extend the benefits.

Without an extension, payments would continue to phase out for more than 200,000 people a week. The last extension expired at the end of May. House Democrats said more than 1 million people have already lost benefits.

via House Rejects Extension Of Unemployment Benefits.

Meanwhile…

WASHINGTON — Republican Senator Scott Brown, whose backing is seen as crucial to passage of an overhaul of Wall Street rules, withheld his support of the latest bill today, saying he was upset about the last-minute addition of $19 billion in new taxes on big banks.

While not expressing opposition, Brown’s cool response could complicate efforts to pass the biggest change to the nation’s financial laws since the Great Depression.

Brown’s vote was crucial to Democrats’ ability to win passage of an earlier version of the bill in the Senate. A number of changes have been made in the legislation to win his support.

But Brown objected today to the addition of $19 billion in fees on banks, which pay the expenses of greater oversight duties by a variety of federal agencies for 10 years. The fees would be levied over five years. The fees were added by House-Senate Conference Committee members, led by Representative Barney Frank, during an all-night session Thursday and Friday.

via Brown not yet on board with financial regulation bill

How are the Democrats not all over the air with this shit? “Republicans to discouraged workers: just go die already.” This is not complicated.

Yeah so I can’t think of a title worth crap. Anyway…

As everyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, an article appeared in Rolling Stone this week by freelance reporter Michael Hastings that wound up forcing the resignation of General Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of American troops in Afghanistan. Invited to hang out with McChrystal and his staff, Hastings was witness to their contempt for the civilian side of the war effort, which he then reported on. It was a shock to everyone in Washington that McChrystal would make such a blunder, and the press began immediately to dissect it.

The Politico was so hopped up about the story that it took the extraordinary step of posting on its site a PDF of Rolling Stone’s article because Rolling Stone had not put it online fast enough. In one of the many articles The Politico ran about the episode the following observation was made by reporters Gordon Lubold and Carol E. Lee:

McChrystal, an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department. And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.

Now this seemed to several observers—and I was one—a reveal. Think about what the Politico is saying: an experienced beat reporter is less of a risk for a powerful figure like McChrystal because an experienced beat reporter would probably not want to “burn bridges” with key sources by telling the world what happens when those sources let their guard down.

Let me enumerate why this is worth noting:

1.) It’s an admission that preserving their own future access is a hidden factor in what institutionally-bound reporters are willing to tell us today.

2.) Carol Lee covers the White House for the Politico. She is a beat reporter, so she would know, right? She’s not going to let an observation that rings false to her ear go out under her by-line… is she? Doesn’t make sense.

3.) This is exactly the sort of observation in which the Politico trades: the “inside” fact you might not know that tells you how Washington really works. It’s part of the brand.

4.) The Politico was actually founded to reveal just this sort of fact. The idea from the beginning was to open the kimono on journalism itself. This is from the days (2006) when it was first announced that John Harris and Jim VandeHei would be leaving the Washington Post to start a new online publication.

via PressThink.

The media sure is doing a lot of hand-wringing over the Rolling Stone McChrystal profile.  Oh no, you wrote things that were true but allegedly uncleared by your betters! How dare you! I’m telling daddy!

On Friday, however, officials close to McChrystal began trying to salvage his reputation by asserting that the author, Michael Hastings, quoted the general and his staff in conversations that he was allowed to witness but not report. The officials also challenged a statement by Rolling Stone’s executive editor that the magazine had thoroughly reviewed the story with McChrystal’s staff ahead of publication.

The executive editor, Eric Bates, denied that Hastings violated any ground rules when he wrote about the four weeks he spent, on and off, with McChrystal and his team. “A lot of things were said off the record that we didn’t use,” Bates said in an interview. “We abided by all the ground rules in every instance.”

A senior military official insisted that “many of the sessions were off-the-record and intended to give [Hastings] a sense” of how the team operated. The command’s own review of events, said the official, who was unwilling to speak on the record, found “no evidence to suggest” that any of the “salacious political quotes” in the article were made in situations in which ground rules permitted Hastings to use the material in his story.

via Gen. McChrystal allies, Rolling Stone disagree over article’s ground rules.

Jon Stewart described this as the moment the media realized they “kind of suck.”  I don’t know if McChrystal’s just trying to save face or what, but if RS went with this without getting permission then good for them.

OTB reminds us that one of McChrystal’s *other* noteworthy habits was his emphasis on avoidance of civilian casualties. Apparently this didn’t sit well with the “real” troops.

Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It’s “insurgent math,” as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. “For a while,” says one U.S. official, “the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a ‘civ cas’ incident.” The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There’s talk of creating a new medal for “courageous restraint,” a buzzword that’s unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal’s new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. “Bottom line?” says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”

Does this mean we’re going to see a relaxation of the rules? Does it even make a difference when we’re going around blowing people up with drones?