Hillary's Passage Through India

"This approaching triumph of India was a muddle...a frustration of reason and form." -- E. M. Forster, A Passage to India.

Not much has changed since Forster wrote the above in 1924, at least from an American perspective. India is still a muddle. With a population now topping a billion, however, it's a far larger and potentially threatening muddle. At least that's what you would think from reading coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent trip there.

Coverage focused mainly on India "digging in its heels" (the New York Times) against a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. The Washington Post highlighted Clinton's "clash" with Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on this issue, which a HuffPo contributor called a "blunt exchange."

A WSJ blog referred to "India's refusal to countenance" limits on GHG emissions, a position that was "angrily aired" during the meeting.

There was no real anger displayed, nor was any of this a surprise. India has consistently rejected any mandated cap on its emissions since before the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The coverage needs to be seen in the context of the debate last month in the US House over cap-and-trade provisions.

Republican foes of the bill ranted about how the Waxman-Markey bill played into the hands of our Asian foes.

"The big winners are countries like China and India," warned Steve Scalice (R-LA), "who are champing at the bit to take our jobs."

Michigan Representative Michael Rogers pleaded with his colleagues, "Do not, do not eliminate our middle class and send it to China and India. That is what this bill will do."

That fear-filled message was consistently broadcast by the "Republican Noise Machine," (to use David Brock's evocative phrase for the right wing media) and is pervasive among conservatives.

That attitude helps explain the angry reaction to the administration's acknowledgement, made by Clinton and others, that India is correct in pointing out that the bulk of CO2 in the atmosphere was produced by industrialized nations and that there should be some form of aid in helping other nations develop without polluting as much as we did. "We are hoping," said Clinton in Mumbai, "that a great country like India will not make the same mistakes."

A comment yesterday on the conservative blog, Hot Air, shows how effective Republicans have been at linking any domestic action on climate change with xenophobic fears about job loss to India and China:

BullCrap. I will NOT pay for my own emmissions [sic] let alone another countries. I am so sick of this vile crap.

As a result, a few important aspects of Clinton's visit were ignored or barely mentioned. Climate change was only one topic addressed in meetings between Clinton and Indian government officials. Another, mentioned by Reuters, was "the largest arms deal in the world," in which Lockheed Martin and Boeing may sell 126 fighter jets to India for something over $10 billion.

The other story, on the Bloomberg.com website,  is about an arrangement Clinton was negotiating to allow General Electric and Westinghouse to build a pair of nuclear reactors in India -- with a price tag of around $10 billion.

Also rarely mentioned: India has one of the most ambitious plans for developing solar power, just behind China. Even while the GOP is nearly unanimous in its opposition to government investments in alternative power, the two nations they claim are the main threats to our economic well-being are racing ahead, investing in the technologies -- and the jobs -- of the future.

If Forster were writing today, I think I know what country he would identify as being a muddle.

Apparently Henry Louis Gates, Jr., noted Harvard professor, was arrested trying to get into his own house:

Black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. is accusing a Massachusetts police department of racism after being arrested while trying to get into his locked home near Harvard University.

Police say they were called to the home Thursday afternoon after a woman reported seeing a man try to pry open the front door.

They say that they ordered the man to identify himself and that Gates refused. According to a police report, Gates then called the officer a racist and said, "This is what happens to black men in America."

Sources tell Mother Jones that Gates hung up pictures of his family everywhere. (Skip to around 3:40. The language is NSFW):

Peloton Madness

I kinda sorta tried to figure out what the whole Hincapie/Garmin/Columbia/etc. contretemps this weekend at the Tour de France was about, but I eventually gave up.  Cycling is just such a stupid sport.  explains it here in case you're interested.

Still a stupid sport, though.  Especially the velodrome version.

As this blog was among the first to note, the EPA has a Most Wanted list. Posted in December, it includes rap sheets and mug shots for 21 environmental criminals, among them  Robert Wainwright, an Indianan convicted of child molesting and weapons violations whose personal hygiene seems as if it should be an environmental crime of its own. Accused by the EPA of dumping steel mill slag into a wetland, he was featured on this site in March. Behold the power of the press: On Friday, the EPA announced that federal and Mexican agents nabbed him in Zamora, Mexico. It's hard to say whether a Mother Jones reader turned him in (the tipoff was anonymous), but publicity from the list seems to be paying off. Since it debuted, the EPA has also caught two other fugitives.

Anyone seen this fellow? He's accused of discharging unnamed pollutants into San Diego harbor. Body hair, perhaps?

 

Mike Castle (R-Reality)

Some people don't think President Barack Obama is an American citizen. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) isn't one of them. Not everyone's too happy about that:

Shorter Economist: GOP Should Try Lying

The Economist's Democracy in America blog is right about pretty much everything in this post:

Everyone in Washington knows that a delay of a health-care bill this year will mean the death of health-care reform for the foreseeable future. But they can't say that.... The Republicans can't really afford to be this blunt, because the White House will happily use that against them.

It's worth pointing out, however, that the (anonymous) blogger is essentially encouraging Republicans to go ahead and lie about their dreams of killing health care reform.

Baghdad Update

Four years ago, during a commemoration of the Shiite saint Imam Musa al-Kazim, a thousand pilgrims to the Al Kadhimiya Mosque in Baghdad were killed when rumors of an imminent suicide bomb attack caused a panicked stampede across a bridge.  Every year since then, the commemoration has been regularly targeted by insurgents and militias.  Until now:

President Barack Obama's withdrawal strategy for Iraq got a big bump this weekend, when the Iraqi military and police presided over massive gatherings of pilgrims from the provinces in the capital, and pulled it off with no bombings. Obama could not plausibly withdraw from Iraq unless Iraqi security forces could keep a minimum of social peace. But if they can do so, the withdrawal could go smoothly. This weekend's evidence is positive.

That's from Juan Cole, who has more over at his place, both good and bad.

Fiscal Policy for Dummies

Brad DeLong chides Clive Crook for opposing a second stimulus package because it would increase the federal deficit.  The problem is that Crook isn't distinguishing between short-term and long-term deficits:

But if you don't distinguish between these two — if you call them both "fiscal policy" and pretend they are the same thing, as Crook does — then you get yourself completely confused....A while ago I wrote that one of the big problems in American governance was that Washington's political class was stupider than the pigs in the Orwell novel Animal Farm. The fundamental slogan of Animalism — "four legs good, two legs bad" — is no more complicated than "cyclical deficit good, structural deficit bad," and if pigs can understand the first why can't members of congress, anchor persons, and op-ed writers understand the second?

Well....I agree with Brad, but I also don't think this is quite the mystery he makes it out to be.  The problem is both obvious and old: nobody trusts politicians.  They're eager to increase short-term deficits during recessions because that allows them to give away goodies to their constituents.  And they're perfectly happy to promise to rein things in down the road when the economy recovers.  Occasionally this even happens.  But not very often, and everyone knows it.  The world being what it is, short-term cyclical deficits have a strong tendency to turn into long-term structural deficits.  (cf. California, fucked up finances of.)

In a perfect world we'd auction off 100% of the permits in a cap-and-trade system.  In a perfect world we'd construct a healthcare system that covers everyone but makes sensible compromises about how much coverage everyone gets.  And in a perfect world we'd create whatever short-term deficits we needed during a recession because we'd all feel confident that when the emergency was over we'd dutifully reduce spending and increase taxes to create a cyclical surplus.

But this isn't a perfect world, which means that concerns about a short-term deficit spilling over into the far future are actually pretty understandable.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, but it does mean that skeptics aren't being unreasonable if they ask for a credible plan in advance that insures deficits will come down in the future even in the face of monumental political pressures not to do it.  I have to admit that, given the current political environment, I'm not sure what such a plan would look like.

Health Care Time, Finally?

It seems that President Obama is finally switching gears and going to all health care, all the time. He's doing health care events almost daily now, and he's holding a prime-time presser on Wednesday to put the spotlight on the issue. But the real question is whether the President's push is coming too late. The August recess looms. Can the Democrats get the job done, or will they have to wait another generation for another chance? There is some good news: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) supports a public option available on day one. The next two weeks are crucial.

American Healthcare vs. American Soccer

Over the weekend Mitch McConnell told David Gregory that "we have the finest health care in the world."  This is pretty standard Republican boilerplate, and it got me to wondering.

Has any Democrat ever said that "we have the worst health care in the world"?  Why not?  Sure, technically, you'd need to say "industrialized world" or some such, but aside from that it would be pretty accurate.  Certainly more accurate than McConnell's formulation.

So why not say it?  I can think of a few reasons.  (a) Americans don't like to hear anyone telling them they aren't the best at anything. (b) It would require politicians to explain how it is that other countries do healthcare better and cheaper than us — and Americans really, really don't like to hear that France does something better than us. (c) Since most Americans have health insurance and get adequate care, it's a tough sell. (d) Democrats agree with McConnell.

I suppose there are other possible reasons too.  But why nibble around the edges?  Republicans are willing to straight out claim that we're the best, even though there's virtually no metric in which this is even remotely the case.  It's as laughable as saying that America has the best soccer team in the world.  So why aren't we willing to stretch things a bit and flatly say that virtually every advanced country offers better healthcare than we do?  What's so hard about that?