Bloggers discuss the Senate's new ethics package, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's what-for from Ayatollah Khamenei, and what they'd do with $1.2 trillion.
Senate don'ts: Hardly anyone was prepared to openly reject the new Senate ethics package that passed last night with a vote of 96-2 as part of the final legislative push of the Democrats' first-100-hours agenda. Among the signal reforms are a crackdown on lobbyist campaign contributions, a two-year moratorium on a politician's lobby activity after he steps down, restrictions on travel perks, and a reduction on certain tax breaks. Republicans first tried to kill the bill, however, by adding a presidential line-item-veto amendment to it.
Progressive Nevada blogger Desert Beacon writes: "Perhaps it is that the Republicans never really wanted a strengthened ethics reform package in the first place, because if they did then the impossible demand that the Gregg amendment go to conference would not have been made, nor the compromise suggestions rejected. Perhaps Senator McConnell, the erstwhile co-sponsor of the Ethics Bill, lacks the clout in the Republican conference to derail the efforts of the ultra-conservative wing to add unpalatable amendments to important legislation."
Conservative Stephen Spruiell at the National Review's The Corner notes that the Senate passage wasn't without its Republican victors: "Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina embarrassed Harry Reid and Dick Durbin into including a provision requiring the disclosure of which lawmakers request which earmarks in spending bills. … Republicans were able to win enough votes to strip out a provision that would have made it harder for grassroots organizations like the NRA and the ACLU to organize petitions and campaigns."
Lefty Bob Geiger recounts "an odd bit of theater": Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, wore a red T-shirt on the floor to denounce the rescission of $6 billion in oil-industry tax breaks as "Communist Red": "And that antic pretty much puts the entire week in context: Democrats doing the work expected by the American people and Republicans doing stupid stuff to either scare people or appease their big-money donors."
Geneva-based project Thinking Ethics applauds the initiative but notes, "A great pity that the US Congress did not go far enough in policing themselves—they turned down the proposal to create an independent ethics committee 71:27."
Read more about the Senate ethics package.
Wrap it up, Mahmoud: Following United Nations sanctions on Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei—the real political head of the country—has rebuked President Ahmadinejad for his meretricious style and big mouth. But what does this mean for internal regime change in Tehran?
Time's Cairo-based reporter Scott MacLeod summarizes at The Middle East Blog: "[Ahmadinejad's] been under increasing domestic pressure since the U.N. adopted Resolution 1737 last month calling for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Tehran newspapers even from the conservative camp to which Ahmadinejad generally belongs are criticizing his fiery anti-Western policies for having provoked the West into punishing Iran. Last month in Tehran, a senior conservative leader who opposes Ahmadinejad frankly predicted to me that the president wouldn't make it through his four-year term—that the Iranian parliament would vote to remove him from office."
Righty TigerHawk says, "[T]he Islamic Republic needs a scapegoat for its plunging economy. As in the United States, the president is the obvious candidate, especially because he has a clerical boss who is going to throw him overboard before going down himself. …. Iran needs foreign direct investment to dig itself out, but even the French and the Russians are not yet ready to trade openly with a country that flaunts its craziness by denying the Holocaust. The sanctions just make a bad situation worse."
Boston Herald city editor Jules Crittenden at forward movement characterizes the internal split as a "waiting game": "No mention of the elephant in the room: Khamenei, his expected death and ensuing power struggle. … A new regime is unlikely to do more than suspend that program for appearance's sake unless it is a radically new regime. But the internal situation bears watching to see which way Iran will break. Attacks by the Great Satan, while they may be unavoidable, could serve to strengthen A'jad's position when he needs it most, as there is nothing a rug-chewing tyrant likes better than an external threat."
Read more about Ahmadinejad's descent into mullah disfavor.
Trillions for all: The New York Times has a piece about estimated $1.2 trillion cost of the Iraq war and what else—rebuilding New Orleans, universal health care—the money could have been spent on. Bloggers dare to dream.
Vermonter Robb Kidd of Evolving Peace rechannels the money into state residents' hands: "Imagine what 1.2 trillion dollars can do for you. …There are so many worthwhile causes that are in need of financial resources, but too many people have been victimized by the deceptive neo-conservative and neo-liberal agenda. What is the cost in your community?"
Forget the war in Iraq, says righty Rob at Say Anything: "[D]on't expect the Times to tally up the trillions spent on the 'war on poverty' and whine about the other places that money could have gone. To hear liberals themselves tell it we're worse off poverty wise than we were when LBJ started that foolish crusade. From an objective standpoint, the $1.2 trillion spent on the war in Iraq has done more good for that country and our national security than decades worth of war on poverty spending."
Read more about the Times trillion piece.