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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 18, 2015

 
Bloodthirsty nation

by digby

This makes me sick:


When you don't even give a shit that innocent people might be executed or that it's more likely to affect minorities you are an immoral piece of work who could, under your own value system, logically be executed yourself. After all, if you support executing innocent people you are no better than a murderer yourself.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more bloodthirsty than anyone else in the country. They aren't quite as bad as they used to be, but they're still bad. Democrats seem to be growing a bit more of a conscience:

Wider Partisan Gap on Death Penalty

I obviously don't support the death penalty. But I have some sympathy for those who truly believe the system works to only execute the guilty and that it's color blind. They're wrong about the facts but it's a moral question that operates on a pretty complicated level. It's this blithe acceptance that innocent people might be killed that shows this is about simple-minded blood lust not justice. It's barbaric.

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A geyser of money worthy of Old Faithful

by digby

It boggles the mind:
Less than a week after announcing his 2016 campaign for president, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida doesn't need to worry about money.

It's as good as in the bank.

"Marco Rubio will have the resources necessary to run a first-class campaign, that’s already been determined," said billionaire Florida auto dealer Norman Braman, a former Jeb Bush supporter who is now one of Rubio's highest-silhouette donors.

Annandale Capital founder George Seay, who is hosting a Rubio fundraiser with the moneyed Dallas elite at his 7,000-square-foot, seven-bath home on Tuesday, said: "Marco has had zero trouble raising money."

At least seven other Rubio mega donors say their candidate has already received monetary commitments in excess of the $40 million he will likely need to battle through a presidential primary season that will feature a crowd of seasoned Republican candidates with strong financial backing.

Rubio’s whirlwind money-raising comes after a network of Senator Ted Cruz super PACs raked in $31 million following Cruz's announcement in March that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

The breakneck pace of the 2016 fundraising, most notably characterized by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's reputed aim to raise $100 million, is emblematic of how much the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision unleashed an era of unfettered political spending by for-profit corporations and the rich, altering the financial calculus of campaigns.

At a time when a band of billionaires can single-handedly bankroll the politician of their choice through a super PAC, in some ways it's never been easier to raise money, signaling a phase that campaign-finance reformers fear will further concentrate political power in the hands of the deep-pocketed few.

The commitments to Rubio, Cruz and Bush ensure this Republican primary season will be long and bruising given that raising money is no longer the issue it once was.
Even more mind-boggling is the fact that the money doesn't make even the tiniest dent in the wealth of these billionaires' fortunes.

It's going to be a truly dizzyingly profitable season for the media and the professional political world to have this huge influx of cash into the process. But we still get to vote. And the right wing base is well enough organized to make their own decision if they can see through this miasma of plutocratic smoke so they could surprise everyone. I'd guess that most people will be sick of this stuff long before the election and will tune it out. But hey, maybe that's the Big Money Boyz's nefarious plan.

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Friends and allies

by digby

Maybe Bob Graham is a nut. But he seems to really believe this is true:

The episode could have been a chapter from the thriller written by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida about a shadowy Saudi role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

A top F.B.I. official unexpectedly arranges a meeting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington with Mr. Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after he has pressed for information on a bureau terrorism inquiry. Mr. Graham, a Democrat, is then hustled off to a clandestine location, where he hopes for a breakthrough in his long pursuit of ties between leading Saudis and the Sept. 11 hijackers.

This real-life encounter happened in 2011, Mr. Graham said, and it took a startling twist.

"He basically said, 'Get a life,' " Mr. Graham said of the F.B.I. official, who suggested that the former senator was chasing a dead-end investigation.

Mr. Graham, 78, a two-term governor of Florida and three-term senator who left Capitol Hill in 2005, says he will not relent in his efforts to force the government to make public a secret section of a congressional review he helped write - one that, by many accounts, implicates Saudi citizens in helping the hijackers.

"No. 1, I think the American people deserve to know the truth of what has happened in their name," said Mr. Graham, who was a co-chairman of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks. "No. 2 is justice for these family members who have suffered such loss and thus far have been frustrated largely by the U.S. government in their efforts to get some compensation."

He also says national security implications are at stake, suggesting that since Saudi officials were not held accountable for Sept. 11 they have not been restrained in backing a spread of Islamic extremism that threatens United States interests. Saudi leaders have long denied any connection to Sept. 11.

Mr. Graham's focus on a possible Saudi connection has received renewed attention because of claims made by victims' families in a federal court in New York that Saudi Arabia was responsible for aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers and because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the F.B.I. in Florida.

In sworn statements in the two cases, Mr. Graham has said there was evidence of support from the Saudi government for the terrorists. He also says the F.B.I. withheld from his inquiry, as well as a subsequent one, the fact that the bureau had investigated a Saudi family in Sarasota, Fla., and had found multiple contacts between it and the hijackers training nearby until the family fled just before the attacks.

Despite the F.B.I.'s insistence to the contrary, Mr. Graham said there was no evidence that the bureau had ever disclosed that line of investigation to his panel or the national commission that reviewed the attacks and delivered a report in 2004.

"One thing that irritates me is that the F.B.I. has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception," Mr. Graham said during an interview in a family office in this Miami suburb, which rose on what was a dairy farm operated by Mr. Graham's father, also a political leader in Florida.

If what he says is correct we have to assume that the US Government covered this up for fear of upsetting a very close ally in the middle east --- even at the expense of the truth about al Qaeda and 9/11. We should keep that in mind as we listen to our political leaders of both parties wax on about principles and values and keeping the babies safe. They often have a very different definition of what that means than the average American does.

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Real men don't drink Chai

by digby

What an elitist ...



Sorry, that's just unAmerican...
 
Sophisticated Republican national security policy

by digby


This is what passes for Republican national security policy these days:



I'll just let Olivia Nuzzi explain:
The biggest threat that he can wrap his head around is a reptile—native to America!—that mostly feeds on small rodents and birds.

“When you’re dealing with Islamic Jihad ... you’re dealing with a rattlesnake.” — former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee
But this is not necessarily Huckabee’s fault—and he’s not alone.

Running a state does not require one to regularly contemplate war or diplomacy in the way that serving in Congress does.

Governors do not, obviously, get to vote on war resolutions or defense spending and because of that, their opinions about foreign policy are infrequently sought, because they are not relevant to their position.

In fact, were a governor to be completely devoid of presidential ambitions, they could feasibly serve two terms at the helm of any of the 50 states without once speaking publicly about the Middle East or Russia—and it wouldn’t actually matter.

And that’s how you end up with moments like the one two weeks ago on This Week, when former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, looking like a deer-in-headlights, haltingly answered a question about the biggest threat to national security.

“The greatest danger that we face right now on a consistent basis in terms of manmade threats is—um—is—nuclear Iran and related to that, extremist violence,” he said. “I don’t think you can separate the two. I think they go together in terms of natural threats, clearly, it’s climate change.”

His Republican counterparts who would like to be president have been equally unlucky navigating matters of homeland security.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, was asked about terrorism.

He responded confidently: “I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists does not wash up on American soil.”

Then, Walker made reference to his battles with unions—battles in which no one, to my recollection, was beheaded or hit by drones. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

After Crimea was invaded by Russian military forces, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended what The New York Times reported was “a confidential meeting of Republican activists.”

At the meeting, he was asked how he would deal with Putin differently than President Obama has, to which he replied by saying Obama’s behavior had let him be pushed around by Putin. “I don’t believe, given who I am, that he would make the same judgement,” he claimed. “Let’s leave it at that.” Christie reportedly did not offer any further insights into his own understanding of the issue.

In August, now-former Texas governor Rick Perry addressed the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He told them he believed it’s a “very real possibility” that ISIS could cross into the United States through Mexico because the border is not secure. “We have no clear evidence of that,” he acknowledged, but “individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be” planning to do that or, “they may have already used that.” Perry used this theory to advocate for a border fence.

These are the grown-ups.

By the way, Iranians are actually human beings not snakes  I know that comes as a surprise to many people.  There are even a whole lot of them right here in the good old US of A.



 
Cool vs Cold

by digby

Who knew Lincoln Chafee was such a putz?
COLMES: Do you have any relationship with Hillary Clinton? Do you know her at all?

CHAFEE: We served together in the Senate and we served on the Environment and Public Works
Committee together. I worked on a couple of bills with her.

COLMES: What’s your impression?

CHAFEE: She’s as everyone said a policy wonk, she can be cold.

COLMES: Cold personally? Not a warm fuzzy human being?

CHAFEE: Yeah, when we worked on some of these issues, she likes to be the center of attention.
Here's a little game: substitute the word "serious" for cold and see how it sounds. And then ask yourself whether it's laughable that a virtually unknown man who's quixotically running for president is criticizing a rival for wanting to be the center of attention.

I won't belabor the point but it's worth noting that people rarely call a man "cold." In fact, they call men "cool" a which has a whole other connotation. Saying a woman is "cold" is a put down that calls to mind some sort of sexual repression and I'm fairly sure that most smart, serious women have been called that in their professional lives, especially if they were not inclined to play the flirty game to sooth all the egos in the room.

More importantly, who gives a shit? It's not as if Jeb Bush or Scott Walker --- or Lincoln Chaffee, for that matter come across as cuddly comedians. Or, for that matter, Barack Obama who is so known for his cool demeanor that they call him "no drama Obama." He's so unemotional that if he was a woman he'd be called a frigid ice queen.

The truth is that we should want leaders who work hard and can keep their heads and stay focused. We don't need them to come up with cute nicknames for everyone or seem like the kid of person you'd want to have a beer with. Being "cool" (or "cold" if you insist) is an asset not a liability in a leader.

There are plenty of legitimate things over which to criticize Clinton and it's kind of sad (and idiotic) that the completely predictable sexist trope of "cold bitch" is still the go-to insult among so many people.


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We have met the enemy and he is You

by Tom Sullivan

"How many isolated incidents equal a pattern?" radio host Tavis Smiley asked Bill O'Reilly this week as the two debated police misconduct and mass incarceration.

From mass surveillance to mass incarceration, it appears that government of the people, etc. is increasingly prone to viewing itself as government against the people. The Guardian reported Friday that the Missouri National Guard had to caution its people against referring to Ferguson protesters as "enemy forces":

A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities”, which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.

And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”

National Guard spokesman Capt. Quinn told CNN later drafts of mission plans dialed back the language. Quinnn said, "'enemy forces' would be better understood as 'potential threats.'" So that's comforting.

In France, lawmakers debated an anti-terrorism bill that would expand the breadth of government surveillance:

The proposed law, introduced in Parliament on Monday, would allow the government to monitor emails and phone calls of suspected terrorists and their contacts, without seeking authorization from a judge. Telecommunications and internet companies would be forced to automatically filter vast amounts of metadata to flag suspicious patterns, and would have to make that data freely available to intelligence services. Agents would also be able to plant cameras and bugs in the homes of suspected terrorists, as well as keyloggers to track their online behavior.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted, "... this is not a French Patriot Act." We're just going to Hoover your Internet and phone calls. (Pun intended.) Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., Congress is getting ready to extend the Patriot Act, including Section 215 that the NSA uses justify bulk data collection of personal data. But even without Section 215, there remain "a host of far-reaching surveillance authorities, including those of the Drug Enforcement Agency that are aimed at US citizens."

Writing for Washington Monthly, Seth Stoughton a former police officer, now a law professor at the University of South Carolina, looks at the warrior mindset being inculcated by law enforcement training:

In this worldview, officers are warriors combatting unknown and unpredictable—but highly lethal—enemies. They learn to be afraid. Officers don’t use that word, of course. Vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, or observant are the terms that appear most often in police publications. But officers learn to be vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, and observant because they are afraid, and they afraid because they’re taught to be.

As a result, officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making. Every individual, every situation — no exceptions. A popular police training text offers this advice: “As you approach any situation, you want to be in the habit of looking for cover[] so you can react automatically to reach it should trouble erupt.” A more recent article puts it even more bluntly: “Remain humble and compassionate; be professional and courteous — and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Gosh, what about that would make young, black males apprehensive when encountering police officers?

Stoughton thinks this is exactly the wrong approach:

Counterintuitively, the warrior mentality also makes policing less safe for both officers and civilians. Officers learn to both verbally and physically control the space they operate in. They learn that it is essential to set the proper tone for an encounter, and the tone that best preserves officer safety is widely thought to be one of “unquestioned command.” Even acting friendly, officers are told, can make them a target. But like the use of physical force, the assertive manner in which officers set the tone of encounter can also set the stage for a negative response or a violent interaction—one that was, from the start, avoidable. From the warrior perspective, the solution is simple: the people with whom officers interact must accede, respecting officers’ authority by doing what they are told. The failure to comply is confirmation that the individual is an enemy for the warrior to vanquish, physically if necessary. And remember that officers are trained to expect threats. Our brains are wired so that we see what we expect to see; given their training, it’s no surprise that officers react to threats that don’t actually exist. The result is avoidable violence.

We are expected to treat police officers as public servants and heroes willing to lay down their lives to protect us. So it baffles me how, as Stoughton writes, "would-be officers are told that their primary objective is to go home at the end of every shift." What is heroic about that? About sacrificing others before you would sacrifice yourself? What is heroic about shooting unarmed suspects in the back or choking them to death for selling loose cigarettes? Stoughton rightly blames the training, and offers suggestions on training Guardian Officers rather than Police Warriors. But beyond that, there is a culture growing within law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community that, post-September 11, increasingly views the public they are meant to serve as "enemy forces" to be dealt with. Somewhere, Osama bin Laden must be smiling.


Friday, April 17, 2015

 
This calls for a big helping of Alaska word salad

by digby

Jeb, Jeb, Jeb. Remember, you're supposed to be the smart one in the family:

"Jeb Bush, defending his efforts to keep alive Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman, when he was governor of Florida, suggested on Friday that patients on Medicare should be required to sign advance directives dictating their care if they become incapacitated. A similar proposal by President Obama -- that doctors should be paid to advise patients on end-of-life decisions -- became a political firestorm in 2009, when Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate, claimed that the legislation would give bureaucrats the power to decide if some frail or disabled people were deserving of medical care. The assertion was shown to be false."

Sheesh. All Obamacare proposed was to let doctor's charge for talking to their patients about living wills. This guy wants to require them to have one on file ... or else, what? Thet'll withhold their SS check? Send in the jackbooted thugs? What?

He's so out of practice. (Either that or he's always been so overrated.)

 
The outrageous cost of our love for guns

by digby

I wrote a little post over at Salon about the gun lobby making it impossible to gather date on gun deaths a couple of weeks ago.  I wish I'd had this latest deep dive into the cost of gun violence from Mother Jones to draw on.  It's epic and it's shocking:
Jennifer Longdon was one of at least 750,000 Americans injured by gunshots over the last decade, and she was lucky not to be one of the more than 320,000 killed. Each year more than 11,000 people are murdered with a firearm, and more than 20,000 others commit suicide using one. Hundreds of children die annually in gun homicides, and each week seems to bring news of another toddler accidentally shooting himself or a sibling with an unsecured gun. And perhaps most disturbingly, even as violent crime overall has declined steadily in recent years, rates of gun injury and death are climbing (up 11 and 4 percent since 2011) and mass shootings have been on the rise.

Yet, there is no definitive assessment of the costs for victims, their families, their employers, and the rest of us—including the major sums associated with criminal justice, long-term health care, and security and prevention. Our media is saturated with gun carnage practically 24/7. So why is the question of what we all pay for it barely part of the conversation?

A top public health expert describes the chill this way: "Do you want to do gun research? Because you're going to get attacked. No one is attacking us when we do heart disease."
Nobody, save perhaps for the hardcore gun lobby, doubts that gun violence is a serious problem. In an editorial in the April 7 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, a team of doctors wrote: "It does not matter whether we believe that guns kill people or that people kill people with guns—the result is the same: a public health crisis."

And solving a crisis, as any expert will tell you, begins with data. That's why the US government over the years has assessed the broad economic toll of a variety of major problems. Take motor vehicle crashes: Using statistical models to estimate a range of costs both tangible and more abstract—from property damage and traffic congestion to physical pain and lost quality of life—the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a 300-page study estimating the "total value of societal harm" from this problem in 2010 at $871 billion. Similar research has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of air pollution, by the Department of Health and Human Services on the costs of domestic violence, and so on. But the government has mostly been mute on the economic toll of gun violence. HHS has assessed firearm-related hospitalizations, but its data is incomplete because some states don't require hospitals to track gunshot injuries among the larger pool of patients treated for open wounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also periodically made estimates using hospital data, but based on narrow sample sizes and covering only the medical and lost-work costs of gun victims.

Why the lack of solid data? A prime reason is that the National Rifle Association and other influential gun rights advocates have long pressured political leaders to shut down research related to firearms. The Annals of Internal Medicine editorial detailed this "suppression of science":

Two years ago, we called on physicians to focus on the public health threat of guns. The profession's relative silence was disturbing but in part explicable by our inability to study the problem. Political forces had effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other scientific agencies from funding research on gun-related injury and death. The ban worked: A recent systematic review of studies evaluating access to guns and its association with suicide and homicide identified no relevant studies published since 2005.

An executive order in 2013 from President Obama sought to free up the CDC via a new budget, but the purse strings remain in the grip of Congress, many of whose members have seen their campaigns backed by six- and even seven-figure sums from the NRA. "Compounding the lack of research funding," the doctors added, "is the fear among some researchers that studying guns will make them political targets and threaten their future funding even for unrelated topics."
750,000 Americans injured by gunshots in 10 years. 320,000 dead. For freedom? We only lost about 5,000 in the Iraq war.

We are supposed to be the most advanced nation in the world. Contrary to Ted Cruz'a fatuous insistence that climate deniers are the Galileos of our time, it's actually scientific researchers in any area conservatives don't want researched. Same as it ever was.

Read the whole piece this week-end if you have the chance it's really eye-opening.

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Can't help lovin' those macho barbarians

by digby

I've written reams about the dissonance in the right's insistence that the depraved liberals are in cahoots with the fundamentalist terrorists but this guy has finally put that whole thing together in a way that makes some logical sense. In Bizarroworld. Liberals, you see,  just yearn for a strong, strong man:
Brian Tashman of “Right Wing Watch” reports that on a recent episode of the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch,” conservative Rabbi Daniel Lapin claimed that the problem with effeminate liberals is that an excess of estrogen in their systems causes them to fall in love with “the masculine strength and brutality of Islam.”

Host Tony Perkins asked him why liberals “favors Islam and actually promotes it, even to their own demise,” and Rabbi Lapin responded with what he characterized as a “zinger” of an answer — there’s a “sexual dimension” in which, much like feminized hostages suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, liberals are attracted to the masculinity of the Islamic extremists.

Rabbi Lapin explains this by way of a crude, but surprisingly fluid, gender stereotypes. He claims that if he and his wife are going to a wedding, she can order him to change his clothes, and in so doing becomes more masculine than him — because being feminine entails submissiveness and dependence.

“It’s just biology,” Rabbi Lapin continues. “There are countless studies showing that feminine-type behavior produces an excess of estrogen in men and vice versa. Essentially, the left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam.”

He then spoke of a Golden Age of masculinity, in which the television program “The Waltons” provided men with strong masculine role models. However, “after a thirty or forty year epidemic of leftism that has swept its sordid stain across America, we’ve become much more feminized and we are attracted to the masculine strength and brutality of Islam.”

(Yeah, John-boy was a real Rambo.)

And here I thought conservatives were the very essence of hardcore, aggressive,macho manliness. So how come we aren't in love with them?

There's nothing as unintentionally hilarious as a right winger talking about sexual psychology:





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Safeway stands up to lunacy

by digby

I don't do a lot of petition stuff but this one strikes me as worth doing:
Safeway -- one of the largest grocery chains in the country -- is asking shoppers to leave their guns at home.

It's an important policy, and it means they're committed to a safe shopping experience that we should all keep in mind when it comes to stocking up.

Weak gun laws in most states mean that virtually anyone can openly carry loaded weapons without any permits, training or background checks. When the law doesn't protect us, private businesses have the responsibility to prohibit the open carry of guns where they don't belong.

But now gun extremists are attacking the supermarket chain -- all because of a common-sense policy that's meant to keep our families safe where we shop. As pressure builds from the small but vocal opposition, we have to make sure Safeway knows we appreciate their stance.

Use the form on this page to send a thank-you message to Safeway CEO Robert Miller for supporting this common-sense policy.

Honestly, people don't need to carry their guns into a grocery store. The food is already dead. And if the million to one chance that some terrible person tries to kill them while they're there comes to pass it's highly unlikely they'll do anything more than make things worse by firing back. Far more likely they will accidentally kill someone instead.

It shouldn't be up to businesses to make a policy saying that they don't want guns in their stores. This should be a simple matter of public safety in which people aren't allowed to carry loaded guns in public except under certain discrete circumstances. There are too many gun accidents already and the price we're paying for it is astronomical.

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There was a reason we wanted to vaccinate against Blue Dog fever

by digby

Ed Kilgore points out that until we managed to chase the Blue Dogs back into their proper Party they routinely voted for such idiotic bills as Estate Tax Repeal, thus making it very difficult for Democrats to take a hardline position on the issue. No more. There aren't very many of them left and so now only seven Dems voted for it instead of the dozens who used to:

If nothing else, this means Democrats will have no problem making this an issue of “partisan differentiation.” If you think it will become impossible for people to “succeed” in this country if they cannot pass along unlimited wealth without taxation to their heirs, you are very likely a Republican, albeit of a kind who would make Teddy Roosevelt roll over in his grave. If you think a five-million-dollar-plus exemption—plus complete non-taxation of estates where there is a surviving spouse— is probably enough to accommodate family farms and small businesses, you are probably a Democrat. It’s most definitely a difference in perception.

This is something worth running on. Sure, the Fox/Limbaugh addicts are dumb enough to think that inherited wealth for millionaires is something from which they benefit, but normal people can be educated on what this means and will understand the difference if Democrats are willing to make the case.

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QOTD: Jeb!

by digby

Jeb said today that he wouldn't change a thing about his behavior during the Schiavo matter which means he's still a meddling ghoul. And then there's this:
Bush has previously said that the intelligence used to justify the start of the Iraq war was flawed, but he pushed back against a question Friday about whether his brother had made any other mistakes with his foreign policy.

"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "That's not particularly relevant in a world of deep insecurity, focusing on the past is not really relevant. What's relevant is what's the role of America going forward?"
Oh my. He's going to have a tough time with this "politics of the past" thing, isn't he?

And yeah, it's a world of deep insecurity. And a big part of the reason why is that his brother W decided to blow up the middle east and get out of town. I think most people are reminded of that every time they see this guy's face.


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Security mommies and daddies

by digby

I wrote in Salon today about how the election's foreign policy and "national security" issues are stereotyped by gender and how Clinton might deal with them:
So where does this leave Hillary Clinton? She seems to have as good a resume for the Commander in Chief job as any woman could have with her close proximity to power in the White House for eight years, her eight years as senator and four years as Secretary of State. The only thing missing is a stint in the armed forces — which is also missing on the CV of most of the Republicans presenting themselves as fierce warriors, so it should be no harm, no foul there. (The exceptions being Texas Governor Rick Perry, a pilot in the Air Force, and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, a member of the Air Force JAG corps.) But stereotypes are very hard to dislodge; even with her reputation for toughness, and despite her sterling resume, Clinton will be pushing against something very primal. The Republicans know this, which is why some of us have been pretty sure they would try to frame this election as a national security election if they could. And they are. Those elections always give them an advantage in any case, and if a woman is the standard bearer it stands to reason that advantage would be even greater.

But what about the women voters who will presumably be less prone to follow such stereotyping? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple case of men being sexist. As Heather Hurlburt points out in this article in the American Prospect, we live in anxious times, and in anxious times, women can often revert to stereotypes as well:

Gender politics magnify the electoral effects of anxiety in two ways. First, in surveys and other studies, women consistently report higher levels of anxiety. In fact, women poll twice as anxious as men, largely independent of the specific topic. Women are more concerned about security, physical and economic, than men. According to Lake, Gotoff, and Ogren, women “across racial, educational, partisan, and ideological divides” have “heightened concerns” about terrorism. Those concerns make women “more security-conscious in general and more supportive of the military than they were in the past.”

Walmart-sponsored focus groups found women expressing a significant and steady level of anxiety over the months preceding the 2014 midterms. At one session, the explanation was Ebola; another, ISIS—whatever had most recently dominated cable-news headlines. The pollsters interpreted the responses as “emblematic of anxiety they feel regarding other issues, including national security, job security, and people ‘getting stuff they aren’t entitled to,’ such as health care and other government benefits.”

The majority of voters express equal confidence in men and women as leaders, but when national security is the issue, confidence in women’s leadership declines. In a Pew poll in January, 37 percent of the respondents said that men do better than women in dealing with national security, while 56 percent said gender makes no difference. That was an improvement from decades past, but sobering when compared to the 73 percent who say gender is irrelevant to leadership on economic issues.

That isn’t inevitable, of course. A lot depends upon the individuals who are competing for the job. And from the looks of the GOP field there aren’t many who come across as great warrior leaders who can lay claim to any particular national security experience.

But as much as foreign policy and national security will likely be issues, so too will all those other anxiety-producing problems. And in that respect, Clinton is likely to be in much better shape than the Republicans who are retreating to their standard playbook organized around lowering taxes and regulations as the elixer that cures everything. It’s unlikely that anyone, much less working women, will find that to be soothing in these anxious times.

The Republicans say that Clinton is the one saddled with the old ideas of the past. But that’s actually not true at all. This piece by Adam Ozimek at Forbes sets the record straight:

I believe there is a new liberal consensus on economic policy emerging and gathering strength. Department of Labor senior advisor Mary Beth Maxwell identifies it as well in a Medium post on “A ‘New’ Conventional Wisdom on Labor”. She quotes Paul Krugman, who provides what I think amounts to the basic case:

“Low wages, he argues, are not the product of inscrutable market forces, but rather choices. He joins many others in connecting rising income inequality with the decline in workers’ bargaining power.”

It’s not just Paul Krugman and liberal politicians like Barack Obama and labor secretary Tom Perez embracing this “new consensus” either. Even some centrist economists like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin have been making similar arguments.

What’s important is that this isn’t just a restatement of long-time core liberal commitments, but a conclusion that is drawn from recent trends in empirical research. For example, the strain of minimum wage research led by Arin Dube and coathors that suggests little to no impacts of a higher minimum wage. And here’s a recent publication from the Peterson Institute for International Economics with empirical papers arguing for higher wages from Justin Wolfers, Adam Posen, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard and others.

There's lots more at the link.



 

Regal-atory capture

by Tom Sullivan

Progressive groups are sure to be fuming over the agreement among congressional leaders on approving "fast track" authority:

In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.

With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.

"NAFTA on steroids" may have bipartisan support, but the secret trade agreement — congressional staff must have security clearances to view the draft trade pact text — also "enjoys" bipartisan opposition. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January showed Americans were in no hurry to expand trade: "59% said it could be delayed until next year and 16% said it shouldn’t be pursued at all." Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a press release yesterday, “Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.”

Florida Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson said “we’ve had, I hate to say this, a sellout government.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in the Washington Post that the “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS provisions, in TPP "would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty." For that and other reasons, the T-party derisively calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership Obamatrade.

The agreement in Congress follows a 240-179 vote in the House to repeal the estate tax. The White House theatens a veto, and The Hill reports Republicans do not appear to have the votes needed to override.

Elizabeth Warren spoke Thursday with Esquire's Charlie Pierce about the estate tax vote:

"I can't believe it," she said. "Well, yes, I can. This isn't just a really bad idea. This is an attack on our values -- getting rid of the estate tax in order to help a handful of really rich people, and telling our children that there's no money for them to go to school, to help them with their student loans, to build the necessary infrastructure so that they can get to and from the jobs that will help them pay off those loans...well, that's just...obscene."

As Digby observed yesterday at Salon, even the Washington Post's Dana Milbank agrees the estate tax, as it now stands, is not preventing the growth of "a permanent aristocracy" in this country, and "abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy." That is, repeal would codify what we have now. Perhaps we should call our present struggle a fight to ward off regal-atory capture.

Many of our flag-waving, fellow Americans, both rich and poor, are royalists by temperament, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal. During the Revolution, they sided with the British. After the Treaty of Paris, most stayed here. Their progeny and others so disposed have made it their project, as Digby suggests, to restore control to those whom Republican Sen. Dan Quayle once called "the best people." And to corporations. Because corporations are the best people too, my friend.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

 
Did he order the Code Red?

by digby

Mysterious goings-on at Gitmo:

A career Navy fighter pilot and former Top Gun instructor takes charge at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a low-key ceremony on Friday, completing a transition that started in January with the unceremonious removal of the base’s last commander.
[...]

Culpepper replaces Navy Capt. Scott Gray who since Jan. 21 filled in as base commander after their boss, Rear Adm. Mary Jackson, fired Nettleton “due to a loss of confidence” in him.

The body of commissary worker Christopher Tur, 42, was found in the bay near the base airstrip on Jan. 11. He’d gone missing a day earlier, after last being seen in the Officer’s Club. The base undertook a massive search that included having troops go door to door in the trailer park housing U.S. forces on temporary prison duty before his body was found in the water.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service conducted a still-open probe, according to NCIS spokesman Ed Buice, and advertised on the base’s internal TV network asking people to come forward with tips.

On Thursday, both NCIS and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s office said the autopsy report was complete but would not release it, citing the ongoing investigation.

At the time of Tur’s death, his wife was working as the base commander’s director of the Fleet and Family Support Center which, according to a Navy site, provides counseling and crisis intervention “during some of the most stressful and challenging times of a military career.”

Can the Top Gun Maverick solve this one too?



 
News of the weird from NBC

by digby

Do you all remember that awful story of NBC correspondent Richard Engel and some colleagues being taken hostage for five days by pro-Assad forces in Syria from a while back? Greenwald recounts the story here and then discusses today's New York Times Bombshell:
Last night, Engel posted a new statement on the NBC News website stating that, roughly one month ago, he had been contacted by the New York Times, which “uncovered information that suggested the kidnappers were not who they said they were and that the Syrian rebels who rescued us had a relationship with the kidnappers.” That inquiry from the NYT caused him to re-investigate the kidnapping, and he concluded that “the group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia” and that “the group that freed us” – which he had previously depicted as heroic anti-Assad rebels – actually “had ties to the kidnappers.”

That’s all fair enough. Nobody can blame Engel – a courageous reporter, fluent in Arabic – for falling for what appears to be a well-coordinated ruse. Particularly under those harrowing circumstances, when he and his fellow captives believed with good reason that their lives were in immediate danger, it’s completely understandable that he believed he had been captured by pro-Assad forces. There is no real evidence that Engel did anything wrong in recounting his ordeal.

But the same is most certainly not true of NBC News executives. In writing his new account, Engel does not mention the most important and most incriminating aspect of the New York Times reporting: that NBC officials knew at the time that there was reason to be highly skeptical of the identity of the captors, but nonetheless allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC reporters to tell this story with virtually no questioning.

In a very well-reported article this morning, the NYT states that “Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.” That rebel group is “known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade” and is “led by two men, Azzo Qassab and Shukri Ajouj.” Amazingly, NBC executives knew that this was at least very possible even during Engel’s kidnapping, and yet:

NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals. Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.

In other words, NBC executives at least had ample reason to suspect that it was anti-Assad rebels who staged the kidnapping, not pro-Assad forces. Yet they allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC personalities repeatedly and unequivocally to blame the Assad regime and glorify the anti-Assad rebels, and worse, to link the hideous kidnapping to Iran and Hezbollah, all with no indication that there were other quite likely alternatives. NBC refused to respond to the NYT‘s questions about that (The Intercept‘s inquiries to NBC News were also not responded to at the time of publication, though any responses will be added (update: an NBC executive has refused to comment)).

The Brian Williams scandal is basically about an insecure, ego-driven TV star who puffed up his own war credentials by fabricating war stories: it’s about personal foibles. But this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in line with the story which official Washington was selling (by then, Obama was secretly aiding anti-Assad rebels, and had just announced - literally a week before the Engel kidnapping – “that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country’s legitimate representative”). Much worse, the NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the west to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad.

That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo.
No kidding. These executives knew that their story was possibly completely wrong and yet they let their star correspondent unknowingly go out and tell it anyway, without caveat or disclaimer. WTH?
Read the whole Greenwald piece. It's quite a shocker. I cannot fathom how something like this could happen without serious repercussions.

What a weird, weird story.

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Paul's millennial pipe dream

by digby

Does this seem likely to you?
While Clinton has overwhelming support from Millennials who grew up under her husband’s administration, the growth of libertarian ideology among young voters may peel away some of Hillary’s reliable supporters, swayed by Paul’s “leave-me-alone-coalition” of voters, reluctance toward the use of military force abroad, support of medical marijuana legislation, his platform position on criminal justice reform, and his sometimes-unpolished appearance in interviews and stump speeches that connote a sense of “realness” that is uncommon in GOP candidates. Paul gains headlines for what he’s not: a non-threatening Republican with a cadre of platform stances that are nearer to obsolescence than relatability. His brand of digestible libertarianism is made for the post-Obama generation. Hillary, on the other hand, is likely seen as a successor of Obama’s administration; she is the torch-bearer that Vice President Joe Biden would be, were he cut out for the presidency. Young voters who came of age during Obama’s two exciting campaigns may find Hillary to be a less magnetic choice compared Paul—if he finds traction with any Republican voters willing to compromise the beliefs of the base for the betterment of the party.

They might end up taking a look at Paul's actual comments about foreign policy and wonder why a so-called libertarian has propensity to hire unreconstructed racists and is anti-choice. His longtime relationship with crackpot Alex Jones, someone he's been friends with since 1996 and whose show he went on regularly until recently. Here are just a few of the things Paul and Jones agree upon:
Jones and Paul pushed fringe conspiracy theories and rhetoric during Paul's appearances. Paul worried that "martial law" with "mandatory" vaccines could surface. Paul agreed with Jones that Democrats want to start a "shooting war" marked by ammunition confiscation. Paul predicted that an "army of armed EPA agents" would enforce climate regulations. He connected the Obama administration to Nazi Germany. And he promised Jones he would help him fight the "globalist agenda" and help expose a White House adviser's purported support for eugenics and forced drugs in the water supply.
And despite some uniformed Villager hype to the contrary, Paul is anything but a climate hawk:
Paul, who is announcing a presidential run on Tuesday, is an anti-government extremist and a climate change denier. Just last April, he said he is “not sure anybody exactly knows why” the climate is changing. He went on to call the science “not conclusive” and complain about “alarmist stuff.” If you’re wondering what he means by “alarmist stuff,” in 2011, while arguing for a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, Paul said, “If you listen to the hysterics, … you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.” Paul went on to assert that children are being misled into believing that “pollution” has gotten “a lot worse,” when “It’s actually much better now.” Paul, of course, was conflating conventional air pollution — like sulfur dioxide, which has declined in the U.S. — and climate pollution, which is cumulative and global, and therefore gets worse every year, even if America’s annual emissions drop.

Indeed, Paul is prone to making ignorant, conspiracist statements about science in general. In October, he suggested to Breitbart News that Ebola may be more easily spread than scientists say and that the White House had been misleading the country on the issue. And in February, Paul told CNBC, “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” This despite the fact that the supposed connection between autism and vaccination has been thoroughly debunked.

Like almost every other Senate Republican, Paul has voted to strip the EPA of its legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, to force approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and to prevent Congress from placing any tax or fee on carbon pollution. Paul’s lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters is 9 percent.

But sure, it's possible that millennials will vote for Paul anyway, especially the young white guys who tend to gravitate to the "rebellious" libertarian political identity. But the idea that they will go for him because of the specifics of his policy platform is unlikely. He's running as an unreconstructed conservative whose main mission in life is shrinking the government down to the efficient, fair level of the Ferguson city council. Oh, except for military and national police agencies. --- those he'll flood with whatever money they feel they need. If they listen to what he actually says instead of how he "seems", from everything we know about them, they won't like what they hear.


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"The care and feeding is four star..."

by digby


It seems like a good time to trot out this notorious story from the 2000 campaign. It was written after Bush was caught on tape calling a New York Times reporter an "asshole" with Cheney chiming in "big time."
Although trivial in the end, the outburst was a setback in Bush's wooing of the press. He routinely comes to the back of the plane to pinch cheeks and hand out nicknames. He asks about the budding romances of the reporters on board; his favorite scribes get their bald heads palmed. The care and feeding is four star. The last time I was on the plane, I had six meals--one featured lobster--over the course of three events, an excellent ratio. Sleep was plentiful, thanks to Bush's light schedule, which protects his naps, nights and weekends.

Such a genial host has the quiet effect of curbing pointed questions. Who wants to bring up politics, religion or money at a family dinner or when there are Dove Bars on demand? One day in Pittsburgh, after Bush and his press pack filled the plane with talk of jogging routes, pickup trucks and heifers, it was the reporters on the ground who pressed Bush to clarify his mushy position on abortion and whether he could prove, given the absence of official documents, that he had actually put in all his time in the National Guard. The charm vanished, the lips pinched, discussion ended. As he so often says when crossed, who are we to judge what's in his heart.

By contrast, Gore's way is not to be chummy but not to be petty either. He has never held it against Time magazine for breaking a story about his hiring of author Naomi Wolfe as a secret adviser or reporting his suggestion that he and Tipper were an inspiration for Love Story. Until the campaign-finance scandals seared him, he'd always been accessible. But he doesn't coddle. The regulars are treated like tourists on Aeroflot: on some days, the food is timely; on others you have to survive on fruit roll-ups and chicken-salad sandwiches past their sell-by date. The most reliable thing is courtesy Rolaids in the bathroom. Bedtime is just something you dream about until well past midnight. Air Gore was a grumpy place, and the alpha male in earth tones with his earnest town-hall meetings couldn't catch a break for much of the campaign.

Just to be fair she went on to point out that Gore became more chummy when the polls starting moving in his direction and Bush got less friendly when the race tightened up.

But that's not what's important here: it's the admission that for many campaign reporters, it's really all about them. And it is. Just keep that in mind when you listen to today's caterwauling about Clinton not being "accessible" to them in the first four days of her campaign. They all sit around and whisper to each other like a bunch of 8th graders and these memes take on a life of their own.

Of course if Clinton provides premium chocolate and lobster dinners, she'll be dinged for being a hypocritical elitist, so she can't really go that way anyway. ("It's not so much that there's anything wrong with giving out expensive Dove bars, it's the appearance of hypocrisy that's the problem here, Andrea"...) All she can do is endure the inevitable. But we, at least, can be aware of what's really going on.

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Corrupt cops and their pretend cop friends

by digby

Can you believe this?
Supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to falsify a reserve deputy’s training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received, sources told the Tulsa World.

At least three of reserve deputy Robert Bates’ supervisors were transferred after refusing to sign off on his state-required training, multiple sources speaking on condition of anonymity told the World.

Bates, 73, is accused of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris during an undercover operation on April 2.

The sources’ claims are corroborated by records, including a statement by Bates after the shooting, that he was certified as an advanced reserve deputy in 2007.

An attorney for Harris’ family also raised questions about the authenticity of Bates’ training records.

Additionally, Sheriff Stanley Glanz told a Tulsa radio station this week that Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including a revolver he fired at Harris. However, Glanz said the Sheriff’s Office has not been able to find the paperwork on those certifications.

The sheriff’s deputy that certified Bates has moved on to work for the Secret Service, Glanz said during the radio interview.

“We can’t find the records that she supposedly turned in,” Glanz said. “So we are going to talk to her to find out if for sure he’s been qualified with those (weapons).”

Undersheriff Tim Albin was unavailable for comment Wednesday but in an earlier interview, Albin said he was unaware of any concerns expressed by supervisors about Bates’ training.
But here's the thing: any Oklahoman is allowed to carry a loaded firearm after completing an 8 hour certification course. So unless he didn't even have that much training, he's no worse than thousands of civilians walking the streets who might have pulled out their guns and drilled somebody. But surprisingly, compared to a number of other states Oklahoma is actually fairly restrictive with their open carry law. They don't let people carry them in bars. Yet.

Still, if this is true, they really went out of their way to let this particular guy slide. With lethal results.

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The Aristocrats!

by digby



I wrote about The new GOP populism at Salon this morning:

It’s been quite interesting to see Republicans embrace the notion that wealth inequality (or any inequality) is something to worry their pretty little heads about. Over the winter we heard numerous reports of various GOP luminaries expressing serious concern that average Americans were getting the short end of the stick while the wealthy few reaped all the rewards. Ted Cruz might as well have put on a blond wig and called himself “Elizabeth” when he railed against it after the State of the Union:

“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,”

And here we thought that was supposed to be a good thing. Aren’t they the “job producers”? That’s how weird the GOP’s messaging has gotten lately. Mitt “47 Percent” Romney clutched his very expensive opera-length pearls, wailing that “under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Rand Paul channeled his heretofore unknown inner Bernie Sanders, proclaiming that “income inequality has worsened under this administration. And tonight, President Obama offers more of the same policies — policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer.” It seemed to many observers at the time that this was a very odd choice of issue for potential Republican presidential aspirants to take up, since every item in the domestic GOP agenda would make wealth inequality even worse. This certainly wasn’t something they lost any sleep over before now.

[...]

In any case, this shallow attempt at appearing to give a damn was short-lived. This week the GOP is voting, as they always do, to ensure that the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune won’t be faced with the terrible responsibility of having to pay taxes on their inheritances. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post pointed out just how successful these protectors of the progeny of the one percenters have been in recent years:

It had long been a conservative ideal, and the essence of the American Dream, to believe that everybody should have an equal shot at success. But in their current bid to end the estate tax, Republicans could create a permanent elite of trust-fund babies. The estate tax was a meaningful check on a permanent aristocracy as recently as 2001, when there were taxes on the portion of estates above $675,000; even then there were plenty of ways for the rich to shelter money for their heirs. As the son of a schoolteacher and a cabinetmaker, I’d like to see the estate tax exemptions lowered — so that taxes encourage enterprise and entre­pre­neur­ship while keeping to a minimum the number of Americans born who will never have to work a day in their lives. The current exemption of $5.4 million (the current estate tax has an effective rate averaging under 17 percent, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center) does little to prevent a permanent aristocracy from growing — and abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy.
No, that wasn’t a mistaken cut and paste from the World Socialist Website. That really was Dana Milbank writing in the Washington Post, which is a testament to just how outlandish these Republicans have become. When mainstream columnists start using words like aristocracy and kleptocracy you know that something’s in the air.
There's lots more at the link. Protecting wealth for subsequent generations of rich people is the big kahuna for the right wing. And yes, that's called aristocracy. It's who they are.

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Preening for war

by digby

I wish I understood why everyone is so ok with this:
For months Obama resisted attempts led by Republicans and some Democrats to open an agreement with Iran to congressional approval. On Tuesday he backed down in the face of mounting bipartisan support for the bill, which gives Congress at least 30 days to review a final deal during which time Obama would be unable to waive or suspend many U.S. sanctions.

Negotiators for Iran and six major powers are trying to ensure Iran does not acquire an atomic bomb by securing an agreement by June 30 under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

"If I were an Iranian negotiator, I would walk into that room and say 'you told us all along you were going to stop legislation,'" said Richard Nephew, a former U.S. negotiator with Iran now at Columbia University.

"'How can you guarantee us that we’re not going to have this problem when we bring the deal forth?'"

"Will it be fatal? No," he added. "It’s going to make things a lot harder, a lot more complicated, a lot more difficult for the (U.S.) negotiating side."

Basically, the Democrats stabbed him in the back and it's fairly obvious they did it under pressure from outside groups who want to scuttle this nuclear arms deal. They surely will say that it's because they think that it's important that congress preserve its prerogatives but congress has never before insisted on announcing its prerogatives in advance of agreements such as these and it's bullshit anyway. This is a nuclear arms agreement the success of which could prevent WWIII.  Are their prerogatives are more important than that?

The president caved on this because a big Senate spectacle was the last thing they needed. And the truth is that the bill doesn't seem affect the agreement substantially. But it makes the negotiations harder for no good reason. (And this excuse that the president "needed" some hardliners so he could make a better deal is just fatuous nonsense.)

I'm not a huge fan of unilateral executive power in the abstract. But when we have a bunch of warmongering neanderthals running the Senate and the president is using his power to negotiate a peace agreement I tend to be fairly utilitarian about it. War is the wrong option and should be prevented however it can be prevented. The Senate's prerogatives aren't really of primary concern in that equation.


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Not captured yet

by Tom Sullivan

"The populists capture the Democratic Party," declares the headline on Dana Milbank's Washington Post column. "Can Hillary Clinton manage those rowdy populists?" asks Katrina vanden Huevel.

Well, not so fast. The big split to be managed soon is over a Senate resolution to give the president “fast track” trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Milbank writes:

Twenty years ago, half of Senate Democrats and 40 percent of House Democrats voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. This time, even if Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, signs off on a fast-track deal, proponents say a best-case scenario has them winning only 10 of the 46 Democrats — and an even smaller percentage of House Democrats, despite aggressive lobbying by the usually passive White House.

Progressive Senators and Representatives from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) to Rep. Alan Grayson (FL), alongside labor leaders, may have staged a protest outside the Capitol yesterday, but the Obama administration has so far not flinched on supporting TPP. Milbank's headline writer may have jumped the gun.

Obama, Republican leaders and business leaders are pushing hard for the treaty, while Hillary Clinton has still not declared her position on TPP. Meanwhile, progressives are organizing to pull her and the party to the left. Vanden Heuvel writes:

Warren has joined with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to launch the Middle Class Prosperity Project, planning to convene hearings across the country on economic policies threatening the middle class, including, most recently, the need to relieve the burden of student debt. Progressives are gearing up a major campaign for four years of free public college.

Next week, the Campaign for America’s Future will announce an alliance with three major national grassroots organizations — National People’s Action, USAction and the Alliance for a Just Society — to drive a populist platform into the political debate. Moveon.org, the Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee and Progressive Democrats of America are all mobilizing online support for the demand that candidates address “bold ideas” for economic reform. Warren is joining the Center for Community Change Action as it launches a campaign for jobs. The AFL-CIO will hold convocations in each of the early primary states focused on the issue of raising wages.

Populists may not have taken over the party, but down-ticket Democrats as well as Hillary Clinton will need the Warren Wing in 2016, writes Linda Feldman for the Christian Science Monitor:

First, she needs Senator Warren’s supporters to get excited about her – and not just vote for her grudgingly in the general election. She needs them to donate and volunteer. If enough Warren enthusiasts sit this election out, Clinton could have a hard time winning.

Right now, it's too soon to tell how that will go. Republican candidates are already staking out policies they'll run on. Clinton has yet to get specific. Katrina vanden Huevel pokes Clinton, "Front and center?"


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 
Somebody call for rewrite

by digby

If neo-confederate culture weren't so prevalent in today's GOP I don't think anyone would wonder what they mean by this:



 
Speaking of the braindead policies of the past ...

by digby

I'm afraid that fresh, young face Marco Rubio is still a member of a party that hasn't had a new idea since Ronald Reagan sold arms to Iran in exchange for hostages:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched a Republican presidential campaign this week with a promise to reject "the leaders and ideas of the past."

It was a not-so-subtle jab from a 43-year-old fresh-faced, senator at his likely 2016 competitors, Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose families were cemented as political dynasties in the 1990s. A closer look at Rubio's early priorities, however, suggests that many of his policy prescriptions were born in the same era he's vowing to leave behind.

Moreover, he confused his opening argument by comparing today's taxes and government spending to 1999, the year Bush took office as Florida governor and Bill Clinton was president.

A look at a few facts behind his rhetoric:

RUBIO: "Too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century."

THE FACTS: On foreign policy, taxes and government spending, many of Rubio's policies are rooted in Republican positions from the 1990s or even earlier.

Foreign policy stands out in particular for Rubio, who embraces the same muscular approach that dominated the Reagan and last Bush administrations.

While some conservatives now favor a reduced international footprint, Rubio has shown an appetite for pre-emptive military action against the Islamic State group and has not ruled out ground forces. He has also become Congress' leading opponent of Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba. The senator said in a Tuesday interview that the United States should not open an embassy on the island and should continue its longstanding policy that has isolated Cuba since the early 1960s.

On spending, Rubio has repeatedly endorsed a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. Republican calls for such an amendment persisted throughout the Clinton years in the late 1990s after being embraced by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Rubio is also calling for sweeping changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security to control government spending. While the push for "premium supports" to control Medicare costs was born this century, pieces of Rubio's plans to change Social Security are decades old. Specifically, he would repeal the "earnings test" for anyone who claims Social Security before full retirement age but keeps working.

The GOP's 1992 platform outlined the same position. Rubio also wants to raise the retirement age, something George W. Bush suggested as a presidential candidate before the 2000 election.
This is kind of an unfair fact check. For Republicans these things are new ideas. Their old ideas (which they haven't abandoned) are patriarchy, slavery and aristocracy. So let's give them a teensy bit of credit for progress.

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QOTD: David Brooks (!)

by digby

This is very good.  And very right.  I have tried to make this point many times but haven't done it so well:
Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see. There has to be a zone where half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment. There has to be a place where you can be free to develop ideas and convictions away from the pressure to conform. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself.

Privacy is important to families and friendships because there has to be a zone where you can be fully known. There has to be a private space where you can share your doubts and secrets and expose your weaknesses with the expectation that you will still be loved and forgiven and supported.

Privacy is important for communities because there has to be a space where people with common affiliations can develop bonds of affection and trust. There has to be a boundary between us and them. Within that boundary, you look out for each other; you rally to support each other; you cut each other some slack; you share fierce common loyalties.

When Snowden explains that they can watch your keystrokes as they're being typed, then erased, this is what that means. They have the capability of looking into your thought processes. When they collect all of your google queries about various illnesses, they are seeing into your fears and worries. Knowing who you call and who you know says volumes about who you are even though these things are nobody's business but your own. These are not abstract issues. They go directly to what it means to be a human being. We simply cannot exist without privacy. It will make us crazy.

I should also point out that he's making this point to explain why he was originally leery of body cameras on police officers but has changed his mind, and I understand that too. Who wants to be filmed doing their job every day? But police officers are representatives of the government and they are imbued with awesome power over individual citizens. As I have said many times, they have a very tough but necessary job and they should be very well compensated for it and allowed many extra benefits (such as those generous pensions) to do it. I wouldn't never begrudge police officers a dime for what they do. But that also comes with the responsibility to follow the law and the constitution and there are just too many perverse incentives and too much of a military culture in police work not to use the safeguards that body cams bring to the task.

It's a delicate balance. But there's a huge difference between the government using technology to intrude on the most private thoughts and habits of average Americans without cause and using it to ensure that police interactions with citizens are proper. After all, there's nothing new in having police give a report after an incident. All that's different about this is that there will now be independent documentation to back up what they say.

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Game changing inside baseball for dummies

by digby

I wrote about some tiresome Villagers for Salon today:
[N]onsensical attention to trivia is what drives campaign coverage, and one clue as to why that is can be found in this article in last weekend’s Washington Post style section:
With the presidential campaign just getting started, the race for the White House figures to be the most covered, and perhaps the most over-covered, story of 2015. Major news organizations have all but made that official by engaging in an arms race of sorts to hire more political journalists. The staffing binge comes as many in the news media are cutting back in other areas.
Perhaps the most ostentatious hire of the cycle is Bloomberg Media nabbing the king of conventional wisdom Mark Halperin and his sometime writing partner John Heilemann for a reported cool million each several months ago. They have been campaign reporting darlings ever since they published their 2008 book “Game Change” known for the HBO movie featuring Julianne Moore and the vicious, back-biting gossip obsessively directed at Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and the wives of other candidates, from Cindy McCain to Elizabeth Edwards. (The latter portrayal will go down in history as one of the most gratuitously cruel portraits of a dying woman ever put on the page.)
[...]
If you’re curious about the “not dumbed down” coverage so far, here’s a little taste of their “definitive scouting report” on Hillary Clinton:

What she’s got: A gold-plated resume; policy expertise (foreign and domestic); a deep and wide fundraising base; staunch support among every key Democratic nominating constituency; no viable intra-party challenger (as of now); a strong, battle-tested staff; skin as thick as a rhino’s hide (about most things); unrivaled understanding of the hyper-partisan media freak show; historic nature of her candidacy; nostalgia for the Roaring Nineties; her husband.

What she lacks: A clear rationale for her candidacy; a compelling or even discernible message; evident skills at managing a winning campaign operation; natural gifts as a political performer; the consistent ability to free herself from the constant miasma of chaos and psycho/melodrama that have swirled around her for decades; the ready capacity to represent the future rather than the past.
So, she’s got a top résumé, enough money, no challenger, a competent staff and a good husband going for her. On the other hand, she’s an incompetent, talentless, aging, shrieking harpy with no reason to run. Oh, and she hasn’t mastered the magical ability to make Heilemann and Halperin disappear in a puff of smoke. How foolishly inept of her.
Read on ... it's going to be a long campaign.


 
Remedial 90s by Chris Hayes

by digby

This All-In series is not only vastly entertaining, if my twitter feed and Facebook feeds are representative, it's also necessary. Way too many people have no idea what the real stories behind this "narrative" really are.


How do you explain the Clinton non-troversies of the 1990s to voters who may not remember them? Chris Hayes offers this handy guide. Episode One: Cookie-gate!



Hillarycare!:



Just remember kiddos: you too will look a lot older 20 years from now....
 
Looks like the Neocons won themselves a big one

by digby

I'm not shocked by too much these days but this is a shocker:
Republicans by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 say the U.S. should support Israel even when its stances diverge with American interests, a new Bloomberg Politics poll finds. Democrats, by roughly the same ratio, say the opposite is true and that the U.S. must pursue its own interests over Israel's.
These are the flag-waving hyper-patriots -- the one's who yell "love it or leave it".  I get that Israel is a major ally and one to which we've pledged our support. But since when do patriotic Americans believe that our government should put the interests of any foreign country above the interests of our own? WTH? That used to be called treason.

There must be something wrong with that poll.  If Republicans are so addled that they don't understand what they're saying here we're in bigger trouble than I thought.



 
Landmark Dutch Climate Lawsuit Puts World Governments on Notice

by Gaius Publius

It's been obvious for a while that the only real action to reduce carbon emissions — which are the byproduct of a drive for profit, don't forget, and nothing else — is going to come from force. In the current world, that force is coming on three fronts:
  • Climate marches and demonstrations
     
  • Increasing pressure for universities and large pension funds to divest of all carbon stocks
     
  • Lawsuits
Yes, actual lawsuits — using the courts to rule against defendants, often governments, and force redress of damage done. In the case of these lawsuits, the plaintiffs typically allege that governments failed in their responsibility to protect an environment — including a temperature environment — necessary to the welfare of their citizens, who are or will be suffering harm.

Such a lawsuit, for example, is going on in Oregon right now. I originally reported on that in 2014:
Climate win: Appeals court in Oregon rules state court must decide if atmosphere is a “public trust”

Two teenagers from Eugene, Ore. filed suit against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect the “atmosphere, state waters, and coast lines, as required under the public trust doctrine.”

They lost the first round, where the state court said that climate relief was not a judicial matter. But they won on appeal. The case goes back to the original court, which now has orders to decide the case on its merits and not defer to the executive or legislature.

The gist of the appeals court decision:

Their lawsuit asked the State to take action in restoring the atmosphere to 350 ppm of CO2 by the end of the century. The Oregon Court of Appeals rejected the defenses raised by the State, finding that the youth could obtain meaningful judicial relief in this case.

That’s quite a nice victory.
This case is still working its way through the courts, and the prognosis is a good one. More on that later. Our present story is in the Netherlands, where the same sort of lawsuit is having quite an effect. If the Dutch government loses, it will set quite a precedent:
Landmark Dutch Climate Lawsuit Puts Governments Around the World on Notice

Since the days of Watergate, the question "What did he know, and when did he know it?" has been a key litmus test for assessing guilt and innocence. Forty years later that question is now being asked in relation to climate change.

Where I live, in the Netherlands, a landmark case will be heard in the Den Haag District Court on Tuesday. The Urgenda Foundation is suing the Dutch government for knowingly endangering its citizens by failing to prevent dangerous climate change.

It comes at a time when an increasing number of legal experts around the world have come to believe that the lack of action represents a gross violation of the rights of those who will suffer the consequences. They also argue that the failure of governments to negotiate international agreements does not absolve them of their legal obligation to do their share in preventing dangerous climate change. These arguments are at the core of the Dutch lawsuit and will undoubtedly be put to the test in other countries before too long.
Note the word "knowingly." The lawsuit hinges, in part, on the fact (yes, fact) that governments around the world knew about the danger of burning coal and oil as far back as the Walter Cronkite era, and certainly as far back as the beginning as the start of the IPCC.
It's arguable that government leaders were made fully aware of the dangers of climate change when Walter Cronkite warned the public in 1980 that "a coal-burning society may be making things hot for itself." He was introducing a news segment covering the greenhouse effect, including a Senate hearing in which Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas quipped:

If it happens, it means goodbye, Miami; goodbye, Corpus Christi; goodbye, Sacramento; goodbye, Boston (which obviously is much more of a concern); goodbye, New Orleans; goodbye, Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk. On the positive side, it means we could enjoy boating at the foot of the Capitol and fishing on the South Lawn.

Eight years later Margaret Thatcher said much the same [thing.]
The existence of the IPCC itself, and its cousin, the treaty-making FCCC (Framework Convention on Climate Change), both parts of the U.N., are (damning) admissions by world governments that there's a problem. Saying "You first, Alphonse. No, you first, Gaston" is not a solution, but an excuse.


World governments trying to decide who should fix the climate first

The Dutch lawsuit seeks to break that logjam by assigning blame for inaction on the part of the Dutch government and seeking redress of damages.
The Dutch case became even more significant last week as a result of the launch of the so-called Oslo principles by some of the world's leading jurists, including legal scholars and High Court judges. As lawyers Julia Powles and Tessa Khan explain on TheGuardian.com:

What the Oslo principles offer is a solution to our infuriating impasse in which governments -- especially those from developed nations, responsible for 70% of the world's emissions between 1890 and 2007 -- are in effect saying: "We all agree that something needs to be done, but we cannot agree on who has to do what and how much. In the absence of any such agreement, we have no obligation to do anything." The Oslo principles bring a battery of legal arguments to dispute and disarm that second claim. In essence, the working group asserts that governments are violating their legal duties if they each act in a way that, collectively, is known to lead to grave harms.
This lawsuit has many proponents, including citizens who have joined it (read the article for the full details). It's also sparked similar efforts elsewhere, for example, in Belgium. This can only spread, and can only be good. As the writer Masaccio recently noted:
We already have a method for organizing ourselves other than the market. It’s called government. The theory was was that the majority of voters would run government, but the “marketplace of ideas” has been overwhelmed by huge piles of money devoted to obfuscation and lies and clutter that makes it impossible to think rationally, and power is controlled by the people we want government to control. But when it comes to planning for a future, government is the only way non-rich people can play a part in deciding whether or how to prevent the disasters staring us in the face[.]
We have the agent, government, and we have the will to act — people are increasingly desperate for real climate solutions. What's left to do is simple — force the agent to act. As I've written many times, the day will come when the people will demand — Depression-style, WWII-style — that government act, and it will. In the meantime, there's nothing like the long arm of the law to bring malefactors to their knees. That's, in fact, why god made the courts in the first place.

More on this as it evolves, including on that lawsuit in Oregon.

(A version of this piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.) 

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