Archive for the ‘Obama’ tag
Speaking of the foolish idea of the US sending our military to Syria, Ramzy Mardini makes some good points:
AMMAN, Jordan — ACCORDING to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama risks looking like a “fool” if he decides not to intervene militarily in Syria’s continuing civil war. Likening the situation to his decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999, Mr. Clinton said Tuesday that if he hadn’t used force to stop Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, critics might have said: “You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn’t you do it?” Mr. Clinton believes that Mr. Obama could end up looking like a “total wuss” if he doesn’t intervene. And it seems he’s going to act.
(click here to continue reading Bad Idea, Mr. President – NYTimes.com.)
Guns Or Butter
Why is America so hell-bent upon getting involved in another nation’s civil war? What interest does it serve? I have yet to hear a compelling reason the US should be involved.
For nearly two years, the Obama administration has described the Syrian regime as having “lost all legitimacy” and “clinging to power.” And yet, it has surprisingly endured. That’s because neither assertion is really accurate. Mr. Assad still has strong support from many Syrians, including members of the Sunni urban class. While the assistance Syria receives from its external allies, like Iran and Russia, is important, it would be inconsequential if the Assad regime were not backed by a significant portion of the population.
Interventionists tend to detach their actions from longer-term consequences. This myopia is often coupled with a prevalent misunderstanding of the political and cultural context of where they want to intervene. Both problems are present in the current American approach to Syria.
The Syrian revolution isn’t democratic or secular; the more than 90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide — and human rights violations have been committed on both sides.
Moreover, the rebels don’t have the support or trust of a clear majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr. Assad; likewise, the possibility of chemical weapons’ falling into the hands of terrorist groups only grows as the regime weakens.
And finally, a rebel victory is more likely to destabilize Iraq and Lebanon, and the inevitable disorder of a post-Assad Syria constitutes a greater threat to Israel than the status quo.
Not since the 2003 invasion of Iraq has American foreign policy experienced a strategic void so pervasive.
The responsible role of a lone superpower is not to pick sides in a civil war; it’s to help enable conflict resolution while maintaining a policy of neutrality. Instead, the United States came down on one side of a regional sectarian conflict, inadvertently fomenting Sunni hubris and Shiite fear — the same effects (but in reverse) caused by America’s involvement in the Iraq war.
I sincerely hope President Obama comes to his senses, and ignores the warmongers.
WASHINGTON — For two years, President Obama has resisted being drawn deeper into the civil war in Syria. It was a miserable problem, he told aides, and not one he thought he could solve. At most, it could be managed. And besides, he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.
(click here to continue reading Heavy Pressure Led to Decision by Obama on Syrian Arms – NYTimes.com.)
Sounds reasonable enough to me. But war is the answer for everything, lest we forget.
I ignore the mean girl burbling of Maureen Dowd as much as possible; the only topic she writes with any clarity is sexual abuse and the Catholic Church. Otherwise, she’s predictable, and not interesting.
The oddity of Obama’s being taken to the leadership woodshed by the Democrat who preceded him and the Republican who failed to pre-empt him was not lost on anyone. When Obama appointed Clinton “the Secretary of ’Splaining Stuff,” he didn’t think Bill would be ’splaining how lame Barry was.
(click here to continue reading Bill Schools Barry on Syria – NYTimes.com.)
Yes, apparently, we are all foolish in our opposition to military intervention in Syria. President Obama is lame because he hasn’t already dropped nuclear bombs on Damascus. Only John McCain and Bill Clinton, and their ilk have all the facts, according to Dowd. Ironically, when President Clinton was in office, MoDo penned OpEd after OpEd ridiculing him. But Obama is even less of MoDo’s favorite, so now we get:
The less Obama leads, the more likely it is that history will see him as a pallid interregnum between two chaotic Clinton eras.
Yes, Hillary is going to lead the charge into Syria, and hence right into the White House. Uh huh.
If the reason the US is “forced” to invade Syria is because 90,000 Syrians have died, Syria will have to get in line. More automobile accidents take place in a weekend than the number of civilians allegedly killed by chemical weapons in Syria.
“Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. “
(click here to continue reading US says it will arm Syrian rebels following chemical weapons tests | World news | The Guardian.)
MOSCOW — The Russian government on Saturday stepped up its attack on the accusation by the United States that Syria had used chemical weapons against the rebels in its civil war, saying that evidence cited by the Americans was unreliable because the samples were not properly monitored until they reached a laboratory.
The angry criticism by Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov at a news conference in Moscow was a setback to the United States’ efforts to forge a common position with the Kremlin on how to end the conflict, which has killed more than 90,000 Syrians.
(click here to continue reading Russia Faults Proof of Use of Chemicals in Syrian War – NYTimes.com.)
Not to mention:
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using US fighter jets and Patriot missiles from Jordan would violate international law.
He said the evidence must meet the standards of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which specifies that samples taken from blood, urine and clothing can be considered reliable evidence only if supervised by organisation experts from the time they are gathered to when they are delivered to a laboratory.
Lavrov, after meeting with his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino, scoffed at suggestions that Assad’s regime would use chemical weapons now in light of its apparent growing advantage against the rebels.
“The regime doesn’t have its back to the wall. What would be the sense of the regime using chemical weapons, moreover at such a small quantity?” he said.
(click here to continue reading Syria no-fly zone would violate international law, says Russia | World news | guardian.co.uk.)
Hey, but to Maureen Dowd, and her boyfriend, John McCain, who cares! Invade away, and figure out why later, after the shooting has started…
This had led to a lot of Republicans fanning out to explain what the president should be offering if he was serious about making a deal. Then, when it turns out that the president did offer those items, there’s more furious hand-waving about how no, actually, this is what the president needs to offer to make a deal. Then, when it turns out he’s offered most of that, too, the hand-waving stops and the truth comes out: Republicans won’t make a deal that includes further taxes, they just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing. Luckily for them, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t get that far, and the initial comments that the president needs to “get serious” on entitlements is met with sage nods.
This is why Obama can’t make a deal with Republicans
The truth of the matter is that Bob Woodward has been a Republican partisan for many, many years, and only fools or the misinformed thought otherwise. Someone long ago called him a Stenographer To Power, and that epithet has stuck in my mind whenever I hear Woodward talk, or get tricked into reading some blather he’s written. Remember when Woodward said: “They trashed the place, and it wasn’t their place.”
A few articles I’ve read about Bob Woodward this week:
“Woodward at war,” was the headline Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward’s reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward’s “major-league brushback” caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain — which Politico published the following morning — shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei’s “hourlong interview” with Woodward “around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.” In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did “something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, ‘I think you will regret staking out that claim,’” referring to Woodward’s assertion that the president was “moving the goal posts” in negotiations to avert sequestration.
(click here to continue reading Politico’s Woodward Warmongering | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
Eric Boehlert has a long list of details of Woodward’s hackery, with citations, that is well worth reading.
If Woodward were a liberal icon, it’s unlikely operatives close to Mitt Romney would’ve shown up at the reporter’s home just weeks before the election, urging him to meet with their secret source to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack.
Woodward has certainly shown in recent years that he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse on Democratic politics. Three years ago he claimed Hillary Clinton might replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket in 2012. (Then again he once predicted Dick Cheney would be the Republican nominee in 2008.)
In truth, Woodward at key junctures has been a willing conduit for Republicans and has proven instrumental in distributing their talking points. Recently, Woodward suggested, without any proof, that angry Democrats were pressuring the White House to pull Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become Secretary of Defense. And that Hagel was “twisting in the wind.”
During the Clinton years, “liberal” Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him ‘Solicitor-in-Chief,’ a move which conservatives cheered. Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that “She never goes away, she and her husband.”
But it’s Woodward’s reporting during the Bush administration that best debunks the farcical the notion that he is a “liberal” ally. He did that both through his fawning coverage of the Bush White House, especially in the early years, and by becoming a major player in the scandal surrounding CIA operative Valerie Plame.
At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.
Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as “laughable,” “an accident,” “nothing to it” and denigrating Fitzgerald as “disgraceful” and “junkyard dog,” never once noting mentioning he’d been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.
(click here to continue reading Woodward As Liberal Icon? Not Exactly | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. But read the rest if you have the inclination.
and a wee bit of sequester history from Ezra Klein
I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change. There were two candidates to drive that change.
The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
(click here to continue reading On the sequester, the American people ‘moved the goalposts’.)
Alex Parene gets to the meat of the Woodward-Gate: Woodward seems to think that if the President does something, it isn’t illegal. Quite a change from 1972, no?
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!
Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really, really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)
There is nothing less important about “the sequester” than the question of whose idea it originally was. So, naturally, that is the question that much of the political press is obsessed with, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Republicans have been making the slightly incoherent argument that a) the sequester, which is a bad thing, is entirely Obama’s fault, b) Obama is exaggerating how bad the sequester will be, and c) the sequester, which is Obama’s fault, is preferable to not having the sequester. Woodward has lately been fixated on Obama’s responsibility for the idea of the sequester, but at this point, the important question is who will be responsible if it actually happens. On that question, Woodward, and others, have taken the position that it will be Obama’s fault because he has failed to “show leadership.” But laws come from Congress. The president signs or vetoes them. Republicans in the House are unwilling and unable to repeal the law Congress passed creating the sequester. All Obama can do is ask them to pass such a law, and to make the case to the public that they should pass such a law. And Obama has been doing those things, a lot.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward demands law-ignoring, mind-controlling presidential leadership – Salon.com.)
Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing. There’s nothing left at all to the point Woodward is trying to argue here.
To understand where Woodward is coming from, you need to recall his book on the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. That book was notable because it concluded that Obama was responsible for blowing up the big deal to reduce the deficit by spooking John Boehner and mishandling the negotiations. Woodward’s interpretive line here runs in contrast to every other account of the episode, which shows Obama was always ready to offer highly generous terms to Boehner, but Boehner simply concluded his party’s base, represented by Eric Cantor, would not accept higher revenue in any form.
What Woodward is saying here is that the failure to strike a deal is Obama’s fault by definition. There is no set of imaginable facts that would cause Woodward to conclude that Congress bears responsibility for an agreement. It’s a truly bizarre way of thinking, but also a common one, combining elements of BipartisanThink and the Cult of the Presidency. Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ’Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.”
Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.
Woodward’s strange way of understanding this issue survives because it is something that he and certain people need to believe, for professional and ideological reasons.
(click here to continue reading The Weird Philosophy of Bob Woodward — Daily Intelligencer.)
and in a follow up:
To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.
His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.
Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.
(click here to continue reading What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward? — Daily Intelligencer.)
John Cassidy writes:
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward Throws an Interception : The New Yorker.)
Michael Tomasky pulls no punches:
So in other words, Obama said in November 2011 exactly what he said for the next year, and exactly what he is saying today! Those goal posts are now looking more and more stationary, aren’t they? The notion that the supercommittee was the only place where revenues could be discussed is so wrong that it really makes me wonder how intelligent Bob Woodward is. It was understood in November 2011 that Congress still had 13 months to come up with something until the January 2013 deadline. And Obama has wanted revenues that entire time. Sheesh.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward’s So-Called Thinking Sort Of Explained – The Daily Beast.)
And a bit of truthiness to cleanse our palate:
Investigative journalist Bob Woodward announced Thursday that he’s received credible information from an anonymous source confirming that Woodward hasn’t been a relevant force in American journalism in 40 years. “Though I cannot divulge his name, I can tell you that he’s an extremely reliable, high-level government source, and thus far everything he’s told me about how I’m no longer a salient or even particularly respected journalistic figure completely checks out,” Woodward told reporters, describing a late-night parking garage rendezvous in which the Washington Post editor was purportedly told to “follow the writing.” “My source assured me that once I read my careless reporting on the Iraq war, my exaggerated interviews, and my exploitative and inaccurate account of the recent sequestration situation, it would be abundantly clear that my influence in the field has substantially waned since Watergate. And he’s right. It’s all true.” Woodward then accidentally revealed that his source’s name was White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer, which prompted the journalist to murmur, “Goddamnit, Bob, you’ve really lost it,” under his breath.
(click here to continue reading Anonymous Source Informs Bob Woodward He Hasn’t Been Relevant In 40 Years | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.)
After being hit by all sorts of, shall we say, nonserious petitions like the Death Star one that reached the 25,000-signature benchmark, the White House has raised the bar. From now on, a petition will require 100,000 signatures in order to win White House attention. …”If you had told me a year and a half ago that the White House would be devoting time writing [an official statement] on how Lord Vader could fix our economic woes, I would have just laughed loudly at you,” one White House staffer who has worked on the WTP outreach program tells Mother Jones. Another White House staffer connected with the program is more blunt: “Sometimes, I find myself thinking, ‘My God, what have we done?’”
I thought this article was worth reading, especially this part…
During tonight’s presidential debate, KitchenAid posted a nasty and poorly spelled comment on its Twitter feed about President Obama’s grandmother, who died shortly before he took office. The full tweet from @KitchenAidUSA, while quickly deleted, was rapidly retweeted by many (such as Heather Spohr, shown below) who saw it appear during the debate. It read: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president,’
I thought this article was worth reading, especially this part…
The math does not add up for this statement that Romney directed at Obama.
The president’s 2013 budget called for elimination of tax breaks for oil subsidies, which the White House estimated at $4 billion per year. Dividing $90 billion — the federal money that Romney claims went toward clean energy — by $4 billion in breaks for the oil industry amounts to 22.5 years, not 50 years.
It’s also worth noting that the $90 billion was not “breaks,” but a combination of loans, loan guarantees and grants through the stimulus program, and they were spread out over several years rather than one, as Romney claimed.
Furthermore, not all of the money went to the “green energy world.” About $23 billion went toward “clean coal,” energy-efficiency upgrades, updating the electricity grid and environmental clean-up, largely for old nuclear weapons sites.
Division Street Bridge in need of repair
I’d much rather we invest in repairing our own national infrastructure instead of blowing up Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s, then repairing it. Especially since the GOP strategy for 2014 is to destroy the US economy any way possible…
As Mr. Obama begins trying to untangle the country from its military and civilian promises in Afghanistan, his critics and allies alike are drawing a direct line between what is not being spent to bolster the sagging economy in America to what is being spent in Afghanistan — $120 billion this year alone.
On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors made that connection explicitly, saying that American taxes should be paying for bridges in Baltimore and Kansas City, not in Baghdad and Kandahar.
The mayors’ group approved a resolution calling for an early end to the American military role in Afghanistan and Iraq, asking Congress to redirect the billions now being spent on war and reconstruction costs toward urgent domestic needs. The resolution, which noted that local governments cut 28,000 jobs in May alone, was the group’s first anti-war vote since it passed a resolution four decades ago calling for an end to the Vietnam War.
And in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said: “We can no longer, in good conscience, cut services and programs at home, raise taxes or — and this is very important — lift the debt ceiling in order to fund nation-building in Afghanistan. The question the president faces — we all face — is quite simple: Will we choose to rebuild America or Afghanistan? In light of our nation’s fiscal peril, we cannot do both.”
Demonstrators describing themselves as “angry jobless citizens” said they would picket the Capitol on Wednesday to urge members of Congress to use any savings from Mr. Obama’s troop reductions to create more jobs. The group sponsoring the demonstration, the Prayer Without Ceasing Party, said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “urging the masses to call their congressmen and the president to ensure that jobs receive a top priority when the troops start returning to America.”
Spending on the war in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since Mr. Obama took office, to $118.6 billion in 2011. It was $14.7 billion in 2003, when President George W. Bush turned his attention and American resources to the war in Iraq.
(click here to continue reading Cost of Wars a Rising Issue as Obama Weighs Troop Levels – NYTimes.com.)
Obama’s quick and easy capitulation to every budget cut the GOP asks for is symptomatic of a larger problem, namely that neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party cares much about the citizens of the US. Where is the party who represents you and me?
For instance, as The Hill reports, most of the cuts affect people more than corporations. For instance, slashing 16% out of a an already underfunded EPA seems to encourage polluting corporations to continue doing what they want without fear of fines. I don’t see any cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget, don’t see any elimination of corporate tax cuts. Instead, nutrition programs for low-income families is deemed less important.
Compared to 2010 levels, there are big cuts to cherished Democratic-backed programs. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is cut $504 million, foreign food assistance by $194 million and assistance to state and local law enforcement by $415 million.
The Environmental Protection Agency is cut by $1.6 billion, a 16 percent reduction, and lawmakers from Western states were able to include a rider allowing states to de-list wolves from the endangered species list.
The Homeland Security Department sees significant cuts as well: $226 million is cut from the southern border fence at the suggestion of the Obama administration, and the number of Transportation Security Administration workers is capped. FEMA first-responder grants are cut by $786 million.
Health funding also takes a serious hit. Community healthcare centers lose $600 million while HIV and other disease-prevention funds are cut by $1 billion. But Democrats noted that the health centers would not have to close altogether under a cut of this size.
On the other hand, Democrats were pleased that the Pell Grant award remains at $4,860 and there is a modest increase for Head Start. They also highlight that Race to the Top education awards continue.
The Food and Drug Administration will be able to implement last year’s new food-safety bill, and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be able to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform under the levels spelled out in the bill, Democrats said. The Clinton-era COPS program is cut by $296 million. Low-income heating assistance is cut $390 million, while Community Development Funds are cut $942 million.
Contributions to the U.N. and other international institutions are cut $377 million; federal highway investment is cut $650 million.
The largest cut in the bill is from the Commerce Department, but this is something of an accounting trick since it relates to unspent Census money totaling $6.2 billion.
(click here to continue reading Six-month spending bill unveiled: What’s cut and what’s not – TheHill.com.)
Sickening, it is as if the Democrats have already decided to join the Republicans in everything except name. They aren’t going to be satisfied until the US turns into Somalia.
Now it’s getting a little clearer: Obama will throw his support behind the bipartisan effort in the Senate to turn the Simpson-Bowles plan into legislation. This will raise as many questions as it answers — if Obama is such a fan of this approach, for instance, why didn’t he say more about it during his budget? — but it is, at base, a more realistic plan both in terms of policy and politics.
For one thing, it’s plausibly bipartisan. Ryan’s budget was almost a calculated effort to appall Democrats, which means it has little chance of passing through the Senate. Simpson-Bowles was an effort to attract votes from both parties. The reason it can be bipartisan is that, unlike the House GOP’s proposal, it doesn’t use deficit reduction as cover to sneak in ideological changes to the state: there’s no effort at privatizing Medicare or block granting Medicaid, no decision to go after programs for the poor while exempting both revenues and defense cuts. The plan’s theory is that cutting the deficit is hard enough without also engaging a couple of long-running ideological wars about the shape and responsibilities of the America state. So it dodges those wars, and in endorsing it, Obama will too.
But if the president was actually interested in passing Simpson-Bowles, this was a bit of an odd way to go about it. Leaving it out of his budget and State of the Union speeches meant it didn’t become the central issue on the table. That gave Ryan room to make his proposal, and the early signs are that his proposal has turned many Republicans against Simpson-Bowles, as they’d prefer Ryan’s plan and don’t want to weaken their negotiation position. If the process then becomes a compromise between a centrist plan like Simpson-Bowles and a hardline conservative plan like Ryan’s, that’s not going to produce something Democrats are happy with, and Obama will be blamed for not taking the initative and forcing everyone to simply consider Simpson-Bowles when he had a chance.
(click here to continue reading Wonkbook: Obama to back Simpson-Bowles – Ezra Klein – The Washington Post.)
Disappointing decision by Eric Holder and the Obama administration. What purpose does locking up non-violent drug users accomplish anyway? Other than let politicians check off the box that says, “tough on crime” on their reelection mailers, that is.
LOS ANGELES — The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug. Related
The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.
Still, despite this opposition — or perhaps, to some extent, because of it — the measure, Proposition 19, appears to have at least a decent chance of winning, so far drawing considerable support in polls from a coalition of Democrats, independents, younger voters and men as Election Day nears. Should that happen, it could cement a cultural shift in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 and where the drug has been celebrated in popular culture at least since the 1960s.
But it could also plunge the nation’s most populous state into a murky and unsettling conflict with the federal government that opponents of the proposition said should make California voters wary of supporting it.
(click to continue reading U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside – NYTimes.com.)
So which officials in California are for the bill?
The state Republican Party has officially come out against Proposition 19 and plans to urge people to vote no, said Ron Nehring, the party chairman. He called repeal a “big mistake” and mocked the notion that placing the proposition on the ballot would help Democrats.
“We call that their Hail Mary Jane strategy,” he said.
John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said his party had decided to stay neutral on this issue. Asked if he supported it, Mr. Burton responded: “I already voted for it. Why not? Brings some money into the state. Helps the deficit. Better than selling off state buildings to some developer.”
Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that polls showed the measure breaking 50 percent, but said that given the history of initiatives in the state, that meant its passage was far from assured.
Opposition has come from a number of fronts, ranging from Mr. Baca and other law enforcement officials to the Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that it would create workplace health issues.
Still, the breadth of supporters of the proposition — including law enforcement officials and major unions, like the Service Employees International Union — signal how mainstream this movement is becoming.
“I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol,” said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. “I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.”
Paul Krugman writes in response to the oft repeated assertion that Obama is ballooning the federal government:
Here’s the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can’t create jobs
Here’s what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.
Ask yourself: What major new federal programs have started up since Mr. Obama took office? Health care reform, for the most part, hasn’t kicked in yet, so that can’t be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where’s all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.
(click to continue reading Paul Krugman – Hey, Small Spender – NYTimes.com.)
The answer to the second question — why there’s a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn’t — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn’t offered an effective reply.
Actually, the administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy’s troubles. You can argue that Mr. Obama got all he could — that a larger plan wouldn’t have made it through Congress (which is questionable), and that an inadequate stimulus was much better than none at all (which it was). But that’s not an argument the administration ever made. Instead, it has insisted throughout that its original plan was just right, a position that has become increasingly awkward as the recovery stalls.
And a side consequence of this awkward positioning is that officials can’t easily offer the obvious rebuttal to claims that big spending failed to fix the economy — namely, that thanks to the inadequate scale of the Recovery Act, big spending never happened in the first place.
But if they won’t say it, I will: if job-creating government spending has failed to bring down unemployment in the Obama era, it’s not because it doesn’t work; it’s because it wasn’t tried.
Fun little GQ interview of Bill Murray, who truth be told, has been in some great films over the years. With the exception of Garfield, but according to Murray, he thought it was a Coen brothers film. Here’s the setup:
When I arrived, he was standing alone in the corner of a New York hotel room, talking on a cell phone and wearing a ratty black polo, jeans, and yellow “tape measure” suspenders. I had been waiting for over an hour, which didn’t seem like an unreasonable amount of time. Bill Murray famously does not give interviews—he’s sat down for exactly four prolonged media encounters in the past ten years—and when he does, it’s never clear what you’re going to get. You just have to pray he’s in a good mood.
The very thing that makes Bill Murray, well, Bill Murray is what makes sitting down with him such an unpredictable enterprise. Bill Murray crashes parties, ditches promotional appearances, clashes with his friends, his collaborators, and his enemies. If you—movie director, journalist, dentist—want to speak to him, you don’t go through any gatekeeper. You leave a message on an 800 number. If Bill Murray wants to speak with you, he’ll call you back. If his three and a half decades in the public sphere have taught us anything about the 59-year-old actor, it’s that he simply does not give a good goddamn.
His career is known to most any fan of modern comedy: the years on SNL; the series of epochal comedies like Stripes, Groundhog Day, and Caddyshack. And his current artistic period, which could be described as Reclusive National Treasure. He lives in Rockland County, New York, emerging only to make movies for directors he’s interested in: Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Sofia Coppola. This summer he’ll release a period indie called Get Low, in which he plays an undertaker throwing an early funeral for Robert Duvall. Today, Murray was in an expansive mood. Then, after he spoke about Ghostbusters 3, Barack Obama, and Garfield, he decided the interview was over and was gone. As best as I can tell, he was not fucking with me. But who knows? Bill Murray doesn’t need you to be in on his joke. His life is all one performance-art piece—and he does everything for an audience of one.
(click to continue reading Bill Murray on Ghostbusters 3, Get Low, Ron Howard, Kung Fu Hustle: Celebrities: GQ.)
You should read the whole thing if you have a couple minutes to spare, but I wanted to save this part where Bill Murray responds to a question about what he watches on television:
I watch sports, I watch movies, Current TV on the satellite—I kind of like that. Honestly, I’m just easily bored. C-SPAN can be really great. Like the night Obama won the election, C-SPAN was the greatest. There were no announcers, just Chicago. It was just that crowd in Grant Park, and it was just fuckin’ jazz. You know, it was just wow. And that’s my town, you know? It was just: “Oh, my God, it’s gonna happen! [getting genuinely excited] It’s gonna happen!” You just saw the pictures of it, like, oh, there’s someone from the Northwest Side, there’s someone from the South Side, someone from the suburbs. It was the most truly American thing you’ve ever seen. [pause] Oh God, I get jazzed just thinkin’ about it. I don’t know anyone that wasn’t crying. It was just: Thank God this long national nightmare is over.
Morning editorial meeting at Politico
Politico founders John Harris and Jim VandeHei haven’t got a clue:
The liberal blogosphere grew in response to Bush. But it is still a movement marked by immaturity and impetuousness — unaccustomed to its own side holding power and the responsibilities and choices that come with that.
“Immaturity and impetuousness”? Yeah, that describes us to a T, unlike mature and patient (and very, very serious) folks like Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin who somehow find their every utterance transcribed in Vandehei’s publication.
(click to continue reading Daily Kos: People say the dumbest things sometimes.)
It’s one thing to criticize liberal bloggers for having unrealistic expectations, given whatever we’re supposed to agree represents “reality” in Washington. I don’t happen to agree with that argument. Many liberal bloggers are advocates and activists. They are supposed to push the White House and Dems in a more liberal direction, even if it doesn’t always pay off. That’s their function as they’ve defined it. But reasonable people can disagree about how realistic the liberal blogosphere’s expectations have been.
However, to make the argument that liberal bloggers have their heads in the sand about Dem losses this fall is just flat out false. All VandeHarris are revealing is that they don’t regularly read liberal blogs — and that they know they can count on the fact that the Beltway insiders who will snicker knowingly about this article don’t read liberal blogs either. And that’s fine: Don’t read them! But please don’t make stuff up about them and call it journalism
(click to continue reading The Plum Line – Politico’s theory: Liberal bloggers don’t care if Dems sustain large losses this fall.)
Today’s big Politico piece, by John Harris and Jim VandeiHei, “Why Obama loses by Winning”, has been rightly dubbed by Jay Rosen as “an instant classic in Church of the Savvy lit.” It truly is a marvel!
It begins with a willful misread-slash-hyperbolic reduction of a “widely read” Eric Alterman column (the authors enable this misread by skillfully denying their readers a link to the Alterman piece, which actually describes the structural conditions that have prevented President Barack Obama from enacting a full-blooded progressive agenda), which in turn allows them to make this silly case that even though Obama has managed to get major pieces of legislation through Congress, his presidency is a failure because it makes bloggers sad.
Naturally, the whole thing is built upon a foundation of anonymous sources. We hear from all the old mainstays: the “top Obama advisor,” the “top White House official,” and another random adviser. Given the fact that Harris and VandeHei claim that the piece is underpinned by “interviews with officials in the administration and on Capitol Hill, and with Democratic operatives around town,” the dearth of sources is pretty glaring.
But here’s where we are. The editors claim that independents are leaving Obama because he “has shown himself to be a big-government liberal.” Mind you, they have already stipulated that Obama has had success enacting his agenda. That agenda included many things that he ran on, like health care reform, financial regulatory reform, winding down the war in Iraq, and prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. You can call that “centrist” or “liberal” if you like, but that’s precisely what those independent voters signed up for in November 2008. So, either these independent voters are addled — and thus unworthy of bellwether status, or there is another dominant factor in the political environment that’s causing them unease.
(click to continue reading Politico: Obama Loses By Winning?.)
yadda yadda. Sad that any intelligent person would even bother reading such a partisan rag as Politico, but then I don’t make my living by fellating the right wing blowhards on Fox either.
Cameron is a Conservative, but a moderate presiding over a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats after 13 years of Labor rule, and at least one of Obama’s former aides, Anita Dunn, worked for him during his election campaign.
The two leaders have bonded over sports, one of Obama’s signature means of connecting. They culminated their friendly trash talk over the World Cup Saturday.
Seated in dark leather chairs, with the G8 and G20 logo serving as a backdrop in the small room, Obama and Cameron satisfied a wager they had made on the U.S-Britain soccer match.
“Since it ended in a tie, we’re exchanging, by paying off our debts at the same time, this is Goose Island 312 beer from my hometown of Chicago,” Obama said, holding a yellow-tagged bottle of beer.
Cameron then handed his beer to a smiling Obama. “This is Hobgoblin,” he said.
“I advised him that in America, we drink our beer cold,” Obama quipped. “He has to put it in a refrigerator before he drinks it, but I think that he will find it outstanding.”
(click to continue reading ‘Special relationship’ under strain as Obama and Cameron meet – POLITICO.com Print View.)
Beer doesn’t have to be ice cold to be enjoyable, and I’ll have to look for Hobgoblin when2 I’m in London this August.Footnotes:
General McChrystal ignited a bit of a shite-storm with intemperate remarks about various White House officials. Not so much about policy differences with Obama, but personality conflicts, and an eagerness to speak ill of his civilian bosses, on the record. He should be fired, or demoted, or chastised in some form.
However, the more important fact I gleaned from the article is that we are fighting a useless and futile war in Afghanistan, wasting blood,1 resources, and intellectual energy. Meanwhile our own country needs some infrastructure investments that are ignored: water pipes, public schools, mass transit, clean energy, yadda yadda. Al Qaeda isn’t even in Afghanistan anymore, as far as we know.
When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal’s side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan – and he wasn’t hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. “Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan,” he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. “It’s all very cynical, politically,” says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. “Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there’s nothing for us there.”
In mid-May, two weeks after visiting the troops in Kandahar, McChrystal travels to the White House for a high-level visit by Hamid Karzai. It is a triumphant moment for the general, one that demonstrates he is very much in command – both in Kabul and in Washington. In the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai. The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is, about the pain they feel over civilian casualties. They mention the word “progress” 16 times in under an hour. But there is no mention of victory. Still, the session represents the most forceful commitment that Obama has made to McChrystal’s strategy in months. “There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years – in education, in health care and economic development,” the president says. “As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed – lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”
It is a disconcerting observation for Obama to make. During the worst years in Iraq, when the Bush administration had no real progress to point to, officials used to offer up the exact same evidence of success. “It was one of our first impressions,” one GOP official said in 2006, after landing in Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. “So many lights shining brightly.” So it is to the language of the Iraq War that the Obama administration has turned – talk of progress, of city lights, of metrics like health care and education. Rhetoric that just a few years ago they would have mocked. “They are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory – because victory is not even defined or recognizable,” says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq in 2006. “That’s the game we’re in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn’t get run off. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future.”
But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,” a senior military official in Kabul tells me.
(click to continue reading The Runaway General | Rolling Stone Politics.)
McChrystal should certainly get fired for insubordination – President Truman fired war hero General MacArthur, remember? And McChrystal is no war hero, he’s long been a loose cannon, responsible for the Tillman fiasco, detainee abuse and torture in Iraq, and other questionable judgements. On that front, the NYT reports:
An angry President Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed the general and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration.
The military’s senior leaders joined in sharp criticism of the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and an administration official said he would meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House on Wednesday “to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes in the piece,” which appears in the July 8-22 edition of Rolling Stone.
General McChrystal was scheduled to attend a monthly meeting on Afghanistan by teleconference, the official said, but was directed to return to Washington in light of the article. The general apologized for his remarks, saying the article was “a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”
The article shows General McChrystal or his aides talking in sharply derisive terms about Mr. Biden; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and an unnamed minister in the French government. One of General McChrystal’s aides is quoted as referring to the national security adviser, James L. Jones, as a “clown.”
A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was furious about the article, particularly with the suggestion that he was uninterested and unprepared to discuss the Afghanistan war after he took office.
(click to continue reading McChrystal Is Summoned to Washington Over Remarks – NYTimes.com.)
- our own, and Afghani blood too [↩]