Friday ReadsPosted: August 3, 2012
I want to start with something high-minded today since so much of the political news is the usual crazy season gutter stuff. Kofi Annan has quit his positions at the UN and has left some departing advice at the FT on what to do with disintegrating situation in Syria. As you may know, Syria has real chemical weapons. The regime is committing atrocities and coming apart at the seams. It’s a very disturbing situation. We may have to act just make sure that the very dangerous stockpiles don’t fall into terrorist hands or the hand of a rogue regime. This time, we should act, however, with more than a handful of lapdog allies and with clear support from the Arab League. Hopefully, our commitment would be limited.
Military means alone will not end the crisis. Similarly, a political agenda that is neither inclusive nor comprehensive will fail. The distribution of force and the divisions in Syrian society are such that only a serious negotiated political transition can hope to end the repressive rule of the past and avoid a future descent into a vengeful sectarian war.
For a challenge as great as this, only a united international community can compel both sides to engage in a peaceful political transition. But a political process is difficult, if not impossible, while all sides – within and without Syria – see opportunity to advance their narrow agendas by military means. International division means support for proxy agendas and the fuelling of violent competition on the ground.
This is why I have consistently sought to help the international community to work together to end this destructive dynamic and to focus the minds of the parties on the ground into engaging in a political process. Early in my mandate we won international backing for this, with Security Council resolutions, which authorised UN military observers to deploy in Syria. After a ceasefire on April 12, contrary to some claims, the government’s shelling of civilian communities stopped, demonstrating the impact this unity could have.
Sustained international support did not follow, however. The ceasefire quickly unravelled and the government, realising there would be no consequences if it returned to an overt military campaign, reverted to using heavy weapons on towns. In response I sought to re-energise the drive for unity in June by creating the international Action Group for Syria, establishing a framework for a transition to support Syrians’ efforts to move to a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Transition means a managed but full change of government – a change in who leads Syria and how.
On the Jane Velez Mitchell show Wednesday evening, Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates revealed more details about the ongoing investigation into the strange case of Chavis Carter, who allegedly shot himself in the temple while handcuffed in a police car. The chief, who said the situation was “bizarre” and “defies logic at first glance,” has reviewed the car’s dashboard camera and spoken to witnesses who say the officers were outside the car when Carter was shot:
YATES: There’s no indication of any projectiles coming from outside the vehicle. We’ve reviewed the dashcam video and as late as today managed to have some witnesses come forward that observed the incident from start to finish. And their statements tend to support that whatever transpired in the back of that police car transpired in the back with the officers in a different location.
In a private meeting with local black community leaders, Yates reportedly said the FBI is also involved in the investigation.
Police said he committed suicide with a gun officers failed to find when they searched him. His family members said they believe he was killed by police who are attempting to cover it up.
Carter suffered a single, fatal gunshot wound to the head. He was detained on Saturday night following a traffic stop in Jonesboro, about 2 1/2 hours north of Little Rock, after officers said they found marijuana and empty baggies. Officers searched him twice, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a police car, police said. Not long after, police said, he was found slumped over, with his head in his lap and a gunshot wound to the head.
“We’ve been asked to get involved,” Kim Brunell, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Little Rock office, told The Huffington Post on Thursday. The bureau’s ballistics experts will join the probe, she said.
Police said Carter retrieved a gun that he’d concealed, raised it to his head and pulled the trigger. A clear case of suicide, they said. The handcuffs, they said, were “double locked.”
“Any given officer has missed something on a search, you know, be it drugs, be it knives, be it razor blades,” Sgt. Lyle Waterworth of the Jonesboro police told a local news station. “This instance, it happened to be a gun.”
Several calls to the Jonesboro Police Department were not returned. But Chief Michale Yates told Jane Velez Mitchell on HLN that the death is “definitely bizarre and defies logic at first glance.”
The police report shows that the young black man had $10 of pot on him at the time of arrest and that was about it.
By a 52% to 37% margin, more voters say they have an unfavorable than favorable view of Mitt Romney. The poll, conducted prior to Romney’s recent overseas trip, represents the sixth consecutive survey over the past nine months in which his image has been in negative territory. While Romney’s personal favorability improved substantially between March and June – as Republican voters rallied behind him after the primary season ended– his image has again slipped over the past month.
Barack Obama’s image remains, by comparison, more positive – 50% offer a favorable assessment of the president, 45% an unfavorable one. Even so, Obama’s personal ratings are lower than most presidential candidates in recent elections.
A review of final pre-election surveys of voters since 1988 finds that all candidates enjoyed considerably higher personal ratings going into the final days of their campaigns than does Mitt Romney currently. In fact, only three, Michael Dukakis in 1988, George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, were not rated favorably by a majority of voters.
Barack Obama’s standing in the FiveThirtyEight forecast reached its strongest position to date on Tuesday as a result of favorable polls in a set of swing states. The forecast model now gives Mr. Obama a 70.8 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, up from 69.0 percent on Monday and from 65.0 percent last Tuesday.
Three of the polls were conducted by Quinnipiac University in conjunction with The New York Times and CBS News. The polls gave Mr. Obama leads of 6 points in each of Ohio and Florida, and an 11-point lead in Pennsylvania.
In each state, the polls are at the high end of the range of numbers produced by other polling firms. As we frequently advise, no one set of polls — no matter how reputable the pollster — should be read as gospel. Differences in the numbers from survey firm to survey firm often reflect sampling error or methodological differences rather than any fundamental change in the condition of the race.
Nevertheless, Ohio and Pennsylvania polls are part of a consensus of polls showing Mr. Obama ahead in these states by varying margins. Mr. Obama has led 11 of the 13 polls in Ohio since May 1, and he has led all 11 polls conducted in Pennsylvania during this period.
The Florida polls have been more equivocal: Mr. Obama has held 10 leads, versus six for Mitt Romney.
I’ve been enjoying watching the kerfuffle between Romney and Reid over Romney’s nondisclosure of his taxes. Here’s some of Reid’s statement today in response to Romney’s whinefest on Hannity’s radio show.
There is a controversy because the Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, refuses to release his tax returns. As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for ten years. People who make as much money as Mitt Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes. We already know that Romney has exploited many of these loopholes, stashing his money in secret, overseas accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
“Last weekend, Governor Romney promised that he would check his tax returns and let the American people know whether he ever paid a rate lower than 13.9 percent. One day later, his campaign raced to say he had no intention of putting out any further information.
“When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up. But as a presidential candidate, it’s his obligation to put up, and release several years’ worth of tax returns just like nominees of both parties have done for decades.
“It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is. Whatever Romney’s hiding probably speaks volumes about how he would approach issues that directly impact middle-class families, like tax reform and the economy. When you are running for president, you should be an open book.
“I understand Romney is concerned that many people, Democrats and Republicans, have been calling on him to release his tax returns. He has so far refused. There is only one thing he can do to clear this up, and that’s release his tax returns.”
Mitt Romney on Thursday said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to “put up or shut up” when it comes to charges the presumptive GOP nominee did not pay his taxes.
Romney also accused the White House of being behind the allegation.
“It’s time for Harry to put up or shut up,” Romney said on Sean Hannity’s radio show. “Harry’s going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because that’s totally and completely wrong. It’s untrue, dishonest and inaccurate. It’s wrong. So I’m looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources and we’ll probably find out it’s the White House.”
The reason Romney’s plan doesn’t work is very simple. The size of the tax cut he’s proposing for the rich is larger than all of the tax expenditures that go to the rich put together. As such, it is mathematically impossible for him to keep his promise to make sure the top one percent keeps paying the same or more.
Romney is reintroducing the five elements of his tax plan: energy independence, skills development, trade that works for America, deficit reduction and championing small business. He has proposed reducing tax rates by 20 percent, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, ending the real estate tax and giving lower- and middle-income families a larger tax break for investment income — all the while keeping it revenue neutral.
A study by the Tax Policy Center estimated unspecified tax exemptions for individuals, deductions and credits would have to be slashed by as much as 66 percent to cover the $360 billion annual cost of the proposed Romney tax code. Campaign economic adviser Kevin Hassett disputed that analysis saying, “Governor Romney has a plan to reduce taxes of all Americans. That’s where the job creation will come from.”
Okay, that’s it for me today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?