Friday Reads: The Iran Deal

tumblr_mgybvytJ5h1qjtdngo1_500Good Afternoon!

I’m running late again!  My schedule is just upside down now and DST just double whammed me on the same weekend I started my late night work.  Still getting used to the weird hours.  I also wanted to spend some time on the negotiations with Iran over its nuke program so I had to catch up with the news.  I’m glad BB’s post was so good because I can see you’ve spent a lot of time commenting on what’s going on in Indiana with its so-called “religious freedom” bill.

Obviously, there are going to be several sides to the “deal” depending on your views and their connections to US/Israel policy. So, I thought I’d highlight a few. Max Fisher–writing for VOX–says the deal is “astonishingly good.”

When Aaron Stein was studying nuclear non-proliferation at Middlebury College’s Monterey graduate program, the students would sometimes construct what they thought would be the best possible nuclear inspection and monitoring regimes.

Years later, Stein is now a Middle East and nuclear proliferation expert with the Royal United Services Institute. And he says the Iran nuclear framework agreement, announced on Thursday, look an awful lot like those ideal hypotheticals he’d put together in grad school.

“When I was doing my non-proliferation training at Monterey, this is the type of inspection regime that we would dream up in our heads,” he said. “We would hope that this would be the way to actually verify all enrichment programs, but thought that would never be feasible.

“If these are the parameters by which the [final agreement] will be signed, then this is an excellent deal,” Stein concluded.

The framework nuclear deal establishes only the very basics; negotiators will continue to meet to try to turn them into a complete, detailed agreement by the end of June. Still, the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States.

Like many observers, I doubted in recent months that Iran and world powers would ever reach this stage; the setbacks and delays had simply been too many. Now, here we are, and the terms are far better than expected. There are a number of details still to be worked out, including one very big unresolved issue that could potentially sink everything. This is not over. But if this framework does indeed become a full nuclear deal in July, it would be a huge success and a great deal.

The NYT editorial board calls the deal “promising.”images

Iran would shut down roughly two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used to fuel a bomb and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent (a much lower level than is required for a bomb) for at least 15 years. The core of the reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, another key ingredient for making a weapon, would be dismantled and replaced, with the spent fuel shipped out of Iran.

Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House, insisted he was not relying on trust to ensure Iran’s compliance but on “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program.”

There is good reason for skepticism about Iran’s intentions. Although it pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, it pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for two decades. By November 2013, when serious negotiations with the major powers began, Iran was enriching uranium at a level close to bomb-grade.

However, Iran has honored an interim agreement with the major powers, in place since January 2014, by curbing enrichment and other major activities.

By opening a dialogue between Iran and America, the negotiations have begun to ease more than 30 years of enmity. Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.

According to Reuters, Iranians were celebrating in the street as the deal was announced yesterday.  The country has been living under harsh embargoes which have obviously hurt ordinary people.

Iranians celebrated in the streets after negotiators reached a framework for a nuclear accord and U.S. President Barack Obama hailed an “historic understanding”, but senior global diplomats cautioned that hard work lies ahead to strike a final deal.

The tentative agreement, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.

It marks the most significant step toward rapprochement between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution and could bring an end to decades of Iran’s international isolation.

But the deal still requires experts to work out difficult details before a self-imposed June deadline and diplomats said it could collapse at any time before then.

tumblr_n8ny4i9nX51txy642o1_500We have reaction to the deal from the GOP and from former SOS Hillary Clinton as reported by CNN.

The backlash from likely Republican presidential contenders to thepotential nuclear deal with Iran trumpeted Thursday by President Barack Obama came swift and hard. A more optimistic response came from likely 2016 Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the deal — aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear capabilities — “will only legitimize those activities.”

“Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting U.S. and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort,” Bush said. “I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.”

Clinton, meanwhile, held up the tentative agreement as an “important step” in preventing a nuclear Iran.

“Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won’t be easy, but it is absolutely crucial. I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,” Clinton said in a statement. “The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high. It can never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

But the former secretary of state allowed leeway for herself in case things go awry in the coming months, stating, “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”

The rest of the Republican field, however, coalesced around rejecting the deal.

Making his first trek to Iowa as an announced presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended the President must bring Congress into the process.

“The very first step for any deal, good or bad, should be submitting it to Congress, and the President making the case both to Congress and to the American people why this advances the national security interests of the United States,” Cruz told reporters after a town hall in Cedar Rapids. “Now everything President Obama has said up to this date has suggested that he is going to do everything he can to circumvent Congress.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the early details of the agreement as “very troubling” and said “this attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.”

Obama pushed to quiet skeptics of the framework during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden Thursday, asking, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

69844c5ef8afa2721165c08a7842db7fPeter Baker–writing for the NYT–calls the deal a “foreign policy gamble”.

As Mr. Obama stepped into the Rose Garden to announce what he called a historic understanding, he seemed both relieved that it had come together and combative with those in Congress who would tear it apart. While its provisions must be translated into writing by June 30, he presented it as a breakthrough that would, if made final, make the world a safer place, the kind of legacy any president would like to leave. “This has been a long time coming,” he said.

Mr. Obama cited the same John F. Kennedy quote he referenced earlier in the week when visiting a new institute dedicated to the former president’s brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” The sense of celebration was captured by aides standing nearby in the Colonnade who exchanged fist bumps at the end of the president’s remarks.

But Mr. Obama will have a hard time convincing a skeptical Congress, where Republicans and many Democrats are deeply concerned that he has grown so desperate to reach a deal that he is trading away American and Israeli security. As he tries to reach finality with Iran, he will have to fend off legislative efforts, joined even by some of his friends, to force a tougher posture.

The WAPO Editorial Board was critical of the deal.

THE “KEY parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.

Mr. Obama argued forcefully — and sometimes combatively — Thursday that the United States and its partners had obtained “a good deal” and that it was preferable to the alternatives, which he described as a nearly inevitable slide toward war. He also said he welcomed a “robust debate.” We hope that, as that debate goes forward, the president and his aides will respond substantively to legitimate questions, rather than claim, as Mr. Obama did, that the “inevitable critics” who “sound off” prefer “the risk of another war in the Middle East.”

The proposed accord will provide Iran a huge economic boost that will allow it to wage more aggressively the wars it is already fighting or sponsoring across the region. Whether that concession is worthwhile will depend in part on details that have yet to be agreed upon, or at least publicly explained. For example, the guidance released by the White House is vague in saying that U.S. and European Union sanctions “will be suspended after” international inspectors have “verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear related steps.”

Obviously, Bibi is beside himself.images (1)

“I just came from a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. We discussed the proposed framework for a deal with Iran.

The cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal.

This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel.

The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran’s advanced centrifuges.

On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.

The deal would lift sanctions almost immediately and this at the very time that Iran is stepping up its aggression and terror in the region and beyond the region.

In a few years, the deal would remove the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.

The deal would greatly bolster Iran’s economy. It would give Iran thereby tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East.

Such a deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb.

Is he the little boy that has cried wolf too often?

Anyway, I hope you’ll read up on the situation since it stands to be one of the biggest foreign policy agreements for quite some time.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Tuesday Reads: Netanyahu Speech, Hillary-Hate, and Nonsensical SCOTUS Case that could Hurt 8 Million Americans


Good Afternoon!!

I wanted to touch on a couple of issues this afternoon: the latest Hillary Clinton “scandal,” and the upcoming Supreme Court case that could doom Obamacare once and for all.

But before I get to those stories, I want to share this good article by James Fallows on the possible motivations behind Netanyahu’s speech to Congress this morning.

The Mystery of the Netanyahu Disaster, and a Possible Explanation.

Fallows enumerates the possible motivations for the Netanyahu slap in the face to President Obama:

“Was it simple tin ear on his side, and Ambassador Ron Dermer’s?” Fallows asks? That’s not likely according to Fallows, because Netanyahu is far too sophisticated and knowledgeable about U.S. politics. Fallows also discounts the theory that it was only about “election-year politicking” in Israel. Perhaps that’s part of it. Is it because Netanyahu has so often been right in his previous predictions?

Hardly. I can’t believe that he’s fooled even himself into thinking that his egging-on of war with Iraq looks good in retrospect. And for nearly two decades Netanyahu has been arguing that Iran was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. When you’re proven right, you trumpet that fact—and when you’re proven wrong, you usually have the sense to change the topic. Usually.

Was it because Netanyahu “has a better plan?”

No. His alternative plan for Iran is like the Republican critics’ alternative to the Obama healthcare or immigration policies. That is: It’s not a plan, it’s dislike of what Obama is doing. And if the current negotiations break down, Iran could move more quickly toward nuclear capacity than it is doing now—barring the fantasy of a preemptive military strike by Israel or the U.S.

Fallows also doesn’t buy the argument that Netanyahu actually believes that Iran “faces an “existential threat” if Iran develops a nuclear weapon?

Let me explain. No person, nation, or community can define what some other person (etc) “should” consider threatening….But from the U.S. perspective I can say that the “existential” concept rests on two utterly unsupportable premises. One is that Iran is fundamentally like Nazi Germany, and the world situation of 2015 is fundamentally like that of 1938. Emotionally you can say “never forget!” Rationally these situations have nothing in common—apart from the anti-Semitic rhetoric. (To begin with: Nazi Germany had a world-beating military and unarmed Jewish minorities within its immediate control. Iran is far away and militarily no match for Israel.) The other premise is that Iran’s leaders are literally suicidal. That is, they care more about destroying Israel than they care about their country’s survival. Remember, Israel has bombs of its own with which to retaliate, so that any attack on Israel would ensure countless more Iranian deaths.


What then? Fallows refers to an article at The National Interest by Paul Pillar.

Pillar’s assessment is that the ramped-up “existential” rhetoric is a screen for the real issue, which is a flat contradiction between long-term U.S. and Israeli national interests as regards Iran. It is in American interests (as I have argued) to find some way to end Iran’s excluded status and re-integrate it with the world, as happened with China in the 1970s. And it is in Israel’s interests, at least as defined by Netanyahu for regional-power reasons, that this not occur. As Pillar writes:

The prime objective that Netanyahu is pursuing, and that is quite consistent with his lobbying and other behavior, is not the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon but instead the prevention of any agreement with Iran. It is not the specific terms of an agreement that are most important to him, but instead whether there is to be any agreement at all. Netanyahu’s defense minister recently made the nature of the objective explicit when he denounced in advance “every deal” that could be made between the West and Tehran. As accompaniments to an absence of any agreements between the West and Iran, the Israeli government’s objective includes permanent pariah status for Iran and in particular an absence of any business being done, on any subject, between Washington and Tehran.

That is, as long as Netanyahu keeps the attention on nukes and “existential” threats, he’s talking about an area where the U.S. and Israel might differ on tactics but agree on ultimate goals. Inflammatory as that topic is, it’s safer than talking about re-integrating Iran as a legitimate power, where U.S. and Israeli interests may ultimately differ.

I thought that was pretty good food for thought.

Before I get to the Clinton e-mails issue, here’s an interesting piece at the Washington Post on Hillary’s relationship with Netanyahu.

The phone call between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lasted 45 minutes. For 43 of them, she talked and he listened.

The U.S. secretary of state lectured the Israeli leader, accusing him of trying to do an end run around American opposition to settlement-building and embarrassing Vice President Biden during a visit to Israel, according to interviews with people present during the 2010 call or who were briefed on it afterward. She read from a script for part of the lecture, so as not to miss any key points.

“The word ‘humiliation’ appeared very prominently,” recalled Michael Oren, then the Israeli ambassador in Washington. “As in ‘You have humiliated the United States of America.’ ”

There probably aren’t many times in Netanyahu’s professional life when he has listened to anyone for 43 minutes. Netanyahu prefers to do the lecturing….And there aren’t many people who could make Netanyahu sit still for a tongue-lashing. Clinton is one of them.


The story of the phone call comes from Clinton’s book on her time as Secretary of State, Hard Choices. Read more about it at the link. It would seem that experiences like this would stand Clinton and the U.S. in good stead if she ends up in the White House.

On the latest “scandal” about Hillary using a private e-mail as Secretary of State, I’m not sure what to think. It certainly does give ammunition to Republicans and to potential Democratic opponents like Martin O’Malley.

Here’s the NYT Story that started the fuss: Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules. You’ll need to read it at the link, because the Times has fixed their website so that I, at least, can’t copy and paste any excerpts. Here are some reactions to the story. First, the debunkers:

From USA Today, Clinton aide: State Department e-mails preserved.

A spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that while she used a personal e-mail account during her years as secretary of State, those records have been maintained pursuant to federal rules.

“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill. “As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here.”

Merrill responded to a New York Times story saying that Clinton, a prospective presidential candidate in 2016, used a personal e-mail account during her four years at the State Department and “may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.”

The Times reported that Clinton’s “expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.”

From Media Matters, The New York Times‘ Deceptive Suggestion That Hillary Clinton May Have Violated Federal Records Law: It Was Only After Clinton Left The State Department That The Law Concerning Private Emails Was Changed.

Yes, the president signed the new law two years after Clinton left the State Department. The NYT wants to punish her retroactively. Not surprising, considering the Times’ longstanding hatred for and sliming of the the Clintons. Please go read the whole Media Matters post. It won’t stop the Clinton haters from using this, but it’s the truth. Arm yourself.

Coffee, Leon Zernitzky

Coffee, Leon Zernitzky

Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: That Story About Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Account Isn’t as Awful as It Seems.

Again, please go read the whole thing, and prepare yourself for the coming onslaught. This is only the beginning.

A few more links to folks who either don’t know or don’t care about the time of the law and the fact that Clinton preseved all her emails.

A fairly Hillary-friendly post from Charles Pierce, Hillary Finds A Rake To Step On: The First Clinton Bombshell.

LA Times, Hillary Clinton used personal email while serving as secretary of state.

Mashable, Clinton email revelation: You did what, Hillary?

Incidentally, I was shocked to see this from Joseph Cannon:

Hillary’s secret email account. Let’s be honest: If a Republican did this, we’d be worried. Actually, Republicans have done exactly that.

The most important point here is sub-textual: If the NYT has turned against Hillary Clinton, then we should suspect that she has privately revealed to her closest aides that, if elected, she will do things that she cannot now state out loud. Of course, nothing is truly private these days.

“If the times as turned against Hillary Clinton”??!!! Joseph, why aren’t you aware that the NYT –brave champion of Dubya’s Iraq war–has always loathed the Clintons and has published innumerable attacks on them?

Finally a few links to prepare you for tomorrow’s SCOTUS hearing on King v. Burwell, during which the justices will consider whether to throw about 8 million Americans off their health care plans.

Charles Pierce, The Tell: What This Week’s Attack On Obamacare Is Really About.

…the Nine Wise Souls on Tuesday will hear King v. Burwell, the highly imaginative, if constitutionally laughable, attack on the grammar and punctuation in the Affordable Care Act, which the NWS should have laughed off months ago….

It is the Universal String Theory Of Wingnut Conjuring Words in full view, the complete text of one of the spells. A fake scandal being used to excuse the shabby underpinning of a fake lawsuit that will have real and devastating consequences to thousands of people.


That’s it in a nutshell. But here are more links to check out for more details.

Slate: Exchanges No One Can Use? We rely on courts to interpret laws impartially. When it comes to Obamacare, they don’t always oblige.

Politico: No easy fix if Supreme Court halts Obamacare cash. (No sh$t Sherlock.)

Republicans are getting nervous about what will happen if they get their wish. From The Hill: GOP fears grow over ObamaCare challenge.

Ezra Klein at Vox: Republicans say they have a plan if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare. They don’t.

Stephen Brill at Reuters: The Supreme Court hears an Obamacare fairytale.

US News (not known for liberal views): The Silliest Obamacare Challenge Yet. The King v. Burwell case could cause 8 million to lose health insurance.

SCOTUS should never have agreed to hear this case, but they did. Is John Roberts okay with going down in history as a buffoon? We’ll find out in June.

Please share your views along with the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads


Good Morning!!

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of bad news. I’ve completely stopped watching TV and listening to radio news, because I just can’t take any more details of wars, plane crashes, dead children. If it weren’t for writing these morning posts, I wouldn’t have a clue what’s happening. I get all my news from Google, Twitter, and various blogs, including Sky Dancing. So I’m going to quickly link to the major stories topping Google this morning, and then I’ll post some interesting longer reads that I came across around the ‘net.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

There’s a 12-hour cease fire in Gaza right now. BBC News has extensive coverage, Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900.

Residents in Gaza are using a 12-hour humanitarian truce to return to their homes, gather essential supplies and search for those trapped in the rubble.

At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the truce, a Palestinian health official says.

That raises the Palestinian death toll to 985 since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on 8 July, the spokesman said. Thirty-nine Israelis have died.

International talks on a longer truce have resumed in Paris.

Israel said it would continue to “locate and neutralise” Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).

So far 31 tunnels have been discovered, with about half destroyed, Israeli’s military says.

Lots of details and photos at the BBC link.

bad news

From AP via The Boston Globe, Gaza Sides Agree to Lull But Truce Efforts Stall.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation ‘‘significantly.’’

Hours after the U.S.-led efforts stalled, the two sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Saturday. However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.

In a ‘‘Day of Rage,’’ Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.

The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.

An op-ed from Al Jazeera, Israel’s war of disproportionate force on Gaza, by Britain Eaken.

The recent killing of four Palestinian children by an Israeli airstrike while they played soccer on a beach in Gaza should call into question Israel’s claim that it’s waging a war of self-defense. Western journalists who saw the attack witnessed firsthand an ugly reality of life in Gaza — Palestinian civilians are too often caught in the crossfire in this tiny, densely populated and besieged coastal strip.

Early Sunday, an Israeli incursion into the Shujayea neighborhood in Gaza killed at least 60 more Palestinians. Most of the injuries being treated at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital belong to civilians suffering from shrapnel injuries and amputations. More than 100 children have been killed so far and the Palestinian death toll just surpassed 400 with more than 3000 injured.

The UN says more than 70 percent of Palestinian casualties are civilians, a marked increase from previous Israeli assaults.

The toll on civilians has raised United Nations’ concerns of the Israeli use of disproportionate force in Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. But the use of disproportionate force and the targeting of civilian infrastructure isn’t a new or surprising tactic for Israel. In fact, it’s a primary strategy according to Gabi Siboni, head of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. This strategy has a well-documented history in Gaza.

I have no words.



Yes, there’s still fighting in Libya, and the violence is getting so bad than the U.S. has closed and evacuated its embassy there. NPR reports: U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya Shut Down Amid Fighting.

The U.S. has closed its embassy in Libya and evacuated diplomats amid what is being described as a significant deterioration in security, with rival militant factions battling in the capital, Tripoli.

“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”

In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said: “[All] embassy personnel were relocated, including Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy during the movement.”

AP via ABC News: US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes.

The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said….

The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.” ….

“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said. The evacuated staffers will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.



Ukraine is still roiling, but it seems to have receded into the background for the moment. Here are a few headlines just to keep you current.

Fox News: Ukraine crisis: European Union hits Russian intelligence chiefs with sanctions.

WaPo: Russia, Ukraine trade accusations of cross-border shelling.

Bloomberg: U.S. Says Russia Set to Supply New Arms to Ukraine Rebels.

The Economist: The shooting down of an airliner shows how reckless Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship of Ukrainian rebels has been.

From the WaPo editorial board: If the West doesn’t do more for Ukraine now, it might soon be too late.

From the Are You Kidding Me? File

From the LA Times: White House aide says Republicans might impeach Obama over immigration.

Pesident Obama will propose broad-ranging executive action on immigration reform later this summer that could provoke Republicans into trying to impeach him, a senior White House official said Friday.

While details of the immigration plan are still being worked on, it will mark “an important step in the arc of the presidency” that will shape both the substance and politics of immigration policy for years, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

That move is certain to “increase the angry reaction from Republicans” who already accuse Obama of exceeding his executive authority, Pfeiffer said, highlighting recent statements by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she backed an impeachment move.

“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.


Is this just an effort by the White House to put the impeachment question out there so Americans can let the GOP what they think about it? The Hill reports: White House taking impeachment seriously.

Senior White House advisers are taking very seriously the possibility that Republicans in Congress will try to impeach President Obama, especially if he takes executive action to slow deportations.

Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, said Friday that the White House is taking the prospect of impeachment in the GOP-controlled House more seriously than many others in Washington, who see it as unlikely.

Pfeiffer noted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a large following among Tea Party conservatives, has called for Obama’s impeachment and a large block of the GOP’s base favors it.

“I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president. A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility,” he told reporters Friday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

Pfeiffer said Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to file a lawsuit against Obama over his use of executive actions increased the chance of impeachment proceedings in the future.

A little reality testing from Sean Sullivan at the WaPo: These two numbers show why impeachment talk is trouble for the GOP.

By about 2-1, Americans say they don’t think President Obama should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Friday.

But a majority of Republicans disagree.

That, in a nutshell, is why talk about impeaching the president is nothing but trouble for the GOP heading toward the November midterms.

Sixty-five percent of Americans say Obama should not be impeached, compared to just 33 percent who say he should. Very one-sided. It’s clear that impeachment is a political loser when it comes to the public as a whole.

The “public as a whole” numbers matter because with most of the consequential primaries behind us, Republican candidates in key Senate races — the battle for the Senate is the main midterm event — have to be concerned about playing to broad statewide audiences.


Some (mostly) longer reads

These aren’t all that cheery either, but they are interesting.

This one from the NYT Sunday Magazine is for Dakinikat: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Why do people leave their kids in hot cars? How can you forget you’ve got your kid with you? I just don’t get it, and it makes me furious! There’s a long article about these cases at NBC News, Fatal Mistake: What Everyone Should Know About Hot Car Deaths, by Alex Johnson.

This NYT op-ed isn’t a long read, but it’s a useful one: Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth, by Veronica Escobar.

Remember all that talk about how there was going to be some kind of horrible disaster in 2012? Well it turns out that something awful almost happened. From NASA Science News,  Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012. If you don’t want to wade through the whole article, The Boston Globe has a shorter summary, Apparently Earth ‘Just Missed’ a Solar Superstorm in 2012.

Finally, something entertaining and not depressing, This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World. Check it out!

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

Couch on the Porch at Cos Cob by Childe Hassam, 1914

Couch on the Porch at Cos Cob by Childe Hassam, 1914

Good Morning!!


Secretary of State John Kerry is under fire for making a frank statement in a closed-door meeting that he believed to be private. Politico’s Dylan Byers reports: John Kerry’s private remarks allegedly taped by Daily Beast reporter.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s private remarks to a meeting of influential world leaders last week were allegedly taped by a reporter from The Daily Beast, a fact that led to a personal apology from Trilateral Commission chairman Joseph S. Nye on Monday.

In a letter to Sec. Kerry, obtained by POLITICO, Nye expressed “my deep apology and dismay that a reporter form The Daily Beast, Josh Rogin, somehow sneaked into the meeting room in which you were speaking to the Commission this past Friday.”

“He was not invited,” Nye wrote. “Althought how Mr. Rogin slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security is unclear to me, we have confirmed that he indeed was present and apparently recorded the session.”

Josh Rogin

Josh Rogin

Rogin, who somehow sneaked into the meeting and taped Kerry’s remarks, soon began posting “exclusives” at The Daily Beast.

Within minutes of Kerry’s remarks on Friday, Rogin posted an exclusive to The Daily Beast in which he reported that Kerry had “warned that [a] new round of American financial assaults on Russia were on the way.”

On Sunday, Rogin posted another exclusive headlined, “Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’.” The report earned Sec. Kerry fierce criticism from Jewish organizations such as AIPAC, which called the remarks “offensive and inapropriate,” and the Anti-Defamation League, which called them “incendiary.”

In the first article, Rogin attributed his knowledge of Sec. Kerry’s remarks to “an attendee.” In the second article, he attributed them to “a recording… obtained by The Daily Beast.” Rogin did not mention his presence at the event in either article.

Is that okay according to journalistic ethics? I don’t know, but this definitely demonstrates to me the need for some secrecy in government diplomacy. I think the Greenwaldian notion of government as absolute enemy has rubbed off on reporters like Rogin. His first “exclusive” was on a breakdown of communications between the White House and the Kremlin and the second was about Kerry’s comments on Israel. Rogin writes:

If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.

It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks. 

Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to “take it or leave it.”

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Japan. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

It’s hard for me to find much fault with that. I guess the use of the term “apartheid” is a no-no, Kerry is not the first to use it. As Rogin notes, former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book in 2007 with the title Palestine: Peace or Apartheid. Carter was forced to backtrack somewhat, and Kerry has had do it also. Michael Gordon at The New York Times: Kerry Apologizes for Remark That Israel Risks Apartheid


In the statement that Mr. Kerry issued Monday, which bore the title “On Support for Israel,” he said that he had been a staunch supporter of Israel during his years as a senator and had spent many hours since working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

“For more than 30 years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel,” Mr. Kerry said in his statement. “I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight.”

Mr. Kerry added that he did not believe that Israel was an “apartheid state” or intended to become one. Mr. Kerry did not dispute he had used the phrase but said it had led to a “misimpression” about his views.

“If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution,” he said.

“In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve,” he added.

Kerry has now been attacked for his remarks by Senators Ted Cruz and Barabara Boxer. Quite an achievement!

Rogin’s latest “exclusive,” published this morning, reveals (surprise, surprise!) that the U.S. is spying on calls between Russia and it’s spies on the ground in Eastern Ukraine. You’d think that would be a good thing, but in the age of Greenwaldian “advocacy journalism,” maybe not. Rogin:

“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” Kerry said at a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington. A recording of Kerry’s remarks was obtained by The Daily Beast.

Kerry didn’t name specific Russian officials implicated in the recordings. But he claimed that the intercepts provided proof of the Russians deliberately fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine—and lying about it to U.S. officials and the public.

“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”

Rogin goes on to speculate on whether the NSA has now corrected issues that prevented them from receiving accurate intelligence on Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea and explains the methods NSA uses to collected such information. I guess they will have to go back to the drawing board again now? In the latest piece, Rogin still does not state that he is the source of the tapes of Kerry’s remarks.

Reuters has an article this morning on Israel’s latest plans: Israeli politicians seek to bypass talks, set own boundaries.

With Middle East peace talks frozen and expectations of a negotiated deal at an all-time low, a growing number of Israeli politicians believe it is time for the government to set the nation’s own borders unilaterally.

Some seek the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, others say only the big Jewish settlement blocs should be brought under Israeli sovereignty, while a third group calls for a partial pullout to create a de facto Palestinian state.

Such actions would break the dynamics of the U.S.-driven peace process, which has been bogged down by years of failure and recrimination. By the same token, it would likely unleash a firestorm of protest at home and abroad.

Isn’t that just ducky? Read lots of details at the link.

This is just breaking (9AM EST) . . . there has been a mass shooting at a FedEx location in Georgia.

FedEx shooting

From NBC News: FedEx Facility Shooting Prompts Massive Police Response

At least six people were injured in a shooting early Tuesday at a FedEx facility in Kennesaw, Ga., officials said.

The male gunman remained at large, and police said they are sweeping the surrounding area, reported NBC affiliate WXIA-TV.

Cobb County police said the call came in at 5:44 a.m., prompting a lockdown of the facility on Airport Road and more than 50 emergency vehicles to arrive at the scene. The injured were taken to the hospital, and at least one person was taken immediately to the operating room, WXIA reported.

That’s all I have for you today–I hope you’ll also post your links in the comment thread.

Tuesday Reads: Snowstorm, On-line Harassment, Profiling Snowden, and Other News

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Good Morning!!

Looks like another big snowstorm is headed my way this afternoon. Blizzard warning south of Boston, winter storm warning for most areas.

Overnight the watches were converted to warnings meaning the likelihood of blizzard conditions and snow exceeding 6 inches has increased. The morning commute will be dry and you will see some dim sunshine. The snow begins this afternoon along the coast and the evening commute will be impacted. The storm is most intense overnight and ends during the morning from west to east on Wednesday….There is a blizzard warning up for Cape Cod, coastal Massachusetts south of Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

At least I’m not in the blizzard zone for the moment. This appears to be a really big storm. I saw on Twitter this morning that there were whiteout conditions in St. Louis. You can watch a video update the Weather Channel page.

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States:

NBC News reports: Winter storm set to ‘go bananas’ across Northeast.

With memories of the dreaded polar vortex still fresh, winter deals another blow Tuesday, slamming the Northeast with a blast of cold air and up to a foot of snow.

“They are going to have quite a snowstorm,” said Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist with theWeather Channel. “By this evening, all four cities from Philadelphia to Boston could face a pretty bad commute home. We’re expecting a good six to 10 inches. It will be snowing pretty hard.”

“Every once in while these little winter storms go bananas and we think this might be the one,” he added.

Yikes! What the heck does that mean? The story doesn’t explain. But meteorologists are begging us not to call it a “polar vortex.”

Temperatures are set to drop again in the Midwest and Northeast starting Sunday, a forecast that already is prompting the return of the phrase “polar vortex” — widely used to describe the blast of cold air that chilled the U.S. earlier this month. But while the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the interior Northeast will experience below-average temperatures in the coming week, don’t call it a “polar vortex,” meteorologists say.

The “polar vortex” is a real weather phenomenon, just not one that actually visits the United States, they say. It’s actually a circular weather pattern that has always been stationed above the Arctic, explains

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the swirling high-altitude system never moves into the U.S., though parts of it can “break off” and push cold air south.

The cold experienced in early January was actually a result of the polar vortex weakening, becoming warmer and therefore releasing its powerful chill beyond its normal reach through the northern climes, NOAA says.

Weather experts at NOAA said the intense cold air the U.S. has experienced is in fact a result of a warming world and increasing climate variability. While researchers cannot yet determine whether the fluctuations are a result of natural patterns or environmental effects, meteorologists can predict that parts of the U.S. will see freezing weather again in the coming days as a result of a polar vortex breakdown.

Anyway, I’m going to have to rush around this morning. I have a package to mail, and I need to get a couple of things at the grocery store. I do have some interesting reads for you today–some of them are pretty long, but well worth reading.


Yesterday, via Tom Watson at Forbes, I came across an essay by long-time feminist blogger Amanda Hess that Watson says has been “widely discussed” for the past week or so. Somehow I missed it. Hess argues that on-line sexual harassment of women will be “the next civil rights issue.” In the essay, she writes about the frequent on-line attacks she and other female writers have experienced (warning: explicit and violent language)Here are the first few paragraphs.

I was 12 hours into a summer vacation in Palm Springs when my phone hummed to life, buzzing twice next to me in the dark of my hotel room. I squinted at the screen. It was 5:30 a.m., and a friend was texting me from the opposite coast. “Amanda, this twitter account. Freaking out over here,” she wrote. “There is a twitter account that seems to have been set up for the purpose of making death threats to you.”

I dragged myself out of bed and opened my laptop. A few hours earlier, someone going by the username “headlessfemalepig” had sent me seven tweets. “I see you are physically not very attractive. Figured,” the first said. Then: “You suck a lot of drunk and drug fucked guys cocks.” As a female journalist who writes about sex (among other things), none of this feedback was particularly out of the ordinary. But this guy took it to another level: “I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

My fingers paused over the keyboard. I felt disoriented and terrified. Then embarrassed for being scared, and, finally, pissed. On the one hand, it seemed unlikely that I’d soon be defiled and decapitated at the hands of a serial rapist-murderer. On the other hand, headlessfemalepig was clearly a deranged individual with a bizarre fixation on me. I picked up my phone and dialed 911.

Read the rest at the link. A number of women have written about this issue, and particularly about the lack of protection for women who are harassed on-line from law enforcement–even though the threats sometimes lead to real-life actions. A couple more recent examples:

Skepchick wrote in October about being harassed for her participation in the on-line atheist community, Why I Don’t Just Go to the Cops.

Amy Wallace wrote about her experiences in a NYT op-ed over the weekend: Life as a Female Journalist: Hot or Not?


Along similar lines, I came across this 2010 article in The Boston Globe that provides some insight into why some people spend so much time and energy writing angry comments on line: Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster. The author got an interview with a frequent commenter to The Boston Globe website. He also discusses the problems newspapers face in dealing with angry and trolling comments from anonymous people. Here’s an excerpt:

On Monday, May 17, at 2 p.m., a breaking news article headlined “Obama’s aunt given OK to stay in United States” hits the home page of In a matter of seconds, the first anonymous online comment appears. A reader with the handle of Peregrinite writes, “of course she can . . . can someone appeal.”

Certain topics never fail to generate a flood of impassioned reactions online: immigration, President Obama, federal taxes, “birthers,” and race. This story about Obama’s Kenyan aunt, who had been exposed as an illegal immigrant living in public housing in Boston and who was now seeking asylum, manages to pull strands from all five of those contentious subjects.

In the next few minutes, several equally innocuous posts follow, including a rare comment in favor of the judge’s decision. Then the name-calling begins. At 2:03 p.m., a commenter with the pseudonym of Craptulous calls the aunt, Zeituni Onyango, a “foreign free-loader.” Seconds later comes the lament from Redzone 300: “Just another reason to hate are [sic] corrupt government.”

News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan.

Read much more at the link.


Yesterday I also happened upon a fascinating article by national security and tech journalist Dan Verton. In the piece, Verton tries to come up with a psychological profile of NSA leaker Edward snowden: What does the history of insider espionage say about Edward Snowden?

He wasn’t the first and will certainly not be the last member of the U.S. intelligence community to betray the trust of his nation. But what do we really know about Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked thousands of documents detailing NSA’s domestic and global eavesdropping programs?

The truth is we know very little about Snowden beyond what the media outlets that have a vested interest in protecting him choose to report. But when viewed through the prism of the last 25 years of insider espionage, the Edward Snowden we do know seems to fit the typical profile of the trusted insider struggling to overcome personal and professional shortcomings, and suffering from a warped sense of moral superiority.

More than a decade worth of studies into the psychological profiles of malicious insiders have revealed several common characteristics that make information technology professionals — particularly system administrators, like Edward Snowden — an “at risk” population for malicious insider activity.

Verton discusses Snowden’s history in the light of a study of IT administrators who eventually sabotaged their employers in some way: Inside the Mind of the Insider, by Eric D. Shaw, Jerrold M. Post, and Keven G. Ruby. These are both fairly long pieces, but if you have any interest in the ongoing Snowden saga, they are must reads! A bit more from Verton:

Born in 1983, Snowden grew up in North Carolina and Maryland. His father was a Coast Guard officer and his mother worked as a court administrator. They divorced in 2001, and Snowden went to live with his mother. His parents claim Snowden was ill as a teenager and failed to graduate high school. He eventually studied at a local community college to obtain a G.E.D.

Snowden was 17 when al-Qaida launched its attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. At that time, he adopted an online persona he called “The One True Hooha” at the website Ars Technica, where he participated in chat forums for gamers and hackers. His studies at a local community college would once again fall short of a degree.

In 2003, Snowden decided to join the Army Reserve, and requested a chance to undergo evaluation training for Special Forces to, in his words, “fight to help free people from oppression.”

Yet again, the young Snowden would fall short. He was dropped from the program and discharged from the Army four months later. Snowden claims to have broken both of his legs during training, but to date has provided no evidence. The Army has confirmed his service, but would not release his service record summary, known as a DD-214.

“He comes from a family that has a high need for achievement, but his experience is one disaster after another,” Stock said.

Lots more educated speculation on Snowden’s motives at the link.

In other news . . .

Here’s a spy story I hadn’t heard about in the mainstream media. Report: Israel Passes U.S. Military Technology to China.

Secret U.S. missile and electro-optics technology was transferred to China recently by Israel, prompting anger from the U.S. and causing a senior Israeli defense official to resign.

The head of defense exports for the Israeli Defense Ministry resigned after a U.S. investigation concluded that technology, including a miniature refrigeration system manufactured by Ricor and used for missiles and in electro-optic equipment, was sent to China, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Another Israeli news site, Aretz Sheva, reports the U.S. is concerned the technology could ultimately find its way to Iran, which last year sought to buy military equipment from China for its nuclear program.

That sounds scarier than the stuff Glenn Greenwald has been dribbling out.

From The New Statesman, here’s an exhibit I’d love to see if only I were in London: A history of psychology, warts and mysteries and all.

It looks more like an art installation than the remains of a 400-year-old experiment: a life-size image of a man rendered in dark, angry scrawls on a wooden panel. It is, in fact, a human nervous system, painstakingly removed from a corpse by Italian medical students and then varnished on to the dissecting table. Scientists in the 17th century believed that human beings were animated by the “animal spirit” that flowed from the brain down the nerves.

The display is part of the “Mind Maps” exhibition at the Science Museum in London, which explores how people have tried to gain a better understanding of their minds.

That sounds amazing.

Finally, a funny story from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360: CNN reporter high during Anderson Cooper marijuana TV segment.

Poor Randi Kaye. The CNN reporter was sent to Denver for a week as part of the network’s “Gone to Pot” series, and in one of her later segments investigated dispensary tours that are being compared to Napa Valley wine tastings.

Kaye followed around a 72-year-old woman named Barbara Harvey, who is a huge fan of marijuana, and joined Harvey on a day-long dispensary tour where she spent much of her time in a limo being surrounded by people smoking marijuana with the windows rolled up. The CNN journalist tells Anderson Cooper she accidentally got a contact high after being stuck in a limo with Harvey for so long, though Cooper believes this is her “career highlight.”

At around the 4:30 mark in the above video, viewers can see Kaye in all her stoned glory. Kaye is all giggles and run-on sentences when talking about the cannabis business post-pot legalization in Colorado.

So . . . what are your recommended reads for today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

Monday Reads

hanashobu_irises_vintage_japanese_ukiyo_e_art_poster-r10616fe3729c4efb83abd5d6038ac407_fjged_8byvr_512Good Morning!

There’s a lot going on in the middle east as tensions mount between Syria and Israel.  The situation continues to unravel.

Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

As Syria’s two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran’s confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.

“Night turned into day,” one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.

Former Arizona Congress Woman Gabby Giffords won a profile in courage award in Boston.  Her new role is an outspoken and effective symbol for more gun safety laws.

“It takes real courage to overcome a disability that is so personal,” says Guy McKhann, a leading neurologist at Johns Hopkins University.

Although he hasn’t treated her, he says it was clear that, distinct from cognitive abilities, retrieving the right words is difficult for Giffords. “What she wants to say sometimes doesn’t come out,” McKhann says. (A personal disclaimer: I am chairman of the Profile in Courage Committee that honored her Sunday and have a son with a brain injury.)

On Jan. 8, the two-year anniversary of the shooting, Giffords and Kelly started Americans for Responsible Solutions. They’ve already raised more than $10 million, enlisted more than 300,000 supporters, aired national television ads advocating expanded background checks for gun purchases and campaigned for the measure in a dozen states.

They are perfect for this role. She is a courageous survivor of a gun attack, a former Western member of Congress, a longtime hunter and supporter of gun rights. He is a combat veteran, Navy pilot and space shuttle commander. The National Rifle Association can’t paint them as effete foes of the Second Amendment.

In January, Giffords delivered emotional testimony on the measure to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She and Kelly personally lobbied members. Before last month’s Senate vote on the proposal, she sought out Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, a friend from her House days, and blurted out, “Need,” as in we need you. Unlike his Arizona colleague John McCain, who backed the background checks compromise, Flake voted no. The measure failed; since then, polls show a drop in Flake’s home-state popularity.


If you have young children around, this should scare you.  You should also check the list at the link in the article to see if any of this crap is in your home.

Over 5000 children’s products contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive problems, including the toxic metals, cadmium, mercury and antimony, as well as phthalates and solvents. A new report by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States reveals the results of manufacturer reporting to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Makers of kids’ products reported using 41 of the 66 chemicals identified by WA Ecology as a concern for children’s health. Major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, H & M and others. They use these chemicals in an array of kids’ products, including clothing, footwear, toys, games, jewelry, accessories, baby products, furniture, bedding, arts and crafts supplies and personal care products. Besides exposing kids in the products themselves, some of these chemicals, for example toxic flame retardants, build up in the environment and in the food we eat.

Examples of product categories reported to contain toxic chemicals include:

  • Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic
  • Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A)
  • Claire’s cosmetics containing cancer-causing formaldehyde
  • Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A

Kinda terrible isn’t it?

Paul Krugman takes to the op ed pages of the NYT again to explain what’s what about Keynesian and austerians.

The basic idea behind Keynesian support for stimulus/opposition to austerity under current conditions is that when private demand is weak and monetary policy is up against the zero lower bound, there is no offset to changes in government spending. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp — in particular, you would think that anyone posing as an economist could grasp the conditional nature of the statement.

Meanwhile, the proof is in the results.  Look at the record highs in the Eurozone unemployment numbers.

European unemployment has hit a new record and Moody’s cut Slovenia’s debt rating to junk status as German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her crisis strategy, pushing for twin goals of fiscal rigour and growth.

Grim new data showed on Tuesday that European unemployment set a fresh record in March with more than 19 million jobless people — including one out of four under-25-year-olds.

The Eurostat data agency reported an extra 62,000 people joining unemployment queues in just four weeks in the eurozone as the jobless rate climbed for the 23rd consecutive month — hitting 12.1 percent in March.

The frightening new figures — which showed almost two in three under-25s in Greece and Spain unemployed — come amid vocal criticism over the effects on jobs of the cost-cutting measures pushed by austerity advocates.

Anger against austerity is rising across Europe as hard economic data fails to show a turn-around.

Greece saw joblessness climb relentlessly to 27.2 percent in January, the latest available figures, from 26.3 percent in December.

Meanwhile Portugal, with unemployment at 17.5 percent in March, was seeking to agree new austerity measures after its Constitutional Court rejected as discriminatory cuts to civil servant salaries and pensions decided in response to demands by EU-IMF lenders.

In Cyprus, which saw a huge month-to-month rise in unemployment to 14.2 percent against 10.7 percent the previous month, the parliament was to debate the terms of a tough 10-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout.

The EU’s employment and social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor warned that “EU institutions and governments, business and social partners at all levels need to do all they can to avoid a ‘lost generation'”

There is absolutely no reason for us to relive the Great Depression years and the complete political upheaval that resulted.  I just do not get the obsession with debt.  This is especially true because there is so little evidence for it and what evidence was provided was shown to be falsified, error-riddled, and just plain wrong by these kinds of numbers.


I wanted to end with a story that should be on every one’s radar but probably isn’t.  Homelessness has been an increasing problem in this country for some time.  So has the lack of treatment for the mentally ill. It’s been a Reagan pogrome that we can’t seem to rid ourselves of.  Here’s the connection between the two. 

Most homeless shelters in the US only take in people who are deemed mentally stable.  Most don’t offer anything beyond basic shelter.

Housing programs that also provide psychological services are in the minority, homeless advocates told me.  The harsh reality is that most homeless people living in the US who also suffer from serious illnesses like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and a host of other mental health disorders, are typically turned away from shelters on a nightly basis.

It’s a disturbing statistic when you discover, as I did, that more than 50 percent of the people living on the streets in the US are mentally ill.  Of that number, I was told, less than half are receiving any mental health treatment.

For years, Candace Wood was one of them. I met with Wood in the dining room of Knoxville’s Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC).

For years the mission has dedicated itself to ending homelessness by providing not just housing, but the mental health services that ensures its residents don’t just get off the street, but also have the ability to stay off the street.

Wood told me that before she was connected with the VMC, she was, “wandering around aimlessly.”

“But, I was sick.  I was sick because I didn’t take the medicine,” she said.

Wood said she is bi-polar.  Since she was previously not on medication and was unable to manage her symptoms.  She used to break into buildings to stay warm, hoping it would also get her arrested.  Wood said that in jail she knew she’d get the meals and medication she needed.

Ginny Weatherstone is a passionate advocate for Knoxville’s homeless, she’s also the CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center.  She says Wood’s story is a common one among the homeless who are also mentally ill.

“Three ‘hots’ and a cot.  You get that in jail.  For them, jail is their mental health hospital.  Jail is their housing,” Weatherstone told me.

I’ve always felt that the Reagan and Bush years were all about punishing the poor, the ill, the elderly, the weak, the young, and the feeble.  Statistics show that the wealthy have been doing fabulously since these three presidents reigned.  It really is such a horrible statement on our countries’ priorities.  How can so many folks be so rich and not give a damn about any one else.

The Rich Have Gained $5.6 Trillion in the ‘Recovery,’ While the Rest of Us Have Lost $669 Billion

It’s no accident.
Oh, are we getting ripped off. And now we’ve got the data to prove it. From 2009 to 2011, the richest 8 million families (the top 7%) on average saw their wealth rise from $1.7 million to $2.5 million each. Meanwhile the rest of us —  the bottom 93% (that’s 111 million families) — suffered on average a decline of $6,000 each.

Do the math and you’ll discover that the top 7% gained a whopping $5.6 trillion in net worth (assets minus liabilities) while the rest of lost $669 billion. Their wealth went up by 28% while ours went down by 4 percent.

It’s as if the entire economic recovery is going into the pockets of the rich. And that’s no accident.

Follow the link to the alternet article to read why.
I’m getting ready for a trip to visit my dad and sister.  So, I might be a little out of touch this week.  Just letting you know.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Syria to Declare War on Israel ? More on the Mice in the Middle East that Roar!

assadHere’s some of the headline sources:

Syria: Attack on military facility was a ‘declaration of war’ by Israel

A series of massive explosions illuminated the dark sky over Damascus early Sunday, igniting renewed claims that Israel has launched attacks into the war-torn country.

Syria’s government said the explosions were the second Israeli airstrike in three days. The latest target, officials said, was a military research facility outside the Syrian capital. A top Syrian official told CNN in an exclusive interview that the attack was a “declaration of war” by Israel.

Syrian authorities vowed to retaliate against Israel but did not specify what action they would take.

Here’s more on the mice that roared:

Following evidence of chemical warfare and an increasinly reticent US position, Israel has in recent days taken widely reported steps to neutralise threats emanating from within civil war-torn Syria.

While strikes from Lebanese airspace this weekend are not thought to have been on chemical weapons caches, the recent Israeli intelligence regarding the use of such weaponry is thought to have spurred on a round of strikes, including the latest just hours ago.

The Syrian state news agency SANA, citing initial reports, said early Sunday that Israeli missiles struck a military research center near the capital Damascus.

Syrian state television has reported that a major strike on an ammunition depot in Qassiyoun mountain shook Damascus, while Hezbollah’s Al-Manar station claimed the explosion may have been a downed Israeli jet.

Rumours are surfacing online that following the latest volley of attacks on the Syrian regime, President Bashar al-Assad will soon officially declare war on Israel, with speculators pointing to 5am local time for official confirmation. This information continues to persist despite the technical state of war that currently exists between the two states.

Many however, have been quick to dismiss these reports as strictly rumour, with various commentators claiming that such a move would be sure to end Assad’s reign of terror in Syria “within a week”.

The news of an Israeli intervention in Syria has caught the Obama administration on the back foot, with the US president refusing to comment at length about the strike. Obama said, “The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”

Israeli warplanes continue to pound Damascus

Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said.

The attack, the second in three days and the third this year, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.

Syria’s government called the attacks against against its territory a “flagrant violation of international law” that has made the Middle East “more dangerous” and warned it has the right “to defend its people by all available means.”

The generally muted response, read out by the information minister after an emergency government meeting, appeared to signal that Damascus did not want the situation to escalate.

Instead, it tried to use the strikes to taint the rebels, claiming the attacks were evidence of an alliance between Israel and Islamic extremist groups trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The air raids pose a dilemma for a regime already battling a relentless rebellion at home. Failure to respond could make it look weak and open the door to more strikes. But any military retaliation against Israel would risk dragging the Jewish state and its powerful army into a broader conflict.

The tempo of the new strikes added a dangerous dynamic to the conflict, fueling concerns that events could spin out of control and spark a regional crisis.

Israel’s military on Sunday deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the north of the country. It described the move as part of “ongoing situational assessments.”

This is sure to bring a group of countries with touch-and-go-relationships into an unpleasant situation  Isn’t it a bitch when your proxies just don’t act reasonably?