Thursday Reads

wu201110

Good Morning!!

Prospects are not looking good for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do serious damage to the government in his remaining lame duck weeks. The biggest problem for the transition to a real president is that Trump’s staff and most GOP elected officials are living in fear of Trump’s tantrums.

The Daily Beast: Trump’s National Security Adviser Tells Staff: Don’t Even Mention Biden’s Name.

President Donald Trump continues to refuse to cede the election. His national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, is enabling the mayhem, four senior officials told The Daily Beast.

O’Brien—once viewed as a potential check on Trump’s erratic national security demands—endorsed the installation of a pair of Trumpists at the Pentagon’s highest levels, while a defense secretary O’Brien has long opposed was fired by tweet.

One official claimed that O’Brien has been supportive of a peaceful transfer of power, joking in a Monday event about Trump’s loss and directing his staff to begin drafting transition materials. But three other officials told The Daily Beast that O’Brien has emerged as one of Trump’s biggest enablers at a decisive moment, supporting the president’s bid to retain power even though it is being waged through a nationwide disinformation campaign….

20201110edshe-bThis week, officials say, O’Brien supported the removal of several top officials at the Pentagon and favored Christopher Miller, a former NSC official who moved to the National Counterterrorism Center, to replace Esper as secretary of defense. He also approved of the installation of Kash Patel as Miller’s chief of staff, officials said. Patel worked previously under O’Brien at the National Security Council. One senior official described Miller and Patel as “O’Brien’s boys.” Patel is also said to be close with another former NSC colleague, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who is now the Pentagon’s senior intelligence official.

A bit more:

Other officials familiar with the matter noted that O’Brien has also pushed national security officials to publicly embrace the absurd Trump message that the election has not been certified and that there are still legal battles playing out across the country that could turn in the president’s favor.

“If you even mention Biden’s name… that’s a no-go, you’d be fired,” one national security official said. “Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the [Biden] transition.”

Asked if officials in the White House feel comfortable saying Biden’s name in the West Wing, one senior White House official said, half-jokingly, “Sure, you can say his name. If you’re talking about who lost the election to the president.”

Behind closed doors, one official claimed, O’Brien has been much more forthcoming about Trump’s loss and the need to prepare for a transition. The problem, the other officials said, is that O’Brien hasn’t made that known to the commander in chief.

There’s much more interesting gossip at the Daily Beast link.

wu201109On the other hand, some right wingers are speaking up, including John Yoo, Mike DeWine, and John Bolton.

The law firms representing Trump are also getting antsy. The New York Times: Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits.

Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm.

Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.

Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.

At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.

Read more at the NYT.

245440_rgb_768Yesterday another large law firm withdrew from a case in Arizona. Westlaw Today: Snell & Wilmer withdraws from election lawsuit as Trump contests Arizona results.

(Reuters) – The largest law firm representing the Trump campaign or its allies in post-election litigation challenging votes in key states has withdrawn from an election lawsuit in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Associate Presiding Civil Judge Daniel Kiley on Tuesday granted Snell & Wilmer’s request to withdraw as counsel of record for the Republican National Committee. The RNC had teamed-up with the Trump campaign and the Arizona Republican Party in the case, which alleges that Maricopa County incorrectly rejected some votes cast on Election Day.

Snell & Wilmer partners Brett Johnson and Eric Spencer first moved to withdraw on Sunday, a day after the case was filed. Johnson and Spencer did not respond to requests for comment. Snell & Wilmer chairman Matthew Feeney said the firm doesn’t comment on its client work.

Two other large law firms that have represented the Trump campaign in election litigation, Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, have faced an onslaught of online criticism this week from critics who say the cases erode confidence in the democratic process, sparked by a Monday New York Times story focused on the firms’ roles.

This story at The Washington Post by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker suggests that Trump may be beginning to accept reality: Trump insists he’ll win, but aides say he has no real plan to overturn results and talks of 2024 run.

lk110520daprTrump aides, advisers and allies said there is no grand strategy to reverse the election results, which show President-elect Joe Biden with a majority of electoral college votes, as well as a 5 million-vote lead in the national popular vote.

Asked about Trump’s ultimate plan, one senior administration official chuckled and said, “You’re giving everybody way too much credit right now.”

Republican officials have scrambled nationwide to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud that could bolster the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, but no such evidence has surfaced. And Biden’s lead in several states targeted by the Trump campaign has expanded as late-counted votes are reported. In all-important Pennsylvania, the Democrat now leads by more than 50,000 votes….

Trump has been spending his days largely on the phone, calling advisers, allies and friends. The president has been “trying to find people who will give him good news,” one adviser said.

Still, Trump has indicated in some of these conversations that he understands Biden will take over the presidency on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. Rather than talking about a second term, Trump has been matter-of-factly discussing a possible 2024 campaign — an indication that he knows his time as president is coming to an end, at least for now.

“I’m just going to run in 2024. I’m just going to run again,” Trump has been saying, according to a senior administration official who has spoken with him this week.

In 2024, Trump will be 79 years old and his dementia will have gotten much worse. But he’ll likely try to continue making our lives a living hell after he leaves the White House. 

jd111120daprAccording to Mike Allen at Axios, Trump plans to form his own media company: Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News.

President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios.

The state of play: Some Trump advisers think Fox News made a mistake with an early call (seconded by AP) of President-elect Biden’s win in Arizona. That enraged Trump, and gave him something tangible to use in his attacks on the network.

  • “He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it,” said a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions…..

Here’s Trump’s plan, according to the source:

  • There’s been lots of speculation about Trump starting a cable channel. But getting carried on cable systems would be expensive and time-consuming.

  • Instead, Trump is considering a digital media channel that would stream online, which would be cheaper and quicker to start.

  • Trump’s digital offering would likely charge a monthly fee to MAGA fans. Many are Fox News viewers, and he’d aim to replace the network — and the $5.99-a-month Fox Nation streaming service, which has an 85% conversion rate from free trials to paid subscribers — as their top destination.

I’ll believe that when I see it. Everyone needs to remember that Trump is a terrible businessman. Besides, he will have to deal with his massive debts and likely criminal charges in New York.

245231_rgb_768In the meantime, Trump has decapitated the top leadership of the Department of Defense and he may soon finish his takeover of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure.

The New York Times: Trump Stacks the Pentagon and Intel Agencies With Loyalists. To What End?

President Trump’s abrupt installation of a group of hard-line loyalists into senior jobs at the Pentagon has elevated officials who have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran and for an imminent withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan over the objections of the military.

Mr. Trump made the appointments of four top Pentagon officials, including a new acting defense secretary, this week, leaving civilian and military officials to interpret whether this indicated a change in approach in the final two months of his presidency.

At the same time, Mr. Trump named Michael Ellis as a general counsel at the National Security Agency over the objections of the director, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone.

There is no evidence so far that these new appointees harbor a secret agenda on Iran or have taken up their posts with an action plan in hand. But their sudden appearance has been a purge of the Pentagon’s top civilian hierarchy without recent precedent.

Administration officials said the appointments were partly about Afghanistan, where the president has been frustrated by what he sees as a military moving too slowly to fulfill his promise that all American troops will be home by Christmas. The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and fierce proponent of ending American involvement in Afghanistan, would serve as a senior adviser.

Read the rest at the NYT.

I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comment thread. I hope everyone is doing OK. Please check in with us today if you have the time and inclination–we love to hear from you!


Monday Reads: The Wheedle and the Damage Done

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I continue to believe that a huge number of Christians in this country actually make this the least Christian country on the planet.  After all, white evangelicals were the biggest chunk of voters that made way for Russia’s attack on our form of government and brought an insane man into the White House.  What type of people fall for cons? What type of people actually will damage themselves and their neighbors to feel smug and safe in their whiteness?  Better yet, what will the recently installed Pope say to President Swiss Cheese for Brains and the Gingrichs who play the pious game of “maybe for thee but not for me” with all the Jesus teachings.

You can have as many bible studies and prayer breakfasts as you want in this administration and the actions will never overtake the words passed into law.  What we continue to see is the rich and powerful destroying the lives of the weakest among us to provide lavish tax cuts that basically accrue value to no one but the person who receives them.

With that lecture, I give you the Republican and Trump Agenda.  We are seeing the proposals that will send many to their graves.  Paul Ryan is not nicknamed the Granny Starver for nothing.  Please don’t watch the Trumpical Clusterfuck Tour. Read what’s going on with the Budget and with the Department of Re-Education.

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

As usual, children and the sick get the worst treatment. I suppose it’s only time that we see an end to child labor laws and poor farms established.  Either that, or we funnel every one to private jails.

But Tuesday’s budget will be more significant, because it will seek changes to entitlements — programs that are essentially on auto­pilot and don’t need annual authorization from Congress. The people describing the proposals spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget had not been released publicly and the White House is closely guarding details.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

And they’re still after a the Affordable Health Care Act.  This amounts to a death by a million paper cuts.  You’ll notice most of this isn’t being rolled out with the same gusto as the Saudis welcomed Kremlin Caligula.

The Trump administration Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August.

The suit, House v. Price, centers on Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital. The legal motion in a case that was brought by House Republicans during the Obama administration is expected to be filed later Monday.

President Donald Trump has argued that the markets are fatally flawed and will collapse no matter what his administration does. He also suggested that the ensuing chaos could entice Democrats to come to the bargaining table and help craft a health care overhaul. But administration officials have said the payments would continue while the lawsuit is pending.

While another delay would stop short of imploding the markets, it still undermines the exchanges, by continuing uncertainty as insurers decide where to offer coverage and how to price it.

House Republicans charged the cost-sharing program was never legally funded in Obamacare. A federal district court judge ruled in 2016 that the Obama administration was illegally funding the program. The Obama administration appealed that decision but the issue was unresolved before Trump took office.

September 16, 2016

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos is already steamrolling along. The plan that has completely failed in Louisiana is about to go National with this nut job in charge of the Department of Re-Education.  School choice is another term for segregated schools and public funding of religious atrocities foisted on innocent children.

Before she was picked by President Trump to head up the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos was the chairwoman of the American Federal for Children, a pro-school choice lobbying group.

When she visits Indianapolis Monday night, Secretary DeVos will address a sea of friendly and familiar faces at the AFC’s National Policy Summit at the Weston Hotel.

It’s expected DeVos will roll out a Trump administration plan to provide tax credits to corporations and individuals who donate money to groups and schools that provide school choice scholarships to students and parents.

“We see that this is a really significant opportunity for her to lay out a vision for what she sees as educational choice going into the future for all fifty states,” said AFC Spokesman Tommy Schultz. “I think Indianapolis and Indiana are great places to do it where Indiana has one of the fastest growing choice programs in the entire country.”

More than 33,000 Hoosier students attend classes in a private or charter school under Indiana’s expanded choice program.

“So a federal tax credit scholarship program would be a really great way to facilitate getting more families educational options for their child. We expect something like that to be potentially rolled out later this year,” said Schultz. “It’s purely folks giving charitable contributions to education scholarship organizations and then therefore they’ll get a credit for that.”

Indiana’s public school teachers fear the DeVos speech will be one more attack on the system that educates a majority of America’s children, many of them in struggling urban school districts.

“We are concerned that her speech is going to be about changes to the proposed federal budget and how that’s going to impact our students,” said Theresa Merideth, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “What we have is a voucher system now that funds kids who are already going, by and large, to private schools anyway, and there is no data that is showing they are doing any better that public school counterparts.”

Meredith said before- and after-school programs, and services aimed at special education youngsters, will be at risk from proposed Trump administration cuts to the federal education budget.

Make American White, Fascist, and Nutty Religious folks!  I really think their slogan should be Greed and Grifting is Good!  In that vein, the White House is trying to block ethics investigations of ex lobbyists now working in Federal Agencies and the West Wing.

The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who now work in the White House or federal agencies.

The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.

Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. “It is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”

There is some good news.  The Court System appears to be working as a system of checks and balances on all the crazies that have invaded the executive branches and legislative branches throughout the Country and in the District.  SCOTUS just told North Carolina its gerrymandering smacked of racism and rejected its proposed Congressional Districts.  Thomas sided with the majority and Gorsuch sat out so I’m no sure we can divine any future trends from this.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina Republicans relied too heavily on race when they drew two bizarrely shaped congressional voting districts that were used until the 2014 election.

The ruling upholds a lower court decision that rejected the two majority-black districts and ordered a new map for the 2016 election. Even with the new lines, Republicans maintained their hold on 10 of the state’s 13 districts.

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said a three-judge panel had sufficient grounds for concluding that race, and not politics, was the driving factor in setting out the lines. She also backed the lower court’s conclusion that the district lines weren’t needed to comply with a federal voting-rights law.

“A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason,” Kagan wrote.

The case produced an unusual split. Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most conservative justice, joined the court’s four liberals in the majority. Thomas is a staunch opponent of the use of race in drawing district lines, no matter which side benefits.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy issued a partial dissent saying they would have upheld one of the districts. Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t take part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.

The contested districts were both held by black Democrats. Critics said the goal was to dilute minority voting strength outside of those two districts and preserve the power of neighboring white Republicans.

North Carolina officials said they were trying to preserve black majorities and comply with the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law designed to protect racial minorities. North Carolina also contended that, with regard to one of its disputed districts, map-drawers were legitimately motivated by politics.

One of the disputed districts — the 12th District, held by Representative Alma Adams — was 120 miles long, snaking from Charlotte to Greensboro and roughly tracking Interstate 85. The other — the 1st District, held by Representative G.K. Butterfield — was in the northeastern part of the state, with tendrils that captured black areas further south and west.

The 12th District has been the subject of repeated court challenges over the years. The latest case represented the fifth time the Supreme Court had examined the district.

Flynn will be evoking the Fifth Amendment.   They probably have enough on him that it won’t mean much.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents.

That’s according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interactions between Flynn and the committee.

Flynn’s decision comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for Flynn’s documents as part of the panel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from “unfair prosecution” to cooperate with the committee.

Simon Maloy argues that the Trump White House is collapsing in an op ed for The Week.

Just as Air Force One was lifting off to ferry Trump to Riyadh, The New York Times and The Washington Post each published seismically significant pieces on the White House’s ever-expanding Russia scandal. The Timesreported that Trump, during an Oval Office meeting the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, told high-level Russian officials that Comey was a “nut job” and firing him had relieved the “great pressure” Trump felt “because of Russia.” The Post, meanwhile, reported that the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia has identified a senior White House official as “a significant person of interest.”

Shortly after the Times and Post stories hit, CNN came through with another big scoop, reporting that Russian officials had boasted during the 2016 campaign that they could use former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to influence Trump and his associates.

The Times piece in particular is brutal for Trump. At the time the president divulged to the Russians his motivation for firing his FBI director, the administration was still sticking to its ridiculous story that Comey lost his job because he botched the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. That means officials from an adversarial government knew the White House wasn’t being honest about a politically explosive subject.

On top of that, Trump’s comments to the Russians could become the focus of an obstruction of justice inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tapped to assume control of the Russia investigation following Comey’s dismissal. Trump had already told NBC’s Lester Holt that the Russia investigation factored into his decision to fire Comey, and the Times report adds significant weight to the idea that Trump’s primary motivation in sacking Comey was to neutralize an issue that was damaging him politically.

The Post report, meanwhile, feels like the first strong indication that the Russia investigation has the potential to cut deeply. The fact that a senior White House official is coming under scrutiny is obviously a problem for Trump, but the Post also reported that the FBI inquiry now “also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president.”

Financial Crimes is an interesting take given the Russian hacking of the US election and White House.  But, it’s a serious way to take down the Trump Criminal Syndicate.  This is from Josh Marshall writing for TPM.

We know – and this article confirms – that Paul Manafort is a significant focus of the probe. Even apart from his political work in Ukraine, Manafort appears to have a series of real estate deals, loans, etc. that investigators are looking at. So perhaps it’s something as mundane as stumbling across some kind of crooked, small-bore real estate ventures Manafort participated in while examining his business ties to people in Ukraine.

But my hunch is that it’s a bit more than that.

As you’ve seen, what I’ve been focused on in recent months are a series of business ventures over the last couple decades – either involving President Trump or his close associates – which seemed to rely on capital from people from the former Soviet Union or recent emigres from those countries. Trump himself, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen and many others figure into this as well as Manafort, Trump’s children, the Kushners and still others. My interest of course is to understand the roots of Trump’s affinity with the post-Soviet oligarch world and whatever financial ties or dependence he has on it. But even if you take the Russia/former Soviet Union connection with its geopolitical dynamics out of the equation, you simply can’t read over these deals and not see that Trump and his crew just play way out on the outer fringe of legality at best. At best. People who have done or subsequently did time in the US or other countries repeatedly appear in the picture. So do people from organized crime. A lot.

One thing you find looking through Trump’s history is that after his fall from financial grace a quarter century ago this pattern seemed to become part of the business model. Cut off from capital from the big banks and most people interested in not losing their money, he had to do business with people with decidedly sketchier reputations. Those people, often looking for places to park wealth in real estate, had to accept much higher levels of risk than people with clean reputations. That seemed to lead them to Trump.

Then there’s another level of it. Even apart from big bad acts and corrupt deals, look at the stuff David Fahrenthold dug up on the Trump Foundation and his Potemkin charitable giving. Beyond issues of possible illegality, the big takeaway there was that Trump operates with a seemingly almost total disregard for rule-following or even a lot of elementary record keeping. So on top of substantively shady deals things are executed in really slapdash and hazard ways. In other words, the Trump Organization sounds a lot like the Trump White House. Only it’s a private company, surrounded by a moat of NDAs, all examined by little more than the thin scrutiny of the New York tabloids.

Here are just a couple examples of some color from the kinds of associations and business dealings I’m talking about: one and two.

Follow those links.

So, I’ve just filled the page with over 3100 words and counting.  I think I’ll leave the rest to you this morning.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Live Blog: NBC “Commander-in-Chief Forum”

trump-triumphant-cartoonTonight, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will respond to questions by Matt Lauer and an audience of Iraq/Afghanistan War Vets and their families. Clinton will be up first in49483_600 NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum. The Forum will be broadcast live from New York.  It will provide an opportunity to see the candidates back-to-back in their first somewhat joint event.

On Wednesday, September 7, NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America present a historic event: The Commander-in-Chief Forum live from New York City.

During this one-hour forum, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be on stage back-to-back taking questions on national security, military affairs and veterans issues from NBC News and an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members.

The event will air live on MSNBC at 8 p.m. ET and will be simulcast live on NBC in most markets. Check listings if you live in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. The event will also air on NBC in its entirety at 8 p.m. PT and 9 p.m. MT. The broadcast will also be streamed live at NBCNews.com.Forum at 8 p.m. ET.

Here are a few links to prepare for possible and needed questions.

From Charles P. Pierce writing for Esquire Magazine:

Here’s What NBC Should Ask at Tonight’s ‘Commander-in-Chief Forum’

390-draft-0721It’s a question all presidents should ask themselves.

Over the almost 15 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, almost everything about our politics, our culture, and ourselves has been heavily militarized. (It is not insignificant that most of the reaction against Colin Kaepernick’s gesture of protest has centered on his disrespect “for the troops.”) This includes almost any debate over foreign policy, which is too often tangled up in debates about military policy. (The current debate over trade policy is a welcome relief.) And most of my qualms are centered on the iconization of the term, commander-in-chief, which is now dangerously close to defining the office of president itself, which is, at the moment, a civilian job.

Time Magazine and Mark Thompson ask:

“Are military endorsements worth as much as the candidates think?

So why should voters listen to ex-generals? In part, it’s because Americans hold their military in high esteem. The latest Gallup poll shows it’s the U.S. institution that citizens hold in highest regard (73%), with the presidency, at 36%, and Congress, at 9%, far below. The generals’ endorsements are sought not because of whom they are, or how many wars they’ve won, frankly, but because they bask in the glow given to GI Joe and Jane since 9/11. There’s a profound sense of gratitude (and, absent a draft, guilt) among Americans toward troops willing to salute and carry out the nation’s orders.

While Trump exasperates many former military leaders, he polls well among the troops, at least according to a non-scientific survey conducted by the independent Military Times newspapers. A CNN poll releasedTuesday highlights the fluidity of the race when it comes to national security: he does better when it comes to combating terrorism (51-45%), while she gets the edge when it comes to serving as commander-in-chief (50-45%).

The nation’s most-recently retired top military officer doesn’t like his former comrades choosing sides. “Politicians should take the advice of senior military leaders but keep them off the stage,” Martin Dempsey, an Army four-star general who retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2011 to 2015, said after a pair of retired generals appeared at the recent political conventions, one backing Clinton and the other backing Trump. “They have just made the task of their successors—who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security—more complicated. It was a mistake for them to participate as they did. It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.”

Yet not all who have worn the uniform agree. “Who should speak on security affairs to our nation? Professors? Anti-war activists? Pot-bellied defense lobbyists grubbing for blood-money? Think-tank creeps with narrow shoulders and massive egos?” asks Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. “Shouldn’t we also lend an ear to those who have actual and lengthy military experience?”

Retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich, who has criticized the nation’s post-9/11 wars, also doesn’t find rolling out military brass like so many artillery pieces particularly disturbing, so long as their opinions are given proper weight: “A retired general is no more competent to comment on presidential politics than is a retired dentist or a retired ballet dancer.”

Jeff Stein writing for VOX suggests “how to watch Trump, Clinton online, TV.”174177_600-1

The forum will begin at 8 pm Eastern at the the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. NBC’s Matt Lauer, host of the Today Show, gets to ask the questions.

How to watch

TV: The event will be simulcast on both NBC and MSNBC.

Streaming: The event will be live-streamed here.

You can also just ignore the visuals and listen to the forum on MSNBC’s radio channel.

What to expect

This could be a good night for Clinton.

The back-and-forth of the debates reward masters in the theater of campaigning. Trump excelled at that during the Republican primaries, in part with put-downs of his rivals and his sense of humor.

The forums are different. The candidates will have to sit for extended interviews that test the range of their expertise, making it much more difficult to provide a punchy one-line answer or turn the tables on their opponents to prove a point.

“A well-prepared moderator can have an easier time pinning down a candidate and following up on the audience’s questions,” writes Gary Legum in Salon. “It requires a candidate to move around the stage, maintain eye contact with questioners and show empathy and relatability to members of the audience. This is not exactly Trump’s strong suit.”

PolitiFact will be Fact-Checking the Forum.

I’m personally don’t have faith in Matt Lauer asking any tough questions given he’s basically a news reader and on air personality for fluffy morning news. I  am hoping the vets and their families will have tough questions.

I want to hear what Trump says about his comments about John McCain not being a real hero and see if he will apologize to the Khans, frankly for his outrageous comments about the gold star family.  Basically, this Hillary internet ad says it all to me.  How do you compare the service and sacrifice of service members to your blowing through you Daddy’s trustfund to build fugly buildings?


Wednesday Reads: Clowns, Rainbows and Pandas

1ccca3098165d541a0f317a49e6fa02aGood Morning

What a fabulous week it has been for those of us with GLBT family and friends. It does feel good to know that my 7926e78cc651b090851ec2da26316142uncle…my friends here on the blog, my good friends from high school…my daughter’s best buddies, my son’s friends too…can legally gain the rights, respect and dignity that they deserve…as human beings.

This is the point of all these rainbows innit? And here we are days after the ruling, and still people are posting hateful shit on social media. They don’t get it.

I want to share something with you, written by one of my daughter’s very good friends…Her name is Jemha, it was written last week but it still does make a huge point:

Jemha

 

Smart cookie isn’t she.

10999985_966134726743787_4490115553396602658_n

And what about all the fuss doing with flags, black ones with dildos…confederate ones? This is another point that bothers me, as I look around at social media (Facebook) because this is where my “friends” are mostly found hanging out.

13d9e92cb0f60a7ffc5deb268f88d52dAgain, I am amazed at how many people don’t “get it” but I will use Jemha again as an example…she is half-black, half-Haitian. When my daughter is enjoying a Blizzard in a Blue Ridge Dairy Queen with Jemha, and they actually feel so intimidated…they are all afraid, because of the racist assholes glares and scowls and threatening looks…with the confederate flag on display everywhere. This is Hate. And it is directed at both girls.

That is a reality, that is what so many don’t understand, and it is so frustrating for me that many of my friends who are very intelligent…don’t get it. Yes, freedom of speech is one thing. But there is a line that is crossed when freedom of speech becomes: hate motivated intimidation, terroristic threats, hate crimes, etc.

The actions and statements made by assclown right-wing religious racist bigots of late hurt my family and friends. And I do not like to see my people treated unfairly, unkindly or disrespected.

Am I going to stand up for my friends and family? You bet your fucking ass I will…

be7c9dc5f379c77a754ef804c2dfcc46I am so sick of folks using religion as an excuse to discriminate and spread their hate and racist agenda against people of color (Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Green, whatever.) And….when they plead religious freedom as an excuse to manipulate and control women and deny us reproductive healthcare, or scream religious liberty against GLBTs to avoid following the law of the land….this is not what the Constitution is all about.

They preach their righteousness and pass judgement when hypocrisy is the cornerstone of everything they stand for….This does not sit well with me. Whatever the religious folks want to do in their own private lives within their own house is their business….but do not come and force their version of religion liberty upon everyone else, by taking away the liberty of those they hate and despise.

Anyway, that isn’t anything new for you all to read. Boston Boomer said the same thing last week. Now, here are your links for today.

3d7eac43e8de493cb1314cbc88b8ce3eA Southern Black Church fire raged overnight, this makes 8 in the last 10 days. 

Another Black Church Burns in the South, the Eighth in 10 Days | TIME

Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, a prominent African-American church in Greeleyville, S.C., caught fire late Tuesday. It is the eighth black church in the southern U.S.A. to burn in 10 days.

[…]

Mount Zion was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995, part of a string of 30 fires in black churches that spanned two years.

An investigation into the fire’s cause will begin after it is safely extinguished, chief of the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division Mark Keel told the Post and Courier. He noted that that the thunderstorm that pounded the town of 375 Tuesday evening could have ignited the church. Meteorologist Pete Mohlin of the National Weather Service told the paper there was a lot of lightning in the area around 7 p.m. but he could not say if it had caused the fire.

Parishioners across the south are surveying the damage a string of similar fires has caused this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, starting in Knoxville, Tenn. on June 21 and moving to Macon, Ga and Gibson County, Tenn on June 23; Charlotte, N.C. on June 24; Elyria, Ohio on June 25; and Tallahassee, Fla. and Warrenville, S.C on June 26.

413d202e8248e164760965ca1ddb8178Three of those fires have been ruled arson, one was determined to be caused by a falling branch and faulty wiring, and the others remain under investigation. Several have been blamed preliminarily on lightning; weather in the south this week has been turbulent.

“Lightning?”

FBI Investigates Southern Church Fires 

The Rev. Nelson Rivers said Tuesday night that he worked closely with ATF while they investigated a string of arsons at black churches in the 1990s.

“My prayer is that we’re not having a repeat,” Rivers told ABC News 4. “But we’re not going to take chances and we are plotting where the churches have burned so far, reaching out to the pastors and the congregations, and also talking to the authorities in those areas to see what they think.”

A federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said a Friday fire at a church in Aiken County does not appear to have been intentionally set. The official had direct knowledge of the investigations but spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the official was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Tfdbba6534f4afe1dab9c84c7fa784bcfhe official said another fire Wednesday at a Charlotte, North Carolina, church appeared to be set by vandals, and investigators have found no graffiti or other evidence that it was racially motivated.

In Georgia, FBI Special Agent in Charge Britt Johnson said Monday that authorities are also looking into whether a June 23 fire could be a hate crime, which is common practice for fires at houses of worship.

“Opening a preliminary inquiry doesn’t suggest that a hate crime has occurred, but rather ensures that it is getting additional scrutiny for hate crime potential,” Johnson said in a statement.

6feee645c8b7de2354c807def2c12eb7Another fire was reported at the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist church in Knoxville,Tennessee, a predominantly black congregation. Knoxville Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk had said previously that the fire was not being investigated as a hate crime. Authorities have said bales of hay outside the church were set on fire, and a church van was damaged in the blaze.

Federal investigators are tracking the Knoxville blaze and several others in an arson database to determine whether there are any trends or similarities, but none of the fires appear to be related, said Michael Knight, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tennessee.

In Elyria, Ohio, arson has been ruled out in the burning of the College Heights Baptist Church, fire Chief Richard Benton told The Chronicle Telegram newspaper.

98b6042b0a1d32264e7f569aefbcc382Okay, when “vandals” are burning down black churches in the South, after the murders of 9 black people, inside a Southern black church…when the confederate flag is under threat of being banned…to say that there is no evidence of racial motivation. Or…that lightning is the cause of eight black churches burning down?  Come on…seriously.

More links on this story:

Mt. Zion AME church burns in South Carolina

Rash of fires at African-American churches continues: Blaze at South Carolina church

Feds notified of fire at African-American church in South..

BREAKING: African American Church In South Carolina, Previously Burned Down By The KKK, Is On Fire | ThinkProgress

Just a few more links on white supremacist.

a319b13562f8901d35401ee1500d5745White supremacists want a race war. They must not fight America’s wars | Matt Kennard | Comment is free | The Guardian

After the horrific massacre at Charleston’s historic black church, Americans are slowly realizing the threat posed by white supremacist and neo-Nazimovements. But few know that their presence has grown within one of the most powerful institutions in America: the US military.

According to the FBI, there are hundreds of white supremacists in the US army or in the veteran community. Some analysts even estimate the number is in the thousands. In America, 203 white supremacist “extremist cases” investigated by the Bureau from 2001 to 2008 involved veterans. The problem hasn’t gone away. Neo-Nazi veteran Wade Michael Page attacked six worshippers at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012.

f5abd9516a7b695d8be8d05a35bf5dcdI spent a number of years investigating how neo-Nazis and white supremacists had infiltrated the US military, with very little push back from the Pentagon, which was desperate to keep the supply of troops flowing for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of my research, I spoke to veterans who had become white supremacists before service and joined to gain access to weapons and training, as well as veterans who had been radicalized after returning from the war.

Charles Wilson, spokesman for the National Socialist Movement, one of the top neo-Nazi groups in America, was frank about his attempts to populate the US armed forces with extremists: 76779a38c3c8eb34fc32c9ce0520e9b0“We do encourage [our members] to sign up for the military. We can use the training to secure the resistance to our government. Every one of them takes a pact of secrecy … Our military doesn’t agree with our political beliefs, they are not supposed to be in the military, but they’re there, in ever greater numbers.” He claimed to have 190 members serving.

Read the rest at the link, it is fucking scary.

And then think about how many former military are in the police force…

Map: The United States of Confederate-flag shopping – The Washington Post

This map by Jody Sieradzki of Dadaviz shows which flag people in different states searched more on Google Shopping between January 2008 and June 2015: the U.S. flag or the Confederate flag. The states in black — most of them — shopped more for the American flag. The states in red — Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois and Texas — searched more often for the Confederate flag.

Hmmmmm, notice that one state there in the middle, near the one of the Great Lakes?

Illinois?

Yes? Yeah….and what would be in Illinois that would make confederate flags so fucking popular?

Illinois Nazis.

This next link is a couple of days old, but: KKK plans SC Statehouse rally, says Dylann Roof ‘was heading in the right direction’

3f1566f9577e3cbf8b2eea495ca792b1North Carolina-based Ku Klux Klan group announced plans to hold a rally in front of the South Carolina Statehouse on July 18, the Charleston Post and Courierreported on Monday.

State officials confirmed that the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which calls itself the “largest Klan in America,” filed a permit saying they expected between 100 and 200 people to attend the event on the north side of the building, where the Confederate battle flag is currently being flown. If the permit is approved, the event would be held between 3 and 5 p.m. on July 18.

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board approved the application Monday, and spokesman Brian Gaines explained that space to demonstrate was provided at the site when not already reserved.

“This is our state, and they are not welcome,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement. Haley called for the flag to be removed from outside the building in the wake of the terrorist attack committed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof earlier this month. Lawmakers will discuss removing the flag on July 6.

ecca12bb9a91947f629be051a3b5e172While Roof faces nine counts of murder in connection with the attack, the group’s leader, Robert Jones, expressed support for him.

“He was heading in the right direction; wrong target,” Jones told the Post and Courier.“He should have actually aimed at the African-American gang-bangers, the ones who are selling the drugs to white youth, the ones who are robbing and raping every chance they get.”

You can see more about how the history books are mistreating the KKK and Confederacy at the link…if you like.

9d3fdba07590d2443cebf0328ca45633About this rally in South Carolina: South Carolina approves KKK’s pro-Confederate flag rally at capitol | New York Post

But according to the newspaper, the South Carolina Budget and Control Board approved an application filed by the “Loyal White Knights” chapter of the Ku Klux Klan for a July 18 rally in favor of the flag.

Budget and Control Board spokesman Brian Gaines told the newspaper that space to demonstrate was provided at the site when not already reserved.

Ugh.

And this…which has nothing to do with white supremacist. It does deal with Jeezus freaks, but how one preacher is reacting in a positive way: Read what this Christian pastor promises to do if his children are gay | Gay Star News

It is a long open letter, just go and take a look. It is no way a blanket acceptance of all religious actions, but it is a good response, one that illustrates how the mass christian right should act.

The rest of the links in dump format:

Boy had been on park swing two days when he was found dead, officials say – The Washington Post

That is a sad situation, and it looks like it will only get worse as the story develops.

Woman gives birth, fights off bees, starts wildfire in Northern California – LA Times

A woman fought off bees, started a fire and survived on apples — all after giving birth in a lonely stretch of Northern California forest, she told a Bay Area TV station.

The woman, Amber Pangborn, 35, of Oroville, made a hasty decision to take an unfamiliar shortcut while driving to her parents’ house after going into labor Thursday.

Instead, she got lost.

“I thought we were going to die,” she told KCRA-TV. “And there was no cell service, there was no … there was nothing.”

But Pangborn’s baby wouldn’t wait and she had no choice but to give birth alone. She named her daughter Marisa.

I think it is ironic that the woman’s name is Pangborn…which is the Norse/Celtic term for labor pains…in childbirth.

This will probably be big news today: Greece, Missing I.M.F. Payment, Is Called Effectively in Default – The New York Times

Along with this: The U.S. roars into World Cup final with fierce win over Germany | For The Win

And if you want proof of PLUBs Pro-Life-Until-Birth…especially for those GOP ultra conservatives in the South:

Addicting Info – One Simple Infographic Shows How Bloodthirsty The ‘Pro-Life’ South Really Is

state by state executions death penalty texas

 

 

This next story is amazing news, and at the same time…puts things in perspective:

c72a7501098a3990a6ba02e4cb9c7ea9Cuba Is The First Country To Eliminate Mother-Baby HIV And Syphilis Transmission

 

The World Health Organization on Tuesday declared Cuba the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

The WHO said in a statement that an international delegation that it and the Pan American Health Organization sent to Cuba in March determined the country met the criteria for the designation. In 2013, only two children in Cuba were born with HIV and five with syphilis, the statement said.

“Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in the statement.

Also, U.S. and Cuba agree to open embassies and restore diplomatic relations – LA Times

In other news: U.S. now home to more Spanish speakers than Spain: study – NY Daily News

Shit that should scare the hell out of the GOP.

Last few links for you:

58331bd183f2c64adacc94b5957f8f15An interesting read: The Moment I Knew I Had To Break Up With My Best Friend especially with all the back and forth and disagreements on Facebook…over gay marriage rights.

And last Sunday I posted a link to a story about Misty Copeland, the first African American lead in Swan Lake in ABT history…well, check it out:

Misty Copeland Promotion Part of A New Era at American Ballet Theatre – WSJ

Misty Copeland made history Tuesday, becoming the first African-American woman to reach the top rank of principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre.

Her promotion, announced by Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, marks a significant milestone for diversity in ballet.

“So many young dancers of color stop dancing at an early age because they don’t think there will be a path for them,” Ms. Copeland said at a news conference following the announcement. “I hope this will change that.”

She had said this was a dream for her…to become a principal dancer.

Misty Copeland leaps past racial barrier in U.S. ballet | Reuters

Copeland, the author of a best-selling memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” and the subject of a documentary film, “A Ballerina’s Tale,” has been a supporter of diversity in ballet. She had also been open about her goal to be lead dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT).

“My dream has been ABT since I was 13,” she said fighting back tears. “I’m excited to continue to grow as an artist and hopefully see more brown dancers come into the company in my lifetime.”

Copeland has already been credited for being an inspiration for younger dancers and for bringing in more diverse audiences to ballet. In her best-selling memoir, she recounted how weird it was for minorities just to buy tickets to the ballet.

Copeland has also appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Earlier this year she took on the lead role in the American Ballet Theatre production of “Swan Lake.”

“It’s been a long journey but it is just the beginning,” she added.

Misty Copeland Is Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater – The New York Times

Misty Copeland was fast becoming the most famous ballerina in the United States — making the cover of Time magazine, being profiled by “60 Minutes,” growing into a social media sensation and dancing ballet’s biggest roles on some of its grandest stages. But another role eluded her: She was still not a principal dancer.

Until Tuesday, when Ms. Copeland became the first African-American woman to be named a principal in the 75-year history of American Ballet Theater.

[…]

“I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level,” Ms. Copeland said at a news conference at the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday afternoon. “At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.”

da2111baf115692d55262ffae5ec9cb7Fittingly, the moment of her promotion was captured on video andshared on Instagram. “Misty, take a bow,” Kevin McKenzie, Ballet Theater’s artistic director, could be seen saying, before colleagues congratulated Ms. Copeland, who seemed to be fighting back tears. Her promotion was lauded on social media by, among others, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Prince, who had featured her in a video.

Over the past year, whenever Ms. Copeland, 32, danced leading roles with Ballet Theater, her performances became events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on at the Metropolitan Opera House, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. After she starred in “Swan Lake” with Ballet Theater last week — becoming the first African-American to do so with the company at the Met — the crowd of autograph-seekers was so large that it had to be moved away from the cramped area outside the stage door.

Read more at the links, there are videos too…she is an amazing artist…and now Principal Dancer of ABT! I think it is about damn time!

Have a great Wednesday, and share your thoughts with us. What are you finding interesting today?


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?