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.
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.
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.
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?
Tonight, 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 in 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:
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:
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.”
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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?”
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 “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.”
“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?
I’m still snowed in. I’ve been shoveling for two days, but 40+ inches of snow in a week was just too much for me to handle alone. My sister-in-law was going to come down from New Hampshire today to help me dig out, but it’s snowing again, so she may have to wait until tomorrow. My cold is still hanging on too, so this post may be a little disjointed. I’m going to focus on a “shocking” story about newscaster Brian Williams that broke over the past couple of days. The illustrations I’m are paintings of winter scenes by Edvard Munch.
Yesterday, NBC News anchor Brian Williams was caught telling a false story about being shot down in a helicopter in Iraq. From Politico:
On Friday night’s broadcast, Williams cited “a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
One crew member responded to the story on Facebook the following day, writing to Williams, “Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.”
This week, crew members of 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook helicopter also told Stars and Stripes that Williams had not been in the shot-down helicopter but had arrived an hour later.
On Wednesday, Williams conceded that he was not onboard the shot-down helicopter, but he told Stars and Stripes he did not intentionally make the mistake.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
From Stars and Stripes’ exclusive: NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest.
Williams made the claim about the incident while presenting NBC coverage of the tribute to the retired command sergeant major at the Rangers game Friday. Fans gave the soldier a standing ovation.
“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said on the broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews.
That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists.
The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove: Brian Williams’ War Story Is FUBAR.
Unfortunately for Williams, this is not the first time he has made “this mistake” on network television. On the March, 26, 2013 episode of CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman, he told the host (at the 3-minute, 50-second mark): “Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire, including the one I was in.”
“No kidding!” Letterman exclaimed.
“RPG and AK-47,” Williams elaborated.
“What altitude were you hit at?” Letterman asked.
“We were only at 100 feet doing 100 forward knots…”
“What happens the minute everybody realizes you’ve been hit?” Letterman asked.
“We figure out how to land safely—and we did,” Williams answered. “We landed very quickly and hard…”
Stars and Stripes left open the possibility that Williams also misreported the incident initially on March 26, 2003, but it turns out that back then, at least, he never claimed to have been aboard the attacked chopper—during two different broadcasts on that date. Television news analyst Andrew Tyndall dipped into his videotape library and screened the Nightly News segment in which Williams said “he was in a convoy of helicopters, one of which got hit,” Tyndall told The Daily Beast.
NBC News, meanwhile, unearthed a March 26, 2003 Dateline segment in which Williams reported: “On the ground, we learn that the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown of the sky.”
Grove compared Williams’ conflation of events with a story Hillary Clinton told in 2008.
2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s false assertion that, as first lady in March 1996, she came under sniper fire during a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia. “I remember landing under sniper fire,” Clinton said during a speech. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” CBS News video of Clinton’s arrival showed no such thing; instead she alighted on the tarmac and greeted a welcoming child who offered her a poem.
I would compare Williams’ flub to tales that then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan told about events he recalled that never happened. A famous example from memory expert Daniel Schacter:
In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told a heartbreaking story of a World War II bomber pilot who ordered his crew to bail out after his plane had been seriously damaged by an enemy hit. His young belly gunner was wounded so seriously that he was unable to evacuate the bomber. Reagan could barely hold back his tears as he uttered the pilot’s heroic response: “Never mind. We’ll ride it down together.” …this story was an almost exact duplicate of a scene in the 1944 film “A Wing and a Prayer.” Reagan had apparently retained the facts but forgotten their source (Schacter 1996, 287).
An even more dramatic error by Reagan was his claim to have been present at the liberation of Auschwitz.
In November 1983, he told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir during a White House visit that while serving in the U. S. Army film corps, his unit had shot footage of the Nazi concentration camps as they were liberated. He repeated the same tale to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other witnesses. Reagan had indeed served in the Army and worked on morale-boosting movies for the War Department. But he had done so without ever leaving Hollywood for the entire duration of the war.
And then there was the story about 9/11 that George W. Bush was repeatedly criticized for–he claimed on that morning he had seen the first plane hit the World Trade Center twin towers before he went into a school for a photo op of him reading to children. But that was impossible, because film of the first tower being hit was not aired until
the next day later that day. Here’s Bush’s story quoted in a piece at e-Skeptic by memory expert Daniel Greenberg
I was in Florida. And my chief of staff, Andy Card — actually I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower — the TV was obviously on, and I use[d] to fly myself, and I said, “There’s one terrible pilot.” And I said, “It must have been a horrible accident.” But I was whisked off there — I didn’t have much time to think about it, and I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my chief who was sitting over here walked in and said, “A second plane has hit the tower. America’s under attack.”
Two weeks later Bush’s story had evolved:
Bush remembers senior adviser Karl Rove bringing him the news, saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. In fact it was American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 out of Boston’s Logan International Airport. Based on what he was told, Bush assumed it was an accident. “This is pilot error,” the president recalled saying. “It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” Conferring with Andrew H. Card Jr., his White House chief of staff, Bush said, “The guy must have had a heart attack”… At 9:05 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boeing 767, smashed into the South Tower of the trade center. Bush was seated on a stool in the classroom when Card whispered the news: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”
The fact is that memory errors like these are quite common. Human memory is not perfect–we tend to get basic facts right, but when we retell a memory again and again or even go over it in our minds, specific details can change. There are a number of ways this can happen. We can forget the source of a memory, as Ronald Reagan did with the movie scene he believed to be real. It’s also comment to retroactively alter a memory, as Bush did with his 9/11 flashbulb memory. That is caused by “interference.” I doubt that Williams deliberately lied about his flashbulb memory from Iraq. Why would he put his reputation at risk in that way? Most likely, he conflated his memories with other things he learned later about the event that made a strong impression on him at the time.
You can read more about false flashbulb memories in this scholarly article by Greenberg (pdf): President Bush’s False ‘Flashbulb’ Memory of 9/11/01. A flashbulb memory is a very vivid recall of a dramatic event in which we have a sense “remembering” exactly where we were and who we were with when we experience or heard about the event.
Back to the Williams story.
At Slate, Ben Matthis Lilly provides a detailed timeline of the various stories Brian Williams has told about his 2003 experience over the years. The initial story Williams told in 2003 was also inaccurate, according to soldier witnesses, but Williams still claims his original report was true.
In the initial account (given on both the Nightly News and a Dateline episode on March 26, 2003), Williams clearly states that he was part of a group of helicopters that was fired upon while performing a mission:
We are one of four Chinook helicopters flying north this morning, third in line. As we head toward the drop point the Iraqi landscape looks quiet. We can see a convoy of American troop carriers and supply vehicles heading north.
This 2003 account, like Williams’ apology, implies the helicopters landed together after ground fire:
All four choppers dropped their load and landed immediately.
However, Stars and Stripes‘ piece says unequivocally that Williams’ helicopter was not part of the group that was fired upon—not third in line, and not part of the line at all.
…Crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor wasnowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.
The soldiers quoted by Stars and Stripes say that they recall being upset at the time by the inaccuracies in this 2003 version of events.
But do these soldiers really recall being upset in 2003? We can’t know for sure, because they didn’t tell their stories in public at the time.
I’m sure Brian Williams will continue to be attacked for his false memory. He might even lose his job over it, because lazy reporters would never consider consulting a psychologist who actually conducts research on human memory errors and their causes. Here’s Eric Wemple’s evaluation of Williams’ apology at the Washington Post:
That’s a very nice admission, though “conflating” the experience of taking incoming fire with the experience of not taking incoming fire seems verily impossible.
It might seem “verily impossible” to Wemple, but it isn’t impossible at all. It’s not even surprising to anyone who knows anything about how human memory works. I have no way of knowing for sure whether Williams lied or not; but if I had to guess, I think it’s more likely that he inadvertently created a false memory.
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts on the Brian Williams story and/or your recommended links in the comment thread.