Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of News and ViewsPosted: April 9, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, Barack Obama, Civil Rights, Congress, Foreign Affairs, GLBT Rights, homophobia, House of Representatives, Iran, Israel, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: #BridgeGate, Benjamin Netanyahu, Chris Christie, conversion therapy, gender neutral bathrooms, George Washington Bridge scandal, Secret Service, sexual assault, Twitter, Valerie Jarrett, White House 40 Comments
I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.
Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.
The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.
President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:
Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….
There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.
The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.
Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.
David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.
The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.
Worth sharing: Here's how the #IranDeal would shut down Iran's pathway to a nuclear weapon → go.wh.gov/Iran-deal http://t.co/8aYQi2KEgq—
The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 08, 2015
The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.
And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.
Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962. The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.” [….]
even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.
According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections. Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.
When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.
The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.
From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.
The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.
The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.
And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.
An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.
“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”
Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.
The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.
“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.
Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.
Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.
Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.
WaPo: Secret Service manager put on leave during probe of alleged assault.
The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.
The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.
Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.
Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.
More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.
Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.
More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.
NJ.com reports: Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.
Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.
The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.
This could be very interesting.
I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.
What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.
Friday Reads: Life’s a BeachPosted: August 23, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: conversion therapy, Fukishima, LGBT, Maureen Dowd, Obama's college plan 39 Comments
It’s Friday and some how everything old is new again
Republicans continue to search for a president as impeachable as Nixon. I wrote about this last night, but wtf don’t they get about high crimes and misdemeanors? It seems to be another Clintonian search for votes during an election that’s not about the President.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that President Barack Obama was getting “getting perilously close” to the constitutional standard for impeachment. Coburn was speaking at the Muskogee Civic Center in Oklahoma.
“What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president, and that’s called impeachment,” Coburn said, responding to a question about holding President Obama accountable. “That’s not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means. I think there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration, but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence, of people who are making decisions.”
“Even if there is incompetence, the IRS forces me to abide by the law,” a constituent responded to Coburn.
“No, I agree,” Coburn said. “My little wiggle out of that when I get that written to me is I believe that needs to be evaluated and determined, but thank goodness it doesn’t have to happen in the Senate until they’ve brought charges in the House. Those are serious things, but we’re in a serious time. I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to high crimes and misdemeanor, but I think they’re getting perilously close.”
Coburn then mentioned a story of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees telling him that officials at Homeland Security said to “ignore all the background” and just “approve people.”
“I’m documenting all this stuff as it goes along, but I don’t know where that level is,” Coburn added.
“Barack Obama is personal friend of mine. He became my friend in the Senate but that does not mean I agree in any way with what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. And I quite frankly think he’s in a difficult position he’s put himself in, and if it continues, I think we’re going to have another constitutional crisis in our country in terms of the presidency,” Coburn concluded.
With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Here’s the President’s plan to make college more affordable. Will it work and who will vote for it?
By the 2015 school year, Obama said, his administration will begin evaluating colleges on measures such as the average tuition they charge, the share of low-income students they enroll and their effectiveness in ensuring students graduate without too much debt.
The president also will seek congressional approval — which could prove difficult — to steer more federal student aid toward colleges that score highly in the ratings. A student in financial need at such schools might qualify for a larger Pell grant or a better interest rate on a federal loan.
The result, officials hope, will be relief for families from college bills that are in many cases three times as high as they were 30 years ago even after adjusting for inflation. Average tuition and fees topped $8,600 last year at public four-year colleges and $29,000 at private and nonprofit schools. The total annual bill, counting room and board, exceeds $50,000 at many elite schools.
“Higher education should not be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama told students packed into a basketball arena at the University at Buffalo.
Obama’s plan relies in part on his executive power to collect, manage and publish data. But it is likely to draw significant criticism from colleges intent on protecting their market share, and a divided Congress will present an immediate obstacle to elements of the plan that require legislation.
Obama said that in a global, knowledge-based economy, a quality college education is more important than ever. He pitched the ratings system as a consumer guide for prospective students and parents, evaluating which schools offer “the bigger bang for the buck.” His idea is that accountability will yield affordability.
“Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer money going up,” Obama said.
So, I used to read Maureen Dowd because you know, occasionally a stopped clock is right like two times a day, Here’s an analysis on her that’s spot on.
New York Times star columnist Maureen Dowd just isn’t one to let the facts get in the way of a good story—or an accurate quote for that matter. Her most recent misdeed, for which she has apologized (most likely in the face of tape recorded evidence against her) is misquoting Progressive Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray. A little background: de Blasio, the only candidate in the race who is talking about inequality (more severe in New York than just about anywhere else in the country) has lately overtaken longtime frontrunner Christine Quinn in the polls. (Anthony Weiner briefly led before self-imploding.) Quinn is an out lesbian, married to her partner, but that might be it in terms of her progressive credentials. She is seen as too cozy with big business and real estate.
But back to Dowd, who, it seems decided to stir up a little trouble. She quoted McCray, de Blasio’s wife, saying that she thinks Quinn is “not accessible … She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.” Understandably, took this as implying that she, a childless lesbian doesn’t understand issues “like taking care of children,” in other words a swipe at her sexual orientation.
But McCray did not say that. Dowd compressed what she said to such an extent that it really altered the meaning. What McCray did say, responding to a question of why women may not supporting Quinn in droves is:
“Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about, and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace; she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she’s not accessible, she’s not the kind of person that, I feel, that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things. And I suspect that other women feel the same thing I’m feeling.”
Pretty different. Although it should be said, Quinn was still mad.
Dowd’s accuracy has been shaky, and she can be pretty offensive,
WTF is it with Dowd? Does she have to be the only woman in the room?
This is another story that I can hardly believe in this day of science and fact. But, it seems that about 30% of the population believe that Gay people can change their sexual orientation. Some one should ask them if they could change theirs!!!
In the wake of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he will sign a bill banning so-called “conversion therapy” for gay teens, the Pew Research Center pointed to recent research that more than one in three Americans believe sexual orientation can be changed.
On Tuesday Pew republished the data — gathered in 2012 — in a sobering reminder of just how far this country has to go in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender acceptance. The survey concluded that slightly more than half of all Americans believe an LGBT individual cannot change sexual orientation — while 36 percent believe it’s possible.
These numbers reflect a small shift toward increased tolerance from a decade ago, according to Pew, which in 2003 found that 42 percent of Americans felt being gay was changeable, while 42 percent believed it was not.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, LGBT advocacy group GLAAD’s Director of Religion, Faith & Values Ross Murray explained that New Jersey’s gay conversion ban “focuses on the harm that comes from trying to force someone’s sexual orientation.”
The widely disputed idea that sexual orientation is “curable” or changeable is bad enough, but even worse is that many people who end up in gay conversion therapies are minors, Murray told HuffPost. “[They] did not choose the program for themselves,” he said, “and may have been forced into it by a parent who was influenced by religious leaders.”
It makes me think that the Spanish Inquisition is still not that far away!
I was rather shocked to find out that fishing off of Fukishima has just been suspended!
A fisheries co-op in Soma Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, said Thursday it will end its trial catch at the end of this month, signaling an indefinite halt to all local fishing operations off the prefecture because of the constant flow of highly radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the Pacific.
The move by the co-op in Soma Futaba, in the northern part of the prefecture, follows a decision by a co-op in Iwaki, in the southern part, to drop plans to resume operations on a trial basis from Sept. 5.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it noticed puddles with high radiation levels near an area where a number of radioactive water storage tanks stand at the Fukushima plant. At least one of the tanks has been leaking, and it is believed the water it contained seeped down and merged with tainted groundwater that is flowing to the sea, and ran to the Pacific in drainage channels.
Tepco later admitted that 300 tons of highly radioactive water had leaked from the tank, which should have been holding about 1,000 tons. It said Wednesday that water from the tank probably flowed to the ocean through drainage channels.
Hiroyuki Sato, head of the Soma Futaba cooperative, said, “We want the central government to take steps to pull us out of this trouble as quickly as possible.”
JJ has written about this but it is really truly shocking!! What is going on with Fukishima and why aren’t more countries involved?
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka attends a news conference in Tokyo. Following the discovery that highly contaminated water is leaking from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said officials are concerned that more steel storage tanks will spring leaks.
So, those are the stories that I’m following this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?