Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m very pleased to report that today’s top story isn’t about Trump or his Republican enablers. That’s a very good thing for me because I’ve reached peak Trump exhaustion once again. Today Nancy Pelosi leads the politics news.

Reuters: Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes.

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.

Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” read more

China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.

Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday before her arrival, and Chinese state media said People’s Liberation Army would hold exercises near Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.

More info from CNN: 

Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said in a statement on Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.

The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will first visit the parliament before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said….

The American Institute in Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwan relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the institute said in a statement.

Pelosi also wrote an op-ed explaining why she chose to go to Taiwan, despite criticism. You can read it at The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Yesterday the White House announced the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul.

The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Biden announced Monday evening.

Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

When U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, Biden administration officials said they would retain capability for “over-the-horizon” attacks from elsewhere on terrorist forces inside Afghanistan. The attack against Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike there since the withdrawal.

Speaking in a live television address from a balcony at the White House, Biden announced that days ago he had authorized a strike to kill Zawahiri. “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.

The strike occurred at 9:48 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation. A drone fired two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri as he stepped onto the balcony of a safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family, the official said.

Read more at the WaPo.

At NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report on a non-violent Biden success story: Biden administration task force reunites 400 migrant families separated under Trump.

The Biden administration has reunited 400 children with their parents after they were separated as migrants crossing the southern border under the Trump administration, said Michelle Brané, the executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force.

More than 5,000 families were separated under Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy and a 2017 pilot program and advocates estimate over 1,000 remain separated. Because the Trump administration did not keep records of which children were separated and where they were sent, the task force and lawyers working on behalf of separated families have had a difficult time identifying families to offer them the chance of reunification.

In the majority of recently reunited cases, Brané said, the parents were deported while the children remained in the U.S. Now, parents are given the opportunity to come to the U.S. on paid travel, bring other members of their family who are dependent on them, and live and work in the U.S. legally for three years.

Lawyers for the families have advocated for legal permanent status on behalf of separated families, but so far the Biden administration has not agreed to that provision.

Brané said the reunification also includes mental health services for families both before and after reunification. She said many of the families have suffered from profound mental health issues after their separation and counseling is often needed before they reunify. 

“You don’t want to just throw kids into an environment with a parent they may not have seen for five years,” Brané said. 

Click the link to read the rest.

Republicans are licking their wounds after the public reaction to their votes against health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. Politico: Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.

Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.

Republicans insist their decision to hold up the bill, which expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances while on active duty, was unrelated to the deal on party-line legislation that top Democrats struck last week. The GOP blocked the bill hours after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an agreement on a health care, climate and tax package — angering Republicans who thought the Democrats-only plan would be much narrower.

Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question Monday about why the legislation was held up.

“It will pass this week,” he said.

Other Republicans in Senate leadership struck a similar tone. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told POLITICO he would “expect it to pass” and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, echoed that at “some point this is going to pass and it will pass big.”

In another potential win for Democrats in Congress, Joe Manchin finally came through with something good. William Saletan at The Bulwark (link above):

Joe Manchin has rescued the Democratic agenda. After blocking President Biden’s Build Back Better plan for nearly a year—as well as subsequent, pared-down versions of the legislation—the West Virginia senator has reversed course. Last Thursday he endorsed a revised $400 billion package that focuses on health insurance subsidies, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, and funding new energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

With Manchin’s vote, the bill is likely to pass. But he isn’t just voting for it; he’s selling it. Over the weekend, he appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows—a rare feat often referred to as a “full Ginsburg”—to make his case for the bill. It was an eye roll-worthy display of political spin. Here’s a summary of his talking points.

(Abridged–You’ll need to go to the Bulwark to read all the details.)

1. It’s not Build Back Better. It’s the Inflation Reduction Act.

The vast majority of the new bill comes from Biden’s BBB framework. Most Democrats liked BBB and would be happy to celebrate the passage of these elements of it. But Manchin, who represents a conservative state, doesn’t want to be associated with BBB. He doesn’t want to look like he’s saving the Democratic agenda. He wants to look like he’s killing it.

2. It’s not spending. It’s investment.

“I couldn’t get there with Build Back Better. It was $3.5 trillion of spending,” Manchin explained on CNN’s State of the Union. In contrast, he argued, the Inflation Reduction Act knocked “$3.5 trillion dollars of spending down to $400 billion of investment.” On Face the NationFox News Sunday, and This Week, he made the same pitch: BBB was a “spending bill,” but the IRA was an “investment bill.”

3. It doesn’t raise taxes. It closes loopholes.

On Fox News Sunday, Manchin insisted that his bill’s establishment of a 15 percent minimum tax for billion-dollar companies—up from zero percent—wasn’t really a tax increase. “It does not raise taxes,” he told Bret Baier. “All we did was close loopholes.” Thirty seconds later, Manchin repeated, “We did not raise taxes. We’ve closed loopholes. . . . I made sure there was no tax increases in this whatsoever.

4. It’s not a green bill. It’s red, white, and blue.

In much of the United States, being “green” is poCpular. Restaurants, grocery stories, and retailers advertise it. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, seems to have decided that among his target audience, “green” is a dirty word. So he’s pointedly rejecting it.

“This is not a green deal. It’s not a Republican deal. It’s not a Democrat deal. It is a red, white, and blue deal,” Manchin declared on CNN. A few minutes later, he repeated: “It’s definitely not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.” On Fox, he delivered the same message: “It’s not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.

There are a few Trump investigation stories today. 

CNN: Retired DC cop who testified before January 6 committee says Trump ‘adamantly’ wanted to go to Capitol.

A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.

The comments by Mark Robinson, who has testified to the January 6 committee, further corroborate key details first revealed by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who spoke at length about Trump’s behaviorto the House select committee. Hutchinson said that she was told that Trump became “irate” when informed by security that he would not be going to the Capitol on January 6, because the situation was not secure.

Robinson was not physically with Trump on January 6. He was in the lead car of the motorcade and said that he learned Trump wanted to go to the Capitol through communications from the Secret Service.

“We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol,” Robinson told Lemon. “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.” [….]

“I think it would have probably encouraged more rioting. And (the rioters would have) felt supported. If the presidential motorcade came in support of them. So I think the insurrectionists probably would have felt as though they had the support of the President,” Robinson said.

More details at the CNN link.

Two more Trump investigation stories to check out:

Politico: Judge rejects Trump effort to toss lawsuits accusing him of Jan. 6 conspiracy.

The New York Times: Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts.

I hope you all have a great Tuesday!


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

This story in the NYT has my head spinning. It seems the Obama administration was thinking about putting together some kind of “Rule Book” for the use of Drones and assassination in the war against terror because they didn’t really trust Romney under the current situation.  I have to wonder if Romney would ‘ve followed it any way.  The bigger question is how do these policies jive with our Constitution and what should both our Legislative and Judicial Branches do to at least curb their use?

Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.

Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.

More broadly, the administration’s legal reasoning has not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are acceptable under international law. For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.

But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.

Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes.

I doubt the UN will put any pressure on us but I wonder if this will at least get us all talking about the policy and if that’s the kind of policy we want as a country.

Several more Republican office holders in the District have announced they are willing to break with the Norquist pledge.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said he is ready to violate conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge to reach a deal to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff.”

“I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece.”

But Graham cautioned that he he would violate the pledge “only if Democrats will do entitlement reforms” and ruled our increasing tax rates.

“I am willing to generate revenue,” he said. “I will not raise tax rates to do it; I will cap deductions.”

The transcript shows that Graham was specific about what he was willing and unwilling to accept.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Senator Graham, you’ve signaled that you’re willing to raise revenues as part of an overall deal that also includes spending cuts, and that’s drawn the fire of Grover Norquist, you know, the author of that no-tax pledge that’s been in place among so many Republicans for 20 years right now. He thinks the best solution is actually not to negotiate a compromise right now, is to go over the cliff. He says the world won’t come to an end if this isn’t resolved before January. Take the sequester. The only thing worse than sequester cuts is to not cut spending at all. He’s saying don’t raise taxes, accept those spending cuts.

GRAHAM: Well, what I would say to Grover Norquist is that the sequester destroys the United States military. According to our own secretary of defense, it would be shooting ourselves in the head. You’d have the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, so sequestration must be replaced.

I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages. I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions. If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue, and the people who lose their deductions are the upper-income Americans.

But to do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending. What I’m looking for is more revenue for entitlement reform before the end of the year…

This has to be the most horrible story of valuing stuff over people that I’ve ever heard.  Three Walmart workers killed a man who had shoplifted two dvd players.

It’s a sad, simple story. An unidentified man allegedly stole two DVD players from the electronics department and left the store through the front door. Two Walmart employees and a contracted security guard chased him into the parking lot. A “physical altercation” took place, and apparently, the security guard put the man in a choke hold. Police arrived soon thereafter to find the three workers on top of the suspected shoplifter who was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. The man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life,” said Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee in a statement. “Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk.” She added, “That being said, this is still an active investigation and we’re working with police to provide any assistance.” Walmart put the two employees on paid leave and fired the security guard.

Regardless of what happens at the end of that investigation, there’s no way Walmart is going to come out of this one looking good. It truly sounds like this was a horrible accident, the kind that makes it hard to point fingers or figure out what went wrong. However, this incident also happened as thousands of Walmart workers nationwide were protesting poor treatment by their employers. Are the two things related? Only insofar as it adds up to a ton of bad press for a company long known to promote mass hysteria on Black Friday weekend. It’s a problem that people are still dying at their stores, years after warnings signs like the Walmart employee who was trampled to death on Black Friday.

This has to be the worse thing I’ve ever heard in terms of class war.  Dancing Dave’s Disco is always the place to be for outraged q’billionaires.

Carly Fiorina, who reportedly stood to receive more than $42 million after being ousted at HP in 2005, says that public workers should receive less benefits because “it is not fair” that unions are “so rich.”

During a Sunday panel segment on NBC, MSNBC host Al Sharpton asserted that Congress must agree to raise taxes on the wealthy before cutting spending.

“This is about fairness,” he explained. “Why do we need to need to deal with the tax on the rich first? Because we must ensure Americans we are dealing with fairness. We keep talking about shared sacrifice, there was not shared wealth and shared prosperity. So, you’re asking people that didn’t enjoy the good times to share in paying for the tab that they never enjoyed.”

“Let us accept Rev. Al’s point and the president’s point about fairness,” Fiorina replied. “But equally, it is not fair that public employee union pensions and benefits are so rich now that cities and states are going bankrupt and college tuition is going up 25 and 30 percent or police and firefighters are being cut. There’s a lot that isn’t fair right now.”

During Fiorina tenure as the CEO of HP, at least 18,000 workers were laid off after the company’s disastrous merger with Compaq.

Evidently, it’s okay to pay bad management millions of dollars but it’s just too much for any one else to get a living wage and benefits.  What is wrong with these people?

So, that’s my list of reads today!  What’s on you reading and blogging list this morning?


Pakistan May Have Outed Chief of CIA’s Islamibad Station

Things seem to be getting pretty dicey for the U.S. in Pakistan. The Guardian UK reports that:

The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America’s most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.

The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.

In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing “security concerns” and saying he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan’s lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution.

Banks may have only a business visa, and so wouldn’t have diplomatic immunity if he were required to testify in the trial. According to the article, recalling a station chief is extremely rare. Although the Pakistani government supposedly supports U.S. drone strikes, many Pakistanis are understandably outraged by them.

The recall comes at a sensitive moment for Washington. This week’s Afghanistan policy review brought fresh focus on Taliban safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Meanwhile CIA drone attacks – which are co-ordinated from the Islamabad embassy – have reached a new peak. Three drones struck targets in Khyber, a previously untouched tribal agency, on Friday, reportedly killing 24 people and signalling a widening of the CIA covert campaign….There have been over 100 strikes so this year, twice as many as in 2009.

The Guardian says there are rumors that Banks may have been outed by someone in the Pakistani intelligence agency (the ISI), because “several senior ISI officials were named in a New York legal action brought by relatives of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.”

The New York Times also has posted an article about this.

On Thursday and Friday, the United States appeared to make good on promises to expand its own efforts to attack the militants, with drone strikes for the first time hitting Khyber agency in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Most drone strikes this year have targeted North Waziristan. Pakistani government officials said at least 26 militants were killed in the most recent attacks.

The outing of the C.I.A. station chief is tied to the spy agency’s campaign of drone strikes, which are very unpopular in Pakistan, although the government has given its tacit approval for them.

Gee, no kidding. I mean who wants to have their house blown up unexpectedly by agents of a foreign power? Interestingly, the Times avoided telling its readers the outed agent’s name, even though the Guardian had already published it. The Times is truly the Obama administration’s house organ. According article,

The intensifying mistrust between the C.I.A. and I.S.I., two uneasy but co-dependent allies, could hardly come at a worse time. The Obama administration relies on Pakistan’s support for the armed drone program, which this year has launched a record number of strikes in North Waziristan against terror suspects.

“We will continue to help strengthen Pakistani capacity to root out terrorists,” President Obama said on Thursday. “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough. So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.”

Not being an expert on foreign affairs, I’m not sure if this statement triggered anger in Pakistan or not. Maybe President Obama should leave diplomacy to his Secretary of State.