Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”
Lazy Saturday Reads: The So-Called PresidentPosted: February 4, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Department of Homeland Security, District Court Judge James L. Robart, Donald Trump, John Kelly, muslim ban, Noah Purcell, State Department, Steve Bannon, Vincent Viola 31 Comments
Last night a federal judge in Washington state blocked Donald tRump’s executive order on immigration nationwide. The Washington Post reported:
The federal judge’s ruling, which was broader than similar ones before it, set up a high-stakes legal confrontation between the new president and the judicial branch over his temporary ban on entry by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries as well as refugees. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart wrote that “fundamental” to the court’s work was “a vigilant recognition that it is but one of three equal branches of our federal government.”
“The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripart government,” he wrote.
The ruling is temporary, and the ultimate question of whether Trump’s executive order will pass constitutional muster will fall to higher-level courts. Legal analysts have said the ban could be difficult to permanently undo because the president has broad authority to set immigration policy.
Robart granted a request from the state of Washington who had asked him to stop the government from acting on critical sections of Trump’s order. Justice and State department officials had revealed earlier Friday that about 60,000 — and possibly as many as 100,000 — visas already have been provisionally revoked as a result of Trump’s order. A U.S. official said that because of the court case, officials would examine the revoking of those visas so that people would be allowed to travel, Learn more here.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson hailed the case as “the first of its kind” and declared that it “shuts down the executive order immediately.” Robart, a judge appointed by George W. Bush, said in his written order that U.S. officials should stop enforcing the key aspects of the ban: the halting of entry by refugees and citizens from certain countries. He did not specifically address the matter of those whose visas already had been revoked.
Nevertheless the Department of Homeland Security has suspended tRump’s Muslim ban for now. CNN:
The Department of Homeland Security announced it has suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and will resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the signing of the travel ban.
Also, a State Department official tells CNN the department has reversed the cancellation of visas that were provisionally revoked following the President’s executive order last week — so long as those visas were not stamped or marked as canceled.
The State Department has said fewer than 60,000 visas were revoked since the signing of the order. It was not immediately clear how many from that group will continue to be without their visas because their visas were physically canceled.
Following the judge’s ruling — before the government’s announcements Saturday morning — the International Air Transportation Association, a leading airline industry group, wrote to its members to follow procedures “as if the executive order never existed.”
But tRump doesn’t like this one bit. As usual, he broadcast his tantrums on Twitter. Business Insider: Trump blasts ‘so-called judge’ who temporarily blocked immigration ban in morning tweetstorm.
President Donald Trump on Saturday blasted the federal judge who issued a nationwide hold on the executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted.
“Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban,” the president continued. “They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”
Yes folks, tRump referred to a Republican federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush as a “so-called judge.” Are we having a constitutional crisis yet?
Yesterday we learned that the tRump administration secretly ordered the revocation of as many as 100,000 legally issued visas. For now, that order has been reversed. The Washington Post:
The State Department says previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the United States after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of President Trump’s controversial immigration ban.
“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”
Department of Homeland Security personnel “will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”
Immigrant advocates said they were encouraging travelers from the affected countries to get on planes as soon as possible, since the Trump administration has said it plans to appeal the stay on the travel ban.
Now what? Supposedly the White House plans to fight the judge’s order, but they are going to have to come up with better arguments than what DOJ lawyers argued yesterday–basically that a president’s orders cannot be questioned. From MyNorthwest.com:
The DOJ argued that Washington’s case has no standing, or injury because of case-by-case waivers included in the executive order. The DOJ argued that the president is granted broad powers over immigration. The federal lawyer said that the ban does not target any religion, but favors those facing religious persecution.
Attorney Noah Purcell argued the case for the state.
“I did say at one point the Department of Justice’s argument was frightening,” Purcell said. “And the argument was, essentially, that if the president says, ‘I’m doing this in national security interest,’ then a court cannot review if that was the real reason, or if there is any rational reason for the president’s action. Our view is that’s not the law. That’s a scary view of the law. Luckily, the judge rejected that idea.”
While hearing arguments, Judge Robarts stated that he must decide if Trump’s executive order is “rationally based” in facts. The DOJ, however, disagreed that was necessary.
Wow. We’re way past Watergate at this point, and tRump has only been in office for two weeks. Josh Rogin has some background on the machinations that have been going on between the administration over the Muslim ban: Inside the White House-Cabinet battle over Trump’s immigration order.
On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 28, as airport protests raged over President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the man charged with implementing the order, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, had a plan. He would issue a waiver for lawful permanent residents, a.k.a. green-card holders, from the seven majority-Muslim countries whose citizens had been banned from entering the United States.
White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks. Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver. Kelly, according to two administration officials familiar with the confrontation, refused to comply with Bannon’s instruction. That was the beginning of a weekend of negotiations among senior Trump administration staffers that led, on Sunday, to a decision by Trump to temporarily freeze the issuance of executive orders.
The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.
Bannon left Kelly’s office without getting satisfaction. Trump didn’t call Kelly to tell him to hold off. Kelly issued the waiver late Saturday night, although it wasn’t officially announced until the following day.
That did not end the dispute. At approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning, according to the two officials, a conference call of several top officials was convened to discuss the ongoing confusion over the executive order and the anger from Cabinet officials over their lack of inclusion in the process in advance.
On the call were Bannon, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, White House Counsel Donald McGahn, national security adviser Michael Flynn, Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State designee Rex Tillerson, who had not yet been confirmed.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I’ll wrap this up with some corruption news.
The New York Times: Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire.
While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time.
What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the “exclusive benefit” of the president. This trust remains under Mr. Trump’s Social Security number, at least as far as federal taxes are concerned….
While the trust structure, outlined in documents made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by ProPublica, may give the president the appearance of distance from his business, it drew sharp criticism from experts in government ethics.
“I don’t see how this in the slightest bit avoids a conflict of interest,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a trust and estates lawyer from Virginia who examined the documents at the request of The New York Times. “First it is revocable at any time, and it is his son and his chief financial officer who are running it.”
Click on the link to read the rest.
Again from The New York Times: Vincent Viola, Nominee for Army Secretary, Drops Out.
Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, abruptly withdrew his name for the post on Friday night after concluding it would be too difficult to untangle himself from his business ties, two government officials said.
Mr. Viola is an owner of the Florida Panthers hockey club and a majority shareholder in Virtu Financial and Eastern Air Lines, among a number of other business interests. This week The New York Times reported that Mr. Viola had been negotiating to swap his stake in Eastern Air Lines for a stake in Swift Air, an airline with government subcontracts.
If his nomination had continued, he would have faced certain scrutiny for potentially becoming a government official who benefits from federal contracts.
The Trump administration did not announce his withdrawal, which was first reported Friday by The Military Times, but a senior administration official and a Pentagon official separately confirmed his decision, which the White House accepted Friday. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
That’s all I have for you today. Now I’m going back to bed to nurse my ongoing terrible cold. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below, and have a nice weekend.
Tuesday Reads: Netanyahu Speech, Hillary-Hate, and Nonsensical SCOTUS Case that could Hurt 8 Million AmericansPosted: March 3, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, Affordable Care Act (ACA), Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Hillary Clinton, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, Benjamin Netanyahu speech to Congress, iran, israel, King v. Burwell, New York Times, Obamacare, SCOTUS, State Department 19 Comments
I wanted to touch on a couple of issues this afternoon: the latest Hillary Clinton “scandal,” and the upcoming Supreme Court case that could doom Obamacare once and for all.
But before I get to those stories, I want to share this good article by James Fallows on the possible motivations behind Netanyahu’s speech to Congress this morning.
The Mystery of the Netanyahu Disaster, and a Possible Explanation.
Fallows enumerates the possible motivations for the Netanyahu slap in the face to President Obama:
“Was it simple tin ear on his side, and Ambassador Ron Dermer’s?” Fallows asks? That’s not likely according to Fallows, because Netanyahu is far too sophisticated and knowledgeable about U.S. politics. Fallows also discounts the theory that it was only about “election-year politicking” in Israel. Perhaps that’s part of it. Is it because Netanyahu has so often been right in his previous predictions?
Hardly. I can’t believe that he’s fooled even himself into thinking that his egging-on of war with Iraq looks good in retrospect. And for nearly two decades Netanyahu has been arguing that Iran was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. When you’re proven right, you trumpet that fact—and when you’re proven wrong, you usually have the sense to change the topic. Usually.
Was it because Netanyahu “has a better plan?”
No. His alternative plan for Iran is like the Republican critics’ alternative to the Obama healthcare or immigration policies. That is: It’s not a plan, it’s dislike of what Obama is doing. And if the current negotiations break down, Iran could move more quickly toward nuclear capacity than it is doing now—barring the fantasy of a preemptive military strike by Israel or the U.S.
Fallows also doesn’t buy the argument that Netanyahu actually believes that Iran “faces an “existential threat” if Iran develops a nuclear weapon?
Let me explain. No person, nation, or community can define what some other person (etc) “should” consider threatening….But from the U.S. perspective I can say that the “existential” concept rests on two utterly unsupportable premises. One is that Iran is fundamentally like Nazi Germany, and the world situation of 2015 is fundamentally like that of 1938. Emotionally you can say “never forget!” Rationally these situations have nothing in common—apart from the anti-Semitic rhetoric. (To begin with: Nazi Germany had a world-beating military and unarmed Jewish minorities within its immediate control. Iran is far away and militarily no match for Israel.) The other premise is that Iran’s leaders are literally suicidal. That is, they care more about destroying Israel than they care about their country’s survival. Remember, Israel has bombs of its own with which to retaliate, so that any attack on Israel would ensure countless more Iranian deaths.
What then? Fallows refers to an article at The National Interest by Paul Pillar.
Pillar’s assessment is that the ramped-up “existential” rhetoric is a screen for the real issue, which is a flat contradiction between long-term U.S. and Israeli national interests as regards Iran. It is in American interests (as I have argued) to find some way to end Iran’s excluded status and re-integrate it with the world, as happened with China in the 1970s. And it is in Israel’s interests, at least as defined by Netanyahu for regional-power reasons, that this not occur. As Pillar writes:
The prime objective that Netanyahu is pursuing, and that is quite consistent with his lobbying and other behavior, is not the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon but instead the prevention of any agreement with Iran. It is not the specific terms of an agreement that are most important to him, but instead whether there is to be any agreement at all. Netanyahu’s defense minister recently made the nature of the objective explicit when he denounced in advance “every deal” that could be made between the West and Tehran. As accompaniments to an absence of any agreements between the West and Iran, the Israeli government’s objective includes permanent pariah status for Iran and in particular an absence of any business being done, on any subject, between Washington and Tehran.
That is, as long as Netanyahu keeps the attention on nukes and “existential” threats, he’s talking about an area where the U.S. and Israel might differ on tactics but agree on ultimate goals. Inflammatory as that topic is, it’s safer than talking about re-integrating Iran as a legitimate power, where U.S. and Israeli interests may ultimately differ.
I thought that was pretty good food for thought.
Before I get to the Clinton e-mails issue, here’s an interesting piece at the Washington Post on Hillary’s relationship with Netanyahu.
The phone call between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lasted 45 minutes. For 43 of them, she talked and he listened.
The U.S. secretary of state lectured the Israeli leader, accusing him of trying to do an end run around American opposition to settlement-building and embarrassing Vice President Biden during a visit to Israel, according to interviews with people present during the 2010 call or who were briefed on it afterward. She read from a script for part of the lecture, so as not to miss any key points.
“The word ‘humiliation’ appeared very prominently,” recalled Michael Oren, then the Israeli ambassador in Washington. “As in ‘You have humiliated the United States of America.’ ”
There probably aren’t many times in Netanyahu’s professional life when he has listened to anyone for 43 minutes. Netanyahu prefers to do the lecturing….And there aren’t many people who could make Netanyahu sit still for a tongue-lashing. Clinton is one of them.
The story of the phone call comes from Clinton’s book on her time as Secretary of State, Hard Choices. Read more about it at the link. It would seem that experiences like this would stand Clinton and the U.S. in good stead if she ends up in the White House.
On the latest “scandal” about Hillary using a private e-mail as Secretary of State, I’m not sure what to think. It certainly does give ammunition to Republicans and to potential Democratic opponents like Martin O’Malley.
Here’s the NYT Story that started the fuss: Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules. You’ll need to read it at the link, because the Times has fixed their website so that I, at least, can’t copy and paste any excerpts. Here are some reactions to the story. First, the debunkers:
From USA Today, Clinton aide: State Department e-mails preserved.
A spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that while she used a personal e-mail account during her years as secretary of State, those records have been maintained pursuant to federal rules.
“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill. “As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here.”
Merrill responded to a New York Times story saying that Clinton, a prospective presidential candidate in 2016, used a personal e-mail account during her four years at the State Department and “may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.”
The Times reported that Clinton’s “expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.”
From Media Matters, The New York Times‘ Deceptive Suggestion That Hillary Clinton May Have Violated Federal Records Law: It Was Only After Clinton Left The State Department That The Law Concerning Private Emails Was Changed.
Yes, the president signed the new law two years after Clinton left the State Department. The NYT wants to punish her retroactively. Not surprising, considering the Times’ longstanding hatred for and sliming of the the Clintons. Please go read the whole Media Matters post. It won’t stop the Clinton haters from using this, but it’s the truth. Arm yourself.
Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: That Story About Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Account Isn’t as Awful as It Seems.
Again, please go read the whole thing, and prepare yourself for the coming onslaught. This is only the beginning.
A few more links to folks who either don’t know or don’t care about the time of the law and the fact that Clinton preseved all her emails.
A fairly Hillary-friendly post from Charles Pierce, Hillary Finds A Rake To Step On: The First Clinton Bombshell.
LA Times, Hillary Clinton used personal email while serving as secretary of state.
Mashable, Clinton email revelation: You did what, Hillary?
Incidentally, I was shocked to see this from Joseph Cannon:
Hillary’s secret email account. Let’s be honest: If a Republican did this, we’d be worried. Actually, Republicans have done exactly that.
The most important point here is sub-textual: If the NYT has turned against Hillary Clinton, then we should suspect that she has privately revealed to her closest aides that, if elected, she will do things that she cannot now state out loud. Of course, nothing is truly private these days.
“If the times as turned against Hillary Clinton”??!!! Joseph, why aren’t you aware that the NYT –brave champion of Dubya’s Iraq war–has always loathed the Clintons and has published innumerable attacks on them?
Finally a few links to prepare you for tomorrow’s SCOTUS hearing on King v. Burwell, during which the justices will consider whether to throw about 8 million Americans off their health care plans.
Charles Pierce, The Tell: What This Week’s Attack On Obamacare Is Really About.
…the Nine Wise Souls on Tuesday will hear King v. Burwell, the highly imaginative, if constitutionally laughable, attack on the grammar and punctuation in the Affordable Care Act, which the NWS should have laughed off months ago….
It is the Universal String Theory Of Wingnut Conjuring Words in full view, the complete text of one of the spells. A fake scandal being used to excuse the shabby underpinning of a fake lawsuit that will have real and devastating consequences to thousands of people.
That’s it in a nutshell. But here are more links to check out for more details.
Slate: Exchanges No One Can Use? We rely on courts to interpret laws impartially. When it comes to Obamacare, they don’t always oblige.
Politico: No easy fix if Supreme Court halts Obamacare cash. (No sh$t Sherlock.)
Republicans are getting nervous about what will happen if they get their wish. From The Hill: GOP fears grow over ObamaCare challenge.
Ezra Klein at Vox: Republicans say they have a plan if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare. They don’t.
Stephen Brill at Reuters: The Supreme Court hears an Obamacare fairytale.
US News (not known for liberal views): The Silliest Obamacare Challenge Yet. The King v. Burwell case could cause 8 million to lose health insurance.
SCOTUS should never have agreed to hear this case, but they did. Is John Roberts okay with going down in history as a buffoon? We’ll find out in June.
Please share your views along with the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.
Monday Reads: In Search of the American DreamPosted: June 30, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: American Dream, Baby boomers, Blackwater, golden age of capitalism, inequality, joseph stiglitz, plutocrats, polls, post-WWII boom, State Department, Thomas Picketty 78 Comments
Whatever happened to the American dream? Did it ever exist in reality?
We baby boomers can look back to the post-WWII years, when the economy was humming along and the GI Bill made it easier for our dads to get college degrees, find good jobs, buy houses for their families.
In those days, one salary was enough to support a couple and several kids. My dad did it on a college professor’s salary. It was a struggle early on, but those government programs for veterans gave us a push into the professional class.
Eisenhower was President then–a Republican who wouldn’t even recognize his fellow Republican today. Later on, after John Kennedy was murdered and Lyndon Johnson was brought down by the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon presided over the end of the good times. After about 1973, it was over; and since then, wages have essentially remained stagnant.
That was when we entered a new America, in which it took two salaries to support a family. Women went to work, not just because they wanted to, but to keep their families afloat. Children went to day care. So many thing changed. What happened to the American dream? Were those post-war years just an outlier, a brief period of prosperity that meant nothing in the greater scheme of things?
Yesterday, I read a piece by Joseph Stiglitz–in Politico of all places–that addressed some of these questions: The Myth of America’s Golden Age: What growing up in Gary, Indiana taught me about inequality. Stiglitz was born in 1943. Growing up in the industrial “company town” of Gary, he was able to observe the underside of the “golden age” of capitalism–“discrimination, poverty, and bouts of high unemployment.” The big steel companies deliberate brought in desperately poor African Americans from the south in order to keep wages low–to divide and control the work force. Stiglitz writes that he never bought into the notion of the free market as the answer to all ills.
Nearly half a century later, the problem of inequality has reached crisis proportions. John F. Kennedy, in the spirit of optimism that prevailed at the time I was a college student, once declared that a rising tide lifts all boats. It turns out today that almost all of us now are in the same boat—the one that holds the bottom 99 percent. It is a far different boat, one marked by more poverty at the bottom and a hollowing out of the middle class, than the one occupied by the top 1 percent.
Most disturbing is the realization that the American dream–the notion that we are living in the land of opportunity–is a myth. The life chance of a young American today are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in many other advanced countries, including “old Europe.”
Stiglitz points to Thomas Picketty’s research as evidence. Picketty’s work shows that capitalism leads inevitably to inequality. The post-war era of my childhood and early adulthood was an “aberration.”
Today, inequality is growing dramatically again, and the past three decades or so have proved conclusively that one of the major culprits is trickle-down economics—the idea that the government can just step back and if the rich get richer and use their talents and resources to create jobs, everyone will benefit. It just doesn’t work; the historical data now prove that. [….]
Ironically enough, the final proof debunking this very Republican idea of trickle-down economics has come from a Democratic administration. President Barack Obama’s banks-first approach to saving the nation from another Great Depression held that by giving money to the banks (rather than to homeowners who had been preyed upon by the banks), the economy would be saved. The administration poured billions into the banks that had brought the country to the brink of ruin, without setting conditions in return. When the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank engage in a rescue, they virtually always impose requirements to ensure the money is used in the way intended. But here, the government merely expressed the hope that the banks would keep credit, the lifeblood of the economy, flowing. And so the banks shrank lending, and paid their executives megabonuses, even though they had almost destroyed their businesses. Even then, we knew that much of the banks’ profits had been earned not by increasing the efficiency of the economy but by exploitation—through predatory lending, abusive credit-card practices and monopolistic pricing. The full extent of their misdeeds—for instance, the illegal manipulation of key interest rates and foreign exchange, affecting derivatives and mortgages in the amount of hundreds of trillions of dollars—was only just beginning to be fathomed.
I can’t quote any more, but I hope I’ve whetted your appetite enough that you’ll go read the whole thing. While you’re at that link, you might also take a look at this article by “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer, The Pitchforks are Coming for Us Plutocrats. Here’s just a small taste–it’s a long read.
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.
What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.
It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators.
Is it possible that because these articles appear in conservative Politico, even a few powerful people in Washington might read them and stop for a moment to think about what what is really happening to America?
Also in the news today:
NBC NEWS: Yes, Perceptions of Washington Are Even Worse Than Last Year.
This is a six-month report card time, and it’s failing grades for all of Washington. President Obama’s approval rating stands at 41% in our recent NBC/WSJ poll, his fav/unfav is upside down (at 41%-45%), and a majority of Americans (54%) no longer think he’s able to lead the country and get the job done. Republicans and Congress are in even worse shape. The GOP’s fav/unfav in the NBC/WSJ poll is 29%-45% (versus the Democratic Party’s 38%-40% score). Just 7% of the country has confidence in Congress (compared with 29% for the presidency and 30% for the Supreme Court, per Gallup. And when it comes to congressional productivity, the 113th Congress (2013-2014) has passed just 121 bills into law — fewer than at this same point in the historically unproductive 112th Congress (140 bills into law). Maybe it doesn’t FEEL worse, because there hasn’t been an epic showdown or confrontation like the government shutdown. But the numbers tell a different story — it has gotten worse.
From James Risen at the NYT, scary revelations about the murder of 17 civilians by Blackwater thugs in Iraq in 2007: Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater.
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”
I have a few more links, but I’m going to put them in comments; because I’m having terrible issues with WordPress today. I hope you’ll also post your thoughts and links in the thread below.
Lazy Saturday Reads: Friday Document Dump and Clinton Conspiracy TheoriesPosted: April 19, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: canada's oil from tar sands, Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Derangement Syndrome, Clinton White House papers, conspiracy theories, Hillary Clinton, Keystone XL pipeline, Mary Landrieau, Monica Lewinsky, pregnancies, State Department 26 Comments
Some pretty big news broke late yesterday: President Obama has again delayed his final decision on whether to go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline. Presumably the announcement was deliberately held until the Friday news dump to reduce public attention to the inevitable Republican screams of outrage. From Reuters:
The Obama administration further delayed its decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday, with no conclusion now likely until after the U.S. mid-term elections in November.
President Barack Obama has said he will have the final say on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada’s oil sands region to Texas refiners, and several government agencies had been given until May to weigh in. This had raised expectations of a final decision by mid-year.
But the State Department said on Friday it was extending that agency comment period, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over what path the $5.4 billion TransCanada Corp project should take.
“That pipeline route is central to the environmental analysis for the project and if there are changes to the route it could have implications,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
I have to admit I was surprised and pleased. I have long suspected that Obama really wanted the pipeline, but I think I was wrong. He seems to be trying his best to avoid it. Naturally Obama has already been accused of political calculation in pushing the decision past the midterm elections. Of course the decision won’t help Democrats from oil-producing states like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has already announced that “I plan to use my power as chair of the Senate Energy Committee to take decisive action to get this pipeline permit approved.”
The State Department told Buzzfeed that politics was not involved in the decision.
“I can’t render judgement on when the final decision could take place,” a senior State Department official said on a conference call Friday after the department announced another delay in the State Department process that could bring with it the approval or rejection of Keystone. “We want this to move as expeditiously as possible, we recognize that this is an issue of great concern to the American public, to American business and we take that extremely seriously.”
The State Department review — necessary because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border into the United States — is being held up by a state court ruling in Nebraska in favor of pipeline opponents, department officials said. That decision, which endangers the existing planned pipeline route, is under appeal andobservers say final judgement won’t come until 2015.
More reactions reported by Politico:
…the delay drew immediate scorn from pipeline supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Republicans derided it as a “shameful” concession to “radical activists,” while Democratic Senate energy Chairwoman Mary Landrieu called it “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Both of Alaska’s senators condemned the move. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called the delay “a stunning act of political cowardice,” and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said he was “frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration.” Begich, like Landrieu, faces a tough reelection fight this year.
Some environmentalists complained about the Friday news dump announcement
“It’s disappointing President Obama doesn’t have the courage to reject Keystone XL right now, but this is clearly another win for pipeline opponents,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for the climate activist group 350.org, which staged mass sit-ins outside the White House to protest the project. “We’re going to keep up the pressure on the President to make the right call.”
Naturally Canadian politicians are “disappointed.” CBC News:
“We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said. “This project will create tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, will enhance the energy security of North America, has strong public support, and the U.S. State Department has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged it will be environmentally sound.”
Canadian politicians have grown increasingly irate over delays.
Alberta Premier Dave Hancock expressed frustration about “yet another delay” in the approval process of an issue he argued has been debated thoroughly enough.
“Keystone XL has been rigorously studied. We believe the project is in North America’s best interest as it provides energy security, jobs and a dependable energy source from an environmentally responsible and democratic friend and ally,” Hancock said in a statement.
TransCanada’s president and CEO Russ Girling called the delay “inexplicable” in an email to CBC News.
Lots more Canadian whining at the link.
The Keystone Pipeline is controversial, but apparently not as controversial as the daughter of a female potential presidential candidate getting pregnant. The bizarre conspiracy theories about Chelsea Clinton expecting a baby have already begun and they’ll probably never end.
From John Amato at Crooks and Liars: Will Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Become Another Right Wing Conspiracy? Give me a break. Is the Pope Catholic? Amato knows it’s a silly question:
I’m forgetting myself because Hillary is not allowed to be a happy mother. We may see a normal life unfolding, but Teabirchers see coverups and conspiracies.
Limbaugh recently said he believes that Hillary Clinton staged the now famous shoe-throwing incident.
Maybe in my subconscious I think it was staged or set up. Lookit, I’m so, I know these people so well…I just do not attach much genuineness to them.
There were a host of others who were saying the same thing in Wingnuttia.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hillary gets asked to comment on Chelsea’s pregnancy by the media, since that’s only natural, right? But after that happens more than once I really expect Limbaugh and all the wannabees to scream bloody murder that Chelsea’s announcement was staged, a set-up plot which is being aided by the librul media to cover up Benghazzzzzzzziiii!
And away we go! From Mediaite: Right-Wing Host Thinks Chelsea Clinton May Have ‘Staged’ Pregnancy to Help Hillary.
If you thought the Hillary Clinton “shoe truthers” were bad, wait until you meet the “baby truthers.” So far, conservative host Steve Malzberg is leading the charge with this video suggesting Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy is being effectively “staged” to help her mother win the 2016 presidential election.
And excited Malzberg announced the 34-year-old Clinton’s pregnancy, saying, “Lo and behold, Hillary was by her side” when she made the announcement. “Hillary Clinton is going to be a grandmother when she runs for president!” he exclaimed.
“Now, pardon the skeptic in me,” Malzberg continued, before predicting the oncoming criticism from Media Matters and other watchdog website. “Malzberg said this was a staged, planned pregnancy?” he imagined they would ask.
“Well, now I’m not saying, when I say staged I have to believe she’s pregnant, if she says she’s pregnant,” he said. “I don’t mean that they’re making up she’s pregnant. But what great timing! I mean purely accidental, purely an act of nature, purely just left up to God.”
“And God answered Hillary Clinton’s prayers and she’s going to have the prop of being a new grandma while she runs for president,” he continued. “It just warms the heart, it brings a tear to my eye. It really does.”
I have so many more examples that I’ll have to do a link dump without excerpts:
Vanity Fair: The Worst Reactions to Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Announcement.
Slate: If It Happened There: America Awaits Royal Baby.
LA Times: Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy fuels presidential election speculation.
US News: Dumb Questions About a Grandmother-to-Be
Politico: What to expect when she’s expecting
Newsday: Bouie: Chelsea Clinton’s baby is already campaigning?
TPM: NYT Columnist Insists That Chelsea Clinton’s Baby Is A 2016 Game Changer
ABC News: Will Clinton Baby Affect 2016, and Is It Sexist to Ask?
Honestly, can you imagine this happening to a man running for president? For example,
“How will his daughter’s pregnancy affect Rand Paul’s chances for the Republican nomination? Did he “stage” this to get positive media? Enquiring people want to know.”
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that a huge trove of papers from the Clinton administration was going to be released. Well they are out there now, and so the Clinton haters are really having a field day what with drooling over ancient history and inventing conspiracies about Chelsea’s baby.
There are tons of articles on the document dump too; I’ll give you a few examples.
ABC News: Monica Lewinsky E-Mail Omitted From Latest Batch of Clinton Documents
An email from Monica Lewinsky was omitted from the Clinton library’s latest document dump for privacy reasons….
Included in a list of withdrawn/redacted documents (commonly interspersed in the large .pdfs), midway through a batch of documents concerning Gen. Wesley Clark, is an email from Monica Lewinsky’s Pentagon email address.
Vaguely referenced as concerning a “medical record,” the omitted email is listed as four pages long.
The recipient, Ashley Raines, is identified as a Lewinsky friend and confidante in the infamous Starr Report, produced by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The report would later disclose details of the Lewinsky affair and trigger a major scandal that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Raines served as White House Director of Office of Policy Development Operations and Special Liaison to Management and Administration, according to the report, working in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
In 1996, after an initial affair with the president had stopped according to the Starr report, Lewinsky described the relationship to Raines and showed her gifts allegedly given to her by Bill Clinton, including “a hat pin approximately eight inches long, an antique looking brooch the size of a half dollar, special edition copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ by WALT WHITMAN, items from Martha’s Vineyard with ‘Black Dog’ logo, including a ball cap, and a short, baggy summer dress, and an autographed photo of the two of them wishing LEWINSKY ‘Happy Birthday,’” Raines told Starr’s investigators, with lawyers present. Lewinsky told Raines that she had confided in Linda Tripp about her relationship with Clinton.
Many more breathless details at the link.
LA Times: For Hillary Rodham Clinton, archives evoke fiery White House years.
…the latest batch of archived documents from the Clinton White House — while not particularly newsworthy — were a rather bracing reminder that the very mellow former first lady has emerged in her current happy state after many years in a White House that often took on the tone of war zone.
Mark that down as one reason why Clinton might not want to go racing back….
The documents once again underscored the combative fashion in which the Clinton White House drove its agenda, and its obsession with the administration’s adversaries.
One unsigned and undated document contained in the files of Jane Sherburne, a Special Counsel to the White House between 1994 and 1996, details theories about how the right wing, with the help of think tanks and conservative publications, was funneling “fringe” stories to the media. It also expounds on the financial powers and connections of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who was referred to as “The Wizard of Oz.”
Part of the problem, the memo suggested, was the fact that the Internet “allows an extraordinary amount of unregulated data and information to be located in one area and available to all.”
“The right wing has seized upon the Internet as a means of communicating its ideas to people,” the unsigned memo continues. “Moreover evidence exists that Republican staffers surf the Internet interacting with extremists in order to exchange ideas and information.”
If the LA Times thinks that is shocking, I don’t think they are following current events.
The WaPo: The most interesting tidbits from the Clinton document dump This one includes a list of 12 gossipy examples of supposed Clinton political machinations.
Here’s the best one I’ve seen yet from Buzzfeed: This Unsent Shade-Filled Letter From Clinton Staffers To A ’90s Radio Host [Don Imus] Is A Goddamn Masterpiece.
I wish it had been sent!
I’m running out of space and time, but I do have a few more serious items I want to share. I’ll put them in the comments.
So . . . What stories are you following today? Please share your recommended links in the comment thread and have a fantastic weekend!!
Thursday Reads: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of ThatPosted: December 20, 2012 Filed under: Barack Obama, children, Congress, Crime, Foreign Affairs, Libya, morning reads, physical abuse, Republican politics, Scott Brown, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: back scanners, Benghazi, Bob Corker, Cancer, Chuck Hagel, Darrell Issa, Hillary Clinton, mass murder, Osama bin Laden, State Department, Susan Rice, Torture, TSA, winter weather, Zero Dark Thirty 55 Comments
Now that Congressional Republicans have successfully shot down President Obama’s rumored first choice for Secretary of State–Susan Rice–they are working on nixing the president’s possible pick for Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Aaron Blake at The Fix:
Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.
It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.
A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation.
Obama should have stuck with Rice and fought it out. Senate Republicans smell blood now. The only reason John Kerry may be approved for State is that Republicans fantasize that Massachusetts voters will repeat their past mistake of electing Scott Brown to fill an open Senate seat. This president is the worst negotiator ever. He really needs to get someone else to make deals for him. He just can’t accept the reality that Republicans hate his guts and will never give him a break, ever.
Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa must be drooling over the “scathing report” on the Benghazi attacks
Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned. Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region. The four officials, a State Department spokeswoman said, “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”
The report by the independent panel has criticized officials in State’s bureau for Diplomatic Security displaying a “lack of proactive leadership.” It also said that some in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”
The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to the Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
At a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador who led the independent review, said that most of the blame should fall on officials in the two bureaus.
But that isn’t going to stop Republicans from trying to hang the blame around Hillary Clinton’s neck.
Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that Clinton “has to come before us. I think it’s imperative.” ‘
Corker and other members of Congress were given a classified briefing on the report and afterwards he insisted that Clinton must testify before she leaves her post and the Senate votes on confirmation of her successor.
The secretary was slated to attend briefings on the Hill this week but has been recovering from the flu and a concussion she suffered in a recent fainting episode.
Of course the right wing conspiracy nuts are accusing Clinton of faking her illness. And in the House:
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the unclassified version of the report “omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”
He also said, “In light of the report, I am concerned that the carefully vetted testimony of senior State Department officials at the October hearing was part of an intentional effort to mislead the American people.”
Hey Darrell, have you hot-wired any cars or burned down any businesses lately?
While Pentagon officials struggle to figure out how to protect foreign outposts without using Blackwater-type hired guns, they are dealing with a worldwide Military day care abuse scandal.
The Defense Department has launched a worldwide investigation into hiring practices at military child-care centers after a criminal probe of employees at an Army base near the Pentagon sparked a review that found more than 30 staffers who officials say should have been barred from contact with children.
Two civilian employees at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall appeared in federal court Wednesday in Alexandria to face charges of assaulting 2-year-olds in their care.
The president immediately urged a thorough investigation and a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse.”
Two workers at the day-care center at the base known as Fort Myer were recorded by surveillance cameras dragging, pinching, kneeing and taunting toddlers, according to federal court records. The center is the military’s largest day-care center, with more than 400 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It is used by Pentagon employees and other service members in the Washington area.
A personnel review at Fort Myer began in the fall after a parent complained about an allegedly abusive caregiver.
The inquiry turned up evidence that at least 31 staffers had potentially disqualifying factors in their records, including history of drug use and past allegations of assault, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said. The staffers have been suspended.
“This is not just one or two or three people,” the official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing inquiry. “This is a severe lapse in the background checks system.”
In police state news, two women in Texas are suing the Texas State Police for subjecting them to an “illegal roadside cavity search.”
A federal lawsuit filed by two Irving women claims that Texas State Troopers humiliated them by performing illegal cavity searches on the side of the road after a cigarette butt was thrown out of their car window.
State Trooper David Farrell called in a female trooper to perform cavity searches of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Dobbs, because he said that he smelled marijuana and the women were “acting weird,” attorney Scott Palmer told KTVT on Tuesday.
Angel Dobbs recalled that the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, asked for her permission to perform the search and then told her to “shut up and just listen.”
Dashcam video shows Helleson searching the anuses and vaginas of both women with the same latex gloves in full view of other passing cars.
“At this point, I’m in clear shock. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Angel Dobbs explained. Turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh and at which point she goes up with two fingers. I just look at her and say ‘oh my God, I’ve just been violated.’”
And then the trooper performed the same procedure on Ashley Dobbs without changing her gloves.
“She went down, then turned me around, and went down my front and then she actually dug,” Ashley Dobbs said. “I didn’t know what I could say, what I could do. I felt hopeless.”
Is it time for Texas to secede from the union and become part of Mexico (except for Austin, Ralph)? Nah, Mexico probably wouldn’t want to get involved.
The TSA is “Finally Investigating Cancer Risk of X-Ray Body Scanners” now that millions of Americans have been used as guinea pigs in the nation’s airports.
Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency’s X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.
The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.
The scanners were the subject of a 2011 ProPublica series, which found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even low doses of radiation. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays.
The TSA maintains that the backscatters are safe and that they emit a low dose of X-rays equivalent to the radiation a passenger would receive in two minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude.
Winter has arrived in the Midwest: Outages in Iowa as season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains.
(CNN) — Tens of thousands of people lost power in Iowa on Thursday as the first major storm of the season swept in, bringing blizzards, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the central United States.
The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa.
The declaration warned of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.
The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.
“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.
Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.
Hmmm…what about my neck of the woods?
The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.
Ugh…just what I needed.
I have three longer reads for you on the possible motivations behind mass shootings. I haven’t read any of these carefully yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll agree with the conclusions.
Scientific American is highlighting an article from 2007: Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? The article focuses on the revenge fantasies of young shooters.
A Time article from July (written after the Aurora theater shootings) asks about “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”
At Alternet: “What Is it About Men That They’re Committing These Horrible Massacres?”
I’ll be reading these articles after I publish this post. Let me know what you think.
Finally, Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain are “condemning” the new movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty for falsely suggesting that torture led investigators to bin Laden’s hideout.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?