Saturday: An Autumn Potpourri of ReadsPosted: October 19, 2013 Filed under: Crime, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, anti-leak software, Ariel Castro, Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Boy Scouts, Cleveland Police Department, Dave Hall, Edward Snowden, Elias Acevedo, FBI, Fox News lies, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Taylor, Goblin Valley State Park, guns, hunting, Laura Poitras, murder, NSA, Obamacare, political fund-raising, potpourri, rape, rock formations, Sean Hannity, Tea Party, Ted Cruz 29 Comments
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? It was taken in New Hampshire near Mount Washington in October 2011.
A potpourri is “a combination of incongruous things.” Well that’s what I have for you this morning. We’ll begin at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle where Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, 79, was arrested by TSA police for having a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. He was held for about half-an-hour and then released. He has a permit for the gun. Russell was on his way to Boston where a statue of him will be unveiled on November 1.
Did you hear about the morons in Utah who destroyed a 170-million-year-old rock formation and made a video of themselves doing it? From the Deseret News:
Two men have come under scrutiny by the public and possibly by prosecutors after a video made the rounds online showing them pushing over an iconic rock formation.
The men were visiting Goblin Valley State Park last week when they said they noticed a precariously perched
boulder that was loose and worried it would fall on someone. The delicate “goblin” formation, also known as a “hoodoo,” is one of many that gives the park its name.
What followed was a video showing the men joking and laughing as Glenn Taylor, of Highland, topples the rock, narrated by cameraman Dave Hall, who says lives have been saved. A third man, identified as Taylor’s son, watches.
These two ignorant fools, who are Boy Scout leaders (!), thought the ancient rock formation was suddenly going to tip over and crush someone.
Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg called the video disturbing. Possible criminal charges are being screened by the Emery County Attorney’s Office and the Utah Attorney General’s Office, he said….
The goblins date back more than 170 million years to the Jurassic Period, Swalberg said. The park, which gets more than 85,000 visitors per year, was dedicated in 1974 to protect the fragile formations, he said.
“There are some established trails in the park, but there are also areas where you can have self discovery and wander amongst the goblins,” Swalberg said. “That’s the beauty of Goblin Valley. It’s not meant to have people push over the goblins. It’s meant to enjoy.”
Check out the idiotic quotes from these guys in this Fox News story:
“This is about saving lives,” Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. “One rock at a time.”
The rock formation is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The park in central Utah is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom shaped sandstone formations.
In a video posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland, Utah, can be seen last Friday wedging himself between one formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation’s top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing….
“My conscience won’t let me walk away knowing that kids could die,” Hall said.
While safety was their motivation, Hall said, it was exciting to knock it over, and that’s why they reacted with high-fives and cheers in the video.
“You can’t have a rock the size of a car that you can push with one hand, and have it roll, and not have an adrenaline rush,” Hall said. “It was a crazy, exciting moment.”
What an asshole! If these fools don’t get criminally prosecuted, at least maybe the Boy Scouts will discipline them.
Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirmed the men are members of the organization, saying in a statement that the organization is “shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior.”
Boy Scout troops spend countless hours in state and national parks, guided by the principle of leaving nature the way they find it, Smith said.
“The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach,” Smith said. “We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”
Moving on , , ,
NSA officials admit they put off installing the latest anti-leak software at the Hawaii facility where Edward Snowden stole thousands of top secret documents before fleeing the country and eventually accepting asylum in Russia.
Well before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data.
The purpose of the software, which in the NSA’s case is made by a division of Raytheon Co, is to block so-called “insider threats” – a response to an order by President Barack Obama to tighten up access controls for classified information in the wake of the leak of hundreds of thousands of Pentagon and State Department documents by an Army private to WikiLeaks website in 2010.
The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.
Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defence Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.
In other related news,
Snowden told The New York Times in an interview that he turned all of his files over to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras when the three met in Hong Kong last spring; he said he didn’t keep any of the files and therefore China and Russia could not have gotten access to them. From HuffPo:
Snowden said he did not retain copies of the documents and did not take them to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” the Times reported. He said his familiarity with China’s intelligence abilities allowed him to protect the documents from Chinese spies while he was in Hong Kong.
“There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” he said….
The Times reported that in the interview, which it said took place over several days in the last week and involved encrypted online communications, Snowden asserted that he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the NSA’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data.
The only problem with these claims is that Snowden actually gave copies of some of the stolen files to the Chinese government-supported newspaper The South China Morning Post in August, long after he supposedly turned everything over to Greewald and Poitras. So where did that data come from?
Whatever the truth is, we do know the files are in the possession of Greenwald, Poitras, Wikileaks, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and several other news organizations as well as the British security services which confiscated the files from Greenwald’s live-in partner David Miranda when he was passing through Heathrow airport. So we can be sure there’s no danger of unauthorized release of secret information. Right?
That was sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it . . .
Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday on Ted Cruz and his future plans. He apparently feels emboldened by his success in shutting down the government for two weeks, and plans more destructive behavior next time. Cesca writes:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the chief architect of the tea party shutdown and subsequent debt ceiling brinksmanship, might have lost an endorsement from his home town newspaper, but he managed to raise $1.19 million during the third quarter — nearly three times the haul of the second quarter total. That period of time didn’t include the shutdown, but it included his filibuster, which, it turns out, had a very important purpose: the make money for Ted Cruz. He also beefed up his email database with a petition that gathered over two million names and addresses.
When asked who “won” the shutdown battle, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told Politico the winners were “the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this.” Now, I don’t know if that means the tea party necessarily “won,” but Cruz and the Heritage Action group, which pulled in $330,000, didn’t walk away empty-handed.
While Cruz and the others cashed-in, the shutdown ended up costing the federal government $24 billion. Via TIME, here’s a breakdown of just a few of the losses:
-About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS
-$152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association
-$76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service
-$217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone
And we’re supposed to continue buying the line that the tea party cares about government spending and the national debt? That’s rich.
Obviously, Cesca writes, they are going to do a repeat performance early next year. Read all about it at the link.
More wingnut news . . .
Via Kevin Drum, Eric Stern wrote at Salon about how he “fact-checked” Sean Hannity’s claims about Obamacare. Stern writes:
I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.” Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.
As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.
“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.
But none of it smelled right to me. Nothing these folks were saying jibed with the basic facts of the Affordable Care Act as I understand them. I understand them fairly well; I have worked as a senior adviser to a governor and helped him deal with the new federal rules.
So Stern actually contacted three of these folks and it turns out they all lied. As Drum summarizes:
One of them was apparently just lying, and the other two hadn’t even checked the exchanges, where they would have found that they could get better coverage for considerably less than they’re paying now.
Did you hear the latest in the Ariel Castro story?
One of Castro’s neighbors has now been charged with rapes and murders. From the Guardian:
Increased scrutiny of missing person cases in a Cleveland neighbourhood following the arrest of kidnapper Ariel Castro led to charges against a neighbour for the murders of two women in the 1990s, the FBI said on Friday.
Elias Acevedo, 49, was charged late on Thursday with the kidnapping, rape and murder of his 30-year-old neighbour, Pamela Pemberton, found strangled in 1994, and another woman believed to be Christina Adkins, a pregnant 18-year-old who disappeared in 1995. He also is charged with the rape of two young girls.
“Because the public became more aware and investigators were determined and relentless, people were re-interviewed and there was an increased interest in these missing person cases,” FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said.
Acevedo, who lived on the same block as Castro, was arrested in June at his Seymour Avenue residence after police questioned Castro’s neighbours and discovered that Acevedo was a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his current address.
Acevedo became a suspect in the Adkins and Pemberton murders after the FBI re-examined the disappearance of other missing women from the Seymour Avenue neighbourhood after Castro’s arrest, according to a statement from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.
Imagine if the Cleveland police had actually done their job years ago?
I’ll end with this wacky story from CBS Atlanta.
Bear climbs tree stand to meet hunter.
A video of a showdown between a hunter and a bear in Canada posted in May of this year is making the rounds on social media as of late.
The video, posted by Jeffrey Moffatt, shows a hunter in a tree stand with a bear at the bottom of the tree.
Much to the surprise of the hunter, the bear climbs the tree in about three seconds and comes face-to-face with the hunter. No need for a hunting rangefinder when the damn thing is 3 feet away from you!
The bear sniffs around and eventually decides the hunter wasn’t a threat and climbs down the tree.
Moffatt said on YouTube that he only had a bow and arrow – no firearm – and did not have any cell service in case the situation would have gotten worse.
You have to watch the video!
OK, those are my contributions for today. What stories are you following? Please post your comments and links in the thread below.
Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol HillPosted: October 15, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Congress, Debt Ceiling, government shutdown, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Tea Party, Ted Cruz 51 Comments
Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.
According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.
An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.
Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.
The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.
The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.
“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.
“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.
Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.
Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.
The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.
Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.
The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.
If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”
How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”
If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….
The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.
Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.
At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”
The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.
These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.
Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.
I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.
Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:
Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.
Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.
Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”
Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.
You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.
What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.
Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.
Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.
Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.
Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.
Blue Friday ReadsPosted: October 4, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Affordable Care Act, government shutdown, Tea Party, Tropical Storm Karen 29 Comments
I’m going through my blue period. It’s been going on for awhile. I’m actually thinking that it’s contagious because the blues appear to be popping up everywhere these days with the exception of the deeply delusion right wing who thinks ruining our country is a good thing.
So, first off, I may be out of the loop again awhile. Tropical Storm–maybe soon to be Hurricane–Karen has formed in the Gulf. New Orleans is in the cone but appears to be on the weak side of the storm. That means there’s a strong side and there’s some other folks in danger.
A hurricane watch is in effect for parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast after Tropical Storm Karen formed in the southeastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
The watch covers the area from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to west of Destin, Florida. The center of the storm is forecast to be near the coast within that area Saturday.
A tropical storm warning is in effect from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River.
“Karen is expected to be at or near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday,” read a hurricane center advisory.
The storm, which as of Thursday evening was about 360 miles south of the Mississippi River’s mouth, prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recall some of its workers, furloughed during the government shutdown. The agency also reactivated its Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. FEMA officials in the Atlanta and Denton, Texas, offices are monitoring Karen.
“At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States, including in the Gulf Coast region, that are available to state and local partners if needed and requested,” the agency said in a statement.
The hurricane center said it, too, would be unaffected by the government shutdown as Karen approaches.
“The National Hurricane Center is fully operational … and has all of its resources available to it,” spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in an e-mail. “The government shutdown will not inhibit NHC from providing its mission.”
The money folks that usually love the Republican party is getting a little pissed as the DJ and other stock exchanges and indices begin their negative responses to government shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling bump.
On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.
“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”
Walden asked how many of those seated around the table were precinct captains. These were money men, though, not the types to spend night after night knocking on doors and slipping palm cards into mailboxes.“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.
“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.
Not a single hand went up.
“I hear this complaint all the time,” Walden said. “But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level.”
Guess that’s what you get when you think religious freaks and science deniers will do your dirty work for you without extracting a pound of flesh.
Wonder why we need a shut down? Let some nice Tea Party Republican Congressman Mansplain it to you!
CNN’s Carol Costello confronted Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) over his party’s continued crusade against Obamacare Thursday morning, pushing him to admit that Republicans’ “divisive approach” is responsible for the prolonged government shutdown. Rokita dismissed Costello’s dogged questions by focusing on how young and beautiful he found the CNN host.
“I don’t know if you have children yet, I’m sure you don’t have grandchildren yet, you look much too young, but we’re fighting for them,” Rokita said. “Carol, do you have any idea how much this law is going to cost?”
Costello shot back, “Do you know how much it costs every day the government is partially shut down? You’re costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars!”
Rokita insisted that Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws ever developed by men” and will hurt the country “much more than any government shutdown.” Costello then pressed him on the upcoming dept ceiling fight, asking, “Obamacare hurts the country worse than [not] raising the debt ceiling? Because that’s not what a bunch of Wall Street bankers told the president yesterday.”
Rokita even dismissed the idea that defaulting on the nation’s debt would be more harmful than Obamacare. “I had a lot of CEOs in my office yesterday, and they didn’t share the same vision with me that some CEOs apparently shared with the president,” he said.
“I think most Americans would say fight that fight separate from the federal budget. Don’t partially shut down the federal government, don’t make things worse by fighting the same fight over and over,” Costello argued.
Rokita responded, “No, you’re part of the problem,” prompting Costello to roll her eyes and scoff, “Ugh, come on. That’s so easy.”
“Carol, you’re beautiful but you need to be honest as well,” Rokita finally said, eliciting an eyebrow raise from Costello.
Things can only get better?
Well, only if you live in a blue state. It seems that those of us that have petulant Republican Governors are not going to get the kind of subsidies that other states will as they make their insurance choices through the exchanges.
Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.
Those excluded will be stranded without insurance, stuck between people with slightly higher incomes who will qualify for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that went live this week, and those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, which has income ceilings as low as $11 a day in some states.
People shopping for insurance on the health exchanges are already discovering this bitter twist.
“How can somebody in poverty not be eligible for subsidies?” an unemployed health care worker in Virginia asked through tears. The woman, who identified herself only as Robin L. because she does not want potential employers to know she is down on her luck, thought she had run into a computer problem when she went online Tuesday and learned she would not qualify.
I have to admit that as much as I love New Orleans, the greater Seattle area is looking better to me all the time.
Maybe some of those Republicans can explain why ObamaCare is being implemented and Walmart is returning to full time employees? Isn’t that against their meme?
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, announced Monday that 35,000 part-time employees will soon be moved to full-time status, entitling them to the full healthcare benefits that were scheduled to be denied them as a result of Wal-Mart’s efforts to avoid the requirements of Obamacare.
While some analysts believe that the move comes as Wal-Mart is attempting to deal with the negative view many Americans have of its worker benefits program, a closer look reveals the real reason for the shift—
Wal-Mart’s business is going south due to the company’s penchant for putting politics and the squeeze on Wal-Mart employees ahead of the kind of customer satisfaction that produces prosperity over the long-term.
For anyone who has not been following the Wal-Mart saga, sales have been sinking dramatically at the retailer as the company has turned to hiring mostly temporary workers (those who must reapply for a job every 180 days) to staff their stores while cutting full-time employees’ hours down to part-time status in order to avoid providing workers with healthcare benefits.
Empty shelves, ridiculously long check-out lines, helpless customers wandering through the electronics section and general disorganization at Wal-Mart store locations.
Wow! It seems people expect customer service and inventory! Imagine that!!
So what happens if we play the debt brinkmanship game in the middle of this mess?
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released a report on the potential macroeconomic effects of debt ceiling brinksmanship. The report states that a default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, and U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, potentially resulting in a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse. By looking at the disruptions to financial markets that ensued in 2011, the report examines a variety of economic indicators – including consumer and small business confidence, stock price volatility, credit risk spreads, and mortgage spreads – through which a similar episode might harm the economic expansion. The report also notes that if the current government shutdown is protracted, it could make the U.S. economy even more susceptible to the adverse effects from a debt ceiling impasse than it was prior to the shutdown.
Image that! Not every one thrives on the idea that it’s good to create chaos in an attempt to bring on some kind of end times?
So, I’ll just trudge along today while I try to grab my usual hurricane hunker-down supplies knowing that at least there’s a cool front coming if the electricity dies and that I won’t have to follow the news if the cable TV dies. So, you’ll have to let me know what’s on your reading and blogging list today because I can still follow y’all on my cell phone.
Thursday Reads: Republicans and the Shutdown, Refugee Boat Disaster, The Dark Web, and SnowdenPosted: October 3, 2013 Filed under: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Crime, Criminal Justice System, FBI, Federal Government Shutdown, Foreign Affairs, Italy, morning reads, NSA, National Security Agency, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: "Dread Pirate Roberts", cryptography, Edward Snowden, gerrymandering, Glenn Greenwald, John Boehner, Johns Hopkins, Ladar Levison, Lampedusa, Lavabit, Matthew D. Green, Ohio redistricting, Ross William Ulbricht, Silk Road, Tea Party, the "dark web", US Chamber of Commerce 68 Comments
The government shutdown continues, and as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, no one seems to know how long this deadlock between extremist House Republicans (along with their chief hostage Speaker John Boehner) and the rest of Congress–Republicans and Democrats–will continue. It’s depressing as hell, and it’s really difficult to figure out what Republicans think they’re going to gain by it.
Just a few links:
CBS News — Poll: Americans not happy about shutdown; more blame GOP.
On day three of the partial government shutdown, a new CBS News poll reveals that a large majority of Americans disapprove of the shutdown and more are blaming Republicans than President Obama and the Democrats for it.
Fully 72 percent of Americans disapprove of shutting down the federal government over differences on the Affordable Care Act; just 25 percent approve of this action. Republicans are divided: 48 percent approve, while 49 percent disapprove. Most tea party supporters approve of the government shutdown – 57 percent of them do. Disapproval of the shutdown is high among Democrats and independents. This CBS News poll was conducted after the partial government shutdown began on October 1.
Views of the Affordable Care Act are related to views of the shutdown. Those who like the health care law also overwhelmingly disapprove of shutting down the government. There is more support for the shutdown among Americans who don’t like the 2010 health care law. Thirty-eight percent of them approve of the shutdown but even more, 59 percent, disapprove.
Republicans in Congress receive more of the blame for the shutdown: 44 percent of Americans blame them, while 35 percent put more blame on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. These views are virtually the same as they were last week before the shutdown, when Americans were asked who they would blame if a shutdown occurred.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business.
T.J. Gentle, chief executive officer of Smart Furniture, an online custom furniture maker in Chattanooga, employs 250 people, has seen sales grow 25 percent this year, and was planning another round of hiring—until Republican hard-liners forced the federal government to close on Oct. 1. Gentle is the embodiment of moderate, business-minded pragmatism: He voted for President Obama and Tennessee’s Republican Senator Bob Corker, splits his donations between the parties, and prefers divided government as a check on partisan excess. Like his plan to hire more workers, this too may change as a result of the shutdown. “It’s as if House Republicans are playing suicide bomber with the U.S. economy,” he says. “As a businessman, it defies all reason and logic.”
Smart Furniture and countless other businesses are already feeling the impact of the shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration, which backed one-third of all mortgages last year, has furloughed employees, a move that will slow loan approvals and house purchases. “That directly affects the construction and materials industries,” Gentle says, “but it also affects us, since the purchase of a new home is the No. 1 trigger for buying furniture.”
Larger businesses, which often tilt more heavily toward the GOP, are no less frustrated. It’s hard to find any organization more closely affiliated with the Republican Party than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2012 the business trade group spent $35,657,029 on federal elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that, $305,044 was spent on behalf of Democratic candidates. Last year the Chamber went further to help Republicans than it ever had by running ads directly against candidates: It spent $27,912,717 against Democrats and only $346,298 against Republicans.
Geeze, if business isn’t happy with the GOP, who do they have left in their corner? The religious right and the Tea Party, I guess–and those groups likely have a lot of crossover. Is that enough for to support a national party?
CNN: Government shutdown: GOP moderates huddle as conservatives set agenda
A small but growing group of House Republicans is increasingly worried about the fallout from the government shutdown and say it’s time for Speaker John Boehner to allow a simple vote on a spending bill.
Defunding Obamacare can wait for now, they say.
“I’m trying to be optimistic but at the same time I have a really, really tough time when people are out of work and they can’t pay their bills,” Rep. Michael Grimm of New York told reporters Wednesday. “Though it might be a political loss for us … this is an untenable situation.”
Rep. Scott Rigell, whose Virginia district is home to a significant number of military members and civilian contractors, was one of the first to publicly break away.
“We fought the good fight,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday, but acknowledged it was time to move on.
Boehner hosted small groups of concerned members on Wednesday. A spokesman for Boehner declined to talk about the sessions.
How can Boehner get away with letting just 30% of his caucus run roughshod over the entire House? Think Progress may have the answer: How John Boehner Engineered An Ohio Gerrymander To Save His Speakership.
During the last redistricting cycle, then-Ohio state Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) pledged to deliver a redrawn map of Ohio’s congressional districts “that Speaker Boehner fully supports.” Indeed, at the height of the map drawing process, Boehner’s political aide Tom Whatman averaged a request a day to Ohio’s mapmakers — often micromanaging the slightest geographic changes in the district lines. In one case, for example, the line-drawers added a peninsula with no residents at all to Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) district because the peninsula included the headquarters of a company whose leaders donated generously to Renacci.
A full election cycle later, Team Boehner’s micromanagement paid off. President Obama won the state of Ohio by nearly two points in 2012, but 12 members of Ohio’s 16 member Congressional delegation are Republicans. In the nation as a whole, nearly 1.4 million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than Republicans.
The districts Boehner helped draw in Ohio played into a much larger Republican Party strategy to secure the House by rigging the legislative maps. Indeed, last January, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report entitled “How a Strategy of Targeting State Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in 2013.” The report bragged that gerrymandering “paved the way to Republicans retaining a U.S. House majority in 2012.”
And, as TP notes, this strategy was replicated and a number of other states.
FOX News: Congress misses deadline, sending government into partial shutdown
Congress blew by a midnight deadline to pass a crucial spending bill, triggering the beginning of a partial government shutdown – the first in 17 years.
The failure means the gears of the federal government will start to slow down on Tuesday, though hundreds of thousands of federal workers will remain on the job. Though it’s been a long time since the last one, this marks the 18th shutdown since 1977.
Lawmakers missed the deadline after being unable to resolve their stand-off over ObamaCare, despite a volley of 11th-hour counterproposals from the House. Each time, Senate Democrats refused to consider any changes to ObamaCare as part of the budget bill.
House Republicans, for their part, refused to back off their demand that the budget bill include some measures to rein in the health care law – a large part of which, the so-called insurance “exchanges,” goes into effect on Tuesday.
As House Republicans endorsed one more counterproposal in the early morning hours, lawmakers spent the final minutes before midnight trying to assign blame to the other side of the aisle. Republicans are no doubt wary of the blowback their party felt during the Clinton-era shutdown, while Democrats were almost eager to pile the blame on the GOP.
“This is an unnecessary blow to America,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said.
House Speaker John Boehner claimed that Republicans are the ones trying to keep the government open but “the Senate has continued to reject our offers.”
Ahead of the deadline, the White House budget office ordered agency heads to execute an “orderly shutdown” of their operations due to lack of funds. Americans will begin to feel the effects of a shutdown by Tuesday morning, as national parks close, federal home loan officers scale back their caseload, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers face furlough.
The question now is how long the stand-off will last. Congress is fast-approaching another deadline, in mid-October, to raise the debt limit or face a U.S. government default. Lawmakers presumably want to resolve the status of the government swiftly in order to shift to that debate.
Throughout the day Monday, lawmakers engaged in a day-long bout of legislative hot potato.
The House repeatedly passed different versions of a bill that would fund the government while paring down the federal health care overhaul. Each time, the Senate said no and sent it back.
As a last-ditch effort, House Republicans early Tuesday morning endorsed taking their disagreement to what’s known as a conference committee – a bicameral committee where lawmakers from both chambers would meet to resolve the differences between the warring pieces of legislation.
The latest House bill, which the Senate shot down late Monday, would delay the law’s individual mandate while prohibiting lawmakers, their staff and top administration officials from getting government subsidies for their health care.
The House voted again to endorse that approach early Tuesday and send the bill to conference committee.
“It means we’re the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats refusal – thus far – to negotiate,” a GOP leadership aide said.
Reid, though, said the Senate would not agree to the approach unless and until the House approves a “clean” budget bill.
The rhetoric got more heated as the deadline neared.
“They’ve lost their minds,” Reid said of Republicans, in rejecting the latest proposal.
“Senate Democrats have made it perfectly clear that they’d rather shut down the federal government than accept even the most reasonable changes to ObamaCare,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell countered.
Amid the drama, President Obama said he was holding out hope that Congress would come together “in the 11th hour.”
Such a deal did not come to pass.
A prior Republican effort to include a provision defunding ObamaCare in the budget bill failed. House Republicans then voted, early Sunday, to add amendments delaying the health care law by one year and repealing an unpopular medical device tax.
The Senate, in a 54-46 vote, rejected those proposals on Monday afternoon.
At this stage, congressional leaders are hard at work trying to assign blame.
Democrats have already labeled this a “Republican government shutdown.” But Republicans on Sunday hammered Reid and his colleagues for not coming back to work immediately after the House passed a bill Sunday morning.
In other news . . .
This story is just breaking . . . From CNN: Scores dead after boat sinks of Italian island of Lampedusa.
At least 94 people, including a pregnant woman and two children, died when a boat capsized and caught fire off the island of Lampedusa, the Italian coast guard told CNN on Thursday.
The coast guard has been able to save at least 151 people, and the rescue operation is ongoing.
The boat is thought to have been carrying up to 500 people. Those aboard include Somalis, Eritreans and Ghanaians, the coast guard said, and the boat is thought to have launched from Libya’s coast.
Lampedusa, the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries.
The head of the U.N. refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, praised the efforts of the Italian coast guard but said he was “dismayed at the rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution and perishing at sea.”
Some context on this story, also from CNN, a June 2011 story about one of Lampedusa’s boat people.
Yesterday the FBI shut down a website called Silk Road that has been used for massive amounts of criminal activity. From Fox News: Feds shut down $1.2 billion criminal internet marketplace.
Federal authorities have shut down what they called the “most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today,” an underground operation responsible for distributing illegal drugs and other black market goods and services.
The site’s alleged owner, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested and $3.6 million in anonymous digital currency known as Bitcoins was seized. The site, which did about $1.2 billion in sales, was taken over by federal authorities, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York. Learn more about digital currency here at Crypto Code Review
Ulbricht was alleged to operate a website responsible for distributing hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services, including fake IDs and computer hacking-related services. He was indicted on charges of drug conspiracy, computer intrusion offensives conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
Ulbricht, 29, used the aliases “Dread Pirate Roberts,” “DPR,” and “Silk Road” while operating the site, authorities said.
From BBC News, Silk Road: How FBI closed in on suspect Ross Ulbricht.
It was an underground website where people from all over the world were able to buy drugs.
In the months leading up to Mr Ulbricht’s arrest, investigators undertook a painstaking process of piecing together the suspect’s digital footprint, going back years into his history of communicating with others online….
The search started with work from Agent-1, the codename given to the expert cited in the court documents, who undertook an “extensive search of the internet” that sifted through pages dating back to January 2011.
The trail began with a post made on a web forum where users discussed the use of magic mushrooms.
In a post titled “Anonymous market online?”, a user nicknamed Altoid started publicising the site.
“I came across this website called Silk Road,” Altoid wrote. “Let me know what you think.”
According to Onblastblog.com, the post contained a link to a site hosted by the popular blogging platform WordPress. This provided another link to the Silk Road’s location on the so-called “dark web”.
Read the whole story at the link.
From Andy Greenberg at Forbes: Feds Allege Silk Road’s Boss Paid For Murders Of Both A Witness And A Blackmailer.
When I interviewed the Dread Pirate Roberts, the persona behind the anonymous black market drug website known as Silk Road, he described his narcotics bazaar as a victimless libertarian experiment. But criminal complaints against Ross William Ulbricht, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who allegedly wore that pirate’s mask, now claim that he was also willing to leave a few bodies in his wake.
In two separate sets of charges released Wednesday following the seizure of the Silk Road’s domain and servers, federal prosecutors accused Ulbricht of not only conspiracies to sell drugs and launder money, but also of paying hitmen for the murder of two individuals, one who is described as attempting to blackmail Ulbricht after hacking a Silk Road vendor and learning the identities of thousands of the site’s users, and another employee of the Silk Road who Ulbricht allegedly feared might reveal him to law enforcement.
“DPR’s communications reveal that he has taken it upon himself to police threats to the site from scammers and extortionists,” reads an affidavit from FBI agent Christopher Tarbell, “and has demonstrated a willingness to use violence in doing so.”
In the one of the two cases, filed in a Maryland district court, a criminal complaint against Ulbrichtdescribes how an undercover agent gained Ulbricht’s trust after communicating with him through the Dread Pirate Roberts account Ulbricht is thought to have used and conducting a $27,000 cocaine deal through the Silk Road. The agent later allegedly received a message from the Dread Pirate Roberts asking if he’d be willing to arrange the beating of a Silk Road employee who Roberts said had scammed users of the site and taken their bitcoins, the cryptographic currency used on Silk Road.
Read much more at the link.
Just a side note on the Silk Road story: the “dark web” makes use of the encryption methods recommended by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. This is the “other side” of the fight for “privacy rights.”
Here are a couple more Snowden/Greenwald news stories I came across.
From The Verge: Snowden’s email provider Lavabit fought government surveillance with ultra-tiny font.
Earlier this summer, a few weeks after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the agency’s surveillance practices were published, the encrypted email service provider he used, called Lavabit, shut itself down. At that time, Lavabit’s founder Ladar Levison said he was shuttering his website to avoid “becom[ing] complicit in crimes against the American people,” which many took to mean he was resisting further surveillance demands by the US government. It turns out we didn’t know the half of it: new court documents unsealed today in the US District Court for Virginia’s Eastern District, obtained by Wired, reveal that Levison fought the US government tooth-and-nail to avoid handing over the encryption keys that would allow government agents to read his customers’ emails.
In the harrowing saga recounted in the newly unsealed documents, it turns out the government obtained a search warrant in July and demanded Lavabit hand over the encryption and secure-socket layer (SSL) keys to its system. The government was pursuing the emails sent by a single target, whose name has been redacted, but as Wired points out, it’s highly likely that user was Snowden himself.
From the Baltimore Sun: Hopkins professor rejects invitation to review NSA documents leaked by Snowden
A Johns Hopkins University cryptography professor — who gained media attention when university officials told him to take down a blog post he wrote about National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden — says he declined an invitation this week to join journalists and others reviewing the classified NSA documents.
“The truth is, I don’t really know what to say,” said Matthew D. Green, who received the invitation from Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald via Twitter on Thursday.
“It was a very generous offer,” Green said. “I think somebody should be down there and they need more expertise to go through those documents, [but] I’m not sure I want it to be me.”
Greenwald, who received the documents from Snowden and has led global reporting on them, invited Green to his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to “work journalistically” on the documents, specifically as they pertain to the NSA’s alleged circumvention of online encryption tools.
The invitation gave a boost to Green’s rising prominence in the debate over NSA spying methods. Johns Hopkins administrators this month briefly asked him to remove from universityservers a blog post he had written about coverage of the Snowden documents.
This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll put the rest of my links in the discussion thread below. Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments.
Thursday Reads: Who’s Really Running Things in the Middle East? . . . And Other NewsPosted: September 26, 2013 Filed under: Criminal Justice System, Foreign Affairs, Hillary Clinton, Middle East, morning reads, polling, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Dexter Filkins, government shutdown, iran, NPR's Fresh Air, Qassem Suleimani, Quds Force, Revolutionary Guard, Tea Party, Terry Gross 18 Comments
There’s a long article in the September 30 New Yorker by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dexter Filkins about a powerful Iranian military leader named Qassem Suleimani. Sueimani is the Commander of the Quds Force. According to Wikipedia, the Quds Force is:
a special unit of Iran‘s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Revolutionary Guard). It has been tasked with “exporting” Iran’s Islamic revolution, and is responsible for “extraterritorial operations” of the Revolutionary Guard.
Filkins describes the functions Quds Force as follows:
The force is the sharp instrument of Iranian foreign policy, roughly analogous to a combined C.I.A. and Special Forces; its name comes from the Persian word for Jerusalem, which its fighters have promised to liberate. Since 1979, its goal has been to subvert Iran’s enemies and extend the country’s influence across the Middle East. Shateri had spent much of his career abroad, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, where the Quds Force helped Shiite militias kill American soldiers.
I have to admit that I haven’t read the entire article yet, but yesterday I heard a fascinating interview of Dexter Filkins by Terry Gross on her NPR show Fresh Air. You can listen to the interview at the link. It lasts about 44 minutes. Filkins covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the New York Times beginning in 2002. In addition, he is the author of the book The Forever War. Based on what I heard in the Fresh Air interview, just about everything many Americans think we know about Iran, Iraq, Syria and Iran’s powerful influence in the Middle East is going to have to be revised and updated. Even Filkins was surprised by what he learned through his research and reporting in Iran.
Here’s what Filkins writes about Suleimani:
Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”
According to Filkins, through Suleimani’s influence, after the U.S. took down Saddam Hussein and everything went to hell in Iraq, Iran has basically controlled what went on there; and now Iran is a powerful influence in the Syrian conflict. Here’s the introduction to the Filkins interview from Fresh Air site. Meet The Iranian Commander Pulling Strings In Syria’s War:
Perhaps the most important military commander in Syria’s civil war is not Syrian at all. He’s Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, and he’s the subject of an article by Dexter Filkins in the current edition of The New Yorker.
For the past 15 years, Suleimani has been the chief of the Quds Force, a small but powerful branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He’s not a familiar name to Americans, but one former CIA officer described him to Filkins as “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today.”
Filkins writes that Suleimani “has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism.”
On Suleimani’s influence on the reshaping of the Middle East:
Qassem Suleimani — who is this extraordinarily powerful man behind the mask, very mysterious guy, very powerful guy — he was instrumental in 2010 in making sure that the Americans left no troops behind in Iraq. During the Iraq War, he supervised and directed militias which were responsible for hundreds of American deaths.
It appears, by the evidence, that the Iranians, and the Quds Force in particular, were behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the president of Lebanon, in 2005. Qassem Suleimani appears to be running or directing or at least playing a very large part in the war in Syria on behalf of the Assad government. So he’s everywhere, and, again, the Iranians have been extraordinarily aggressive over the past 15 years in asserting themselves in the Middle East, often at American expense.
Filkins also says that it’s clear the Iranians do want to develop nuclear weapons, and he doubts if the U.S. will be able to get them to agreed not to do it. The reason the Iranians are reaching out to the West right now is that the sanctions are really hurting them–basically the middle class in Iran has been decimated.
You can read more excerpts from the interview at the Fresh Air site. I plan to finish reading the Filkins article in the New Yorker today. I hope I’ve given you enough information to get you to read it too. I’m sure this article will be much discussed in the coming weeks.
Here’s Charles Pierce on the Filkins piece: The Limitless Bungling Of George W. Bush And Co.
Dexter Filkins has a long, fine piece in the September 30 New Yorker about one Qassam Suleimani, an Iranian who seems to be the Zelig of Middle East spookdom, and who is now currently working with the Assad government in Syria.
Since then, Suleimani has orchestrated attacks in places as far flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi-at least thirty attempts in the past two years alone. The most notorious was a scheme, in 2011, to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to the United States as he sat down to eat at a restaurant a few miles from the White House. The cartel member approached by Suleimani’s agent turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (The Quds Force appears to be more effective close to home, and a number of the remote plans have gone awry.) Still, after the plot collapsed, two former American officials told a congressional committee that Suleimani should be assassinated. “Suleimani travels a lot,” one said. “He is all over the place. Go get him. Either try to capture him or kill him.” In Iran, more than two hundred dignitaries signed an outraged letter in his defense; a social-media campaign proclaimed, “We are all Qassem Suleimani.”
If you want evidence behind your essential instinct that the tangle in that part of the world is beyond our ability ever to untangle, you’ve got it here. But there is one other little tidbit that’s worth bringing up, given the fact that some officials formerly in the employ of C-Plus Augustus — most notably, David Frum — have snuck into the national dialogue again, probably through an unguarded window, instead of going off and living a penitent’s existence for what they did to the country.
(To be entirely fair, according to Filkins, Suleimani was formed by his participation in the savage Iran-Iraq War in which the United States, employing the brilliant realpolitik of blood-beast Henry Kissinger, helped both sides, guaranteeing that nobody would trust us thereafter. Genius!)
In other news,
Hillary had a few choice words for the Republicans who are trying to shut down the government in order to defund The Affordable Care Act. From the WaPo: Hillary Clinton says government shutdown ‘wouldn’t be the worst thing for Democrats’:
Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that if a “noisy minority” of Republican lawmakers force a government shutdown over funding for President Obama’s signature health-care law, they would face negative political consequences.
“It wouldn’t be the worst thing for Democrats if they tried to shut the government down,” said Clinton, a former secretary of state and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate. “We’ve seen that movie before and it didn’t work out so well for those so-called obstructionists.”
Clinton was referencing the political harm for Republicans in the mid-1990s when they forced a shutdown during husband Bill Clinton’s presidency.
“If they want to try to shut the government down, that’s on their head, that’s their responsibility,” she added.
Isn’t it great to have Hillary talking about politics again?
I’m really late with this post, so I’m going to wrap it up with a link dump:
From Gallup — Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low: Republicans ambivalent about movement, while most Democrats oppose it
From Huffington Post — DC Exempts Itself From Federal Government Shutdown
From The Political Carnival: Don’t Buckle Your Seatbelt? Go To Jail — Or Your Death
From Vanity Fair, battles among the richie-riches in San Francisco’s toniest neighborhood —
Bluebloods & Billionaires
Scientific American — Peculiar Brain Signals Found in “Flat-Lined” Patient What does it really mean to be dead?