September 9, 2013 at 7:12 am #96381
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and beyond. This week, the President continued to address the conflict in Syria, met with Baltic Leaders, and embarked on a three day trip to Sweden and Russia. That’s August 30th to September 5th or “Stronger Together”
As you begin a new week, don’t forget JJP at TWIB.
Drop those links. Engage in debate.
Give us trivia and gossip too.
And always, have a peaceful day.September 9, 2013 at 7:13 am #96382
Good morning, EveryoneSeptember 9, 2013 at 8:54 am #96383
The Morning Plum: If Congress says No on Syria, Obama should (and probably will) listen
By Greg Sargent, Published: September 6 at 9:23 am
For the reasons I mentioned yesterday, I continue to think it’s premature to predict certain defeat in the House for the use-of-force resolution against Syria. ABC News’s Rick Klein seems to agree, noting that a very hard sell from the White House — which you can expect will be directed at Congress — could ultimately prevail, even though right now the votes just aren’t there.
But it’s not too early to make the case that if Congress does sink the resolution, Obama should heed it. And he probably will.
Peter Baker has a must-read getting inside the thinking of the White House, which is looking at the coming Syria vote as a test of whether Congress will support any proposed use of force during the rest of his presidency. Paradoxically, this gives Obama a good reason not to act on Syria if Congress says No:
Although Mr. Obama has asserted that he has the authority to order the strike on Syria even if Congress says no, White House aides consider that almost unthinkable. As a practical matter, it would leave him more isolated than ever and seemingly in defiance of the public’s will at home. As a political matter, it would almost surely set off an effort in the House to impeach him, which even if it went nowhere could be distracting and draining.
As a result, Mr. Obama would be even more reluctant to order action in the one case that has most preoccupied military planners: the development of a nuclear bomb by Iran.September 9, 2013 at 8:56 am #96384
The fallacy of transparency in an era of media hyperbole and distortion
When it comes to the debate about NSA surveillance, one of the main issues involved is transparency. President Obama has said that when he took office, his goal was to ensure that there was proper oversight of these intelligence activities by Congress and the Courts. Historically, that had been sufficient given the sensitivity of the work involved.
But now even the President is committed to going beyond that and giving the public as much information as possible about NSA activities and procedures. That is the new standard for transparency being placed on this administration.
The problem, as I see it, is that the American public is pretty dependent on the media to inform them about what is put out there for public consumption. Whether its the hyperbole and lies of omission practiced by people like Glenn Greenwald or what might be understood as lazy journalism by others, its frustrating to watch the story be twisted over and over again – giving the public a distorted view of what is happening. Let me give you an example.
Early on when the NSA story broke this summer, there was lots of talk about a FISA court order ruling that certain elements of the NSA program violated the 4th Amendment. Advocates went to court to get it declassified. Last month it was released. How many people do you suppose actually read it? Yeah, I’m pretty committed to this story, but even I couldn’t get through the whole thing. The gist of it was that the court ruled that the minimization procedures NSA was using to protect the privacy of US persons when they collected bulk data from the internet were not sufficient. Here’s how Kurt Eichenwald describes minimization.September 9, 2013 at 8:57 am #96385
Is Obama in the Process of Landing a Bloodless Humanitarian Coup in Syria?
Sunday, September 08, 2013 | Posted by Spandan C at 6:47 PM
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported today (Sunday, September 8) that under the threat of Barack Obama’s resolve against the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, and his clear willingness to use American military force to achieve that goal, the pro-Syrian coalition may have just started to crumble. Russia and Iran may – may – have reportedly convince Assad that Obama isn’t bluffing. Details are murky, but here is what Haaretz knows:
The proposal includes a plan for a “democratic transfer” of power in stages. This seems to be an improved version of the proposal presented in the past, according to which elections for the president of Syria will be expedited and President Bashar Assad will not run again .
In another proposal, which was reported in Haaretz last week, Syria will agree to completely remove its inventory of chemical weapons from the country and transfer it to Russia or another country. This proposal is also expected to be discussed in the meeting between Putin and al-Muallem.
Disarmament and an end to Assad’s power? Though American adversaries are calling this a “counter-proposal” to the threat of US military force, you can see how it seems to me like they are waving a white flag.September 9, 2013 at 8:58 am #96386
Western Maryland secessionists seek to sever ties with the liberal Free State
In Maryland, the five western counties — Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll — represent just 11 percent of Maryland’s population, according to 2010 Census figures. They earn less than the people who live in more urban areas. They vote overwhelmingly for Republicans in a deeply Democratic state. Nearly 90 percent of the residents are white, compared with 51 percent elsewhere. About 60 percent were born in Maryland vs. 46 percent in other parts of the state.
“If you don’t belong in their party,” Strzelczyk says of Democrats, “you’ll never have your views represented” in Maryland. “If we have more states,” he says, “we can all go live in states that best represent us, and then we can get along.”
Strzelczyk concedes that he could move to another state more in line with his values, but he grew up in Maryland, his parents are here and he doesn’t want to upend his family. He launched the initiative with a Facebook page in July, trying to solicit support from other frustrated Marylanders.
The Facebook page has drawn more than 2,200 likes, with residents from western counties chiming in with ideas and offers to help. Suzanne Reisig Olden, a Carroll County paralegal, offered her services pro bono.
“The state quite honestly disgusts me,” Olden said in an interview. “Those that we elect in the House of Delegates or in the Senate who are conservative are either ignored or just told to shut up. My voice does not count.” She adds: “In a new state, my vote could count, my values would be valued. So I like the idea.”September 9, 2013 at 9:00 am #96387
Watching a debate descend to new depths
By Steve Benen
Mon Sep 9, 2013 8:00 AM EDT.
If news consumers tuned into the Sunday morning public-affairs shows hoping for a high-minded debate over U.S. policy in Syria, they probably came away disappointed.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), for example, complained of President Obama, “I wish he was more of a commander in chief than a community organizer.” I’m sure this will be the basis for a lovely fundraising letter, but I haven’t the foggiest idea what the line means. Neither, I suspect, does King.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, complained that the president’s schedule last week was “mystifying.” Obama announced his intention to wait for a congressional debate, the Michigan Republican said, “and then left the country for a week.” This makes it sound like the president went on vacation — in reality, Obama traveled to a long-scheduled, three-day G-20 summit where he tried to rally international support for his foreign policy, while dispatching the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to make the case to lawmakers. What’s “mystifying” about that?
And then, of course, there was Karl Rove, who expressed his dismay at the White House’s foolish decision to seek congressional approval.September 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm #96394September 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm #96395
Rockefeller: Morrisey intimidated health group over ACA
Nonprofit declines $365K in fed funds after attorney general’s inquiry
By Eric Eyre
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Clarksburg-based nonprofit group has abruptly declined a $365,000 federal grant to help West Virginians sign up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.
The decision by West Virginia Parent Training and Information Inc. came a week after state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey directed the nonprofit group to answer 26 questions about the group’s personnel and hiring practices.
“We’ve declined [the grant] because of unforeseen circumstances,” said WVPTI Executive Director Pat Haberbosch, who would not elaborate.
Morrisey, who has called for repealing the federal health-care law, is reviewing organizations that are helping to walk people through their health insurance options. Morrisey said the groups’ employees could steal personal information, such as Social Security numbers and tax documents, from people who apply for health insurance under the ACA.
WVPTI had planned to help hundreds of low-income, disabled and rural residents in West Virginia enroll in health insurance plans through online marketplaces, which open Oct. 1.September 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm #96396
Lowell Observatory’s Putnam wants to name asteroid for Trayvon Martin
Albert Einstein. George Takei. Jerry Garcia.
All of those men and many others have had an asteroid named after them. And if William Lowell Putnam III, trustee of Lowell Observatory, has his way, another name will be added to that list: Trayvon Martin.
The retired broadcast executive, alpinist, author and Flagstaff resident believes that Martin has not received justice.
It was an unusually warm night at Anderson Mesa south of Flagstaff on Oct. 2, 2000, when Lowell Observatory astronomers found the asteroid 2000 TM61. It was just one of hundreds that observatory’s researchers discovered as part of their search for Near Earth Asteroids.
The minor planet was placed into a catalog and forgotten until shortly after Martin, 17, was fatally shot in Sanford, Fla. The unarmed teen’s death sparked nationwide protests and renewed the race debate in America.
It also sparked disgust with Putnam.
“As I see it, the social fairness showed to Trayvon Martin was very sadly lacking,” he said. “Inasmuch as I am the sole trustee of an institution which has some naming privileges, I want to do my share to see that this lad is remembered in an appropriate manner.”September 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm #96397
Study Suggests Southern Slavery Turns White People Into Republicans 150 Years Later
By Ian Millhiser on September 9, 2013 at 9:00 am
White Southerners are one of the great outliers in American politics. President Obama polled significantly worse with white voters in the South than he did with whites in swing states. One survey of working class white voters found Obama only 4-8 points behind Romney in the majority of the country, while he polled 40 points behind Romney among Southern white working class voters. And a new study by political scientists Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell and Maya Sen suggests that there may be a simple explanation for this divide — slavery.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution banned slavery nearly 150 years ago, yet this study suggests that the legacy of slavery continues to drive voters in areas that once housed large numbers of slaves to vote Republican:
Drawing on a sample of more than 39,000 southern whites, we show that whites who currently live in counties that had high concentrations of slaves in 1860 are on average more conservative and express colder feelings towards African Americans than whites who live elsewhere in the South. That is, the larger the number of slaves in his or her county of residence in 1860, the greater the probability that a white Southerner today will identify as a Republican, express opposition to race-coded policies such as aﬃrmative action, and express greater racial resentment towards African Americans. We show that these diﬀerences are robust to a variety of factors, including geography and mid-19th century economic conditions and political attitudes. We also show that our results strengthen when we instrument for the prevalence of slavery using local measures of the agricultural suitability to grow cotton. In fact, our findings indicate that in the counterfactual world where the South had no slaves in 1860, the political views of white Southerners today would be indistinguishable from those of similarly situated white Northerners.September 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm #96398
Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Their Craven and Brazen Hypocrisy on Syria
If Romney were president, his party would be wailing for Assad’s head on a pike. But since Obama wants action, Republicans like Cruz and Rubio are against ‘Obama’s war.’ It’s contemptible, says Michael Tomasky.
by Michael Tomasky Sep 9, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
The Republican hypocrisy on Syria is just amazing. Imagine that Mitt Romney were president. Romney took a far more hawkish line than Barack Obama did on Syria during the campaign. He wanted to arm the rebels, supported in-country cover ops, and so on. So if Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons during President Romney’s tenure, there’s every reason to think he’d be pushing for action too. And what, in that case, would Republicans now temporizing or opposing Obama be doing in that case? They’d be breathing fire, of course. There’s a lot of chest thumping talk right now about how a failed vote will destroy Obama’s credibility. I guess that may be to some. But to anyone paying attention, the credibility of these Republicans is what will suffer, and the vote may well come back to haunt some of them in 2016.
Some Republicans are, to their credit, taking the position consistent with their records. John McCain stood up to those people who looked like they were about two feet away from his face at that town hall meeting last week. Lindsey Graham deserves more credit, since he’s facing reelection and is being called “a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.” On the other side, Rand Paul and the neo-isolationists are probably taking the same position they’d take if Romney were president, although we can’t be completely sure. If Romney were in the White House, by 2016, “was so-and-so tough on Syria?” would probably be a top litmus test (unless, of course, things got really terrible over there). I could easily see Paul declaiming on the unique evil of chemical weapons that just this once required him to break from his noninterventionist views, but as things stand he at least is taking the position with which he is identified.
But most of them? Please. The Gold Weasel Medal goes to Marco Rubio, as others such as Tim Noah have noted. Back in April, Rubio thundered that “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end. It is in the vital national security interest of our nation to see Assad’s removal.” Removal! Obama’s not talking about anything close to removal. So that was Rubio’s hard line back when Obama was on the other side. And now that Obama wants action? Rubio voted against the military resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.
Ted Cruz? Just in June, Cruz wanted to go into Syria and rough ’em up. “We need to develop a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out.” Now? Syria is a distraction from, you guessed it, Benghazi. He said last week: “We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight. We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as al Qaeda’s air force.”September 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm #96399
Benghazi conspiracy theories distract GOP from Syria
By Steve Benen
Mon Sep 9, 2013 8:30 AM EDT.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appeared on “This Week” yesterday and made a reasonable observation about the debate over U.S. policy in Syria. “Listen, this is not the time for politics,” the far-right senator argued. “This is a grave and serious moment. I would like to support our commander in chief. I would like to see our commander in chief focused on protecting U.S. national security.”
Good. Fine. No problem. It’s a perfectly fair sentiment. But then Cruz kept talking.
“One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is its missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism. I mean, just this is the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi. In Benghazi, four it was the first ambassador since 1979.
“When it happened, the president promised to hunt the wrongdoers down, and yet a few months later, the issue has disappeared. You don’t hear the president mention Benghazi. Now it’s a phony scandal.”
Actually, yes, it is a phony scandal. The attack that took place a year ago this week has been investigated thoroughly and every Republican conspiracy theory has been discredited. And yet, Cruz is annoyed that a current, ongoing crisis in Syria is getting in the way of the debunked “scandal” that conservatives would prefer to talk about.
And it’s not just Cruz. This has quickly become a problem throughout Republican politics, with GOP lawmakers unable to even consider questions about Syria because they can’t shake their Benghazi obsession.September 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm #96400
Left/Right Libertarianism as the developing threat to progressive change
Three years ago when Jane Hamsher decided to team up with Grover Norquist to try to defeat Obamacare, most of us were shocked by her obvious Obama Derangement Syndrome. And yet today, that effort to hoodwink progressives into signing up with tea party libertarians is a pretty common phenomenon. Lately we’ve watched these folks:
1.#StandWithRand on his ridiculous anti-drone filibuster
2. Suggest that we should join forces with the tea party to defeat a budget deal
3.Tell us that America’s only hope is Ron/Rand Paul and the Drudge Report
4.Team up with tea party Rep. Justin Amash to defund the NSA
5.Agree with Sarah Palin’s “Let Allah sort it out” on the gassing of civilians in Syria
As someone who is addicted to looking at the big picture, I think it behooves us to take a look at what is happening here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is exactly the direction folks like Assange and Greenwald have wanted to see things go for a long time. But the question still remains, “why is this sort of movement gaining traction with progressives these days?” There are two things that make this all seem counter-intuitive:
1.The Republican Party is pandering to its most reactionary lunatic base. Not in my lifetime have I seen so much distance between where the two parties would take the country, and
2.We now have the most liberal President we’ve seen in a generation.
But if we dig a little deeper, those are exactly the things that are providing a platform for this movement towards libertarianism. We all know that Ron Paul actually getting the Republican nomination for president was a pipe dream. But with the disarray that we’ve seen recently, his son Rand is actually being seen as a serious contender. The Republican neo-cons failed so disastrously during the Bush/Cheney years that they gave an opening to the libertarian alternative.September 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm #96401
The common good
Monday, September 09, 2013 | Posted by Liberal Librarian at 6:59 AM
What libertarians—of both the “left” and “right”—want to do is to remove the possibility of an experience I had at work this past weekend.
She’s been coming in for a couple of weeks now, and always seems to come to me for help. Her name is Anne. She’s African American, and deaf.
This past Saturday, she came in while I was on the reference desk. I recognized her immediately and she asked if I remembered her. I said “Of course”, and asked her to sit down. She wrote me a note in which she explained that since English wasn’t her first language, would it be possible for someone to help her fill out some paperwork. I asked her what the paperwork was, and she said it consisted of documents she had to prepare for a new job.
Now, technically this isn’t in my job description. As a rule, we can’t spend an inordinate amount of time with just one patron. But, it was a slow Saturday afternoon, and many times the real job description for librarian is to go beyond what is normally expected. So, I spent the rest of my reference shift helping her with her paperwork. Once my relief came, I had her come with me to the children’s area, where there is a small children’s table, and we finished with her documentation. The look on her face and her effusive thank yous were enough payment for me for the day.
Contrast this with something that’s happening in Kentucky right now, where a Tea Party group wants to roll back library funding 30 years, claiming that taxes were “illegally collected”. In service of that, it has a Survey Monkey page which asks: “Are Public Libraries Still Valid in the 21st Century”. Of course, I filled it out and encouraged all my colleagues and friends to do so as well.
Ask my deaf patron, bravely striking out on her own, getting help from a librarian, help which she couldn’t get anywhere else, if libraries are still relevant in the 21st century. Ask my regulars, with maladies at which I can only guess because I’m too circumspect to inquire deeply, who come every day to use our free wifi if libraries are valid in the 21st century. Ask the parents whose children come to my Storytime every week and are shown a world of imagination and wonder if libraries are still relevant in the 21st century. Ask the old ladies who come in every day looking for their latest book club selection if libraries are relevant in the 21st century.
I could go on. The examples are legion. But I use the example of libraries to put forth a larger point.
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