Walk Away From the Talks
by Deacon Blues
As much as the public may support a deal with Iran over lifting the sanctions in exchange for monitoring of its nuclear program, President Obama should be prepared to walk away from the now-extended negotiations if Tehran refuses to allow the IAEA access to military sites and scientists.
I know that the lack of a deal will likely result in an end to multinational sanctions against the Iranian regime, because Iran is counting on, and knows that some countries won't care anymore about any Iranian nuclear program and will want to curry favor with them. That is the major duplicity behind John McCain and Lindsey Graham's assertions that sanctions will simply continue; they won't, and both of them know it. They just don't want to admit their next move would be to bomb Iran.
However, that doesn't mean the United States should be a party to a bad deal that we know going in will not grant the IAEA the access it needs to verify Iranian compliance. For whatever reason, the Supreme Leader is convinced we want a deal so bad that he can poke us in the eye last week and publicly state Iran will never let anyone have access to their military sites. For that reason, President Obama was right to recently say we were prepared to walk away from the negotiations. Yes, it could mean that the existing effective sanctions regime will end, and yes it will mean that an attack from Israel or a next GOP president is certain. But Iran should face the consequences of its actions, namely the certainty that its moderate Sunni neighbors will start treating Tehran as a hostile, nuclear-capable adversary, and arm up in response.
If Tehran is dedicated to avoiding a solid deal, then they should get ready to tell their public why a failing state is quickly becoming an outlaw regime at war with the region.
A Bridge to Nowhere
by Deacon Blues
Chris Christie entered the GOP 2016 presidential demolition derby today, and we should all be glad. Because if there's one thing the country needs, it's another tough-talking, empty-suit Republican trying to use style to overcome a near-total lack of substance.
Actually, Christie has some substance. But it's mostly the trail of political bamboozlement and economic destruction he will leave behind in New Jersey.
Democrats and "Judicial Rejectionism"
by Deacon Blues
"I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."
--Supreme Court rejectionist Mike Huckabee after the Court's same-sex marriage ruling
A good number of conservatives around the country are so angry at the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage that they call for open rejection of the decision. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, the Texas AG (well, that isn't surprising) and others are calling the court imperial and activist over the decision.
So does this mean that under this new doctrine of judicial rejectionism that Democrats across the land could have similarly rejected an "imperial court" and "judicial tyranny" in the Bush v. Gore and Citizens United rulings? Or does this new doctrine only allow conservative anarchists to opt-out of rulings they disagree with?
EPA Must Do Better Staff Work
by Deacon Blues
There are times, rarely, when I do find myself agreeing with the conservatives on the Supreme Court of the United States. Today is one of those days. The media is widely reporting today's 5-4 decision against the Environmental Protection Agency on power plant emissions as a major setback for the Obama administration and the environment. Well, yes and no.
Yes, it's a setback because the five conservatives ruled that the EPA was defective in its regulatory process under the Clean Air Act for not explicitly considering industry costs in complying with the new rule aimed at limiting emissions of mercury and other pollutants from power plants, mainly coal-fired plants. But why isn't the EPA doing a standard cost/benefit analysis with their regulatory rule-making? Yes, the industry faces costs from complying with any new government regulation, and every level of government that I know of is supposed to account for costs in any analysis supporting a proposed regulation. The fact that the EPA didn't think it needed to address the industry's estimated $9.6 billion in compliance costs against the estimated $90 billion annual public health benefit frankly startles me.
The decision is not a setback because the solution is quite simple: re-do the flawed regulatory package for submission to the lower court to explicitly include this cost and benefit analysis, as the conservative majority dictated, and be done with it. End of story, setback mitigated.
As for the EPA, do better staff work next time.
SCOTUS Narrowly Finds Same-Sex Marriage Constitutional
by Deacon Blues
I will go to my grave unhappy with Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for his part in the Court’s Bush v. Gore and Citizens United rulings, and the conservative majority’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act. But let no one say he doesn’t deserve praise for his moral and judicial leadership on the rights of same-sex couples.
SCOTUS Delivers Obamacare Win
by Deacon Blues
To my surprise, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare and taxpayer subsidies for federally-established health benefit exchanges. In a 6-3 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts authoring the assent, the court said that a drafting error didn’t invalidate the intent of the Affordable Care Act. Since it takes four justices to agree on hearing a case, this means that either Chief Justice Roberts or Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy initially went along with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in wanting to settle the matter at the highest court in the land.
Although I predicted that the five Republican justices would let their ideology drive their ruling to destroy this piece of Obamacare, Chief Justice Roberts made it clear that any language discrepancy in the law must be looked at in the larger context of what the congressional intent was.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the words must be understood as part of a larger statutory plan. “In this instance,” he wrote, “the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” he added. “If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
In his blustery dissent, read from the bench to serve his oversized ego, Justice Antonin Scalia said who cares what the legislative branch wanted? What matters is how the statute reads.
“The court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery,” he wrote. “It is up to Congress to design its laws with care,” he added, “and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.”
Justice Scalia announced his dissent from the bench, a sign of bitter disagreement. His summary was laced with notes of incredulity and sarcasm, which sometimes drawing amused murmurs in the courtroom as he described the “interpretive somersaults” he said the majority had performed to reach the decision.
“We really should start calling this law Scotus-care,” Justice Scalia said, to laughter from the audience.
Scalia has only confirmed his existence here as a political hack masquerading as a justice. If to Scalia what matters is what the statute actually says and not legislative intent, then why did he and other conservative justices eviscerate the Voting Rights Act in the presence of a clearly written statute and well-established legislative intent? We know why – because Scalia disagreed with the politics. Nonetheless, my thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy for their ruling today, and I apologize for thinking they would go along with the pathetic political grandstanding by posers like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.
Update: GOP rising star Marco Rubio disagrees with letting 6.4 million people keep their affordable health insurance. And this guy is considered a strong GOP candidate for 2016. Yeah, right. Good luck with that Skippy.
Alabama Governor a Good Liberal Democrat
Billmon and I were both immediately amused yesterday at the heady news the Confederate flag was being hurriedly dumped at the Alabama State Capital, for buried in the story was the defensive justification from Republican Governor Robert Bentley that “I have taxes to raise, we have work to do.”
Oh really? Since when does a Republican boldly state forth that the aim of the governor’s office is to raise taxes? According to Republicans taxes are a terrible evil spawned by Satan himself, all efforts must be continually focused at lowering or eliminating them. Then lie about how this magically increases State revenue.1Continue reading "Alabama Governor a Good Liberal Democrat"
A Terrorist is a Terrorist
by Deacon Blues
In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.
But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.
Keep in mind these figures don't include mass murders by white gun nuts.
No one should be surprised at this. Our right-wing media culture is bankrolled by Corporate America, which is populated with representatives of the defense/intelligence/cybersecurity complex and led by elitists invested in keeping the sheeple afraid and compliant. The conservative media machine led by Fox News and funded by the Koch Brothers and other extremist oligarchs, has become expert at overt racism and discrimination against brown people, packaged as white victimhood and resentment against "those people." And these same people, thanks to the four white conservative political hacks on the Supreme Court, have taken control of the campaign fundraising landscape and judicial system through their treasonous and legally-unfounded Citizens United and Bush v. Gore rulings.
But at a time when polls show the public is finally upset with the control wealthy elites have over our political system, a little truth about the true nature and source of domestic terrorism, coupled with shining some light upon the right wing media's role in such terrorism can go a long way.
Surprise! Hillary's Lead Grows
by Deacon Blues
Just last week, the talk all across MSNBC and other TV pundit outlets was that Hillary was wounded by Bernie Sanders’ rise and her tanking honesty and likeability numbers. Some of us have been saying for months that 1) Voters have already made their minds up on Hillary’s personal traits and will vote for her independent of that; and 2) All that matters is how she does in head-to-head matchups when her campaign theme and issues roll out.
I feel vindicated by yesterday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows that in the aftermath of Hillary’s campaign events and messages of the last several weeks, many of which have a progressive theme, she now has a commanding lead within the party and against any possible GOP rival. The poll also shows that cleaning up campaign finance, as Hillary espoused early on to great surprise from her progressive critics, and strengthening Social Security can be winning issues with the 2016 electorate. Lastly, the poll shows that after respondents have had several months to look at Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker, Hillary now beats them by larger margins than she did in April.
With a poll like this showing the GOP "Smear Hillary" tactics failing, we can predict that Fox News and the rest of the right wing Koch-funded machinery to amp it up even further. Yet the poll also shows that the public rejects months of negative ads and instead wants to hear about issues and values, thereby allowing Hillary to chart a path where she can benefit from what the GOP is doing to her.
Unfair, Perhaps, to Ask For a House Strategy
Watching the policy positions unfold of the Democratic Party candidates I’m beginning to feel a certain impatience, for although of course I agree with many of them and I'm very glad to see proper liberal issue stances, if the Party doesn’t take the House in 2016 almost all of this is useless blather.
Congratulations on becoming leader of the free world, the clunky American democracy you’ve been shackled with allows you to make Executive and Judicial appointments and little else. The founders gave massive powers to Congress, then they ludicrously split it for that slimy, odious Senate, who then nauseatingly set up super-majority obstruction with the filibuster.Continue reading "Unfair, Perhaps, to Ask For a House Strategy"
Admitting The Obvious
by Deacon Blues
I’ve been meaning to write a short blurb on what I think our strategic policy should be in Iraq and Syria, given that the Obama administration’s plans are already failing. Sure, we have drone strikes that kill senior leaders of various Al Qaeda cells or ISIS, but that doesn’t constitute an overarching policy. When the two key pillars of your policy rest upon training hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters, and waiting upon the Iraqi government and military to better integrate with Sunnis and fight for themselves, then no one should be surprised that your policy is flailing.
As such, I can only assume that the Obama “policy” represents nothing more than marking time until you can dump the mess upon your successor.
Much of my own thoughts on the correct approach are contained in a piece by Charles Krauthammer in today’s Washington Post. Yes, Krauthammer espouses some of the typical right-wing tropes about Iraq, but he gets paid to blame everything on Obama. Having said that, the United States needs to give up the fiction that an Iraqi state exists or is the vehicle for any solution. We need to be:
--Arming directly and working to support the Sunni tribes in Anbar;
--Doing the same with the Iraqi Kurds, and
--Helping Jordan and Turkey with strengthening the Free Syrian Army and Southern Front in that country.
Giving lip service to the Iraqi government may be necessary for political reasons, but relying upon them to be a military vehicle to combat ISIS in Iraq is a sign of futility, when Iran has no interest in having the Iraqi government help the Sunni tribes in Anbar. And if you believe that allowing ISIS to set up a militant Islamic state in the region is a threat to the national security of the United States, then doing nothing is not a solution either.
But that doesn't mean it makes any sense for America to send ground forces back into Iraq to fight for a country that no longer exists, or for a country that can't assemble a national army that represents all the people. If Lindsay Graham wants to argue for such a commitment, he should be forced to tell America where the money is coming from, and how long America’s sons and daughters should expect to fight and die for an Iraq that doesn’t and can’t fight for itself.
Ignoring Domestic Terrorism
by Deacon Blues
I find myself agreeing with the Southern Poverty Law Center (once again), when they say that this country doesn’t pay enough attention to domestic terrorists in our midst. A white man with known white supremacist preferences (from his frigging Facebook picture no less) walks into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina last night and slaughters 9 parishioners, including the female pastor, who just happened to also be a Democratic member of the State Senate.
And before anyone ascribes this tragedy to the actions of just another misguided young man with mental issues, let’s consider what he said in the midst of the slaughter, which he did with deliberation as he reloaded his newly-acquired weapon (from his dad) five times:
"He just said, 'I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country," Johnson said.
That’s the kind of talk you can hear through parts of the right wing media machine, and of course in the mainstream white supremacist culture. Yet I have no doubt we’ll hear the Fox News crowd tell us over the coming days that this man was undoubtedly disturbed, as he opened fire after sitting in the church awhile in the midst of a bible study group. Right wingers and their media will say and do anything to misdirect attention away from white shooters and towards their purported emotional or mental challenges, or even put the blame on the black victims.
Yet we know the NSA and other parts of the intelligence community are scanning social media and online communities looking for Islamic terrorists 24/7, and we know they have a catalogue of all Facebook pages with questionable pictures. But if they come across a picture of a young white man’s Facebook page with pro-apartheid pictures, do they even stop and spend any time on that, or are such demonstrations of outward racism simply free speech to the four white conservatives on the Supreme Court?
Oh Please, Stop It
by Deacon Blues
Our friends at MSNBC believe Hillary is in trouble because of her declining poll numbers on trustworthiness and honesty in recent polls. They will find validation in today’s latest Quinnipiac University poll, which shows that Hillary trails some GOP challengers in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. The polls show that in certain cases, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and John Kasich (Ohio) lead Hillary in head-to-head matchups, and that the respondents felt the Republican candidate shared their concerns more than Hillary.
This poll was mostly taken before Hillary’s recent campaign events, where she focused on middle class concerns, how the political system is rigged in favor of the wealthy, and pointed out that the House GOP budget maintained hedge fund and other tax subsidies while rejecting pre-K services to working families. The poll also assumes that Rubio, Paul, or Kasich will be facing Hillary at the top of the general election ballot next November when in fact none of them will. That won’t however stop the MSNBC crowd from feeding their narrative over the coming days that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren is a real Democratic player for the nomination.
Even if lightning struck, and one of these guys got the GOP nomination, does anyone really believe that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or John Kasich will be able to convince middle class voters in battleground states that the GOP will suddenly adopt an economic and tax agenda in 2017 benefitting Main Street at the expense of Wall Street, or that they'll be a better advocate for Main Street than Hillary? When I see any of these guys take on the Koch Brothers or the rest of the right wing oligarchs and reject their money, then come talk to me about Hillary being in trouble.