It’s been a fun week for watching our national political class maintain their irrelevance.
Darrell Issa's Apology
To his credit, even after the pathetic John Boehner endorsed his repugnant behavior, House Oversight and Government Reform committee chair Darrell Issa called ranking member Elijah Cummings Thursday night to apologize for cutting off his microphone and disrespecting him earlier this week. I would like to know however why the IRS now suddenly turns over documents that the House GOP has wanted for months.
I do enjoy watching Rand Paul and Ted Cruz go after each other, and I’m comforted at the thought that we have months of open GOP foreign policy disagreements ahead of us, with Cruz bashing, at a time when the country seemingly wants to focus on maintaining a steady and professional course abroad and more active focus at home. I just wish Hillary Clinton was making a better case than she has so far.
As for the Ukraine, the West needs to accept the fact that Crimea is lost to the Russian aggression, and that Russia is an outlaw nation that needs to be dumped from the G-8. Vladimir Putin manufactured the departure of former Ukrainian president Yanukovych into Russian territory after he had reached a settlement with the protesters, and portrayed it as an unconstitutional removal that entitled him to seize Crimea. Now he is extorting the Ukraine with cutting off their gas deliveries, an action that by itself in the context of the Crimean seizure requires the expulsion of Russia from the G-8 and the loss of any privileges it has as a world power.
As I said earlier this week, the West needs to move ahead with sanctions and the G-8 expulsion, and Obama and Chuck Hagel need to talk openly about reintroducing the US Twelfth Fleet into the eastern Mediterranean, and let Putin and his admirals gag on that.
Paul Ryan's Alleged Reforms
Lastly, as people pay more attention to what Paul Ryan and the GOP are saying about their anti-poverty “reforms”, they’ll notice that Ryan has yet to actually propose solutions that can lift people out of poverty, and instead he is backstopping his alleged serious proposals with falsehoods and discredited narratives.
Ten Democratic Cowards
These are the ten Democratic senators who voted today to kill Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to remove sexual harassment cases from the military chain of command, and voted instead to support Senator Claire McCaskill’s bill to trust the military chain of command to fix itself:
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
I cannot begin to describe my disappointment at these Democrats for not even letting Gillibrand's alternative to McCaskill's "just trust us" bill come to a vote. I especially have no idea what Whitehouse, Carper, Kaine, and even Warner did here. But what I do know is that I will remember this the next time I get a fundraising email from any of these ten.
Not Ready For Prime Time
I suggested several days ago that in order for Vladimir Putin to understand he's got a longer-term problem with the United States, Hillary Clinton needed to send a signal.
This wasn't what I had in mind. Frankly, her whole range of comments over the last two days do nothing to inspire any confidence in her as a leader for these times.
The House GOP Should Be Held In Contempt
Darrell Issa was given another chance to make an ass of himself today by John Boehner, and he didn't disappoint. Issa held another Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing today on the purported IRS Tea Party targeting scandal, with an intention to destroy former IRS official Lois Lerner after he attacked her on Fox News Sunday. Not surprisingly, Lerner took the Fifth today in response after negotiations between Issa's staff and her counsel broke down in the aftermath of the Fox News smear over the weekend.
Issa made sure he lost any remaining credibility as chairman when he terminated the hearing and stopped ranking member Elijah Cummings from responding to Issa's witch hunt with a statement and his own questions for the witness. Issa had staff turn off Cummings' microphone to silence him, and ended the hearing.
Keep in mind that there is no evidence whatsoever that the White House orchestrated any Tea Party targeting, and that progressive groups were also targeted. Also keep in mind that the best way to address this issue is for the IRS to immediately enforce this provision of the tax code as it is written. But Boehner and Issa aren't interested in actually fixing anything here, they just want to scream about false conspiracies, and to keep the IRS away from the Koch brothers and the right wing funding machine.
And yet all John Boehner could do was to threaten Lerner with contempt of Congress. Contempt? Of this clown car Congress? Really Mr. Speaker? You preside over this and support this joke of a chairman, and you have the gall to talk of contempt of Congress? This House of Representatives, your House, the one you preside over, should be held in contempt, by the American people.
Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer need to go now on offense, and hold Boehner accountable publicly for his leadership of a GOP majority that proposes no actual solutions to real problems, yet remains capable of banana republic behavior like Issa's. Pelosi and Hoyer should tie Boehner to Issa, and turn the "contempt" word back upon the GOP.
Lastly, Pelosi and Hoyer should publicly state that Democrats will no longer participate in Issa's Speaker-sanctioned kangaroo court. They should also turn up the heat by advising witnesses of one-sided treatment as long as Issa is allowed by Boehner to be chair. The spotlight needs to be turned where it belongs: on a pathetic Speaker and a clown masquerading as chair.
Ukraine: There Should Be Military Consequences
I’m not sure what Obama told Vladimir Putin in their 90-minute call yesterday, but aside from the typical asinine barking from the likes of Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and John McCain about being tougher, Obama needs to cut to the chase with Putin and Russia. We are now dealing with an outlaw state, one that has no fear of doing what it wants militarily and blocking whatever it needs to diplomatically to enhance its own interests, even at the expense of the blood and lives of others.
Make no mistake: Putin is doing this because he assumes Obama can’t or won’t do anything in retaliation, and yes, because he has no respect for him. Putin assumes his natural gas deals inoculate him from European pressure. And he assumes that Obama needs him on Syria, and perhaps Iran. In short, Putin assumes that Obama has no leverage.
He may be right on some of these issues, but Putin miscalculates if he thinks there aren't specific actions Obama can take. Among these actions are:
-On Syria, stop any further work with Russia (pleasing our regional allies) and reintroduce a military option;
-Signal that we will immediately work with our European allies to find natural gas alternatives to Russia;
-Signal that the Security Council veto is irrelevant, and that the United States will reserve the right to act unilaterally;
-Get our diplomatic staff and their families out of Russia now;
-Like the Canadians, we should recall our ambassador;
-Call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8;
-Stop work on any trade deals with them immediately.
We need to start treating Russia and Putin as the outlaw enterprise that they are. (John Kerry has started down this path already) We should isolate Russia from the G-7, and whatever benefits they receive from being treated like a major world player should immediately stop. Doing all of these things creates splits inside Russia's top leadership, between the "Russia First" cold warriors led by Putin, and the business and diplomatic class that take a longer view of things.
Putin of course thinks we won’t do anything militarily about Crimea or even his next annexation of most of Ukraine. But there is one thing we can do militarily that Obama and Chuck Hagel should start talking about openly, given Putin’s annexation of Crimea into a full-blown military outpost: we should start talking with NATO and specifically Greece and Turkey about reestablishing the Twelfth Fleet and expanding the Sixth Fleet in the interim. Greece may welcome the economic investment, as may Turkey. Frankly, I don’t care if Putin sees it as a provocation; he and his cronies in the “parliament” need to know they just bungled their way into having the United States Navy back in their backyard to restrain any future grabs or movements into other nearby countries.
And in case Putin thinks that this will only be a short term problem for him, we should send the message to him and our European allies that this will be a longer-term policy shift for the United States, and that he’s just isolated Russia with America for years beyond the Obama administration. To that end, it would be helpful if Hillary started sending a strong message herself about Russian isolation.
Image courtesy of progressivemediagroup.com
Another GOP Self-Inflicted Wound
The Senate GOP caucus actually killed a modest $21 billion veterans benefit package today because Democrats paid for it with unspent war funds for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then said it wouldn't come back to haunt them in the fall elections because voters would be more angry about Obamacare than the GOP stiffing veterans.
Really? Good luck with that GOP. You just handed another issue to the Democrats at a time when you refuse to close hedge fund and other corporate tax shelters and loopholes. So billions for the wealthy are OK, but $21 billion for veterans costs too much?
Thanks, you morons.
The New York Times Ignores Their Own Poll
The New York Times and CBS News are out with their latest poll for Thursday's paper, and going large with the "news" that Hillary has a high degree of party support for 2016. Yet the NYT is emphasizing a narrative that the Republicans are in "a stronger position" for the midterms than the Democrats.
Too bad the poll itself says nothing of the kind.
Reporters Jonathan Martin and Megan Thee-Brenan tell us in their opening sentence the following:
Republicans are in a stronger position than Democrats for this year’s midterm elections, benefiting from the support of self-described independents . .
Yet if Mr. Martin and Ms. Thee-Brenan read their own poll, they would have noted that:
-The poll's sample of independents tilted Republican by 9 points;
-Even with that slant, 55% of Republicans and independents would consider voting for a Democrat this fall;
-However, only 39% of Democrats and independents would vote for a Republican.
On the issues, this GOP-slanted poll indicates:
-54% support stricter gun laws
-65% support the $10.10 minimum wage
-65% support tax increases and cuts to bring down the deficit
-72% believe the costs of Social Security and Medicare are worth it, and
-75% feel the GOP should do more for the middle classs
And yet to the NYT, the Republicans are in a stronger position than Democrats this fall?
It's About Time
When a host leader openly appeases your sworn enemies, as Hamid Karzai has done, there no longer is any reason for a nation to spend blood on that leader, or frankly, on that country.
Finally, Barack Obama gets that.
President Barack Obama has warned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that the US may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year's end.
Mr Obama conveyed the message in a phone call to Mr Karzai, who has refused to sign a security agreement.
"President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement), the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning," the White House said in a statement.
"Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
This decision was overdue, but at least Obama has finally made it. Now we can let the Chinese worry about the security of their investments in Afghanistan and Pakistan without us footing the bill anymore.
Seriously Ready for Obamacare Success Stories
Reading Paul Krugman this morning fills me with a mounting impatience, for the ability of Republicans to launch whatever fantasy they wish into media space is bad enough, but for whatever small problems or unfairness exist in Obamacare they completely pale in comparison to the lives it will soon save. Those stories can’t some soon enough.
I rarely write about healthcare or the Obamacare implementation, it is not my bailiwick, as they say, far more expert writers and bloggers than I more than capably cover that subject. Also, too, being of the tree-hugging patchouli-wafting pot-smoking fiercely hippie liberal tribe, well, I was hoping for single payer in healthcare reform. Or Medicare at 50, a public option, perhaps?
[sigh]Continue reading "Seriously Ready for Obamacare Success Stories"
Now He Wants To Be A Progressive
It's welcome news to hear that the White House is adopting a progressive tone and agenda for the 2014 midterm elections, but what amazes me is why they are only doing it now.
By their own account, senior aides are telling the media that progressive economic policies are actually "mainstream":
White House officials insist that their efforts to please the Democratic base do not conflict with appealing to independent and swing voters.
Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer noted that on many economic issues — raising the minimum wage, assuring pay equity for women, spending more on infrastructure and clean energy — polls show most Americans share the Democrats’ views.
“The position that is popular with the progressive base is the mainstream position,” Pfeiffer said.
Yet this White House has shown utter disdain for the progressive base of the party, opting instead for an inadequate stimulus, and a pathetic and way-too-long pursuit of "grand bargains" and spending cuts, all while resisting a full frontal attack every day against the GOP for their total lack of action on jobs since the 2010 midterms.
Moreover, up until recently, this same White House has rejected calls from the progressive base to relentlessly attack the GOP and hold them accountable for their deeds and obstruction, instead favoring to seek a bipartisanship that isn't there.
At this point in the 2010 midterm season, Democrats were grumbling that Obama was not blunt enough in his criticism of the Republicans. In private meetings, Democratic congressional leaders begged him to quit blaming Washington dysfunction, and be more direct in lambasting the opposition party.
The president is showing no reticence to do so now.
So what's changed? Political survival. If the Senate moves into GOP control, even if for only two years until more favorable winds blow back in the Democrats' favor in the Senate races of 2016 and 2018, Obama loses the rest of his agenda and faces a final two years of relentless attacks and investigations. And yet he and his team are only now realizing that energizing the party's base through an economic focus and holding the GOP directly accountable was the way to go all along?
Tragic, simply tragic. We will look back at these eight years and wonder what could have been if Barack Obama and his team ever governed as shrewdly as they campaigned.
Issues in Cannabis Legalization
As an amateur political writer I have never singularly attached myself to an issue or cause, I could see various flavors of obsession in some sort of long-term issue attachment, and there are always fine souls and bloggers who perform superbly in examining current necessary issues.
I will make an exception with cannabis legalization, however, and will in the future keep writing about its pending legalization and ramifications thereof. There is a necessary kernel of acute personal issue here to always keep sharp attention—I am a serious nausea patient—but I seriously hope the reader understands long-term commitment to covering cannabis legalization is much, much more motivated from a public policy and political perspective.Continue reading "Issues in Cannabis Legalization"