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South Carolina Rainfall Is Worst In A Thousand Years, Gov. Haley Says

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2015-10-04 17:21

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An onslaught of rain battering South Carolina this weekend is shocking both longtime residents and officials who've never witnessed such a powerful storm in the region.

"We haven't seen this level of rain in the low country in a thousand years," Gov. Nikki Haley told reporters Sunday afternoon. "That's how big this is."

In just the last 12 hours before her 3 p.m. press conference, she said, there had been 754 calls for assistance and 320 collisions. At least eight people have died in the Carolinas.

"It is literally changing by the minute," she said of the number of incidents and amount of rainfall. 

More than 20 inches of rain have fallen in parts of the state since Thursday, when Hurricane Joaquin began nearing the east coast, prompting officials to shut down roads, close school districts and enforce mandatory curfews.

The total 24-plus inches of rain in Boone Hall and 18-plus inches near Kiawah are "mind-boggling," the National Weather Service bureau in South Carolina tweeted Sunday afternoon. 

Charleston set a new daily record on Saturday when it experienced 11.5 inches of rain, the national NWS reported.

"To put this in perspective, 11.50 inches is 22.5 percent of the annual normal rainfall for the City of Charleston," the NWS wrote in an update. 

"I have lived here for over 45 years and I have never seen it this way,” said Mickey Williams of Sullivan’s Island, a seaside town just west of Charleston.

He noted that many parts of the island were completely underwater.

“Huge puddles … some about 2 to 3 feet deep in areas that are low lying.” 

Freddy Podris, who lives in the northeastern suburb Mount Pleasant, said downtown Charleston had water spilling over the 15-foot sea wall at the Battery -- the landmark near “all the iconic Charleston homes.”

"Some houses had waist-high water inside," he said. "One friend with a newborn evacuated to her second floor last night once the water started pouring into her house. Another friend is using sandbags as the water rises and surrounds their house."

Charleston nurse Kate Matthias said flooding was so bad by the University of South Carolina's medical campus that some staff members were told not to come in. But despite the heavy flooding, she didn't observe any intakes with flood-related injuries and said that there wasn't any change from the typical volume of ER visits the hospital normally sees.

Haley urged people to stay inside and resist temptation to go out and take photos or play in the water, as it may be carrying harmful bacteria. 

Such powerful rainfall and flooding related to hurricanes may be intensified by the changing climate, experts say.  

"Joaquin has been traveling over a record-warm ocean surface and undoubtedly that has contributed to its rapid intensification," Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told The Huffington Post last week. "In a very basic sense, warmer ocean surface temperatures mean there is more energy available to strengthen these storms. So we expect more intense hurricanes in general in a warmer world."

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Oregon College Shooter's Father Asks How Did He Get So Many Guns

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2015-10-04 17:13

Ian Mercer was at a loss Saturday for how to explain the shooting at Umpqua Community College, in which his son, Christopher Harper-Mercer, is accused of killing nine people and wounding seven others.

Though he said he had no answers, Mercer told CNN that he did have one question: "How on earth could [Chris] compile 13 guns?" 

Original reports said the 26-year-old had 13 guns; law enforcement later said they had found 14 firearms.

Speaking to CNN outside his California home, Mercer offered his condolences to the families of the victims, acknowledging that "I know words will not bring your family back." He expressed frustration at the now-familiar routine of some people calling for more gun control and lawsmakers accomplishing nothing.

"I'm not trying to say that [it's] to blame for what happened, but if Chris had not been able to get ahold of 13 guns, it would not have happened," Mercer said.  

"Look all over the world. You don't see these mass shootings all over the world like you do in the United States," said the British-born Mercer. "Someone has to ask themselves, 'How is it so easy to get all these guns?'"

The New York Times looked at 14 recent mass shootings, including Thursday's tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon, and found that more than half of the gunmen, including Harper-Mercer, had purchased firearms legally despite their criminal histories and/or documented mental health problems. Harper-Mercer had 14 firearms bought legally either by himself or family members. 

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Ian Mercer said he had not seen his son since "before he left for Oregon" two years ago. Chris Harper-Mercer lived with his mother in Oregon. Former neighbors in California told The New York Times that the mother and son would go to the shooting range together.

Mercer told CNN that he had no idea his son had any guns. He noted that he personally had never held a firearm in his life and summed up his philosophy as: "You don't buy guns, you don't buy guns, you don't buy guns." 

Following his son's suspected suicide, Mercer now finds himself among the chorus of those calling for a change to the gun laws in the U.S. 

"Even people that believe in the right to bear arms, what right do you have to take people's lives?" Mercer said. "That's what guns are: the killers. It's as simple as that. It's black and white. What do you want a gun for?"

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Planned Parenthood, Unplanned Hearing

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2015-10-04 04:00
Ann Richards was the state treasurer of Texas when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Her claim-to-fame was this line about vice president George H.W. Bush, then running for president: "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

Her indictment of Bush was so effective that he won the presidency in that election. Basically, she appealed to the convention's partisans but her delivery came across to others as obnoxious. She helped inspire the Democrats to nominate her own Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as running mate to Michael Dukakis. But she also said, "When we pay billions for planes that won't fly, billions for tanks that won't fire, and billions for systems that won't work, that old dog won't hunt. And you don't have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn't make America strong, that it's a bum deal."

The military complications are two-fold. First, Dukakis became a caricature ridiculed in the general election as he rode in a tank, standing up with his face partly visible from an oversize helmet. Second, Bentsen (remembered mainly for telling Dan Quayle in a VP debate, "I knew John Kennedy, and you're no John Kennedy") was what is now a rarity--a national security Democrat. Indeed, the Texas Monthly had early-on criticized Bentsen, an Air Force bomber pilot in World War II, as part of the "military-industrial complex.... whose solar plexus" is the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Bentsen served. As for all those unworkable military systems that troubled Richards, they did fine three years later in the first Gulf War that in a few days dislodged Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. And Waco: that's where nearly five years after the 1988 convention, the newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno in 1993 authorized a military assault on the Branch Dravidians religious sect, resulting in the death of 76 men, women and children. Imagine if Reagan's AG, Ed Meese, had done that.

With the Richards family, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Cecile Richards, the oldest of Ann Richards' children, is a long-time "liberal activist," like her union organizer husband. Cecile worked in organizations "to counter the Christian right." She also was Nancy Pelosi's deputy chief of staff before graduating to the "progressive" American Votes, a front group for Democrats. A member of the liberal Ford Foundation's board of trustees, she seemed destined for stardom as a newly enfranchised paratrooper fighting against the war-against-women.

Mother Ann Richards had described herself as someone who in her early years "smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish." Early was prolonged. She was, perhaps too late in life, deeply concerned with women's health, a concern inherited by her daughter who apparently is quite healthy as president of Planned Parenthood, where she earns nearly $600,000 annually in pay and benefits, plus expense accounts, many sponsored parties, and for Planned Parenthood executives -- nice hotels and first class airfare. This is more than three times her prior compensation as a taxpayer-paid progressive activist on Capitol Hill

In the world of major nonprofits, Richards' compensation package is not excessive, but it an inviting target since Planned Parenthood receives Federal funds and is facing scrutiny for "harvesting baby tissue." The bulk of the Federal money involves Medicaid reimbursements. It's unclear whether proposed cuts in Federal funding would affect those reimbursements or discretionary funds, amounting to $60 million annually. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform conducted hearings called because of the troubling videos that suggested PP violates Federal law by the way it supposedly performs abortions and adjusts the process to preserve and outsource baby organs. But the videos were unavailable, which is why pro-life columnist Mona Charen wonders http://www.nationalreview.com/article/424867/Planned-Parenthood-Hearings-GOP-Failure why the Republican-dominated committee did not simply postpone the hearing. The answer is not surprising -- bad judgment on the part of the committee's majority, i.e., Republicans. Without the videos, sometimes obtuse questions instead focused on budgeting, revenue, expenses, salaries...sleepy topics compared to, well, selling baby parts.

At the hearing, a proper line of questioning would have been to lead Richards to concede that a recipient of Federal funding should meet certain guidelines, such as fiscal responsibility, and then, after various admissions, pursue her compensation, assorted PP entertainment and fundraising costs, and the fact that it has a surplus, so why does it need Federal funds? The questioning could have slowly probed the services PP provides, walking Richards through the budgeting process, to apportion what percentage of after-fundraising and after-core costs goes for "women's health" versus abortions.

There is this whole matter of women's health. Donald Trump says that Melania and Ivanka can attest that he adores women and will be the best president ever on women's health, certainly better, he says, than low-energy Jeb Bush who speaks Spanish and has a Spanish speaking wife. Bill Cosby is silent on the subject, but in the second Obama-Romney presidential debate in 2012, noted women's advocate Barack Obama explained that women rely on PP for mammograms. Perhaps he, in turn, was relying on what Cecile Richards told CNN the prior year, that a cut off in federal funding to PP would imperial access to mammograms. It turns out that PP doesn't do mammograms. It seems to many to be in the abortion business, and Federal funding could instead be rerouted to women's health centers. PP is capable of raising that shortfall via the private sector.

But all this (and more) was overshadowed by the drama of the aggressive and angry Republican men going after mild mannered Cecile. Charen is correct that the hearing, as it occurred, created television news lifts that highlighted this ganging up on Richards as her inquisitors alternately glared and shouted at her, interrupting her responses. Maybe this was good for the pro-life Republican base and Sean Hannity, but the audience needed to go beyond true believers and talk radio hosts. That's why there are television cameras at a hearing: the committee chairman and his colleagues presumably want to make news, the news that they want... on their issues, not bombast and drama.

The clumsiness has been a hallmark of hearings on Capitol Hill, especially now that the Republicans are in charge. Committee members are more interested in the limelight than in persuading the television audience of any abuses requiring reforms, so that viewers might support a legislative remedy. In the old days, there was a strategy in a committee, with the skilled chief counsel as the prime interrogator. Typically, this accomplished attorney was civil and respectful, courteous and polite, as he or she doggedly pursued a line of questioning, always flexible if the witness made a damaging admission that required unanticipated follow-up. One does not want to make the witness into a victim under siege.

In efficacious hearings, the U.S. Senators or Members of Congress are each allowed limited time for questions, or sometimes only senior members have a role. Regardless, they are scripted in cooperation with the chairman and chief legal counsel. A thoughtful strategy does not allow for repetition, contradictory questions or unintended softballs, or grandstanding, because the questions are asked in a sequence to build a case, to move to a conclusion. The idea is not for the politicians to become so enraged that they become the story, but for the story to be the story.

The same day of the hearing, it was revealed that the Secret Service leaked personal information about Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Absent Chaffetz' ill conceived hearing, he could have played the victim to the Obama Administration, rather than she the victim in the Republicans "War on Women." Indeed, Democrats at the PP hearing were plenty demagogic, as they claimed Republicans were going after Richards because she was a woman, or that they did not want a woman to earn a high salary. The fact is Richards was treated just as well or as poorly as a male witness (committee members are increasingly and indiscriminately uncivil), and no one questioning her salary was concerned in any way about her gender.

Quickly consider the genesis of the hearing. The Center for Medical Progress had released videos, but wisely on a piecemeal basis to extend through multiple news cycles. This is part of a trap - get PP or its supporters to deny, and then introduce new videos that take the story deeper. Among high propensity Republican primary voters, PP became a lightning rod. Donald Trump said PP did good things and he would not endorse a funds cutoff; within days, he had the opposite position. From a standpoint of the issue itself, Republicans would have been better off not politicizing it or making it a centerpiece of the presidential debate. That dialogue made an issue supposedly serious to them as a matter of morality, legality and policy seem like a political football.

At the outset of the release of the tape excerpts, Republicans should have pursued a slow, momentum-building approach to enlist commentators, op-ed columnists, university professors, medical experts, and even find credible people outside politics to react, in other words, to build consensus for an organic movement for defunding, whether partial or targeted. Never mention PP funding, let a groundswell against PP develop. But instead Republicans immediately called for defunding PP, even at the first video. They should have exploited the controversy for as long as possible, leveraging it to turn public sentiment against PP. They could have pursued a viral ad campaign of disenchanted pro-choice moderates who express their disillusionment with PP. But as usual, the Republicans played mainly to their base, and they ended up with another Congressional hearing that, at best, stalled on message and failed to reach new people for their cause. At worst, it seemed like another battle in their alleged war-against-women.

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Hillary Clinton Impersonates Donald Trump On 'SNL'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2015-10-04 03:17

WASHINGTON (AP) — Set 'em up, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and lend an ear to the troubles of a presidential candidate.

The front-runner for the Democratic nomination appeared on the season opener of "Saturday Night Live" as a wise bartender named Val who pours a drink or two for, ahem, Hillary Clinton (played by "SNL" regular Kate McKinnon).

 Most political candidates play themselves on "SNL," often for just a cameo in a sketch or to declare the show's famous tag line, "Live from New York — it's Saturday night!" Seldom do they go all-out thespian and play a character in a sketch.

"So, Hillary," Clinton asks McKinnon, "what brings you here tonight?"

"Well, I needed to blow off some steam," McKinnon says. "I've had a hard couple of 22 years."

 Asked what she does for a living, McKinnon says in imitation of Clinton's earnest monotone: "First, I am a grandmother. Second, I am a human, entrusted with this one green Earth."

"Oh," Clinton says, "you're a politician."

And just who is Val? Clinton deadpans, "I'm just an ordinary citizen who believes the Keystone pipeline will destroy our environment."

From there the skit poked gentle fun at Clinton's slow opposition to the pipeline, her late-arriving support of gay marriage, and her inability to take a vacation. Notably absent was a crack about her private email server, the source of months of criticism from Republican lawmakers and candidates.

Speaking of Republican candidates, at one point Clinton — the real one — mimicked Donald Trump with a hoarse, throaty rendition of his dismissive statement, "Uh, you're all losers."

In a nod to the past, former cast member Darrell Hammond showed up on a barstool as Bill Clinton, who takes a look at Clinton and McKinnon and says, "My god, they're multiplying!"

Overall, the skit was friendly toward Clinton and closed with the former first lady joining McKinnon in singing "Lean on Me." Clinton had another role in the show — introducing the first musical number by host Miley Cyrus.

Republicans didn't fare nearly as well as "SNL" began its 41st season. The opening sketch made fun of Trump and his wife, Melania, and a faux commercial pitched a pill that cures people of thinking they can be president — specifically low-polling GOP candidates Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore.

Clinton has struggled at times to show herself as warm and personable with a sense of humor, qualities that have been valued in modern campaigns driven by broadcast media and now social media. The former secretary of state has already appeared this year on talk shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres.



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Sunday Roundup

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 21:34
This week, the nation was once again shocked by the everyday, as a gunman killed nine at a community college in Oregon. It's the uniquely American gun paradox: how something so horrifying can be so routine. As a somber -- bordering on disgusted -- President Obama noted: "we've become numb to this." In truth, this actually isn't everyday violence - it's more than everyday. In the 274 days of 2015, we've had 294 mass shootings. And 986 since Sandy Hook in 2012. The question is, when will our level of disgust be high enough that we do what's needed to lower the body count? "If you think this is a problem," said the president, "then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views." Until that happens, he said, we all bear a share of the blame: "We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction." Will we rise to the challenge?

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Bernie Sanders Doubles Down On Gun Control

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 20:04

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) doubled down on his support for tighter gun control legislation on Thursday in the wake of the mass shooting at an Oregon community college. 

“The president is right. Condolences are not enough,” Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Thursday. “We’ve got to do something … We need sensible gun control legislation.”

Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful, went on to specify that he supports banning assault weapons and closing the loophole that exempts private, unlicensed gun sales from background checks -- often known as the “gun show loophole." The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that 40 percent of guns sold in the United States are purchased via private, unlicensed sales.

Sanders added that he believes we also need to “significantly improve” the U.S. mental health system.

Democrats have accused Sanders of being insufficiently committed to gun control. Sanders voted against the Brady Bill, which established mandatory background checks in 1993, and voted for a law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits from victims of violence. 

Sanders voted for the Manchin-Toomey amendment in 2013, however, which would have expanded background checks and banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Sanders has staunchly defended his record. He maintains that his objections to the Brady Bill, for example, were due to the inclusion of a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases, rather than the background checks themselves, and boasts of his D-minus ranking from the National Rifle Association. 

As a senator from a rural state with lax gun laws, Sanders has argued that he is uniquely positioned to bridge the divide between gun control advocates and their opponents -- a sentiment he reiterated on MSNBC on Thursday.

“What we need, Chris, as a nation, is to get beyond the shouting,” Sanders said. “Some people want to ban every gun in America and some people believe in nothing at all. I think the vast majority of the American people, as the president indicated, including gun owners -- and I know that's true here in Vermont -- want sensible gun control legislation and they also believe that we should have more access to mental health facilities and counselors than we presently do.” 

But Sanders demurred when asked whether he had become more supportive of gun control over the years, contending that his support for universal background checks has been consistent.

He also declined to endorse more aggressive gun control measures like those adopted by Australia and the United Kingdom, which President Barack Obama mentioned in his remarks on Thursday.

“I don't know that anybody knows what the magic solution is,” Sanders said.

“You can sit there and say, ‘I think we should do this and do that.’ But you got a whole lot of  states in this country where people want virtually no gun control at all,” he added. “And if we are going to have some success, we are going to have to start talking to each other.”

Assurances notwithstanding, Sanders’ rivals in the Democratic field see gun policy as an area where they may have an advantage over the Vermont senator with progressive rank-and-file Democratic primary voters. A super PAC supporting former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s presidential bid released a video in June citing Sanders’ past votes, concluding, “Bernie Sanders is no progressive when it comes to guns.”

Hillary Clinton, the putative Democratic front-runner, and groups affiliated with her, have thus far refrained from attacking Sanders on the issue.

Clinton spoke out forcefully in favor of gun control legislation after Thursday’s massacre, attacking what she called the National Rifle Association’s “single-minded, absolutist” view that the constitution precludes any gun safety regulation at all.

"I'm going to try to do everything I can as president to raise up an equally large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance [against the NRA],” Clinton said in an interview Thursday night with Janet Wu of the Boston ABC affiliate WCVB. "And we're going to tell legislators, do not be afraid.  Stand up to these people, because a majority of the population and a majority of gun owners agree that there should be universal background checks. And the NRA has stood in the way."

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The Bob & Chez Show Podcast: Another Mass Shooting and Another Do-Nothing Congress, Plus the Next House Speaker Can't Speak

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 20:00
Today's topics include: The 294th Mass Shooting in America This Year; Chuck C. Johnson Publishes 14-Year-Old's Phone Number; Terrorist Attack on California Planned Parenthood; Huckabee Derps on Benghazi; the Next Speaker of the House is a Flaming Moron; Kevin McCarthy Says Benghazi Hearings are All About Hillary; and much more.

Download the mp3 (53 minutes, 22mb)
Listen and subscribe on iTunes (it's FREE!)
Support the show at Patreon

The Bob & Chez Show is a funny, fast-paced political podcast that doesn't take itself too seriously. The twice-weekly podcast is hosted by Bob Cesca (Salon.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Banter, The Stephanie Miller Show), and CNN/MSNBC producer turned writer Chez Pazienza. Follow the show at www.bobcesca.com with ​thanks to Price Benowitz.

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U.S. Dodges Responsibility For Saudi Airstrikes That Kill Yemeni Civilians

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 19:35

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is moving to distance itself from the mounting civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, while simultaneously providing targeting assistance to a Saudi Arabian-led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes over Yemen for the past six months.

United Nations officials say the coalition is responsible for the majority of the country's civilian deaths, which recently surpassed 2,300.

Last Saturday, airstrikes targeting Taiz, a city about 170 miles south of the capital, killed over 130 people attending a wedding. Yemen’s International Red Crescent Society reported that two of its volunteers, Qaed Faisal, 28, and Omar Fareh, 31, were killed by the shelling in a neighboring area on the same day.

Riyadh’s bombing campaign began in March, as Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country under assault from a Shiite Houthi insurgency. The U.S., eager to prevent the impoverished country from falling under control of al Qaeda fighters there, has backed the Saudi Arabian effort to restore Hadi’s rule.

But human rights groups accused the Saudi coalition of conducting indiscriminate airstrikes and unnecessarily endangering the civilian population. The International Red Crescent Society has already lost eight staff members and volunteers from the shelling.

White House officials said they were “shocked and saddened” by last week’s wave of civilian deaths, but said they were not responsible. “The United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen,” said White House spokesman Ned Price in a statement on Friday night. “Nevertheless, we have consistently reinforced to members of the Coalition the imperative of precise targeting,” he added.

Friday’s statement seemed to contradict earlier news reports, where U.S. Central Command officials said they provide “targeting assistance” to the Saudi-led coalition. When asked about the discrepancy, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post, "There is a clear distinction between logistical and intelligence support, which we have provided, and taking part in targeting decisions, which we do not do.” The official noted that the support the U.S. provides to the coalition is intended to increase accuracy of airstrikes conducted by its allies and minimize civilian deaths.

A recent Congressional Research Service report said the U.S. sold $90 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2014, including fighter aircraft, helicopters, missile defense systems, missiles, bombs and armored vehicles. The report noted that the U.S. has supplied the Saudis with American-made weaponry for its military intervention in Yemen and has shared intelligence to support Riyadh’s targeting decisions.

The White House’s effort to distance itself from the most recent round of civilian deaths in Yemen comes two days after Saudi Arabia successfully resisted a Dutch effort at the U.N. Human Rights Council -- a body now led by Riyadh -- to send an independent human rights team into Yemen to investigate human rights violations committed by all parties during the civil war.

Instead, the Saudis offered a resolution that puts the U.N. in a supporting role in an inquiry headed by Hadi, the exiled Yemeni president -- who is a party to the conflict.

While the U.S. supported the initial Dutch resolution, they made no public effort to block the Saudi government from killing the independent investigation. Keith Harper, the U.S. representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, told The Associated Press that while he supported the Dutch initiative, he preferred a consensus outcome, meaning one that had the backing of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was named head of the Human Rights Council last month, prompting observers to question the propriety of giving the country such a position while its government commits flagrant human rights abuses, both in its military intervention in Yemen and by beheading activists at home. When asked if the U.S. was troubled by the move, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, “We would welcome it. We’re close allies.”

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Why Afghanistan Is Going To Fall To The Taliban Again. And It's Not Why You Think.

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 19:04

Last week, the Taliban began the process of retaking Afghanistan, starting with the northern city of Kunduz. The U.S. and Afghan governments have since been battling to recapture it -- a fight that included the U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed at least 12 medical staff, along with at least seven patients, on Saturday.

The Taliban has since charged that Afghan intelligence purposely gave the U.S. the hospital's coordinates. Even the possibility that such an accusation is true -- and the duration of the sustained attack suggests that something unusual happened -- points toward the reason that Afghanistan is headed back toward Taliban control: The government is thoroughly corrupt, and the U.S. has been unwilling to take measures to address the situation. While a handful of civilian and military leaders identified corruption as an existential threat to the country, the problem remains unsolved. 

From 2:08 until 3:15 AM local time today, our hospital was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approx 15 minute intervals #Kunduz

— MSF International (@MSF) October 3, 2015

After covering the invasion of Afghanistan, former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes decided to stay in the country to try to help turn it around. She opened a business in Kandahar and probably spent more time living directly with the Afghan people -- without security guards -- than any other American since 2001. Chayes ultimately went to work for coalition forces in the region, sharing the fundamental insight she'd gained: Corruption was eroding public support of the government. She won audiences with all the right people, and even made some converts, but ultimately, her counsel wasn't taken by the U.S. government as a whole.

Chayes turned her experience into the groundbreaking book Thieves of State, which forecasts that corrupt governments will continue to be the targets of insurgents who win public support. Like the Iraqi army did in Mosul and elsewhere a year earlier, the Afghan army and police in Kunduz simply melted away.

Support -- or, at least, a lack of opposition -- from the local population has been key to the Taliban's success. Over a period of a few years, the Taliban gradually crept closer to Kunduz and ultimately embedded its militants in the suburbs. Then, in less than a day, they took over the city.

Reporting from the region makes it clear that the Afghan government lost the population as a result of its corruption. The way it erodes public support is intuitive: Imagine that you are an Afghan civilian generally opposed to the extremism of the Taliban. Yet for nearly everything you need to do -- travel to and from work, transport merchandise, enroll in school, open a business -- you get shaken down, often by somebody of a different ethnicity. The Taliban, with all its piety, at least might not be corrupt, you start to think. As The New York Times reported last week:

Over the past few years, faith in the government and the warlords who were allied with the government, never strong, has rapidly diminished. Militias and Afghan Local Police forces installed by the American Special Forces were largely unaccountable. They extorted protection money from farmers, and committed rapes and robberies. But because they had guns and the backing of local strongmen close to the government, people’s complaints were ignored.


In Khanabad, a district southeast of Kunduz City, for instance, residents complained that the local militias were worse than the Taliban in part because while the Taliban would only demand payment once for a harvest, there was often more than one militia, each demanding its own share.


Over time, as villages threw their lot in with the Taliban, the insurgents’ cordon around Kunduz grew tighter. By last year the city felt so under siege that police officers were resistant to driving in a marked government vehicle for fear a Taliban fighter on a motorbike would slap a magnetic bomb on it.

Chayes has since moved back to the U.S. to work as a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I asked her a few questions about Kunduz and the future of Iraq, and she noted that this isn't the first time the coalition has accidentally slaughtered civilians in Kunduz, with devastating political repercussions.

What do you see as the connection between corruption and the fall of Kunduz and the surrounding area?

Like the Islamic State's capture of large parts of Iraq, the Taliban successes in and around Kunduz are the almost inevitable consequence of corrupt and abusive governance.  This is not a recent phenomenon.  Back in the spring of 2009, when I first looked closely at Kunduz, the governor was famous for his land grabs.  In an arid place like Afghanistan, almost entirely dependent on high-end agriculture, fruit growing and such, land is incredibly precious. Stealing someone's land is worse than murdering them.  The German military had responsibility for the province, and the intelligence chief's assessment was "everyone around him is corrupt."  That was six and a half years ago, and nothing changed in the interim.  Years of built-up grievances and no avenue of recourse drive people to extremes. We've been seeing that in the U.S. lately; we shouldn't be surprised to see it -- even if in different forms -- in Afghanistan.

And not only has corruption in Kunduz been causing indignation, which prompts some to join the Taliban, or at least to choose not to interfere with their activities, but there has been evidence over the years of collusion between government officials and the Taliban, selling them munitions and supplies, corrupt judges letting them out of jail and so on.  

President [Mohammad] Ashraf Ghani's more recent efforts to fix local administration may have been too abrupt, and too focused on hard security -- not enough on legitimate grievances and community consensus-building -- to repair the damage.

Could the Taliban have returned without government corruption?

I don't think so. There is nothing magical about the Taliban. They're Afghans, like the population of Kunduz. If that population was proud of its government, they could keep the Taliban out.

But there are four aggravating factors that have made matters worse:

1. The Afghan Local Police initiative. This was (likely) a brainchild of then-Gen. David Petraeus, modeled on Iraq. The idea, first launched in Afghanistan in 2009, and in Kunduz a couple of years later, was to briefly train and stand up local militias to fight the Taliban. The notion was that U.S. special forces would be working with them, they would be supervised by local elders and unlikely to commit depredations against their neighbors.

I was against this initiative from the start, and argued hard against it when I worked for the commander of the international troops (the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF).  I didn't see how the solution to poorly trained and disciplined police and armed forces was even less well-trained and disciplined local militias. And sure enough, ALP units quickly became the scourge of their neighbors, shaking people down, committing human rights abuses, and so on.  They were loyal to local strongmen, not village elders, and created just the kind of chaotic and violent environment that had led to the rise of the Taliban in the first place in 1994. The existence of formal ALP, moreover, became the pretext for every local warlord to stand up his own personal militia, calling it ALP.

2. Ethnic divisions. Such a situation was particularly problematic in Kunduz, because, [as] a kind of microcosm of Afghanistan as a whole, Kunduz province is deeply divided along ethnic lines. That means that any corruption the governor might perpetrate is doubly painful to victims who are members of the other ethnic group, since they see the slight as one to their whole community. Similarly with the ALP: Those units tended to be manned by non-Pashtuns. And the Taliban are largely Pashtun. So, local Pashtuns started seeing the Taliban as their only defenders against the abuses of these militias. 

So local Pashtuns started seeing the Taliban as their only defenders against the abuses of these militias.

In research we at Carnegie have been doing in other countries, we've identified deep ethnic rifts as an additional risk factor that, combined with corruption, makes security crises more likely. Syria, Iraq and Ukraine corroborate the hypothesis.

3. National-level chaos. The U.S., in its wisdom, decided that the solution to a completely botched election last year -- in which both leading candidates forged thousands of votes -- was to force them to govern together in a two-headed "national unity" government, which is anything but national or unified. Now Afghanistan has a president and a "chief executive," an office that does not exist in the Afghan Constitution that the U.S. helped write and swears by. The result has been complete paralysis. A year after the election, there is still no defense minister. Can you imagine an army functioning properly with an "acting" in charge of the ministry?  

4. History of Taliban implantation. It's not as if the Taliban picked Kunduz out of a hat. It was their last bastion in the north in 2001. Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers were among the Taliban taken prisoner there, and were allowed to fly back to Pakistan.

If the status quo prevails, will the Taliban takeover continue?

I don't see why it wouldn't.  

There's a pattern that I wouldn't be surprised to see repeated. In the south, where I lived, what would often happen is a dramatic Taliban offensive, capture of a key site, followed by a government/ISAF recapture. But when you looked closely, you found that the Taliban had in fact executed a "strategic withdrawal." That is, they had faded away in the face of the counter-attack. This would usually happen in the summer or fall. Then, during the winter, they'd filter back into the area, start intimidating and assassinating people, and work their way back in. So, by the next year, they actually controlled all the territory they had gained briefly in that initial attack, but had regained it almost invisibly. The first dramatic military assault was really aimed at sending a message to the local population. It was psychological warfare.  

Could this have been predicted and prevented?

I just looked at my notes from that first trip I took to Kunduz with the ISAF command group -- when Kunduz was emerging as a serious security problem. It was on May 17, 2009.

But the U.S. government made a decision -- finalized in 2011 -- not to prioritize governance issues in its handling of Afghanistan. Also not to call the government of Pakistan on its active support for Taliban and Haqqani insurgents. Once those two decisions were made, it was impossible to prevent the current capture of Kunduz. But if either of those decisions had gone the other way, I think this was eminently preventable.

How can the U.S. respond?

This context means the almost exclusive focus of U.S. debate on whether or not more U.S. troops should have been left in Afghanistan -- or in Iraq, for that matter -- is almost entirely beside the point. Of course, overwhelming numbers of U.S. troops could curb extremist advances. But without addressing the underlying governance issues, such a pause would only last as long as the U.S. troops were present. So what's the answer ... keep U.S. troops in these countries forever?

On the other hand, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, I think the window of opportunity to exert real leverage on governance and corruption is closed. So, I'm afraid I don't see how the U.S. can helpfully respond in Afghanistan, at this point.  We had more than a decade, and we squandered a remarkable moment in history. 

 This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Changed Bill Maher's Mind About Water On Mars

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 17:18

Bill Maher was not into the big Mars news when it came out. Then Neil deGrasse Tyson came along.

On Friday's "Real Time," Maher explained deGrasse Tyson actually convinced him that the discovery of water on Mars was extremely important. 

"I'm admitting, you know, I changed my mind," Maher said before deGrasse Tyson went into his "spiel" about how many important discoveries like atoms and electricity were also written off at first and how life on Earth could've possibly been "seeded" from Mars. 

More importantly, the scientist also says there is ice at the poles of Mars, prompting Maher to ask the most vital question, "So they might have room service?"

"Possibly," deGrasse Tyson laughed.

"Real Time with Bill Maher" airs Friday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Richard Dawkins: College Students Are Betraying The Free Speech Movement

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 17:10

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a famously outspoken atheist, said Friday the trend of students pushing to disinvite speakers on college campuses is a "betrayal" of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. 

Dawkins, speaking with Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time," discussed the idea of "regressive leftism" and how typically liberal crowds -- like college students -- have acted in non-liberal ways. Dawkins drew on the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, a famous protest by students demanding academic freedom and for the school to lift restrictions on political activity on campus.

"What a betrayal we're seeing now with campuses all over the Western world over -- America and Britain -- are denying people the right to come and speak on campuses. If you can't speak your mind on a university campus, where can you? I mean, that's what universities are about," Dawkins declared.

Students at UC Berkeley, Dawkins' alma mater, attempted to disinvite Maher from speaking at their winter commencement in 2014 over his comments about Islam. University officials rebuffed their students, and Maher spoke there in December. 

A large number of students in recent years have pushed to disinvite speakers because they disagree with them or their organization on political grounds.

"If you only get exposed to ideas you believe in," Dawkins asked, "what kind of university would that be?"

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More Bush "S---" from Jeb!

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 16:49
Poor Jeb. He's stepped in it again. Responding to the possible need for new gun laws following the most recent school shootings and killings, this time Roseburg, Oregon, Jeb noted, "Look, stuff happens."

I suppose this "stuff happens" is a polite way paraphrasing the classic "sh-- happens." It does seem that Jeb is full of Bush "stuff."

And Jeb wasn't backing down. A reporter asked him if he thought what he said was a mistake, and Jeb replied, "No, it wasn't a mistake. I said exactly what I said...explain to me why what I said wrong."

I think I can explain it. This was the 45th school shooting this year in our nation. Add in movie theatres, military bases, churches, and other venues where more than four people were shot and you are at 294 mass shootings so far in 2015. That's a lot of "stuff." And we still have three more months left in the year.

It has often been said "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Perhaps it's time take an honest and open look at our gun laws. Maybe, just maybe, there is some room for improvement and compromise? That might be a better approach than the dismissive comment that "stuff happens." There may be a reason why Jeb's poll numbers are so dismal.

On the other hand, Jeb does rank high with the National Rifle Association. He certain has earned his reported A+ rating from the NRA. He was the governor of Florida who signed the "Stand Your Ground" legislation in 2005.

In his defense, Jeb was not completely insensitive to the Roseburg shooting victims. He did tweet this: "More importantly, go here to support OR victims through the Greater Douglas United Way and Umpqua Bank Relief Fund: http://www.gduway.org/announcements/ucc-relief-fund ..."

Thanks Jeb.

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Hillary Clinton Earns Backing Of Nation's Largest Union

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 15:06

WASHINGTON -- The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday.

The union’s campaign arm had indicated that it was recommending the endorsement earlier this week, as Politico first reported. Members of the 3-million-strong union who support Clinton’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have already protested the move, just as Sanders supporters from the American Federation of Teachers did when Clinton secured that union's endorsement in July.

"Clinton is a strong leader who will do what is best for America’s students. For more than four decades, Clinton has fought to make sure all children have a fair opportunity to succeed regardless of their ZIP code," said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, in a statement. "Clinton will continue to advocate on behalf of students, educators and working families because she understands the road to a stronger U.S. economy starts in America’s public schools.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, García said that Clinton personally came and spoke to the organization's 175-person board of directors in a session that left them "blew them away" because of Clinton's understanding of what a president would have to do on certain education issues.

“As a lifelong fighter for children and families, I am deeply honored to have earned the endorsement of the National Education Association and their nearly 3 million members," Clinton said in a statement after the endorsement was announced.

The NEA’s campaign arm had said that it believed Clinton was the candidate best positioned to win in the general election next year. But both Clinton and Sanders had received “A” ratings on the group’s congressional legislative scorecard.

Despite not earning the endorsement of the national union, Sanders issued a statement on Saturday thanking the members who did support him.

“I am proud to have the support of many hundreds of thousands of members of the National Education Association and trade unionists all across America. We are going to win this nomination and the general election because of support from grassroots Americans. We are on track to do just that.”

The NEA’s early endorsement of Clinton is out of step with its 2008 process, when it waited to endorse President Barack Obama until after he had secured his party’s nomination. Sanders supporters within the ranks of other unions that have endorsed Clinton have expressed frustration and anger that their respective unions decided to endorse in the primary at all.

García said that the decision not to get involved in the 2008 primary was a factor in the union's decision to back a candidate in the primary race this time around.

"People did talk about that. Were we there to impact the debate? Were we there to influence the candidates?" she asked. "I think what won the day on when [is that] people said, 'You know, if you don't get in when it counts, it doesn't count when you get in.'"

But some of the NEA’s state chapters hadn’t waited until the national body made its decision. The Vermont NEA endorsed Sanders, while the New Hampshire chapter picked Clinton in September. Other chapters had urged the national board to wait longer before making an endorsement.

But the NEA chose Clinton, García said, because she was the candidate who the union felt would be best able to highlight education issues in the presidential race.

"It was never a discussion about who's for education who's against education. People are gonna make up their own minds we get that, we understand that, we respect that," she said. 

The NEA’s interests include ending competitive block grant programs supported by Obama like “Race to the Top,” and scaling back federally mandated “high-stakes” standardized testing that influences administrative decisions about teachers. Members of the Democratic Party have been divided over the merits of changes in public education, including more funding for charter schools and teacher evaluation systems influenced by standardized test scores.

“It’s just dead wrong to make teachers the scapegoats for all of society’s problems,” Clinton told the AFT earlier this year, according to The Washington Post. “Where I come from, teachers are the solution. And I strongly believe that unions are part of the solution, too.”

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While Clinton has been careful to avoid antagonizing either the school choice camp or the teachers unions, she has frequently called out Republican attacks against collective bargaining and organizing on the campaign trail. She’s also delighted unions by coming out against the Affordable Care Act’s impending tax on high-cost insurance plans. Unions are campaigning to have the tax repealed because they fear it will shift more out-of-pocket costs to their members.

Clinton has secured more union endorsements than Sanders. But her campaign experienced a setback this week when the International Association of Fire Fighters abandoned its earlier plan to endorse her. And two other major unions -- the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- have indicated that they will take more time to consult their members about an endorsement in the primary.

This story has been updated to include comment from Lily Eskelsen García.

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The University of Texas Faculty Are Watching Oregon Uneasily

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 14:34
Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin

I fear our senses will become dulled to horrific news like Thursday's, when a gunman opened fire on an Oregon community college, killing nine and wounding 10. I fear we will forget, again and again.

Oregon is one of the seven states that now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public post-secondary campuses.

Although this latest shooting took place halfway across the country, it hit close to home here in Austin, Texas.

New 'campus carry' law

Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 11, also known as the "campus carry" law. The law provides that license holders may carry concealed handguns in university buildings and classrooms, extending the reach of a previous law that allowed concealed handguns on university grounds. The law goes into effect August 1 2016 for public colleges and universities and a year later for community colleges.

As a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, I wonder if we are just supposed to forget and carry on, pretending this is not an issue, writing it off as another instance of "how things are here in Texas"?

I fear that, given the letter of the law and the limited exceptions that it allows, we will have to get used to guns inside our classrooms.

I fear that the fact of sharing a classroom with students "packing heat" will stop shocking us as it now does.

I fear I should not even be writing this, as many gun rights activists take reactions to the extreme when an opposing view is offered.

A problem for recruitment

Signs like this may soon be illegal on UT campus.
Lars Plougmann/flickr, CC BY

This state of affairs also saddens me because I believe it will irrevocably hurt a university that for the last two decades has worked hard to become a top institution of higher education.

Even as UT President Greg Fenves works with us to develop a policy for implementation of campus carry, the new law presents an ethical puzzle. Could I now, in good conscience, attempt to persuade a prospective graduate student or faculty - the "top talent" the university seeks to attract - to join us? I don't think I can.

Another law passed by the Legislature this year, SB 273, might prevent me and 170 other faculty members who have signed a petition stating they don't want guns in their classroom from hanging a sign saying "no guns allowed." The law might even forbid me from stating in my syllabus that I won't allow guns. To what extent that conflicts with "free speech" is another - but, at least for me, less important - legal matter.

Shouldn't I tell prospective students and faculty that I am, in fact, profoundly afraid and that they should think twice about coming to the University of Texas? If we are honest, the law will effectively prevent us from recruiting highly sought-after faculty and students.

Refuse to forget

Here's another idea: We could agree to refuse to forget about SB 11.

We could manifest our opposition and, if necessary, refuse to teach in classrooms where guns are allowed. We could hang signs stating that we don't allow guns - at the risk, as many a lawyer already warned us, of being fined.

Parents of UT students could write letters to university administrators and legislators expressing their worries about the one (heavily) documented effect this bill will have - ie, making campuses less safe spaces.

My students could get over their hesitancy to tell their parents about this new development. "If I tell my mother, she will transfer me," is the sentiment they express now. I think parents are right to be concerned. I wouldn't want my own sons to attend this university.

I've been around guns (big and small). I've been a soldier and I do research on interpersonal violence.

With campus carry, social, political or academic interactions will have the potential to explode in lethal violence. We knew that before the campus-carry law passed, and we know it now.

I can dwell on the arguments, I can show numbers, piles of evidence and case studies all confirming these facts.

But the campus-carry debate in the Legislature was not about logical, evidence-based, argumentation.

Had it been about logics and evidence, the reasons persuasively put forward by UT Chancellor William H McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, and Art Acevedo, chief of the Austin Police Department - both of whom know a thing or two about the subject - would have been heeded. They both opposed the new legislation with a similar argument: Allowing concealed weapons to be carried on campuses would create "less-safe" environments.

Lawmakers did not examine their arguments or anyone else's because the "debate" was not about reason but about interests - the legislators' interests and those of the organizations that support them. They, folks who neither teach nor do research, enacted a law that makes no sense for any the parties affected, and now we have to deal with the consequences.

In the same spirit of defending personal and organizational interests, let me express my hope that the university will make provisions to protect the interests of the students, staff and faculty who want to work, teach and learn in gun-free environments where everybody can freely express his or her ideas without fear.

Javier Auyero, Professor of Latin American Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Amid the Crowing of the GOP and Clinton, Sanders Is on the Rise

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 13:12
How easy it is to mock the Republican candidates. They're the gang in the clown car climbing all over each other to offer a reactionary message of disarray that has all but destroyed the chances of the Bush family dynasty continuing. But isn't that a grand achievement for the democratic process?

Why continue a political legacy that has failed in so many dramatic ways to serve the needs of the American public, instead giving us irrational but high-tech wars dealing death from the skies, heartless banking deregulation boosting the fortunes of the rich at the expense of the vast majority, and a vast state apparatus of surveillance enforced by the imprisonment of any whistleblowers who dare reveal its existence?

Good riddance to bad rubbish, except that the alternatives of Trump, Fiorina or Carson only make Jeb Bush look stunningly reasonable in comparison. The other problem is that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, is not fundamentally different from the scion of the Bush dynasty. She is instead a perfect stand-in for Jeb Bush if, as appears likely, the Republican Party should reject him for the sin, as with House Speaker John Boehner, of appearing too moderate. For Democrats, appearing moderate is quite easy, as Clinton proved as a senator and secretary of state: Just carry water for the military-industrial complex and Wall Street while pretending to be concerned about the ordinary folks who suffer from those costly policies.

Clinton, in rhetoric and action, will never allow a Republican opponent to appear more hawkish than herself. In the general election, she will burnish her record of support for every bit of military folly from George W.'s invasion of Iraq to her own engineering of the campaign to overthrow all secular dictators in the Middle East who have proved to be an inconvenience to the Saudi theocracy.

During her tenure in the Obama administration, Clinton, by her own frequent boastful admission, was the hawk in the Cabinet pressuring the president to be even more aggressive in his drone assassinations and murderous air wars, which have destabilized the region and created what the pope recently termed the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

But it is the still troubled economy that will dominate the election, and it is the failure of the Democratic Party establishment--now represented singularly by Clinton--to deal with the lingering recession that explains the startling rise of Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate.

The Vermont senator's success is not a result of charisma or image manipulation, both of which he quite properly treats as dangerous distractions from what ails us, but rather his deeply informed critique of the bipartisan policies of Presidents Clinton and Bush that have brought so much misery in their wakes.

What makes Sanders appear less formidable to the party bosses is that although he is now matching Hillary Clinton in the all-important fundraising category, he has received mainly small contributions. That and the fact that his positions on health care and banking regulation take on entrenched moneyed interests rather than cravenly cater to them.

Whereas Sanders supports the efforts by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. John McCain to restore the Glass-Steagall barrier against merging commercial and investment banking, Clinton still insists her husband did the right thing in signing off on the reversal of the sensible banking practice initiated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to prevent another Great Depression.

A year after he approved the destruction of the Glass-Steagall Act, Bill Clinton signed off on an even more egregious enabler of banking greed called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that certainly enhanced Hillary's future Senate fundraising prospects. Even then-Rep. Bernie Sanders fell for that one. Only four members of the House, Ron Paul among them, had the courage and wisdom to vote against legislation that banned any regulation of the newfangled default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that came close to wrecking the world's economy.

Hopefully Sanders has learned from that moment not to trust the Clintons to guard against the chicanery of bankers. He should challenge Hillary's claimed concern for the well-being of black and brown people, who right now are her advantage in polling. As the St. Louis Federal Reserve recently reported, even college-educated minorities were particularly devastated by the mortgage scams made legal through Bill Clinton's banking "modernization."

What voters of every racial or ethnic group should understand is that the Clinton gift--worth billions to the banking industry--robbed all working Americans of the opportunity to improve their lot, as shown by the astounding growth in wealth inequality since the Clinton presidency.

Are we really ready for another Clinton?

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Democrats To Target Gun Loophole With New Bill

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 12:58

Democratic senators from Connecticut announced Friday that they are introducing a bill to close a loophole that allows people who have not completed background checks to buy guns. 

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are sponsoring legislation that would ban the “default to proceed” loophole, which allows gun dealers to sell guns to people if the FBI does not notify them that the sale is against the law within 72 hours. Some states already ban such sales, but many other states do not, and federal law doesn't require it. 

There is no evidence thus far that the gunman who perpetrated the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, on Thursday benefitted from this loophole. But Dylann Roof purchased one of the guns he used in the Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre through “default to proceed,” Blumenthal noted in an interview on CNN Saturday with Michael Smerconish. The FBI did not complete a background check for Roof in time because of a clerical error that concealed his arrest for drug possession in February. 

“The point is not only that specific instances would have been prevented, but simply that America can be made safer by keeping this wash of weapons out of the hands of dangerous people,” Blumenthal said. 

In 2012, "default to proceed" sales allowed 3,722 people with criminal records or mental health issues who would otherwise be barred from buying guns to purchase them, and allowed 2,500 to do so in 2014, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Walmart, the nation's largest gun seller, does not allow "default to proceed" gun sales. Blumenthal, Murphy and 11 other senators called on other top dealers like Cabela's, EZ Pawn and Bass Pro Shop to do the same in August, but they have refused to change their policies.

These businesses' refusal to end default sales voluntarily is part of what motivated the lawmakers to propose banning the practice nationwide, Blumenthal said on Saturday.

Connecticut, Blumenthal’s home state and the site of the infamous massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is one of the states that bans “default to proceed” gun sales.

He argued, however, that other states' looser gun laws endanger the residents of states with stricter regulations because weapons can easily move from state to state.

“The weakest link in the system among the states can populate the rest of the country with guns," he said, "because our boundaries and borders are so porous that illegal trafficking means that guns can spread across the country, can come to New York or Connecticut, [which have] tough gun laws, through the means of transport from the Southern states, where there are relatively weak laws."

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) introduced a similar bill in the House in July in response to the Charleston shooting, but it remains in committee and is unlikely to advance. Other lawmakers have introduced a variety of gun safety bills.

Federal law does not require background checks for private unlicensed gun sales, such as those at gun shows, enabling convicted felons and others ineligible to buy guns to purchase them in states that have not subjected these sales to background checks individually. Blumenthal also said he supports mandating background checks for unlicensed sales nationwide.

Blumenthal and Murphy's bill faces an uphill battle, since Republicans control both houses of Congress and almost uniformly oppose new gun safety legislation.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that while background checks for unlicensed gun sales are not mandated by federal law, some states do require them. 

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Justice Breyer Couldn't Save Richard Glossip, But He Won The Day Anyway

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-10-03 12:20

When lawyers for Richard Glossip filed a last-minute request with the Supreme Court late Tuesday to halt his execution, the justices were already familiar with his name.

In June, a splintered court rejected a constitutional challenge Glossip and other death-row inmates had mounted against Oklahoma's lethal-injection scheme -- specifically, the use of midazolam, a sedative they said was ineffective at preventing excruciating pain. 

A number of botched executions lent weight to the prisoners' claim. They took place in the same McAlester, Oklahoma, penitentiary that neglected to get the correct drugs the day of Glossip's scheduled execution -- a failure of protocol that forced Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to call the whole thing off and the attorney general to urge a court to suspend any future executions.

Oddly, none of this incompetence would have come to light had the Supreme Court heeded the voice of the lone justice who would've spared Glossip's life on Wednesday: Stephen Breyer.

The court's short, unsigned order didn't explain why there weren't enough justices willing to grant Glossip a stay of execution, and we'll likely never know. But it did note Breyer would have, and that willingness tells us something about the whole Glossip drama, and maybe even the future of the death penalty in America.

When a divided Supreme Court first ruled against Glossip and the other inmates in Glossip v. Gross, as the lethal-injection case came to be known, it was the last day of a historic year for the court -- with gay marriage, Obamacare and other landmark disputes already resolved.

But if those cases already caused deep disagreement among the justices, the Glossip case did even more so. 

From oral arguments up to the very day it was decided, Glossip exasperated the conservatives on the court. Watching the case unfold, there was a sense that they viewed the litigation as no more than a coordinated attack -- or in the words of Justice Samuel Alito, a "guerilla war" -- by death-penalty opponents against Oklahoma's democratic choice to put people to death using whatever drugs it could get its hands on.

"Now, this court has held that the death penalty is constitutional," Alito reminded Glossip's lawyer at a hearing in April. "It's controversial as a constitutional matter. It certainly is controversial as a policy matter. Those who oppose the death penalty are free to try to persuade legislatures to abolish the death penalty."

That was the formalistic view that ultimately prevailed in the case: Call on your legislator, not the courts. But Breyer disagreed with that view. In a historic dissent -- joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- that ended up grabbing all the headlines, he said the Supreme Court "had a judicial responsibility" to address the dysfunction of the death penalty. He may as well have been one of the abolitionists himself.

To Breyer, Glossip wasn't a case about drug cocktails or even state prerogatives, but about "a more basic question": whether "the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment."

 "Cruel and unusual" is what the Eighth Amendment forbids. And so in the span of 41 pages and armed with research studies and statistics, Breyer addressed how the systemic failures of capital punishment, in the aggregate, violate the constitutional mandate.

"Cruel—Lack of Reliability," or the sheer number of individuals who are wrongfully sent to death row for crimes they didn't commit. "Cruel—Arbitrariness," or how states dole out death sentences based on no readily identifiable standard, including the whims of prosecutors, factors such as race or gender, or a failure to condemn even the "worst of the worst." "Cruel—Excessive Delays," or the lengthy wait periods inmates are made to endure on death row, which in turn calls into question whether the death penalty even serves a penological purpose. "Unusual—Decline in the Use of the Death Penalty," or how these sentences are concentrated in a handful of counties across the United States.

Each of these "constitutional defects," taken together, "concern the infliction—indeed the unfair, cruel, and unusual infliction—of a serious punishment upon an individual," Breyer reasoned.

Breyer's bold announcement infuriated Antonin Scalia. The conservative justice had no reason to say anything in the Glossip case -- he agreed with everything the majority said about Oklahoma's lethal-injection protocol -- but he felt the need to respond and aim all his darts at Breyer, whom he called "the Drum Major in this parade" to abolish the death penalty.

And maybe he is. Because to this day, his words on the matter are still resonating. In an interview with MSNBC that aired Friday, Breyer echoed much of what he wrote in Glossip and again recounted the ills of state-sponsored killing, comparing its arbitrariness to "being hit like lightning 40 years later."

"All that put together convinced me that there is a good case to be made" under the Constitution against the death penalty, Breyer said, and "that the court should hear the case."

That was the same Breyer who, on Wednesday, was the only one on the Supreme Court willing to stay Glossip's execution -- if only, perhaps, to spare him from a regime the justice now believes to be at odds with the Constitution.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on the day of his now-cancelled execution, Glossip spoke of the agony of waiting for Oklahoma to kill him -- a delay spurred, as reports have shown, by the state's own ineptitude.

"I've been in here almost 18 years and [this] was the worst I’ve ever had to go through," Glossip said. "It was pure torture, I'm not gonna lie."

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Obama's Big UN Week Sunk by Putin's Clever Gambit, Iran's Cold Rebuke, and Multiple U.S. Policy Failures

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-10-02 23:36
We may look back on this week just passing as one of the true nadirs in America's post-9/11 efforts to lead the world, a series of events that make the failures of America's shallow strategies, of both Republican and Democratic administrations, impossible to ignore. It is a particular low point for President Barack Obama.

With his Iranian nuclear deal in hand, at last secure from blockage in the U.S. Senate, Obama must have expected a good week around the annual United Nations General Assembly gathering of heads of government in New York. But, caught off guard by Russian President Vladimir Putin's sudden Middle Eastern moves, then by America's rebuke from hoped-for ally Iran for bringing instability to the region through military interventions, by week's end Obama was struggling to respond not only to a surprising new anti-Isis coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq but also aggressive Russian military moves to bolster their longtime ally, Syria's Assad regime, beginning with air strikes. And on top of that, word of Iranian troops arriving in Syria to help push back Syrian rebels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scored the Obama administration in his big United Nations speech in which he outlined a new anti-Isis coalition and Russia's military intervention in Syria and asked if America understood what it has done.

Couple all that with the shocking Taliban capture of a key Afghan regional capital and America's multiplex strategic failures in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia begin to come into focus.

Can Putin's new approach make a real difference, as more than a few outside the Washington orbit seem to think? Well, although the US media is not mentioning it, the authoritarian Russian leader did win a war against Islamic fundamentalists, against breakaway Chechnya. Which is more than any American leader can say. But that will be harder to pull off with Isis.

Putin had some harsh criticisms of America as the principal bringer of chaos in the Islamic and Arab worlds with its various military interventions. Not so much with regard to Afghanistan, of course, since Putin was a key American ally there after when US forces went in after 9/11. Though obviously self-serving as he seeks to promote renewed Russian power, his criticisms carried some bite.

The Obama administration never had the right take on Russia as it pursued its "Russia re-set" policy early on, as I wrote here at the time of Obama's big trip to Moscow in 2009 in "Obama Does Moscow, and Vice Versa." Obama foolishly believed that Putin's former chief of staff, Dmitry Medvedev, taking a turn as president to preserve the new Russian constitution, was the real power in the country rather than Putin, who repeatedly warned Obama in a meeting at his dacha outside Moscow to keep hands off neighboring Ukraine.

So Putin took a notable relish in criticizing the administration's feckless efforts against Isis and on behalf of Syrian rebels against Moscow's longstanding ally the Assad regime, pointing up media reports of the massive failure of a ballyhooed American program to train Syrian rebel fighters.

One needn't be an old war college fellow to see that Obama's grand strategy with regard to the Middle East and associated areas of action is neither grand nor very strategic. What it is is a largely incoherent accumulation of ad hoc moves and evasions designed to respond to political pressure. All of it leavened with a modicum of liberal good intentions not very aggressively pursued.

Why did Obama nearly careen into the Syrian civil war in 2013? In response to pressure from Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Why did he accept Putin's palliative of having the Assad regime dispose of at least some of its chemical weapons instead? Because his national address in September 2013 to a surprised America fell flat, yet he had to do something.

Why did Obama take so disastrously long to respond to the rise of Isis? This is a strange one.

Obama's express reason is that he was still analyzing the situation and pushing for change in Iraq's Shia-dominated, Iran-aligned government to make it more accessible and response to Sunnis and Kurds. But that doesn't really make sense, because its predilections have existed for at least the past decade. It's the obvious default position for the government that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney foolishly brought into being after destroying Iraq's infrastructure.

And Obama's long delay in striking the clearly emerging Isis, as I wrote at the time, allowed the Isis insurgency to expand its reach and consolidate its grip and overall power, making it more formidable and all the more difficult to uproot. That all seemed crashingly obvious at the time.

I think it's just as likely that Obama was loathe to engage Isis because its stunning success in recruiting foreign fighters points up the problematic nature of Obama's boomeranging secret anti-jihadist war while the success of Isis in growing widespread Sunni support inside Iraq proved the failure of the Bush strategy of "surge" and withdrawal he inherited and tacitly accepted with his maintenance in office of Defense Secretary Bob Gates.

It's tough to admit that everything which has gone before is an abject failure and that your plan going forward is creating a devastating backfire.

So too with the rest of the Middle Eastern matters, like the 70 year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The administration pushed for a renewed peace process, though it was obvious that the most right-wing government in Israeli history not only had no interest but was actively hostile. This infuriated Israelis and their absolutist allies in the US. It won only a little favor in the Arab world, which had looked in vain for follow-up to Obama's brave speeches of 2009 in Cairo and elsewhere proclaiming a new era.

The fresh favor quickly faded when Obama backed away from using obvious levers of influence and control to compel the behavior of Israel which is, despite its protestations of profound independence, very much an American client.

After the Arab Spring, Obama had the opportunity to foster ongoing engagement in the largest Arab nation with relatively radical Islamists. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood almost inevitably emerged as victor in that nation's first truly democratic elections following the successful peaceful revolution against the longtime Mubarak dictatorship.

In retrospect, there may never have been a better chance for the US to engage with a historically radical Islamist organization than bringing the Muslim Brotherhood along in the early democratic politics of Egypt. President Mohammed Morsi, a University of Southern California PhD who taught engineering in the California State University system and also consulted for NASA was well-positioned to bridge the gap. But he and the new government made mistakes, and the overthrown forces of the longtime Mubarak dictatorship weren't going to roll over and play dead.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the US in his UN speech for bringing instability to the Middle East. He also called for a nuclear-free zone in the region, which of course will not happen as Israel has no intention of giving up its nukes. This sets up Iran to loop around when it seems opportune to an argument for its own nuke.

A sudden economic emergency spun up, a big protest movement fronted by fresh faces emerged, the military stepped in, and Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues were overthrown. Their party was outlawed by the old Mubarak-appointed judiciary, its members either rounded up, massacred, or driven abroad or into hiding.

Obama wasn't happy about it, but he let it happen, refusing to cut off military aid even though the law authorizing the aid specifically required it, given the reality of a military coup.

The Saudis were very pleased, though, quickly bolstering the new Egyptian military regime with funds and support.

The Saudis hated and feared the Arab Spring, intervening militarily in neighboring Bahrain to end major protests there and of course crushing those who dared protest in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis especially disliked the Muslim Brotherhood's successful move into electoral politics in the Arab world's most populous country, as its democratic and liberationist rhetoric coupled with traditional Islamist appeal would severely undercut the Saudis' hardcore autocratic Islamist approach across the Sunni world.

The Saudi agenda did include taking advantage of one aspect of the Arab Spring; namely, the protests and subsequent rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria.

Obama pulled back from the precipice of being drawn into the Syrian civil war in 2013, but he still had to respect the longstanding Saudi superpower role in the global fossil fuel economy. That was especially true after the Saudis merrily sanctioned a sharp plunge in the price of oil, a stunning 60 percent drop since June 2014.

That oil price move helped Obama at home by masking some of the fundamental weakness of America's economic recovery. And it helped Obama in getting a deal of sorts with Iran on its nuclear program and in dealing with recalcitrant Russia, which was unmoved by repeated rounds of Obama-led Western sanctions against it for intervening in Ukraine following a US-backed regime change at the height of Putin's long-cherished Sochi Winter Olympics. (You might be able to think of a better way to piss off Putin, but it would not be easy.)

Obama's sanctions hit the well-stuffed pocketbooks of some Putin cronies, but did not dent Russia's agenda in Ukraine, which predates the existence of the United States. Think buffers from invasion and access to the sea.

The Saudi-sanctioned oil price drop ravaged Russia which, like Iran, is a higher-cost producer than the lucky sweepstakes winner on the Arabian Peninsula. But that did not change Russia's stance in Ukraine, either, or have a real and discernible effect on Putin's popularity at home, as Russians, not generally big believers in coincidence, are ready to listen to calls to band together against outside conspiracies.

While the Saudis were happy with Obama's agreement to train the elusive moderate Syrian rebel, the oil price drop in a deeper sense merely served Saudi interests in manifold ways. It further enshrined the Saudi market position, provided more stability to Western economies hosting Saudi investments, hurt oil competitors and geopolitical rivals like Iran and Russia, and helped squelch both oil exploration in other parts of the world and more technology-based oil development in the US. (Bye bye would-be California fracking boom.) And it also provided the wrong price signal for proponents of efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions at a time in which the peril to human habitability on the planet is becoming quite alarmingly clear.

Meanwhile, Putin saw what some of the US media saw. The Obama administration's ballyhooed program to train Syrian rebels to fight against the Assad regime was a total bust.

Putin was loathe to allow the ouster of Assad, since Moscow has been allied with the Assad family since Obama was in elementary school.

Why? The map, as usual, suggests the answers. (Obama needs a White House Map Room like FDR had.)

Like Ukraine, Syria provides an important point of access to the sea. It also provides a key pressure point in the backyard of its oil producer rivals and immediate access to the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Had Obama, or whomever he listens to on national security and strategy, studied Mahan as well as Fanon, his "Russia re-set" policy would have been much better tuned than it was. Of course, it would also help to have realized that Putin was the real power in the country all along. The fact that, during the four years in which he stepped away from the presidency he ran the ruling United Russia Party, had his longtime staffer installed as president, and served as prime minister himself should have provided sufficient clues.

Now Putin is embarrassing Obama with his aggressive moves into Syria and Iraq. Yes, into Iraq as well. The new joint intelligence center for Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq is housed in a Russian op center in Baghdad.

That the Obama administration was reportedly caught by surprise by the Russian moves speaks very badly of both our supposed alliance with Iraq and of our intelligence efforts in both the Middle East and Russia.

We don't so much need spooks running a secret drone war as we need spooks developing actual intelligence. In contrast, Putin certainly doesn't seem surprised at all by what we're doing in the Middle East.

Of course, Putin comes from a very different background from Obama. Where Obama, a Chicago lawyer, was a state legislator four years before becoming president -- and just two years before he became a presidential candidate -- Putin as an intelligence professional has a long background in international intelligence and security affairs.

The ex-KGB colonel, who was director of Russia's security service when I briefly encountered him during the last gasp of liberal reform parties late in the Boris Yeltsin era, actually does have experience in winning a war against Islamic fundamentalists.

But that decidedly does not mean that Putin's clever new gambit will lead to the defeat of Isis.

As Yeltsin's rather sad sack days as Russian president ran down, he increasingly turned to the urbane hard man Putin to take charge of the chaos. First as director of the FSB, then as prime minister, with a specific charge to win the war in breakaway Chechnya, where Islamist separatists had humiliated the once vaunted Red Army.

Russian media reported the country's first air strikes in Syria, along with supportive statements from a variety of international figures.

Putin did not let Yeltsin down. He led Russia to victory in the war in Chechnya. But his tactics were brutal, not suitable for 24-hour news.

The Russian people, who had grown to hate Islamic fundamentalists during their war in Afghanistan, in which Russian brutality was matched by Afghan savagery, didn't care much about the hard core horrors of the Russian victory in Chechnya. Such an approach, if pursued in what has been Syria and Iraq, might well backfire in the international media environment and grow even more jihadists.

In any event, Isis, now that it has had the opportunity to reach critical mass, thanks in part to failures in Obama administration strategy, looks like a tougher nut to crack than the Chechen rebels.

But if the authoritarian Putin can't defeat Isis, he and his people -- who include, let's be frank, much of the old KGB -- have a good chance of doing a much better job of containing Isis.

Despite Obama administration claims, the US really hasn't rolled back Isis, much less come at all close to defeating it. And the rather frightening reality is that the reach of Isis has actually grown over the past year. Since then, more than 15,000 foreign fighters have made their way into what has been Syria and Iraq to join Isis.

That's an astounding number of foreign recruits in general, much less foreign recruits who are able to make their way into the war zone.

What's wrong with this picture?

The Obama administration has established a massive, intrusive global surveillance apparat that tracks your communications and mine but evidently fails to track the movement of thousands of actual jihadists across international borders.

The CIA has had its moments. Especially when not perverted by right-wing political agendas, as it was when then CIA Director George H.W. Bush, encouraged by then White House chief of staff Dick Cheney, pushed a highly alarmist and false revision of CIA's estimate of the Soviet threat in 1976. And when the Bush/Cheney White House produced doctored "intelligence" in the run-up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, which created the present chaos to begin with.

But reviewing the record shows that CIA has been largely distracted from what should be its core intelligence mission by an endless string of frequently idiotic covert operations ever since the days of that kindly President Dwight Eisenhower, who repeatedly okayed regime changes of governments that were not Communist.

Now, under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama, CIA is further distracted by its conduct of a top secret drone war against, well, we don't really know. What we do now is that the ranks of jihadists continue to grow unabated.

Since the KGB was better at developing intelligence than CIA, Putin may be better able to stem the growth of Isis. We'll see. It would be hard for him to do worse.

Meanwhile, his power projection agenda is already working.

Russia gave the US only one hour's notice of its first air strikes on Syria, not saying where it would strike while advising the US to stay out of Syrian airspace in the meantime. Strikes continued for every day since. The US says the initial strikes "mostly" weren't against Isis, but against other Syrians fighting against the Assad regime, including some trained by the US.

There's not much the US can do about it.

The Assad regime invited its longtime Russian allies into Syria. It's still the recognized government, a fully accredited member of the UN. More to the point, some of the Russian aircraft now deployed in Syria are top-line jet fighters most appropriate for air-to-air combat. Isis doesn't have fighter planes.

Beyond that, the Syrian Air Force inventory includes dozens of high-performance fighters. US forces would have an edge over them if they're flown by Syrians. If they're flown by Russians, that edge diminishes. There are also top-line Russian anti-aircraft systems in Syria now, similar to what Moscow finally deployed to Iran when there were threats of airstrikes against its nuclear program.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is unique as an international leader who has won a war against Islamic fundamentalists. But his brutal tactics in breakaway Chechnya would be highly controversial today.

So much for all the easy talk in Washington just a week ago about establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Can US forces in the area defeat the new Russian forces there? Probably. If we want a bigger war. We're already way past the point of sheer ludicrousness when it comes to our recent wars.

So, the Russians are in a few bases on the Mediterranean, including their longtime naval base of Tartus, Syria. They're not going anywhere. And neither is the Assad regime, or some semblance of it or a lineal successor down the line which continues alliance with Russia.

What was post-colonial Syria is probably forever altered, just like post-colonial Iraq. The various major ethnic and religious groups of two nations that were will be sorted out, hopefully in a way that minimizes the role of Isis, leaving enduring Kurdish, Sunni, Shia, and Assad-related enclaves.

The Iranians will gain more influence in the region. The Saudis, who seem angriest of all about the Russian move -- Israel and Russia are coordinating to avoid any conflict in their air missions -- will see their hopes in both Iraq and Syria mostly dashed.

But as the late Fred Dutton, the former Bobby Kennedy campaign manager and Pat Brown executive secretary who served as the Saudis' chief lawyer in the US, told me decades ago, the Saudis will always have an advantageous position in the world so long as the oil economy is dominant. Well, as long as the House of Saud rules in Saudi Arabia, that is.

The biggest Saudi concern going forward should be their war in Yemen. It isn't going very well. At least 2500 civilians have been killed in recent months, most, reportedly, by Saudi air strikes. That includes nearly 150 Yemeni civilians, mostly women and children, killed a few days ago at a wedding.

Given its reliance on Saudi Arabia and support of its campaign in Yemen, we shouldn't expect the Obama administration to complain about that. (Indeed, the Saudis just got Western nations to block a UN human rights probe.) Besides, the administration has much bigger problems.

Like, what the hell is it doing in the Middle East, and with jihadism in general?

Obama inherited one of the worst geopolitical messes imaginable from the Bush/Cheney administration. But he's proceeded to make his own messes.

His big escalation in Afghanistan was an enormously expensive distraction from the core mission of defeating groups whose aim is to attack America, which we achieved long ago in Afghanistan.

His intervention in Libya (which I supported, perhaps mistakenly, in response to Gaddafi's vow to massacre his Arab Spring opponents) proved a typical ADD American moment as, with US leaders distracted elsewhere, the country descended into chaos.

His dilatory response to Isis, then rampaging across the countryside as motorized infantry highly vulnerable to air attack, allowed it to become much more powerful and difficult to dislodge.

His nuclear deal with Iran lessens some tensions -- well, except for the "Death to America" chants and the Ayatollah's prediction that Israel won't exist in 25 years -- but it does not close the door on an Iranian bomb. And so on.

Then there is the expansion of a massive and intrusive global surveillance architecture, angering much of the world, and prosecution of an ill-defined top secret drone war, which appears to be helping drive a viral growth in jihadist sentiment.

It's all a gigantic, stinking mess.

Instead of holding conferences on how to counter Putin, which is what Obama is doing now, he should be thinking beyond some minor necessary PR to the deeper question of rethinking his entire approach on the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and his diffuse anti-jihadist operations. Because what Obama has been doing really is not working.

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Hillary: Vast or Half-Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-10-02 23:31
On January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton appeared on the Today show and stated, "The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."

In the current presidential campaign, Hillary has been assailed by the right on three issues as Secretary of State: Benghazi, The Clinton Foundation, and her use of a private email server.

On July 7, 2015, Hillary asserted to CNN's Brianna Keilar that there has been a "barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the right"

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is running for Speaker of the House, a position that is third in line of succession to the Presidency. On Tuesday he added credibility to Hillary's conspiracy theory with the statement to Sean Hannity of Fox News:

What you are going see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative congress that puts a strategy to fight and win. And Let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.

Hannity agreed and gave McCarthy credit for doing something good.

This does sound a bit like a vast right wing conspiracy. Or, at least, a half-vast one.

I seem to recall another member of Congress with the same last name as Representative Kevin McCarthy, who I assume was not a relative. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) conducted the U.S. Senate "McCarthy Hearings" in 1954, an infamous anti-communist witch hunt. He certainly was the father of right-wing conspiracies. Here is a statement he made about Demorcrats on February 4, 1954:

The issue between Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. Now the hard fact is--the hard fact is that those who wear the label--those who wear the label "Democrat" wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.

On this date 62 years ago, October 2, 1953, Edward R. Murrow's television show "Person-To-Person" debuted on CBS. Murrow was one of the brave journalists who exposed Joe McCarthy's tactics and findings, and is widely credited with McCarthy's fall into disgrace. Here's Murrow's program from March 9, 1954, where he exposed the true anti-American conduct that became known as "McCarthyism."

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Hillary: Vast or Half-Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-10-02 21:43
On January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton appeared on the Today show and stated, "The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."

In the current presidential campaign, Hillary has been assailed by the right on three issues as Secretary of State: Benghazi, The Clinton Foundation, and her use of a private email server.

On July 7, 2015, Hillary asserted to CNN's Brianna Keilar that there has been a "barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the right"

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is running for Speaker of the House, a position that is third in line of succession to the Presidency. On Tuesday he added credibility to Hillary's conspiracy theory with the following exchange with Sean Hannity of Fox News:

What you are going see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative congress that puts a strategy to fight and win. And Let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.

Hannity agreed and gave McCarthy credit for doing something good.

This does sound a bit like a vast right wing conspiracy. Or, at least, a half-vast one.

I seem to recall another member of Congress with the same last name as Rep Kevin McCarthy, who I assume was not a relative. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) conducted the U.S. Senate "McCarthy Hearings" in 1954, an infamous anti-communist witch hunt. He certainly was the father of right-wing conspiracies. Here is a statement he made about Democrats on February 4, 1954:

The issue between Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. Now the hard fact is--the hard fact is that those who wear the label--those who wear the label "Democrat" wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.

On this date 62 years ago, October 2, 1953, Edward R. Murrow's television show "Person-To-Person" debuted on CBS. Murrow was one of the brave journalists who exposed Joe McCarthy's tactics and findings, and is widely credited with McCarthy's fall into disgrace. Here's Murrow's program from March 9, 1954, where he exposed the true anti-American conduct that became known as "McCarthyism."

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