At Washington Monthly there’s an interesting article arguing that the current scandals over the IRS and AP could have been avoided but Republican obstructionism created the bad policy that made the scandals possible:
Republicans are right to be outraged by scandals, but it would help if they were also outraged by the policy failures that produced the scandals. Democrats, meanwhile, have previously proposed policies that might have curtailed the IRS fiasco and the Justice Department’s overreach.
Democratic proposals to adjust policy to fix the problems were shot down by Republicans who have adopted a scorched earth approach to everything. So the solutions to the problems are already out there, but Republicans refuse to adopt them since that might make them look like being reasonable human beings.
Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.
The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”
Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.
President Obama says he’s sorry.
Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.
“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.
Think Progress (emphasis added):
According to a new report from consulting firm Milliman Inc., the average family with health insurance now pays more than $9,000 in payroll deductions and out-of-pocket bills, which is more than they typically spend on groceries and gas for an entire year.
The firm estimates that a typical family of four with an employer-sponsored health plan will end up incurring about $22,030 for all of their medical costs in 2013. That represents a 6.3 percent increase from last year, when the typical family racked up $20,728.
…Since 2003, workers in every single state have had to increase their contributions to their family health plans by nearly 75 percent. At the same time, workers’ wages have stagnated. As struggling Americans aren’t able to afford the treatment they need, they’re putting off doctor’s visits and skipping out on their medication.
Too bad the so-called Affordable Care Act took the place of actual health care reform. We needed an expansion of Medicare, and all we got was the right-wing individual private insurance mandate without any cost controls (such as a public option).
Opening bids from insurers in California and Oregon exchanges promise to lower rates. Could be good news. Enrollment in the exchanges is still five months away.
Via Media Matters.
Conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones is best known for promoting the theory that the 9/11 attacks were really a “false flag” operation by the U.S. government. He said the same thing about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the recent Boston bombings. Now he is making the claim that the Oklahoma tornado was a secret government plot.
Jones, a longtime proponent of the idea that the U.S. government can manipulate and even produce weather systems like tornadoes and hurricanes, went on to say that if people saw helicopters or small aircraft in the area, then “you better bet your bottom dollar they did this.”
“But, who knows if they did?” he asked. “You know, that’s the thing. We don’t know.”
Jones is being increasingly treated as a serious voice within the right-wing GOP. Republicans in the House, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), actually held a hearing last month to discuss Jones’ theory that that President Obama is trying to buy up all the bullets in the country.
UPDATE: Maddow: Will ‘weather weapon’ talk finally drive GOP away from Alex Jones? In an audio clip, Jones suggests the government is causing tornadoes to convince Americans about climate change:
“Tornadoes are way down. Of course, they lie that they’re way up to get carbon taxes, but I don’t know if this was a weather weapon or not. They can, with the right weather conditions, they can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”
Via Media Matters.
What a shame. It was Candy Crowley who courageously committed an act of journalism in the middle of a presidential debate, daring to fact-check inveterate liar Willard (“Mitt”) Romney in real time. I suppose her standing at CNN has suffered, because truth-telling just isn’t appreciated among the DC media. On CNN right-wing talking points are better than facts, so Crowley is going with the talking points.
The hyper-partisan right-wing Benghazi witch-hunt has produced no new information after NINE congressional hearings, two full-scale investigations, and an SNL parody. Senator John McCain tried to get a select committee established just to re-hash Benghazi. If I were the Senate Majority Leader I would instead assemble a committee to thoroughly investigate the Bush administration’s record on terrorism, starting with the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letters, and charged with examining the 31 other terrorist attacks on Bush’s watch, including 7 attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates.
Two things are amusing the hell out of me this morning – of those who think Benghazi is a major scandal, 39% don’t know where it is.
And second, turns our the giant email disclosure that Republicans were sure was going to bring down Barack Obama was edited by Republicans before being released to ABC News . . . the real emails are far less exciting, an interagency debate about how to accurately discuss what happened while not revealing certain confidential details that might hinder the investigation.
I’ve written about the ways in which many conservatives seem to yearn for yesteryear. This morning, historian Stephanie Coontz offered a fascinating and compelling article in the NY Times on the dangers of nostalgia:
In society at large, however, nostalgia can distort our understanding of the world in dangerous ways, making us needlessly negative about our current situation.[snip]
Happy memories also need to be put in context. I have interviewed many white people who have fond memories of their lives in the 1950s and early 1960s. The ones who never cross-examined those memories to get at the complexities were the ones most hostile to the civil rights and the women’s movements, which they saw as destroying the harmonious world they remembered.
Read the whole thing, it’s worth it.
The argument goes something like this:
“Gay pride” necessitates anti-Christian hate. It must. “Gay marriage” and other “sexual orientation”-based laws do violence to freedom and truth. They are the hammer with which the postmodern left intends to bludgeon bloody religious liberty and the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic.[snip]
Still, know this: If you are a Christian in today’s America, you too will almost certainly find yourself with a similar decision to make. When man’s law violates God’s law, you will have to choose which to obey. Choosing God can mean persecution.
With Delaware’s vote to allow same sex marriage, the rocket scientists at American Family News have this to report:
Nicole Theis, president of Delaware Family Policy Council, says there is no protection in the bill for people of faith.
“Our immediate concern is that good people in this state will suffer discrimination simply because they believe marriage is between one man and one woman and that children deserve a mom and a dad,” Theis tells American Family News. “There’s minimal protection in this law, and we believe that passing legislation like this will trigger lawsuits and other forms of government retaliation.”
More dramatic though no more convincing is the video from Reach America, in which a group of grim faced teens inform viewers about all sorts of things that aren’t true – i.e. that the Supreme Court declared the bible unconstitutional and that prayer in school is outlawed and that the US was founded as a Christian nation. In the video, the students, obviously well meaning though wildly misinformed, simultaneously pose as victims, martyrs and bold warriors who will lead the world.
Chris Hayes is the first cable host to interview Tim DeChristopher. Rachel Maddow announced such an interview a couple of years ago, but then substituted some hack from EarthJustice who didn’t approve of civil disobedience.
My favorite part is when Tim explains that it’s already too late to avoid the tipping points that trigger drastic climate change, but that makes it even more urgent to reform our political system. The current corrupt regime won’t be able to cope with a planetary emergency.
Finally the GOP has a scandal with legs; an elephant’s wet dream compared with Benghazi and the IRS hysteria. I know, I’m furious! Outraged!
In the process of investigating a leak that was responsible for an AP story in June 2012, on a thwarted Al Qaeda terror plot, the Department of Justice (DOJ) secretly obtained the phone records of AP journalists.
DOJ head AG, Eric Holder apparently recused himself from the FBI investigation “to avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest.” The investigation has been conducted under the direction of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and the supervision of the deputy attorney general, James M. Cole.
So why is the GOP/Roger Ailes not drooling? A casual observer might suppose the GOP is suddenly reluctant to remind us of their institutional hypocrisy. Obama, as Senator, supported a federal shield law and co-sponsored 2007 legislation that was eventually killed by a Republican filibuster.
No, there must be another reason. Since when have Republicans EVER shied away from hypocrisy? Perhaps they realize it’s perfectly legal thanks to the Great Adventures of Bush and Cheney.
“The explanation might be, in part, the angry cries from Republican members of Congress over the Associated Press reporting that appears to have triggered the Justice Department probe. In May 2012, the AP described how a double agent had infiltrated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and neutralized a plot to bomb an airliner. Multiple Republicans insisted at the time that the leak might constitute a criminal case and demanded a tough FBI investigation.
Their anger was largely directed at the alleged leakers, unlike the cries of “treason” directed at the New York Times when the paper published sensitive information about Bush-era anti-terror surveillance. Even so, conservatives are now in the odd position of implicitly defending the media’s rights against the imperative of national security secrecy, a cause that didn’t interest them much when the FBI sought media phone records during the Bush years.” Source
It may well be that there is no one reason. Republicans have attacked Obama for virtually EVERYTHING he has done or thought about doing, whether real or imagined. Over the past 5 years, they’ve covered every position. There aren’t any positions left that don’t require doing a 180 on something they whined about in the past. Republicans have no clothes.
Did Obama know about the acquisition of the AP phone records? Probably not. But I don’t care. Now would be the time for him to fire some folks and pass a new shield law.
Real journalism from Democracy Now!
Via Raw Story:
In a letter (PDF) sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chair Mary Jo White on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) demanded to know why the government keeps accepting financial settlements from criminal bankers when they could instead be taken to trial, convicted and locked up.
Senator Warren wrote (emphasis added):
The consequence can be insufficient compensation to those who are harmed by illegal activity and inadequate deterrence of future violations. If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.