Archive for category National Politics

Rep. Chaffetz: ‘Why not have the surgeon general head this up?’

In another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden.

Via Think Progress (emphasis added):

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republicans senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…

We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year.

UPDATE:
FLASHBACK: When Conservative Media Didn’t Care Bush’s Bird Flu Czar Had No Medical Experience

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O’Reilly: Dem Voters Are Emotional, Selfish and Unpatriotic

Via Media Matters. They watch Faux News so we don’t have to.

This is incredible, a perfect example of the right-wing’s alternate universe. Bill O’Reilly claims Americans who vote for Democratic Party candidates are emotional, selfish and just interested in “what you can get from the government.” He doesn’t believe they have the best interest of the nation in mind. Plus, he wants to scare everybody with Ebola [Note: Americans are much more likely to be the victim of a police shooting than to contract Ebola].

Meanwhile in reality, the Tea-GOP is doing everything they can think of to put our economy into a tailspin. They have staged a government shutdown and a near-default on the National Debt. They have enforced austerity budgeting (“sequestration” in Washington-speak) that has cost us 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent of GDP. And they think they can blame everything on President Obama – why not, it has worked before.

UPDATE:
How The Press Is Doing The GOP’s Ebola Bidding
Fear is the Tea-GOP’s midterm election theme. Message: Panic looms. We stand exposed. Nobody’s in charge. It’s worse than you think.

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Insane Right-Wing Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.

Mario Machado on HuffPo:

Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.

…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”

So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…

More info:
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)

UPDATE:
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.

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Tea-GOP Ready to Seize the Senate

Mitch McConnell

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast gives the Tea-GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning a majority of Senate seats. HuffPo’s poll-tracking model says there is a 68 percent chance. Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, predicting the Dems have a 65 percent chance to save their Senate majority.

The Economist explained the situation last month:

More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.

Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn…

…In the face of the far right’s effective veto over the congressional GOP, Democrats have given up on passing any significant legislation either until they regain control of the House, an impossibly remote prospect, or until the Tea Party somehow withers away, which shows no signs of happening. The Democrats’ acceptance of their inability to accomplish anything significant has left them unable to campaign on big themes. The party feels exhausted, still convinced of the need for immigration reform, climate change legislation and expanded benefits for the middle class, but unable to imagine a political pathway to get there. If the Democrats lose the Senate this fall, it may be technically due to an unlucky roster of elections and the traditional midterm setback for the party in power. But it will also be a verdict on the party’s inability to conjure a sense of élan or vision in the face of the political paralysis tea-party Republicans have induced.

When the party that’s nominally in power looks so powerless, that’s a problem. The Dems ought to have thought about that in 2009, when they had a brief window of opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s malfeasance. Now they can’t promise anything much, and seemingly can’t even deliver on small commitments (e.g. President Obama’s vow to make unspecified immigration reforms via executive order by “the end of summer.”)

Meanwhile, the Tea-GOP never misses an opportunity to blame Obama for all bad news – whether it’s ISIS, Ebola, or leaving the front door of the White House unlocked. Right-wingers can’t offer viable policy proposals anymore, so they resort to fear mongering and unrealistic demands to seal the U.S. borders. You can be sure the Tea-GOP voters will take their fears to the polls on November 4.

Stephanie Cutter has suggested that the Dems might actually gain in the long run if the Tea-GOP takes over the Senate and goes ahead with Mitch McConnell’s program of serial government shutdowns.

Sadly, the lesson I want the Washington Dems to learn probably won’t get learned. They are always promising to do something for average Americans after the next election. Bill Clinton says now is not the time for a protest vote, but I would say a protest vote is needed now and in every election until they get the message.

UPDATES:
Democratic Fundraising Gets Shriller And Shriller As Party Abandons Candidates
The GOP’s Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

The reality, as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently stated, is that an Ebola vaccine would likely have already been developed if not for the past decade’s worth of largely GOP-imposed budget cuts.

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Dear Rep. Chaffetz: ISIS and the PKK Are Not The Same

Today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson debunked the false Faux News Channel claim that ISIS terrorists have been apprehended along the Mexican border (emphasis added):

[F]our foreigners who were apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border did not have ties to terrorism and were in fact members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)…

When can we expect Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to return to Faux News and admit he was wrong?

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ISIS Advances Continue Despite Air Strikes

Turkish tanks
M-60A3 tanks of Turkish Armed Forces standing by at the Turkey-Syria border, as ISIS and Kurdish armed groups fight for control of nearby Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The current situation in the war against ISIS, via CNN:

The United States and its allies have made at least 271 airstrikes in Iraq and 116 in Syria.

The cost? More than $62 million for just the munitions alone.

The effect? Negligible, some say, particularly in Iraq.

One by one, the cities have fallen to ISIS like dominoes: Hit, Albu Aytha, Kubaisya, Saqlawia and Sejal.

And standing on the western outskirts of Baghdad, ISIS is now within sight.

The Long War Journal reports that ISIS captured a battalion of tanks (that’s up to 54 tanks) at Hit after they were abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

The U.S. is now flying risky missions around Fallujah using AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. This means the “air war” now openly includes ground combat, because American military doctrine (PDF) classifies an attack helicopter force as a maneuver element, the same as infantry or armor.

Meanwhile in Syria, ISIS is about to occupy the town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on the Turkish border. Turkey has refused to aid the Kurdish defenders, despite U.S. requests. Air strikes in the vicinity of Kobani have failed to stop the three-week assault on the town.

UPDATES:
Why Everyone Is Sitting Back And Letting ISIS Conquer A Key Syrian Town
Turkey’s Refusal To Help Besieged Kurds Fight ISIS Is Backfiring
As They Battle ISIS For Kurdish Town, U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Question Support
This Is How Close The Fight Against ISIS Is To Turkey’s Border
Islamic State Advances Deeper Into Kobani
ISIS Battles Iraqi Forces Near Baghdad

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American Middle Class Poorest In 25 Years, Now Underemployed

Middle class

Annie Lowrey, New York magazine:

Labor-force participation has declined — partially because the baby boomers are retiring, but also because prime-age workers are fleeing the job market. Churn has remained slow, with workers too timid to quit their jobs. The middle class is poorer than it was when the recession started, poorer than it was when the recession ended, and poorer than it was in 1989. In real terms, wages are stagnant even though the jobless rate has dropped.

At the same time, the earnings of the wealthiest Americans have surged higher. Corporations are rolling in profits. Growth has strengthened. And the stock market has gone on an extraordinary tear.

The headline (U-3) unemployment rate for September was 5.9 percent, however the seasonally-adjusted real (U-6) unemployment rate was 11.8 percent, down from 12 percent in August. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report estimates that 97,000 people dropped out of the labor force. Because you can’t be officially “unemployed” if you’re not looking for work, having a bunch of people give up looking for work makes the BLS unemployment rates lower.

As Forbes contributor Louis Efron pointed out last month, the U.S. has around 7.5 million underemployed workers. Most of the new jobs in this recovery have been low-wage and part-time jobs, which were taken by Americans just trying to survive while looking for a “real” job.

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The Unknown Knowns Redux

ISIS

Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld famously ruminated on the difference between “known knowns,” “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” in the intel business. It seems to me that our intelligence services (all 17 of them) have the most difficulty with sorting out the unknown knowns (i.e. things widely reported, whose significance is apparently unknown to the government). The news media told us about the the capture of Fallujah by ISIS 9 months ago. (At that time, ISIS was best known as the employer of fictional spy Sterling Archer). Ought to have been a wake-up call, don’t you think?

President Obama, unlike the last one, is at least able to acknowledge and take responsibility for a mistake:

America failed to recognize the threat posed by Islamic State terrorists and mistakenly relied on the hapless Iraqi army to combat them, President Obama admitted in an interview broadcast Sunday night.

In an about-face from earlier remarks that likened ISIS to a terrorist “JV team,” Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he agreed with National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s recent assessment that “we underestimated the Islamic State.”

“Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated . . . what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.

The president also called it “absolutely true” that the United States put too much faith in the Iraqi army, whose soldiers turned tail rather than wage war against ISIS fighters invading from Syria.

Obama’s comments marked his bluntest acknowledgment that the United States bungled the initial response to ISIS, which American-led planes began bombing inside Syria this month.

More info: ISIS Fast Facts

UPDATE: Tom Engelhardt: The Massive Failure of American Intelligence

[F]rom the Egyptian spring and the Syrian disaster to the crisis in Ukraine, American intelligence has, as far as we can tell, regularly been one step late and one assessment short, when not simply blindsided by events. As a result, the Obama administration often seems in a state of eternal surprise at developments across the globe.

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Bombs Away in Syria

Syria strike
An F/A-18E Super Hornet and an F/A-18F Super Hornet prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush

The Obama administration has ramped up the air war against ISIS by attacking bases in Syria. The operation – which employed Tomahawk missiles, B1 bombers, fighter-bombers and drones – was supported by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE. According to reports, the $139 million F-22 stealth fighter jet saw combat for the first time ever during the strikes over Raqqa. The U.S. also carried out separate raids on the little-known al-Qaeda group Khorasan near Aleppo, possibly killing Muhsin al-Fadhli, a veteran al-Qaeda operative.

Gareth Evans points out the obvious fact that strategic bombing isn’t going to succeed where the 8-year U.S. occupation of Iraq failed.

The competence of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces — crucial if territory is to be taken and held — will take time to build up, and may never be achievable with the so-called moderate forces within Syria. Airstrikes anywhere risk civilian casualties — and thus the possibility of inflaming the very sentiments one is trying to counter.

Moreover, airstrikes in Syria without the government’s consent or Security Council authorization will be manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter.

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45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line

Poverty

Via Mark Gongloff, HuffPo.

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000. But the level of poverty is still higher than 12.3 percent in 2006, before the recession began.

The percentage of Americans in poverty went up sharply from 1989 to 1992. Then it went down from 1993 to 2000. Then it went up again from 2001 to 2010. Then it started trending downward, slowly. Does anyone see a connection to politics?

UPDATE:
DSWright: Poverty Unchanged By Wall Street Recovery

Trickle-down economics has consistently failed everywhere and every time it has been tried. The theory is simply wrong.

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Destroy ISIS – That’s The Objective?

ISIS

President Obama is now the fourth President in a row who’s leading us into war in Iraq. Additionally, he again wants to attack Syria (but Washington seems to have switched sides in the Syrian civil war since a year ago). Considering the outcomes of previous American military adventures in the Middle East, is this really a good idea? The plan, such as it is, will consist of using mostly air power and special operations forces in cooperation with allied ground forces. The stated objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. However, we’ve failed to “destroy” any of the Islamic insurgent forces we’ve fought against over the past 13 years – they are all still thriving, including ISIS (which started out as al-Qaeda in Iraq).

Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the WaPo:

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead… “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact that the USA will be fighting on the same side as Bashir al-Assad, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. And the nascent Iraqi government of of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an uncertain ally at best. Probably half the Iraqi Army has been rendered combat-ineffective as a result of ISIS advances.

More info:
5 Questions About The War Against ISIS That No One Should Be Embarrassed To Ask

UPDATE:
John Kerry Says U.S. Is ‘At War’ With ISIS. Last week he claimed just the opposite.

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President Obama’s Endless Summer

The Endless Summer (1966)
“The Endless Summer” (1966)

This is the perfect time to pay homage to the classic documentary by Bruce Brown. I love summer, and every year it ends too soon. However, the point of this post is to criticize President Obama for political cowardice, again. Last June, the President postponed the possibility of executive action on immigration until the end of summer.

The right-wing noise machine and the Tea-GOP loudly reacted as if Obama had actually done something. They threatened impeachment proceedings, and then another government shutdown over the immigration issue.

Now the rumor from the White House is that maybe, maybe, something will be done after the November election. This is typical nonsense we are used to from the Democrats. I get it in the form of fundraising pitches over the phone. “Support our candidates,” the script goes, “and then later, someday, you might get some good policy.” I always tell them: “Do something good NOW, and later, if I’m happy about it, I might vote for a Democrat.”

The demoralizing spectacle of a President and his party in retreat on the immigration issue isn’t going to get them many progressive voters in November. We’ll be reading about the “enthusiasm gap” again, and the reason for it won’t be a mystery.

Worst of all, President Obama has set records as the “Deporter in Chief.” The Obama administration took just over five years to exceed the 2 million deportations that took place under all eight years of the Bush administration, which held the previous record after ramping up deportations following the 9/11 attacks. Every month of delay brings thousands more deportations and broken families.

UPDATE:
President Obama caves to Tea-GOP threats, does nothing to stop deportations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections, White House officials said.

After the Dems lose the Senate, will they wonder why there was an “enthusiasm gap” and progressives didn’t come out to vote?

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