Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.


One of Those Days

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Obama Administration

Nothing is grabbing at me and yelling at me to write about it. We seem to be on a rerun loop. Today’s big items:

The Administration wants to put together an anti-ISIS coalition.

Paul Krugman complains that hardly anyone who influences economic policy is being influenced by competent economists.

Thomas Franks and some other leftie commenters appear to be having a pissing contest.

The crew that Breitbart left in charge of his empire when he died has a collective IQ in the negative numbers. Oh, and they’re being audited by the IRS

Schizophrenia is a genetic disorder. Eight different genetic disorders, actually.  Right now I think I may have about five of them. Just kidding.

Lindsey Graham must be the most terrified man in America.

Here’s the cheerful news: While Nate Silver still shows the Republicans are likely to take the Senate, the odds have changed. Today he’s saying the GOP has a 54.7 percent chance of taking the Senate; on September 9 the GOP had a 63.8 percent chance of taking the Senate, according to Nate. Sam Wang puts the Dems at 80 percent.

 

 

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On the Middle East and Burning Hair

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Obama Administration

Judging by the blogs, America is more interested in the NFL-Ray Rice scandal than they are in Syria/Iraq and what the President might do about ISIS. But very basically, as I see it, in his speech last night the President attempted to simultaneously placate hawks and doves — thereby pissing off both — while pursuing an actual strategy that is limited and cautious and may or may not produce tangible results. It’s hard to say whether the President is being pushed more by politics or by actual security concerns.

I still think the primary focus should be on pushing Middle Eastern leaders to play the lead role in containing ISIS, since a bunch of violent religious whackjobs with plans for establishing themselves as leaders of a regional if not global theocracy are a more immediate threat to them than to us.

Back in 2000 and early 2001 the incoming Bush Administration brushed off the hair-on-fire intelligence they were given about a real threat of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil by al Qaeda. And of course, they were wrong. Since 9/11, they’ve seen jihadists in every shadow, and they are still wrong. There’s no reason to think ISIS plans to leapfrog half the globe to strike in the U.S., in spite of the Right’s hair-on-fire claims they are doing exactly that already. In fact, for the most part intelligence experts — whose hair was on fire about al Qaeda in 2000 — are not that alarmed about ISIS being a threat to the U.S.

“As formidable as ISIL is as a group, it is not invincible,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said last week, using an alternate name for the group. “ISIL is not Al Qaeda pre-9/11” with cells operating in Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. Mr. Olsen’s assessment stood in contrast to more pointed descriptions by other American officials like Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has said that ISIS poses an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”

The group has been vulnerable, for instance, to airstrikes coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces in northern Iraq in the past month, Mr. Olsen said, noting that as a result, “ISIL is losing arms, it’s losing equipment, and it’s losing territory.”

Despite the attention ISIS has received, when American counterterrorism officials review the threats to the United States each day, the terror group is not a top concern. Al Qaeda and its affiliates remain the most immediate focus. That is because ISIS has no ability to attack inside the United States, American and allied security officials say, and it is not clear to intelligence officials that the group even wants to.

Compare/contrast this with the ravings of Dick the Dick. The headline on his American Enterprise Institution speech reveals more than the speech — it’s “9/11 and the future of US foreign policy.” The speech itself basically dumps every enemy of America since World War II into the same filing cabinet and strongly implies that there is no choice but for America to destroy them all. Doing so would require obliterating about a third of the planet, and the potential repercussions of that don’t seem to have occurred to Dick, whom I strongly suspect is not all that bright. His chief talent is exuding gravitas, which has gotten him a long way, obviously.

It’s all about 9/11 for Dick, because he was horribly and massively wrong about al Qaeda before 9/11, and disaster ensued, and apparently that was something his ego couldn’t process, and he’s been acting out about it since. He seriously needs therapy. And he seriously needs to shut up.

Now he and Grandpa John and others have hair-on-fire alarm — assuming they had hair — about ISIS. And the Right in general appears to believe that the Real Enemy is Islam itself, which means we have 1.6 billion enemies, at least, who must be eliminated to assuage Dick the Dick’s personal existential crisis.

It has been 13 years since 9/11, and the U.S. Right is still dancing to the late Osama bin Laden’s tune.  The attacks are still causing us to self-destruct. BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA.

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Why We’re Screwed, Part MMLXXVI

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Obama Administration, Republican Party

Thomas B. Edsall:

We don’t know who the contributors are to Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS because they can hide behind provisions in federal tax law designed to protect donors to “social welfare” charities, but we do know how much each gave, and we do know generally, from Crossroads’ annual 990 filings with the I.R.S., how the money was spent. In 2012, according to its own statement, Crossroads GPS spent $74.2 million not on commonly understood social welfare objectives but on direct political activities.

Crossroads raised the money for its 2012 tax-exempt activities from 291 unnamed men and women who wrote checks for a total of $179.7 million, an average contribution of $617,525 – nearly 12 times the 2012 median household income in the United States of $53,046, and 22 times the 2012 per capita income of $28,051.

We know now that in 2012 the 291 people who funded Crossroads got zip for their money. But somebody must still be donating, because Crossroads is still in business. They’re pouring a lot of money into the midterms and might actually turn the Senate over to the GOP, which IMO would be an unmitigated disaster for America. On the other hand, it’s possible their ads won’t make that much difference. For example, Crossroads is still running anti-Obamacare ads that even Glenn Kessler thinks are stuck in a time warp.

There’s no question that the “dark” money is giving a Reublicans a huge advantage, but even if dark money contributions were equal, an equal number of plutocrats on each side of the aisle does not create government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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Nate Silver vs. Sam Wang

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elections, Obama Administration

In 2012, as I remember, Silver and Wang’s election forecasts remained close to each other. But right now they are considerably apart. Silver says Republicans have a 63.8 percent chance of winning a majority. Wu says Dems have a 79 percent chance of keeping the Senate.

Where do they differ? Silver thinks Pat Roberts of Kansas will keep his Senate seat; Wu does not. The pair of prognosticators also split over North Carolina. They must disagree on some other races but I cannot tell which ones.

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Les Misérables, à l’américaine

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Obama Administration

Recently Thomas Edsall published a op ed at the New York Times called “The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism” that’s worth a read. In brief, Edsall explains how municipalities around the country are balancing budgets by privatizing essential services to companies that prey on the poor.

Add to that Radley Balko’s piece in WaPo focusing on Saint Louis County, “How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty.” In particular Balko focuses on one woman whose life was torn apart by The System after she failed to pay for a speeding ticket because she lacked the money. We’re in Les Misérables territory here.

Add to that Reihan Salam’s “How the Suburb Got Poor.” Salam’s articles leaves a lot of big stuff out, such as the role of the financial system in screwing home buyers, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. Salam makes a case that around the country suburban “bedroom communities” are turning into enclaves of poverty. Very simply, the suburban model that worked after the post World War II years, when most white men could not only earn a living wage but also support a family on it, is not working for today’s working class.  The suburbs catering to the very rich are doing fine, of course. Otherwise, the most successful communities are those that combine single-family homes, apartment buildings, and retail shops in the same neighborhoods, not those that are nothing but single-family homes, block after block. I remember well that Saint Louis County has a lot of the latter.

I know a lot of us are focused on national politics, but the rot is at the local level also. Too many state legislatures are owned by ALEC. Too many local governments are run by incompetents who can’s see beyond their own petty interests. For a grand example of the latter, see Nelson Johnson, “Atlantic City’s Next Gamble.”

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Win / Win / Win / Maybe Win

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Obama Administration

Remember the ruling by a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court that some state’s Obamacare subsidies were unconstitutional? Well, it’s dead, Jim.

In July, two Republican judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed down a decision defunding much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This effort to implement Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) top policy priority from the bench was withdrawn on Thursday by the DC Circuit, and the case will be reheard by the full court — a panel that will most likely include 13 judges. In practical terms, this means that July’s judgment cutting off subsidies to consumers who buy insurance plans in federally-operated health exchanges is no more. It has ceased to be. It is, in fact, an ex-judgment.

There appears to be a broad consensus that there’s little chance the anti-subsidy ruling will be heard from again. In other court news, an appeals court killed gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana, and another federal court restored early voting in Ohio.

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were found guilty today of a whole bunch of corruption. I don’t think they’ve been sentenced yet.

Big fun in Kansas — the Democrat Chad Taylor, who was campaigning to take Pat Roberts’s Senate seat, dropped out of the race. Oh noes! But this was a tactical decision. There’s an independent also running for the seat and raising more money, and this guy, Greg Orman, is expected to caucus with Democrats if he wins. Orman and Taylor were running on nearly identical platforms. The pair had been expected to spit the not stupid vote, and Roberts hadn’t even been campaigning. By several accounts the GOP is genuinely panicked it could lose a seat in the Senate.

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Jerking Our Chains

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Obama Administration

In the wake of another horrific beheading there are calls to punish ISIS, which kind of ignores the fact that we’d already been punishing ISIS.

Over the past month, the U.S. military has launched more than 100 air strikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq. While U.S. officials have publicly justified the attacks on humanitarian grounds—as well as protecting U.S. interests—they also have obliterated dozens of ISIS vehicles and checkpoints, and those manning them.

There is no way ISIS can counter U.S. air strikes. It has no air force and apparently has few, if any, anti-aircraft weapons. Its ground forces, once identified, are easy targets for American laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles.

So they’re beheading captured journalists because that’s all they can do. This is a terrible thing, but getting a rise out of us is what they want, and pushing us into some ham-handed retaliation would enhance their status as a terrorist organization. Which is why we would be wise to not let ISIS jerk our chains.

See also How America Made ISIS by Tom Engelhardt.

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The Bad News About the Good News

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Obama Administration

Paul Krugman is almost giddy about new Medicare numbers.

Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.

$1,000 less per beneficiary than projected just four years ago?Wow.

You’ll remember a few years ago the entire Right was marching around chanting that Medicare and Social Security were about to go broke (still one of my favorite posts). It was never true about Social Security but there was real concern about Medicare. But last I heard Medicare’s sell-by date had been pushed way into the future. There is no looming Medicare worry.

First, our supposed fiscal crisis has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. The federal government is still running deficits, but they’re way down. …

… Second, the slowdown in Medicare helps refute one common explanation of the health-cost slowdown: that it’s mainly the product of a depressed economy, and that spending will surge again once the economy recovers. That could explain low private spending, but Medicare is a government program, and shouldn’t be affected by the recession. In other words, the good news on health costs is for real.

Krugman goes on to say that a lot of these savings are the result of Obamacare, and this shows us that providing health care for all Americans — as other industrialized nations somehow manage to do for their citizens — is not an impossible dream that will drive the country into fiscal ruin.

This takes me to the bad news — about the only people who are going to hear about this are us progressives. Not only will most Americans continue to be unaware of it; the Right will continue to push the idea that the only way to save Medicare is to cut it, or privatize it, or raise the eligibility age to 90, or whatever. And at the same time they’ll tell voters that Obama cut money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Because that’s how we roll.

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Dumb and Wealthy

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Obama Administration

Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve argued, I’m told, that America’s wealthy upper class naturally accrues money but it is smarter, thereby proving any idiot can write a book. But how is it, then, that so many wealthy people are so stupid?

Case in point: Chicago Cubs owner and CEO Thomas Ricketts. Earlier this week a heavy rain interrupted a game, and the ground crew at Wrigley Field were unable to cover the field with a tarp, and the game was called. The reason the crew failed is that there weren’t nearly enough of them present to do the job. And the reason for that is that Cubs management decided to save money by limiting the number of hours the grounds crew could work so that the Cubs didn’t have to pay for health insurance or be penalized.

Cheap,” said one of three high-ranking officials from other organizations the Sun-Times contacted Thursday – all of whom fall below the Cubs on Forbes’ annual revenues list.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds crew staffing, all three officials said the video of Tuesday’s incident showed an apparently “undermanned” crew (of 15 pulling the tarp on the night’s first unsuccessful try).

“Embarrassing,” said one, “and they got caught.”

Also, too:

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

I guess one could argue you’ve got to be pretty smart to make the Cubbies the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, but they also came in last in the National League Central Division in 2013. In fact, the Cubbies were the only National League Central Division team that had a losing record at home in 2013. They were third from the bottom in the entire National League in 2013. It looks like they’re third from the bottom of the National League standings right now. Obviously, management keeps profits up by under-investing in the product.

Yeah, I know, it’s the Cubbies; they take pride in being losers. I don’t know why Chicago puts up with this, though. Eric Loomis:

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

OK, so maybe it’s not Chicago Cubs management that’s dumb.

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The Fake Eye Socket Injury and Other Ferguson News

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Obama Administration

Charles Johnson has been doing a better job than I have of keeping up with what’s going on in Ferguson. Among other things, he documents that an X-ray image being passed off as showing Officer Wilson’s eye socket injury was pulled off the website of the American Association of Pediatric OphthalmologyAlso, too:

In the video taken by an eyewitness immediately after the shooting, officer Darren Wilson is seen walking calmly around the body with no signs of discomfort or injury, even though by this time he would have been in very serious pain.

Also, no ambulance was called for Wilson, and no first aid was administered by other officers, which seems odd if he had indeed suffered this type of serious injury — or any injury at all.

So unless more evidence is forthcoming, the eye socket injury is bullshit. There is also a totally fabricated rumor that Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who was present at the shooting, recanted his testimony. No, he did not.

And much of this nonsense is being generated by Jim Hoft, officially the Dumbest Man on the Internet.

I also learned at Johnson’s place is that one of the outside groups showing up in Ferguson to stir up trouble are the same bunch of anarchist bozos who tried to initiate violence at OWS demonstrations awhile back.

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