The Obama Brief: The President considers his judicial legacy. (SL New Yorker)
Presdient Obama gave a speech (video, transcript) at the United States Military Academy last month that outlined American foreign policy. Reaction has been mixed. [more inside]
"It's his charm. It's his gift. It's his political liability, and it's part of an American conundrum. We beg for authenticity, and then when we get it, oh man, it's hilarious. [Vice President Joe] Biden can be fantastic when he's on his game. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his speech got higher Nielsen ratings than either Bill Clinton's or Obama's. He killed the debate against Ryan, pumped air back into a campaign deflated after Obama's miserable first performance against Romney. Watching those performances, it's almost impossible to see him as a person once crippled by speech."
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
Richard Blanco, a poet, teacher, and engineer, was chosen to be the nation's fifth inaugural poet. He is the author of the collections of poetry "City of a Hundred Fires," "Directions to the Beach of the Dead," "Place of Mind," and "Looking for the Gulf Motel." He is the first immigrant, first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest to be the U.S. inaugural poet. The poem he read was "One Today" (full text/analysis)
The poor in America: In need of help Some 15% of Americans (around 46.2m people) live below the poverty line, as Ms Hamilton does. You have to go back to the early 1960s—before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programmes—to find a significantly higher rate. Many more, like Ms Dunham, have incomes above the poverty line but nevertheless cannot meet their families’ basic monthly needs, and there are signs that their number is growing. Once upon a time the fates of these people weighed heavily on American politicians. Ronald Reagan boasted about helping the poor by freeing them from having to pay federal income tax. Jack Kemp, Bob Dole’s running-mate in 1996, sought to spearhead a “new war on poverty.” George W. Bush called “deep, persistent poverty…unworthy of our nation’s promise”. No longer. Budgets are tight and the safety net is expensive. Mitt Romney famously said he was not “concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net to take care of them. Mr Obama’s second-term plan mentioned poverty once, and on the trail he spoke gingerly of “those aspiring to the middle class”. “Poor” is a four-letter word.
And think about it for a second: this is bizarre. If Americans are in fact divided between two extremely different political ideologies, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if each of those philosophies were to hold the allegiance of nearly equal blocs of support. [more inside]
"Republicans stand the chance of controlling Congress for the rest of the decade if they don't screw it up."
"The Republicans’ dominance in races throughout the country in the 2010 elections eviscerated the Democrats’ farm teams in state after state." Former Bill Clinton political director Doug Sosnik offers an 8-page analysis of the U.S. election that discusses the likelihood of an Obama win, the chances of a complete Republican takeover of Congress, continued Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures for the rest of the decade, and more. There's also a related slideshow. [more inside]
In 2008, the National Journal released The Hidden History of the American Electorate, an analysis of exit poll demographics conducted by multiple news organizations from US presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. The study looked for "pressure points in the electorate": trends which were likely to decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They've released an update for 2012, by adding exit poll results from the 1980, 1984, and 2008 presidential elections. It gives a more comprehensive look at voting trends over a 32 year period of the groups whom they believe are likely to influence the outcome in November. Charts: Voting Preferences of the American Electorate, 1980-2008
In May of 2010, Michael D. Higgins (now President of Ireland) had an exchange on an Irish radio station with Tea Party supporter Michael Graham, about the state of politics in the United States. [more inside]
Guardian/Greenwald: US drones are coming back after initial attacks to target first-responder rescuers.
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
This morning marked day two of marathon proceedings in what's likely the most momentous and politically-charged Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore: the effort to strike down President Obama's landmark health care reform law. While yesterday was a sleepy affair of obscure technical debate, today's hearings targeted the heart of the law -- the individual mandate that requires most Americans to purchase insurance by 2014. With lower courts delivering a split decision before today, administration lawyers held some hope that at least one conservative justice could be persuaded to uphold the provision, which amortizes the risk that makes universal coverage possible. But after a day of deeply skeptical questioning by swing justice Anthony Kennedy and his fellow conservatives [transcript - audio], the mandate looks to be in grave trouble, with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin going as far as calling the day "a train wreck" for the administration. But it's far from a done deal, with a third day of hearings tomorrow and a final decision not expected until June.
Penn Jillette: An Atheist's Guide to the 2012 Election. [SLYT] Via BigThink, "A knowledge forum featuring the ideas, lessons, stories and advice of leading experts from around the world."
"This is the true ‘bomb’ contained in Obamacare and the one item that will have more impact on the future of how medical care is paid for in this country than anything we’ve seen in quite some time. Indeed, it is this aspect of the law that represents the true ‘death panel’ found in Obamacare—but not one that is going to lead to the death of American consumers. Rather, the medical loss ratio will, ultimately, lead to the death of large parts of the private, for-profit health insurance industry."
In 2008, Barack Obama lit a fire among young activists. Next year, Occupy Wall Street could consume him.
Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is booked on all the major morning shows tomorrow, and with good reason. After two months of gaffes, impolitic stands, and bizarre speeches that quickly waned his once-strong odds of winning the Republican nomination, Perry went into Wednesday's CNBC debate sorely needing a win... only to deliver a tortuous, cringingly forgetful attempt [video] to recall just which three cabinet departments he'd vowed to abolish, a stunning failure political scientist Larry Sabato deemed "the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate" in his memory. While Perry's slow-motion flameout has boosted the fortunes of dark horse candidate Herman Cain, the unlikely challenger is facing troubles of his own in a volley of sexual harassment claims -- an oddly ineffective scandal Cain is doing his best to (somewhat dubiously) disavow. If Cain collapses, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may reap the benefits, but his moribund campaign has issues of its own. Pawlenty, Bachmann, Perry, Christie, Cain, Gingrich... the base is loathe to rally round him, but after so many failed, flawed, or forfeited challenges, can anyone topple Mitt Romney?
The talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner "collapsed" Friday with little more than a week to go before the United States may effectively default on its debt. The two parties have been in ongoing negotiations for months over GOP refusal to raise the legal limit on national debt unless tied to a significant package of spending cuts - with some members and activists opposed to any increase whatsoever [more inside]
Obama proposes Social Security cuts. Amid ongoing debt talks wherein the Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling to prevent the default of Federal debt, "entitlement reform" has been a hot topic. This morning, Obama has taken the unusual step of proposing even larger spending cuts than Republicans have asked for, mystifying many. Has the Grand Bargain arrived?
While not being an outright example of a clash of civilizations in the Huntingtonian sense, elements of cultural misunderstanding and fears about the system-challenging tendencies of Iran do aﬀect Western perceptions and inﬂuence Western behavior toward Iran. Furthermore, these kinds of reciprocal identity-based fears and projections of the other side’s presumed malevolent intentions tend to be mutually reinforcing. The risk is that they eventually become self-fulﬁlling prophecies.Iran and the West - Regional Interests and Global Controversies [PDF]. [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cartoonist Tim Kreider (previously, previously) of The Pain talks about the last decade, our "disastrous decline" and his latest book of cartoons and essays, Twilight Of The Assholes. Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Inside the Secret Service. Sidebars: Radio Chatter and The Presidential Motorcade (Via) [more inside]
Since 10:24 AM ET, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has held "a filibuster [or] a very long speech" on the tax cut deal brokered between the president and congressional Republicans. Watch it live on C-SPAN 2. Vermont's Peter Welch leads the charge against the deal in the House. The President has called his opponents "sanctimonious" and "unrealistic."
"Israel is our only hope as the post-American president is aiding and abetting a nuclear Iran. Barack Obama is enabling Iran’s Islamic bomb" - Pamela Geller
As the "ground zero mosque" story approaches bipartisan consensus, thanks to unexpected statements by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (joining a growing opposition), several journalists trace the origins of how the Park 51 community center became(warning: CNN) a toxic subject. What they found was Pamela Geller, a blogger at Atlas Shrugs, who has some very interesting vlogs. You may previously know her from this cozy 2006 interview with Bush's infamous anti-UN UN ambassador John Bolton.
Shane Harris of the Washingtonian looks at the increasingly aggressive pursuit by the Obama administration of people (especially journalists) who leak sensitive information to the public.
Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now. And what we should do about it. (one-page link)
Elena Kagan will be officially nominated to replace John Paul Stevens today, ending weeks of speculation and controversy as to who would replace the retiring Supreme Court Justice. Significant criticism has hounded Kagan throughout the nomination process, as she has never tried a case in court (much like Earl Warren). Many worry that her notable statements and writings do not provide a clear progressive record; some go so far as to claim she is Obama's Harriet Miers.
Return to the moon? Not likely. "President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon...".
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Obama administration signaled today it is ready to entirely abandon the public option, i.e. giving Americans the choice of government-run health insurance (AP, Daily Kos, Politico, Hill). Further, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicated that end-of-life counseling was "probably off the table", presumably due to Republican "death panel" commentary.
The Obama administration has repeatedly threatened to conceal future information of terrorist threats from the British government, unless the British government disobeys the High Court ruling requiring them to release information about the US government's acknowledged torture program. This may be a breach of the Convention Against Torture. Glenn Greenwald has new evidence. Previously.
The Bad Bank Assets Proposal: Even Worse Than You Imagined -- the administration appears intent on building another black swan. This is political capitalism. [via]
"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." ~ George Washington / "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature." ~ Thomas Jefferson / "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion." ~ Abraham Lincoln / "A just government has no need for the clergy or the church." ~ James Madison / "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end... where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice." ~ John F. Kennedy / "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers." ~ Barack Obama
Former US Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell, a controversial, if reluctant supporter of the war on Iraq, offers his endorsement (Flash video) of Senator Barack Obama for the office of President of the United States. [more inside]
Welcome to The Sacramento County Republican Party. The official website has removed content calling for Obama to be waterboarded. But it still contains fake quotes supposedly from Obama's memoir. In this political climate, 33% of voters do not identify Obama as Christian, and 8% believe he is Muslim. Yet, the polls predict a landslide, hinted at by early voting. McCain needs something spectacular, and he may be regretting his decision to invoke Bill Ayers in tonight's debate; and perhaps other things.
Nate Silver, the proprietor of the fantastic electoral projection site FiveThirtyEight.com, notices that the presidential betting market on Intrade is behaving very oddly: "[S]ome individual trader or some small group of traders are shorting all the Obama contacts in bulk and resetting the entire market. The markets then organically climb back upward until the rogue trader strikes again six or eight hours later." [more inside]
Despite his carefully cultivated “maverick” image, McCain is playing it traditional and conservative by using HTML 4.01, the W3C spec from 1999.
"On the weekends, he favors two-hour bicycle rides at a Secret Service training facility outside Washington, where he sometimes asks companions and agents to ride behind him so that he can have the illusion of riding alone." With all the focus on the upcoming election, what of George W. Bush?
On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party to be their Presidential candidate with a speech so well-crafted that Pat bloody Buchanan couldn't stop raving about it, and had to be cut off by his fellow broadcasters. It was an occasion so historic that McCain chose to release an ad congratulating his opponent.
At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister -- no matter how beloved -- is supremely wrong. [more inside]
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