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  • Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

    Somebody suggested to me recently that if not for Republicans in Congress, President Obama would have a coherent and consistent foreign policy, one that would perhaps have included a long-term plan for post-Gaddafi Libya. Never mind, apparently, that the President has two quite large institutions and several smaller but still substantial ones, all headed by persons of his own choosing, to help him out on that front.

    The occasion was a post by the always vivid Charlie Pierce at Esquire, reacting to a somewhat disjointed critique of the President by New Hampshire senator and Lindsey Graham mini-me, Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is concerned that the President may have taken up the cudgel against ISIS for electoral purposes, and that once those are achieved (or not), he’ll back off from the fight and leave the other players to their own devices. By way of precedent, she mentioned the chaos in Libya, where the President participated in the destruction of the previous order without giving a lot of apparent thought to the following one. Pierce thought Ayotte was presumptuous to criticize the President. I thought Ayotte was beside the point, the point being that she may well be right. In any event this would seem a good opportunity to review the hot-spot foreign policy of this President.
    Continue reading Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

    Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

    The people who variously collapsed the economy, bought the political process and brought torture into polite society are tired of your disrespect and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

    The latest in the parade of former Bush administration officials and CIA personnel to come in from the cold the suburbs and either defend or brag about their roles in the Bush torture regimen is psychologist James Mitchell, the prominent member of the helping professions who is credited with having designed the procedures used by the CIA to torture prisoners and is supposed to have tortured at least one prisoner himself. In an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell said “I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.” Mitchell follows in the footsteps of former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who say the times required torture and the results justify it, and anyway it wasn’t torture.

    In some circumstances, in some countries, admitting to having not just devised torture procedures but practicing them as well would land one in hot water. In the US, however, torturers have a very prominent advocate for letting bygones be bygones: the current President. In 2009, when he ordered the release of the documents the Bush administration’s legal team wrote to retroactively and prospectively justify torture, President Obama said that “[i]n releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”
    Continue reading Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

    All across America, insurance company executives and insurance commissioners are doing spit takes

    (Updated 11/14/2013)

    Obamacare: despise it or hate it, it’s now the law of the land and we all need to accept it and make it … wait, what’s that? The President just changed the law? Okay then.

    As you know, people and Republicans have been making a big noise, first about the continuing web site enrollment woes, and then about insurance company customers who are getting cancellation notices for their insurance policies after the President emphatically said for three years that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” (You most likely couldn’t keep your plan but in fairness to the President, he probably thought nobody would want to.) In response to this less than joyful noise, the administration has come up with an administrative fix that they think will put the screws to the insurance companies they blame for the mess, but is almost certain to backfire: they’re allowing insurers to reinstate the cancelled plans if the various state insurance commissioners permit it.
    Continue reading All across America, insurance company executives and insurance commissioners are doing spit takes

    Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

    Referring, obviously, to congressional Democrats who wish to further reduce food stamp benefits and to cast a Nixon spell on the NSA, rendering all its predations lawful. The latter would be Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-NSA), who is expressing her outrage over the eavesdropping on allies by writing legislation that fully legitimates spying on citizens, and the former a host of other Democrats whose starting point in the negotiations about the SNAP program (food stamps) is a $4 billion cut on top of the $5 billion lost as the stimulus ends.
    Continue reading Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

    Famous political scandals of the past as they might have been reported by ABC’s Intrepid Jonathan Karl

    As everyone knows, Obama administration dirty tricks operative Ben Gazzy was caught slipping Muslim DNA into the refreshing chilled Thorazine-based breakfast shakes enjoyed by stalwart Congressional Republicans. The administration immediately disavowed any knowledge and responsibility for the affair but the remaining alert Republicans are having none of that.

    The administration’s stonewall was holding firm . . . → Read More: Famous political scandals of the past as they might have been reported by ABC’s Intrepid Jonathan Karl

    This is why Democrats can’t have nice things

    I’ve now read two opinion pieces, one by Charlie Pierce at Esquire last week and another by Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect today, saying that the failure of various gun control measures proves that presidential leadership doesn’t work. They’re writing to defend President Obama from charges that he doesn’t use his position effectively to lobby . . . → Read More: This is why Democrats can’t have nice things

    Rand Paul: Genius. Nitwit. Post-racial Statesman

    The number of actual Libertarians in Congress is the same as the number of actual Arcturans in Congress, as far as we know; if there are any of either, they’re not open about it. Most congressional Libertarians espouse a philosophy of government under which everyone — corporations, powerful reactionary white guys, women, liberals, people . . . → Read More: Rand Paul: Genius. Nitwit. Post-racial Statesman

    Who’s afraid of Rand Paul?

    Ralph Emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. He meant that it’s silly to stick to one’s guns in the face of overwhelming evidence that the guns are wrongly aimed. He said it over drinks in a tavern at a table full of the finest minds of his generation. . . . → Read More: Who’s afraid of Rand Paul?

    Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner

    John Boehner’s next job could be as a safety buoy bobbing gently in the waters of the Fiscal Shoals, warning off the unwary. (“These are not tears,” he will say with a sad little smile; “it’s only the life-giving waters of the sea in my eyes.”) If he falls, he’ll likely give way to one among the group of 40-something white guys who call themselves The Young Guns, which right there gives you multiple insights into some of the things troubling the Grand Old Party.

    House and Senate staff members will take an 8.2% pay cut if their bosses don’t get a tax and deficit deal done before the end of the first federal pay period in 2013. Collectively, the staff are looking at more than $100 million in cuts for the year. Possibly this will have an impact on the negotiations. Their bosses, who included themselves among America’s Warriors and others so valuable or vulnerable as to warrant protection from any budget reductions, face a 0% cut (although their foreign currency conversion allowance will take a brutal hit). Even John Boehner will still get paid despite demonstrating live on national television that he can’t do the job for which he draws a larger pay check than anyone else in the House.

    (“Who should get pay cuts?” “Well, let’s start with the obvious: not us. VA nurses first.”)
    Continue reading Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner

    Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

    The giant sucking sound Ross Perot wants you to hear these days is him endorsing Mitt Romney on the basis of Romney’s presumed fiscally responsible policies. Perot, who wasn’t born yesterday, posits that history began in 2009 and says experts support Romney’s contention that the mome raths outgrabe.

    Democrats, meanwhile, are shocked, shocked! that the company Romney once owned and still profits from is outsourcing jobs to China in a particularly callous fashion — requiring American workers at Sensata, an auto parts maker, to conclude their own employment by training their Chinese replacements. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (who recently declined to sign a letter pledging to block Social Security cuts) is joining Sensata workers today in a show of solidarity.
    Continue reading Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles