President Obama Talks to Thomas L. Friedman About Iraq, Putin and Israel
President Obama’s hair is definitely grayer these days, and no doubt trying to manage foreign policy in a world of increasing disorder accounts for at least half of those gray hairs. (The Tea Party can claim the other half.) But having had a chance to spend an hour touring the horizon with him in the White House Map Room late Friday afternoon, it’s clear that the president has a take on the world, born of many lessons over the last six years, and he has feisty answers for all his foreign policy critics.
Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished. The United States is not going to be the air force of Iraqi Shiites or any other faction. Despite Western sanctions, he cautioned, President Vladimir Putin of Russia “could invade” Ukraine at any time, and, if he does, “trying to find our way back to a cooperative functioning relationship with Russia during the remainder of my term will be much more difficult.” Intervening in Libya to prevent a massacre was the right thing to do, Obama argued, but doing it without sufficient follow-up on the ground to manage Libya’s transition to more democratic politics is probably his biggest foreign policy regret.
This made me smile – Knoller has been getting epic push-back on Twitter in recent days for his shilling, and his obsession with the President’s vacation. So much so, he now has an army of Teabaggers following him (just check any of the comments under his tweets). So, maybe the pressure actually left him feeling obliged to tweet at least one bit of honesty:
Pete Souza: “The President, in the process of saluting, participates in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of U.S. and Afghan personnel who died in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Many family members and friends of the special forces who died in this incident requested a copy of the photograph and later wrote me how much it meant to them.” Aug. 9, 2011
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On This Day – Pete Souza: “We were walking through a locker room at the University of Texas when White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson stopped to weigh himself on a scale. Unbeknownst to him, the President was stepping on the back of the scale, as Marvin continued to slide the scale lever. Everyone but Marvin was in on the joke.” Aug. 9, 2010
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MoooOOOooorning everyone! Another rushed R&S, will try to catch up through the day.
Last night President Barack Obama announced that he had ordered airstrikes against ISIL positions in northern Iraq.
He didn’t do this to secure oil fields. He didn’t do this to project US power in the Middle East. He didn’t do this in some sort of misplaced revenge.
He did this, as he stated quite clearly, to prevent a genocide.
The Yazidi community—descendants of the Zoroastrians who used to rule the area—has come under attack by the militants of ISIL. ISIL’s intent is clear: wipe out the community. Whether it be starvation in the mountains or slaughter on the plains is of no matter to them. (Although I think those brainwashed fundamentalists would love nothing more than to mow down unarmed men, women, and children.)
Of course, ISIL is a direct result of the chaos unleashed by former president George W. Bush in 2003 with his invasion of Iraq. No, I’m not carrying water for Saddam Hussein. He was a murderous, psychopathic dictator. However, he maintained a level of stability via his terror. The Bush Administration had no plan for what would replace Saddam, Donald Rumsfeld famously saying that US troops would be out of Iraq within six months. Six months turned into seven years, while Mr. Bush’s best and brightest were found out to be the worst and dullest, fumbling around for one solution after another which never worked out. The solution finally decided upon—the regime of Nouri Al-Maliki and his Shi’ite maximalists—was probably the worst possible choice. Replacing a Sunni dictatorship with a Shi’a dictatorship proved not only hypocritical, but suicidal. Mr. al-Maliki, for all his venality, hasn’t been able to project the terror which Saddam did to keep the various sects in line. And the Iraq invasion unleashed all sorts of ethnic and confessional demands. But most importantly, al Qaeda, which had never been in Iraq or the greater Middle East before 2003, suddenly found purchase amidst the chaos. Mr. Bush’s lie that the US invaded Iraq to fight AQ became true after the hornet’s nest he stirred up. ISIL is a direct descendant of those first AQ cadres. So, as with our support of Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s leading to the formation of al Qaeda, our invasion of Iraq has led to predictable blowback in the form of ISIL.
Every time Mr. Bush had the chance to do the right thing in response to the 9/11 attacks, he chose to fulfill neo-conservative wet dreams of remaking the Middle East in America’s image, and subservient to US interests. And he never seemed to be bothered by the thousands of people—Americans and Iraqis—he sent to death.
ThinkProgress: Boehner Will Sue Obama For Stuff He Thought Was Totally Fine Under George W. Bush
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed Wednesday that he will file a federal lawsuit challenging the executive actions of President Barack Obama, despite supporting President George W. Bush’s extensive use of executive authority. … President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison …. But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so… … As of February, Obama had issued fewer executive orders than all but one of the other presidents since World War II.
Steve Benen: Boehner Readies Frivolous Anti-Obama Lawsuit
I can think of some dangerous moves Boehner has made since becoming Speaker, including threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States on purpose. I can also think of some reckless moves he’s made, including shutting down the government. I can even think of some irresponsible moves from the Speaker, including refusing to compromise on pretty much any area of public policy. But I can’t think of anything quite as dumb from the last several years as this lawsuit.
Indeed, the Speaker himself couldn’t actually identify by name anything the president has done that warrants a legal challenge. Boehner is outraged by Obama’s use of executive power. And what, pray tell, has offended the Speaker? He didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll think of something to justify his lawsuit eventually, right? … It’s an embarrassment to the institution and the nation, but at this point, that simply means more of the same.
BBC: Iraqi PM Welcomes Syria Air Strike On Border Crossing
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of Iraq has told the BBC he supports an air strike on Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. Military and rebel sources say the strike took place inside Iraq, at the Qaim crossing, although Mr Maliki said it was carried out on the Syrian side. Isis and its Sunni Muslim allies seized large parts of Iraq this month. The government has struggled to hold back the militants’ advance from the north and west. It has also been receiving support from Iran, with whom its Shia Muslim leaders have close links. The Syrian air strikes show how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are merging together, with Isis as a common factor. Once-rival fighters on the Syrian side of the border at Qaim have now pledged allegiance to Isis, giving it control of both sides.
If US drones are not yet involved, they soon could be, illustrating how the threat posed by Isis is creating a convergence of interests between players who so far have been adversaries. That goes for Iran, too, which is deeply concerned about the sudden upheavals in Iraq. It has reinforced its positions along its own western border, where guards have been killed in an attack. There are reports that Iran has been heavily shelling border areas in the Kurdish mountains, where an Iranian Kurdish opposition group called Pejak has bases. The US, which also backs the government, has stressed that the militants can only be defeated by Iraq’s own forces. Mr Maliki is seeking to form a new government but has rejected calls to create an emergency coalition which would include all religious and ethnic groups.
Let us compare what Boehner says the president has done — which, by the way, he has done less than almost all of his immediate predecessors — and then let’s compare everything his House hasn’t done because it doesn’t like the president, his party, his politics, or (sadly) his race. Let us determine who is “faithfully executing” the jobs for which they all get paid.
Hell, let us determine who’s actually interested in governing the country, or is counsel for the plaintiff going to argue that, if the country elects a obstructionist Congress, and that Congress holds together, then the country need not necessarily be governed by anyone at all? That would be an interesting point to be litigated – if, again, this were a serious legal action, and not the latest and most elaborate clown show staged by a threadbare political circus.
Ikea plans to adopt a wage structure that it says will raise the average hourly minimum wage at its 38 stores in the United States to $10.76 an hour — a 17 percent increase. Ikea, which will be announcing its new wage policy on Thursday, said it would not impose an across-the-board minimum wage for its stores, but would instead set a minimum for each store based on the cost of living in that particular area. For example, the minimum wage will run from a low of $8.69 an hour at its stores in Pittsburgh and West Chester, Ohio, to $13.22 an hour at its store in Woodbridge, Va.
Ikea said that its new average minimum wage, $10.76 an hour, was $3.51 above the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The retailer’s decision was made as many low-wage workers and labor unions are pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage and after Gap Inc. informed its employees in February that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year.
The People’s View: Please Proceed, Mr. Speaker: Why John Boehner’s Hissy Fit Over Obama’s Executive Actions Will Backfire
John Boehner has decided to formalize his hissy fit in the form of a lawsuit against the President for acting on behalf of the American people by the means of administrative and executive authority, given the GOP’s absolute resolve to allow Congress to do nothing. I could walk you through the mind-numbingly boring and utterly clueless memo Boehner wrote to the House, but the gist of it is this: We, the GOP House will not do any work, and we will not let anyone else do any either.
The lawsuit, needless to say, is wholly without merit. So much so that Boehner’s own memo did not name a single executive action he believes violates or ovesteps the president’s Constitutional authority. Of course, sources say he will tell them later. I suppose the irony of asking his chamber to approve unchecked authority for him to pick and choose whatever he wants to sue the president Obama while complaining that Obama has acted in a “king-like” fashion is completely lost on the Speaker.
The Nation: The Media’s Disappearing Of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program And Why It Matters
In Syria, the Obama administration just achieved an unprecedented foreign policy success in WMD nonproliferation, but you likely didn’t hear about it. Nine months after entering into joint negotiation with the Russians and Syria’s tyrannical President Bashar al-Assad, the last of that country’s 1,300 tons of declared chemical weapons began a journey to a chemical weapons-eating ship in the Mediterranean for destruction by the US.
The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation. Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict. And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes. This successful dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program by the US has been matched by an almost as successful disappearing of the news of it by the Beltway media, however.
Adam Chandler: Army Clears Bergdahl Of Any Misconduct During Captivity
As the Army continues to investigate whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is guilty of deserting his unit, this afternoon they said there is no reason to believe that Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct during his five years in captivity. In fact, that’s all that the Army said: We have no reason to believe that he engaged in any misconduct.”
Bergdahl electrified the national discourse last month after he was freed in a prisoner swap involving five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay. As charges against his character emerged, the narrative quickly shifted from Bergdahl as POW to Bergdahl as despicable deserter, unworthy bargaining chip, unwitting endangerer of America, and worse.
The People’s View: The Message from Mississippi: Democrats are Not Sitting it Out This Year
Last night marked the second high-stakes GOP primary where Democrats have screwed up the pollsters’ math. In Virginia’s 7th district, where knocking off an entrenched Republican incumbent in the primary would actually give the Democrat in the race a shot against a nutjob Teabagger, they knocked off Eric Cantor. Now in Mississippi, where a Democrat has a smaller chance of winning the Senate seat than a hailstorm in hell, Democrats – black Democrats – mowed down the Tea Party scourge like it’s nobody’s business.
TPM: First U.S. Appeals Court Finds A Right To Same-Sex Marriage
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, becoming the first appellate court in the country to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.
“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws,” Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote in the decision for a three-judge panel. “A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”
Pew: After Decades Of Gop Support, Cubans Shifting Toward The Democratic Party
Cubans in the U.S. have long identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, even as Hispanics overall have tilted Democrat. But the party affiliation of Cubans has undergone a shift over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.
Less than half (47%) of Cuban registered voters nationwide now say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—down from the 64% who said the same about the GOP a decade ago, according to 2013 survey data. Meanwhile, the share of Cubans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled from 22% to 44% over the same time period, according to the survey of Hispanics.
Washington Post: Brown, Hogan Win Gubernatorial Nominations; Democrat Frosh wins attorney general contest
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown cruised past his two rivals in Maryland’s bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, setting up a November contest with GOP nominee Larry Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under the state’s last Republican chief executive. Brown would be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third elected in the nation….
After going out on a not-so-wobbly limb to suggest that Republicans would push to impeach President Obama if they succeeded in retaking the Senate, George Will’s Sunday column read like a real threat. Fed up with what he views as Obama’s “offenses against the separation of powers,” the conservative columnist advocated that Congress sue the executive branch to stop a lawless president. Yesterday, Speaker John Boehner told the House Republican caucus that he was contemplating such a step.
The plan all along has been to crash the Obama agenda and then climb on top of the wreckage and seize power. Not only are Republicans complicit in the “failures” they rail against, but they are also the reason the president has had to resort to executive action to get some things done. Even Will agrees Obama is within his authority to do this. He just doesn’t like the degree to which he has done it. Poor dear.
President Obama jokingly reacts to news that staffer Nora Becker will be leaving to pursue a joint MD and PhD in healthcare economics, during the White House staff picnic on the South Lawn, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a football while taking a phone call in the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tosses a football with Trip Director Marvin Nicholson in the outer Oval Office on June 26, 2009. Personal Secretary Katie Johnson watches from her desk (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama stands in the Oval Office with a Hawaiian paddle that was given to him as a gift by chef Allen Wong, who catered the 2009 Presidential Luau, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the front door of the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron prepare to board Marine One at the Deerhurst Resort landing zone in Muskoka, Canada, following the conclusion of the G8 Summit, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama exits Bright Star upon her arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 26, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
VP Biden in Independence, June 26, 2012
VP Biden in Waterloo, June 26, 2012
President Obama at the Varsity, a restaurant in Atlanta, Ga., June 26, 2012
On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk backstage before an event for the “United We Serve” service project with at Fort McNair in Washington DC, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:45: The President meets with HHS Secretary Burwell
11:45: Meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres, drops by a meeting with American Jewish leaders, Roosevelt Room
12:20: Lunch with Israeli President Peres
12:35: Josh Earnest briefs the press
1:25: The President meets with Israeli President Peres
2:55: Honors NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, East Room
5:0: Meets with Senate Democrats, The State Floor
7:10: Delivers remarks to the League of Conservation Voters, Ronald Reagan Building
Spandan Chakrabati: Putin Completes Surrender To Obama: Syria Disarms, Russia Backing Off Ukraine
Yesterday, weapons inspectors confirmed that Syria handed over all declared chemical and biological weapons to an international inspection team for destruction, completing a major foreign policy coup for the Obama administration (or in the media version, a triumph for Vladimir Putin in a negotiation over Syria where Obama got everything and Putin got nothing) – disarming a middle eastern power of its weapons of mass destruction in the midst of a civil war without firing a single shot. ISIS – the Islamic militant group that is gaining ground in Iraq – many Americans will be surprised to learn stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Incidentally, these were the same rebels McCain was urging US arms in Syria. The same media couldn’t get enough the “weak black guy” narrative then. But now that his strategy of strength, fairness and diplomacy has born major fruit? Nary a peep.
Russian lawmakers rescind resolution allowing the use of military in Ukraine on Vladimir Putin’s request: yhoo.it/1yMTQVt
Vladimir Putin has formally asked the upper house of the Russian parliament to rescind their March 1 authorization for Putin to attack Ukraine. President Obama spoke with Putin on this matter just yesterday. Putin is backing off, with his tail between his legs. This yet another crowning foreign policy achievement for this president. Ending two wars. Securing the world’s loose nukes. Killing Osama bin Laden. Bringing the last American POW home. Disarming a middle-eastern madman without firing so much as a water balloon. Dashing Putin’s hope of a new Soviet empire. If this were any other president – let me clarify, if this were any white president – the work of carving their face on Mount Rushmore would have already begun.
With an unusual assist from African-American voters and other Democrats who feared his opponent, Senator Thad Cochran on Tuesday beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, triumphing in a Republican runoff and defeating the Tea Party in the state where the movement’s hopes were bright. “We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight,” Mr. Cochran said at his victory party in Jackson, Miss. “This is your victory.”
Mr. McDaniel, speaking in Hattiesburg, was angry, and he did not hesitate to say so. “There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” he said. He accused Mr. Cochran of abandoning the conservative movement. “So much for principles,” he said. The 76-year-old senator ran a largely sleepy campaign until the primary on June 3, when he was edged out by Mr. McDaniel but won enough votes to keep his opponent from outright victory. Mr. Cochran, who is seeking his seventh term, used the past three weeks to turn out Democratic voters — especially African-Americans — to make up that deficit.
BBC: Iraq PM Nouri Maliki Rejects Calls For Unity Government
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rejected calls for a national salvation government to help counter the offensive by jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience”, he warned. The US has led appeals to the country’s political leaders to rise above sectarian and ethnic divisions. Government forces have been unable to recapture the territory seized by the rebels this month. Almost half of the 300 US military advisers assigned to help the Iraqi security forces have arrived and are to start work on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the crisis in Iraq is being discussed by Nato leaders meeting in Brussels. They have been joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Baghdad and Irbil.
In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki called on “all political forces to reconcile” in the face of a “fierce terrorist onslaught”. But the Shia prime minister gave no promise of greater representation in government for the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they say are his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by jihadist militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Mr Maliki said forming an emergency administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against the results of April’s parliamentary elections, which were won by his State of Law alliance. “The dangerous goals of forming a national salvation government are not hidden,” he said. “It is an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters.”
Ari Berman: Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, The Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever
Fifty years ago, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, went down to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. His first stop was Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he and Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality from Meridian, Mississippi, were sent to investigate a church burning. Schwerner and Chaney had spoken at Mount Zion Methodist Church over Memorial Day, urging local blacks to register to vote. On June 21, 1964, the young civil rights activists were arrested by the Neshoba County police and then abducted by the Klan. Their bodies were found forty-four days later in an earthen dam. Goodman and Schwerner, both white, had been shot once. Chaney, who was African-American, had been mutilated beyond recognition. The fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer happens to coincide with the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, where the Supreme Court’s conservative majority invalidated Section 4 of the VRA on June 25, 2013. As a result, states like Mississippi, with the worst history of voting discrimination, no longer have to clear their voting changes with the federal government.
Since the 2010 election, twenty-two states have passed new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center. This includes requiring strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cutting early voting, making it harder to register to vote and rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons. New restrictions will be in place for the first time in fifteen states in the 2014 election. All across the country, we’re seeing the most significant push to restrict voting rights since Reconstruction. Partisanship is a strong motivating factor for the voting changes—GOP legislatures or governors enacted eighteen of the twenty-two new restrictions. So is race. According to the Brennan Center: “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote.”
The wreckage of a Ukrainian helicopter downed near Sloviansk on Tuesday
BBC: West Warns Russia Of Sanctions Amid Ukraine Fighting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that new sanctions could be applied if efforts to stabilise the situation were not speeded up. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said inaction by Russia would mean a stronger case for sanctions. President Petro Poroshenko warned he might end the truce due to violations. However, his foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told reporters at a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Ukraine would “stick to our unilateral ceasefire”. The ceasefire began on Friday. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down with the loss of nine lives. There was also fighting overnight near the Russian border in Luhansk region. The Ukrainian military accused the rebels on Wednesday of breaking the ceasefire 44 times since it began. A separatist leader said there had “been no ceasefire”.
Putin demands upper house of Russian parliament to cancel resolution allowing use of military in Ukraine yhoo.it/1v5huYp
The truce is part of Ukraine’s plan to end two months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents who control key buildings in towns and cities across the east. More than 420 people have been killed in the region since mid-April, the UN estimates. Mrs Merkel welcomed the surprise decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel a parliamentary resolution authorising him to use Russian forces in Ukraine. The cancellation was ratified by Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday. While Mrs Merkel said the decision was “psychologically important”, she told German parliament that Ukrainian soldiers continued to die. “Progress is slow… Diplomatic solutions are always preferable but if nothing else works, sanctions can be put back on the agenda,” she said.
The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of the year, and new revisions by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show the decline was even deeper than reported. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic growth — contracted at a 2.9% annual rate in January through March. That’s the weakest quarter for the U.S. economy since the first quarter of 2009, amid the Great Recession. But economists aren’t too worried, for three key reasons. 1) They blame the weather: Much of the downturn was due to a brutal winter. Blizzards slowed shipments both domestically and abroad and kept consumers away from shopping malls, car lots and open houses more than usual this winter.
2) It’s not a final number: Some economists take this GDP number with a grain of salt because it will be revised again next month when the Bureau of Economic Analysis makes historical revisions. 3) Last, but certainly not least, other data show the economy is improving. Hiring slowed in December, but it has since picked up again. In the last five months, the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Hiring at that level is consistent with an economy that is growing modestly around 2% to 3% a year — not an economy that is contracting.
NYT: Iran Secretly Sending Drones And Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say
Iran is flying unarmed surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed a unit there to intercept communications, the officials said. The secret Iranian programs are part of a broader effort by Tehran to gather intelligence and help Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government in its struggle against Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, has paid at least two visits to Iraq to help Iraqi military advisers plot strategy. And Iran has deployed about a dozen other Quds Force officers to advise Iraqi commanders, and help mobilize more than 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members from the country’s south, American officials said. Iranian transport planes have also been making two daily flights of military equipment and supplies to Baghdad — 70 tons per flight — for Iraqi security forces.
Nigel Duara: Judge: People On No-Fly List Must Have Due Process
When it comes to its no-fly list, the U.S. government has a choice to make. More than a dozen Muslims sued after learning they were likely on the list — something the government still won’t confirm — and they found their only recourse was to fill out an online appeal form. Then on Tuesday, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must give people a better avenue to pursue a claim that they were wrongly put on the list. Now, the government can seek some way around U.S. District Judge Anna Brown’s order. Or, they can do what she asked. But Brown didn’t want to dictate the rules. In fact, federal prosecutors specifically told her in court, “We urge you not to take over the policymaking.”
Instead, Brown set out a handful of guidelines that were issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case. She said the government must tell people what unclassified information was used to put them on the list. And if the information’s classified, at least tell them the nature and extent of it. She said it shouldn’t leave people without an option to challenge their status or make blanket rulings that ignore the specifics of people’s lives. “The (challenge) process falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process,” Brown wrote in her ruling Tuesday. U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.
Philip Klein: Health Care Spending Actually Shrunk 1.4 Percent In First Quarter Of Obamacare, BEA Says
Health care spending actually shrunk 1.4 percent during the first quarter of the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis now says, after previously saying it soared 9.1 percent — a massive revision that will shake up the debate over how President Obama’s health care law is affecting medical spending. To give an idea of the magnitude of the swing, the 9.1 percent growth rate would have been the fastest growth in health spending since 1980,
and now the BEA says it actually shrunk more than any quarter since the first quarter of 1982 — or 32 years. The revised data suggest medical spending slowed despite the expansion of coverage. So what explains the revision? The short and easy answer is that BEA gained access to more data.
Pretty much everyone was stunned to see Q1 GDP growth slashed to -2.9% from an earlier estimate of -1.0%.
The revision largely boils down to one thing: healthcare spending. “Two thirds of the revision is in consumption, cut to +1.0% from +3.1%,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics Ian Shepherdson. “Almost all of this huge hit is in the healthcare services component, cut to -1.4% from +9.1%.” According to the BEA, healthcare spending went from adding 1.01 percentage points to subtracting 0.16 from the headline GDP growth number. “So much for the BEA’s initial view that the start of Obamacare triggered a surge in spending on healthcare,” said Shepherdon.
Most economists and strategists are brushing this off. First of all, it reflects activity from Q1, which ended in March. Second, the bulk of the more recent data has been positive. “If GDP were truly so weak, we would not expect aggregate hours worked to climb 3.7% annualized through May, jobless claims to remain near cycle lows, consumer confidence to hit a cycle high, industrial production to climb 5.0% at an annual rate over the first five months of the year, core capital goods orders to be up 5.8%, ISM to be above 55, and vehicle sales to hit their strongest annualized selling pace for the year,” said Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta. “GDP is the outlier in these data points. I will roll my eyes and move on. Most of the data we just mentioned is consistent with underlying growth over 3.0%.”
Steve LeVine: How A US Decision To Allow Oil Exports Could Change The World’s Energy Balance
The Obama Administration has taken a bold step toward loosening the grip of tense geopolitics on oil prices, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall), giving the first permission in four decades for the export of unrefined American oil. The decision—not made public but announced in the form of private letters from the US Commerce Department to two oil companies, according to the paper–seems certain to cause a stir in global oil markets and perhaps send prices lower. Global oil prices have surged because of the political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa–the march of Islamic militants in Iraq, the stoppage of oil exports from Libya, and the broad turbulence in Nigeria.
The US decision allows two Texas companies—Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners—to export a form of extremely light oil called condensate. The Journal’s report does not provide the volume. US condensate production in 2012, the last year provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 250,000 barrels a day. That is not much, relatively speaking, but the exports could have a dramatic impact if the Commerce Department provides a broader definition of what counts as condensate for export purposes.
President Obama meets with members of Congress for a roundtable discussion about immigration reform, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office on June 25, 2009. The president was also joined by actors Paul Rudd and Jake Gyllenhaal; they are filming a movie in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama cheers on a child attempting to dunk Press Secretarty Robert Gibbs at the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with attendees of the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs as First Lady Michelle Obama does a little dance while making remarks during a United We Serve event at Fort McNair June 25, 2009
President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, before a meeting with African Outreach Leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets guests before an event at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama eats a hot fudge sundae as he talks with patrons at the UNH Dairy Bar on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at Symphony Hall in Boston, Mass., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
I am very angry! Just what do you take us for, John McCain? Fools? You think we are the rubes in your base whom you’ve whipped up over the decades into backing all your sponsors’, the Military Industrial Complex’s, greedy siphoning of taxpayer $$$ in the name of “keeping America safe”? Or you think we are the fawning media that laps up every turd you have dropped in your public life, even if every prescription you have ever uttered has been deadly and wrong? No you cannot hoodwink the rest of us. Ah ah!!! Naw!
Barely a few months ago you and your comrade in wingnuttery, Lindsay Graham, pranced in front of every damn camera in the land to deride President Obama for not jumping in to arm the anti-Assad factions in Syria. Those factions happen to heavily comprise the SAME damn al Qaeda insurgents (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/ Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — ISIS/ISIL) whom you now want us to go fight in Iraq!!! Before that you had called for airstrikes, and before that you called for the US to enter the Syrian war. Never a dustup anywhere in the world where you didn’t get your bomb bomb bomb war-gasm on. Just what is it that feeds this bloodlust and gunpowder-lust in you so much?
Let me REPEAT what I just said. John McCain & ilk in 2013 vilified President Obama for not going into Syria to arm the mostly Sunni insurgents to fight against Assad’s regime, and also for not bombing up Syrian military & strategic installations. The free-Syrian rebels who may have had a noble cause against Assad’s brutal regime had already been heavily infiltrated by Sunni insurgents pouring in from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and every damn rabbit hole in the Middle East. Yet McCain wanted us turning into the Jihadists’ airforce and arming this unsavory dangerous band of religious fanatics.
So it is especially galling that McCain should think we wouldn’t notice now that it is this same al Qaeda group ISIS/ISIL that he wants us to go back into Iraq to fight against. Even the 3 stooges wouldn’t do anything this stupid, that is, arm the very villains who would turn us into targets! But stupid is what McCain thinks we are. That’s because this disingenuous practice of profiting off all sides of global conflicts is what McCain’s paymasters, the Military Industrial Complex, is well practiced in. They have gotten the American people over the decades to become googly-eyed anytime the con-men feed them pabulum about “sacrifice for our freedoms”, string yellow ribbons and “Support our Troops” bumper stickers, while turning coddled military brass into media celebrities & “analysts” whose word is to be taken as “gospel” by all of us, but most especially the president who must never challenge the word of these gods. When all the while the real intent was to profit off our soldiers backs and taxpayers’s purse.
The misadventure in Iraq saddled us with more than one trillion dollars in debt, more than 4,500 dead soldiers, and more than 30,000 physically wounded, and God knows how many have been PTSD. But Dick Cheney and co made out like bandits, and siphoned $39 billion to his former employers, Halliburton. Thirty-nine billion US dollars plus fat civilian contractor gigs, not to mention the money creamed off the expansion of the national security apparatus, and phony intelligence contracting shell companies set up to extend the milking of our government.
And you John McCain have the nerve to tell us to go back into Iraq to fight the ISIS? Why, your campaign coffers dried up? Or you want a war-on so you can retire to a cushy job as head lobbying honcho of your paymasters when your terms is up in 2 years? Oh no we see your nakedness.
Just you look at this diagram and tell me you can make some damn sense of the Gordian Knot that is the Middle East. Whom and what will we be fighting, yet punching our own faces in the process?
Now sit your ass down and git your hands out of our pockets. Adults are deliberating!