When President Bush II left the White House in 2009, the 13 U.S. courts of appeal were firmly under Republican appointees’ control. Ten appeals courts had majority GOP judges, two were evenly split and only one had a majority of Democrats. President Obama’s 49 appeals court appointees have dramatically altered the landscape. As of the Senate’s recess on May 23, nine of those courts had majority Democratic appointees and four had Republican majorities.
(There are 10 vacancies in the circuit courts. One Obama nominee is awaiting a Senate vote and three nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The change, much feared by Republicans, is not necessarily shocking. But the transformation, in just 5 1/2 years, said University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur D. Hellman, an authority on the federal circuit courts, marks ”a huge shift in a very short period of time.” And it means that Democratic appointed judges “have the ability to control every important case if they wish to” in those nine circuits, he said.
Timothy B. Lee: Obama Has Secured Democratic Majorities On Most Federal Appeals Courts
A president’s Supreme Court nominees get a lot of attention, but presidents shape less visible parts of the judiciary too. Barack Obama is no exception. The Washington Post has a chart showing how the president has changed the composition of the nation’s appeals courts over the last five and a half years: Now, it’s important to say that courts are not supposed to be partisan institutions.
Still, Democratic judicial nominees tend to be more liberal than Republican nominees. And so the growing number of Democrat-appointed judges in our appeals courts will push American jurisprudence to the left on a wide range of issues. And because Obama’s nominees will stay on the bench long after Obama leaves office, these nominations will be one of his most durable legacies.
On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room
12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn
E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger
By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”
But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.
There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”
Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him
According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”
Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.
Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear
It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.
That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.
Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted
As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.
The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”
Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.
The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.
And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.
President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.
“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.
Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal
It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.
Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.
When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.
Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.
Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois
First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.
USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’
The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.
The 12 local communities are:
– Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama
– Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development
– Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission
Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason
President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.
Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”
Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule
President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.
Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.
Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.
His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.
Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.
NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010
…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson
The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011
First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House
Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom
President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
On This Day: President Obama signs the prosthetic arm of Sgt. Carlos Evans, USMC, after greeting wounded warriors in the East Room during their tour of the White House, March 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern):
11:0 The First Lady hosts a workshop for students – “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul”
11:35: President Obama participates in a town hall, Newseum, Washington
Elijah Wolfson: How Obamacare May Lower The Prison Population More Than Any Reform In A Generation
While many have focused on the individual mandate, and the online (and glitchy) insurance exchanges, one of the most potentially impactful elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has flown more or less under the radar. It may be the biggest piece of prison reform the U.S. will see in this generation. In 1980, the number of Americans incarcerated for drug-related offenses was around 41,000. Then, in 1982, the country’s “War on Drugs” officially commenced, and by 2011, that number had shot up to 500,000. In conjunction with funding the front on drug users, President Ronald Reagan defunded federal mental health programs, dropping total mental health spending by over 30 percent. As a result, many of the nation’s mentally ill lost what was essentially their home and place of work, and many ended up on the street.
Today, a good portion of those make their beds in prisons and jails. The last major study on mental health in prisons, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 64 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading up to their arrest. Many hope and believe that change is on its way. The Justice Department estimates suggest that with the expansion of Medicaid, 5.4 million ex-offenders currently on parole or probation could get the health care they need. (It’s important to note that 25 states plus Washington, D.C. have implemented the Medicaid expansion as of 2014. However, many policy experts expect the remaining states to fall in line, citing the historical example of how CHIP was initially rejected by many states when it rolled out in 1997, but is now utilized in every state in the country.)
Carol E. Lee: Obama To Donors: Don’t Let Democrats Get ‘Walloped’
President Barack Obama pleaded with Democratic donors not sit on the sidelines in the midterm elections, warning them the party could get “walloped” if their voters don’t turn out this November. Mr. Obama indicated at a fundraiser Wednesday that he’s concerned Democrats could suffer losses this fall because they are already so focused on the 2016 presidential campaign. No one will work harder than he will to make sure a Democrat succeeds him in office, he said, because he wants to “consolidate and solidify” the gains he’s made over two terms. But right now, he said, the party needs to focus on 2014.
“I’m going to need you,” Mr. Obama told about 70 donors at a dinner held at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter. “The progress we’ve made is on the ballot.” Mr. Obama said Democrats will stand for policies designed to boost the middle class. He pointed to polls showing broad support among Americans for his proposed increase in the federal minimum wage as evidence of what he described as a political system in Washington that’s not reflecting the views of the country. “This counts,” the president said, imploring the well-heeled crowd to “step up.”
Pope Francis signaled that the Catholic Church could support some civil unions, particularly in order to guarantee property rights or medical care for nonmarried couples. The pontiff made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published Wednesday. While the pope’s remark opens the door to support for same-sex civil unions, he did not endorse them outright. The Catholic News Service noted “until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.”
Given that I don’t watch much Russian state television, I naively assumed it would be possible (and even desirable) to go through an entire day without hearing a solid defense of Vladimir Putin’s warmongering. But when confronted with the figure of NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen, this becomes impossible. In a piece for The Nationand an appearance on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show, Cohen gave his best defense of Putin’s Ukraine policy, and inadvertantly showed why making excuses for an autocratic regime makes the apologist look worst of all.
Cohen’s discussion with Fareed Zakaria was brief but telling. After first denying that Putin was a “rank dictator” and saying that he is not “a thug” or “anti-American” (would Putin even deny this last bit anymore?), Cohen got to the main point of his argument: Notice that Cohen initially argues that some sort of control over Ukraine is a requirement of Russian greatness. And then, after explaining this, he says the whole crisis was “imposed” on Putin! This is apologetics done well: first you explain why bad behavior is actually sensisble, and then you say that the bad behavior wasn’t really under the control of the bad actor.
Greg Sargent: Culture War Paranoia Lives On As Dems Sink An Obama Nominee
In a setback for President Obama, the Senate today sank his nomination to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, at a time when the war over voting is increasingly central to our politics, after seven Senate Dems joined Republicans to vote No. They were apparently spooked by Republican attacks on Debo Adegbile for his role in representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose case became an international story after he was convicted of killing a cop in Philadelphia in 1981. The New York Times adds: “As the head of the N.A.A.C.P. legal fund, Mr. Adegbile was not directly involved in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s defense, and the group stepped into the case 25 years after the murder.” Dems who supported Adegbile argued he should not be blamed for the conduct of the man he represented, and that so doing undercuts the foundations of the legal system.
One possible explanation for what happened: Culture war paranoia is alive and well among Democrats. At a time when Dems are increasingly emboldened to take stands on gay rights, gun control, immigration and even abortion that once would have given them far more trepidation, echoes of a battle that feels culturally and politically out of a bygone era were enough to sink a nominee that would have been central to the battle over voting access, which is increasingly important to Dems and their core constituencies in the present. This, even though the once-feared label “soft on crime” seemed to have lost much of its potency against Dems long, long ago.
Nearly six in 10 Americans (58 percent) reported following the health law’s implementation “very” or “fairly” closely in February, according to a new poll, while only 47 percent said they followed the Winter Olympics coverage as intently. Among the most popular health care stories was the decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco products in its stores, as well as news that some employers would have an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide workers with coverage. More Americans–nearly 70 percent–also paid more attention to the U.S. economy than the Olympics.
Imani Gandy: Black Women Are An Electoral Voting Force. Recognize
The 2014 midterm elections are fast approaching, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund has just rolled out its campaign to help educate voters about candidates’ positions on women’s health. “We know that women’s health is a winning issue and that no candidate will be able to win without a plurality of women,” the group’s president, Cecile Richards, said in a statement announcing the launch of the effort, dubbed the “Women are Watching” campaign, which is expected to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states. A week later, the most prominent and well-funded reproductive rights advocacy organization in the nation has demonstrated that it will be relying on the same old campaign formulas designed to educate “key voters” about candidates’ position on abortion and birth control. The problem with this approach is that it is blind to the fact that most women in this country are concerned about more than just birth control and abortion. It’s that broader group of women—Black and Latina women, specifically—who will be delivering electoral victories for Democrats, which, essentially, also means we will be delivering reproductive rights victories in 2014, just as they have in elections dating back to 1980.
Consider the recent election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. In each of those races, Black women propelled the candidates to victory. Left in the hands of white women, Republican candidate Ken Cucinelli, who would have been a disaster for reproductive rights, would be in the Virginia governor’s mansion right now. Let’s also not forget that if it wasn’t for Black women, we would be face-palming our way through a Mitt Romney presidency right now. For example, one of the most important issues facing Black women in the 2014 election cycle—as in the 2012 election cycle—is voter suppression. Republican voter suppression efforts target us because they know that we make up the “gender gap” that has, since 1980, helped Democrats win in election after election. Considering that the upcoming midterm elections will be the first major election since theSupreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, and considering the intensity with which lawmakers in states like Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia have pushed barriers to voting, it seems to me that reproductive rights organizations must place voter suppression at the top of their priorities list.
Do you remember when President Bush’s political adversaries starting ragging on him during the first days after 9/11? Or during the first days of the invasion of Iraq? Me neither. Whatever you think of the holder of the presidential office, if you are actually concerned about the nation’s welfare you don’t go on TV mocking him and saying he’s weak. The President’s critics talk about “resolve” and “leadership” and “toughness” because there are not any actual actions they can point to that they think he should do but isn’t. These phrases are plastic, can mean anything and can be puffed up with all manner of wish-projection and foreign policy fantasy untethered to any concrete and specifics actions.
It recalls the glory days of #RomneyStrength. It’s really that clear. Vague and ambiguous phrases are used to conceal this. What President Obama could do is give Putin an ultimatum to leave Crimea or be forcibly expelled. Then we’d have a real test of strength and Putin would see deep potential costs to his actions. But even the President’s toughest critics recognize this would be insane. It’s really not a good idea to get into a land war with the world’s other major nuclear power on their own terrain. (And whatever we think of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine now they were part of a single country for centuries and in terms of experience, tactics and knowledge it’s home ground for the Russian Army.)
Debo Adegbile did his job, and for that he was deemed unfit by the Senate to become the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His misstep, specifically, was helping represent a death-row inmate while he was director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. With this excuse in hand, Senate Republicans and seven cowardly Democrats, three of whom are up for re-election in November, managed to shut down Mr. Adegbile’s nomination. The final, shameful vote was effectively 51-48 (Senator Harry Reid supported Mr. Adegbile but voted no for procedural reasons). But wait: didn’t the Senate vote to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court, even after learning that he, too, had assisted in the defense of a death-row inmate? That man, John Errol Ferguson, killed eight people. (Despite the help of one of the nation’s top lawyers, Ferguson was executed in Florida last year.)
Scorching statement from Obama in response to Senate's failure to confirm Debo Adegbile http://t.co/aDHQwEvukf
So why does John Roberts get a pass but not Debo Adegbile? Because Mr. Adegbile represented Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia police officer named Daniel Faulkner. For three decades the case has reverberated across the region, which now apparently includes the constituency of Delaware Senator Chris Coons, the last and least expected Democratic vote against the nomination. Some have called Mr. Adegbile a “cop-killer advocate.” Another word for that might be “lawyer.” In representing people like John Ferguson and Mumia Abu-Jamal, Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Adegbile were doing what lawyers everywhere are trained to do. Particularly in death-penalty cases, it is critical to ensure that a defendant has adequate representation and that his trial, conviction and sentence do not violate the Constitution.
Sulia: Russia Today Anchor Resigns Live On Air Over ‘Whitewashing’ Of Putin’s Actions Against Crimea
RT news called it a ‘self promotional’ stunt, but I call it brave: “Russia Today America anchor Liz Wahl resigned Wednesday live on air, saying she could no longer work at the Kremlin-funded network after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wahl said she feels “many ethical and moral challenges” especially since her grandparents fled Hungary during the Soviet era, “ironically to escape the Soviet Union.”
…. Moreover, Republicans were utterly unrestrained in casting opposition to Bush’s policies as disloyalty to the nation. When Nancy Pelosi accused Bush in 2004 of being “incompetent,” Tom DeLay, then the House majority leader, denounced the top House Democrat for being “so caught up in the partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk.”
…. There’s also this. A remarkably broad cross-party consensus has quickly coalesced around two propositions: (1) we will not commit American military forces in this crisis, but (2) we should use every realistic form of pressure at our disposal to contain and then reverse Putin’s assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Must we pretend to disagree even when we agree?
It is often said, “In war, the first victim is truth.” It applies just as much today and perhaps even more so given the many means technology now provides us to seek and find information. The information is then problematic because it is increasingly difficult to sort truth from lies, distortion from disinformation, half-truths from wholly fabricated falsehoods. Perhaps no better example of this is the recently leaked audio recording of a conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union.
The recording is being claimed as proof that Kyiv’s new “Euromaidan” government itself hired the snipers who killed dozens in Ukraine in February. If true, this would be a world-shaking revelation. But is it? What does the audio recording reveal to us, actually? Here are some observations: 1. Even diplomatic meetings are today subject to unauthorized interception & retransmission. This not only threatens the freedom of diplomats to freely exchange views and information, it also makes it easy for third parties to use the released information and present it out of context.
John Harper: Afghanistan Veteran William Kyle Carpenter To Receive Medal Of Honor
President Barack Obama will award medically retired Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter the Medal of Honor later this year in recognition of Carpenter’s heroic actions during a November 2010 grenade attack in Afghanistan. Carpenter, 24, would be the 10th U.S. servicemember — and the second Marine — to receive the Medal of Honor from the war in Afghanistan. Carpenter was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor following reports that he covered a grenade to save the life of his friend,
Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, during an insurgent attack in the Marjah district of Helmand province as the two Marines were standing guard on a rooftop on Nov. 21, 2010. Carpenter and Eufrazio survived the blast, but suffered severe wounds. Carpenter lost an eye and most of his teeth and shattered his jaw; his arm was also broken in several places. Damage from shrapnel to the frontal lobe of Eufrazio’s brain left him unable to speak for two years.
TPM: 41 GOP Senators Try To Filibuster Judge, Then Confirm Him Unanimously
Forty-one Republican senators voted Wednesday to filibuster Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez of Puerto Rico, a nominee to be a U.S. district court judge. Their attempt failed because under new rules established by Democrats, “cloture” on most presidential nominees requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. So the nominee moved forward, 57-41. Then the Senate proceeded to a final vote on the nomination, which passed 98-0, capturing the Republican senators who had just attempted to filibuster Delgado.
Caitlin MacNeal: 5 Year-Old Boy Accidentally Shoots And Kills Himself In California
A 5-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun he found inside his Riverside County, Calif. home on Tuesday, police told NBC Los Angeles. A neighbor called 911 to report the incident, and police pronounced the boy dead when they arrived at the scene, according to NBC.
The United States and its European allies incrementally tightened the noose of their disapproval around Russia on Wednesday, agreeing to send more money to Ukraine, dispatching international observers and more U.S. aircraft to the region, and edging closer to direct sanctions against Moscow. With little movement reported on the ground in Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian region where Russian troops have taken control, attention focused on a chaotic day of diplomatic meetings in Europe. Secretary of State John F. Kerry held his first direct meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, since street protests in the Ukrainian capital turned deadly last month and led to the ouster of Kiev’s pro-Russia government. No progress was reported after the session, held at the home of Russia’s ambassador to France, but Kerry and Lavrov agreed to keep talking.
No similar quips emerged from a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. A NATO diplomat, describing the session as “tense,” said alliance members one by one confronted Alexander V. Grushko, Russia’s representative to NATO, with charges that Moscow was violating international law in Crimea and concocting threats against ethnic Russians there to justify its actions. “It was quite an uncomfortable meeting,” said the diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door session. When it was over, NATO announced that it was suspending collaboration with Russian armed forces on several fronts, including planning for Russia to provide a maritime escort for the U.S. ship that is to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea in the spring. E.U. representatives gave preliminary approval to a $15 billion aid package of loans and grants to Ukraine over the next several years, on top of a U.S. announcement Tuesday of $1 billion in energy loan guarantees.
Reuters: Iran Cutting Sensitive Nuclear Stocks, Much Work Remains: IAEA
Iran is reducing its most proliferation-prone nuclear stockpile as required by its landmark deal with world powers but much work remains to be done to resolve all concerns about Tehran’s activities, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said. Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to fuel an atomic bomb. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450 million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds. The IAEA has a pivotal role in checking that Iran is living up to its part of the six-month accord in curbing its disputed nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions that have impaired its oil-dependent economy.
“As of today, measures agreed under the Joint Plan of Action are being implemented as planned,” Amano said, referring to the November 24 agreement struck in Geneva between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain. These included “the dilution of a proportion of Iran’s inventory” of 20 percent uranium gas to a lower enrichment level, which “has reached the halfway mark”, he told the IAEA’s 35-nation board, according to a copy of his speech. Under the accord, Iran suspended enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile concentration – a relatively short technical step away from the level required for nuclear bombs – and is taking action to neutralize its holding of the material. In return, Iran is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief. The funds will be paid out in eight transfers on a schedule that started with a $550 million payment by Japan on February 1. Last month, banking sources said South Korea was set to make two payments in March totaling $1 billion.
LA Times: Weekly Jobless Claims Drop Sharply To 323,000 As Layoffs Ease
Initial jobless claims fell sharply last week to their lowest level in three months, the Labor Department said Thursday, as a private report showed layoffs eased in February. About 323,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday, down from 349,000, the previous week, the Labor Department said. The falloff was steeper than that expected by analysts, who had forecast 338,000 first-time claims. Last week’s figure was the lowest since the end of November.
Weekly jobless claims below 350,000 indicate moderate labor market growth. The four-week moving average dropped by 2,000 last week, to 336,500. Planned layoffs last month were down 24% from a year ago and marked the lowest February total since 2000, Challenger said. Announced job cuts in the first two months of the year were 9.2% less than for the same period in 2013. Banks and other financial firms had the most announced job cuts in February, with 9,791, about double the amount in January.
Trevor LaFauci: Deafening Silence: Why Conservatives Fear Obama’s Foreign Policy
What’s ironic about the Republican arguments against President Obama’s current course of action is the fact that they clearly aren’t based in reality and only serve to further embarrass the party. For a political party that used to pride itself on foreign policy victories, today’s Republican Party has officially become paranoid after a string of victories by the Obama administration. The problem focuses on the fact that diplomacy is now seen as a viable solution to solving major international conflicts. This undermines the entire Republican foreign policy of flexing our military muscle first and asking questions later.
It also hurts the Republican Party where it matters most: its wallet. You see, if there are no boots on the ground or no planes overhead then our friends at Boeing and Haliburton can’t make a few million bucks producing products with that profit then trickling down to their shareholders who just happen to be Republican government officials. If American diplomacy not only is implemented, but also works, then maybe, just maybe, people might begin to suggest that this tactic always be used first when an international incident occurs. If that happens, if we actually have dialogue between major world leaders, if we actually have economic pressures and sanctions placed against countries that violate law, if we freeze a nation’s assets, then this could lead to a world where American diplomacy, rather than American destroyers, ends up solving international conflicts. And that, for Republicans, is a very scary world.
President Obama on GOP hawks lusting after war with Iran:
“…. those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.
This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.
Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.”
On This Day:
President Obama shoots hoops on the White House South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks towards the White House with friend Eric Whitaker, right and Personal Assistant Reggie Love after shooting hoops at the South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama arrives at Port Columbus International Airport. Columbus, Ohio with Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, and Secret Service, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama ride in the presidential limousine on the way to attending a parent teacher meeting, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shoots baskets on the White House basketball court with Justin Friedlander and his family, July 6, 2010. Friedlander, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March, 2009, has launched an initiative called “Justin’s Quest,” in which he will shoot 63,000 basketball shots, one for every person diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the United States (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama at a news conference in the White House press briefing room, March 6, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama drops by a Partnership for a Healthier America board meeting in the Map Room of the White House, March 6, 2013 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly visit the site of a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left her critically wounded, March 6, 2013