With three weeks to go before the Virginia governor’s election, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli finds himself trailing former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe by 7-9 points, depending on which poll you cite. That’s a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time, but McAuliffe isn’t throwing in the towel. Far from it. In fact, Cuccinelli has enlisted some high profile conservatives to stump with him these final weeks in order to fire up the base and goose Republican turnout.
So a few hours after Hillary Clinton stumps for Democrat Terry McAuliffe Saturday in Northern Virginia, the Republican will campaign with Mike Huckabee next to Liberty University in the conservative stronghold of Lynchburg.
The former presidential candidate and current Fox News analyst is one of several high-profile, right-wing surrogates coming to the commonwealth during the home stretch. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who became famous as a Fox talking head, will appear with Cuccinelli on Monday. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) comes to Virginia Beach the following Monday.
Cuccinelli has been trailing in the high single-digits in a string of polls. The latest, from NBC/Marist, put McAuliffe ahead by 8 points, 46 percent to 38 percent, with 9 percent backing Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
Cuccinelli’s narrow path to victory depends on galvanized conservatives showing up and low-propensity voters who handed the state to President Barack Obama last year – like African Americans and young women – staying home.
After a scorched-earth contest with tens of millions in negative ads, several polls show that more Virginians view each candidate unfavorably than favorably. With no other big contests on the ballot, Cuccinelli’s team assumes that many who might ordinarily show up to vote will not take the time to cast a ballot for somebody they dislike. That puts a premium on eking out very vote possible from activists.
“It is always natural in an off year in the last few weeks to do everything to turn out your base,” said Cuccinelli strategist Chris LaCivita. “The party that takes its base vote for granted in an off-, off-year loses.”
So Cuccinelli is spending more time with conservative media. This week alone, he defended his staunch opposition to abortion in an interview with Newsmax and talked up his libertarian bona fides to the Washington Times.
And, for everyone else, the campaign is trying to make voting for McAuliffe as unpalatable as possible. A TV ad released Friday, for example, said McAuliffe’s election would mean $1,700 in higher taxes every year.
One interesting angle to the race is the surprising strength being shown in the polls by Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, who is currently at around 9%. Historically, third party candidates begin to lose support about this point in a campaign as voters begin to come home to the party they usually support. But while in the past, most libertarian supporters were disgruntled Republicans, such is no the case today. Young people are especially attracted to libertarian ideals and they may be more inclined to stick with a Libertarian candidate and vote for him. Also, the young are far more likely to have voted Democrat in the past. Cuccinelli should not count on a late surge of Libertarian supporters coming to his side.
But Cuccinelli is doing all he can to claim his share of Libertarians who may not want to throw away their vote on election day. Not only has he enlisted Rand Paul to stump with him, but he sought and got the endorsement of Paul’s father Ron last week.
This brings the race back to turnout. And Cuccinelli should feel pretty good about that:
Cuccinelli’s team is counting on very low turnout. In 2008, 72 percent of eligible voters showed up and Obama won by 6 points. In 2009, 40 percent of eligible voters turned out and Republican Bob McDonnell won by 17 points. Last year, 72 percent of eligible voters came out for the presidential election and Obama won by 4 points.
Many expect less than 40 percent turnout in 2013.
The bottom line is that the GOP in Virginia should not despair. There are three long weeks to go and several factors working in Cuccinelli’s favor. What the AG needs now more than anything is money. He’s getting killed on the airwaves and outside conservative sources of cash appear to be holding back, not believing he can mount a comeback. Perhaps that will change but unless it does, it won’t matter how excited he can get the base of the party to turn out for him on election day.
It almost seems comical. A a pro-gun, pro-coal former Democratic governor of a small red state with zero national name recognition who used a branding iron to veto bills from the Republican legislature challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination?
On the surface, the idea that Brian Schweitzer would have a ghost of a chance against the former Senator from New York and Secretary of State seems delusional. Indeed, Schweitzer himself said last year that he expected Clinton to breeze to the nomination and beat any Republican in the general election.
Has the political landscape changed that much in a year? Schweitzer himself hit upon Clinton’s major weakness in an interview with RCP”:
“There’s a whole lot of America that looks at each other and says, ‘Well, there’s 340 million people living in America. Isn’t there somebody other than a Bush or a Clinton who can be president in these modern times? Isn’t there hope for somebody who’s running a business or who has served overseas or comes from a different occupation to become president? Are we now in the era of royalty again?’ So I think there’s some level of frustration about that.”
Schweitzer is articulating the exhaustion felt by many voters with the hyper-partisan, dysfunctional politics of Washington. And since there’s every indication it is only going to get worse over the next three years of the Obama administration, why not a smiling, likable populist from the romantic west whose unquestioned popularity in Montana that crosses party lines could translate into victory in the 2016 general election?
Shortly after leaving office, Schweitzer executed a hostile takeover of Stillwater Mining — the largest publicly traded mining company in Montana. He also owns several ranches across the state.
His latest comments about potentially running against Clinton are in stark contrast to an appraisal he made to the Associated Press a year ago. At that time, Schweitzer said, “If Hillary runs, she walks away with the nomination and then beats whichever Republican.”
But as he has settled into his private sector role, Schweitzer’s views on whether anyone can beat the former senator and secretary of state appear to have changed significantly.
After being term-limited last year, he was heavily recruited by national Democrats to run for his state’s open Senate seat in 2014 but announced in July that he would not do so.
His heavy use of the veto pen — or veto branding iron, in his case — and reputation as a competent fiscal steward earned him consistently high approval ratings in Republican-leaning Montana.
Schweitzer’s tough-talking leadership style, anti-Washington ethos, and proven ability to win in a state that has not been friendly to his own party in presidential elections might draw Democratic comparisons to New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, another 2016 presidential aspirant.
But the pro-gun, pro-coal policies that worked for Schweitzer so well in Montana would be a far tougher sell in a Democratic primary.
Another of Schweitzer’s most immediate challenges in mounting a serious campaign would be to build his name recognition against the universally known and already nearly anointed Clinton.
But in the interview with RCP, Schweitzer suggested that his down-home persona and knack for generating free media coverage might keep him in the hunt, particularly in Iowa — a state that has not been friendly territory for Clinton in the past.
“Who would’ve thunk Obama would come out of this thing when you had, my God, Dodd, Biden, Billy Richardson, Hillary Clinton,” Schweitzer said of the 2008 Democratic nominating contest. “So the nice thing about the people of Iowa is they ain’t going to let the rest of America make up their minds for them.”
Some of Schweitzer’s views are out of the mainstream of the Democratic party. He signed an innovative pro-gun bill that exempted Montana-made firearms from federal regulation. He also vigorously pushed development of Montana’s huge coal reserves.
But on the flip side, he also promoted renewable energy for the state, vastly increasing power generation from wind and solar sources. And his administration was cited for innovative educational reforms, including a universal kindergarten program.
In short, Schweitzer could be considered a mainstream Democrat. Unfortunately, that’s not the profile of the average Democratic primary voter, who tend to be much more liberal. Still, Schweitzer has a populist streak that might appeal to some of those liberals looking for a credible alternative to Hillary Clinton.
At the moment, the liberal darling Elizabeth Warren is being encouraged to look into making a run. And Maryland’s very liberal Governor Martin O’Malley has let it be known he is seriously contemplating entering the race as well. Warren is a long shot to make a go of it and O’Malley doesn’t excite too many people on the left. Might this mean that there is room for someone of Schweitzer’s unique personae and abilities to challenge the front runner?
Hillary’s run for the nomination is looking less and less like a coronation after all.
This is a brutal assessment of the Obamacare insurance exchange by NRO’s Yuval Levin, who talked to several upper-echelon bureaucrats at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as well as some insurance industry people intimately involved in the sign-up process.
After many caveats and qualifiers, Levin describes the panic of those he spoke with regarding just how bad the problems are with the Healthcare.Gov website. Despite round-the-clock attempts to fix the problems, things aren’t getting any better and the prospects for a functional system that could sign up enough enrollees to make Obamacare work are not very good.
Some highlights from Levin’s article that should be read in its entirety to get the full scope of desperation and resignation that he found with the CMS and insurance reps:
What has happened, at least so far, presents itself in several layers. One key problem, which to date has been the most prominent in public, has to do with a late-in-the-game decision to require users to go through a complex account-creation process before even reaching any coverage options. Administration officials apparently went back and forth several times on this question, and the ultimate decision required the creation of a series of patches over an already developed site in a very short time. Most of the problems people have faced so far are a function of that decision, and have had to do with creating user accounts and so getting through the very first steps involved in purchasing coverage. Some journalists and analysts have speculated that this decision was made in order to prevent people from seeing premium costs before they could also see any subsidies they might be eligible for, so that the shock of higher prices could be contained and so that simply curious observers and journalists couldn’t get a picture of premium costs in the various states. This explanation strikes me as plausible, and it struck several of the people I spoke with as plausible, but none of them could confirm it. It may be true, but it’s surely not the only possible explanation. Whatever the cause, that decision has created crippling problems that are still largely unresolved.
This fits right in with the general dishonesty that has been a hallmark of Obamacare from the time it was introduced to the present. They are pathologically incapable of being honest about the deleterious effects of Obamacare on business, on the economy, on the consumer, and on the health and well-being of the American people.
The problems people are now facing with the basic interface have taken up most of the time that CMS and its contractors have devoted to troubleshooting so far, and although things have improved a little on this front quite serious problems remain. But there are very serious problems beyond that, which are more like the sorts of problems people were predicting before the launch: database problems at the nexus of several federal and industry data sources. The federal data hub itself is so far doing reasonably well at its basic tasks, and that has come as a relief to CMS. But some of the site functions that rely on the hub, both in the federal exchanges and a number of the state exchanges, remain highly problematic. The calculation of subsidies continues to fail tests, and it’s pretty clear that some actual consumers have made actual purchases with bad information, which will become apparent to them when they get their first bills. If the interface problems are addressed and the volume of purchases increases, this calculation problem could become a huge concern.
In what is being called an unprecedented move, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced it is declining it’s first ever UN Security Council seat over the international body’s inaction on the Syria crisis and the Palestinian question.
The Saudis had worked for years to get elected to a seat on the SC, so their refusal to accept it is causing some head scratching around the world.
The kingdom condemned what it called international double standards on the Middle East and demanded reforms in the Security Council.
Riyadh’s frustration is mostly directed at Washington, its oldest international ally, which has pursued policies since the Arab Spring that Saudi rulers have bitterly opposed and which have severely damaged relations with the United States, Saudi analysts have said.
Saudi Arabia has also been angered by a rapprochement between Iran, its old regional foe, and the United States, which has taken root since President Barack Obama spoke by telephone last month to the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, in the highest-level contact between the two countries in more than three decades.
Citing the Security Council’s failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, take steps to end Syria’s civil war and to stop nuclear proliferation in the region, Riyadh said the body had instead perpetuated conflicts and grievances.
“Saudi Arabia … is refraining from taking membership of the U.N. Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace,” said a Foreign Ministry statement issued on state media.
The conservative Islamic kingdom has traditionally avoided big political statements, preferring to wield its influence as world’s top oil exporter, birthplace of Islam and chief Arab ally of the United States behind closed doors.
However, its anger at the international response to Arab issues, particularly the Syrian conflict, boiled over after Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, escaped U.S.-led military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus by agreeing to give up his chemical arsenal.
It is the second time this month that Saudi Arabia has made a public gesture over what it sees as the Security Council’s failure to take action to stop the civil war in Syria that has killed more than 100,000 people.
Earlier this month, the Saudi foreign minister cancelled a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in frustration over the international inaction on Syria and the Palestinian issue, a diplomatic source said.
“The kingdom sees that the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace,” the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency, SPA.
The Kingdom is also citing UN inaction on the Palestinian question and its inability to end what they call the “Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
But it is on the matter of the Syrian civil war that the Saudis apparently feel betrayed by the west. Their anger at Russia and China for blocking every effort at sanctioning Bashar Assad for his murderous suppression of the opposition, as well as the failure by the UNSC to condemn the poison gas attack on Syrian civilians has evidently made participation on the Security Council problematic.
This article in Foreign Policy, one observer called the Saudi action “bizarre”:
“This strikes me as bizarre; I’ve got no good explanation for it,” said F. Gregory Gause, a professor of political science at the University of Vermont and an expert on Saudi Arabia. “I know the Saudi diplomats at the mission were preparing for this; they were taking courses at Columbia University to get ready.” Gause said that Saudi foreign policy has a deeply personal quality to it and that the Saudi leadership sometimes has “fits of pique and then backs down. I don’t know if this is a fit of pique.”
The statement by the Saudi foreign ministry left the door open for future participation:
In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Foreign Ministry offered its “sincere thanks and deep gratitude to all countries that have given their confidence to elect it as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years.” But it said “Saudi Arabia … is refraining from taking membership of the U.N. Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace.” It denounced that “the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace.”
When the Saudis cite “double standards” at the UN they’re talking about Iraq and the international effort that eventually toppled Saddam Hussein. They may not want western troops on the ground in Syria, but there is no doubt they feel that Washington and the international community could be doing a lot more to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and bring down the alawite regime in Damascus.
The Saudis would not have been a wholly reliable vote on the SC as far as supporting American foreign policy. But the prospect of another nation even less friendly to US interests taking the seat makes the Saudi decision a problem for the US and the west.
Is it really possible to draw valuable lessons from this tragic-comedy of a government shutdown?
Insofar that Americans are paying attention, yes. But if all you do is pay attention to the posturing, the political theater, chances are you learn nothing.
President Obama has done a beautiful job of framing the shut down in ways that the American people can’t fail to understand; you need government more than you think and all these bad things that happen would be even worse if those crazy Republicans were put in charge.
On the other hand, lacking unity of purpose, the Republicans have been unable to generate much of a narrative except to accuse Obama of playing politics with the shutdown.
Both sides are guilty of overreach. Obama on shutting down venues unnecessarily and Republicans on trying to defund Obamacare. But despite the effort to carefully choreograph this kabuki dance for maximum PR effect, it’s the American people who have surprised both sides.
Vets marching en masse to the memorials to physically tear down the artificial — and cynical — attempt by the president to generate outrage against Republicans. And, as AP reports, here and there around the country, private citizens and organizations are taking responsibility for their own communities and donating time and money to help those in need:
For 16-year-old Alishe’ah Sockwell, federal money makes a big difference.
It helps put a roof over her head. It allows her mother, Nia, to undergo job training. And it pays for childcare for Sockwell’s young daughter so that Sockwell can go to high school every day in Little Rock, Arkansas.
But with some federal funds out of reach because of the shutdown, Sockwell may have to stay home from school in order to watch her daughter. If the shutdown drags on much longer, her housing could be in jeopardy, too.
So, to fill in the gaps, the nonprofit organization that provides Sockwell and other homeless people in Little Rock with childcare, shelter and other assistance, has asked community members to chip in.
Donations trickled in for that organization, called Our House, and something similar is happening around the U.S.
Across the country, donors big and small are opening their wallets to help keep afloat programs that protect people in need as the government shutdown persists. A pair of Texas philanthropists pledged up to $10 million to help Head Start pre-kindergarten programs for poor children hurt by the shutdown. A university in New Hampshire decided to offer scholarships to active-duty military personnel whose tuition assistance has been switched off by the shutdown.
And in Arkansas, people have been donating to Our House.
But those donations aren’t enough to cover the federal funding tied up by the shutdown that began Oct. 1.
No, that’s true. But this was a spontaneous response to a crisis. Imagine if communities organized themselves to deal with their neighbor’s problems year round? Of course, such voluntary community assistance wouldn’t cover everyone in need. But think of the benefits of shrinking the anti-poverty bureaucracy to a more manageable size.
And that brings us to another surprise that has emerged from the shutdown crisis. People are looking around and seeing that the sky isn’t falling, the earth isn’t being swallowed up by a gigantic sink hole, and the sun still rises every morning in the east even though the government is partially shut down.
With landmarks closed, paychecks delayed and workers furloughed, Americans are drawing dueling lessons from the rippling effects of the partial shutdown: The disruptions show that the feds are way too involved in people’s lives or that the government does a lot of vital things that people take for granted.
There’s a messaging war underway to see which viewpoint will prevail. But any shift in public opinion also may well hinge on how much, or how little, people are personally affected as the shutdown drags on.
“It definitely has brought to life what’s going on,” says Pamela Jones, a lawyer from Richmond, Calif., who’s noticing the shutdown’s effects all around her, in closed national parks, disrupted weddings, shuttered restaurants and “life moments and events destroyed.”
Jones, 54, a Democrat and fiscal conservative, finds herself torn in the too-much, too-little debate over the federal government, and says the shutdown at least is giving “more information to the common man, so to speak.”
Jim Chenye, a former marketing manager in Birmingham, Ala., sees no argument for the importance of government in the shutdown’s rippling effects.
“I’m never an advocate of a larger federal government,” says Chenye, 64, a Republican. The shutdown and debt ceiling debate show the government’s broken, Chenye says, but he figures the annoyances of the moment will be long forgotten before people vote in the 2016 elections.
As with the sequester, the administration oversold the idea of catastrophe if a shut down occurred. But people adapt or make do with what they have. We’ve always done that. It’s just that in the last few decades, we’ve forgotten how to. Self-reliance is an American birthright, something in which individuals used to take an enormous pride.
It’s not that we don’t “need” government. I would have hated it if we had to rely on state militias to take down the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. And a social safety net for those in genuine need is a necessity to keep people from dying in the streets of starvation or exposure. There are hundreds of other things that a 21st century urban industrialized society asks of government — things that only the federal government can do. The questions being debated are how much government do we need and, just as importantly, how much can we afford?
If we ever get serious about this debate and deal with those questions, conservatism will once again become ascendant.
A Senior US District Judge wrote on his blog “It is time to tell Congress to go to hell” and suggested that there may be a war brewing between the two branches of government over lack of funding.
Judge Richard Kopf, who sits in Lincoln, Nebraska, vented about the difficulties being faced by the court system, including the slowing of justice for those petitioning the court for relief.
“Given the loss of employees already suffered by the judiciary on account of the sequester and otherwise, why shouldn’t every remaining employee of every federal district court (including [federal public defenders]) be declared ‘essential?’” the judge asked.
“Such an order would set up an inter-branch dispute worth having….[Congress] could do nothing, in which event Congress loses its ability to destroy the judiciary [by] failing to pass a budget. Or, Congress could go batshit and the judiciary and Congress could have it out,” he said.
Such exasperation is even creeping into judicial rulings.
When lawyers for the House urged Judge Amy Berman Jackson to keep a case demanding Operation Fast and Furious-related records from Attorney General Eric Holder moving forward during the shutdown, the judge said lawmakers could cool their heels, just like others with claims pending against the government.
“While the vast majority of litigants who now must endure a delay in the progress of their matters do so due to circumstances beyond their control, that cannot be said of the House of Representatives, which has played a role in the shutdown that prompted the stay motion,” Jackson wrote.
Even before the shutdown, the judiciary shed nearly 2,700 support staff positions over the past two years. Funding for drug testing and electronic monitoring of pre-trial detainees had also been slashed by 20 percent, and federal defenders were under orders to take about 15 days of unpaid furlough in the past year.
The cuts have caused delays in criminal and civil cases. Even the posting of judge’s orders has slowed, with many federal court clerk’s offices looking largely empty compared with a few years ago.
Sequestration cut $350 million, or about 5 percent, from the judiciary’s budget in the past fiscal year, bringing it to about $6.6 billion annually.
Judges themselves are effectively exempt from furlough because the Constitution says their salaries — currently $174,000 for district court judges — cannot be reduced.
For the past two weeks, the federal courts have essentially operated on fumes, using funds from filing fees and so-called no-year appropriations to pay salaries and keep the lights on. Court budget personnel now predict that money will run out on Thursday or Friday of this week. After that, work deemed essential will continue, but there will be no way to pay employees, contractors or utilities until Congress passes legislation including temporary or year-long funding.
This is not the first time that complaints from judges have bubbled up in the press. In August, 87 federal court judges sent a letter to Congress warning of “devastating” consequences if funds weren’t restored. As with much of the sequestration it’s difficult to tell how much real pain is being inflicted or how much unwillingness there is to prioritize and budget intelligently.
Regardless, it appears that the situation is coming to a head this week, which will only add pressure to re-open the government and reform sequestration to mitigate some of its effects on unintended targets.
Believing they have Republicans backed into a corner on the debt ceiling increase, Democrats are pressing their advantage by refusing to grant any concessions to Senate Republicans while seeking to raise spending levels in the budget bill that would put an effective end to the sequester.
Senate Democrats reasserted themselves Saturday in the government funding and debt-ceiling debate after talks between Obama and House Republicans collapsed the previous day.
After Obama gave House Republicans reason on Thursday to hope for concessions, Senate Democrats reined those expectations back.
They do not intend to grant Senate Republicans any significant victories in exchange for opening the government or increasing borrowing authority, dimming the possibility of a deal before stock markets open Monday.
Senate Democrats rejected a proposal sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), which many Senate Republicans hoped could lay the groundwork for a deal.
“It is not going anyplace at this stage,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. “Number one, it opens the government; number two, it extends the debt ceiling. But other than that there is little agreement with us.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, told Collins on the Senate floor the proposal was unacceptable because it would lock in federal spending for six months at the levels set by the House GOP, according to a source familiar with the conversation.
Senate Democrats instead want to craft a budget deal that would eliminate the so-called sequestration levels.
Senate Republicans warn Reid will face a public backlash if he refuses to seriously consider what they consider a pragmatic offer from Collins.
“If they reject a good-faith offer and everybody in the middle would define Collins as a good-faith offer, then the charade that they’re negotiating would fall apart,” said a Senate GOP aide.
The Collins plan would fund the government at an annual rate of $986 billion for six months; extend the debt limit until Jan. 31, 2014; delay the medical device tax for two years and provide federal agencies greater flexibility to manage spending levels under sequestration.
It would also set up an income verification process to prevent fraud in the healthcare insurance exchanges and convene bicameral budget talks with an end-date of Jan. 15, 2014.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) dismissed a six-month stopgap at House GOP funding levels.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) suggested a deal could hinge on getting Republicans to agree to higher funding levels for fiscal year 2014.
“It has to get down to this budget number,” he said.
It’s significant that Reid has rejected every single Republican proposal for ending the stand-off. It’s obvious he feels no need to negotiate seriously with Senator McConnell and will all but dictate the terms of the GOP surrender.
Democrats view funding government and raising the debt-ceiling as congressional responsibilities that do not merit concessions.
“They’re not doing us any favor by reopening the government. They’re not doing us a favor by extending the debt ceiling. That’s part of our jobs,” Reid told reporters.
That does not sound like a man about to compromise.
I imagine they’re not alone in wanting America to go away. We certainly can be a troublesome superpower at times — especially for the running-dog, commie hegemons in Beijing.
But, really. “De-Americanize” the world? Forget our nukes and the world’s most sophisticated, powerful, professional military. Forget our $15 trillion economy. Forget the fact that American culture is voraciously consumed by most of the planet.
Never mind all that. I’ve got two words for the Chinese: blue jeans.
China’s official news agency has called for the creation of a “de-Americanised world”, saying the destinies of people should not be left in the hands of a hypocritical nation with a dysfunctional government.
Heaping criticism and caustic ridicule on Washington, the Xinhua news agency called the US a civilian slayer, prisoner torturer and meddler in others’ affairs, and said the ‘Pax Americana’ was a failure on all fronts.
The official news agency of China, which is seen as the pretender to the world’s superpower crown, then rubbed in more salt, calling American economic pre-eminence just a seeming dominance.
“As US politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world,” the editorial said.
It asks why the self-declared protector of the world is sowing mayhem in the financial markets by failing to resolve political differences over key economic policy.
“… the cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonised,” the agency said.
It is not the first time Chinese leadership and newspapers have criticised Washington over a policy paralysis that threatens to devalue its dollar assets.
According to US Treasury Department data, China is the biggest foreign owner of US Treasuries at $1.28 trillion as of July. Besides, China also holds close to $3.5 trillion of dollar-denominated assets.
A US debt default and consequent credit downgrade would significantly erode the value of China’s holdings.
As the first step in creating a de-Americanised world, all nations must try to shape an international system that respects the sovereignty of all nations and ensures the US keeps out of the domestic affairs of others, Xinhua said.
“The developing and emerging market economies need to have more say in major international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, so that they could better reflect the transformations of the global economic and political landscape,” the editorial says.
You know what? They’re right. Why can’t we have a government like China’s? They don’t have any messy politicking largely because they don’t allow anyone to join the leadership who might rock the boat too much. Bo Xilai was a corrupt official — but if you look closely at all of them, I doubt whether you’d find any of them without sin. Bo’s crime was not corruption but apostasy. He crossed some very powerful people and will spend the rest of his life in jail for it.
That’s one way to get everyone to go along, I suppose.
Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, is crying foul over a huge increase over a 24 hour period for Fox News prime time shows in the key 25-54 demo.
Monday we had a really good day in the key demographic. On the night that Fox News debuted their three shows, we either tied or beat them in those hours,” Griffin said at a briefing, according to TVNewser.
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“Tuesday — you guys should be doing some investigations; I have never seen it in all my years of cable — same overnight, same everything. And they doubled their ratings in a day? It is impossible.” Griffin continued, “I have never seen it. They did election-night numbers in the demo Tuesday.”
The Nielsen numbers Griffin refers to include MSNBC beating Fox News on Monday in the adults 25-54 demographic at 7 p.m. and tying Fox News at 10 p.m.
At 9 p.m. on Monday, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show beat Fox News’ new The Kelly File, hosted by Megyn Kelly, by a slim 10,000 viewers in the key demo.
By Tuesday, though, Fox News was back to its dominant self, with 573,000 in the key demo compared with 261,000 for MSNBC between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Perhaps most dramatically, Kelly’s narrow loss to Rachel Maddow from a night earlier was significantly reversed, with Kelly drawing an audience of 623,000 in the key demo compared with Maddow’s 291,000.
Nielsen has not yet responded to Griffin’s remarks.
On Wednesday, Kelly beat Maddow 384,000 to 299,000 in the key demo, with CNN’s Piers Morgan Live at 117,000. And on Thursday, Kelly beat Maddow 376,000 to 288,000, with Morgan at 157,000.
Nielson hasn’t commented on the outrageous suggestion — and probably won’t. It’s kooky to suggest that the tens of thousands of boxes used by Nielson to gauge ratings were somehow redirected over 24 hours. I suppose it could be a computer glitch at Nielson but you would expect internal controls that would be triggered when such a discrepancy occurred would easily have caught something like that.
Griffin’s real whine is that MSNBC has dramatically changed it’s programming and still can’t make a dent in the lead of Fox News. The ratings troubles at the network highlight just how few liberals have the stomach to watch 4 hours of prime time featuring hectoring, lecturing hosts whose open hate for their political opponents gets tiresome after a while.
No short term debt deal, says Obama. Harry Reid says no deal based on Maine Senator Susan Collin’s plan to re-open government for 6 months, raise the debt limit through January, and negotiate budget and entitlement reforms.
It should be clear to just about anyone over the age of 5 at this point that the Democrats want total, abject surrender by Republicans. And Obama has shut down negotiations with the House, searching for more malleable partners in the Senate who are more of a mind to give a lot to get very little.
Minority Leader McConnell and Majority Leader Reid are currently locked in negotiations. At the moment, all Republican plans in both Houses of Congress have been rejected by Democrats. We’re back to square one and the clock is ticking.
I don’t think there’s any question that this is not going to turn out well for the GOP. There is precious little time left to get anything done and the chances of turning out a clean debt limit increase longer than a few months appear to be growing — at least in the Senate.
Will it fly in the House? Probably not with a majority of Republicans. But McConnell needs only 16 or so apostates to prevent default and there are easily that many skittish Republican congressmen who would vote for anything that kept the country from running through the debt ceiling.
Moreover, Democrats are calling for a longer-term budget deal that would raise the debt ceiling and extend government funding. And they said that agreeing to a shorter-term budget deal and a lower funding level — with a handful of changes to Obamacare — was asking too much after they have called for a “clean” increase to the $16.7 trillion national debt ceiling and a stop-gap measure to keep the government running.
This means that there is little time for the two sides to reach a deal — and the talks may now shift to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to try to find a way out of the crisis now that the House Republicans have hit an impasse with the White House. Reid and McConnell met Saturday morning.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said McConnell briefed GOP senators on the status of those discussions but did not offer further details.
“Mitch and Harry are involved in negotiations and all of us want to support those,” Corker said following a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans. “It’s very evident the White House is not going to be involved in the negotiations, at least at this point they’re, and the centerpiece is Reid and McConnell.”
(Also on POLITICO: House takes back seat after W.H. rejects budget plan)
Asked about the Collins plan, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the problem was that Republicans couldn’t agree among themselves.
“We don’t have an agreement, until we do it’s all speculative,” Durbin said Saturday.
Meanshile, Rep. Paul Ryan lashed out at the Republican Senate for upstaging the House in the negotiations:
“They’re trying to cut the House out, and trying to jam us with the Senate. We’re not going to roll over and take that,” Ryan told reporters. When asked if he felt “double crossed,” Ryan said “you look at the facts and draw your own conclusions.”
Senate Republicans, led by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, are negotiating with Democrats on a package to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling into next year with relatively modest concessions for the GOP.
Ryan said House Republicans only learned the details about the plan this morning, and added that he strenuously objects to it. When asked which parts of the plan he has a problem with, Ryan said there are “too many to go into.”
One of the most significant differences between a House framework sent to the White House late Thursday and Collins’s plan is the length of time it would extend the debt ceiling. Boehner has put forward a six-week extension, while Collins’ plan has been reported to extend almost until February 2014.
At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans minutes earlier, Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor offered a similar message to their colleagues.
“We need Senate Republicans to stand up and stand firm,” Cantor said, according to a person in the room.
Boehner said that in talks between the two sides, Obama had agreed to nothing and the House would be holding its position for now.
House-Senate relations are often tense, but Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell are often said to have a very close working relationship. In several other showdowns with Obama, McConnell and Senate Republicans have embraced legislation opposed by most House Republicans. But many in the Capitol speculated that McConnell’s actions were done with Boehner’s approval, even if tacit.
In this case, Ryan’s and Cantor’s words suggest the rift is significant.
Boehner gets no respect from most of his caucus which makes it difficult to conduct negotiations. McConnell isn’t much better but can be counted on bringing most GOP Senators along with him. Cantor and Beohner may hope that Senate Republicans “stand firm,” but that’s a chimera. Stand firm for what? What’s the plan? What’s the strategy? Since House Republicans are similarly handicapped, Reid may be in a position to literally dictate his terms, perhaps throwing a bone so that McConnell can save face.
No such favors for Boehner and House Republicans will be forthcoming. Democrats are furious with the House GOP and would enjoy watching them be humiliated by a total walkback from their previous positions.
What is the matter with Republicans? Why can’t they make a deal with the president?
After all, he’s so reasonable, so accommodating, so…so…
So two-faced about negotiations.
President Obama signaled Saturday that he wouldn’t accept the Republicans’ offer for a short-term increase in the nation’s debt limit.
“It wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season,” Obama said in his weekly address.
“Because damage to America’s sterling credit rating wouldn’t just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money. Students paying for college. Newlyweds buying a home,” he said.
House Republicans have offered a six-week increase in the debt limit. If adopted, the plan will buy time for broader negotiations over entitlement spending and taxes, they say.
The only problem is that the president’s press secretary said on Thursday that Obama would indeed accept a short-term debt increase.
President Obama would sign a bill approving a short-term debt ceiling hike, even without an agreement to end the government shutdown, the White House said Thursday.
Still, it’s Obama’s preference to raise the debt ceiling for a longer period of time, while also reopening the government, press secretary Jay Carney said.
“The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option,” Carney told reporters during his daily briefing. But, he added, “the president believes that it would be far better for the Congress, and in this case the House, to raise the debt ceiling for an extended period of time.”
Carney wouldn’t rule out the prospect that Obama would nonetheless sign a short-term extension, but reserved judgment until the White House gets a full proposal. “We have seen nothing, obviously no proposal, from House Republicans yet. There’s no bill to look at,” he said, and the details of a proposal that can pass the House critical to whether the president can support it.
Still, Carney later said, “if a clean debt limit bill is passed [Obama] would likely sign it.”
This has every appearance of being an ad-hoc strategy. The president knows he has the GOP by the short hairs and will now extract maximum concessions, humiliating Republicans in the bargain. He will not help them out of the box they have put themselves in.
Is there any part of the healthcare.gov network that’s working properly?
Well, presumably, the webpage that tells people the site is experiencing difficulties is performing magnificently. But beyond that, nothing much else appears to be anywhere close to operational.
If the website were a little league baseball game, it would have been shut down due to the slaughter rule. And what is truly remarkable about the situation, is that much of our not-very-inquisitive press is accepting without a blink of an eye, the administration explanation that the reason for all of these problems is that traffic is through the roof and that once we get adequate server capacity and fix a few minor bugs, things will be just peachy.
Perhaps our media should listen to the insurance companies.
The federal health-care exchange that opened a dozen days ago is marred by snags beyond the widely publicized computer gridlock that has thwarted Americans trying to buy a health plan. Even when consumers have been able to sign up, insurers sometimes can’t tell who their new customers are because of a separate set of computer defects.
The problems stem from a feature of the online marketplace’s computer system that is designed to send each insurer a daily report listing people who have just enrolled. According to several insurance industry officials, the reports are sometimes confusing and duplicative. In some cases, they show — correctly or not — that the same person enrolled and canceled several times on a single day.
The ability of consumers to sign up for a health plan, and the ability of the insurers to know who they are covering, is key to the success of the federal law that will for the first time require most Americans to have health insurance starting Jan. 1. The Web site www.healthcare.gov is the main path for millions of Americans in 36 states to purchase new coverage.
The flawed enrollment reports illustrate that the site is bedeviled by problems that go beyond what the Obama administration has acknowledged in explaining the creaky performance of the exchange so far.
“Creaky?” This is a full-out, stomach-turning, metal-on-metal grinding disaster. I’ve heard transmissions in the process of being stripped that sounded better.
But the flawed reports are only the tip of the iceberg for the insurance companies. Evidently, the data they’re getting is so unreliable, they are putting off signing their new customers up until they can figure out if the subsidy information being given by the website is accurate.
For instance, one major insurance carrier, Cigna, sent a notice Wednesday to insurance brokers instructing them to wait until November to try to sign up customers who might qualify for a subsidy, according to Joseph Mondy, a Cigna spokesman. He said that the company does not yet trust the reliability of the part of the exchange that is supposed to calculate the tax credits that will, for the first time, help some Americans pay for private health coverage.
Cigna is one of the insurers that has built its own online “portal” for brokers to use, but that portal must communicate with the federal exchange to find out about a potential subsidy.
Cigna is selling health plans via the federal exchange in four states: Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Mondy said the carrier has seen “multiple enrollments” coming through for the same customer on the same day.
A Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in a Southern state said that it has also gotten simultaneous reports of the same consumers enrolling as of Jan. 1 and cancelling as of Dec. 31, 2014.
“It’s a glitch that . . . needs to be fixed,” said a spokesman for the plan, who, like most insurers interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the Obama administration.
Imagine being terrified in America of telling the truth about a government operation because a company fears a backlash from an administration? American businesses have learned their lessons well by watching what happened to the Tea Party and other conservative groups when they didn’t say nice things about the president.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the absolute stupidity of the design and architecture of the website than this experience in attempting to sign up by a software engineer:
James Turner, a software engineer from Derry, N.H., said he has spent seven hours since Oct. 2 trying to enroll but keeps encountering issues that make have made it impossible for him to complete the application. Turner, 51, one of a number of software engineers who have written online critiques of the system, said the most infuriating one involves his wife. According to the system, he said, “I have four spouses.”
He said it has been impossible to delete the phantom family members from his profile.
Lying about the seriousness of the software problems, lying about not having knowledge of the numbers of enrollees, lying about how easy it is to sign up once you get through the process — a law built on lies is being rolled out with bigger lies.
Will anyone even notice? They haven’t so far.
At least this excuse by the TSA for allowing a 9 year old stowaway to fly to Vegas from Minneapolis has the virtue of never having been tried before.
The Gropers claim that because of furloughs due to the government shutdown, they were unable to keep track of the unnamed youngster, who evidently ran away from home on Thursday.
A 9-year-old Minneapolis boy was able to get through security and onto a plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport without a ticket, an airport spokesman said Sunday.
Security officials screened the boy at airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said. The boy then boarded Delta Flight 1651, which left for Las Vegas at 11:15 a.m.
The flight was not full, Hogan said, and the flight crew became suspicious midflight because the boy was not on their list of unattended minors. The crew contacted Las Vegas police, who met them upon landing and transferred the boy to child protection services, Hogan said.
“I’ve worked at the airport for 13 years, and we have more than 33 million people go through the terminal every year, and I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before,” Hogan said.
Minneapolis Police went to his residence. Parents told officers they “hadn’t seen much of him today.” A family member told police the boy ran away and was last seen earlier Thursday.
A spokesperson with the Transportation Security Agency pointed out that staffing is currently low due to the number of employees furloughed in the wake of the federal government shutdown.
“We’re investigating … and looking into our part to see what occurred and what didn’t occur,” said the TSA spokesperson.
Video also shows the boy at the airport Wednesday, Hogan said. He grabbed a bag from the carousel and ordered lunch at a restaurant outside of the security checkpoints, Hogan said. He ate and then told the server he had to use the bathroom, left the bag and never returned to pay.
The owner of the bag was identified, and the bag was returned to him, Hogan said. Nothing was stolen.
Let us count the ways that TSA — and the airline — dropped the ball.
1. No one should be able to get through security without their own ticket. Even if the kid latched on to an adult going through the security line pretending to be a family member, his ticket should have been verified.
2. Was the entire airport security team asleep? How does a 9 year old wander around a terminal by himself? One presumes that security is on the lookout for situations like this. Guess not.
3. No one should be able to board a plane without a ticket. What was the flight attendant doing that she missed a ticketless passenger without a boarding pass?
4. The plane took off without verifying all underage passengers traveling without an adult were accounted for? And they’re responsible for these kids? Yikes.
If the TSA employees had done their jobs, the kid would have been stopped — end of story. Trying to blame their incompetence on a government shutdown is lamer than lame.
Reuters has an interesting analysis of what a US default might look like based on bank statements from the Treasury Department over the same period last year.
The Treasury Department exhausts all available tools to stay under the cap on borrowing and can no longer add to the national debt. Treasury expects it would still have about $30 billion cash on hand to cover its bills. Among the many inflows and outflows that day, it takes in $6.75 billion in taxes but pays out $10.9 billion in Social Security retirement checks. By the end of the day, its cushion has eroded to $27.5 billion.
OCT. 18 – OCT. 29
Treasury’s cash reserve quickly dwindles. Washington only takes in about 70 cents for every dollar it spends and is now unable to issue new debt to cover the difference.
The tide turns briefly on October 22, when the government takes in $3.5 billion more than it spends.
But that temporary gain is soon erased. October 24 is an especially rough day: Treasury pays $1.8 billion to defense contractors, $2.2 billion to doctors and hospitals that treat elderly patients through the Medicare program, and $11.1 billion in Social Security, while taking in only $9.6 billion in taxes and other income.
One possible wild card: Treasury could lose the trust of the bond market.
Even though the government cannot add to the national debt at this point, it can legally roll over expiring debt. Investors have the opportunity to cash out about $100 billion worth of U.S. debt every week but choose to reinvest it. If fear of default causes investors to steer clear of new debt offerings, Treasury’s finances could unravel almost overnight.
“It’s very hard to predict,” said Brian Collins, an analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which helped Reuters with this analysis. “It’s the same thing that causes (bank) runs or credit markets to freeze.”
Default happens. By the end of the day, the government is $7 billion short of what it needs to pay all of its bills.
So who gets stiffed?
Everybody, according to the Obama administration.
Treasury says it doesn’t have the ability to pick and choose who gets paid. The last time the government faced this situation in 2011, they planned to wait until public coffers were full enough to pay a full day’s bills before cutting any checks, according to a Treasury Department watchdog report from 2012.
It only gets worse, according to the Reuters analysis. On October 31, a $6 billion interest payment to bondholders comes due:
A missed payment could shake that foundation. The United States currently pays some of the lowest interest rates in the world due to a strong history of repayment; those borrowing costs would almost certainly rise. Stock markets could tumble and nervous consumers could spend less of their money, further damaging the economy.
For the Treasury Department, this is where the truly tough decisions begin. Does the government pay bondholders in China or troops in Afghanistan? The Obama administration says it doesn’t have the ability to prioritize payments, but analysts are convinced it would at least try.
“Not making an interest payment on time is probably a worse way to default than not making other payments,” Collins said.
After that, tough choices:
In theory, the government could keep bondholders whole indefinitely because tax revenues are more than enough to cover interest payments, and Treasury pays creditors through a separate system than other obligations.
That would mean longer delays for everybody else. U.S. troops could fall behind on their rent payments, and seniors who rely on Social Security may have trouble buying groceries.
It’s hard to see how this scenario — or anything close to it — will come to pass. The signs will be unmistakable and unless total madness grips the capitol, it probably won’t get this bad.
But even if the scenario is partially correct, the economy will take a significant hit — perhaps enough to push us into a deeper recession. Will Congress roll the dice? If they do, snake eyes seems a definite possibility.
Judging by remarks made by Speaker of the House John Boehner on This Week, it appears we may find out what happens when a grown-up, adult, first-world country defaults on some of its obligations to creditors.
Boehner let it be known that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a “clean” debt limit bill. President Obama keeps insisting he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling. This puts the government in exactly the same position it was in on September 30 leading up to the government shutdown: neither side will give.
Except this time, the stakes are much higher. The government had shut down several times previously, with manageable consequences. But Congress has never failed to raise the debt limit, thus assuring the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
The administration’s problem about predicting catastrophe is that they’ve been crying wolf so often — first with the sequester and now with this latest government shutdown — that few are inclined to believe them. The fact is no one — not the administration, or economists, or experts — can predict with any certainty what is going to happen if we blow through the debt ceiling.
The only thing we’re sure of is that there are few scenarios that don’t predict severe consequences.
The U.S. will run out of borrowing authority on Oct. 17 and will have $30 billion in cash after that. The country would be unable to pay all of its bills, including benefits, salaries and interest, sometime between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“Congress is playing with fire,” Lew said on CNN’s “State of the Union” today. “If the United States government, for the first time in its history, chooses not to pay its bills on time, we will be in default, there is no option that prevents us from being in default if we don’t have enough cash to pay our bills.”
Unlike past fiscal feuds, this dispute is more about Obama’s signature health law and less about the amount of spending. The U.S. budget deficit in June was 4.3 percent of gross domestic product, down from 10.1 percent in February 2010 and the narrowest since November 2008, when Obama was elected to his first term, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Treasury Department and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
So far, the financial-market response to the political gridlock has been muted.
Give the shutdown and lack of progress on a debt limit bill another week and the markets will probably be singing a different tune. But many observers wonder if Boehner is bluffing. Obama thinks so.
The US military, in cooperation with the FBI and CIA, captured a high value al-Qaeda operative who is under indictment for the 1998 African embassy bombings. The raid took place in Tripoli, and apparently went off without a hitch.
Meanwhile, in a coastal town of Somalia, US Navy SEAL’s attacked a seaside villa thought to house the leader of the terrorist group al-Shabab. The SEALs came under very heavy fire and eventually withdrew. The raid was thought to be in response to the attack by Shabab on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
In Tripoli, American forces captured a Libyan militant who had been indicted in 2000 for his role in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The militant, born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai and known by his nom de guerre, Abu Anas al-Liby, had a $5 million bounty on his head; his capture at dawn ended a 15-year manhunt.
In Somalia, the Navy SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of the Shabab, the Somali militant group. The raid was planned more than a week ago, officials said, after a massacre by the Shabab at a Nairobi shopping mall that killed more than 60 people two weeks ago.
The SEAL team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm that it had killed the Shabab leader, a senior American security official said. Officials declined to identify the target.
Officials said the timing of the two raids was coincidental. But occurring on the same day, they underscored the rise of northern Africa as a haven for international terrorists. Libya has collapsed into the control of a patchwork of militias since the ouster of the Qaddafi government in 2011. Somalia, the birthplace of the Shabab, has lacked an effective central government for more than two decades.
With President Obama locked in a standoff with Congressional Republicans and his leadership criticized for a policy reversal in Syria, the raids could fuel accusations among his critics that the administration was eager for a showy foreign policy victory.
In a pre-emptive defense of a possible “Wag the Dog” scenario, Taylor Marsh dismisses such criticism:
This is absurd to even mention in the same report that fully explains the reasons for the duel raids, which included the extraction of a man the U.S. has been hunting for 15 years, after what reportedly was a hellacious firefight. Not to mention a separate commando effort in another north African country that may have taken out the man responsible for the Nairobi mall attack recently.
The Times likely felt compelled to include their political angle, because in the current atmosphere the countdown clock is already ticking until someone like Sen. Lindsey Graham takes an opportunistic shot at President Obama, or some Tea Party crank from the House says something stupid.
Absurd? Not hardly. Even if the raids were not planned to bolster Obama”s standing, is it plausible that Mr. Obama won’t take political advantage of the success in capturing someone who attacked America? Or crow about the possible assassination of a high level al-Shabab terrorist?
And beyond questions about motives for capturing Mr. al-Liby, there is the stark fact that the raid took place in Tripoli — the same city where the assassins who murdered our ambassador walk freely and without fear of capture. The Times appeared to gloss over this little detail:
The operation will do nothing to quell the continuing questions about the events in Benghazi 13 months ago that led to the deaths of four Americans. But officials say the operation was a product of the decision after Benghazi to bolster the counterterrorism effort in Libya, especially as Tripoli became a safe haven for Qaeda leadership.
The Somali operation was apparently in trouble almost from the start:
Witnesses described a firefight lasting over an hour, with helicopters called in for air support. A senior Somali government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “The attack was carried out by the American forces, and the Somali government was pre-informed about the attack.”
A spokesman for the Shabab said that one of their fighters had been killed in an exchange of gunfire but that the group had beaten back the assault. American officials initially reported that they had seized the Shabab leader, but later backed off that account.
A United States official said that no Americans had been killed or wounded and that the Americans “disengaged after inflicting some Shabab casualties.”
“We are not in a position to identify those casualties,” the official said.
It’s hard to say exactly what might have gone wrong, but I find it surprising that the SEALs would become pinned down and need air support. That’s not their MO — in and out quickly and with lethal competence is their usual signature. Thankfully, there were no casualties.
If Obama is smart, he will downplay these raids and not try to make political hay out of capturing al-Liby. If he does, it will only raise questions about why we can capture a terrorist wanted for a 15 year old attack in broad daylight but are incapable of even identifying the murderers of Ambassador Stevens.
The picture is framed perfectly. The music swells to a dramatic high. Somewhere, you can hear a puppy barking and children are laughing in the background. The two lovers embrace passionately — but chastely (this is a family film, after all) and the words “The End” fill the screen before it fades to black.
And civilian Pentagon workers all lived happily ever after.
The Pentagon has ordered roughly 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the worker recall in a department-wide memorandum issued Saturday.
After consulting with the Justice Department and Department of Defense legal counsel, Hagel noted furloughed employees could be brought back to the Pentagon, while still complying with federal guidelines governing the shutdown, according to the memo.
Civilian workers at DOD shown to play a role in the “morale, well-being [and]…readiness” of U.S. forces could be brought back, under federal rules, Hagel wrote.
Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale is scheduled to hold a briefing on the details of the recall later today.
Lawmakers praised the Pentagon’s decision to put the department’s civilian workforce back on the federal pay roll.
“Congress fully intended for all of our civilian defense workers to be treated the same as our active duty military members,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said in a statement Saturday.
“All [federal employees] are vital to our national defense and need to be on the job protecting the nation,” he added.
While supportive of the Pentagon’s decision, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said the move would have been unnecessary if Obama had not “been playing politics” with civilian furloughs.
The White Houses “should not have furloughed these hard working men and women,” Turner said in a statement Saturday.
“They should have been allowed to work through this entire shutdown,” the House defense panel member said, adding Obama is using federal workers as “bargaining chips” in the ongoing shutdown stand off with congressional Republicans.
“These men and women are crucial to our country’s national defense and I am glad they will be allowed to go back to work this week to support our armed forces,” he added.
Hagel’s order comes hours after House lawmakers approved legislation to issue back pay to furloughed federal workers.
What — did Hagel wake up this morning, slap his hand to his forehead and exclaim. “Sheesh! I’m a dummy. These people could have been working the whole time the government has been shut down!”
Not likely. Still, it begs the question; why the heck were these people furloughed in the first place? Instead of checking with DoJ and DoD lawyers the last couple of days, why not before the shutdown even occurred? Or 5 minutes after it happened?
Perhaps Hagel told Obama that there was stuff not getting done so could he please stop playing politics with our national security and let me bring my people back?
Isn’t this ironclad proof that Obama is cynically trying to manipulate the shutdown to his advantage? Ya think? Of course, the press will resolutely ignore the obvious implications of this and continue to call the GOP poopy heads for allowing all this pain and suffering by being solely responsible for shutting down the government.
You’ve got to hand it to the UN. What a perverse sense of humor they possess!
Like Libya getting a spot on the UN Human Rights Committee during the reign of Gaddaffi, the stand-up comics who run the UN thought it would be a real knee-slapper if they gave Iran a seat on the UN Nuclear Disarmament Committee.
Hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu railed against Iran’s nuclear program from the UN General Assembly’s stage on Tuesday, member states elected Iran to be the rapporteur for the Disarmament and International Security Committee.
Iran’s representative will replace Norwegian diplomat Knut Langeland. The position’s duties include relaying information and reports on disarmament and armament activities between the committee and the General Assembly.
The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, which is comprised of all 193 member states, “considers all disarmament and international security matters” and “seeks out solutions to the challenges in the international security regime.”
One of its main functions is to draft resolutions that are later debated by the General Assembly; the committee has no power to pass resolutions.
Iran applied for the position on July 30. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said then that if Iran were to assume such a post, it would be like “inviting Assad, the Syrian dictator responsible for the death of 100,000 of his own people, to be the head of the population census bureau.”
On Wednesday, the American Jewish Committee condemned the UN’s decision, saying it was “appalled” at the election.
“Rewarding Iran for misbehavior is a tragic stain on the UN,” AJC executive director David Harris said. “Nonetheless, this should not in any way deter world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – from standing firm in current negotiations to ensure that Iran comes clean on its nuclear program.”
The Anti-Defamation League expressed similar feelings of astonishment. ADL’s executive directory Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement that this was “the height of hypocrisy,” and “simply unbelievable.”
What’s so unbelievable about it? This is the UN — a place where sticking it to Israel and the US trumps everything. It’s a place where thugs who belong in the dock for committing the most nauseating atrocities are welcomed and feted.
The UN appears to have a singular blind spot when it comes to Iran. A few years ago, they elected Iran — a country that denies women basic human dignity — to a spot on the Commission on the Status of Women.
I guess the Committee on Beheading Apostate Westerners didn’t have any room.
Reuters asked 5 IT experts to look at the Healthcare.gov website and give their analysis of the system.
What they found will not restore anyone’s faith in government:
Government officials blame the persistent glitches on an overwhelming crush of users – 8.6 million unique visitors by Friday – trying to visit the HealthCare.gov website this week.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw development of the site, declined to make any of its IT experts available for interviews. CGI Group Inc, the Canadian contractor that built HealthCare.gov, is “declining to comment at this time,” said spokeswoman Linda Odorisio.
Five outside technology experts interviewed by Reuters, however, say they believe flaws in system architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems.
For instance, when a user tries to create an account on HealthCare.gov, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, it prompts the computer to load an unusually large amount of files and software, overwhelming the browser, experts said.
If they are right, then just bringing more servers online, as officials say they are doing, will not fix the site.
“Adding capacity sounds great until you realize that if you didn’t design it right that won’t help,” said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality. “The architecture of the software may limit how much you can add on to it. I suspect they’ll have to reconfigure a lot of it.”
“Reconfigure” may be an understatement:
One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. He was able to track the files being requested through a feature in the Firefox browser.
It is not clear why the upload function was included.
“They set up the website in such a way that too many requests to the server arrived at the same time,” Hancock said.
He said because so much traffic was going back and forth between the users’ computers and the server hosting the government website, it was as if the system was attacking itself.
Heh. The attack of the killer Obamacare computer. It sounds like a great sci-fi movie theme. But as a system that must be user friendly, not so good.
And from the way the IT experts are talking, it doesn’t sound like the glitches are going to be fixed anytime soon. It is apparent that there are fundamental flaws built into the software that may require substantial redesign in order to make it work. That’s not going to happen over the weekend during this blackout period.
People who have tried to access the site have not only been frustrated in being able to sign up. There also appears to be a possibility that at least some of the information being given out is incorrect.
On Thursday, the government’s official Obamacare Facebook page was riddled with people expressing sticker shock over the government’s high cost premiums after struggling for hours to wade through the technical failures vexing Obamacare exchanges all across the country.
“I am so disappointed,” wrote one woman. “These prices are outrageous and there are huge deductibles. No one can afford this!” The comment received 169 “likes.”
“There is NO WAY I can afford it,” said one commenter after using the Kaiser Subsidy Calculator. “Heck right now I couldn’t afford an extra 10$ [sic] a month…and oh apparently I make to [sic] much at 8.55/hour to get subsidies.”
Another person shared a link found on the federal government’s main Obamacare page listing premium estimates for small business employers:
The information is not very complete as I don’t see anything about deductible or other detailed info, but it does given an actual price as to the “Premium.” It is VERY SCARY!! For example, my insurance plan right now for my spouse and I costs $545 a month with 100% coverage after my $2500 deductible. We are both 32 years old. When I looked at this site for 80% coverage it says it will be $954.78 a month!!!! So compare my old Plan: 100% coverage for $545 a month To New Plan: 80% Coverage for $945 a month. This is only only an estimate but it is VERY Scary for me to see this kind of increase in rates and reduction in benefits!
A single mother of two said she is in school and working full-time while living “75% below the poverty level.” She said she was shocked to learn she did not qualify for a healthcare subsidy. “Are you F’ing kidding me????” she wrote on the government’s Obamacare Facebook page. “Where the HELL am I supposed to get $3,000 more a year to pay for this ‘bronze’ health insurance plan!?!??? And I DO NOT EVEN WANT INSURANCE to begin with!! This is frightening,” she wrote.
Since Americans are eligible for subsidies if they are making less than 144% of the poverty level, someone who makes $8.55 an hour is clearly eligible. Is the system telling the customer that he isn’t? Perhaps the customer is eligible for Medicaid in his state. Does the system inform the customer of that option?
The bottom line: If people can’t use the exchanges to sign up, they don’t get subsidies. And if enough healthy people don’t sign up, the whole rotten edifice comes crashing down, doomed by its own incompetently designed infrastructure.
One last point: The feds had three years to design this system. Why is no one asking what they were doing all that time? The truth is, before they could design a system, they had to know what was going into it. And that problem can be traced directly to the political motivation to delay much of the implementation of Obamacare until after the election. Once insurance companies were able to figure out what they had to include in coverages, they could estimate premium prices. Recall the sticker shock when those figures came out earlier this year. Now imagine them coming out last summer before the election. Obamacare would have become an issue as it was in 2010 — something the Obama campaign was desperate to avoid.
We will have to go through these technical problems again next year when the employer mandate is added and all of that data pours into the system. And don’t forget that the small business exchanges aren’t even completed yet.
Tell me this isn’t a government operation.
Speaker of the House John Boehner and his allies are carefully crafting legislation that would re-open the government and raise the debt limit in exchange for modest budget cuts, the promise of serious tax reform talks with Democrats, and the elimination of Obamacare’s medical device tax.
Robert Costa at National Review reports that the deal being framed for Republican House members “that concurrently connects a debt-limit extension, government funding, and a small, but strategically designed menu of conservative demands.”
There is a growing acceptance, especially among the leading players, that the debt-limit talks will soon blend into the shutdown talks and force Republicans to negotiate a delicate peace that can win the support of a majority of the conference (or close to it), as well as a smattering of Democrats. To that end, recent quiet, freewheeling discussions — some hosted by the leadership, others by Paul Ryan — aren’t so much about whipping toward such a deal, but about deciding how to frame it.
So far, it has been an uneasy process, but not futile. Many of the GOP’s more centrist members are asking Boehner and Ryan to not put too much on the table, or else risk turning off Democrats and extending the shutdown. On Wednesday afternoon, during a series of meetings in Boehner’s office, they pressed the speaker to avert a default on the nation’s debt. But Boehner, though with them in spirit on averting default, told his colleagues to hang tight for the moment and swallow hard as the shutdown continues. One Boehner ally tells me the speaker first has to balance his various conservative blocs before he can even privately articulate a final pitch.
But details are floating to the surface as the leadership reaches out to internal power brokers about what’s within the realm of the possible. What I’m hearing: There will be a “mechanism” for revenue-neutral tax reform, ushered by Ryan and Michigan’s Dave Camp, that will encourage deeper congressional talks in the coming year. There will be entitlement-reform proposals, most likely chained CPI and means testing Medicare; there will also be some health-care provisions, such as a repeal of the medical-device tax, which has bipartisan support in both chambers. Boehner, sources say, is expected to go as far as he can with his offer. Anything too small will earn conservative ire; anything too big will turn off Democrats.
You can see Boehner’s dilemma. I think you can count out about 75 Republican conservatives who won’t agree to anything less than defunding or delaying Obamacare. And the speaker has to watch his left flank as Democrats have hit upon a parliamentary gimmick to bring the Senate CR to the floor for a vote that very well could pass unless Boehner can keep the moderates happy:
House Democratic leaders will begin circulating a discharge petition Friday in hopes of forcing a vote on a “clean” spending bill.
GOP leaders have so far refused to stage a vote on the Senate-passed continuing resolution (CR), insisting that the measure also include conservative provisions scaling back President Obama’s healthcare law.
But with more than 20 centrist Republicans indicating support for a clean CR, the Democrats are hoping they can attract the 218 signatures required to force such of vote.
The Democrats’ gambit is a long-shot, however, as there’s no indication that those centrist Republicans would poke their leadership even further by signing the discharge petition.
Indeed, those Republicans have sided with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a series of votes this week to fund the government with piecemeal bills – a strategy rejected by Obama and the Democrats.
Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) launched their discharge-petition effort Friday after an afternoon meeting in the Capitol, where the Democratic Caucus huddled with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to discuss the party’s shutdown strategy.
“It is very unfortunate that the majority of the House has not been allowed to freely cast its vote to reopen the government,” Miller said. “But one thing [that's] becoming clearer is that, as the shutdown drags on, a growing number of Republican members of Congress want the opportunity to work with Democrats to end this crisis.”
Under their petition strategy, Miller said, the House could vote on a clean CR on Oct. 14, at the earliest.
The Democrats had initially thought the discharge petition option was unavailable, because a bill must be at least 30 legislative days old before it can be subject to such a drive. But the Democrats have located a GOP bill introduced in March that serves the same purpose as the Senate-passed CR.
The Democrats only need 16 Republicans to break ranks and vote for the discharge petition — a prospect that is no doubt working to limit what Boehner feels he can offer House conservatives in any deal.
As for some of the specifics that Costa mentioned, does the GOP really want to be in a position to trust Democrats to negotiate seriously about a “revenue neutral” tax proposal? Harry Reid has been saying for months that any tax reform measure will have to raise revenue by closing loopholes on “the rich.” And as far as the chained CPI for Social Security is concerned, altering entitlements one iota will have every liberal interest group up in arms. The president himself has said the chained CPI is a non-starter.
That leaves repealing the medical device tax, something both parties want to do. But I daresay it’s hardly enough to satisfy the conservative base — especially since the Democrats are probably going to want to fiddle with the sequester as the price of repeal.
In the end, the trapped speaker will likely grab his 20 moderate allies and pick up a few conservatives who think default is a bad idea, and pass a clean CR and debt limit bill. No one is talking much about it yet, but if that’s the endgame, it likely puts Boehner’s speakership on the line.
As many as 50 Nigerian students at a rural, agricultural college were slaughtered by al-Qaeda linked terrorists on Sunday.
Many of the students were murdered in their sleep.
No group has claimed responsibility but authorities suspect the terrorist group Boko Haram carried out the attack. Boko Haram is dedicated to wiping out all western influences in northern Nigeria and has carried out dozens of attacks on Christian churches in recent years. This is the third school attack in the province this year.
As many as 50 students may have been killed in the attack, which began at about 1 a.m. in rural Gujba, Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture, told The Associated Press.
“They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them,” he said. The extremists also torched classrooms.
Nigeria State Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai told Reuters that he suspected that the terrorist group Boko Haram was behind the attack, but declined to elaborate.
Boko Haram is aiming to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and has intensified attacks on civilians in revenge for a Nigerian military offensive against the group, Reuters reports.
Idi Mato said he could not give an exact death toll as security forces still are recovering bodies of students mostly aged between 18 and 22.
The Nigerian military has collected 42 bodies and transported 18 wounded students to Damaturu Specialist Hospital, 25 miles north, said a military intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
The extremists rode into the college in two double-cabin pickup all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles, some dressed in Nigerian military camouflage uniforms, a surviving student, Ibrahim Mohammed, told the AP. He said they appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women.
“We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now,” Mohammed said.
Almost all those killed were Muslims, as is the college’s student body, said Adamu Usman, a survivor from Gujba who was helping the wounded at the hospital.
Wailing relatives gathered outside the hospital morgue, where rescue workers laid out bloody bodies in an orderly row on the lawn for family members to identify their loved ones.
One body had its fists clenched to the chest in a protective gesture. Another had hands clasped under the chin, as if in prayer. A third had arms raised in surrender.
Provost Idi Mato confirmed the school’s other 1,000 enrolled students have fled the college.
The name Boko Haram translates from the local Hausa language as “Western education is a sin.” Thousands have died in the violence and the government has also been widely accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
Along with al-Shabab in Kenya, the two al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups appear to be getting bolder — and more deadly — in their attacks. At the moment, they seem content to kill people close to home. But given the fanatical hatred both groups feel toward the west, anything is possible in the future. Both groups are receiving assistance from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who the State Department says threatens American interests in the region.
The unholy trinity represents a big challenge to American security from northern Africa to the Gulf. And the governments in question — Yemen, Nigeria, and Kenya — appear to be making little progress in combating them.
You really have to feel for federal workers. They feel so put upon because of sequestration, budget cuts, and other indignities like being criticized for holding meetings and conferences at extravagant resorts.
Now, on top of all that, the government is going to shut down. You might think they’d be grateful for the vacation, but no; they are demanding that back pay be given them for the time they’re off, even if they aren’t working.
Federal worker unions are lobbying lawmakers for back pay in the event of a government shutdown.
They say government employees have suffered enough under the cutbacks from sequestration, and are putting pressure on President Obama to ensure that retroactive pay will be given if federal agencies close their doors on Tuesday.
“We are trying to maintain pressure on this White House that in the event of a government shutdown, that any negotiated settlement includes an agreement that all federal employees — essential and non-essential alike — get paid when the government reopens,” said Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE).
On Friday, federal agencies began outlining who will and will not be furloughed during a shutdown. Some union officials estimate roughly 800,000 workers could be sent home as supervisors keep only “essential” personnel in the office.
Unions say a shutdown would add insult to injury for workers who have been living under a pay freeze for three years.
“We think we have seen this movie before. We go through it every couple of years,” said Bob Silverman, president of the American Foreign Service Association (ASFA). “It’s embarrassing for the U.S. overseas when you have to explain to people that the U.S. government may have to shut down, we may have stay at home. It’s of course demoralizing.”
The unions are going on offense against the shutdown with demonstrations intended to highlight the impact on federal services.
ASFA, which represents members of the U.S. Foreign Service, protested the possible shutdown outside the State Department on Friday, waving signs that said, “Don’t shut down diplomacy.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is organizing protests that will begin on Monday outside federal agencies and run through next week.
Beth Moten, AFGE’s legislative director, said her union is lobbying for back pay if a shutdown occurs.
You and I might look in askance at people who demand pay for not doing anything. We might suggest that if they don’t like it, they should try getting a job in the private sector. But this is entirely the wrong attitude to take toward our brothers and sisters who toil in public “service” and enjoy perks that rival those that used to be given to Soviet Communist Party officials. We should embrace them, comfort them in their hour of need, encourage them in their desire to receive compensation for their sloth and indolence.
And primary any Republican who gives in to their demands.
Most conservatives expect the media to be gushing superlatives about Obamacare when the state exchanges open for business on October 1. NBC is going to do a series of programs on Obamacare, and given that network’s attachment to the president, we know that criticism of the law will be slight or non-existent.
But as this article in Politico points out, Republicans better have some kind of an alternative narrative ready to go because first impressions are lasting ones and voter opinion on Obamacare is likely to be shaped in the first crucial days and weeks after its rollout.
America’s about to take Obamacare for a test drive with an army of hungry reporters in the back seat.
When Obamacare enrollment begins on Tuesday, reporters in the Twitter age will be tempted to declare the health law a success or a failure in the first few days — a judgment that will certainly be stoked by advocates on both sides of the issue.
And any rush judgments could have a big impact on public opinion of the law. Right now, the majority of Americans in recent polls say they oppose the law, but the Obama administration is hoping that will turn around once people see it in action.
The first days of enrollment are a chance for that to happen — but there’s just as big a chance that the public could become convinced it’s a huge disaster, if technical breakdowns in the new health insurance exchanges dominate the news.
Tevi Troy, a former assistant secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush and author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted,” said journalists should keep an eye on early opinion polls after coverage programs take effect to see if the public opinion needle moves.
He also urged reporters to cover the early weeks of Obamacare implementation like the start of a political campaign — not won or lost in the first few days or weeks.
Drew Altman, CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the challenge for the media will be to make sure the public doesn’t get spun silly — because the first days of open enrollment will give Obamacare’s supporters and critics a ton of material to work with.
“Each side will have their facts and their anecdotes, so the challenge for the journalists is to get beyond that and find out what’s actually happening,” he said.
Republicans are at a disadvantage in this game not only because of media bias, but because there has been some hyperbole about the law coming from the GOP that paints a far more dire picture of what is likely to occur in the first weeks of the law’s implementation than will probably happen. In the last couple of months, as problems with the exchanges mounted, designers slashed the capabilities of the exchanges dramatically, simplifying the process as much as possible, leaving more complex functions to be handled off site. This will be an inconvenience for shoppers, but will also prevent the system from suffering an embarrassing crash in its first days.
There will almost certainly still be big problems associated with the exchanges, but barring a massive security breach, the media will go with the administration talking points that excuse most of the problems as expected bumps in the road for a new, complex system.
What might alter that narrative would be misquotes on premiums and/or incorrectly figuring subsidies. The amount of information available may be reduced, but if it isn’t accurate, Obamacare will be in trouble. The aforementioned security concerns also have the potential to alter the expected glowing media narrative, although it is difficult to say if the administration would inform the public immediately if hackers were successful. Anything that comes out that casts a shadow over using the exchanges — its security vulnerabilities, its complexity, or its inaccuracies — would lead to fewer people trusting them. A lower than expected number of sign-ups would be disaster for the administration which is why the mantra for the first few months will be “it will get better.”
Will it work? Those already predisposed to hate Obamacare because they’ve been thrown off their insurance, or had their hours cut at work, or are seeing their premiums rise substantially, won’t be part of the cheering section.
But those who will be getting the goodies — Medicaid expansion or subsidies — will probably be in a mood to cut the administration some slack.
The House passed a continuing resolution last night that delays the implementation of Obamacare’s individual mandate for a year while funding the federal government’s operations through December.
The party line vote virtually assures a government shutdown at midnight on Monday.
The CR also contains a repeal of the medical device tax that most Democrats support. But Harry Reid has indicated it doesn’t matter, as the Senate will only consider a “clean” bill without any Obamacare riders.
The Washington Post reports:
“We will do everything we can to protect Americans against the harmful effects of Obamacare. This bill does that. We’re united in the House as Republicans,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said shortly after unveiling the plan to his rank and file. “Now it’s up to the Senate Democrats to answer.”
That response came quickly. Even before the House had a chance to vote on its proposal, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blasted it as “pointless.” Democratic aides said the Senate would set aside the House amendments, probably first thing Monday, leaving GOP leaders with a stark choice: approve the simple funding bill the Senate has already passed or permit federal agencies to close.
“As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill,” Reid said in a written statement. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the latest GOP strategy “reckless and irresponsible.”
“Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown,” Carney said in a written statement.
As the House convened for the rare Saturday session, senior Republicans seemed to recognize the potential consequences of their actions. For now, Boehner’s decision to appease his right wing keeps an uneasy peace in his fractious caucus. But it bodes ill for his ability to work with Democrats to keep the government open, restore funding for federal agencies if a shutdown occurs or — in a few weeks — raise the federal debt limit to avoid a first-ever default on the national debt.
Leaders of both parties agree that a government shutdown would be bad for the economy and that a default would be potentially catastrophic. The maneuvering of House Republicans has caused considerable anxiety within their party.
“I think it’s going to be tough for them. They’re having such difficulty pulling things together,” said Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), one of several GOP senators who consults frequently with House members. “I don’t know that I have a clear vision how we move through this. And I think the debt ceiling is maybe even more murky.”
Whatever discretionary power the White House has over spending during a shutdown, you can be sure they will use it to put the hurt on the American people, hoping that stories of privation will play on voters’ fears that the shutdown will somehow injure them. They tried the same tactic when the sequester came to pass and it backfired when it became obvious they were gaming the process to make things look far worse than they actually were.
But a shutdown is different. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are certain to be furloughed if the impasse continues for weeks rather than days. The military will continue to be paid thanks to a separate CR passed by the GOP that funds some Pentagon functions. But routine maintenance and deployments could be affected.
Majority Leader Harry Reid has issued an ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass a “clean” version of the continuing resolution with no Obamacare defunding rider or the government will partially shut down.
Reid’s warning has more to do with a time factor than anything else. Realistically, if the House passes another continuing resolution with an Obamacare defunding mechanism on Saturday (more likely Sunday), there simply will not be enough time for the Senate to vote on it before the Monday midnight deadline.
It won’t matter anyway because if the House includes the defunding rider — or anything else that the majority leader doesn’t like — Reid says he won’t even take it up.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that the Senate is done acting on legislation to avert a government shutdown and that House Republicans have no choice but to pass the Senate’s bill if they want to keep the government open.
“I want everyone to listen and to hear: The United States Senate has acted,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “This is the only legislation that can avert a government shutdown, and that time is ticking as we speak.”
Reid’s made the statement just before closing down the Senate until 2 p.m. Monday.
“In the meantime … if Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] wants to avoid a government shutdown, he will pass our resolution,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s a government shutdown.”
Reid thanked Senate Republicans and Democrats for voting to end debate on the bill today. Twenty-five Republicans joined every Senate Democrat in voting to end debate, even though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned that vote would let Democrats strip language from the bill to defund ObamaCare.
Reid said House Republicans should think “long and hard” over the weekend about how to proceed and said the American people deserve more than a Congress that lurches from crisis to crisis.
The Cruz Caucus in the House got their marching orders straight from their leader yesterday; blow up the Boehner plan to pass the CR and concentrate firepower on the debt ceiling bill later in October. The Texas Senator told his supporters in the House to vote against the Speaker and send another CR back to the Senate that delays the individual mandate for a year:
On the call, Cruz told them that Boehner was making a mistake, and urged his friends to fight until the end on the CR. The group agreed, and they complained that Boehner’s shift to the debt limit was a diversion. Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined Cruz on the call, and both senators said they’d stand with House conservatives as they opposed the leadership.
By the call’s end, there was a consensus: until the CR talks are complete, Republicans should whip “no” on Boehner’s debt-limit plan, as a way of preventing the leadership from directing the strategy. And that’s exactly what happened late Thursday afternoon: GOP whip Kevin McCarthy worked the floor, but couldn’t find the votes for Boehner’s debt-limit plan. After McCarthy reported back about the Cruz-inspired uprising, the leadership shelved it.
Later Thursday, Cruz met again with House conservatives at a venue near the Capitol. According to one House member, the bicameral bloc talked deep into the night about the CR and pressuring Boehner. At the top of the agenda: making a one-year delay of Obamacare a requirement for government funding, and to accept nothing less, should the defunding effort unravel. They fear Boehner is resistant to making that an ultimatum, and they discussed ways to force his hand.
Leadership sources, for their part, are startled by Cruz’s attempt to shape House strategy and work against the speaker. They knew he’d oppose Boehner’s playbook, but they didn’t expect him to huddle with conservatives and ask them to ignore it. So, Cruz’s meetings have made him a key House player, but they’ve worsened his already-fraught relationship with the leadership.
Does Senator Cruz have more influence in the House than he does the Senate? Apparently so. Two thirds of the GOP caucus in the Senate voted for cloture, ignoring the Texas Senators’ 21- hour marathon talk on Obamacare and decisively repudiating his tactics. Of course, comparing your colleagues to Nazis doesn’t help one’s popularity. But Cruz made it plain in his campaign last year and the first 9 months of his term that he didn’t come to Washington to make friends but rather bust up the place. In this, he is exceeding expectations.
So we will have a partial government shut down and, judging by the attitude of many of the hard liners in the House, we will probably blow through the debt ceiling too. Some may think this irresponsible, imprudent governance. Others see stopping the implementation of Obamacare as of paramount importance, worth shutting down the government and failing to increase the debt limit, with all the unknowns — economic and political — those two events represent.
President Obama still insists he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling, despite crowing yesterday about his willingness to talk to the thugs in Tehran. Negotiating with terrorists while not negotiating with members of the opposition party is the definition of “bad optics.”
How the public perceives that attitude will probably tell the tale of who wins and who loses.
The world is so much safer with a moderate president of Iran that the US can talk to, don’t you think?
Of course, how the term “moderate” is defined is kind of tricky. Does it mean that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will allow women to show a little leg – at least an ankle? Maybe it means he wants to kill Jews more slowly than his predecessor? Perhaps he’s going to open Iran to western tourism?
I think it means that the “moderate” Rouhani will behead President Obama last. After all, the two had such a pleasant phone conversation yesterday.
The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.
The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires – Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year – to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.
Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.
Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.
The last direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries was in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama said the long break “underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.”
“While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama told reporters at the White House. Iran’s nuclear program has been a major concern not only to the United States but to other Middle Eastern nations — especially Israel — and to the world at large.
What a breakthrough! Diplomats are swooning over Iran’s “significant shift” in “attitude and tone.” Of course, the needle on substance didn’t move a centimeter, but who cares about the real world when we can have this glorious fantasy of “moderate” Iran smiling and acting almost human?
I sense a second Nobel for our peace-loving president. Along with other deserving recipients like terrorist Yassar Arafat and Communist Mikhail Gorbachev, our president will take his rightful place among the pantheon of world leaders recognized as genuine heroes to the cause of world peace.
Iran probably won’t stop developing a nuclear bomb, but we will pretend they aren’t, thus achieving an historic peace. The diplomatic wheels are turning and the US and our western allies are now committed to reaching a deal with the Iranians — no matter how bad for us, for Israel, or for the world. It’s what happens when you put arrogant ideologues who think they know better than anyone else in charge.
Good luck with that, Barry.
The Associated Press has toted up the numbers from weekend terrorist attacks and it isn’t good.
There have been 250 killed and 470 injured from mass casualty attacks in Kenya, Pakistan and Iraq. The bloodiest attack took place in Pakistan where 78 people were killed in a suicide attack on a Christian church in Peshawar.
- Saturday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 22: Nairobi, Kenya – Islamic extremist gunmen lobbing grenades and firing assault rifles inside an upscale mall in Nairobi kill at least 68 people, wound more than 175 others and hold an unknown number of others hostage.
- Saturday, Sept. 21: Baghdad – A wave of attacks, mainly on a Shiite funeral in Baghdad, kill 104 people and wound more than 140 others.
- Sunday, Sept. 22: Peshawar, Pakistan – A pair of suicide bombers blow themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a church in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 78 and wounding more than 140 others..
- Sunday, Sept. 22, Baghdad – Iraqi authorities say a suicide attacker killed at least 16 people and wounded at least 35 others at a Sunni funeral.
You have to wonder how long it will be before the violence reaches our shores. Terrorists are becoming more sophisticated and harder to track. That Kenyan mall caper took planning, practice, and execution — just like the Benghazi attack that killed our ambassador. It takes vigilance skill and a lot of luck to intercept these attacks before they can take place. So far, we’ve had plenty of luck.
Let’s hope we continue with the vigilance and skill.
Henry Porter, a columnist for The Observer, doesn’t think much of America’s Second Amendment. Nor does he care much for America itself, judging by his condescending commentary. His Lordship is very, very concerned about gun violence in America. In fact, he is so concerned that he believes it may be time for the world to “intervene” and save us from ourselves…or something.
There is an excellent British descriptive that applies perfectly to Mr. Porter.
He’s a twit.
The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn’t qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.
To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.
Actually, the general trend on deaths as a result of firearms is going down the last decade and has been declining since their peak in the 1990′s. This, despite about 100 million more firearms in the hands of Americans. Also, that 32,000 number is deceiving. Two-thirds of gun deaths every year are the result of suicides. As is typical of anti-gun twits, Porter twists the facts and even tells outright lies to make his points.
So, besides allowing the world to come over and give us a good talking to, and maybe try and take our guns away, what solution does Porter suggest?
But no nation sees itself as outsiders do. Half the country is sane and rational while the other half simply doesn’t grasp the inconsistencies and historic lunacy of its position, which springs from the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, and is derived from English common law and our 1689 Bill of Rights. We dispensed with these rights long ago, but American gun owners cleave to them with the tenacity that previous generations fought to continue slavery. Astonishingly, when owning a gun is not about ludicrous macho fantasy, it is mostly seen as a matter of personal safety, like the airbag in the new Ford pick-up or avoiding secondary smoke, despite conclusive evidence that people become less safe as gun ownership rises.
Last week, I happened to be in New York for the 9/11 anniversary: it occurs to me now that the city that suffered most dreadfully in the attacks and has the greatest reason for jumpiness is also among the places where you find most sense on the gun issue in America. New Yorkers understand that fear breeds peril and, regardless of tragedies such as Sandy Hook and the DC naval yard, the NRA, the gun manufacturers, conservative-inclined politicians and parts of the media will continue to advocate a right, which, at base, is as archaic as a witch trial.
As mentioned earlier, the dramatic increase over the last 20 years in the number of privately owned guns has not led to increased homicides. There were 23,760 murders in 1992 compared to the 2011 figure of 14,612. Someone teach this twit to read an FBI statistical graph.
Obviously, it is the nauseatingly objectionable notion that we should “dispense” with the Second Amendment because it is as “archaic as a witch trial.”
Mmmmmm. Dispensing with your rights — voluntarily giving up something that ages of Englishmen fought and died to maintain — disrespects your country, your history, and yourself. It begs the question: What other rights are you willing to dispense with? Why not all of them? What rights are worth fighting for?
No doubt Porter will come back with the argument that giving up one’s right to bear arms to make the community safer (in his opinion) is a civilized trade off. But if there was ever a slippery slope to point out, this is it. Once you start trading off your rights, there is no end to it. The state is a merciless negotiator, not interested in your personal freedom, only the exercise of power. It is assisted suicide to allow the state to bargain with the citizen over what rights are worth keeping and which should be dispensed with.
Porter ridicules the idea of guns ensuring the safety of citizens without even mentioning how many lives are saved every year by armed citizens fighting off attackers. Apparently, it would have spoiled his ridiculous rant against gun owners to bring a dose of reality into his narrative.
Yes, a twit to be sure.
There is a crisis in Venezuela — an acute shortage of toilet paper. President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has hit upon a brilliant solution: take over the largest factory in the country making toilet paper to “ensure a sufficient supply.”
Your what hurts?
I believe there is a direct correlation between the economic health and spiritual well-being of a society and the quality and selection of the bathroom tissue it offers. The link is unmistakable, as I wrote a few years ago:
Socialist societies overflow with TP jokes. That’s because when such a basic necessity is part of a command economy, there will never be enough and its quality will be a joke. This brings to mind P.J. O’Rourke’s masterpiece Holidays in Hell where his visit to the Soviet Union in the early 80s was painted as a nightmare of shortages, and standing in line for hours just to purchase a couple of rolls of toilet paper.
This incredible report from a sociologist in Russia describes how the Stalinist state designed one kind of toilet paper:
My view is that the development and usage of toilet paper has a much neglected ‘cultural’, as opposed to crudely ‘economic’, aspect. I remember using something called ‘Izal’ – a sort of hard, crumply, medicated affair, prone to splitting under excessive pressure. It was clearly designed and manufactured by an anally retentive Methodist sworn to clean living, clean air and clean bums. It came in boxes especially designed to keep use of paper to a minimum. Each sheet had to be withdrawn singly and was usually the devil’s own job to extract. Sort of thing one found in the lower middle class household of Stalinist persuasion that I inhabited during my childhood years…. It never did me any harm, honest.
If you read between the lines of this old Russian joke about toilet paper, you can catch the utter helplessness that people feel in a society that is incapable of addressing their most basic comforts:
A woman walking in the street is carrying a bag full of rolls of toilet paper.
A passer-by opens his mouth, “Hey, mother, where did you buy it?”
“Buy? Are you crazy? Where could I buy it nowadays? They are five years old. I am taking them back from the cleaners.”
And, of course, there are dozens of variations on the newspaper Pravda (Truth) being better utilized for duty in the water closet than actually finding out what was going on in the Soviet Union at the time.
Venezuelan troops will “occupy” the factory so that “the … People’s Defense from the Economy will not allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution of essential commodities.”
By the “People’s Defense,” Arreaza was referring to a government agency created on September 13 by President Nicolas Maduro to “defeat the economic war that has been declared in the country,” according to a report from state-run ATV. This group is charged with looking at inefficiencies across various industries in the nation, including foods and other products, and taking action presumably in the South American nation’s best interests.
Toilet paper is very much a part of the war.
The bathroom essential is one of the basic goods and foodstuffs that have been disappearing from store shelves since earlier this year. In Caracas, for instance, long lines are common whenever new rolls come in.
As the amount of TP and other products, such as rice and cooking oil, have lagged, the blame game has picked up.
Businesses and the political opposition say the shortages stem from ill-conceived government policies such as price controls on basic goods and tight restrictions on foreign currency. These moves make it so many producers can’t even break even, they say.
But the government has said private companies aren’t doing their part, accusing them of hoarding their products in hopes of selling it later at a higher price.
They’ve also suggested the problem is tied to a broader conspiracy.
“There is no deficiency in production,” Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming said in May according to ATV, “but an excessive demand generating purchases by a nervous population because of a media campaign.”
At that time, Fleming announced the country would import 50 million rolls of toilet paper to meet demand. Other hygiene products, such as toothpaste and soap, may be similarly brought in bulk for the same reason, the minister said.
There is a shortage of TP because the government is paranoid. And ridiculously inefficient. And economically illiterate. That’s a combination guaranteed to make people extremely unhappy, helpless in the face of government stupidity.
The death toll at the Nairobi mall continues to rise, standing at 59 with about 30 shoppers still trapped and perhaps some hostages still being held.
Haaretz is reporting that there are Israeli “advisors” on scene at the mall:
Israeli advisers are helping Kenya formulate a strategy to end a siege at a Nairobi shopping mall where Islamist militants have killed at least 59 people and are holding hostages, an Israeli security source said on Sunday.
“There are Israeli advisers helping with the negotiating strategy, but no Israelis involved in any imminent storming operation,” said the source, who declined to be identified.
The source said only a “handful” of Israelis, “purely in an advisory role,” were on scene at the upscale Westgate shopping center, which has several Israeli-owned outlets and is frequented by expatriates and Kenyans.
An Israeli source in Nairobi said all Israelis who were in the mall at the time of the attack had made it out safely, with the last three rescued overnight.
There were conflicting reports from other security sources in Nairobi about the part Israel was playing.
One Kenyan security source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that the Israeli military was involved in the operation, while a private security official also said they were helping comb the mall.
But the Kenyan Interior Minister insisted it was a national operation, despite offers of foreign support.
The attack by Al-Qaida-linked militants at the Nairobi wounded 175, in addition to those killed, Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary said earlier Sunday.
Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where there is a hostage standoff with Islamic extremists nearly 24 hours after they attacked using grenades and assault rifles.
“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.
Officials in the Foreign Ministry said three Israeli citizens that were in the mall at the time of the attack were able to escape unharmed and were collected by the Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Yaki Lopez and the embassy security officer that were present on the scene.
A senior official at the foreign ministry said that the families of the Israelis that escaped the incident were informed. The ministry said that beyond these persons it is believed that no other Israelis were present.
Reuters is reporting that the IDF is involved in operations inside the mall, but a Kenyan government official is denying that report.
No Americans were killed in the attack according to the State Department, although two were injured and the non-American wife of a USAID official was killed.
Richard Fernandez reports that the weapons used by the terrorists could very well have come from Libya:
One of sources of al-Shabab’s arms, according to the Telegraph, is Libya. “Libyan arms that went missing during the fighting to remove Col Muammar Gaddafi are now spreading ever further afield, being used in conflicts as far apart as Niger, Somalia, Gaza and Syria, a UN report says.”
The new report by a special UN security council committee suggests that they have now travelled even further, with Libyan ammunition showing up in the continuing war being waged by al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda offshoot in Somalia.
This is the very same group believed to have attacked the Nairobi mall. Never fear, the AFP news agency reports that the “Shebab Twitter account [was] suspended after Kenya mall attack claims”. I guess any moment now their Facebook account, if it exists, will be similarly sanctioned. That’ll learn ‘em.
Fernandez also points out that the Israelis may be interested in al-Shabab operations because of the Iranian connection. He links to a Reuters story last summer about a ship from Iran bound for Somalia loaded with arms that was stopped in Yemen.
The body count will almost certainly continue to rise as the police and army move through the mall, clearing it store by store. But with the IDF on site — even if only in an advisory role — the chances of a successful end to this tragedy have improved markedly.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said that he would consider sending the national guard and state police to Chicago in order to help police with escalating gang violence.
The governor’s suggestion comes after an horrific attack at a south side park where gang members opened fire on a basketball game, wounding 13, including a 3 year old boy who was shot in the face.
Overnight on Friday, 4 more people were killed and 7 others wounded in separate incidents across the city.
Speaking about this week’s mass shooting in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Quinn says he’s open to talking with Mayor Emanuel or Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy about supplementing Chicago law enforcement with state police or the Illinois National Guard.
He said he’s had no specific conversations but noted state police are helping patrol in East St. Louis, another city that has its challenges with violent crime.
“I think anyone who saw what happened in Cornell Park the other night was horrified by the violence. I live on the West Side of Chicago. It is an area that has been inflicted with violence, and we’ve got to protect the people,” Quinn told reporters Saturday.
Talk about using state firepower in Chicago isn’t unprecedented. In 2008, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich suggested using the state police and National Guard to help Chicago police with “out of control” violence.
The comment was widely interpreted as an insult to then-Mayor Richard Daley, with whom Blagojevich was feuding.
Quinn said potential solutions to crime include community efforts to minimize the impact of gangs and early education.
He says he also remains committed to doing something about assault rifles – one is suspected of being used in Thursday’s shooting – and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Quinn did not explain how keeping law abiding citizens from purchasing an “assault weapon” would prevent gang bangers from making target practice out of innocents.
This latest wave of violence comes despite a change in police tactics. The department has flooded 20 high crime areas with extra officers hoping to deter gang violence. It hasn’t worked. And it may be contributing to a spike in crime in other neighborhoods left vulnerable by the absence of police.
Chicago is now officially the “Murder Capital” of the US, according to the FBI. There’s no shortage of blame to go around for that, nor is there a dearth of explanations not related to city administration. The evolution of gangs in Chicago is often cited for the increase in violence. As gangs proliferate and fracture, drug territory shrinks and turf wars break out.
Another reason for the increase in violence is that, like Detroit, Chicago is bleeding population. As people leave, businesses close, jobs disappear, and social cohesion is lost. Once poor, but functional neighborhoods degenerate into poverty stricken breeding grounds for gangs.
But truly, you have to look to the Emanuel administration and its policing policies to trace the descent into urban chaos. Right now, Chicago is a little less than 1,000 police short of authorized strength. And with budget constraints, few new recruits are possible. This has had some impact, although other cities are facing similar shortages and don’t have Chicago’s level of violence.
There have been accusations that Emanuel has politicized the police force, appointing a politically connected deputy to then police superintendent Jody Weiss. The new superintendent, Gary McCarthy, has disbanded the anti-gang task force and is emphasizing community policing with officers on regular beats so that they can get to know the neighborhoods.There has been a greater emphasis on intelligence which is useful in some areas.
But here, we get back to numbers. Officers are leaving the force in record numbers and unless money can be found for new recruits, the problems with gang violence are likely to get worse. The strategies may be sound, but if you don’t have the personnel to make the strategy effective, it doesn’t matter.
Even with all the shootings in recent days, the murder rate has dropped substantially from 2012 when 538 Chicagoans were killed. This is cold comfort for a city under siege with residents afraid to go to a neighborhood park with their children for fear of a spasm of senseless violence breaking out.
Tell us something we don’t know, Barry:
President Barack Obama is once again warning House Republicans that he will not negotiate over a debt-ceiling increase, even as the U.S. government moves closer to its borrowing limit.
Obama called Speaker John Boehner Friday night to reiterate his hard-line stance. The Ohio Republican’s office said the president called to say “he wouldn’t negotiate with him on the debt limit.”
“Given the long history of using debt limit increases to achieve bipartisan deficit reduction and economic reforms, the speaker was disappointed but told the president that the two chambers of Congress will chart the path ahead,” a Boehner aide said in an email. “It was a brief call.”
A White House official said Obama spoke to both Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“The President telephoned Speaker Boehner and told him again that the full faith and credit of the United States should not and will not be subject to negotiation,” the official said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “The President reiterated that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US Congress to pass the nation’s budget and pay the nation’s bills.”
This is not a new position for Obama, or a new response from Boehner. The two men have negotiated in the past to raise the nation’s debt cap, but Obama now sees any more negotiations as unwise. The president’s position is that Congress should raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling without any accompanying budget changes or reforms — a so-called “clean” debt ceiling increase. Yet it’s unclear if such a hike could pass in the House or the Senate.
Pelosi’s office declined to comment on her discussion with the president, but after the call she sent out a letter to fellow Democrats asking them to give her maximum flexibility by keeping their “powder dry” as the debate over government funding and a debt-limit increase continues.
Making himself irrelevant is something the president does very well. Harry Reid would have done most of the heavy lifting anyway, so Obama’s non-participation is exposed as more theater from the master of useless gestures.
Besides, Reid will no doubt receive instructions on just how far he can bend before Obama whips out the veto pen. The Majority Leader does not want to tie any kind of sequester reform to the debt ceiling vote, but some Democrats may be of a mind to do so. It’s hard to see the GOP giving in on the sequester in any way, but what if entitlement reform was on the table? There are all sorts of possibilities that Reid, who’s the only Democrat who matters in this fight, might consider.
An incident involving a B-52 carrying two thermonuclear bombs that broke up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1961 almost resulted in a detonation according to a document recently declassified.
One of the bombs armed itself on the way down and only a single switch prevented a nuclear explosion.
Writing eight years after the accident, Parker F Jones found that the bombs that dropped over North Carolina, just three days after John F Kennedy made his inaugural address as president, were inadequate in their safety controls and that the final switch that prevented disaster could easily have been shorted by an electrical jolt, leading to a nuclear burst. “It would have been bad news – in spades,” he wrote.
Jones dryly entitled his secret report “Goldsboro Revisited or: How I learned to Mistrust the H-Bomb” – a quip on Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 satirical film about nuclear holocaust, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast. As it went into a tailspin, the hydrogen bombs it was carrying became separated. One fell into a field near Faro, North Carolina, its parachute draped in the branches of a tree; the other plummeted into a meadow off Big Daddy’s Road.
Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. “The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52,” Jones concludes.
The document was uncovered by Schlosser as part of his research into his new book on the nuclear arms race, Command and Control. Using freedom of information, he discovered that at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.
“The US government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy,” he said. “We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here’s one that very nearly did.”
No doubt if there had been a detonation, it would have boosted the nuclear disarmament argument considerably. And perhaps it is better not to even think what the Europeans would have said about our nukes at air bases in Great Britain and Germany, among other places.
And the country itself would be a different place. If a nuke had been detonated, it would have made a sizable part of the east coast unlivable for decades. The hit to our economy would have been generational. Fall out would have been blown by the jet stream and crossed the ocean, causing numerous problems in western europe.
This very same scenario haunts the nightmares of policymakers today. Rogue nations and terrorists will soon be in possession of nuclear weapons. When that happens, the challenges to our security will be immense. Every container that arrives in our ports, every flight that uses our airspace, every plane, train, and automobile would be a potential delivery vehicle for a nuclear weapon.
The threat is perhaps best summed up by Nicole Kidman’s character Julia Kelly in the film The Peacemaker: I’m not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons, Colonel. I’m terrified of the man who only wants one.
An unknown number of attackers entered an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and opened fire indiscriminately. At least 20 people are dead with another 50 injured, according to the Kenyan Red Cross. Authorities also say that some hostages were taken.
“All of a sudden we heard some shots and people rushing,” said Zulobia Kassam, who was having coffee at the mall. “We realized we were under attack. We rushed to the back, trying to hide and we heard random shots from everywhere — upstairs, downstairs.”
She said they stayed in hiding for about 40 minutes before sneaking out through a back door.
“People were petrified, crying, praying,” she said. “We were told there were hostages being held.”
It was unclear how many hostages the attackers took, but police are trying to negotiate for their release and retake the building, according to the source.
Attackers appear to be of Somali origin, a Kenyan government source and Western diplomatic sources told CNN.
If they are of Somali origin, they could be part of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has been attacking churches and government buildings in Kenya for several years. Al-Shabaab has threatened to attack the mall in the past.
The military asked local media not to televise anything live because the gunmen are watching the screens in the mall.
Crowds fled down the streets as soldiers in military fatigues crawled under cars to get closer to the mall, guns cocked.
Surveillance helicopters flew overhead.
“We urge Kenyans to keep off Westgate mall, adjacent roads and its environs until further notice,” the Interior Ministry said on its Twitter page.
It declined to release further information, saying it will issue a statement later.
“We’re doing our job to ensure that everyone is evacuated to safety,” the ministry said. “This is a scene of crime, let police do their job.”
CNN affiliate NTV reported multiple shooters were at the scene and terrified shoppers were hiding inside the mall, which is popular among expatriates and the wealthy.
The obvious question is, could it happen in America? The fact that our malls have not been targeted — even by “lone wolf” terrorists — says more about us being lucky than anything else. Imagine a similar attack to the one in Kenya on “Black Friday” or any holiday in America. In addition to casualties of the attack, people would probably be trampled to death in trying to get away.
Security at malls and other soft targets could be much better. Perhaps this horrible incident in Nairobi will spark a renewed emphasis on security so that mall owners and communities will be better prepared to deal with a terrorist attack like this one.
The al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group is claiming responsibility for the deadly attack on a mall in Kenya.
A statement from al-Shabab on its official Twitter feed Saturday says the attacks are retribution for military action by Kenya inside Somalia. The group said it was now shifting the battlefield to Kenya.
The group said its fighters entered Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall at around noon and were still inside more than nine hours later. Kenyan military special forces had entered the mall in an effort to end the standoff.
The Daily Mail is reporting that the gunmen told Muslims in the mall to stand up and leave. “We only want to kill non-Muslims,” was supposedly said by at least one gunman.
Some of those who escaped were ‘challenged to recite a Muslim prayer and were then let out’, according to Allan Sayers, who contacted MailOnline and said he was in the Westgate mall five minutes before the attack.
GOP Senators, led by Ted Cruz, are planning on filibustering the continuing resolution that just passed the House on Friday.
There is method to this madness. Harry Reid will have to get a successful cloture vote — 60 votes — to bring the continuing resolution passed by the House to the floor. Once that happens, Reid can use a procedural vote to strip the Obamacare defunding out of the bill, requiring only a simple majority.
Cruz and other Republicans believe the only play they have is to pressure Harry Reid over the government shut down by forcing him to allow a straight up or down vote on the bill, including the defunding measure.
Are there 6 Democratic Senators who would vote to defund? That’s what Cruz and his allies want to find out.
Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday that Republican senators should, in effect, filibuster the House-passed continuing resolution in the Senate.
The Texas Republican is calling on his colleagues to oppose limiting debate on it, warning against what he calls procedural trickery.
“Step two is the Senate, where all accounts suggest Harry Reid plans to use procedural gimmicks to try to add funding back in for Obamacare,” Cruz said. “If Reid pursues this plan — if he insists on using a 50-vote threshold to fund Obamacare with a partisan vote of only Democrats — then I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.”
“Now is a time for party unity; Senate Republicans should stand side-by-side with courageous House Republicans,” Cruz said.
The statement underscores the unwinnable procedural hand faced by conservative senators, however. They know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will move to strike out the Obamacare defunding language after getting the 60 votes needed to limit debate, but they can’t stop him without effectively endorsing a government shutdown.
The Nevada Democrat’s move is completely in keeping with long-standing Senate rules. Pending germane amendments and motions, such as a motion to strike, are allowed simple-majority votes after debate’s been limited.
“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown. I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare,” Reid said in a Friday statement.
Cruz’s statement came shortly after the head of the Senate Conservatives Fund said likewise.
“Harry Reid needs 60 votes to approve his plan to fund Obamacare. If 41 Republicans stand strong and oppose cloture, they can defeat Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. However, if Republicans waffle and vote for cloture, it will grease the skids for Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. It’s pretty simple — any Republican who votes for cloture is voting to fund Obamacare,” SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said.
The immediate question is whether Cruz can round up 41 Republican votes to prevent cloture. To do that, he probably needs Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the Senate, to show some leadership and use his influence to gather in most of the caucus.
This may be a harder task than finding 6 Democratic Senators to vote for defunding Obamacare. Some GOP Senators have already expressed a reluctance to shut down the government for any reason and they desire a “clean” funding bill. But with the base on the warpath, the probability that Senators would face a primary opponent if they failed to vote with Cruz may tip the scales in the Texas Senator’s favor.
McConnell himself, already feeling the heat from a challenge on his right, might see no choice but to join with Cruz in trying to prevent the CR from reaching the floor. If that happens, Cruz has a reasonable chance of succeeding.
But what’s the end game? What if Reid refuses to allow a vote on Obamacare defunding? How long are Senate Republicans willing to allow the government to be shut down before it becomes self-defeating?
In this scenario, there is no fall back plan. For Cruz and many on the right, it’s all or nothing with the stakes being funding Obamacare.