In the USA...United Surveillance and Swat Teams of AmericaObama's Cool Head in a Crisis -- Asset or Growing Liability?
by Naharnet Newsdesk
31 August 2014, 08:42
He doesn't bluster and he doesn't strut and President Barack Obama certainly isn't panicking, though he admits it feels like the world is falling apart.
But Obama's cool-in-a-crisis style and disdain for the impulsive use of military force is fueling criticism of his leadership, as crises stagger the Middle East and Ukraine.
"If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart," the sanguine U.S. leader told supporters Friday.
"I can see why a lot of folks are troubled," he said, while counseling that the U.S. military, standing tall amid jihadist violence and geopolitical threats, had never been mightier.
"The world has always been messy -- we're just noticing it now in part because of social media."
With world crises bursting around him and political opponents apoplectic, Obama has yet to lash out in response, and refuses to act on anyone's timetable but his own.
His methodical crisis management, long Situation Room seminars and skepticism that U.S. force can remake a tumultuous world, has sustained him through nearly six tough White House years.
With Islamic State radicals dug into a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's shadow ever lengthening over Ukraine, Obama is shrugging off a whirl of hostile news cycles and political attacks on his leadership.
But even Obama allies may be forgiven for wondering, after another trying week, whether the president’s approach is becoming a political liability, as his once high foreign policy ratings ebb.
A burst of honesty on Syria put the president in a new fix —- and raised the stakes for his trip to the NATO summit and Estonia beginning Tuesday.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Obama told reporters, trying to quell a warlike mood in Washington, which expected to hear U.S. attacks on IS in Syria were imminent.
But the damaging soundbite sparked a Washington firestorm, as it appeared to validate Republican attacks that the president, disengaged and oblivious to rising threats, is not up to facing down the world's hard men like Vladimir Putin.
Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham warned in a New York Times article Saturday headlined "stop dithering" that Obama's failure to act quickly against IS in Syria was "startling" and "dangerous."
Potential 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry said Obama's remarks revealed a president always one step behind the next crisis, and accused him of "dithering and debating" over what to do about IS.
Aides protested Obama was talking only about an operational plan for military action in Syria — not the wider battle against a group U.S. jets are already bombing in Iraq.
But in political spats like this, context is lost.
While it infuriates his enemies, Obama's approach is a reflection of his own personality, his post-Iraq war era and the historical lens through which he increasingly peers as his presidency enters its twilight.
His drawn out decision-making and habit of testing of every scenario that could follow military action is familiar —- Obama agonized for months before doubling down with an Afghan troop surge in his first term.
But in probing complexity and nuance, is Obama's zeal for decisive action dimmed?
His defenders reply with three words — Osama bin Laden — recalling the long-planned and daring raid into Pakistan which killed the Al-Qaida chief and helped Obama win reelection.
Obama recently took to telling confidants the core of his foreign policy is not to do "stupid" things — and holds up the "disastrous" Iraq war as Exhibit A in his case.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained that Obama, wary of being sucked into Syria's civil war, refuses to simply launch an impulsive attack to appease Washington, seeking vengeance after the IS murder of U.S. journalist James Foley.
"There are some who probably would make the case that it's OK to not have a formulated, comprehensive strategy," Earnest said.
"That is not what the president believes is a smart approach."
Brian Katulis, of the Center for American Progress, which is close to the administration, said Obama may be more in tune with his war-weary nation, than his critics.
"I think a lot of the criticism comes from the chattering classes — amongst the foreign policy elite and in the media."
"I think your ordinary American is very much where the president is, in his cautious look before you leap stance."
Obama has made clear he believes history assigned him the role of getting troops home from foreign wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of transitioning his nation from the permanent war footing it adopted following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Critics argue though, that the president sees the world not as it is — but as he wishes to see it. Some Americans appear to agree: only 36 percent in a recent Pew Research/USA Today poll thought Obama acted sufficiently tough on the world stage.
But some close observers sympathize with his plight.
"It's pretty tough being president of the United States. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don't," said a Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.
"Either you are accused of having got too involved in some other country's affairs and making things worse -— or you stand back because you are conscious that in the past, sometimes military interventions have not been an unmitigated success."
***************Keeping Their Voters Stupid Keeps Republicans Elected
Saturday, August, 30th, 2014, 10:08 am
Over the past six years after every election, a relatively common question is why do so many Americans dependably vote against their own self-interests. Despite poor white people in southern red states barely surviving on slave wages, welfare, food stamps, and no adequate healthcare, they routinely vote for Republicans openly campaigning on driving their constituents deeper into poverty. It is true that opposition to Democrats as surrogates for an African American President is driven by racial animus, but even that fails to explain poor white voters electing abusive Republicans promising to eliminate programs that keep them alive and block Democratic attempts to lift them out of poverty.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson understood how abusive Republicans could succeed, if only they kept the population unenlightened, or in street vernacular blind, dumb, and stupid. Jefferson said, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of power.”
That was in 1820, but even before that Jefferson wrote that “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. Therefore, it is imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.”
Jefferson was not the first man to identify the death knell of democracy, or “self-government,” was an uneducated populace. Republicans understand they could hardly garner any electoral support if the population was educated and informed, so they have went to extraordinary and, often, unconstitutional lengths to keep the populace ignorant by cutting education funding. Whether it is transferring public school funding to private, religious, or underperforming charter schools, or just slashing education funding, Republicans will employ any measure to keep Americans stupid so they will vote against their own self-interests.
On Thursday, another judge ruled that Republicans in Texas used an unconstitutional scam to starve public schools and produce another generation of ignorant Texans to vote for Republicans. The Texas ruling was a repudiation of gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbot’s defense of slashing well over $5 billion from public schools using an unconstitutional property tax scam. However, the means of slashing public education funding is unimportant, but it is a growing trend among Republican-led states whose goal is simply to maintain a base of support among uneducated voters.
Last week a judge in North Carolina ruled that a Republican privatization scheme was unconstitutional because it defunded public schools by shifting public education funds to private and charter religious schools. The judge correctly stated that the Republican scheme was to “siphon money from the public schools in favor of private schools, fund non-public schools that discriminate on account of religion, and to shift “public taxpayer money to private religious schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.” Besides a dirty privatization scam, N.C. Republicans want to keep the next generation of voters blind, dumb, and stupid so they will support policies that keep them in distress.
Last year in Kansas a judge ruled that Governor Sam Brownback’s Draconian cuts to public education were unconstitutional; particularly because the lack of funding was due to using taxpayer dollars to fund unsustainable tax cuts for the rich. Brownback, like all Republicans, desperately needs an ignorant and uneducated citizenry who regularly fall for the insane notion that taking money from the people to enrich corporations and the wealthy is key to an economic Utopia. It is noteworthy that the storied “trickle down” theory has existed for about a generation, and the people that were denied a decent education then ignorantly support Brownback’s economic lunacy that has the state suffering three recent credit downgrades and flirting with bankruptcy in the very near future. It is even likely that people suffering the drastic social program cuts enacted by Republicans will vote for Brownback because they are too stupid to understand they are voting against their own survival.
Another Republican state, Louisiana, is fighting federal and state court lawsuits due to Governor Bobby Jindal’s unconstitutional scheme of stealing from public schools to fund private religious institutions. Jindal, like all Republicans, depends on uneducated voters to support policies against their own self-interests such as rejecting free Medicaid expansion funding, giving free rein to dirty energy industry to foul Louisiana’s air and water, and cut social programs ignorant and uneducated citizens require to survive.
The common theme in keeping their citizens ignorant and uninformed is pandering to voters’ irrational fears. It is why Republicans’ claim Democrats are subverting their religious freedom, taking god out of schools, coming for their guns, and imposing Marxism, Socialism, or communism on the people. If any American does not believe how ignorance borne of an uneducated populace drives opposition to policies that help Americans, take heed of the number of times Republican and teabagger voters bemoan President Obama’s Marxist or socialist policies revealing they have no idea what Marxist or socialist policies entail. If one wants to end a debate, or conversation with a conservative parroting Republican talking points, ask them when the government came for their guns, what Marxism or socialism is, how their religious liberty, was subverted, or how President Obama is shredding the Constitution; a document they have never read, much less understand at even a rudimentary level.
It is beyond refute that if the citizens of this country were informed and educated, Republicans would be hard-pressed to get elected as dog-catchers, much less legislators. The assault on public education goes beyond Republican-controlled states as evidenced by congressional Republicans regularly cutting education funding. They, Republicans, know that if the public were educated, they could not demean science as the work of the devil, or claim contraception is abortion, or push the Christian bible as true science. There is a reason so many morons in the conservative movement are certain that god created America, wrote the Constitution, established America’s borders, and installed Christianity as the state religion, and it is simply due to their inability to pick up a history book or the founding document to check Republican claims for veracity.
Americans are not unintelligent, but a fair proportion of them are dirt stupid; it is the only reason a Republican ever gets elected. What Republicans are doing in the states to education is to maintain an ignorant, superstitious, and uninformed voting bloc as well as prepare the next generation to regularly vote against their own best interests. They will continue using any means to destroy public education because they know, as Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said, the only “true corrective of abuses of power is to see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” It is a corrective that Republicans are waging a fierce battle against because their electoral survival depends on keeping their supporters uneducated, uninformed, and frankly, stupid from religion.
Yet, despite this actual reality and evidence how many of you in America feel about how many 'stupid' Americans will vote for the Republican party anyway ? Of course it will be in the millions. What does that suggest United Stupid America ? USA ...USA ..USA .... The Meaning Of The Koch Brothers Tapes: "I Don't Know Where We'd Be Without You"
By Mike Lux
August 30, 2014 3:00 pm
Candid moments caught on tape reveal the true motives of politicians and their financiers.
The Meaning Of The Koch Brothers Tapes: "I Don't Know Where We'd Be Without You"
One of the classic strategies for politicians caught saying embarrassing things is to use the old "there's nothing to see here, keep moving" ploy. Republicans tried that at first when Romney was caught on the 47% tape, but it didn't work for them because it wasn't only what Romney said that was so offensive, it was the context: speaking to a bunch of wealthy donors about all those greedy seniors and poor people.
The spectacle of Mitch McConnell, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton, the head of the Republican Governors Association (and other politicians who were on the agenda or in attendance) kowtowing to Charles and David Koch and other billionaires gathered at the luxury resort. All the money spent on security ($870,000 to rent the hotel exclusively not to mention their own private security detail) to keep the meeting as secretive as possible. And Mitch McConnell, the most powerful man in the Republican party as the Senate Minority Leader, giving a speech outlining how his entire career, and the party's future policy strategy, were all in service to the Koch agenda. The combination will be as definitional to this campaign as the 47% video was to 2012.
And this won't just make an impact in the four Senate races which have gotten all the publicity so far. This is going to help define the national narrative for the 2014 campaign: these tapes make 100% clear that the modern Republican party is controlled by the Kochs and their billionaire friends. The Kochs invite the most powerful party leaders, the most important candidates, to their "seminars," and they all come running. These politicians thank the Kochs and their billionaire friends profusely, talk about how they wouldn't be where they are today without them, and then tell them how they will battle on their behalf if they win.
Mitch McConnell, speaking of the Republican party, said, "I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you're doing. I don't know where we'd be without you." Joni Ernst made absolutely clear, multiple times, that she would never had a chance to win her primary without the donors in the room. Tom Cotton thanked the billionaire financiers for reviving the Republican party in his state, and Cory Gardner begged them to invest heavily not only in Colorado but in the entire Rocky Mountain region, which was "ripe" for them to come in and exploit.
Notice that these candidates come from all over the country - the South, the West, the Midwest. The Koch donor network has a broad and deep reach. They control the Republican party from sea to shining sea.
The Koch brothers have made clear their agenda. They don't believe in climate change, and want no regulations on their oil companies. They want their taxes reduced to almost nothing since they, after all, are the "job creators." They oppose reform and regulation of Wall Street. They don't believe in a minimum wage, or unemployment compensation, or student loans, or Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They think public education should be privatized and turned over to the corporate sector.
And what the 47% recording, and the Koch conference recordings, confirm with 100% certainty, is that this is the same agenda, with the same values, shared by Republican politicians.
The Kochs and their millionaire/billionaire friends in that luxury hotel in Orange County, California are now in control of the Republican party- lock, stock, and barrel. And that is the narrative, confirmed on tape, of the 2014 election. Mitch McConnell is right: the GOP would be nowhere without the Koch brothers. The Republicans know where their bread is buttered, and will dance with the ones who brung 'em.
****************Economic justice: How NC progressives are fighting back against the Tea Party
By Moyers & Company
Saturday, August 30, 2014 10:51 EDT
Editor’s note: The Moral Mondays movement began as a grassroots response to North Carolina’s rightward lurch after Republicans won complete control of the state’s government for the first time since 1870. Modeled on the civil rights movement, it has united a diverse group of citizens in opposition to the draconian legislative agenda that’s turned what was once the most moderate state in the South into a laboratory for conservative ideology. Moyers & Company documented the story in a special, “North Carolina: State of Conflict,” that aired earlier this year.
The movement has since spread to Georgia, and spawned a series of “Truthful Tuesdays” protests in South Carolina. Rev. Dr. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, is one of the movement’s key organizers and most prominent spokesperson. This Q&A was excerpted from a longer interview with Barber that first appeared at Political Research Associates earlier this week.
As William Barber prepared to spread a message of hope and democracy through a week of actions Aug. 22-28 in Raleigh and other Southern state capitals, he talked with me about North Carolina’s free-market ideology and how it has already affected the people who live there. Barber, referring to the billionaire-backed tea party, the national group that pushes free-market policies at the local and state level, says these past two legislative sessions have been a “coordinated, premeditated attempt to undermine progress and engage in regressive tea party policies.”
“This is really Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told me. “It is government of business, bought by business, for business. And not just business — because lots of business leaders disagree with them — but this is tea party greed. This is Koch brother-type greed.”
Barber bristles, though, at the notion that conservatism or partisan politics are at the root of the problem. “I fuss against these terms ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’,” he says, “because I want to conserve the essence of our Constitution and then liberally make sure everybody has access to them. What we’re dealing with is extremism, and you can’t just define it as ‘conservative.’”
At the local level, says Barber, the state legislature’s extreme adherence to free-market neoliberal policy is gutting the state’s public school system. “Five thousand teachers being fired, being removed, and local school boards decrying [this] because of the impact that it was having on classroom sizes and students,” he says.
Barber adds that, because of the salary cuts, he sees teachers actively leaving North Carolina. “In fact,” he said, “one state, Texas, sent memos out and said if you’re in North Carolina, come to Texas. And you know that’s kind of sad, considering Texas’s regressiveness, when they actually can offer teachers more than North Carolina.”
Barber also described the legislature’s attempt to shift $10 million earmarked for public schools to voucher programs that could only be used to pay for private schools. In shifting these public funds into private hands, said Barber, the legislature refused to require that private schools benefiting from the vouchers maintain the same non-discrimination standards that public schools must uphold, meaning that private schools receiving voucher funds would have been allowed to restrict enrollment however they chose. A Superior Court judge declared on Aug. 21 that the state’s school voucher program is unconstitutional, citing the lack of accountability inherent in the program, and issued a permanent injunction stopping the voucher program from going forward.
[Conservative mega-donor] Art Pope and the tea party aren’t just alienating teachers and progressives, says Barber. They are also alienating Republicans across the state. Barber says that the legislature and McCrory never made clear, even to their own constituents, what they were planning to do once they achieved a supermajority in the statehouse and won the governorship. “They did not run saying, ‘Elect me, I’m going to take your health care, cut your public education, and strip you of your unemployment even if you lost your job at no fault of your own,’” says Barber. “So, we’ve had a Republican unemployed person stand on the stage [at a Moral March] and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m unemployed — I didn’t vote for this.’”
Even Republicans holding public office are objecting to the legislature’s actions. Adam O’Neal, a self-described conservative Republican mayor from Belhaven, NC, began a one-man march of 273 miles to Washington DC on July 14 to dramatize the impact of Gov. McCrory’s and [House Speaker Thom] Tillis’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. O’Neal explained that the lack of Medicaid funds had forced the only hospital in his coastal community to close, creating a “medical desert” that would certainly cost lives. O’Neal also lamented the potential economic impact of the hospital closing; he told NPR, “How many people go retire somewhere where it doesn’t even have a hospital?”
I asked Barber what he believes is the neoliberals’ vision for North Carolina. “They believe that the way to a great North Carolina is to deny necessary funds and access to public education. Attack teachers. Deny unemployment. Deny earned income tax credit and other safeguards for the working poor. Deny affordable healthcare and access to healthcare, even if it allows people to die. Deny labor rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights… And then, if you really want a great America after you’ve done all these things, then suppress the right to vote and attempt to use your power to stay in office. And then, after you’ve done all of that to create all this tension, ensure that everyone has access to guns easier than they have access to the polls. Now, that sounds crude and sinister, but those are their policies.”
Having set this grim scene, Barber continued with a surprisingly upbeat message: “Whatever we’re facing now, it’s not greater than slavery, it’s not greater than Jim Crow, it’s not greater than women being denied the right to vote. We won those battles. But we did not win those battles by merely engaging in political arguments. We had to tap into the moral and social consciousness of the nation.”
“I am hopeful,” he went on, “because I believe in the deep moral consciousness at the heart of America. Those of us who believe in justice and who believe in freedom, we are the heartbeat of this nation. Our role now is to be like a social defibrillator, to shock the heart of the nation, to cause it to revive and to remember what the real enemy is: regressive extremism. And it’s not just about winning all the elections, but changing the context in which our politicians have to operate.”
Barber said he hopes that the momentum of the Forward Together Moral Movement (as one of the core groups organizing Moral Marches is currently called) will spread. He sees it moving across the South from North Carolina to help change the political context and create the possibility for the state NAACP’s 14-Point People’s Agenda to be written into legislation both in North Carolina and beyond. The Agenda includes anti-poverty, pro-labor policies; equality and equitable distribution of resources in public education; access to healthcare for all; fairness in the criminal justice system; and protection and expansion of the right to vote and the rights of immigrants.
Barber acknowledges that the neoliberal forces in his state — and across the country — remain powerful. “We’ve got to fight in the courts, we’ve got to fight in the legislative halls, we’ve got to fight in the streets, we’ve got to push at the pulpit, and we have to work at the ballot box,” he says. “If we do all of this with what I call a moral critique, so we’re not trapped with the language of Republican versus Democrat, I believe we can continue to work towards the reconstruction of this nation.”
*************Another 'Red' State Admits They Were WRONG About Obamacare, Quietly Accepts Medicaid Expansion
August 29, 2014
After first rejecting the Medicaid expansion, the Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, is in the process of submitting a plan to the HHS to utilize Obamacare dollars. Shocking.
Remember earlier this year, around the time news of the ACA roll-out's success were starting to trickle in, when Republicans finally started revealing their true fears about it?
Rand Paul summed it up nicely:
"People get assumed and accustomed to receiving things, particularly things that they get for free."
Or, to paraphrase: "We're terrified people will like it, and then we'll all look like idiots."
After the roll-out, fully half the states in the U.S., all of them controlled by Tea-baiting GOP lawmakers refused federal funds to expand Medicaid in their states. A good move from a political demagogue's point of view…maybe not so much for the people of those disproportionately impoverished states, who were left asking, "Why are we still dying because you won't give us the medical care we're legally due?"
Of course, those with any degree of reason knew that that wouldn't last forever, especially considering the fact that most of the poorest states in the Union are controlled by the GOP. Arkansas and Iowa were among the first opt-out states to opt back in under pressure from the public, adopting modified "private option" plans that can utilize the Medicaid money offered by the Fed to pay for or subsidize private insurance.
Now, Tennessee is looking to join that group, among three other red states including Pennsylvania planning on doing the same.
As reported by The Tennessean, Republican governor, Bill Haslam, is in the process of submitting a plan to the HHS (formerly controlled by FEMA Death Marshall Kathleen Sebelius) to utilize Obamacare dollars in a manner similar to Arkansas and Iowa's Private Option plans.
Evidently, the pressure from 150,000-plus poverty-stricken Tennesseans who need healthcare has proven slightly more powerful than the nonsensical screams of those Tea Partiers who put this guy into office.
Undoubtedly, this swing among Tennessee and GOP states like it is indicative of a larger trend, and you can bet it'll be a feather in Obama's cap. After all, there's no better political tool than a willing defector. Fair enough. But for our part, we welcome Tennessee, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa and states like them to the civilized world.*
*"Civilized world" obviously not including Florida, currently controlled by Medicaid scam artist and TeaLord Rick Scott.
*****************Michael Brown Killing: Video Mashup Of Witness Statements, Audio Of Shots
By karoli August 30, 2014 5:28 pm
This new montage combines witness interviews with the audio of the shots to demonstrate how the accounts align.
Now that the audio recording of the shots fired has been verified as to time and date, a montage of witness statements and the recording has been put together to demonstrate how closely all the witness accounts align with the actual shots fired.
They won't tell us whether or not Mike Brown had his hands up, and they won't tell us whether or not Darren Wilson struggled with Brown in the car. But they do tell us that separate witnesses who did not know each other told essentially the same story, and that story aligns with the sound associated with shots fired from the officer's gun.
Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8IHIJrY2aE