Author Archive

Two Things the Right Will Not Admit About the Deficit

February 6, 2013

First, that the Obama administration’s actions have reduced, not increased, the deficit. “Indeed,” Steve Benen writes at The Maddow Blog, “the fiscal difficulties Republicans created during the Bush/Cheney era have been largely resolved, with deficits that are projected to keep shrinking [emphasis added] and debt levels that are stabilizing.”

And second, that congressional Republicans’ single-minded mania about reducing the deficit has impeded economic recovery:

Here’s the buried lede from the Congressional Budget Office, which on Tuesday released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the coming decade: D.C.’s deficit obsession has been quite effective at cutting deficits at the expense of the still-struggling economy.

“[E]conomic activity will expand slowly this year, with real GDP growing by just 1.4 percent,” according to CBO’s projections. “That slow growth reflects a combination of ongoing improvement in underlying economic factors and fiscal tightening that has already begun or is scheduled to occur-including the expiration of a 2 percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, an increase in tax rates on income above certain thresholds, and scheduled automatic reductions in federal spending. That subdued economic growth will limit businesses’ need to hire additional workers, thereby causing the unemployment rate to stay near 8 percent this year, CBO projects.”

In other words, intentional efforts to reduce annual deficits and stabilize the debt are working. But if you retrain your gaze from the government’s balance sheet to the real economy, you’ll see the impact of that austerity is fewer people working and slower growth. According to CBO, the recovery won’t really pick up steam until next year, and the economy won’t have recovered until the end of 2017, when it will reach its output potential, and unemployment will fall to 5.5 percent.

Whether they admit it or not, most Republicans are not stupid enough to believe that they can have both more deficit cutting AND more economic recovery. It’s either/or, not both:

The problem, of course, is that there are two competing issues that are incompatible — policymakers can focus on improving the nation’s finances or strengthening the recovery. Emphasizing one is detrimental to the other. If the nation wants faster growth and lower unemployment, policymakers are going to have to stop taking money out of the economy.

It’s a concept Republicans just can’t wrap their heads around.

The likelihood that they would have to compromise with Democrats to replace the sequester has led to a growing inclination among Republicans to simply pocket the savings and move on to other battles.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has predicted that the sequester will hit on schedule, making it easier for conservatives to approve a plan later in March to prevent a government shutdown. Tuesday, a parade of conservative lawmakers took to the House floor to argue for that outcome.

They know this will hurt the economy — the CBO just explained it to them — but they don’t care.


This Is Scary Beyond Belief

February 5, 2013

The “white paper” memo obtained by Michael Isikoff laying out the Obama administration’s targeted assassination policy, by which the POTUS has given the government permission to kill any American, on U.S. soil or not, without due process:

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

Conor Friedersdorf has the entire 16-page memo at the bottom of a post in which he asks why Pres. Obama kept it a secret from the American people:

On reading the unredacted document, ask yourself, why wasn’t this released to the public by the Obama Administration? Which part of its legal reasoning could jeopardize national security in any way? Since it reveals no national-security secrets, what possible justification could there be for willfully keeping its contents from Americans, who have a compelling interest in understanding, scrutinizing and debating the legal framework that surrounds extrajudicial killing?

And what is that legal framework?

The paper states that the US government can kill its own citizens overseas if:

(1) An informed, high level-official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.

(2) Capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and

(3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

The reality is even worse than this “legal” framework makes it sound. It turns out the Obama administration defines key terms very loosely:

When the paper says “imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” however, “imminent” means something other than what you might expect. All it means is that the executive branch of the US government must make a secret, unilateral determination that the person it wants to kill is a member of a terrorist organization: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future,” the paper notes. Not since the torture memos themselves have we seen such a bald defiance of what words actually mean. In the white paper, the government explains its broad definition of “imminent threat” by arguing that delaying a targeted killing “until preparations for an attack are concluded, would not allow the United States sufficient time to defend itself.”

As for “feasibility of capture,” after the memo gets through with all the “but ifs,” the conditions under which capture would be feasible are essentially nonexistent:

Regarding the feasibility of capture, capture would not be feasible if it could not be physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity or if the relevant country were to decline to consent to a capture operation. Other factors such as undue risk to U.S. personnel conducting a potential capture operation also could be relevant. Feasibility would be a highly fact-specific and potentially time-sensitive inquiry.


The Past Is Never Dead, Even If Richard III Is

February 4, 2013

DNA tests done on skeletal remains found under a parking lot in Leicester, UK, have been definitively identified as those of Richard III, who died at Bosworth in 1485:

Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”

Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

The editor of a British journal, History Today, throws a bucket of cold water on excited Richard III geeks in the UK who believe this discovery will clean up Richard III’s historical reputation.

Whether it does or not, it’s certainly additional proof that William Faulkner was correct.

Obama’s Final Decision: No Accountability for Bush-era Torture

August 31, 2012

The Obama administration has ended its investigation into the last two cases of Bush-era torture by declining to file charges, thus closing the book on one of the most heinous chapters in modern U.S. history without holding anyone associated with it accountable for their actions — and all but ensuring that a future American regime will feel free to torture and murder anyone it pleases in the name of “national security” and “keeping Americans safe.”

Conscience and Integrity Still Have Their Price

March 13, 2011

P.J. Crowley has resigned his position as State Department spokesperson after his answer to a reporter’s question about Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment caused heads in the Pentagon and White House to explode:


A Victory for Common Sense and Humanity

October 31, 2009

For over two decades, HIV-infected persons have been banned from coming into the United States for either travel or immigration purposes. Today, Pres. Obama announced the end of that ban:


The Soullessness of Sen. Joseph Lieberman

October 27, 2009

There is an explosion of blogger reaction to Lieberman’s announcement today that he is willing to sink health care reform over the public option.