On the one year anniversary of President Obama ordering a Navy SEAL team to "go in and get Bin Laden and if he not there, to get out", the President has given a speech tonight framing what America's post-Afghanistan game will look like.
In a relatively brief 1,540 word statement offered at Bagram Air Base in a surprise trip to Afghanistan, President Obama opened the door to what the elements of an endstate will be -- moving in 2013 to a full support role of an Afghan security and police force now standing at more than 352,000 personnel. The full transition of roles and responsibility would be fully complete by the end of 2014.
Today, President Obama signed a binding agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledging an ongoing responsibility and strategic relationship between the US and Afghanistan after the combat mission of US forces today ended. The so-called 'next' strategic relationship remains subject to speculation -- with caveats that a SOFA, or Status of Forces Agreement, governing the conditions under which US soldiers would be treated still had to be negotiated; that the US Congress would still have to agree annually to budget to cover the ongoing expenses of this important relationship; and that the number of residual, non-combat troops left inside Afghanistan had not been determined. Most believe that number will be in the 15,000-20,000 range.
Tonight, Barack Obama delivered a powerful message reminding Americans and the world that the invasion of Afghanistan was triggered by al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The killing of bin Laden and the decimation of the top tier of the al Qaeda network -- the President stating "We devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders" -- has given the President a key opportunity to not only take credit for being an effective anti-terrorist occupant of the White House but allows him to check off the box in Afghanistan and shift US military and economic resources away from what has been a troubling and costly exercise that was not amplifying American power around the world but leading many nations to conclude that the US was military overstretched and so financially beleaguered that it could not support its allies in times of need.
In 2009, a senior White House official told me that if President Obama failed to "deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, then John McCain would ultimately win as we would be in a never-ending global war against terror and bin Laden." The capture and/or killing of Osama bin Laden was a requirement to an exit from Afghanistan.
Obama in his speech tonight though also escapes the cries from many on the right and the left that the President wants fully out -- that yet again America would leave Afghanistan to rot and erode and become vulnerable to hijacking by radical Islamic forces. By indicating that there would be some sort of minimalist after-life, or next-life of American engagement in the nation, he is saying 'we will not abandon Afghanistan' while at the same time telegraphing that the US would also not be responsible for all that happens in Afghanistan.
If the residual force that Obama is helping to frame and set up with the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership is in the rumored 15-20,000 person range, then that gives the US enough firepower to help deter the overthrow of the government in Kabul and gives the US a significant role over some factors inside Afghanistan -- even though various warlords and forces animated by the Taliban, Iran, Pakistan, and India may also play larger roles throughout the country.
Obama tonight indicated the pathway out of the current conflict -- and Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman who have argued that America should essentially never draw down, or at least not in the near to mid term, may be livid.
By connecting the withdrawal and transition to a new 'end state' to the strategic objective of destroying al Qaeda, Obama goes down in history and helps America's stock value rise with the fact that he has shown, finally, that America is actually completing something it told its citizens and the rest of the world it would do.-- Steve Clemons is Washington Editor at Large at The Atlantic, where this post first appeared. Clemons can be followed on Twitter at @SCClemons
This video conveys a certain sense of one-of-a-kind tour leader Justin Ferate, but really not much of his irresistible enthusiasm or unflagging ebullience or considerable funniness -- even, for that matter, the sheer range of knowledge he brings to bear on seemingly every subject.
There's a fair amount of exciting news to share with the gadaboutishly (or armchair-gadaboutishly) inclined, but one piece of that news has set me to recalling the time a couple of decades ago when I walked up to, but wasn't able to go in, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, under curious circumstances I'd just as soon not go into. But I've always felt deprived, and in a couple of weeks I'm going to get to do something about it. More about this in a moment.
Now that the May Municipal Art Society walking-tour listings are available, one of the first things that caught my eye is one being led by Justin Ferate, "Hildreth Meičre Exhibition Tour" (Sunday, May 20, 9:45am-12:30pm, members $25/nonmenbers $35, including museum admission), a tour of the exhibition at "the remarkable jewel-like exhibition" at the Museum of Biblican Art of "the renowned and versatile Art Deco muralist and mosaicist," who
during her career completed over 100 projects that were evenly split between the secular and religious. She left her mark on New York City?s vast landscape, including the 1939 New York World?s Fair, Radio City Music Hall, the truly striking Red Mosaic Banking Room at One Wall Street, and Saint Patrick?s Cathedral.
(Registration is by mail using the downloadable form. For the early-registration discount, the registration has to be received a week before the tour. There's no discount on bus tours.)
Mark Twain House and Hill-Stead House & Museum ( bus and walking tour, Sunday, May 13, all day; $115)
Morris-Jumel Mansion and the Hispanic Society in America (Saturday, May 26, 1-4:30pm; $25 with $3 early-registration discount, including all admissions)
Broad Channel (Queens) and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Saturday, June 2, 1-4:30pm, not including travel time to and from Howard Beach; offered with Don Riepe, official Jamaica Bay Guardian; $25 with $3 early-registration discount, including all admissions)
JACK EICHENBAUM HELPS PLUG THE BRONX-QUEENS GAP
I might mention that the second and third parts of ace urban geographer Jack Eichenbaum's series of Municipal Art Society walking tours through the area broadly known as the South Bronx, which began with Mott Haven in March, continues in June with "Melrose: Between the Rails" on Sunday the 3rd and "Morrisania: From Suburbia to the Grand Concourse" on Saturday the 24th. (Check the tour schedule on Jack's website, which also lists a number of walks he'll be doing in May and June in his home ground of Queens.)
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A Fox News guest on Monday rejected calls to drop the use of term "illegals," and suggested that undocumented immigrants could "return to their country" if they didn't like the slur.
The Daily Caller's Michelle Fields told Fox News host Sean Hannity that liberals were trying to "demonize" conservatives in the Colorlines campaign to "Drop the I-Word."
"I'm not stopping it," Hannity insisted. "Illegal immigrant! Illegal!"
"People that enter into the country illegally are illegal," Fields remarked. "OK, that's not a racial slur. That's not racist. This is simply just liberals trying so hard to change the subject, to distract voters from Obama's failed policies."
"I think it's a racial slur, to be sure," left-leaning Fox News contributor Bob Beckel replied. "It's hate speech, which you right-wingers are pretty good at."
"So, you think I'm a racist?" Hannity wondered.
"I just think that in and of itself it is a racist word," Beckel replied.
"If illegals are so upset about the term 'illegal,' why don't they return to their country, apply for a visa and then come back legally," Fields advised. "And then we won't call them illegals."
In a online video produced for the Drop the I-Word campaign, Baruch College Professor Robert Smith explains why the word is so dangerous in political discourse: "'Illegal' functions like a racial epithet. It?s a way of legitimizing violence against a particular group of people because of what they are. That the definition of a hate crime."
(h/t: Media Matters)
*Osama bin Laden was so depressed about Al Qaida's low favorability ratings in the Arab world, we now learn, that he considered a name change for the franchise. No word as to whether he was mulling a Donald Trump invitation to be the subject of a Comedy Central Roast, which would have certified him a has-been.
*Death, a panel of political experts has voted, was a better career move.
*Jimmy Carter has officially protested Mitt Romney's claim that he himself would have killed Osama because "Of course, even Jimmy Carter would have given that order." The 39th President insists there is nothing about a Nobel Prize to keep one from a cold-blooded killing, although it is not as mandatory as it is for venture capitalists.
*The list of world figures who would not have ordered the raid is now down to PeeWee Herman and the Dalai Lama.
*No word from George W. Bush about what he would have done.
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They've been almost forgotten in their home nation, but 125 years after they died, they are still remembered and honored around the world.
Los Mártires de Chicago (an avenue in Santiago, Chile) ... was in fact named after Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel: four Chicago socialist/anarchists executed in Illinois in 1887 for the crime of being leaders of the mass labor struggle for the eight-hour work day. They are the men remembered the world over on May 1, otherwise known as May Day.
Officially, they were hung for a bomb that went off among police at a labor rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square. But not even the prosecutor, Julius Grinnell, carried the pretension that they were actually guilty.
As Grinnell said in his summation to the jury,Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the grand jury and indicted because they are leaders. They are no more guilty than those thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury: convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society.
Their hanging was supposed to kill the movement as well. But as Spies said so famously in his last words at trial,If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement-the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery-the wage slaves-expect salvation-if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.
It's a remarkable testimony to Spies's words and courage that their memory continues to blaze in a small corner of Chile, not to mention in massive gatherings and protests the world over.
Today in 2012, their memory should animate this day more than ever. At a time when millions have been inspired by the Occupy Movement, the idea of vigilant resistance, especially to the worst excesses of the criminal justice system, has never been more pressing. Just as in the time of Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fischer, we have all learned this past year that justice must always be demanded and not expected if we expect to see it at all. We should remember the Chicago Martyrs in the same breath with which we remember Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Jasmine Thar, Devontae Sanford, Dane Scott Jr., Ramarley Graham and everyone killed by police and the courts because it's easier, as Troy said so memorably, than not killing them. This is their day as well. It's a day to remember the dead and fight like hell for the living.
Our living memory is part of history's revenge on Julius Grinnell, Augusto Pinochet and everyone who has tried to drown resistance in blood. Pinochet executed the labor and radical leaders of Chile as sure as the state of Illinois hung Parsons, Spies, Fischer and Engel. But that's the stubborn thing about subterranean fires. They cannot be extinguished no matter how heavy the iron heel.
President Barack Obama showed up in Afghanistan today. From NYT: President Obama made a surprise trip here on Tuesday to sign a landmark strategic partnership agreement between the United States and Afghanistan in a midnight ceremony meant to mark the beginning of the end of a war that has lasted for more than a decade.
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The national certifying body for teachers in the United States, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), participated in the Education Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) until April 2012. In an official[...]
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Just got back from the May Day march for workers and the 99%. The crowd looked about 200 people, diverse in age, class, race and politics. What Cheer Marching Band was there. The march route took us through the City Hall lobby and I was right next to the tuba player. That was an experience.
What was it all for? For a more fair tax system, for a stop to illegal evictions and help for homeowners, for health care, for employment, for immigration reform and an end to profiling, for youth of all colors, for education.
The march started in Armory Park with drums and music and proceeded downtown. Stops were the Providence School Department, Verizon, City Hall, Bank of America and the Federal Building.
It’s something to get that many people to come out on a chill, rainy day for over three hours. One of the signs said, ‘Another World is Possible’. Not without work and sacrifice, but possible.
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Tuesday at an event with Rudy "9-11" Guiliani, Mitt Romney declared with emphasis that he "certainly would have taken that action [himself]." The action he was referring to was giving the order for Navy SEAL Team Six to go into Pakistan and kill or capture Bin Laden.
Shake the Etch-a-Sketch, folks. Here's Mitt Romney in 2007, responding to the right wing frenzy over candidate Obama's statement that he would launch military strikes in Pakistan if necessary:
"I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort," Romney told reporters on the campaign trail.
Obama on Wednesday said if elected president in November 2008 he would be willing to launch military strikes against al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan with or without the approval of the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf.
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is one of the Republican front-runners, said U.S. troops "shouldn't be sent all over the world." He called Obama's comments "ill-timed" and "ill-considered."
"There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world," Romney said. "We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them."
Later, Romney emphatically denied that he opposed entering Pakistan for the purpose of taking out Bin Laden, saying he clearly stated that "it was naive to announce [Obama] would enter Pakistan".
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Just keeping you honest, Mittens. That's what we do. We report, you rewrite.
For the first time, we get both uniform movement and results from the pair of daily tracking polls (Gallup and Rasmussen). Both of them edged incrementally in the direction of the president, and both polls also showed exactly the same result: a 46-46 tie between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Normally, that kind of consensus would seem to make an ironclad case that these polls are in the fairway of providing an accurate picture of the state of the presidential campaign. There is still enough contrary data out there, however, to make us wonder.
First, the numbers:
(GOP) PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY POLLING (yes...again!):
NORTH CAROLINA (SurveyUSA): Romney 55, Santorum 15, Paul 12, Gingrich 11PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama tied with Romney (46-46)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (PPP for Daily Kos/SEIU): Obama d. Romney (49-44)
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama tied with Romney (46-46)
NORTH CAROLINA (SurveyUSA): Obama d. Romney (47-43)
VIRGINIA (PPP): Obama d. Romney (51-43); Obama d. Paul (50-39); Obama d. Gingrich (53-37)
WEST VIRGINIA (RL Repass and Partners): Romney d. Obama (54-37)
KY-06 (Mellman Group for Chandler): Rep. Ben Chandler (D) 54, Andy Barr (R) 30A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
MT-AL (PPP): Steve Daines (R) 33, Kim Gillan (D) 27; Daines 36, Franke Willmer (D) 25
MT-AL?D (PPP): Kim Gillan 21, Diane Smith 13, Franke Willmer 11, Dave Strohmaier 9, Sam Rankin 4, Rob Stutz 1
MT-SEN (PPP): Sen. Jon Tester (D) 48, Denny Rehberg (R) 43
NV-SEN (Rasmussen): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 51, Shelley Berkley (D) 40
NC-GOV?D (SurveyUSA): Walter Dalton 32, Bob Etheridge 23, Gary Dunn 5, Bill Faison 5, Gardenia Henley 3, Bruce Blackmon 2
NC-GOV?R (SurveyUSA): Pat McCrory 65, Jim Harney 3, Scott Jones 3, Charles Kenneth Moss 3, Jim Mahan 2, Paul Wright 2
NC?ANTI-MARRIAGE EQUALITY AMENDMENT (PPP): Yes 55, No 41
NC?ANTI-MARRIAGE EQUALITY AMENDMENT (SurveyUSA): Yes 57, No 37
WV-GOV (RL Repass and Partners): Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) 60, Bill Maloney (R) 32
WV-SEN (RL Repass and Partners): Sen. Joe Manchin (D) 74, John Raese (R) 22