On Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and long-time Hillary Clinton foreign policy advisor Andrew Shapiro will give a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled: "Ushering in a New Era in State-Defense Cooperation." The meeting will stream live here, and CSIS President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre will preside.
On one level, an official of one national security bureaucracy publicly hugging another national security bureaucracy, particularly when it has a much larger budget, may not be all that surprising. But it is disappointing.
Part of Hillary Clinton's legacy has been to try to reassert the role of the State Department as the statutory lead in conflict areas around the world.
She and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates tag-teamed on the need to significantly expand State Department resources given that nearly all of the major conflicts the US was engaged with involved failing states and major development challenges. Gates often beat the drum for the State Department arguing that Iraq, Afghanistan, and simmering dilemmas elsewhere in the world required political and diplomatic solutions that could not be solved militarily.
In December of 2010, I asked Secretary of State Clinton at the roll-out event of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) how her reorganization of the State Department's efforts in global diplomacy and development would interact with Pentagon -- and bring the Department of Defense around as a better partner.
Here's an excerpt of her response that can be read in full here:
We're trying to, frankly, get back a lot of the appropriation authority that was lost during the 2000s - I guess that's a word - and that because of the military emphasis in Afghanistan and in Iraq, it just was easier, quicker for the military to do a lot of things. And so you found the military doing development. You had young captains and colonels with discretionary funds, the so-called Commander Emergency Response Funds, the CERF funds, that they were literally able to call on $50- or $100,000 to repair a school outside of Mosul or help build a road in Afghanistan without any of the bureaucratic checks and balances that we
go through at AID and State.
So we are well aware that first we have to be a better partner. Secondly, we have to be more operational and expeditionary. And thirdly, we have to win back from the Congress the authority we should have as the coordinators and lead on civilian power in the United
You cannot work with the Pentagon as multitudes of agencies. That does not work. And one of the key messages in the QDDR is that the State Department has the statutory authority to lead. That doesn't mean that we're not in partnership with Justice and Treasury and Ex-Im and everybody else who has a role to play, but you've got to have someone accept the responsibility. And that's what we are offering and, frankly, demanding that we be given in order to make this civilian-military partnership something more than just a phrase.
State and DOD recently signed a memorandum that increases the number of DOD personnel serving at the State Department, Shapiro noted. There are alsomore State Department political affairs specialists at the combatant commands than at any time in history.The Pentagon, with a budget more than 14 times greater than State, can easily colonize other institutions with its massive resources and staff. As former Center for a New American Security President and close aide to General David Petraeus John Nagl was fond of saying: "There are more musicians in the Department of Defense than there are diplomats in the State Department."
Over the weekend I was driving to meet a friend for dinner when a report came on NPR about America's poverty-stricken-- something like 100 million of us-- a group that is basically ignored by politicians. You can listen to the whole eleven-and-a-half minute report above. Poverty in America used to be about white people and the elderly. There was more political will to solve it. Now that the face of poverty is less white and more about children and single mothers, hearts have hardened and politicians don't want to see it.
This is an awkward thing to talk about, but at one point I started a small company of my own, worked hard, got lucky, climbed the ladder and retired a wealthy man. Far wealthier than my parents had ever been. In fact, financially-speaking, there was nothing my parents could do to help me once I graduated from high school and took out loans to go to college. From that time on, it was Uncle Sam who helped me-- first with the loans, later with the food stamps. I don't think I would have ever succeeded without a helping hand from government. Later, there were years I paid over a million dollars in taxes. No one enjoys that. But I never, ever, ever begrudged it either. I was doing well for numerous reasons, but one was certainly the government. Not everyone saw it the same way that I did. Many rich people discount luck and discount what government does when they think about their own success. And the conservative movement certainly encourages that mindset and encourages a negative view of people living in poverty. While I was struggling to keep my own business afloat Reagan was president. In 1988, in a State of the Union address, he declared that the war on poverty had failed. How would he know? The Mob kept him going through easy times and hard times. The NPR report interviews poverty expert, Georgetown University Professor Peter Edelman to refute conservatives' claims that the War on Povery has failed.
"One reason is we're still in a recession," Edelman says. "We've had a change in our economy over the last 40 years that has produced a flood of low-wage jobs."
One half of all jobs in the U.S. today now pay less than $35,000 a year. Adjusted for inflation, that's one of the lowest rates for American workers in five decades.
There's a common perception that somebody who's poor or living below the poverty level is lazy or simply living off government handouts. Edelman says the actual average poor person is working.
"And working as hard as she or he possibly can," he says. "And particularly in the recession, not able to get work or steady work. There are certainly people who make bad choices, but the fundamental question in our economy is the number of people who are doing absolutely everything they can to support their families-- and they just can't make it."
Back when LBJ declared his war on poverty, being poor looked very different than it does today. Traveling in Mississippi with Robert Kennedy in 1967, Edelman saw children with bloated bellies and sores that wouldn't heal. There was real hunger and real malnutrition.
"The food stamp program is a tremendous success," he says. "But since that time, it turns out that children are the poorest age group in our country because their families-- typically single moms trying to make it-- can't do so because of this flood of low-wage work that we have."
Many economists say that when the economy does recover, a lot of the jobs that were lost won't be coming back. That suggests the possibility of significantly high unemployment for a long time-- maybe even a permanently large class of Americans who live in poverty. Blackwell says we can act to prevent that future. "And it's not rocket science."
"We know now that by 2018, 45 percent of all jobs in this nation will require at least an associate's degree," she says. "We could invest in the system of training-- particularly focusing on community colleges and preparing people to go to four-year institutions and improving our high school education."
"We actually have extraordinary infrastructure in this country, from the manufacturing base we once had," she continues. "We need to retool it, we need to refit it, we need to make sure that it's ready for the kind of advanced manufacturing that we're seeing develop in other countries."
"The working poor are invisible in this country. Millions of Americans go to work every day, but are still unable to provide for their families without assistance. In 2011, 10 million people worked but were still below the official U.S. poverty line. And millions more made over the designated poverty line, but still struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table. West Virginians know this all too well. We have both the second-lowest median household income in the nation and the sixth-highest poverty rate. It's devastating to me that many of these hard-working Americans have bought the lie that their struggles with poverty are due to some fault of their own.
"Conservative lawmakers talk incessantly about personal responsibility, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. That's easy to say, but harder to do if you don't have boots. Most people do the best they can with the hand they've been dealt. They just want steady work, a home to live in, access to a doctor and a little money left over for retirement. But Republican politicians will tell you the poor are lazy and just want more and more handouts. On the contrary, many of the working poor want to do better. But the corporations that pay for Republicans' campaigns want cheap labor instead, so conservatives vote against increasing the minimum wage, oppose collective bargaining and cut funds for higher education.
"I believe that success takes hard work, but the government can help by providing the tools. Getting a college degree may require working your way through school and constant studying, but lawmakers can help by providing access to Pell Grants and low interest-rate student loans. Caring for your children and bringing in an income may mean sleepless nights, but the government can help with childcare subsidies and the WIC nutrition program.
"I'm running for Congress because I'm tired of politicians who forget the people they are supposed to represent. My opponent continuously votes against the interests of the working poor because he's looking out for the interest of the top 1%, the people who put him in office. Millionaire politicians may not believe they owe anything to the poor in their district, but I owe everything to the everyday West Virginians who asked me to run. In Congress, I'll vote to protect safety-net programs, protect access to higher education and encourage collective bargaining. We all deserve a chance to make it into the middle class. That's part of the American Dream."
Perhaps it has something to do with her own political party putting the demonization of government at the top of their list for decades. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O?Connor called the declining public approval of the high court a ?great disappointment? and suggested the ruling in Bush v. Gore may have sparked the public?s loss of faith in the judicial branch.In the past, when...
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Sigh. The Senate BFFs are at it again. Now John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham have co-written an op-ed advocating for yet another military intervention, this time in the clusterf*ck that is Syria. A place so out of control that even Kofi Annan has washed his hands of it, believing it to be beyond the assistance of UN intervention, due largely to the posturing and contradictory interests of several of the member nations (looking at you, Russia and China).
But the fact remains: Syria is mired in an unbelievable quagmire of violence. So where better to send a military force already stretched beyond its limits and forcing members to stay on for upwards of four tours of duty in Afghanistan? Let's send them to another country where our interference will be seen as imperialist.
As fighting inside Syria intensifies and the opposition there renews its plea to the world for help, the Obama administration?s hands-off approach is increasingly at odds with both America?s values and its interests.
Some have suggested that recent gains by the rebels ? including offensives in Damascus and Aleppo, the assassination of key regime officials and several high-profile defections ? prove that the Syrian opposition is on the path to victory and does not need our assistance.
Unfortunately, while opposition fighters inside the country have grown more capable in recent months, Bashar al-Assad?s regime is far from finished and is now unleashing even more indiscriminate violence against civilians, using tanks and artillery, helicopter gunships, militias, snipers and, for the first time, fighter aircraft.
Iran and Hezbollah are bolstering this assault with far-reaching material support because its leaders recognize that Assad?s fall would inflict a critical blow on them. Russia and China, meanwhile, continue to provide diplomatic cover for Assad?s brutality.
We are hopeful the rebels will ultimately prevail, but it remains a deeply unfair and brutal fight, and the speed and manner by which it is won matter enormously. All evidence suggests that, rather than peacefully surrendering power, Assad and his allies will fight to the bitter end, tearing apart the country in the process.
America?s disengagement from this conflict carries growing costs ? for the Syrian people and for U.S. interests.
Please. It is not in the US interest to keep spilling our blood and treasure in ill-understood regions of the Middle East. But as I've often said about John McCain, when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
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For a party that loves to lie all day long and has no problems with negative campaigning, they sure do know how to clutch the pearls and play the victim card when the table is turned on them. Lindsey Graham doesn't know whether Harry Reid is lying any more than he knows whether Romney paid any income tax or not. Gee, it's too bad there's not some way to clear that up.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his repeated statements over the last week that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years.
?I actually like Harry. But what he did on the floor of the Senate is so out of bounds. I think he?s lying about his statement ? knowing something about Romney?s [taxes],? he said on CNN?s ?State of the Union.? ?I think he?s created an issue here. I think he?s making things up at a time when the country is just about to fall apart.?
?And I just can?t let that pass. I just cannot believe that the majority leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues.?
The "real issues," or in other words, what we want to talk about, and not those pesky tax returns of Mittens.
Arguably, the Chick-fil-A fiasco has subsided with the completion of last week’s public demonstrations, but in its wake lie the complicated questions of where the chips fell. Here’s a round-up of issues to consider in the aftermath:
The high visibility of the company’s anti-gay positions and giving has clearly had an impact, but one much less measurable than most of the coverage can truly examine: on the personal level. As people proudly boasted their support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook and other social media outlets, their LGBT family and friends were faced with the choice of how to respond, if at all. Justin Michael, a gay Christian, wrote to The Advocate about addressing this very situation with his parents:
I am a gay Christian. This whole Chick-fil-A controversy meant nearly nothing to me until I saw a picture of my conservative parents (whom I love deeply) on Facebook yesterday proudly holding their Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
I broke down crying in front of my computer screen. And since I’m not good with speaking how I feel, I wrote my mother a Facebook message with my concerns about the photos.
She took them down and apologized for the insensitivity. She was just supporting a man’s right for “freedom of speech.”
Indeed, this “freedom of speech” argument unfortunately dominated the coverage, despite being largely irrelevant to the actual controversy. There is no legal way for a city to block Chick-fil-A so long as it doesn’t discriminate, nor has anyone tried to censor Dan Cathy’s vitriolic remarks. Despite how quickly lawmakers backed away from empty threats to interfere with Chick-fil-A’s business, the media continued to let this infringement-of-freedom talking point circumvent the LGBT community’s objections. As a result, many would-be LGBT allies were seemingly defending Chick-fil-A by catering to this strawman talking point. The editorial board at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette acknowledged how many have gotten this wrong:
This had the effect of putting the company into the hottest broiler of the culture wars — the issue of same-sex marriage — but in America people can freely state their principles and act on them. And other people can criticize them for it. That’s how the First Amendment works. Those diners who came out last Wednesday in part because they thought that Chick-fil-A was being denied its First Amendment rights were wrong about that.
The Boston Globe similarly argued today that Mayor Tom Menino (D) hurt marriage equality efforts by turning “bullies like Dan Cathy into martyrs.” Michaelangelo Signorile further offered insights into how the messaging got off the tracks, how LGBT leadership was unfortunately not at the forefront of the effort, and how the response was poorly organized at various levels. There is much to be learned from the past three weeks that can be applied in future efforts to dissuade people from supporting anti-gay companies and organizations.
The Washington Post noted that the controversy had a polarizing effect, connecting “individuals to larger political forces that otherwise feel abstract and distant.” As conservatives flocked to defend the restaurant chain’s “biblical” practices, they inadvertently reminded the country that the argument against marriage equality is entirely ideological, not grounded in any benefits to society. The National Organization for Marriage already confirmed that once today. And though “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” may have attracted many conservatives across the country, it surely alienated many Christians who do not identify with that extreme brand of snidely-intolerant jingoistic Christianity. The fight over LGBT equality is not “Christian vs. LGBT” ? it’s “Extreme Conservative Ideologues vs. A Growing Majority Of Americans” and that will be easier than ever to see moving forward.
The Chick-fil-A story has always been one about a company specifically supporting efforts that harm the LGBT community. Comedians are arguably the most candid observers of culture, and it’s no surprise that Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O’Brien all addressed the controversy for what was really at stake: Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay intolerance.
Just as it did for opponents of marriage equality, the last three weeks have forced people who oppose such intolerance to consider to what extent they are willing to act on their support for the LGBT community. It’s no surprise that various campaigns are cropping up to help individuals do just that without even boycotting Chick-fil-A, such as Chicken Offsets and Riot Burgers. The harsh reminder of how toxic the United States can still be to LGBT people will surely fire up allies who may have been convinced that things were good enough. After all, if a chicken sandwich can be so polarizing, surely things are not good enough for the LGBT community, and if the public learned at least that much from everything that has transpired, then the outcry accomplished exactly what it was supposed to.
By Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts. [JR: I'll add some thoughts at the end.]
As climate change accelerates, it appears the Obama administration is in retreat. In an address on Thursday, the top climate negotiator for the United States rejected the administration’s formal commitment to keeping global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels.
This about-face from agreements endorsed by President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010 indicates a rejection of the United Nations climate negotiations process, as well as an implicit assertion that catastrophic global warming is now politically impossible to prevent.
Speaking before an audience at his alma mater Dartmouth College, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern argued that treaty negotiations based around “old orthodoxies” of a temperature threshold “will only lead to deadlock“:
For many countries, the core assumption about how to address climate change is that you negotiate a treaty with binding emission targets stringent enough to meet a stipulated global goal ? namely, holding the increase in global average temperature to less than 2° centigrade above pre-industrial levels ? and that treaty in turn drives national action. This is a kind of unified field theory of solving climate change ? get the treaty right; the treaty dictates national action; and the problem gets solved. This is entirely logical. It makes perfect sense on paper. The trouble is it ignores the classic lesson that politics ? including international politics ? is the art of the possible. . . .
These basic facts of life suggest that the likelihood of all relevant countries reaching consensus on a highly prescriptive climate agreement are low, and this reality in turn argues in favor of a more flexible approach that starts with nationally derived policies. . . .
The keys to making headway in this early conceptual phase of the new agreement is to be open to new ideas that can work in the real world and to keep our eyes on the prize of reducing emissions rather than insisting on old orthodoxies. . .
This kind of flexible, evolving legal agreement cannot guarantee that we meet a 2 degree goal, but insisting on a structure that would guarantee such a goal will only lead to deadlock. It is more important to start now with a regime that can get us going in the right direction and that is built in a way maximally conducive to raising ambition, spurring innovation, and building political will.
Stern is absolutely right that the political challenge of achieving a 2°C goal is extremely high, but what is the “flexible, evolving” regime he proposes?
Stern argued in favor of a treaty structure without any overall emissions or temperature goal, but one that allows individual countries to pick their own targets without a requirement that they be internationally binding. (This structure resembles what the Bush administration favored, although the non-binding Obama administration goal for the United States of achieving 1990-level emissions by 2020 is much better than the non-binding Bush goal of having US emissions peak in 2025.) He recognized that “the risk of a system like this is that the policies and targets countries submit prove to be too modest,” and admitted that “[h]ow to encourage ambition in an agreement that is broadly inclusive will be one of the fundamental challenges in designing a new system.” In other words, he has no idea how a climate emissions treaty with no target or enforcement mechanism would do anything to prevent catastrophic global warming.
Scientific organizations first began recommending a 2°C target in the late 1980s, based on risk assessments of the adaptive capability of forests, long-term sea level rise, and the climate history of the human race. (Our species has never experienced an Earth more than 2.5°C warmer than pre-industrial times.) The Kyoto Protocol established pollution reduction targets consistent with the warming limit, but political opposition in the United States, the world?s greatest carbon polluter, eviscerated the effectiveness of the treaty.
On July 9, 2009, after a decade was lost under the climate denial of the Bush administration, the member nations of the G8 officially recognized the 2°C goal: ?We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2C.? The Cancun agreements in 2010 codified the 2°C goal: ?[W]ith a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above pre- industrial levels . . . Parties should take urgent action to meet this long-term goal.?
Last year in the Durban round of international climate talks, Stern hinted at this new stance when he described the 2°C target as just a “guidepost.” His comments last week make clear that the Obama administration has fully abandoned the president’s commitments made just two years ago.
Meanwhile, the impacts of global warming are coming faster than scientists predicted when the 2°C threshold was set. With only 0.8°C of warming, Arctic sea ice and polar ice caps are melting decades ahead of predictions, oceanic warming and acidification are degrading ecosystems in unforeseen ways, and extreme weather has increased in stunning fashion. Civilization itself is at risk from the exponentially accelerating decline of the planetary support system.
Politics may be the art of the possible, but climate change is an inflexible reality. With its new stance on international climate policy, the administration has abandoned slim hope for none.
– By Brad Johnson
JR: Clearly we need to keep warming as close to 2°C (3.6°F) as is possible. We’re currently on an emissions path headed for 5°C (or higher) this century alone. Of course that is ?incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ?adaptation?, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level),? according to Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Britain (see here).
Humanity would be “Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs“ if we let that happen. Stern is a solid, thoughtful guy in an impossible job — thanks to the self-destructive, polluter-funded Republican leadership (see Washington Post: ?The GOPs climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion?).
I agree with Stern that we need to “keep our eyes on the prize of reducing emissions rather than insisting on old orthodoxies” — but only if he means absolute emissions reductions starting ASAP, not reduce the growth rate of emissions, which is merely put all of us brainless frogs on the medium burner.
A watched pot never boils, goes the saying. But that’s true only if you turn the friggin’ flame off.
According to Federal Reserve data, lending by U.S. banks hit a post-recession high of $7.1 trillion in the week ending July 25. Bloomberg News noted that. “the increase in lending may prevent the economy from slowing further after growth cooled to a 1.5 percent annual pace of growth in the second quarter.”
Marvin Wilson may have less than 24 hours to live.Ever more nations have abandoned the barbaric death penalty. Perhaps, eventually, the 33 U.S. states still executing people will come around, too. But even in a nation where 1,301 individuals have been executed since 1976 and another 3,170 are in the queue, it is considered uncivilized to execute the mentally retarded.
Except in Texas.
Because in Texas, officialdumb likes executing people. Under Gov. Rick Perry, 244 individuals have been injected with lethal chemicals. And the mental condition of those executed makes no never mind to the guy signing the order, the criminal-injustice system assigning the sentence or the authorities carrying it out.
So, instead of following the clear spirit of the 6-3 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia, Texas plans to stick the needle in Marvin Wilson's arm Tuesday. He has a certified IQ of 61. He has been on death row for 18 years for the 1992 slaying of Jerry Robert Williams.
Advocates hope the Supreme Court chooses to put a stay on Wilson's execution and review his case in light of Atkins.
Apparently still believing in the good faith behavior of the state courts despite all they have witnessed to the contrary, the six members of the Supreme Court majority in that 2001 case left it up to states to come up with a means of determining whether a convicted murderer is faking retardation.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
I went through last week why I don't think Ed DeMarco will be fired. Now Neil BArofsky, who has a passing knowledge of the individuals involved, entered this debate. Geithner has used the moral hazard/strategic default argument plenty of times over the[...]
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