via Ben SmithConsidering I’m Irish-Scots, but have also been interested in Israel and the Middle East since I first became curious about Christianity, something that came long after I was baptized, well, I couldn’t resist this[...]
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Now that the mission in Libya is creeping away from humanitarian protection and toward arming an insurgency, this might be a good time for Congress to get involved. I know it's quaint, but they do have war powers, last time I checked my Constitution. Bob[...]
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This is unexpected?and interesting:
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a freshman Democrat ousted in last year's Republican tidal wave, is angling for a rematch against Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. She told AZ/DC Tuesday that she has made the decision to run for her seat again in 2012. ...
"It's clear to me, now that Paul Gosar has a record, that he is toeing the party line rather than serving the district," she said. "The real key for me is the number of people who I've been hearing from in the district?and this is Democrats, independents, Republicans and even folks who are actively involved in the 'tea party'?that they feel he is deeply out-of-touch with the district."
Kirkpatrick said she hopes the 2012 political climate will be more hospitable to her candidacy because it is a presidential year and likely will have a bigger turnout.
I'm not sure that this comeback had really been on our radar. In fact, apart from randomly appearing in a PPP poll a little while back, her name hasn't come up on SSP since the November election. Most commentators wrote her off at one point or another last year?we eventually moved the race to Lean R. Kirkpatrick wound up losing, of course, but by a not-entire-horribly six points. (By comparison, Carol Shea-Porter was also universally considered to be in a "Lean R" race, and she lost by double that margin.) So perhaps she has enough mojo to stage a comeback.
(As an aside, I'd also point out that Kirkpatrick was the Dem in the reddest seat who both voted for healthcare reform and against the Stupak amendment?as a freshman, no less.)
Of course, there's the little matter of redistricting, but as the article notes, both Gosar and Kirkpatrick hail from Flagstaff, so if there's a district for them to run in after the state's independent commission gets done with its work, they'll both be in it. AZ-01 is also one of those seats that you're pretty much required to describe as "sprawling"?it is, in fact, the tenth-largest by area (and fifth among non-at-large states). So unless mapmakers get very creative, it's hard to imagine this behemoth won't still exist in some form or another come next year.
Dear Rep. Kevin Ryan,
No budget cuts possess long-term ramifications that are more significant than insufficient funding for family planning and reproductive health. Births to teen mothers currently cost our state $180 million a year, and that price tag will skyrocket if teen pregnancy rates rise.
I respectfully ask you to:
1. Maintain current funding levels for family planning services in the DHEC budget.
2. Maintain current funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs in the DSS budget.
By continuing to invest in prevention programs, we can aid more than 250,000 women across the state and prevent 23,500 unintended pregnancies--saving our state millions. We'll also prevent an estimated 38 percent increase in teen pregnancies, giving thousands of young people the opportunity to become healthy, productive citizens.
I recognize the unenviable task you face in making these tough budget decisions. But South Carolina can't afford a future without these critical prevention services. Let's halt a cycle of poverty that has crippled our state for far too long.
Georgetown, S.C. 29440
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Okay, in the words of the immortal Beastie Boys, we are going to fight, for your right, to hear freshman Rep. Sean Duffy say his family is struggling to get by on his $174,000 salary. Yesterday we posted a short clip of Duffy, at a townhall in his[...]
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This is a guest note by Harlan Ullman, Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business as well as Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Council.
Wars too often are created by illusions and delusions. This is what is happening in Libya. It is an illusion to believe that if Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi clings to power, the credibility and authority of the opposing UN, Arab League, NATO, U.S. and other states comprising the coalition will not be dealt a severe blow with accruing consequences.
But, it is a delusion to think that if the rebels do not succeed in ridding Libya of this desert rat, there is no possibility of an outside ground assault to finish job. The excruciating dilemma is that to limit the damage caused by the first illusion of Qaddafi holding on, reversing the delusion that no alternative exists leads to a course of action likely to prove unacceptable. Either way, the news is very bad.
As a result, we could be stuck in Libya and in a larger sense with an Arab Spring that could metastasize into an Arab winter of discontent.
We have agonized over what to do about Libya. The Arab League surprisingly sought a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians. Despite five abstentions, the UN followed suit with Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing "all necessary means" short of occupation to protect innocent civilians. Then NATO, in its own lurching way, pressured by the U.S. and U.K., agreed to assume command of all military operations that include sustaining a no fly zone, air strikes to protect (and aid) the rebels and an arms embargo.
The demand that Moammar Qaddafi must go leads to an inescapable conclusion. Like it or not -- and very few will like it -- ground forces may be necessary to remove Qaddafi if he does not leave by other means or if the rebels fail to dislodge him. Stalemate is to Qaddafi's advantage.
At this point, the use of outside ground forces is thinking about the unthinkable. Who would have the capacity and the stomach to supply the forces? Beyond that very tricky matter, no one has any idea of what a replacement government would look like, how that transition could be made and for how long outside countries are prepared to invest time and money to ensure stability in that oil rich land. And, perhaps we unsuspectingly delude ourselves by calling the rebels "democratic forces."
President Barack Obama tried to square these circles in his address Monday night. Sadly, the president had no running room. He did not wish to antagonize Arabs and Muslims further by calling for a third U.S. intervention into those worlds. For the moment, explicit recognition of the need to use force to expel or remove Qaddafi is something the administration will defer like the plague until it sees whether or not the rebel forces are capable of achieving that end state with minimal outside help.
The tragedy is that we and the coalition face a potential quagmire. And the options are not favorable.
First, the rebels could succeed in throwing Qaddafi out one way or another. Providing arms and air attacks could be part of this option best conducted with Arab or Muslim help from outside Libya. For a betting person, this is a Hail Mary option.
Second, a stand-off or partition of Libya with Qaddafi in control in the west and the rebels in the east could follow. Tightening Obama's noose, Qaddafi would face a strategy of attrition and death by a thousand cuts. Significantly, he would still be in power and this could last for an extended period. This option makes hollow our threats and credibility and makes Qaddafi at least the de facto winner.
Finally, there is a Noriega option. In December 1989, President George H.W. Bush sent U.S. forces into Panama to capture President Noriega. A similar operation could be mounted to end Qaddafi's rule.
The risks are breathtaking. The prospect of bloody battles and massive casualties cannot be excluded. Reprisals against such an attack from terror groups would be likely. A political backlash and not merely from the Arab world as the UN Resolution 1973 precludes occupation would be severe. And finding the forces and willing partners to intervene may be missions impossible.
Here, illusion collides with delusion. Whether the UN, Arab League and other organizations realized it or not, a no fly zone would ultimately lead to this juncture. To succeed, Qaddafi must go. If the rebels are unable to achieve that goal, someone else must. This is the inevitable consequence of the decision to impose a no-fly zone and the illusion it would work.
Perhaps the leaking of such plans will force Qaddafi to quit. But don't count on it. Then, if all else fails, the illusion will leave a single unpalatable and risk laden alternative--- direct intervention on the ground--- what some will call the ultimate delusion.
-- Harlan Ullman
All across the country, right wing legislators are taking aim at Main Street Americans by attacking their collective bargaining rights. These lawmakers are stripping public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights and/or slashing their wages, benefits, and retirement funds.
Yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appeared on Fox Business Network to continue this war on labor rights, using his time on the station to attack unions and claim their pay and benefits are too high. At one point during the interview, the senator began attacking “government unions,” saying they are “going to have to” contribute to their pensions and health care plans, just like Paul has to as a senator, and that Kentuckians back home don’t have any sympathy for government union workers because they pay for their retirements:
PAUL: Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. [...] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they?re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I?m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don?t have a lot of sympathy because they?re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements.
The problem with Paul’s assault on public employee unions is that it’s based on a false premise. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Meanwhile, their health care, just like Paul’s, is covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program, which also requires employees to share the cost with their employer, usually 25 percent of premiums according to the Office of Personnel Management.
State workers like those Paul and his right-wing colleagues have been scolding often have far less generous plans than federal legislators. Lawmakers only contribute ?1.3 percent of their salaries? into their defined benefit plan, while ?the midpoint for defined-benefit pension contributions from state workers? is actually almost 4 times higher, at 5 percent. In Wisconsin, state employees actually pay the entirety of their pension plans via contributions from their salaries. Health care plans vary by state, but in Wisconsin public employees generally pay 6 percent of their premiums.
Paul is certainly entitled to his own opinion on public employee unions, but to coin an old phrase, he isn’t entitled to his own facts.
Victims of the January 8 mass shooting stood with civic leaders on Monday to call for critical reforms to our nation?s guns laws. Watch highlights from the event in Tucson. Show your support by sharing the video with your friends and family!
As you may recall, I wrote before about how just about anyone can buy a gun in Arizona. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is calling on members of Congress to take two important steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
You can sign the petition here.
President Obama is still relatively popular with younger Americans, but he has a serious political problem with people over 55. Only 39 percent of people in that age group approve of his job performance while 52 percent disapprove.[...]
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Harry Reid says that he and John Boehner have resumed negotiations to get a deal done to prevent a government shutdown:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) are in talks on the budget, calling bitter rhetoric on the subject as coming from ?people who aren?t even sitting at the negotiating table. ... Much of the criticism in this process has come from people who aren?t even sitting at the negotiating table,? Reid said, as he opened the Senate floor. ?But I am. And so is Speaker [John] Boehner. I?m glad he?s returned to the conversation.?
But even as Reid expressed confidence that a deal can get done, Boehner delivered a statement blistering Democrats and blaming them for the budget impasse. And in a closed door session with House Republicans, Boehner, speaking of Democrats, vowed to "kick their ass."
Apparently, Boehner is more afraid of his increasingly disgruntled tea party base than in appearing to be unwilling to negotiate.
Nonetheless, despite Boehner's pessimistic public posture and his promises to deliver an ass-kicking, the evidence suggests Reid's optimism about the potential for compromise is closer to the mark. As he said, negotiations are underway?and they appear to be making progress. Yesterday, David Rogers reported that the two sides were within $6 billion of an agreement on an overall funding level, depending on what happens with policy riders. And today he reports that serious talks are underway between the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
In an off-camera briefing, Rogers asked Eric Cantor about that $6 billion gap. Cantor didn't dispute the accuracy of Rogers' reporting, but said he didn't know anything about it, implying that he's been out of the loop on negotiations?a claim that appears to be contradicted by Cantor's own statement on Friday that no progress had been made in negotiations. And during the briefing with Rogers, Cantor had once again said no progress was being made:
I think we ought to be driving as many spending cuts that we possibly can consistent with the desire of our members with a unified position that we have not seen the Democrats - President or anybody in the White House or the Senate - we have not seen indicated that they're willing to go where we want to go with spending cuts.
Cantor seems to be trying to have it both ways. When presented with evidence that a deal is within reach, he denies knowledge of negotiations, but at the same time, he's got no problem saying that negotiations aren't going anywhere. As with Boehner, he isn't willing to publicly tell the tea party that they aren't going to get everything they want.
There's been a suggestion that Boehner and Cantor are playing some sort of good cop, bad cop routine, but actually they both seem scared to death of the tea party contingent in their own party?hence their unwillingness to admit they are open to compromise. But even if they don't want to admit to it publicly, the fact remains that if they want to avoid a government shutdown, they are going to need to compromise. As Harry Reid put it: "If they want to move the country forward, they can?t let the Tea Party call the shots."