"When President Obama goes to Israel—as he inevitably will in order to shore up Israeli public support for his Middle East Peace Initiative—J Street can claim some of the credit for making the trip happen."
Obama is leaving for Israel. But a lot has changed since I wrote that in November 2009, following J Street's first annual conference in Washington, D.C. Obama has no Middle East Peace Initiative. The relentless and programmatic migration of Israelis to the West Bank and East Jerusalem have altered the character of what was presumed to be a future Palestinian state and capital, changing what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describes as "the facts on the ground." And the Arab Spring has changed facts on the ground that far are beyond Netanyahu's reach.
For 15 years I covered nothing but Texas politics, so I have heard my share of strange political speeches. At CPAC, Rick Santorum delivered a speech that put him in a class of his own.
The day before he spoke, Santorum had sat at the deathbed of his fifteen-year-old nephew in Pittsburgh.
You won't find Dr. Orly Taitz on the official program at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. But she still draws a crowd out on the midway, even if she is way past her sell-by date. On the first day of the three-day conference, Taitz was aggressively responding to questions of reporters from conservative news outlets.
Did they know she was again in a position to prove that Barack Obama was not born in the United States? And that she has tracked down the individual whose Social Security number Obama uses to pass an American citizen?
In federal court on January 4 she had her proof in hand when Eric Holder sent word to District Judge Morris C. England that Taitz's filing for an injunction to stop the Electoral College from making Obama president was based on spurious evidence.
Now, not only is Obama guilty of faking his citizenship, "Eric Holder is guilty of high treason," for intervering the legal proceedings that would have proven that Obama is a fraud.
Taitz is a lawyer (and dentist) from California, who since 2008 has been in possession of incontrovertible evidence that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
There are degrees of crazy at CPAC.
Before Taitz spoke with reporters, she had buttonholed Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, whom she said agreed with her claim that the Obama administration has failed to deliver to Congress critical documents bearing on Taitz's case.
Rand Paul's old-fashioned filibuster was a principled and admirable protest against the use of drones in extrajudicial killings. Because Paul stood on the Senate floor and talked for 13 hours, he dominated the news cycle in which Republicans filibustered—without actually filibustering—a critically important nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
For the second time in two years, Senate Republicans blocked a confirmation vote on Caitlin J. Halligan, demonstrating again how very wrong Senate Majority Harry Reid was in January, when he failed to get behind a campaign to reform the filibuster. Despite Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the filibuster, Reid balked on genuine changes and cut a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to enact "modest filibuster reform."
Last Thursday, I spoke to Damon Moglen, who directs the climate and energy project at Friends of the Earth. Moglen said it appeared that environmentalists opposed to the pipeline designed to transport Canadian tar sands from Saskatchewan to the Texas Gulf Coast were going to get a fair hearing at John Kerry's Department of State.
Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, it requires approval by the State Department rather than the Environmental Protection Agency.
Moglen was optimistic, mentioning Kerry's record on the environment and new State Department staff he believed would give careful consideration to the Keystone XL Pipeline permit.
"There is a new secretary of state. And it looks like there is a new commitment to climate change. I think they will get it right," Moglen said.
Winslow Wheeler described the $54 billion scheduled to be cut from defense spending by sequester as “puny.” The former congressional budget analyst who works for the Project on Government Oversight was not defending the cut. He was putting it in context.
More than 45 percent of all money spent on defense by all nations last year was spent by the U.S. The graphic above measures U.S. defense spending in 2012 against the 2012 defense budget of China, our major strategic adversary.
There are limits to comparisons. China keeps some military spending off budget (as does the U.S.). China is building. The U.S. is cutting back. The U.S. has defense commitments unlike any other country, and additional strategic adversaries: Russia and Iran. China is neither at war nor maintaining foreign bases.
Yet even if Russia’s $52.7 billion is added to China’s $88.9 billion, the combined spending hardly measures up to $739.3 billion appropriated for the Pentagon.
Research by William Shuab.
University of Texas president William Powers stood before a dozen TV cameras outside the Supreme Court Building, discussing the affirmative-action case that had just been argued before the justices, when a slight man approached from the right and said: “The plaintiff is here. Please, let the plaintiff speak.”
There are legitimate concerns about budget cuts that will be imposed by the sequester. There is hyperbole. And there is absurd "sky-is-falling" raving that would be laughable if some people didn't take them seriously.
The question NPR "Weekend Edition" guest host Don Gonyea asked on Saturday morning's program pointed out the absurd.
"So, top brass in the Pentagon, some members of Congress, have said these cuts will make us less safe. What would actually happen if the cuts go into effect?"
Daily newspaper reporters sometimes refer to "cockroach stories," a genre of reporting that sheds light on vermin in dark places.
The story that has stalled Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation as secretary of defense—the allegation that he received a fee to speak to a group associated with Hamas—began as a joke that a newspaper reporter made to a Senate staffer.
In the mid-seventies, outlaw (actually convict) country singer David Allen Coe mailed the lyrics to "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" back to songwriter Steve Goodman, telling him he had failed to write the perfect country-and-western song because "it didn't say anything about Momma, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin' drunk."
Goodman, a Jewish songwriter and Cubs fan from Chicago who was an unlikely country and western songwriter, acknowledged his failure, wrote a coda, and sent it back to Coe, who included it in the song when he released it in 1975.
Well I was drunk the day my Mom got outta prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a dammed old train
What follows is a coda to the post I wrote yesterday, which included an egregious omission that was called to my attention by a friend who understands how Washington works.
Chuck Hagel will be held hostage for a few more days at most. John McCain, who is so opposed to Obama's nomination for secretary of defense that he almost physically assaulted him during a confirmation hearing, said yesterday that it's time for the Republican Senate minority to stop blocking a vote on Hagel. It was always evident that AIPAC and others in the extreme pro-Israel lobby (the gay issue was a dead red herring) couldn't enlist enough Republican opposition to kill Hagel's nomination.
"Cat Scratch Fever" is rock-and-roll history. Ted Nugent's most recent hit was the implied threat in a pro-Romney speech he delivered at an NRA state convention last year:
"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
Orwell? Kafka? The Marx Brothers?
Where to look for a metaphor to describe the killer app discussed at John Brennan's confirmation hearing last week?
The idea of a secret "drone court" that could weigh in on the Obama "kill list" unfolded as the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned the executive's authority to declare someone a terrorist and authorize his extrajudicial assassination by a missile fired from a remotely piloted, unmanned drone.
The villagers…found the dead strewn around a burning sport vehicle. The bodies were dusted with white powder—four and sugar, the witnesses said—that the victims were bringing home from market when the aircraft attacked. A torched woman clutched her daughter in a lifeless embrace. Four severed heads littered the pavement.
"The bodies were charred like coal. I could not recognize the faces," said Ahmed al-Sabooli, 22, a farmer whose parents and 10-year-old sister were among the dead. "Then I recognized my mother because she was still holding my sister in her lap. That is when I cried."
On Friday a Mitch McConnell campaign consultant sent out a fundraising e-mail that proclaimed "we beat the liberals" on filibuster reform.
"Barack Obama and his allies are furious," the e-mail read.
"A group of the Senate's most liberal Senators, fueled by left-wing groups like Move On, have been pushing a dangerous scheme to change the rules of the United States Senate and fundamentally alter the checks and balances of our system.
"Well, Mitch McConnell stopped that scheme dead in its tracks…bottom line, Mitch McConnell saved the ability of Republicans to filibuster at 60 votes. Period."
In the end, his candidate lost. But Israeli agent Sheldon Adelson spent a staggering amount of money on the 2012 elections. Adelson isn't a hardbody Sabra Mossad kind of agent. He's an elderly American casino kingpin who invests in campaigns of U.S. candidates who will deliver for Israel—to be specific, candidates who support the hard-right Israeli politics and policy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In the last U.S. election cycle Adelson spent $92,796,625. Much of it in a wasted attempt to defeat Barack Obama. Adelson bet his first million on Newt Gingrich, and a $5-million contribution he made to the Gingrich campaign kept Newt's bloated corpse standing long after it had no pulse. After Gingrich collapsed, Adelson began funding Mitt Romney's campaign, and Adelson was waiting for Romney in Jerusalem when he made his fundraising pilgrimage to the Holy Land last July.
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley came to an interesting conclusion after the Rolling Stone interview he did with President Obama a month before the 2012 election. "Obama represents a new type of 21st-century politician: the Progressive Firewall…the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society."
Brinkley observed that "every president from FDR to Jimmy Carter…did huge, imaginative things with tax revenues." Truman's Marshall Plan, Eisenhower's Interstate Highway system, the space program JFK promoted, Medicare and Medicaid under LBJ, the EPA that Nixon created, and the Departments of Energy and Education created by Jimmy Carter.
"It was the election of Ronald Reagan that started the Grand Reversal," Brinkley wrote. Obama's historical destiny is to stop the dismantling of programs put in place by the presidents who held office in the first and second half of the 20th Century.
I found Brinkley's interview unremarkable, in that he was unable to move the president off his campaign talking points. But the thinking in the essay that framed Brinkley's interview was fascinating. And the inaugural address Obama delivered this morning suggests that the Rice University historian got it right.
Yesterday—during oral arguments involving competence of defense counsel—Justice Clarence Thomas spoke in an audible voice from the bench of the Supreme Court.
Today, The New York Times devoted 24 column-inches and two photos to Adam Liptak's account of Thomas "breaking the silence."
For almost seven years, the African-American Supreme Court justice appointed by George H.W. Bush has not uttered one word from the bench. This is a remarkable accomplishment in a forum where attorneys struggle to get in a few sentences of oral argument as justices assault them with comments and questions.
Yesterday, when Justice Thomas spoke, it appears that he made a disparaging remark about his alma mater. (The transcript noted cross-talk and laughter and the precise comment is not clear.)
I understand that his race gets under his skin. But until reading the Times today, I was unaware of Thomas's contempt for Yale Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1974.