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In case you wondered how craven the warmongers in the Senate are, apparently it includes turning on their own President just when he has begun to solve one of America's most intractable diplomatic problems.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, said he was “disappointed” by the pact and argued that Iran won more from the deal’s looser economic penalties than the international community gained by slowing down the country’s nuclear program.

“This disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December. I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues,” Schumer said.
Senators from both parties spent the past few weeks pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran even as they were personally lobbied by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry to hold off for diplomatic talks to run their course.

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Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM PST

Elizabeth Warren in 2016?

by ukit

The New Republic has a new article that talks about how Elizabeth Warren would be a strong challenger to any potential Hillary Clinton candidacy. This is the front page story in the print version of their magazine. The article quotes a "former aide" to Warren, who suggests that she may be considering a run for President after all:

Warren is shrewd enough to understand that the future of the Democratic Party is at stake in 2016. At 64, she knows that if Hillary wins and populates yet another administration with heirs to Robert Rubin, it will be at least eight years before there’s another chance to reclaim the party. “She has an immense—I can’t put it in words—a sense of destiny,” says a former aide. “If Hillary or the man on the moon is not representing her stuff, and her people don’t have a seat at table, she’ll do what she can to make sure it’s represented.”

Warren refused to tell me what would happen if the likely 2016 nominee is wrong on her issues. “You’ve asked me about the politics. All I can do is take you back to the principle part of this,” she said. “I know what I am in Washington to do: I’m here to fight for hardworking families.”4

These words may be soothingly diplomatic, but her methods usually are not—and that should be terrifying for Hillary. An opponent who doesn’t heed political incentives is like a militant who doesn’t fear death. “Yeah, Hillary is running. And she’ll probably win,” says the former aide. “But Elizabeth doesn’t care about winning. She doesn’t care whose turn it is.”

Simultaneously, Huffington Post publishes an article talking up Warren's prospects, as does Politico. This follows a Washington Post story recently that discussed Warren's 2016 prospects.
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Whether or not you think Obamacare is "doomed" (and I realize many here will take issue with that characterization), this column in Foreign Affairs should be required reading for the points it makes about America's welfare system, and how government is run in this country in general.

Sidestepping the braindead and very limited American political debate, where the left defends the ACA as a bold new social initiative, while the right equates it with Marxism, Kimberly Morgan correctly identifies the broken nature of the current system, of which the much-maligned healthcare.gov website is just a symptom.

But the fact that the White House is having trouble implementing Obamacare also should not come as a particular surprise. It is not that the Obama administration is especially incompetent. Rather, the program it is charged with executing is a complex public-private hybrid that has no real precedent elsewhere in the world. The blend is purely American: Policymakers in the United States have a history of jerry-rigging complicated programs of this sort precisely because they have little faith in government. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy that fuels only deeper public cynicism about the welfare state.
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Just over a decade ago when I was taking a journalism class in college, some classmates and I ended up researching an incident that occurred in a small rural town in North Carolina in 1961. The website we produced, although hardly the first or only coverage of it, actually ended up becoming one of the more widely read sources on the subject.

The incident occurred just a few days after John F. Kennedy was sworn into office, when a B-52 bomber on a flight from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro, North Carolina ran into trouble. I'll quote directly from the site since one of the students I worked with did such a great job with the writing:

On Tuesday, 24 January 1961, at about 12:30 a.m., two hydrogen bombs fell to earth near the tiny farming village of Faro, NC.

Obviously, neither bomb yielded its awful potential, or the world would today be mourning an infamous catastrophe. The two model MARK 39 devices came down when the B-52 bomber in which they were riding suffered structural failure and disintegrated in mid-air 12 miles north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC. The plane exploded as it fell. Five crewmen parachuted to earth safely. Three died -- two who went down with the doomed bomber, and one who was found two miles from the crash site hanging by his parachute in a tree, his neck broken. The H-bombs jettisoned as the plane descended, one bomb parachuting to earth intact, the other striking a farmer's field at high speed -- "probably mach 1" (about 760 miles per hour) speculates one retired Air Force Colonel.

Safety mechanisms designed to prevent unintended or unauthorized detonation served their function, and a historic nuclear catastrophe was averted. But published sources disagree on how close the people of Wayne County came to suffering fiery annihilation. There is also disagreement in print on the potential yield of the weapons.

An on-going environmental concern centers on the portion or portions of one bomb still buried, sunk in a boggy farm field. Quicksand-like conditions made deep excavation impossible where the free-falling bomb came down, and that bomb was never recovered in full. The state of North Carolina still conducts periodic radiation testing on local ground water.

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All evidence strongly points to the fact that Americans overwhelmingly oppose intervention in Syria. According to a Reuters poll conducted Aug. 19-24, only 9% are in favor of military action. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll puts the number at 25%.

Obviously responses will vary depending on how the question is framed, but support for military intervention is, by any stretch of the imagination, a fringe, minority position.

But that hasn't stopped the American media from desperately trying to scrape together evidence to suggest otherwise. For instance, a CNN article posted a few hours ago and written by CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser claims:

Chemical weapons a game-changer on U.S. public opinion on Syria

As President Barack Obama weighs launching a military strike against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, American public opinion over whether the U.S. should get involved appears conflicted.

The most recent national polling over the past few months suggests that most Americans, weary after more than a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, don't favor getting its military involved in the bloody fighting in Syria. But some surveys also indicate that the public feels that Washington would be justified in using military action against Damascus if there was proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against their own people.

They go on to cite polling where respondents indicated that the U.S. would be "justified" in taking action in Syria if it was proven that the Syrian government used chemical weapons "to kill civilians."

The only problem is that you have to go all the way back to May, and then to December, 2012 to find these two polls — in other words, to a time when the facts on the ground were different, and Syria was not in the headlines like it is now. Calling a poll from almost a year ago a "game changer" is a strange way of characterizing things.

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Although it's easy to be cynical, this announcement by the DOJ today could potentially be a real turning point in ending the War on Drugs.

The federal government will not try to pre-empt Washington’s law allowing adults to use recreational marijuana.

In what state officials described as a “game changer”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday it will focus attention on several key areas of illegal marijuana production and sales, but will allow Washington and Colorado to continue setting up a system for legal marijuana to be grown and sold to adults.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Holder's memo instructs prosecutors to focus on eight areas where state and federal law basically agree:
-Preventing marijuana distribution to minors
-Preventing money from sales from going to criminal groups
-Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states where it is illegal
-Preventing criminal groups from using state laws as cover for trafficking of other illegal drugs
-Preventing violence and the use of illegal firearms
-Preventing drugged driving
-Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands
-Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property
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As online commentary and opinion polls show, the mask has come off and the public is no longer under any illusion. Only 9% of Americans support intervention in Syria, and you can bet that number is even lower in most parts of the world.

As President Obama and his advisers ratchet up the pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, about 60 percent of Americans say the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Only 9 percent of Americans say the United States should act militarily.
And yet we have this surreal situation where major news outlets continue to credulously report the claims of the U.S. and its allies that they are preparing a strike on the basis that Syria allegedly used chemical weapons. Never mentioning that Bush bombed civilians in Fallujah with white phosphorus and depleted uranium in a violation of international law, as reported in the pages of The Guardian and the Independent.

Or that Reagan continued to support and funnel money to Saddam Hussein with full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons against the Iranians, as recently shown by leaked CIA documents.

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It's a tribute to the legacy of 20th century spy films and novels that we still think of "surveillance" in a somewhat old-fashioned way. The word conjures up images of men in dark rooms, hunched over switchboards with headphones on.

This Cold War era, lo-fi sort of surveillance was captured in one of the best films of the past decade, "Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)." The film documented the lives of political dissidents in Communist East Germany, and how their lives intertwined with that of a Stasi officer tasked with listening in on them.

Of course the world of PRISM and XKeyscore is very different from East Germany back then. But the "listening" paradigm lives on. And the U.S. government seems happy to perpetuate this way of thinking about surveillance — as the President did when he reassured the country that "no one is listening to your phone calls."

The reality, however, is that the new digital surveillance is much more about algorhythms and automation than listening, and understanding this difference is key to understanding just how dangerous it is.

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To celebrate their 45th anniversary, Reason Magazine has published a list of what they call "45 Enemies of Freedom." Reason probably meant this to be a proud statement of their values, but it comes off more like a Cliff Notes version of the brain-dead nature of American right-wing libertarianism.

Along with some obvious choices (Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, J. Edgar Hoover), the people Reason feels threatened by include: Elizabeth Warren, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, Sean Penn, Steven Seagal and somewhat inexplicably, former Playmate and MTV host Jenny McCarthy.

Topping the list ("the man who nearly everyone on our staff nominated, a figure who embodies so much that is wrong") is Michael Bloomberg - a choice that exemplifies the tendency of right-wing libertarians to elevate minor issues into existential threats. While I'm no fan of Bloomberg or his policies, the banning of certain sizes of soft drink is best described as a "first world problem" in a world where 7.6 million people die from lack of food and water every year (20,864 a day).

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How many times have you heard it? Americans are more than happy to submit to constant surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism. They're apathetic about civil liberties issues, which are a preoccupation of the far left/right fringe.

Not true, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac.

In a massive shift in attitudes, voters say 45 - 40 percent the government's anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from a January 10, 2010, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University when voters said 63 - 25 percent that such activities didn't go far enough to adequately protect the country.
Out of all demographic groups, the numbers are most striking among younger voters.

By 58 - 33 percent, voters under the age of 30 believe War on Terror measures have gone too far in restricting civil liberties. And the numbers are similar for 30-45 year olds, 52 - 33 percent. The only age group that thinks War on Terror measures have not gone too far are those 65 and older.

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Despite all the debate over the NSA and PRISM, the public still has no idea as to the full extent of the surveillance program. That's according to Loretta Sanchez, a House Democrat briefed by officials today on the program:

The federal surveillance programs revealed in media reports are just "the tip of the iceberg," a House Democrat said Wednesday.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said lawmakers learned "significantly more" about the spy programs at the National Security Agency (NSA) during a briefing on Tuesday with counterterrorism officials.  

"What we learned in there," Sanchez said, "is significantly more than what is out in the media today."

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In at least some cases, the answer appears to be yes. The problem is that we don't know how much information is being shared, or how it's being used.

In 2011, Reuters published a story detailing intelligence sharing between the NSA and Wall Street banks in the name of "battling hackers."

The National Security Agency, a secretive arm of the U.S. military, has begun providing Wall Street banks with intelligence on foreign hackers, a sign of growing U.S. fears of financial sabotage.

The assistance from the agency that conducts electronic spying overseas is part of an effort by American banks and other financial firms to get help from the U.S. military and private defense contractors to fend off cyber attacks, according to interviews with U.S. officials, security experts and defense industry executives.

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