U.S., Israeli ties just got more complicated

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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Israel's raid of an aid flotilla has sparked protests in several countries.Washington Post: The worldwide condemnation of the deadly Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla will complicate the Obama administration’s efforts to improve its tense relations with Jerusalem.

Mullen wishes Congress had waited on gay ban vote (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses cadets during graduation ceremonies at the United States Air Force Academy in Air Force Academy, Colo. on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Mark Reis) NO MAGS, NO SALESAP – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday he would have preferred that Congress had waited before voting to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

Come and take it! Perry fights attacks Texas style (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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AP – Rick Perry is governor of a state with a multibillion-dollar hole in the budget that’s getting bigger. The EPA wants to take away the state’s power to police the quality of its air. He’s the butt of jokes for spending tens of thousands of tax dollars to rent a swanky house.

The GOP: Rethinking the expectations game?

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly has noticed a distinct deflation of Republican electoral expectations as of late:

For the last several months, congressional Republicans acted as if taking the majority of at least one chamber was practically a foregone conclusion. The question wasn’t whether the House GOP would be in the majority in 2011, but how big it would be.

Have you noticed the dramatic shift in rhetoric of late?

After spending months measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week it would be a “steep climb” for the GOP to take control of the House this year.

Frankly, the audacious projections of Republicans and their political allies during this campaign cycle has always seemed ill-advised.

In addition to potentially creating a climate of complacency, it also makes a fairly robust gain of 20-30 seats into…of all things…a disappointment. And it would have make a modest gain of 10-20 seats into an absolute disaster.

Consider what happened earlier this month in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The GOP’s relentless hyping of their own resurgence helped to sustain a media narrative that made the election of Republican Tim Burns in Pennsylvania’s 12th district into something of an inevitability. After all, thought the punditocracy, if the GOP can’t win in a district like this one (carried by John McCain, for crying out loud), then where could they win?

Had the GOP not felt the compulsion to thump their chests, the betting line on that special election might have been tempered. And the victory of Democrat Mark Critz might have been notable more for its margin (a wider-than-expected 10,000 votes) than for its outcome.

Still, even the Republican rationale for lowering their expectations is more than a bit ridiculous:

McCarthy said that top GOPers have told him they hope to win in the neighborhood of 37 seats rather than 40 so they’re in a stronger position to have good back-to-back cycles and win the WH in ’12.

Really? Is the GOP going to tell potentially successful candidates to lose on purpose, so that they can stay under a forty-seat gain?

McCarthy has been one of the Republicans hyping expectations throughout the cycle, as the chief recruiter for the NRCC (the campaign arm for House Republicans). He explained that this, in part, was the product of a misunderstanding:

[McCarthy] noted that it’s going to be very close, and that he’s never said the number of seats GOPers will win will number in the triple digits. Explaining remarks that have been misconstrued by some of his contemporaries – that there are 100 or 130 seats in play – McCarthy explained it’s been his job to recruit solid candidates who can put many of those seats on the board.

It is worth noting, by the way, that there have been a number of those “solid” recruits who did not even survive the Republican primaries. Remember Ethan Hastert? How about Mary Beth Buchanan? And, really, who could forget Vaughn Ward?

The bottom line is this cycle has proven throughout to be extraordinarily difficult to predict. And, for the GOP, the damage might have already done. It remains to be seen whether a full year of hyping and overhyping electoral expectations can be undone by a handful of more tempered predictions. They might have already created an expectations monster, one that might consume their momentum if they underperform in November.


Serving and sacrificing

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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As we honor those who served and sacrificed, wearing this nation’s uniform, it’s also worth taking a moment to remember that many of them were and are lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans. Mostly not openly so. Because if they had been openly so, they would not have been able to remain in the military. Their military service to our nation would not have been possible.

Autumn Sandeen, at Pam’s House Blend:

Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II and Lt. Dan Choi, among many others, want lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers to be allowed to serve their country without fear of discharge due to sexual orientation. The President has not ended the discharges; they want the President to act now, as he can with an Executive Order — The President can stop the ongoing discharges of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) servicemembers.

As noted, last Friday, by Clarknt67, Pietrangelo and Choi are beginning a dignity fast. They will eat no food, and drink only water.

Sandeen:

And, they intend to fast until lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers are allowed to serve openly.

Jim and Dan haven’t begun a scheduled week long fast, or even a scheduled two-week long fast. The two plan on fasting for the duration. They plan on sacrificing until the work is done, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers can serve their country openly — serve openly without fear of discharge.

The Advocate quoted Choi’s statement:

Immediately following congressional mark-ups on the National Defense Authorization Act 2011, Captain James Pietrangelo and I will commence a fast in pursuit of Equality and Dignity. We have three demands of President Barack Obama

Demand #1: End the Comprehensive Working Group “Study,” which insults the dignity of all Americans.
Demand #2: End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” discharges forever.
Demand #3: Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.

Serving and sacrificing, yet again. For those who want to serve, who are willing to sacrifice, but who aren’t allowed to serve because of whom they love.


Mark Kirk’s history of lying about his military records

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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The Navy says Mark Kirk is lying.

The man is saying he served in Iraqi Freedom when he, well, didn’t.

Who says? The Navy.

I called up the Navy Office of Information and left a message. Unlike the half dozen calls I’ve made to Matt Towson, the press secretary for Mark Kirk (847.940.0202), the Office of Information actually got back to me. I spoke to a very helpful Ms. Van. After explaining the situation to her — without naming names — she agreed with me that there is no way Mark Kirk should be claiming to have served in Iraqi Freedom. She actually laughed when I said that he could be claiming his weekend drill periods and two-week annual training at the Pentagon as meeting that requirement.

Ms. Van’s bemused final answer? “Someone would have had to serve in Iraq to have served in Iraqi Freedom.”

There is more:

[Kirk’s] original bio read:

The Navy named Kirk “Intelligence Officer of the Year” in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo.

But the WaPo story says this about his Naval service record:

An official summary of Kirk’s military service, released to The Post by the Navy last week, lists other awards and decorations, including two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals, a Joint Meritorious Unit Award, a Navy Unit Commendation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a National Defense Service medal.

It’s possible they left it out, but that list doesn’t include a Navy Combat Action Ribbon, which Kirk should have earned if he’d had “combat service.”

In fact, despite years of claiming he’d earned this award for “combat service,” Kirk has tacitly admitted that he didn’t perform combat service. The web site which once mentioned his grandiose award now says:

Kirk was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his Kosovo service in 1999.

The phrase “combat service” is conspicuously absent.

Furthermore, Kirk repeatedly claimed he was “Intelligence Officer of the Year”, which is an award that doesn’t even exist. So how did he explain it away?

Kirk’s story changed from yesterday afternoon to today. Yesterday, his website claimed he won something called the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year Award. He didn’t identify the sponsor of the award. Many felt the award was from Naval Intelligence Professionals (NIP) which gives out a Rufus Taylor Award for Naval Intelligence Junior Officers of the Year Award and the Rufus Taylor Award for Naval Intelligence Instruction. However, today, Kirk’s senate website explanation page has changed. He now claims the award is not from the Navy or NIP, but from The National Military Intelligence Association. Kirk’s current specific claim is described on his page. The notice begins with what  a reading from the citation Kirk posted yesterday.

“while serving as aviation intelligence officer for Electronic Attack Squadron Two Zero Nine from 10 April to 6 June 1999…He took charge of four deployed squadron’s intelligence assets and personnel and forged them into an outstanding intelligence shop.” It was this work that won the nomination and selection of the United States Navy Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award.

Furthermore, the Post story inaccurately portrays the Rufus Taylor award as a non-Navy award. In fact, the United States Navy Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award is nominated and selected by the U.S. Navy. It is then awarded by the National Military Intelligence Association.

That National Military Intelligence Association is a 503(c)(6) not-for-profit professional development organization. It provides corporate memberships and seems to be a group that facilitates corporate and academic involvement in the intelligence community.

It’s not a Navy award. It’s a Military Industrial Complex award. But even then, it wasn’t an award for Kirk, or even his specific squadron. It was for the entire wing.

The award was given to the entire Attack Wing. Kirk was in Squadron Two Zero Nine, a small part of the Attack Wing. There were many squadrons in the Attack Wing. The Rufus Taylor award claims it was for 717 combat sorties. Kirk’s citation and the above description of the 1999 activities of Electronic Attack Squadron TWO ZERO NINE talk about 150 combat flights. So, Kirk was a small part of the operation that won the Rufus Taylor Award. He claimed it was his award.

Specifically, that attack wing has seven squadrons.

So to recap, Kirk lied about being a combat vet.

He also lied about being intelligence officer of the year. And when called on it, he claimed he got this Rufus L. Taylor award, except it wasn’t for him, it was for the entire attack wing, of which his squadron was 1/7th of the unit.

Finally, the Kirk campaign is pointing to a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal to prove … something. That medal is the second-lowest ranking medal in the military. It’s just a step up from the Achievement Medal. Half the people I served with had one. They were handed out like candy when I served. I may even have one (I’d have to double check to make sure). It’s not a big deal (in military terms).

What is a big deal is that Kirk took a Commendation Medal and an award given to an entire squadron (of which he was a small part), and he suddenly became a combat vet who was the “Intelligence Officer of the Year”. And it wasn’t just a typo on a website or one out-of-context slip up. It was part of his ongoing campaign schtick.

Finally, Kirk claims he found out about the fake award and bullshit claims of combat service “upon a recent review of my records” spurred on by the Blumenthal controversy. Yet another lie.

It was this local blogger who found him out.

Kirk’s response to all that? It’ll likely be something about Giannoulias giving money to mobsters. And a bank!


Midday open thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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  • Irrefutable proof that God hates the President:

    President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day observance was stopped in its tracks on Monday by a torrential downpour accompanied by bolts of lightning and booming thunder.

    Obama thrilled the crowd at Abraham Lincoln National Ceremony by appearing under an umbrella as the rain poured down. But he did not deliver his prepared remarks honoring troops who died fighting for the United States.

    Instead he urged the crowd to seek shelter in their cars.  […]

    As it became obvious that the storm was not going to ease, aides announced that Obama would not make his speech. Instead, he climbed onto buses where the crowds had taken shelter and greeted the visitors who had been soaked by the storm.

    Obama was able before the storm to quietly lay a wreath at another part of the cemetery, and then stood, his head bowed as a bugler played “Taps.”

  • Condemnations and protests against Israel are mounting:

    Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council as condemnations erupted across Europe and the Arab world Monday over Israel’s deadly commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

    Government after government demanded an explanation from Israel, which said its soldiers were trying to defend themselves against armed activists. The White House said it was trying to learn more about “this tragedy.”

  • By invitation only:

    A small Wall Street securities firm has teamed up with a lobbyist for the financial services industry to host an all-day event on June 15 — right in the middle of the conference committee negotiations over the financial reform bill — that will feature “the KEY House and Senate Conferees and majority and minority Committee staff, as well as leading financial lobbyists covering interchange, banks and major non-banks affected by so-called Wall Street Reform bill,” according to an invitation obtained by TPM.

    The firm, JNK Securities Corp., declined to comment about the event.

  • What a shock:

    For the first time, the records provide a clear public view into one of the most influential subcultures in Washington: lobbyists who moonlight by bundling campaign contributions for candidates and their political parties. The fundraising occurs even as the same lobbyists attempt to shape legislation to benefit their clients, including energy firms, insurers and other corporations with major financial stakes in the outcome of federal legislation.

  • As is so often the case, what digby said
  • Rachel Rose Hartman at The Washington Independent looks at the summer Senate primaries.
  • Complaining online about the poor service you’ve gotten from a business may get you sued.
  • If you go to a beach in Los Angeles, you won’t have to feel guilty if you need rescuing:

    If you’re in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance that beach lifeguards –the same ones popularized in the long-running Baywatch TV series — will be using one of 45 Ford Escape Hybrids to race to a rescue. The hybrids have been in use for a couple years now, and Ford is ready to share some stats.

    For instance, the fleet has now saved more than 20,000 gallons of fuel. Easy to do: Escape Hybrids get 30 miles in city — or beach –driving and 27 mpg on the rare occasions that they are on the highway.

    (h/t to Balloon Juice)

  • Ali-Ollie Woodson has died.


They thought it could never happen?

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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After telling David Gregory that he thought Tony Hayward is “doing a fantastic job,” BP Managing Director Bo Dudley comes up with a novel argument for saving Hayward’s skin: that nobody thought the blowout preventer could fail.

CROWLEY: Do you think after this is all over that there are BP executives that ought to resign over the fact that there didn’t seem to be any contingency plans for this sort of thing?

DUDLEY: Well, Candy, this is an unprecedented accident in the oil and gas industry. … The failure of the blowout preventers, which is the ultimate multiple redundant fail-safe system, has not happened like this before … everyone in the industry now has to step back, look at this piece of equipment that generally the industry regarded as fail-safe, go back, figure out what happens, understand it, disseminate that, make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere, anytime — anywhere in the world again.

Let’s look at this in a couple of different ways.

First, assume that Dudley is correct and nobody thought the blowout preventer could fail. Isn’t that incredibly damning? He’s basically saying that everybody failed to anticipate the possibility of a massive blowout like the one gushing into the Gulf. If that’s really true, that’s a really, really big screw up. It’s so big that not only should Hayward be fired, but the entire drilling industry should pack up their bags, because if they can’t see the risk in a blowout preventer failing, they’ve got no business working in dangerous waters.

Second, assume that Dudley is wrong, and that there were people who anticipated the possibility of a blowout preventer failure. (This scenario seems infinitely more plausible, at least to me.) If that is the case, what possible argument is there against firing Hayward? We know BP was cutting corners. If BP (as seems overwhelmingly likely) also knew that cutting corners increased the risk of blowout preventer failure, getting fired should be the least of Hayward’s concerns.

Either way, it’s just amazing that after a screw up of this magnitude, Tony Hayward isn’t looking for a job. The fact that he’s still in the driver’s seat tells you a lot about the character of the people at BP. And it sheds light on how this occurred in the first place.


Heckuva’ job, Tony

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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BP Managing Director Bo Dudley thinks CEO Tony Hayward is “doing a great job…a fantastic job” and should keep his job, even despite BP’s oil spill in the Gulf:

Yeah, a real heckuva’ job, Tony. Consider:

  1. Hayward has presided over the largest oil spill in American history and it’s getting worse each day with no end in sight.
  1. Before the oil spill, Hayward led a company that willfully cut corners on safety measures in order to reduce costs and increase profits.
  1. Despite cutting corners, thereby increasing the risk of a spill, Hayward never made sure that BP could stop an oil spill like this, despite his company’s assurances to regulators that it could.
  1. Since the spill, BP has done everything in its power to minimize the magnitude of the leak, whether its Hayward calling the spill “tiny” or BP dragging its feet on releasing undersea video.

To BP’s Managing Director, none of that matters because Hayward has boosted BP’s bottom-line. In BP’s world, Hayward isn’t just adequate, he’s exceptional. That’s as good an argument as any that once this crisis is over, the U.S. government should sever all ties with BP: no more leases, no more authority to tap into our national resources. If that happens, it’ll be a damn good riddance.


IL-Sen: In Mark Kirk’s misidentified own words

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-05-2010-05-2008

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Memo to Illinois’ Republican senatorial candidate Mark Kirk: CSPAN has archives.

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that:

The Republican candidate for President Obama’s old Senate seat has admitted to inaccurately claiming he received the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award for his service during NATO’s conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s.

Naturally, it was some sort of clerical error:

In a message on his blog, Kirk wrote that “upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified” and that the award he had intended to list was given to his unit, not to him individually.

It was just an honest mistake, could happen to anyone, nothing to see here, move along … or not:

I’ve been in office just one year. Before that I was a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer–was the Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year in 1998.

And as Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post points out:

What is striking about Rep. Kirk’s assertion in the video is that it appears scripted and thought out, which belies Kirk’s recent defense that the false claim on his website — that was only removed last week after a Washington Post investigation — regarding the award was little more than an administrative oversight.

We anxiously await wall-to-wall cable TV coverage and a front page story in the New York Times