April 22, 2014
Obama Is Still Hiding the Legal Cover He Used to Kill an America

The Obama Administration has fought for years to hide its legal rationale for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, after putting him on a secret kill list. Citizens have an interest in knowing whether the White House follows the law, especially when the stakes are as high as ending a life without due process. President Obama has fought to ensure his legal reasoning would never be revealed, a precedent that would help future presidents to kill without accountability.
His shortsightedness is breathtaking. 
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration that, according to her legal analysis, the Freedom of Information Act couldn’t force a disclosure. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws,” she wrote, “while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Obama Is Still Hiding the Legal Cover He Used to Kill an America

The Obama Administration has fought for years to hide its legal rationale for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, after putting him on a secret kill list. Citizens have an interest in knowing whether the White House follows the law, especially when the stakes are as high as ending a life without due process. President Obama has fought to ensure his legal reasoning would never be revealed, a precedent that would help future presidents to kill without accountability.

His shortsightedness is breathtaking. 

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration that, according to her legal analysis, the Freedom of Information Act couldn’t force a disclosure. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws,” she wrote, “while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

April 14, 2014
Obama on Voter Suppression: The Right Speech in the Wrong Place

There was great truth in the stern message President Obama delivered Friday about Republican voter-suppression efforts around the country. These measures are pernicious and partisan. They do further separate rich from poor, whites from minorities, state from state in this country. And they are based upon the demonstrably false idea that voter fraud by citizens is such a pervasive problem that it only can be thwarted by making it more difficult for already the most marginalized citizens to exercise their right to vote.
"The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago," Obama told Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote,” he said, relating anecdotes of voters turned away because they didn’t have the right identification or because they needed a passport or birth certificate to register.”
The president should be saying these things now. This fight is essential to our democracy, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings. The idea that the Court’s five conservatives would within 10 months make it far easier for rich people to influence politics and far more difficult for poor people to cast a ballot is an affront to what we teach our kids about civics and the Constitution. We don’t teach them that you have a right to vote only if you can afford to drive.
But if the president is going to change the voting-rights debate, if he is going to win the argument he evidently feels strongly about making, he is going to have to preach to more than the converted. And few groups today are more converted on the perils of voter suppression today than NAN. By taking on the topic in New York with Sharpton, Obama made precisely the right speech to precisely the wrong crowd.
Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Obama on Voter Suppression: The Right Speech in the Wrong Place

There was great truth in the stern message President Obama delivered Friday about Republican voter-suppression efforts around the country. These measures are pernicious and partisan. They do further separate rich from poor, whites from minorities, state from state in this country. And they are based upon the demonstrably false idea that voter fraud by citizens is such a pervasive problem that it only can be thwarted by making it more difficult for already the most marginalized citizens to exercise their right to vote.

"The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago," Obama told Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote,” he said, relating anecdotes of voters turned away because they didn’t have the right identification or because they needed a passport or birth certificate to register.”

The president should be saying these things now. This fight is essential to our democracy, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings. The idea that the Court’s five conservatives would within 10 months make it far easier for rich people to influence politics and far more difficult for poor people to cast a ballot is an affront to what we teach our kids about civics and the Constitution. We don’t teach them that you have a right to vote only if you can afford to drive.

But if the president is going to change the voting-rights debate, if he is going to win the argument he evidently feels strongly about making, he is going to have to preach to more than the converted. And few groups today are more converted on the perils of voter suppression today than NAN. By taking on the topic in New York with Sharpton, Obama made precisely the right speech to precisely the wrong crowd.

Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

March 13, 2014
A Technicality Won’t Excuse Obama for Torture

Is it torture to strap a man to a chair, shove a needlessly big feeding tube through his nostril, force liquid into his stomach, add constipation medicine such that he soils himself, and leave him there to stew in his own filth for a couple hours? What if you do that to the man twice a day over a period of many years?
An inmate at Guantanamo Bay says it’s torture, and that he’s suffered that treatment under the Bush and Obama Administrations. Weighing in on my article about that man, Andrew Sullivan writes that “the technique is painful and humiliating enough to be used as part of a torture program,” but insists that it isn’t torture in this case, because there’s no indication that it “was designed to procure a confession or admission of some kind—and that’s key to defining it as torture.” 
He is flat wrong.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

A Technicality Won’t Excuse Obama for Torture

Is it torture to strap a man to a chair, shove a needlessly big feeding tube through his nostril, force liquid into his stomach, add constipation medicine such that he soils himself, and leave him there to stew in his own filth for a couple hours? What if you do that to the man twice a day over a period of many years?

An inmate at Guantanamo Bay says it’s torture, and that he’s suffered that treatment under the Bush and Obama Administrations. Weighing in on my article about that man, Andrew Sullivan writes that “the technique is painful and humiliating enough to be used as part of a torture program,” but insists that it isn’t torture in this case, because there’s no indication that it “was designed to procure a confession or admission of some kind—and that’s key to defining it as torture.” 

He is flat wrong.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

March 5, 2014
Obama Is Complicit in Suppressing the Truth About Torture

President Obama is complicit in suppressing the truth about CIA torture of prisoners. That’s clear from the fact that the Senate intelligence committee’s $40 million, 6,000-page torture report is still being suppressed 15 months after being adopted. It is made clearer still by a scathing letter that one member of the committee, Senator Mark Udall, sent the White House on Tuesday. Its claims are jaw-dropping. 
Senator Udall wants the torture report released to the public as fully and quickly as possible. He is also interested in a separate CIA report about torture of prisoners. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Obama Is Complicit in Suppressing the Truth About Torture

President Obama is complicit in suppressing the truth about CIA torture of prisoners. That’s clear from the fact that the Senate intelligence committee’s $40 million, 6,000-page torture report is still being suppressed 15 months after being adopted. It is made clearer still by a scathing letter that one member of the committee, Senator Mark Udall, sent the White House on Tuesday. Its claims are jaw-dropping. 

Senator Udall wants the torture report released to the public as fully and quickly as possible. He is also interested in a separate CIA report about torture of prisoners.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

February 17, 2014
A Question For Obama’s Syria Critics: What Are the Alternatives?

This weekend, on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, John McCain reacted to the failure of the latest round of Syrian peace talks by declaring that the Obama administration’s “policy towards Syria has been an abysmal failure and a disgraceful one.”
It’s a common refrain for the Republican senator, one often accompanied by praise for the Gulf states’ comparatively greater and less cautious support of the Syrian rebels. “Thank God for the Saudis. Thank God for the Qataris,” he said at the Munich Security Conference this year. This time around, McCain said that there are viable options other than U.S. military intervention that Washington is not pursuing in Syria. But he failed to articulate them, with the exception of further boosting the Free Syrian Army (FSA). 
Notwithstanding the question of how the Saudis and Qataris feel about McCain thanking his God for their work, the senator is mistaken in thinking that the core interests of the Gulf states align with America’s. In Syria, as in Iraq, the Saudis see the conflict as a case in which fellow Sunnis have come under siege, which explains the kingdom’s support for hardcore Sunni Islamist fighters throughout the region. Saudi Arabia just announced that it will supply Syrian rebels with mobile anti-aircraft missiles, something that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey has strongly resisted.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic]

A Question For Obama’s Syria Critics: What Are the Alternatives?

This weekend, on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, John McCain reacted to the failure of the latest round of Syrian peace talks by declaring that the Obama administration’s “policy towards Syria has been an abysmal failure and a disgraceful one.”

It’s a common refrain for the Republican senator, one often accompanied by praise for the Gulf states’ comparatively greater and less cautious support of the Syrian rebels. “Thank God for the Saudis. Thank God for the Qataris,” he said at the Munich Security Conference this year. This time around, McCain said that there are viable options other than U.S. military intervention that Washington is not pursuing in Syria. But he failed to articulate them, with the exception of further boosting the Free Syrian Army (FSA). 

Notwithstanding the question of how the Saudis and Qataris feel about McCain thanking his God for their work, the senator is mistaken in thinking that the core interests of the Gulf states align with America’s. In Syria, as in Iraq, the Saudis see the conflict as a case in which fellow Sunnis have come under siege, which explains the kingdom’s support for hardcore Sunni Islamist fighters throughout the region. Saudi Arabia just announced that it will supply Syrian rebels with mobile anti-aircraft missiles, something that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey has strongly resisted.

Read more. [Image: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic]

February 14, 2014
Good News, Pot Fans: Obama Just Gave Legal Weed a Big Thumbs Up

This afternoon, the Obama administration delighted marijuana advocates by announcing new guidelines meant to make it easier for cannabis businesses to open bank accounts in states where the drug is legalized.
Whether or not those new guidelines will have much of an affect, however, is an open question. 
Financial institutions have largely shunned the pot industry, even in weed-friendly locales like Colorado, out of fear of violating federal drug and banking laws. As a result, dispensaries and growers have had to operate on a mostly cash basis, which is not exactly the most safe or efficient way to run company. They’ve also been denied access to credit.
The new guidelines, released by the Justice and Treasury Departments, essentially give banks an assurance that, as long as they play by the right rules and file the right paperwork, they probably won’t be prosecuted for letting your local pot shop open a checking account. Emphasis on probably. Back in August, the Department of Justice issued a memo stating that it would only focus on prosecuting marijuana businesses that broke state law or committed certain egregious offenses, like trafficking the drug over state lines or selling to minors. The DOJ now says, essentially, that banks are unlikely to be prosecuted so long as they only deal with marijuana customers that play by those rules. 
Meanwhile, any financial institution that chooses to offer their services to cannabis businesses will have to file paperwork stating that they believe their customer is operating within the DOJ’s guidelines. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Good News, Pot Fans: Obama Just Gave Legal Weed a Big Thumbs Up

This afternoon, the Obama administration delighted marijuana advocates by announcing new guidelines meant to make it easier for cannabis businesses to open bank accounts in states where the drug is legalized.

Whether or not those new guidelines will have much of an affect, however, is an open question. 

Financial institutions have largely shunned the pot industry, even in weed-friendly locales like Colorado, out of fear of violating federal drug and banking laws. As a result, dispensaries and growers have had to operate on a mostly cash basis, which is not exactly the most safe or efficient way to run company. They’ve also been denied access to credit.

The new guidelines, released by the Justice and Treasury Departments, essentially give banks an assurance that, as long as they play by the right rules and file the right paperwork, they probably won’t be prosecuted for letting your local pot shop open a checking account. Emphasis on probably. Back in August, the Department of Justice issued a memo stating that it would only focus on prosecuting marijuana businesses that broke state law or committed certain egregious offenses, like trafficking the drug over state lines or selling to minors. The DOJ now says, essentially, that banks are unlikely to be prosecuted so long as they only deal with marijuana customers that play by those rules. 

Meanwhile, any financial institution that chooses to offer their services to cannabis businesses will have to file paperwork stating that they believe their customer is operating within the DOJ’s guidelines.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

February 5, 2014
'Liberal' Is Good

In the middle of his in-your-face pre-Super Bowl interview, Bill O’Reilly picked up the dreaded “L word” and began wielding it menacingly in the direction of the president of the United States.
“Are you the most liberal president in U.S. history?” O’Reilly asked. Obama quickly initiated evasive maneuvers. “In a lot of ways, Richard Nixon was more—more liberal than I was,” the president replied, before insisting that “I tend not to think about these things in terms of liberal and Democrat—or liberal and conservative”
It wasn’t always this way. In the first half of the 20th century, “liberal” enjoyed a certain prestige. When Franklin Roosevelt began using it to describe the ideology of the New Deal, for instance, small-government types accused him of linguistic theft, claiming that since the expansion of state power threatened liberty, they—and not the New Dealers—were the true liberals.
But by the 1960s, the American right had stopped claiming “liberal” and begun demonizing it. Over the next two decades, being a liberal came to mean letting criminals terrorize America’s cities, hippies undermine traditional morality, and communists menace the world. It meant, in other words, too much liberty for the wrong kind of people. Fearful of its negative connotations, Democratic politicians began disassociating themselves from the term, and as the Obama interview showed, they still do.
Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

'Liberal' Is Good

In the middle of his in-your-face pre-Super Bowl interview, Bill O’Reilly picked up the dreaded “L word” and began wielding it menacingly in the direction of the president of the United States.

“Are you the most liberal president in U.S. history?” O’Reilly asked. Obama quickly initiated evasive maneuvers. “In a lot of ways, Richard Nixon was more—more liberal than I was,” the president replied, before insisting that “I tend not to think about these things in terms of liberal and Democrat—or liberal and conservative”

It wasn’t always this way. In the first half of the 20th century, “liberal” enjoyed a certain prestige. When Franklin Roosevelt began using it to describe the ideology of the New Deal, for instance, small-government types accused him of linguistic theft, claiming that since the expansion of state power threatened liberty, they—and not the New Dealers—were the true liberals.

But by the 1960s, the American right had stopped claiming “liberal” and begun demonizing it. Over the next two decades, being a liberal came to mean letting criminals terrorize America’s cities, hippies undermine traditional morality, and communists menace the world. It meant, in other words, too much liberty for the wrong kind of people. Fearful of its negative connotations, Democratic politicians began disassociating themselves from the term, and as the Obama interview showed, they still do.

Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

February 3, 2014
Bill O’Reilly Is to Journalism What WWE Is to Fighting

Every so often, President Obama grants a one-on-one television interview to a broadcast journalist, and I sit at home cursing the interviewer for going easy on him. Remember the laughable questions Steve Kroft asked on 60 Minutes last winter? Well this year, Bill O’Reilly was the one lobbing softballs. The Fox News host scored a one-on-one interview that aired during the Super Bowl pre-game show. I fervently hoped he would use the opportunity to press for useful information. Few broadcasters are as intent on signaling to others that they’re tough.
Instead he conducted a faux-tough interview made up of questions that were virtually guaranteed to elicit nothing of value.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Bill O’Reilly Is to Journalism What WWE Is to Fighting

Every so often, President Obama grants a one-on-one television interview to a broadcast journalist, and I sit at home cursing the interviewer for going easy on him. Remember the laughable questions Steve Kroft asked on 60 Minutes last winter? Well this year, Bill O’Reilly was the one lobbing softballs. The Fox News host scored a one-on-one interview that aired during the Super Bowl pre-game show. I fervently hoped he would use the opportunity to press for useful information. Few broadcasters are as intent on signaling to others that they’re tough.

Instead he conducted a faux-tough interview made up of questions that were virtually guaranteed to elicit nothing of value.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

January 29, 2014
Why Do the Super-Rich Keep Comparing Obama to Hitler?

First, they came for the bailed-out bankers’ bonuses, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a banker.
Then they came for the hedge fund managers’ tax loophole, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a hedge fund manager.
Then they came for novelist Danielle Steel’s hedges, and finally I did speak out, because I know her, and I’m a knight—a literal knight of the Kingdom of Norway—so I thought I’d get on my high horse and charge forth in her defense. 
This is the Ballad of Tom Joad Perkins, Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capitalist. He had to speak out after he saw the appalling way the San Francisco Chronicle disparaged his ex-wife Ms. Steel’s plots, prose, and shrubbery.
He showed that, for now at least, the pen is still mightier than even a knight’s sword. He wrote a letter in the Wall Street Journal explaining that progressive attacks on today’s so-called “1 percent”—the “rich”—are just like the Nazis’ attacks on their 1 percent—the Jews. A new Kristallnacht, basically. Oops. That’s insensitive. Perkins apologized on Bloomberg TV for using that word … though he did point out that Occupy protesters broke windows at a Wells Fargo and luxury car dealerships in San Francisco. And that, he reminded us, is how Kristallnacht began. 
So don’t kid yourself. Today, they’re coming for Bentleys. Tomorrow, they’ll come for Aston Martins. The time to speak out is now.
Others have. Buyout-king (and actual-billionaire) Steven Schwarzman has said that Obama’s plan to tax the income of venture capitalists, hedge fund and private equity mangers like everybody else’s, and not as capital gains, is like Hitler invading Poland. And hedge funder (another actual billionaire) Leon Cooperman has pointed out that you know who else came to power amidst an economic crisis. And no, he wasn’t talking about Ronald Reagan.
If it all seems historically illiterate and grossly short on perspective, here’s why 1 percenters are sure Obama is the new Hitler.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Why Do the Super-Rich Keep Comparing Obama to Hitler?

First, they came for the bailed-out bankers’ bonuses, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a banker.

Then they came for the hedge fund managers’ tax loophole, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a hedge fund manager.

Then they came for novelist Danielle Steel’s hedges, and finally I did speak out, because I know her, and I’m a knight—a literal knight of the Kingdom of Norway—so I thought I’d get on my high horse and charge forth in her defense. 

This is the Ballad of Tom Joad Perkins, Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capitalist. He had to speak out after he saw the appalling way the San Francisco Chronicle disparaged his ex-wife Ms. Steel’s plots, prose, and shrubbery.

He showed that, for now at least, the pen is still mightier than even a knight’s sword. He wrote a letter in the Wall Street Journal explaining that progressive attacks on today’s so-called “1 percent”—the “rich”—are just like the Nazis’ attacks on their 1 percent—the Jews. A new Kristallnacht, basically. Oops. That’s insensitive. Perkins apologized on Bloomberg TV for using that word … though he did point out that Occupy protesters broke windows at a Wells Fargo and luxury car dealerships in San Francisco. And that, he reminded us, is how Kristallnacht began. 

So don’t kid yourself. Today, they’re coming for Bentleys. Tomorrow, they’ll come for Aston Martins. The time to speak out is now.

Others have. Buyout-king (and actual-billionaire) Steven Schwarzman has said that Obama’s plan to tax the income of venture capitalists, hedge fund and private equity mangers like everybody else’s, and not as capital gains, is like Hitler invading Poland. And hedge funder (another actual billionaire) Leon Cooperman has pointed out that you know who else came to power amidst an economic crisis. And no, he wasn’t talking about Ronald Reagan.

If it all seems historically illiterate and grossly short on perspective, here’s why 1 percenters are sure Obama is the new Hitler.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

January 29, 2014
The Countries Mentioned the Most in the State of the Union, from 1800-2014

It’s a time-honored tradition: When a U.S. president gives his State of the Union address, interest groups pore over the carefully crafted remarks line by line, word by word, to assess the administration’s priorities and blind spots. The exercise plays out, if to a lesser degree, overseas as well: The day after President Obama’s sixth address, news outlets in Kiev, Beijing, and Tehran are picking apart references to their countries.
State of the Union addresses haven’t always been such a spectacle. U.S. presidents have delivered them since 1790, but until 1913 these addresses were submitted as annual reports to Congress. When Woodrow Wilson became president, he turned the constitutionally required update on the nation’s well-being to an in-person speech.
In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Obama named 13 nations: Afghanistan, Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mali, Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Yemen. Each has been named in previous State of the Union addresses; one, Tunisia, was first mentioned in Thomas Jefferson’s 1805 State of the Union address for its role in Mediterranean piracy. This time around, the circumstances were just a tad different.
Which countries have presidents mentioned the most in their State of the Union addresses? Which regions of the world get the most attention? And what trends can we discern over time?
Read more. [Image: Larry Downing/Reuters]

The Countries Mentioned the Most in the State of the Union, from 1800-2014

It’s a time-honored tradition: When a U.S. president gives his State of the Union address, interest groups pore over the carefully crafted remarks line by line, word by word, to assess the administration’s priorities and blind spots. The exercise plays out, if to a lesser degree, overseas as well: The day after President Obama’s sixth address, news outlets in Kiev, Beijing, and Tehran are picking apart references to their countries.

State of the Union addresses haven’t always been such a spectacle. U.S. presidents have delivered them since 1790, but until 1913 these addresses were submitted as annual reports to Congress. When Woodrow Wilson became president, he turned the constitutionally required update on the nation’s well-being to an in-person speech.

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Obama named 13 nations: Afghanistan, Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mali, Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Yemen. Each has been named in previous State of the Union addresses; one, Tunisia, was first mentioned in Thomas Jefferson’s 1805 State of the Union address for its role in Mediterranean piracy. This time around, the circumstances were just a tad different.

Which countries have presidents mentioned the most in their State of the Union addresses? Which regions of the world get the most attention? And what trends can we discern over time?

Read more. [Image: Larry Downing/Reuters]

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