Igor Ivanov and Malcolm Rifkind at The New York Times write The Risk of a New Cold War:
Russian and Western perspectives on the crisis in Ukraine are bound to diverge, but the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 should bring us together. This is not only because we can appreciate and feel saddened by the scale of the human loss, but also because the incident is a harbinger of the wider danger we are in. Of profound concern is the possibility of an unintended escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine to a direct NATO-Russia military confrontation. To avoid such a development, policy makers need to relearn some important crisis management lessons from history.Charles M. Blow at The New York Times writes The Do-Even-Less Congress:
Just consider that even before the Flight 17 disaster, we had seen a huge deterioration in mutual trust between Russia and the West. Russian and NATO military forces are being deployed ever closer to each other. A number of frozen conflicts, like Transnistria (a breakaway province of Moldova, on Ukraine’s western border), already haunt Europe; these have the potential to widen the theater of possible confrontation between Russia and the West beyond Ukraine. In addition, there is very little contact or exchange of information on what our respective militaries are doing, and the existing crisis management arrangements — both between NATO and Russia and the European Union and Russia — are inadequate. And, always in the background, there are large numbers of nuclear weapons on both sides on high states of alert.
Many potentially useful mechanisms for dialogue, like the NATO-Russia Council, which in normal times might meet monthly and offer a forum for discussing difficult issues, are also being closed down.
Congress is a joke. But the joke isn’t funny — unless, of course, you’re into dark humor. [...]More pundit excerpts can be found below the fold.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session even fewer days than last year’s depressingly low 135 days. That’s right: The House is underperforming even last session’s underperformance. Last December, The New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters crunched the numbers and found:
“Not counting brief, pro forma sessions, the House was in session for 942 hours, an average of about 28 hours each week that it conducted business in Washington.”
Tell that to the average American full-time worker busting his or her hump working more than 1,700 hours a year. And the average American is laboring for only a fraction of the $174,000 most members of Congress bring home.
DD Guttenplan at The Guardian writes When presidents lie to make a war:
Once there was a president who warned the world about conduct his government would not tolerate. And when this “red line” was crossed, or seemed to be, he took the US to war. Though this might sound like America’s involvement in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Belgrade, or Libya, and what may yet become a wider war in Syria, this story began 50 years ago, on 4 August 1964. [...]John Nichols at The Nation With Confirmation of CIA Spying on Senate, It Is Time for Serious Oversight:
That 4 August, Daniel Ellsberg was starting work at the Pentagon. A young mathematician who had served as a captain in the marines, then gone on to graduate study at Harvard and a job as a civilian analyst for the Rand Corporation, where he had helped shape America’s response to the Cuban missile crisis, Ellsberg was among the first to receive the classified “flash” signal from the USS Turner Joy, the battleship that claimed to be under attack.
At the time a devout cold warrior, Ellsberg told me his initial reaction was “We must strike back”. Yet within a few days, when Johnson repeated his accusation that “the attacks were deliberate. The attacks were unprovoked”, and assured the world that “we seek no wider war”, Ellsberg knew “all of those statements were false”—the beginnings of a disillusion that would eventually lead him to leak the top secret Pentagon Papers seven years later. What he didn’t know, and what remained for decades one of America’s most tightly guarded secrets, is that the attack on 4 August may never actually have happened.
if Congress is to maintain meaningful oversight over the federal intelligence agencies, the need for a meaningful response to what Senator Patrick Leahy describes as ” a very dark chapter in our nation’s history” cannot be lost amid the usual flurry of internal inquiries, official apologies and “expressions of concern.” As Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, says, “We’re the only people watching these organizations, and if we can’t rely on the information that we’re given as being accurate, then it makes a mockery of the entire oversight function.”Andrew Tyrie at The Independent writes Why is the truth on torture so long in coming?:
King is right. But what, then, is the appropriate response?
For more than a decade I have been trying to find out the extent of Britain's involvement in kidnap and torture after 9/11. The UK facilitated it, but by how much is not known. Complicity in torture is not just unacceptable in principle. It undermines the values that democracies seek to export.David Sirota at In These Times writes Clinton Isn’t Warren, No Matter What Her Allies Say:
What's more, as many leading experts in the security field have frequently pointed out, in the long run it makes the collection of intelligence more difficult – both at home and abroad – from those very communities whose cooperation we most need. An investigation is therefore as morally essential as it is expedient on security grounds. It is why the allegations of complicity in torture should concern the whole family of western democracies, as President Obama acknowledged on Friday.
Allegations and disclosures keep dribbling out – a recent example being the unsubstantiated claim that the US operated a black site on Diego Garcia with the UK's co-operation. Allegations like this need to be investigated. The worrying question is whether the will exists to do so.
Hillary Clinton’s political allies want Democratic primary voters to believe that the former secretary of state is just like populist Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and they've been claiming that there are no differences between the two possible presidential contenders. There’s just one problem: That’s not true. [...]Karin Klein at the Los Angeles Times writes Obama's first response to CIA spying shouldn't be to praise its director:
OK, fine. I’ll take the challenge—there are many differences between these two politicians.
For example, in her book, The Two Income Trap, Warren slammed Clinton for casting a Senate vote in 2001 for a bankruptcy bill that ultimately passed in 2005. That legislation makes it more difficult for credit card customers to renegotiate their debts, even as it allows the wealthy to protect their second homes and yachts from creditors. According to a 2009 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the bankruptcy bill’s provisions changing debt payback provisions played a central role in the foreclosure crisis, as the new law forced homeowners to pay off credit card debts before paying their mortgage.
“As first lady, Mrs. Clinton had been persuaded that the bill was bad for families, and she was willing to fight for her beliefs,” Warren wrote. “As New York’s newest senator, however, it seems that Hillary Clinton could not afford such a principled position. … The bill was essentially the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not.”
Additionally, Warren has been a critic of so-called free trade deals, which create regulatory protections for patents and copyrights, but remove such protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Clinton, by contrast, was a key backer of NAFTA and voted for various free trade pacts during her Senate tenure.
Brennan apologized to the senators on the committee and vowed to set up an accountability commission. I’d just as soon that he didn’t waste the time and money. Given the enormity of the CIA’s transgressions and the months of denial that followed, the last group anyone is going to trust at this point is a panel set up by the CIA itself.Eric Posner at The New Republic writes Obama Is Legally Allowed to Enforce—or Not Enforce—the Law:
Brennan himself might not be guilty of any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, Obama needs to spend less time praising his CIA director and more time getting his arms around the actions it will take to get to the bottom of this and punish the people who need to be punished. That includes an independent investigation by the Justice Department with charges brought against anyone responsible for the spying on the Senate committee and for any subsequent attempts to deny it. The inspector general’s investigation reportedly found that some of the employees involved were less than honest in their responses.
Millions of illegal immigrants have lived in the United States for decades, under a semi-official policy that allows them to stay as long as they don’t commit serious crimes—and that, in many cases, allows them to obtain drivers’ licenses. The main effect of Obama's proposal would be to officially recognize current practice. The president cannot suspend or change the law: When he leaves office, the law will remain the same as it was, and the next president will be free to enforce it or not.E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes Can the voters change the GOP?
The executive branch spends a lot of time not enforcing laws. Congress has illegalized an enormous amount of activity without giving the president the resources to enforce the laws, so the executive has no choice but to make a list of priorities and devote its attention to law violations that, in its opinion, are the most serious. Thus, the IRS doesn’t audit paupers very often. The Justice Department ignores a lot of anticompetitive behavior that might raise prices a bit but not much. The DEA focuses on criminal syndicates rather than ordinary drug users, although both violate federal law. And so on.
Nearly all of this non-enforcement takes place with implicit congressional acquiescence; once in a while, Congress complains because the president’s priorities are not the same as its own. But the president has no obligation to listen to these complaints.
The central issue in this fall’s elections could turn out to be a sleeper: What kind of Republican Party does the country want?Leonard Pitts Jr. at The Miami Herald writes Poor? Don’t use this door:
It is, to be sure, a strange question to put to an electorate in which independents and Democrats constitute a majority. Yet there is no getting around this: The single biggest change in Washington over the last five years has been a GOP shift to a more radical form of conservatism. This, in turn, has led to a kind of rejectionism that views cooperation with President Obama as inherently unprincipled. [...]
On balance, Washington gridlock has hurt Democrats more than Republicans by dispiriting moderate and progressive constituencies that had hoped Obama could usher in an era of reform. The key to the election will be whether Democrats can persuade these voters that the radical right is the real culprit in their disappointment—and get them to act accordingly on Election Day.
Maybe you already know about this. Maybe you read on Slate, saw on Colbert or heard on NPR how a developer qualified for tax benefits under New York City’s Inclusionary Housing Program by agreeing to add to its new luxury building on the Upper West Side a set number of “affordable” apartments. How the company won permission to build that building with two entrances, one in front for the exclusive use of upper income residents, another, reportedly in the alley, for residents of more modest means. [...]
Anyway, Extell Development apparently thinks it too much to ask the well-heeled to use the same door as such relative paupers. Observers have responded with outrage. A New York Times pundit called it “odious.” CNN called it “income segregation.” The Christian Science Monitor called it “Dickensian.”
The door is all those things, yes But it is also the pointed symbol of a truth we all know but pretend not to, so as to preserve the fiction of an egalitarian society. Namely, that rich and poor already have different doors. The rich enter the halls of justice, finance, education, health and politics through portals of advantage from which the rest of us are barred.
Politicians who send you form letters line up to kiss Sheldon Adelson’s pinky finger because he has access to that door. O.J. Simpson got away with murder because he had access to that door.