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“Edward Snowden, Devious And Calculating”: How Can I Forget You If You Don’t Go Away?

Throughout the NSA/Snowden saga, critics of the government’s surveillance programs have often accused defenders of these programs of focusing on the motives of Snowden himself (or of the journalists who have publicized his revelations) rather than what he has revealed.

That’s a fair and important point. But we are fast approaching the time where this complaint should be addressed more to Snowden than to his enemies.

As McClatchey’s Hannah Allam aptly notes, Snowden’s serial self-revelations (and his actual and potential travel itineraries) have kept the spotlight on him in ways that have undermined his credibility:

Even as Snowden is stuck in the transit lounge of a Moscow airport, his public image is constantly evolving, through the publication of his Internet chat logs, statements from his father, live online conversations and an interview he gave to a Chinese newspaper.

Snowden undoubtedly remains a polarizing figure, but both his supporters and detractors have received some curveballs as details of his life are revealed and in many ways eclipse the trove of government secrets he risked everything to expose.

Most unsettling in terms of his initial reputation as a man driven to whistle-blowing by the enormity of what he was asked to do by his superiors has evolving doubts about when he began gathering the information he is disclosing:

While pro-transparency activists were quick to bestow Snowden with the title of “whistleblower,” that might be a stretch given some of his admissions to a Chinese newspaper. While in transit in Hong Kong, Snowden told the South China Morning Post, an English-language publication, that he’d staked out a job as a contractor at the firm of Booz Allen Hamilton in order to gain “access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” the Morning Post quoted him as saying. The interview, said Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy, “did not strengthen his case. It made him look devious and calculating rather than conscience-driven.”

One might add that it made him look more like a spy than a whistle-blower, an impression that is strengthened by his semi-public negotiations for asylum with various countries hostile to his own. It’s hard not to observe that had Snowden put as much time and effort into disappearing as he did into preparing the rollout of his revelations, we might be far more focused on NSA than on him.

I keep half-expecting to see protesters of this or that government here or abroad begin replacing their Guy Fawkes’ masks with the visage of Edward Snowden. But in terms of converting his leaks into an effective lever to bring more transparency and accountability to NSA and other purveyors of questionable U.S. policies and practices, I don’t think a Snowden cult of personality is going to be terribly helpful.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 1, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forget The Pundits”: Red-State Women Are The Ones Fighting Toughest Battles On Behalf Of Women And They’ll Transform America

Public Policy Polling is out with a new survey showing that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has actually increased his lead over state Sen. Wendy Davis in the wake of her nationally heralded filibuster against SB 5, the draconian antiabortion legislation Perry’s trying to pass in a second special section. It should be noted that Davis isn’t even a candidate for governor at this point, so this is a theoretical matchup absent any kind of campaign.

Still, the poll numbers are likely to bolster the already strong cynicism of Texas political observers about the chance that Davis could beat Perry if she fulfilled the dream of many liberal women nationwide and ran against him next year. Similarly, most journalists dismiss the chance that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lunderman Grimes can knock off Sen. Mitch McConnell. But the rise of these red-state women is good news for Democrats, even if pundits say they can’t beat right-wing veterans (and national villains among liberals) like McConnell and Perry next year (and I’m not conceding that here). In most red states, the best hope for Democrats is a rising coalition of Latinos, black people, Asians, young voters and white women. Davis and Grimes could accelerate the future.

I’ve been struck by even liberal Texas reporters minimizing Davis’ chances, and suggesting that the national groundswell of support will hurt her in her home state. Writing in the New York Times, Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root reports that it “puzzles” Matthew Dowd, a former George W. Bush strategist, that Davis and her backers “are allying themselves with Hollywood actresses and handing Mr. Perry the ideological battle he so desperately needs to revive his standing — at least with the right,” Root writes.

“The best thing to do with Rick Perry is to make people laugh at him,” Dowd told Root. “If you get into a sort of ideological thing, and into a back and forth, that’s how Rick Perry survives.”

Another Texas Tribune writer, Ross Ramsey, wrote a piece headlined “For Davis, Opportunity Knocks at Inopportune Time,” arguing that the Fort Worth Democrat is little known outside her district and the state party is poorly organized to give her a statewide lift. “It’s her bad luck that she’s the fastest runner on a team that can’t seem to find its way to the track,” he writes. But then he concludes his piece by seeming to contradict it, claiming that if Davis doesn’t run now, “she’ll never have a better shot.” That’s puzzling – to follow his logic, she’d have a better shot if Democrats were better organized in a few years. So I’m not convinced anyone knows for sure that Davis can’t beat Perry.

The truth is, I’m a lifelong blue-state resident, and I don’t presume to suggest I know Texas politics better than these men. I was convinced Rick Perry humiliated and hurt himself with his laughable 2012 presidential run, where he famously forgot the agencies he wanted to cut and made sweet love to a bottle of maple syrup. Instead today he’s stronger than ever with his Texas GOP base. But I do know this: Red-state Democratic women are the ones fighting the toughest battles on behalf of women’s rights – and they seem pretty happy about the attention.

On Tuesday alone, new abortion restrictions took effect in five red states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota – all passed by Republican legislatures and signed by Republican governors. Kansas’ new law requires abortion doctors to tell their patients right-wing lies: that an abortion puts them at high risk for breast cancer (totally unfounded by science) and that after 20 weeks, a fetus feels pain and “abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Again, medical experts say neither is true. In South Dakota, women must wait 72 hours before obtaining an abortion – and weekends don’t count, which means some women will wait six days. Indiana women must undergo ultrasounds. In Mississippi and Alabama, women can no longer obtain a prescription for an early abortion drug via teleconference; they must now go to a doctor’s office. The hypocrites who claim to oppose late-term abortion are ensuring that all abortions will at least be later-term in these states.

Even as women’s votes were credited with reelecting President Obama on the national level, statehouse Republicans are restricting their rights. So national feminists and Democrats have got to turn their attention to these red states, along with purple states like Wisconsin and Ohio where Scott Walker and John Kasich are acting like they govern Mississippi when it comes to women’s rights. Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner’s decision to run for secretary of state is welcome news, in a state known for its attempts to limit voting rights (as well as its failure to elect any black Democrats statewide, ever).

We know that eventually, Texas will be a blue state. That day will arrive sooner if Latino voter turnout rises. Texas women’s groups are paying a lot of attention to the Latina vote, since Latinas are less likely than other groups to go to the polls. Young Latinas are also more likely to be pro-choice, so this is an opportunity to use this battle to make more of them voters.

At any rate, I find it encouraging to see national Democrats paying attention to Texas, with projects like Battleground Texas driven by Obama campaign veterans, most notably Jeremy Bird. Nobody expected Obama to pour money into Texas or Kentucky in 2012; the goal was to win, and there were plenty of states where he had a better chance, as well as some purple states, like Ohio, that he couldn’t afford to lose. But it’s unconscionable for national Democrats to ignore opportunities – and need – in the state that gave us Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan.

Likewise, I’d like to see national Democrats more engaged in the Grimes race. She’s gotten criticism for a lackluster announcement on Monday and her Web presence is minimal. McConnell is unpopular in Kentucky and knocking him off in 2014, while unlikely, would be a sign that Democrats will leave no state behind. McConnell’s campaign gave Grimes a favor Tuesday by releasing a bizarre autotuned ad that made fun of her name but actually served to get me to be able to type it from memory. (Oh, and they misspelled McConnell’s name in the ad.) So his team may not be the second coming of Obama 2012.

Meanwhile, the Texas battle over abortion rages on, with the Legislature expected to vote next week in the second special session called by Perry. I got into a little Twitter discussion with Matthew Dowd, after I Tweeted that he’d “trashed” the involvement of Hollywood actresses in the Times piece. “Wasn’t trashing celebrities, was just saying [Davis] only helps Perry by involving national media and celebs.” Point taken; trashing was useful shorthand in 140 characters; “dismissing” or “disdaining” would have been more accurate.

But Dowd knows Texas past and present, not necessarily its future. I’m not ready to concede that Planned Parenthood’s wrangling television stars like “Law and Order: SVU’s” Stephanie March (a Texas native), Lisa Edelstein of “House” or Connie Britton, who played Tami Taylor in the legendary Texas football series “Friday Night Lights,” are just “Hollywood” liberals who are going to drive more Texans into the arms of Rick Perry.

That PPP poll that found Davis trailing Perry also found that she’d doubled her in-state name recognition, from 34 percent to 68 percent, since January. More significant, she is now the best-liked Texas political figure among those PPP tested statewide — and the third-best-known after Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.  That’s not bad for a Fort Worth lady in tennis shoes. National Democrats are going to keep paying attention to Texas; the women of Texas deserve no less.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 2, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There’s War On The Unemployed”: Now You Know, And You Should Be Angry

Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable.

Consider, for example, the case of North Carolina. The state was hit hard by the Great Recession, and its unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent, is among the highest in the nation, higher than in long-suffering California or Michigan. As is the case everywhere, many of the jobless have been out of work for six months or more, thanks to a national environment in which there are three times as many people seeking work as there are job openings.

Nonetheless, the state’s government has just sharply cut aid to the unemployed. In fact, the Republicans controlling that government were so eager to cut off aid that they didn’t just reduce the duration of benefits; they also reduced the average weekly benefit, making the state ineligible for about $700 million in federal aid to the long-term unemployed.

It’s quite a spectacle, but North Carolina isn’t alone: a number of other states have cut unemployment benefits, although none at the price of losing federal aid. And at the national level, Congress has been allowing extended benefits introduced during the economic crisis to expire, even though long-term unemployment remains at historic highs.

So what’s going on here? Is it just cruelty? Well, the G.O.P., which believes that 47 percent of Americans are “takers” mooching off the job creators, which in many states is denying health care to the poor simply to spite President Obama, isn’t exactly overflowing with compassion. But the war on the unemployed isn’t motivated solely by cruelty; rather, it’s a case of meanspiritedness converging with bad economic analysis.

In general, modern conservatives believe that our national character is being sapped by social programs that, in the memorable words of Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, “turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” More specifically, they believe that unemployment insurance encourages jobless workers to stay unemployed, rather than taking available jobs.

Is there anything to this belief? The average unemployment benefit in North Carolina is $299 a week, pretax; some hammock. So anyone who imagines that unemployed workers are deliberately choosing to live a life of leisure has no idea what the experience of unemployment, and especially long-term unemployment, is really like. Still, there is some evidence that unemployment benefits make workers a bit more choosy in their job search. When the economy is booming, this extra choosiness may raise the “non-accelerating-inflation” unemployment rate — the unemployment rate at which inflation starts to rise, inducing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and choke off economic expansion.

All of this is, however, irrelevant to our current situation, in which inflation is not a concern and the Fed’s problem is that it can’t get interest rates low enough. While cutting unemployment benefits will make the unemployed even more desperate, it will do nothing to create more jobs — which means that even if some of those currently unemployed do manage to find work, they will do so only by taking jobs away from those currently employed.

But wait — what about supply and demand? Won’t making the unemployed desperate put downward pressure on wages? And won’t lower labor costs encourage job growth? No — that’s a fallacy of composition. Cutting one worker’s wage may help save his or her job by making that worker cheaper than competing workers; but cutting everyone’s wages just reduces everyone’s income — and it worsens the burden of debt, which is one of the main forces holding the economy back.

Oh, and let’s not forget that cutting benefits to the unemployed, many of whom are living hand-to-mouth, will lead to lower overall spending — again, worsening the economic situation, and destroying more jobs.

The move to slash unemployment benefits, then, is counterproductive as well as cruel; it will swell the ranks of the unemployed even as it makes their lives ever more miserable.

Can anything be done to reverse this policy wrong turn? The people out to punish the unemployed won’t be dissuaded by rational argument; they know what they know, and no amount of evidence will change their views. My sense, however, is that the war on the unemployed has been making so much progress in part because it has been flying under the radar, with too many people unaware of what’s going on.

Well, now you know. And you should be angry.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 30, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Unemployed | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Either Way, They Could Be Screwed”: The GOP Might Just Stick With This “Party Of White People” Thing

Since the 2012 election, most (not all, but most) Republicans have agreed that if they’re going to remain viable in presidential elections in coming years, the party will have to broaden its appeal, particularly to Latino voters. There has been plenty of disagreement about how to go about this task. Especially over comprehensive immigration reform, which many Republicans see as too high a policy price to pay to achieve some uncertain measure of good will from those voters. But outside of conservative talk radio, there weren’t many voices saying that they should junk the whole project. Every once in a while some voice from the past like Phyllis Schlafly would come out and bleat that the party should focus on the white folk who make up the party’s beating heart, but to many it seemed like the political equivalent of your racist great aunt saying at Thanksgiving that she doesn’t feel comfortable around those people.

But as immigration reform wends its tortured path through Congress, more mainstream Republicans are having second thoughts. In fact, significant backlash is brewing, not just to this bill but to the whole idea of Republicans working to appeal to minorities. Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC has an excellent article explaining how this backlash is spreading, noting that even some people who six months ago were blaming Mitt Romney’s position on immigration reform for his loss are now saying that the only viable path to victory is getting turnout up among white voters.

I’ll get to why this is a very bad idea in a moment, but the logic at work isn’t completely crazy. After all, by now the Republican party going after minority votes is like the fast-food joint that puts a salad on its menu amid all the bacon cheeseburgers and chili fries. It’s there so they can say they’re offering something for people with different tastes, but they don’t expect anyone to order it. And when Rush Limbaugh warns that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will create millions of new Democratic voters, he’s probably right to a degree. Under the bill the Senate passed it would be 13 years before any undocumented immigrant could earn citizenship and vote, but as Sarlin discusses, the argument some Republicans make that Latinos are “natural conservatives” has always been weak.

After every election, a significant number of people within the losing party argue that the problem wasn’t one of persuasion but one of turnout. They just didn’t get enough of their voters to the polls, so they don’t have to change what they’re arguing. There’s often some truth to it; when only 50 to 60 percent of eligible voters are coming to the polls, turnout on your side could always be higher. But the problem the GOP now faces is that the way you relate to one group of voters affects how other voters perceive you.

This was something George W. Bush and Karl Rove understood well when they built his 2000 campaign. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” consisted mostly of things like pulling African-Americans on stage with him and putting lots of pictures of Latinos on his web sites. It got him a few extra votes among minorities, but that was always just a bonus. The real target was moderate white voters, who saw it and learned, in the phrase reporters repeated over and over, that Bush was “a different kind of Republican.” He wasn’t like those mean-spirited old white guys who seemed to dominate the GOP, and they’d be comfortable voting for him.

By the same token, if you decide that you’re going to focus your efforts on turning out the white vote, you won’t only be sending a message to Latinos (and African Americans, and the fast-growing Asian American population) that you’re not interested in them, you’ll also be sending a message to moderate whites that your party might not be the kind of place they’d feel comfortable. This goes double for young white voters, who have grown up in a much more diverse culture than their parents and grandparents, and aren’t going to be so hot on joining the Party of White People.

This is a dilemma for Republicans. Both paths are strewn with obstacles and dangers. Whichever one they choose, there’s likely to be trouble.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 2, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fox News Adopts George Zimmerman”: Few Have Done More To Help Trayvon Martin’s Shooter Than Sean Hannity

The case may be Florida v. George Zimmerman, but it might more aptly be called Florida v. George Zimmerman and the conservative media, as the accused killer has found devoted defenders on the airwaves of Fox News and in the digital pages of conservative blogs.

Few outside Zimmerman’s defense team have done more to help him than Sean Hannity, who on Friday declared that Zimmerman had already won the trial. “As far as I’m concerned, this case is over,” the Fox host said after playing testimony from a witness who said he saw Trayvon Martin beating Zimmerman “MMA style.” The day before that, Hannity said on his radio show that the judge should dismiss manslaughter, let alone the second-degree murder charges.

“So the question is why are we here? And the answer to that question is purely political. Politics influenced the decision, the media influenced the decision,” Hannity said, succinctly revealing why the conservative media has found itself vocally defending someone who admitted to killing teenager Trayvon Martin. It goes like this: Liberals and the media made hay out of the fact that Zimmerman was initially not charged in the killing of Martin. Liberals and the media are bad. Therefore, Zimmerman must be good.

Hannity and others have sought to portray Zimmerman as the real victim here, of a left-wing media “lynch mob,” a term used by Ann Coulter, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, David Horowitz, and conservative watchdog Accuracy in the Media, among others. When NBC aired an edited 911 call that made Zimmerman look racist, that was all the proof conservatives needed.

And if reflexive hatred for the media wasn’t enough, add to the volatile mix gun rights and perceived racism against whites. “Mr. Zimmerman — who, again, the New York Times refers to as a ‘white Hispanic’ and the rest of the media has now picked that up, ’cause that fits the template. You need white-on-black here to gin this up,” Rush Limbaugh said last year on his radio show. Hannity couldn’t help but bring up the New Black Panthers in an interview with Zimmerman, which focused on how unfortunate it was that the defendant’s name had been dragged through the mud.

Zimmerman’s father wrote an e-book calling the NACCP, the Congressional Black Caucus and other African-Americans the “true racists.” The CBC, for instance, is “a pathetic, self-serving group of racists … advancing their purely racist agenda.”

Indeed, Zimmerman and his family have often egged on the right-wing media’s support, adopting their language about the dreaded MSM. “The media is very good at putting their own spin on what they want the narrative to be,” Zimmerman’s brother Robert said in court earlier this month. “I’m not employed by NBC, CBS, ABC or anybody else. So I don’t have bosses, I just try to be as honest as I can.” In fact, Zimmerman got himself in trouble for being too close to the conservative media when his legal team quit last year, citing a phone call to Hannity that they had not authorized.

At times, things have gotten ridiculous. Fox News even recently speculated that Martin could probably kill someone with the Skittles bag and Arizona Iced Tea bottle he was carrying.

Meanwhile, conservative blogs set to work painting Martin as a dangerous thug. The Daily Caller obtained Martin’s Twitter feed, selecting tweets that made him look most intimidating. For George Zimmerman, his lawyers are not his only defense team.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 1, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Fox News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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