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“Playing The Wrong Blame Game”: Blame Vladimir Putin For The Ukraine Crisis, Not President Obama

All I have heard with regard to Ukraine & Russia is the blame game. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC said it was Bush’s fault. The right wingers in America say it’s President Barack Obama’s fault. And I, Leslie Marshall, who do I blame?


Putin is acting like a school yard bully, only it isn’t kids he’s targeting, it’s an entire nation. Putin loves what most nation’s leaders historically have: power and money. Just look at the emperors of Rome or the kings of England; the more land they acquired, the more powerful and richer they were. And so is the case with Putin and Ukraine – if he gets his way. And that’s a big if. The people have spoken. The Ukranian parliament has booted its former elected leader. Ukraine wants to be westernized and a part of the European Union. And the western world wants to help them; the United States has already promised, pending Congressional approval, $1 billion dollars in loan guarantees.

Now there are those that believe this is personal between Putin and Obama, as if Putin deliberately took action in Ukraine when the president warned him not to. And to those I say: Don’t be ridiculous. Again, remember who this man is and what he wants. Putin has the ego of Ramses and would have responded in this matter to the resistance of the pro-European Ukranians no matter who was president … Obama, either Bush, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, FDR, Truman or Eisenhower in the same exact way.

And speaking of past presidents; many on the right have invoked the name ‘Reagan” with regard to this issue, saying their political messiah would have shown Putin who is boss. Really? Doubtful. This is a very different time. Putin isn’t Gorbachev, Ukraine isn’t East Germany.

The right also want to blame President Obama for resetting the U.S. relationship with Russia in ’09 and not being more forceful; accusing him of having a weak foreign policy. Really? Was taking Osama bin Laden out weak!? Oh I’m sorry, our Navy SEALs took him out, I forget. But when Saddam Hussein was captured, wasn’t the line being used that Bush got Saddam? I didn’t hear ‘our troops caught Saddam.”

So let’s talk about Saddam. Saddam Hussein. A man who wrongly imprisoned his people and made many of them disappear. Sounds a bit like Putin doesn’t it? There are those that also say we have no right to call out Russia for breaking the law by invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine; but let’s look at who is making that statement: President Obama. Although the United States invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, it was done during the Bush presidency – and voted against by a young Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. Iraq was not Obama’s war. He did not start it, he ended it. Must we refuse to help any nation being invaded in the present because of our past sins?

And there are those on the right who roll their eyes at the president when he speaks (hello Lindsey Graham) and many on the right who say the world doesn’t respect Obama or take him seriously and they’re wrong. Of course when the president wanted to fly over Libya’s air space they said he was overreaching. And now with Ukraine’s he’s too cautious. Perhaps the right should make up its mind.

Let’s be honest, the United States is not going to get involved militarily in Ukraine. Obama knows it, the right knows it, Putin knows it and furthermore, both parties in the U.S. don’t want it nor do our allies. Ukraine is just not that important politically or resource wise to either the United States or the EU. So the President has limited options with what he can do. And I believe he is going about this the right way.

Due to Putin’s nature (power and greed), we must strike him where it hurts most. We need to reduce Russia’s International stature and isolate Russia, not just the country, but it’s people; especially the richest of the rich of Russia.

Now Russia’s stature has already been diminished. President Obama contacted (and got on board) Germany, the U.K., Poland and every other G8 nation to hold off preparations for the Sochi meetings. Further, to isolate Russia, Secretary Kerry has discussed travel bans and there is a possibility of freezing Russian business assets. And learning from history, the U.S. won’t do this alone. We won’t fly solo or take just a few of our team with us; we need everyone worldwide to be on board, otherwise we will fail.

And for those that think Obama is weak, an intellect who is trying diplomacy while Putin comes to the fight with a weapon; think again. Putin backed a failed government in Kiev. Putin watched as the world was disgusted by his actions in Ukraine; so much so, he made up a nice fairy tale to justify it. And after President Obama accused Putin of breaking the law, we have not seen any movement from the Russian military in  Crimea.

So who is to blame? Putin.

Who does the world look down upon? Putin.

Who is losing this fight? Putin

So for those of you that want to champion Putin over our president, like actor Steven Seagal did on Russian television, perhaps you had better wear red rather than red, white and blue. Obama’s our commander in chief. Russia’s not our ally. The right thing to do – the patriotic thing to do – is to back our president and trust he has our best interest at hand.

In Kiev this week, voices echoed as they chanted “Thank You America!” as Putin covered his ears.


BY: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wrong Way To Measure Strength”: You Don’t Measure Security By Sheer Numbers Of Troops

The ancient Greek military historian Thucydides famously noted that in war, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Today, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, concurs.

“It’s a dangerous world, and we’re making it more so by cutting defense,” said McKeon, responding to the president’s defense budget. “We weaken ourselves, and that is how you get into wars. You don’t get into wars if you’re strong.”

The idea that “weak” countries must fight to uphold their status might seem self-evident. However, while McKeon’s logic might have made sense in the Bronze Age, it makes little sense in the modern age.

First, warfare has changed since Thucydides’ day, where the relationship between military strength and a nation’s survival was clearer. The larger your population, the more men you had under arms, the stronger you were. Today’s wars are different, mostly because interstate conflict has declined drastically over the last 50 years. Even the smallest, weakest countries don’t worry about fighting for survival anymore.

For instance, of the five countries with the lowest military expenditures in the world – Costa Rica, Panama, the Seychelles, Liberia and Belize – only one has fought a war against another country in the past 25 years, and that was Panama, which the U.S. invaded in 1989. Perhaps McKeon was right about weakness, albeit not in the way he intended.

By contrast, the superpower with the highest military expenditure in the world – the United States – has fought six major armed conflicts in the last 25 years, and that doesn’t even include “military operations other than war.” Of the four other strongest military powers globally – China, Russia, the U.K., and Japan – only China and Japan have not fought wars in the last quarter century, largely because they lacked force projection capabilities.

Modern history not only disproves the idea that “strong” countries do not fight wars, but also suggests a dated definition of strength. Strong nations fight more conflicts because they have more global interests to protect and also because they can protect them in the first place. Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine exemplifies this trend.

Today, hard power is based on the overall capability to project force beyond national borders; the states that are most likely to fight wars are the ones that can do so. In this regard, the U.S. is still without peer, and the military cuts McKeon lambasts don’t diminish that capability. With 11 supercarriers and nearly 600 military installations overseas, the U.S. is well-positioned to respond to global crises.

“With these cuts, we are talking about the Marines are planning on going down to 21 infantry battalions. Twenty are called for in the plan to defend Korea. That leaves one battalion to handle Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt,” McKeon argued. The U.S. would not “handle” crises with any of these countries by deploying Marine battalions, however. Capability trumps capacity; in this regard, air-, sea- and logistical power are more important. Cutting troop numbers doesn’t make us weaker, but cutting our force projection capabilities does. Thankfully, the president’s budget does not significantly reduce those capabilities.

McKeon’s logic, therefore, is the exact reverse of what the last several decades have proven. Strong states fight wars more often because they have so much more to lose.


By: Faris Alikan, National Security Fellow at Third Way; U. S. News and World Report, March 6, 2014


March 7, 2014 Posted by | Defense Budget, Foreign Policy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Riding To The Sound Of The Guns”: The Crazies Stand Out At CPAC

Sounds like a pretty ho-hum morning at CPAC.

First up, Ted Cruz repeated the electoral catechism of the conservative movement: nobody loses by moving right, ever!

“There are a lot of D.C. consultants who say there’s a choice for Republicans to make: We can either choose to keep our head down, to not rock the boat, to not stand for anything, or we can stand for principle,” he said. “They say if you stand for principle you lose elections. The way to do it — the smart way, the Washington way — is don’t stand against Obamacare, don’t stand against the debt ceiling, don’t stand against nothing. I want to tell you something — that is a false dichotomy….”

Cruz said that in three of the past four election cycles, Republicans followed the consultants’ advice and ended up losing as a result.

“In ‘06, ‘08 and ‘12, we put our head down, stood for nothing — and we got walloped,” he said.

But 2010, when Republicans won a “historic tidal wave of an election,” was different, Cruz continued: That year, the GOP took strong positions against Obamacare and “bankrupting the country,” and voters rewarded them with big electoral gains across the board.

That is, of course, the most cartoonish of interpretations of the various elections he’s talking about. But as I said, it’s part of the catechism.

But the big media manget of the morning was Chris Christie’s long-awaited speech and–surprise, surprise–he touted his anti-union, antichoice record while pounding Elitist Liberals and the news media. Says veteran conservative-watcher Dave Weigel at Slate:

Christie did nothing that would upset his audience. No foreign policy talk apart from deriding the president for “letting other countries walk all over us.” No mention of his Medicaid expansion, which he’s defended many times, but a generic plea for Republicans to say “what we’re for.”

Give ’em red meat, and when you can’t do that, give ’em bland starchy side dishes.

But the moment that probably seemed banal to CPAC attendees but is still a bit jarring to us liberals was this one:–9UehRbLo

So Mitch McConnell gives retiring senator Tom Coburn an antique rifle as an award for “distinguished service.” Not missing a beat, Mitch’s Democratic opponent back home, Alison Lundergan Grimes (or more likely, one of her smart-ass social media tyros) immediately tweeted:

Someone tell @Team_Mitch that’s not the way to hold a gun. KY women do it better.

That may well be true. But for those of us who don’t regularly handle shooting irons, it was a reminder of how thoroughly this sort of imagery is now used by Republicans. Back in 1996, when Pat Buchanan had just beaten Bob Dole in the New Hampshire presidential primary, he told supporters:

Do not wait for orders from headquarters, mount up everybody and ride to the sound of the guns.

And then, campaigning in Arizona, Buchanan had himself photographed a number of times brandishing a rifle, much as McConnell did today.

He was pretty much hooted out of the presidential contest and off the national stage as a crazy person.

Today, he wouldn’t much stand out at CPAC.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Posted by | CPAC | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan And The Brown Bag”: Once Again, The Congressman Just Doesn’t Get It

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) covered a fair amount of ground in his speech this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but there was one story in particular that stood out.

“This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my friend Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch – one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

“That’s what the Left just doesn’t understand.”

I’ve read this a few times, hoping Ryan had some other subtle subtext, but I’m afraid the congressman really is as confused as his anecdote suggests.

The child may have wanted a lunch in a brown-paper bag, but – and I hope Ryan pauses to really think about this – his family is poor. The boy “didn’t want a free lunch,” but – and this is key – he didn’t want to be hungry, either.

It’s true that Republican policymakers could take away that free lunch the child received at the school, but that doesn’t mean the boy’s family will suddenly have more money to pack a healthy lunch in a brown-paper bag.

What’s more, it’s also true this kid may come from a struggling family, but it doesn’t mean he lacks “someone who cares for him”; it means he and his family lack the resources needed to send him to school with a good meal. Robert Schlesinger added, “A kid with a brown paper bag does have someone who loves them; but the kid without the brown paper bag, the one whose parent either won’t or can’t – because they’re working hard to get ahead and give themselves and their families better lives – deserves a society that loves and cares for them too.”

That’s what Paul Ryan just doesn’t understand.

In the same speech, the Wisconsin Republican added:

“The reason [Democrats[ keep talking about income inequality is because they can’t talk about economic growth. They have spent five, long years in power, and all they have to show for it is this lousy website.”

That’d be a good point, just so long as one overlooks the Recovery Act that ended the Great Recession, the millions of new jobs, health care reform that brought coverage to millions, the rescue of the auto industry, Wall Street reform, the end of the war in Iraq, counter-terrorism successes, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and student-loan reform, among other things.

Oh, and the health care website was fixed a few months ago.

Other that, though, Ryan’s on strong ground.

Update: In the school-lunch anecdote, I falsely assumed Ryan had the basic details of the story right. He didn’t: “Via Wonkette, the school lunch story appears to have been recycled from a story and altered beyond recognition in the process. The original story had nothing to do with a child turning down a free lunch. It’s about a kid, Maurice, who met a private benefactor, Laura, asking to literally have his lunch placed in a brown paper bag.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poverty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Darrell Issa, GOP’s Resident Thug”: Contempt For Congressman Elijah Cummings, Contempt For The American People

The farce that is Rep. Darrell Issa continues. He put on an amazing spectacle shutting down the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, on Wednesday, repeatedly cutting off Cummings’ microphone and, finally, turning his back and walking away. I especially loved Issa’s little gesture pulling his finger across his throat like a knife, to cut the mic a second time. I called it “thuggish” on “Politics Nation” and folks on the right aren’t happy. That’s OK; it was thuggish.

Issa had once again called former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to testify before the committee, knowing she was going to again use her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But what Issa didn’t reveal is that Lerner’s attorney had offered last month to share her answers to the committee’s questions via what’s called a “proffer.” That’s when the subject of an investigation reveals the rough outlines of what they know, which can also help determine whether they deserve immunity from prosecution (in order to get them to share more). But Issa rejected the proffer and staged a show trial designed to have Lerner take the Fifth again, in front of television cameras and a packed hearing room.

Cummings asked for time to make a statement, once Issa announced himself satisfied that Lerner wouldn’t testify Wednesday and tried to adjourn. That’s when Issa cut his mic.

“We’re adjourned. Close it down,” Issa said.

“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this!” Cummings replied, though his mic was off. “You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is something absolutely wrong with that. It is absolutely un-American … Chairman, what are you hiding?”

On “Politics Nation” Wednesday committee member Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton explained Cummings was going to ask about Lerner’s attorney’s proffer, and that was why Issa shut him down. Issa was trying to “keep us from revealing that we could have learned exactly what [Lerner] would have said,” Norton explained. Cummings’ office confirmed her account.

So why would Issa reject that proffer if he was committed to learning the truth about the IRS “scandal”? Because from the beginning he’s known it wasn’t a scandal. From the beginning Issa has selectively leaked testimony and other evidence from his committee’s investigation to Fox News – which he treats as a fourth arm of government — consistently distorting the facts.

We now know that IRS staffers, overwhelmed by post-Citizens United political activism, used certain terms to screen groups on the right and the left to make sure they deserved tax-exempt status. Groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in their names, as well as “Occupy” or “Blue,” were flagged for special scrutiny. So far the only known group to lose its tax exemption was a Democratic group, Emerge America, which works to elect Democratic women to public office.

But over and over again, Issa has leaked one-sided testimony designed to show a bias against conservatives. Over and over Cummings has asked him to make public all of the testimony and evidence gathered by their committee, only to have Issa refuse. A few times Cummings has himself released testimony, including that of a self-identified “conservative Republican” manager of an IRS screening group who said no one from the Obama administration had anything to do with the selection of Tea Party groups for scrutiny.

Issa showed remarkable contempt for Cummings on Wednesday, but he also showed contempt for the American people. Issa’s investigation has cost at least $14 million, and eaten up 97,542 hours of IRS staffers’ time. The agency has coughed up more than 500,000 pages of documents; 35 former and current IRS employees have sat for interviews. Treasury and IRS officials have testified at 15 separate congressional hearings. After all of that, a leader who wanted the truth would have listened to what Lerner had to say through her attorney. That’s not what Issa’s after. He’s trying to shame the White House, and Cummings makes a great stand-in.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Darrell Issa, House Government Oversight Committee | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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