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“The ‘Bad Ideas’ Category”: Cruz Gets Creative To Undermine U.S. Foreign Policy

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn’t exactly shy about his opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but it’s not exactly within his power to derail it. He’s just one far-right senator with limited influence on Capitol Hill.

But over the weekend, it seemed as if the Republican presidential candidate was starting to turn his attention away from federal policymakers altogether. Indeed, as Roll Call reported, Cruz is looking to states to help sabotage American foreign policy.

Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that doing everything possible to thwart the Iran deal should include states exploring imposing their own sanctions.

The Republican presidential candidate from Texas was asked at a raucous town hall-style forum here about the prospects of states taking action to impose sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal regarding the country’s nuclear development.

“I think that states should act and lead to do exactly that,” Cruz said during a campaign appearance in Pelham, Alabama. (Note, Alabama is a Super Tuesday primary state, which votes just a week after the Nevada caucuses early next year.)

More so than usual, the far-right Texan seemed willing to hint that this fight wouldn’t turn out well for his like-minded allies. “It’ll be a fight,” Cruz said. “It’s not an open and shut legal argument, but we ought to do everything we can to resist this … Iranian deal.”

I’m inclined to put this in the “bad ideas” category.

For one thing, it’s probably not legal. It’s not up to states to create their own foreign policies; it’s up to the United States at the federal level. I’m reminded of this Vox piece from January, when congressional Republicans began trying to sabotage American officials in earnest.

The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos.

And letting states and the United States have competing foreign policies would lead to even greater chaos. If the White House is principally responsible for American foreign policy, in conjunction with congressional oversight, there’s definitely no role for state legislators.

What’s more, I’m not exactly sure how Cruz envisions this plan working on a practical level. States aren’t in a position to create an international coalition to impose new sanctions against Iran – other countries partner with the United States government, not governors’ offices and state legislators – and states also don’t have authority of federal banking laws or international finance.

My suspicion is Cruz already knows this, but didn’t want to disappoint a far-right group in Alabama by telling them there’s nothing Alabama can do to undermine U.S. foreign policy. That said, this isn’t exactly responsible rhetoric from a prominent presidential candidate, either.

In the larger context, thought, let’s not overlook the fact that if Cruz were confident that Congress would kill the diplomatic agreement, he probably wouldn’t bother talking about states taking the “lead.” Perhaps even he realizes the writing is on the wall?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Confederate Flag Fell So Suddenly”: A Fully Engaged, Energized Activated Group Of Voters

Within just a few days of Dylann Roof’s racially motivated murder of 9 African-American worshippers and clergy in Charleston’s historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church, a sea change appeared to be under way with regards to the Confederate flag — this after decades of tense and slow-moving debate about whether the symbol deserves any kind of place in modern public life.

In short order, the governors of South Carolina and Alabama asked for the flag to be taken down from their respective Capitol grounds, other southern states showed a sudden willingness to reduce the visibility of the flag, and Amazon and Walmart stopped selling it. All this occurred against the backdrop of a loud chorus of online activists arguing that it was time to take the flag down once and for all — a few days after the shooting, the #takeitdown hashtag was tweeted 12,000 times in one day. Why all the sudden movement on an issue that had been a sore culture-war sticking point for decades? Yes, Roof’s massacre was horrific, but it obviously wasn’t the first racist violence to have occurred in a state where the Confederate flag flies.

“The pace of this change has been quite staggering,” said Dr. Jonathan Knuckley, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida who studies southern politics. The why ties into some basic, vital aspects of how Americans’ political opinions are formed and expressed. Foremost among them is the idea that most Americans simply aren’t all that informed about most policy issues, and when they do form opinions, they look around for highly visible cues to guide them toward the “right” opinion. (The notion that most Americans simply aren’t savvy when it comes to politics and policy may whiff of elitism, but it’s also one of the more durable findings in political science — in 2011, for example, about a third of Americans couldn’t name the vice-president.)

Dr. Timothy Ryan, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, explained that until recently, this was true of the Confederate flag as well. “The typical citizen, if you asked them what they thought about the Confederate-flag issue in South Carolina two or three weeks ago, they would be making up their opinion on the fly in that moment,” he said. “Whereas now people have had some time to think about it, have had a push to think about it.”

As a result of this push, these voters will use whatever available cues come to mind to generate an opinion — a news segment they saw, a recent conversation with a friend. And those who sit somewhere in the middle and who are giving serious thought to the Confederate-flag issue for the first time are awash in anti-flag sentiments, whether delivered via Twitter, on news reports of anti-flag protests, or on radio spots covering Walmart and Amazon’s decision. These days there are tons of cues to draw upon, and very few of them would nudge one to support the Confederate flag.

Perhaps the most potent of such cues is the now-infamous photograph of Roof posing in front of the Confederate flag. “It doesn’t take much to process,” said Knuckley. “It’s kind of one of those gut, visceral, I-don’t-even-have-to-think-about-this-issue [images].” This cue, and others like it, affects voters on both sides of the issue. “The other side of that coin — it becomes a lot more difficult to be for [the flag],” said Knuckey. “Just a month or so ago, someone could have made a perfectly, in their mind, rational argument. It’s the kind of issue now that’s difficult to be in favor of.”

That doesn’t mean that support for the flag is now going to drop to zero, Knuckey emphasized. Ryan agreed. “I bet you haven’t changed so many minds among the people who are really strong, meaningful supporters,” he said. But that’s not the point — the point is those folks on the middle, say, third of the Confederate-flag-opinion spectrum. Those who supported the flag, but just barely, are now seeing all sorts of highly visible cues indicating that the country is turning against them,while those who were just barely against it will have their preference intensified.

The end result? A shift in polling, perhaps (there haven’t yet been any surveys released that allow for apples-to-apples comparisons on the flag issue from before and after the church attack), but, just as important, a group of “antis” who are much more engaged and vocal than they were before the shooting — in part because they’re feeding off the sense that, nationwide, people are moving against the flag. Political scientists call this “preference intensity,” and it’s incredibly important: A minority of citizens who are stridently opposed to a new bill can, in the right setting, “beat” a majority of voters who are slightly for it but don’t care all that much.

To Knuckey, all this negative attention will likely affect not just voters being surveyed, but southern legislators themselves. Those legislators have always been aware that they represent a loud contingent of pro-flag folks, but now, in the wake of the A.M.E. shooting, they have to factor in the existence of a fully engaged, energized activated group of voters on the other side of the issue as well. So all the negative attention the flag has gotten “makes a vote to take it down easier now than it would have been a month ago,” he said.

In the long run, of course, the AME shooting will fade from the news. And David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which just released a poll showing the nation to be about evenly divided on the question of whether the flag is racist — it was the first time Suffolk had polled on this issue, and results therefore can’t give any sense of the trajectory of opinion on this issue — said that there’s a chance that opinion will bounce back in favor of the flag. That is, fewer cues could mean a reversion to old, less strongly held opinions.

In the meantime, though, what we’re witnessing isn’t just a shift in opinion, but policy change — albeit minor ones, in some cases — on the part of multiple state houses and huge retailers. Even if public opinion reverts back to where it was before the shooting, a new status quo is in place and it’ll be difficult, in those places that have responded to this sudden surge in anti-Confederate-flag sentiment, for the flag to once again be raised — or sold.

 

By: Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Businesses, Confederate Flag, Emanuel AME Church | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enlightenment On Confederate Flag Was Long Overdue”: This American Swastika Is Unfit For Human Consumption

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

That’s an observation widely credited to Winston Churchill, though it’s one he may or may not have ever made. Whoever said it, the truth of the axiom has seldom been more obvious than now, as we watch the fall of the Confederate battle flag. It is too early to say whether this will prove lasting. But the signs certainly point toward a seismic shift.

In South Carolina, where the Confederacy was born, a motion to allow debate on removing the flag from the grounds of the state Capitol passed by a vote of 103-10. Alabama has already removed its flag. Meantime, a number of major retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and Arkansas-based Walmart, have announced they will no longer carry the flag. Perhaps most amazing, Valley Forge Flag, a 133-year-old flag maker in Pennsylvania, has said it will no longer manufacture it.

We appear to be on the verge of a long-overdue national consensus that this American swastika is unfit for human consumption. And to think: All it took was the blood of nine innocent people.

Ever since 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof shot up Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the ground has been shifting beneath that flag, so beloved of the white, conservative South — especially after images emerged of Roof posing with one. “God help South Carolina if we fail to achieve the goal of removing the flag,” said South Carolina senator and presidential aspirant Lindsey Graham last week. He said this just days after telling CNN the flag was “part of who we are.”

The suddenness of the change in attitude toward that flag is bracing, reminiscent, in an odd way, of when the Berlin Wall fell: Nobody saw it coming — it happened. That said, it is hard to be wholly invested in cheering what is happening here.

Consider: The Confederate battle flag was not somehow made more racist by Roof’s alleged rampage. Notwithstanding claims by Graham and others that it has somehow been misused as a racist symbol by the likes of Roof, the fact is, the thing was used as such from the moment the first thread of the first flag was sewn in support of a treasonous regime that was, to borrow Mississippi’s words, “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.”

The flag was certainly understood as racist — that was the whole point — by those who resurrected it to signal massive resistance to the civil rights movement. It is still understood that way; why else is it ubiquitous at white supremacist rallies?

So what happened at Emanuel did not change the flag’s meaning; it only made that meaning harder to ignore. And while its fall is significant, you have to wonder if it really marks a fundamental change in the mind of the white, conservative South. Particularly since you can’t turn around in Dixie without running into some road, bridge, statue, or park honoring some individual who took up arms against the U.S. government in the name of perpetuating slavery — or without meeting someone eager to rationalize that, hiding behind abstracts like “honor” and “duty” to avoid admitting what the Confederacy really was.

The tragedy at Emanuel has forced a moment of clarity into this fog of cognitive dissonance. In days to come, we’ll see just how much that’s worth in terms of real change. Because at some point, the people of the white, conservative South must themselves take responsibility for their own racial education, for facing — and growing from — the truth about their beloved Confederacy.

Consider that it took an act of mass murder before they were willing to reckon honestly with their flag and its meaning. Yes, one is pleased to see that finally come to pass.

But the price of enlightenment seems awfully high.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 29, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Slavery | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oh, Please!”: Roy Moore Wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg Impeached

The U.S. Supreme Court probably won’t rule on marriage equality until the end of June, and when it does, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to side in support of equal-marriage rights.

For the right, this will be deeply annoying – not just because of conservative opposition to marriage equality in general, but also because much of the right believes Ginsburg shouldn’t be able to participate in the case at all. Right Wing Watch had this report this afternoon:

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday about his belief that states should “resist” a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, saying that Congress and the states should simply defy a court decision they disagree with by stating “that there is no right to redefine marriage” in the U.S. Constitution.

“We have justices on the Supreme Court right now who have actually performed same-sex marriages, Ginsburg and Kagan,” Moore continued. “Congress should do something about this.”

Such as? Moore raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings.

Perkins concluded, in reference to Ginsburg, “This is undermining the rule of law in our country and ushers in an age of chaos.”

Oh, please.

First, the idea that Ginsburg can’t consider the constitutional questions surrounding marriage rights because she’s performed wedding ceremonies is pretty silly.

Second, let’s not lose sight of the context here. Roy Moore, who was once expelled from state Supreme Court because he declared an ability to ignore federal court rulings he doesn’t like, continues to argue that Alabama is not bound by the federal judiciary.

There’s someone in this story who’s “undermining the rule of law in our country,” and trying to create “chaotic” conditions, but it’s clearly not Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2015

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Roy Moore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Truth Crushed To Earth Will Rise Again”: Injustice Is Resilient, But So Are Defenders Of Freedom

First, they sang “God Will Take Care of You.”

Then they walked out of Brown Chapel to a playground where they organized themselves into 24 groups of 25 each and set out marching. Their route out of Selma took them onto Highway 80, which is carried over the Alabama River by a bridge named in honor of Confederate general and Alabama Ku Klux Klan leader Edmund W. Pettus.

It was about 2:30 on the afternoon of Sunday, March 7, 1965.

At the foot of the bridge, the marchers were met by Alabama state troopers. Some were on horseback. Major John Cloud spoke to the marchers through a bullhorn. “It would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march,” he said. “And I’m saying that this is an unlawful assembly. You are to disperse. You are ordered to disperse. Go home or go to your church. This march will not continue. Is that clear to you?”

He gave them two minutes to comply. Just over one minute later, he ordered troopers to advance.

They moved toward the marchers, truncheons held waist high, parallel to the ground. But something seemed to overtake them as they pushed into the demonstrators. The troopers began to stampede, sweeping over unarmed women, children and men as a wave does a shore.

Tear gas filled the air. Lawmen on horseback swept down on fleeing marchers, wielding batons, cattle prods, rubber hoses studded with spikes. Skin was split. Bones were broken. The marchers were beaten all the way back into town. A teenager was hurled through a church window. On the bridge, the cheers and rebel yells of onlookers mingled with the shrieks of the sufferers and became indistinguishable.

Thus was the pavement of the freest country on Earth stained with the blood of citizens seeking their right to vote.

By rights, this 50th anniversary of those events should be an unalloyed celebration. After all, the marchers, fortified by men and women of good will from all over the country, eventually crossed that bridge under federal protection, marched for four days up Highway 80 and made it to, as the song says, glory. They stood at the state capital in Montgomery and heard Martin Luther King exhort them to hold on and be strong. “Truth crushed to earth,” he thundered, “will rise again!”

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law. And African -Americans, who had been excluded from the ballot box for generations, went on to help elevate scores of citizens who looked like them to the mayor’s office, the governor’s mansion, the White House.

So yes, this should be a time of celebration. But the celebration is shadowed by a sobering reality.

In 2013, the Voting Rights Act was castrated by the Supreme Court under the dubious reasoning that its success proved it was no longer needed. And states, responding to a non-existent surge of election fraud, have rushed to impose onerous new photo ID laws for voters. When it is observed that the laws will have their heaviest impact on young people, poor people and African-Americans — those least likely to have photo ID — defenders of the laws point to that imaginary surge of fraud and assure us voter suppression is the furthest thing from their minds. How can it be about race, they cluck piously, when the laws apply to everyone?

Of course, so did grandfather clauses, poll taxes, literacy tests and other means by which African-American voting rights were systematically stolen for decades and a Whites Only sign slapped onto the ballot box. It is disheartening that we find ourselves forced to fight again a battle already won. But the events of half a century past whisper to us a demand for our toughness and faith in the face of that hard truth. They remind us that, yes, injustice is resilient.

But truth crushed to earth is, too.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 4, 2015

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Injustice, Selma, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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