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“Its Not Just About Bombing ISIS”: Organizing Global Action Related To Financing Of Terrorism

I’ve written previously about the strategy behind President Obama’s containment policy with regards to ISIS.

Its [U.S.] containment policy, Watts explained, is designed to wall ISIS into increasingly restricted territory and letting it fail due to its own mismanagement, economic problems, and internal discord, rather than because of the actions of a foreign oppressor.

If you want to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and engage in an apocalyptic battle with the West, you need financial resources to do so. Hence, the United States has been pursuing a financial as well as military containment policy.

But those efforts won’t succeed unless the countries of the world join us in both abandoning any financial transactions with ISIS and policing private entities within their own borders who might attempt to do so. That’s why, as U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote, last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew took on the role of foreign diplomat.

…to defeat these terrorist groups — as we must and will do — the United Nations must reach beyond the expertise of foreign ministries, and our traditional means of countering State aggression.

Instead, we must look to the policymakers who are developing innovative tactics to fight these groups, from strengthening border security and countering violent extremism in communities to choking off various sources of ISIL’s financing.

On Thursday, Secretary Lew is chairing the first-ever meeting of U.N. Security Council finance ministers to intensify international efforts on combating terrorist financing. We recognize that if we want to cut off ISIL’s access to the international financial system and prevent it from raising, transferring and using funds, we need other countries on board.

That is an innovative approach to how the U.N. might function in a world of asymmetrical threats. The idea that it is not simply a place for foreign ministers to discuss state-on-state military matters, but is also a place to organize global action related to terrorism financing means that it can be a vehicle for strategies that address 21st century challenges.

I am reminded of the approach a lot of Republicans have taken to the United Nations – from former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton’s casual reference to “losing 10 stories” of their building in NYC to continuous efforts by Congressional Republicans to defund it.

What we have seen from the Obama administration is a strengthening of the United Nations (and other coalitions like NATO) as a way to establish the kinds of partnerships that are necessary to accomplish everything from a global climate accord to a plan to end the Syrian civil war to cutting off the flow of financial resources to ISIS.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Take Goodwill Where You Can Find It”: Americans Already Like Boehner More Now That He Is As Tired of Congress As They Are

House Speaker John Boehner still has to cross a few things off his to-do list before he’s allowed to say good-bye to Congress forever: (1) Find replacement. (2) Save economy. However, many Americans already seem to like him better now that they know the Ohio Republican is as sick of dealing with Congress as they are.

According to a new Gallup survey, Boehner’s approval rating has jumped from 23 percent in August — the lowest point it ever reached during his tenure — to 31 percent, heights he hasn’t seen since the beginning of last year. His approval rating remained unchanged among the nation’s Republicans, but independents and Democrats are suddenly much more fond of him.

Now, 45 percent of the country still has an unfavorable opinion of the soon-to-be-retired elected official, but when many of your colleagues have spent months griping about how much they hate you, you take goodwill where you can find it. However, the shiny-happy forgiveness of the American people may not last if Congress fails to raise the debt limit in the upcoming weeks — the last big vote that Boehner will have to force-feed his fractious party before he lets it all go, turning away and slamming the door, realizing that distance makes everything seem small.

If that wasn’t difficult enough on its own, a Cutthroat Kitchen–style handicap has been thrown at Congress. Treasury secretary Jack Lew warned Congress today that the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling two days earlier than he expected. Now Congress has only until November 3, taking away valuable time to wait until the last minute before rushing to stave off the “political equivalent of a dumpster fire” that awaits us if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the federal government won’t be able to pay bills, its workers, or soldiers and Social Security checks. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t give the federal government a thumbs-up to start spending money on new things — it only makes sure that the federal government is able to fulfill its obligations and pay for things it has already approved.

In case that didn’t sound scary enough, Lew wrote a letter to Boehner, who planned on leaving D.C. on October 30, noting that “In the absence of congressional action, Treasury would be unable to satisfy all of these obligations for the first time in the history of the United States.” Or, translated out of bureaucrat-ese, “Dude, this would be a historically bad way to end your career.”

Congress is on recess this week, but Politico reported yesterday that Boehner is planning to quickly do something about the debt limit next week. A few GOP politicians think the debt-limit deadline, growing ever closer, is just the Obama administration’s way of forcing legislators to do what it wants. Senator Susan Collins told Politico, “It is interesting, which is a polite word, that all of a sudden the administration moved up considerably the timing of when the debt limit needs to be extended. What I’ve found over the years is that the date on which the debt limit truly has to be increased seems to be a very squishy date that often changes depending on the political winds.”

Congressional Republicans usually try to get a few spending decreases legislated along with a debt-limit increase, but there may not be time for that this year — which is not going to make his conservative colleagues happy. A Boehner spokesperson told the AP yesterday, “the Speaker has made it clear that he wants to solve some outstanding issues before he leaves. No decisions have been made, but a resolution on the debt ceiling is certainly possible.”

The Wall Street Journal asked 64 economists whether they thought the government was screwed and definitely on the verge of default. “Not enough wackos to do that,” one said, another added, “They are not THAT irresponsible.”

With only a few weeks left for things to be resolved, we’ll see if they’re right.


By: Jaime Fuller, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, October 15, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Debt Ceiling, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Corporate Tax Deserters”: Shirking Their Responsibility To Pay For What They Get

Corporations love to wrap themselves in the flag with sun-drenched TV commercials that proclaim a deep devotion to American workers and communities. But when it comes to actually taking responsibility for supporting the workers and communities that create the conditions for corporate profits, a record number of big businesses are deserting America.

Burger King is the latest corporation to announce it is moving to Canada — at least on paper — where it will pay lower taxes. In the past three years alone, at least 21 companies have completed or announced mergers with foreign corporations to avoid taxes in an operation known as “inversion.” That compares with 75 over the past 30 years. These only-on-paper moves will gouge a $20 billion tax loophole over the next decade.

These companies may be moving their taxes overseas, but they’re not ending their reliance on the U.S. government to operate profitably. They are just shirking their responsibility to pay for what they get. The companies still make money in the United States, where they hire workers educated by public schools, ship their goods on public roads, are kept safe by local police officers and firefighters, and protect their patents in America’s courts.

Of course, small businesses and American families can’t play the same traitorous game. We can’t hire lawyers and accountants to pretend to ship our homes and our income overseas. And most of us wouldn’t do that if we could.

We understand that paying taxes is part of our basic obligation as citizens and essential to building strong communities.

What we do resent about taxes is that the current system is upside down — big corporations and the wealthy game the system so they pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than working families and small business. The share of profits corporations spend on taxes stands at a record low. And those profits are reaching record highs.

It’s time to turn the tax system right side up by closing the tax loopholes that allow billionaires and huge corporations to escape paying their fair share to support the country that made them rich.

The Obama administration just took a major step to do that. Tiring of Republican objections to closing the corporate tax deserter loophole, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced he was issuing new regulations aimed at making it much harder for companies to reap tax benefits from an offshore move.

This step may curb some corporate desertion. In the long run, it would be best if Congress took action. Two bills (S2360 and HR4679) would end the current practice of treating corporate deserters as foreign companies when they are still really based right here.

Consumers can play a role too. In August, Walgreens — which bills itself as “America’s drugstore” — abandoned its plan to dodge $4 billion in taxes in the next five years by changing its corporate address to Switzerland. Walgreens reversed course when outraged consumers protested at its stores and on the Internet.

This nation faces huge challenges in building an economy that works for all of us. If we plan to build a better future for our children, we must insist that corporations be held accountable for their responsibilities to our families and communities.


By: Richard Kirsch, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, September 26, 2014

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Big Business, Corporations, Tax Inversions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Gambler And The Loan Sharks”: John Boehner’s Carefully Planned Escape Hatch Is Closing

Yesterday afternoon, the Treasury Department warned congressional leaders that we’ll hit the debt ceiling earlier than expected, probably in mid-October. Jonathan already has some smart analysis previewing the fights to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government, but this new timeline will also effect the other big issue awaiting Congress when it returns from the August recess: The effort to defund Obamacare.

GOP leaders know the scheme put forward by Ted Cruz and others to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded is hopeless, but they risk mutiny in their ranks if they don’t at least pay lip service to it.

So, as Jon Chait, Greg and others have pointed out, House Speaker John Boehner has been playing a familiar game of bait and switch with his base by promising to let House Republicans do something crazy in the future in order to get them to stop threatening to do something crazy now. He ”treats his members the same way a gambler treats his loan shark. ‘C’mon, spot me again, I swear I’ll pay up next time!’” Brian Beutler quipped, noting that we’ve seen this same strategy play out again and again in numerous congressional fights.

In the case of Obamacare, House leaders have been trying to talk their members into claiming victory on sequestration cuts and abandoning the effort to defund the health care law. But assuming that won’t appease them (and it won’t), GOP aides have floated using the debt ceiling, instead of the government shutdown, as the bargaining chip. An aide to Eric Cantor told Reuters yesterday that the debt limit provides a good “leverage point” to try to force action on Obamacare.

Swapping the debt ceiling hostage for the government shutdown hostage, while even more dangerous, had the benefit of buying GOP leaders some time — or at least it did until the debt limit deadline got moved up.

Congress comes back into session on Sept. 9. It will have just three weeks to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government before the fiscal year ends on Oct. 1. Most people had expected Treasury to hit the debt limit in mid-November or even December, so Boehner could have played his standard game of kicking the apocalypse can down the road. He’d get the House to pass a continuing resolution by promising to use the debt ceiling to attack Obamacare later, and then he’d get a month or two to figure out how to defuse this newest crisis.

But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s letter yesterday blows up this whole strategy. As Kevin Drum writes:

Politically, this means that Republicans don’t really have the option of quickly passing a 2014 budget (or a short-term continuing resolution) and then taking some time off to plan for their latest round of debt ceiling hostage-taking at the end of the year. If mid-October really is the drop-dead date, it means that budget negotiations in late September and debt ceiling negotiations in early October pretty much run right into each other.

Now, Boehner can’t keep bluffing to his members. Two weeks is not enough time for them to forget that they just caved on Obamacare, so they’re probably not going to be in the mood to do it again. This was John Boehner’s escape hatch, and now it’s closing

Besides, as Steve Benen notes, all the talk of hostage taking may be moot as the White House is holding the line against negotiations over the debt ceiling. “Let me reiterate what our position is, and it is unequivocal. We will not negotiate with Republicans in Congress over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up, period,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. “We have never defaulted, and we must never default. That is our position, 100 percent, full stop.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 27, 2013

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Pattern Of Timidity”: Press Yawns While Partisan Republicans Shred Cabinet Confirmation Process

Reporting on the contentious, drawn-out political battle surrounding President Obama’s decision to pick Republican Chuck Hagel to be his next secretary of defense, Politico recently noted the extraordinary partisan acrimony the confirmation process has produced.

With Republicans adopting an unprecedented obstructionist strategy to block a premier cabinet post by lodging all kinds of threats to “hold” the confirmation or even to try to deny Hagel a Senate vote, Politico concluded the controversy meant problems for party leaders, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).

“Levin faces a conundrum,” Politico reported. “He can force a party-line vote on Hagel, but that could damage the committee’s longtime bipartisan spirit.”

This makes no sense.

By launching a drawn out campaign against Hagel, Republicans have torn up decades worth of tradition on the Senate Armed Services Committee in terms of working across party lines to confirm secretaries of defense. But according to Politico it’s the Democratic chairman who faces a “conundrum” over the lack of “bipartisan spirit” in the Senate. It’s the Democrat who has to deal with the “damage” done by Republican maneuvers.

Sometimes it seems the Beltway press will do anything to avoid blaming Republicans for their wildly obstructionist ways. It’s a pattern of timidity that has marked Obama’s time in Washington, D.C. Indeed, the press for years now has insisted on providing no framework with regards to the radical ways that now define the GOP.

By refusing to hold Obama’s opponents accountable, and by actually making media stars out of the ones who actively obstruct, the press simply encourages the corrosive behavior. (By the way, this is the same Beltway press corps that has routinely blamed Obama for not successfully changing the tone in Washington.)

Both in terms of Republican obstructionist behavior and the press’ unwillingness to call it what it is, the trend has reached its pinnacle with the current confirmation mess. And it’s getting worse. Fox News this week reported Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was threatening to block a confirmation vote on Jack Lew, selected by the president to be the next secretary of treasury.

Discarding centuries worth of advise-and-consent tradition (i.e. the winning president picks his cabinet), Republicans have radically rewritten the cabinet confirmation rulebook while journalists have stood quietly by, not bothering to inform news consumers about the dramatic shift taking place. Instead, the press treats it all as being commonplace; as just more partisan bickering.

And when not downplaying the ramifications or erroneously suggesting Obama’s “picking fights” with “controversial” cabinet picks like Hagel, journalists have bungled the story altogether, giving Republicans political cover in the process.

Appearing on Fox News on Monday to discuss the Hagel impasse and the various hurdles Republicans keep putting up while plotting ways to put off his confirmation vote, Roll Call’s associate political editor David Drucker said, “Everybody argues it’s politics, but everybody does it.” He claimed the party out of power often does this for key cabinet positions.


I understand that political journalists operate under the constant threat of the Liberal Media Bias mob that the GOP Noise Machine perpetually whips up. Pointing out the Republican’s radical path of obstructionism would certainly draw the wrath of the right-wing. But sometimes that’s the price reporters have to pay for practicing journalism. And this week journalism does not mean simply reporting that Republicans continue to try to delay and block high-level cabinet appointees. It means reporting that it’s never been done with this frequency before in modern American history.

The endless, never-before-seen attacks on Obama’s Cabinet choices (and would-be choices, such as Susan Rice who was preemptively attacked; an unheard of partisan strategy) have been going on for months now since Election Day. But we’ve only recently begun to see efforts by journalists to include context regarding how unusual the Republican confirmation behavior has been.

From Politico:

But the filibuster threat — reiterated Monday by Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee — would make Hagel just the third Cabinet nominee in history to require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster on the Senate floor. The other two nominees were President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 choice to head his Commerce Department, C. William Verity, and President George W. Bush’s 2006 choice of Dirk Kempthorne to be secretary of the interior.

So this kind of obstructionism is abnormal but it’s not entirely new, Politico seemed to suggest, noting recent Republican presidents have faced similarly dug-in Democratic opponents when trying to fill out their cabinets.

Not quite.

In the case of Reagan, it was a group of Republican senators who threatened to filibuster Reagan’s Commerce pick because he wasn’t sufficiently conservative. And with regards to Bush’s pick of Kempthorne to head Interior, there was Capitol Hill chatter about a Democratic hold being placed on his confirmation, but in the end it didn’t amount to anything.

Looking back at the news coverage, the Beltway press never took seriously the idea that either Kempthorne’s or Verity’s confirmation would be blocked or that a major battle was brewing. In the end, Verity won 84 votes of support and Kempthorne was easily confirmed on a Senate voice vote.

All of which means we’ve never seen anything like the coordinated, dubious efforts by outside conservative groups and Republican members in Congress to block Hagel’s confirmation. (Or to make sure Rice was never nominated.) As Sen. Levin noted yesterday, we’ve never seen a secretary of defense nominee like Hagel be asked to provide detailed financial information about non-profit organizations that have paid him in the past.

It’s all unheard of. But if you turn on cable news you’ll hear a Beltway editor claim “everybody does it.”

They didn’t. Until now.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 13, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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