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Texas Governor Perry answers question about indictment in Texas on two felony counts of abuse of power during appearance at business leaders luncheon in Portsmouth

Perry and the meaning of 'workplace violence'

09/30/14 09:43AM

Tragically, it is an all-too-common occurrence: someone suffers some kind of mental crisis, they go to their workplace, and they kill their colleagues. It happens often enough that such incidents rarely become national news -- deadly workplace violence has somehow become almost routine.
 
But in Oklahoma last week, a disgruntled employee allegedly killed a co-worker and is accused of trying to kill another, and the violence has taken on national significance in ways other workplace slayings usually don't. In this case, because the alleged perpetrator is Muslim and he tried to behead a victim, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wants President Obama to treat the workplace violence as terrorism.
"At some point in time, the administration does have to address this as what is appears to many people that it is -- and that is an act of violence that is associated with terrorism," Perry said on Fox News' "Fox & Friends." [...]
 
"I think Americans are confused about what this is," Perry said. "This is a clear case of an individual going in and doing something that does not meet their definition of 'workplace violence,' so I think any rational thinking American is going to look at this and go, 'This is more than just normal workplace violence.'"
Fox News' Steve Doocy suggested the murder might be connected to Islamic State militants, prompted the Texas governor to add the incident "seems to fall into that type of activity."
 
Perry added, "ISIS is a legitimate threat -- it is not just a legitimate threat in that region of the world, it is a legitimate threat in the United States."
 
Maybe now would be a good time to pause of reality check.
In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., speaks at the Capitol in Denver.

Lamborn starts losing allies over military controversy

09/30/14 08:37AM

For any politician facing a political controversy, there's one sure sign of trouble: the loss of political allies. Most political figures are accustomed to criticism from the other side of the aisle, and they expect scrutiny from journalists, but when members of their own party start turning on them, it's a real problem.
 
Which brings us back to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who boasted last week that he's urged active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, in order to undermine the Obama administration.
 
The Colorado Springs' newspaper, The Gazette, reports today that Lamborn is now facing rebukes from two high-profile Republicans from Colorado's congressional delegation.
On Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, tweeted a link to a story about Lamborn's comments and said, "As a Marine and combat veteran, I know to keep my politics off the battlefield."
 
And when asked about Lamborn's statement, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said: "There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform."
To be sure, these aren't sweeping condemnations, but let's not overlook the context: with 35 days to go before Election Day, Coffman is in the middle of one of the nation's most competitive U.S. House races, while Gardner is running in one of the nation's most competitive U.S. Senate races. They're both Republicans, but neither one of these congressmen are prepared to offer even a halfhearted defense for Lamborn's controversial remarks.
 
Coffman and Gardner could have phrased this any number of ways to try and extend support to their GOP ally, but they chose to rebuke him instead. And while Gardner's comments came in response to a reporter's question, note that Coffman's admonition was unprompted -- he just wanted the public to know what Lamborn did was wrong.
 
How long until House Republican leaders are pressured to weigh in, too? For that matter, how long until House Democrats start pushing for Lamborn's removal from the House Armed Services Committee?
Sam Brownback

Brownback's 'experiment' gone wrong

09/30/14 08:00AM

In June 2012, soon after approving sweeping tax cuts his state clearly couldn't afford, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appeared on msnbc and described his agenda in a curious way. "We'll see how it works," the Republican governor said. "We'll have a real-live experiment."
 
More than two years later, Kansans have had a chance to see the results of this experiment first hand -- and Brownback now appears to be losing his bid for a second term.
 
But as Rachel noted on the show last night, among the governor's problems is an ability to justify his failures in office. Brownback talked to PBS's Jeff Greenfield the other day and regretted his use of the word "experiment" to describe his economic plan, conceding that people are often uncomfortable with change.
GREENFIELD: [A]bout that experiment word?
 
BROWNBACK: Yeah, I shouldn't have used that word. But the good news is, it's working well. We're growing. We've got record employment in Kansas.
 
GREENFIELD: Then after a brief discussion with an aide.
 
BROWNBACK: The things we're doing are not anything new. Going to, getting your incomes taxes down, we got nine states without an income tax. That's not new. So nothing we're doing is new. Now it's new that we're doing it but nothing that we're doing is different than what's done before.
Well, that's certainly a compelling explanation, isn't it? "Nothing we're doing is new," followed immediately by "it's new that we're doing it." I have no idea what Brownback's aide whispered in the governor's ear during the interview, but it wasn't sound rhetorical advice.
 
Of course, this is about more than a clumsy governor struggling to defend his record. Brownback's more pressing concern is that his "experiment" hasn't worked at all. As we discussed in early August, Brownback’s economic plan -- slash tax rates more than the state can afford and watch a miracle unfold -- has failed miserably on every possible front. The state’s bond rating was downgraded in part due to these reckless tax breaks, and soon after, Kansas suffered another downgrade.
 
What's more, this isn't the only trouble for Kansas Republicans.

Secret Service grilling and other headlines

09/30/14 07:52AM

Secret Service head faces grilling from House panel over White House security. (The Hill)

Chaffetz: No 'classified' excuses from Secret Service director. (The Hill)

U.S., Afghanistan sign security pact to allow American forces to remain in country. (Washington Post)

Obama goal of Guantanamo closure stalled at Pentagon. (AP)

Election Protection Squad poll watchers recruited for November's vote-by-mail elections in Colorado. (Denver Post)

Hong Kong's leader calls for protests to end 'immediately.' (NY Times)

Mitt isn't ready to call it quits. (New York Times Magazine)

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Image: U.S. flag flies at half-staff on the Capitol dome in memory of former Senator Howard Baker in Washington

Whip Count: Calling Congress back to vote on ISIS

09/29/14 06:53PM

In an effort to keep track of whether Congress is going to vote and debate the issue of military force in Iraq and Syria, we have started a new* public whip count. We are tracking the members of Congress who have issued statements, or said publicly that not only must Congress vote on an authorization for the use of U.S. military force in Iraq and Syria but that Congress must come back from vacation to vote on that authorization now.

Below is our running tally so far. If you click on the link on each senator or representative’s name it will take you to the source of their remarks that earned them a place on this list.

We hope that you can help us keep our running tally up-to-date. If your member of Congress wants to come back and vote on this, please let us know. Keep us posted!

(*Before the Congressional recess, this was our running tally.)

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Monday's Mini-Report, 9.29.14

09/29/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* An extraordinary scene in Hong Kong: "A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city's influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters."
 
* Looking ahead: "China's Communist Party has ample experience extinguishing unrest.... But as he faces massive street demonstrations in Hong Kong pressing for more democracy in the territory, the toolbox of President Xi Jinping of China appears remarkably empty."
 
* For more background on the clashes in Hong Kong, I found Max Fisher's explainer very helpful.
 
* Everything about this story keeps getting worse: "The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident."
 
* Syria: "The Pentagon said on Saturday that it had conducted its first strikes against Islamic State targets in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria along the Turkish border, destroying two armored vehicles in an area that has been the subject of a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State."
 
* Casualties: "Eleven air strikes targeted ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. military said Monday -- adding that it had no evidence so far of civilian casualties. 'In Syria, one air strike near Dayr ar Zawr destroyed one [ISIS] armed vehicle while another destroyed an [ISIS] anti-aircraft artillery transport vehicle,' US Central Command said in a statement."
 
* Ferguson: "Police in Ferguson, Mo., say they are searching for a suspect who allegedly shot a police officer in the arm late Saturday evening. The shooting occurred in the 1000 block of Smith Avenue not far from the Ferguson Community Center, according to a press release from police."
 
* Yes means yes: "Students at California universities will all be held to the same standard when it comes to sexual assault and consent, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a groundbreaking piece of legislation Sunday. The new law will require all schools that receive state funding to adopt an 'affirmative consent' standard in their sexual assault policies. This standard, also sometimes called 'yes means yes,' requires clear and ongoing consent, rather than just an absence of resistance."
Voting stickers are seen at the Ohio Union during the U.S. presidential election at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio November 6, 2012.

Supreme Court blocks Ohio early voting on eve of balloting

09/29/14 04:50PM

For voting-rights advocates in Ohio, everything looked like it was going well. A few weeks ago, a federal district court reversed Republican-imposed voting restrictions in the Buckeye State, restoring early-voting opportunities. Last week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in a unanimous order, clearing the way for Ohio voters to cast early ballots if they choose.
 
Voting was all set to begin in Ohio -- literally tomorrow morning -- right up until the Supreme Court intervened this afternoon. Lyle Denniston reported:
With just sixteen hours before polling stations open in Ohio, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon blocked voters from beginning tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s general election.  By a vote of five to four, the Justices put on hold a federal judge’s order providing new opportunities for voting before election day, beyond what state leaders wanted.
 
The order will remain in effect until the Court acts on an appeal by state officials. If that is denied, then the order lapses. It is unclear when that scenario will unfold.
Remember, Republican officials in Ohio have been trying to cut early voting, while also making it harder for voters to cast ballots on weekends and during evening hours. These changes prompted a lawsuit from civil-rights proponents, arguing that the GOP-imposed restrictions, approved for no good reason, disproportionately affected low-income and African-American voters -- who, you guessed it, might be more inclined to vote Democratic.
 
The Supreme Court's announcement wasn't on the merits of the case, and there haven't been oral arguments. Rather, this was in response to an emergency appeal from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), who's invested considerable energy in recent years in approving new restrictions on voting.
 
The Supreme Court was divided 5-to-4, with -- wait for it -- Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas siding with Ohio Republicans trying to limit access. These are the same five justices appointed by Republican presidents.
 
So what happens now?
President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington,D.C. on Sept. 26, 2014.

The ISIS 'gaffe' isn't quite what it's cracked up to be

09/29/14 03:23PM

If the White House press briefing today was any indication, much of the media has decided that President Obama has put a new "gaffe" on a tee, inviting critics to swing at it. Are they right? Let's take a closer look.
 
On "60 Minutes," the president covered a fair amount of ground with Steve Kroft, but apparently the most important exchange was about Islamic State militants.
KROFT: How did this get, how did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?
 
OBAMA: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.
 
KROFT: I mean, he didn't say that -- just say that, "We underestimated ISIL." He said, "We overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi army, to fight."
 
OBAMA: That's true. That's absolutely true.
From there, the president added some additional context about political conditions in Iraq, and the interview moved on. To my ear, this hardly stood out as shocking stuff -- and Kroft didn't seem to find it especially noteworthy, either. I think much of the world expected Iraqi security forces to put up a more effective resistance to easily outnumber Islamic State militants, but their recent confrontations didn't go as planned.
 
But that's not quite what the political world heard. First, many news organizations seem stunned by the fact that the president acknowledged out loud that his administration "underestimated" a foreign foe. Second, Fox News and Ron Fournier have decided it's outrageous that the president is "shifting blame."
 
Let's consider these one at a time.

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