Daily Archive: 09/09/2013

Sep 09 2013

Syria: Hillary Clinton’s Careful Words

In a very carefully worded statement to the press after her meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the decision to carry out an attack on Syria hinged on three point. She welcomed the suggestion that was made by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia to place whatever chemical weapons Syria has under international control. The suggestion was also welcomed by Syria’s Walid Muallem

Sep 09 2013

Syria: Assad “Expect Every Action”

In a rare interview, Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad sat down with PBS’ Charlie Rose on Sunday in Damascus, Syria.

In an exclusive interview secured by Charlie Rose of PBS, Assad said: “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people.” [..]

Rose said Assad “suggested that there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made”. Assad, however, “would not even talk about the nature of the response”.

Rose said: “He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts … that the results had not been good.”

The full interview will be aired on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. Here are some excerpts that were aired on CBS This Morning.

Sep 09 2013

Syria: The Russian Monkey-wrench in US Plan

Has Russia thrown a monkey-wrench into the US plan to bomb Syria? At a press conference in London, Secretary of State John Kerry, perhaps facetiously, suggested that if Syrian President Bashir al-Assad turned over Syria’s chemical weapons in a week, he could avoid having the a US  missile strike. Sec. Kerry added that he had no expectation that the Syrian leader would comply.

Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week – turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.” He immediately dismissed the possibility that Mr. Assad would or could comply, saying: “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.”

Oops!

A seemingly offhand suggestion by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could avert an American attack by relinquishing all of its chemical weapons received a widespread, almost immediate welcome from Syria, Russia, the United Nations, a key American ally and even some Republicans on Monday as a possible way to avoid a major international military showdown in the Syria crisis. [..]

However, in Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, who was meeting with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said in response that Russia would join any effort to put Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons under international control and ultimately destroy them.

Mr. Lavrov appeared at a previously unscheduled briefing only hours after Mr. Kerry made his statement in London, seizing on it as a possible compromise.

Meanwhile, back on planer Washington, the White House is ramping up for an the attack by marching out National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisting that Assad must be punished because somehow he is a threat to national security. Of course she offered no proof that it was the Assad government that used the CW and completely ignored the Russian/Syrian offer to put whatever chemical weapons are in the governments possession under international control.

A saner minded Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she would “welcome” the offer.

“I believe that Russia can be most effective in encouraging the Syrian president to stop any use of chemical weapons and place all his chemical munitions, as well as storage facilities, under United Nations control until they can be destroyed,” Feinstein said in a statement Monday afternoon.

It would be nice to hear the same from the White House.

Sep 09 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: The Wonk Gap

On Saturday, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming delivered the weekly Republican address. He ignored Syria, presumably because his party is deeply conflicted on the issue. (For the record, so am I.) Instead, he demanded repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “The health care law,” he declared, “has proven to be unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable,” and he predicted “sticker shock” in the months ahead.

So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Mr. Barrasso’s remarks were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on health costs has been good. So Mr. Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that?

Well, one likely answer is that he hasn’t heard any of the good news. Think about it: Who would tell him?

New York Times Editorial Board: Spying on Muslims

The New York City Police Department’s indefensible program of spying on law-abiding Muslims in their neighborhoods and houses of worship has turned out to be even more aggressive than earlier reports had shown. [..]

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly responded to the A.P. report by insisting that everything the department does is legal and effective. But the fresh details contain important evidence for pending civil rights lawsuits – one charging that such surveillance violates court-imposed standards that now govern police surveillance activities and others alleging unconstitutional violations of religious exercise rights and anti-Muslim discrimination.

The new information further confirms the wisdom of the City’s Council’s approval of a law (and override of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto) to establish a police inspector general who can serve as a check against police abuses in the future.

Robert Kuttner: Will the Fed Kill the Recovery?

For decades, you could always count on the Federal Reserve to pull the plug on prosperity too soon, seeing ghosts of inflation everywhere. The Fed, responsive as it was to creditors, preferred a dose of recession to any sort of price pressures, especially wage increases.

That changed with the regimes of Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. [..]

Which brings us to the final act of the drama of Larry Summers versus Janet Yellen, soon to be resolved by President Obama (or perhaps, if Obama appoints Summers to chair the Fed, it could be resolved by the US Senate.)

Summers is more the inflation hawk of the two. He is also more of a light regulation man. If he gets the job, the Fed is likely to pull back from its low interest rate policy, with little improvement in the regulatory process.

Yellen, by contrast, has spoken out on the need for the Fed to keep doing what’s necessary to stimulate a stronger recovery, and to offset the easy money with tough regulation. Wall Street, not surprisingly, prefers Summers. If Summers does get the job, it will be proof positive that the Fed as servant of the bond market is reverting to type.

Robert Reich: Syria and the Reality at Home in America

While all eyes are on Syria and America’s response, the real economy in which most Americans live is sputtering.

More than four years after the recession officially ended, 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, many of them for years. Nearly 4 million have given up looking for work altogether. If they were actively looking, today’s unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent instead of 7.3 percent.

The share of the population working or seeking a job is the lowest in 35 years. The unemployment rate among high-school dropouts is 11 percent; for blacks, 12.6 percent. More than one in five American children face hunger, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Larry Summers Confirmation Hearing Would Be a Political Nightmare

The selection of the next Federal Reserve chair is no longer just a matter of policy or personnel. It has also become a test of the Administration’s ability to respond pragmatically when confronted with evidence that its preferred course of action would be costly, damaging and potentially futile.

The President and his team have been pushing economist Lawrence Summers for the post all summer long. That’s led to an extraordinary level of pushback – from Senators, members of the party base, the New York Times, and Summers’ fellow economists. (There have been some Summers defenders as well – although, as Dean Baker notes. they’ve received a disproportionate level of press coverage.)

Norman Solomon: The Repetition Compulsion for War — and How It Might Fail This Time

No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is — to the extent we’re not numb — profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.

But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.

Doug Bandow: Stay Out of Syria’s Inferno: Americans Want Peace, Not Another War

President Barack Obama surprised most everyone in America by making the right decision and asking Congress for authority to go to war in Syria. Now Congress should make the right decision and vote no.

One of the impacts of being a superpower is that America has interests everywhere. However, most of those interests are modest, even peripheral. Conflicts and crises abound around the globe, but few significantly impact U.S. security. So it is with Syria.

The bitter civil war obviously is a human tragedy. However, the conflict is beyond repair by Washington.

Sep 09 2013

On This Day In History September 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 9 is the 252nd day of the year (253rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 113 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Congress renames the nation “United States of America”.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.

In the Congressional declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. First proposed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton  (in fact Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution). Voting on the resolution was delayed for several weeks while support for independence was consolidated. On June 11, a Committee of Five  was appointed to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The resolution was finally approved on July 2, 1776, and news of its adoption was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4.