The Times reports that the leak of the details behind the August embassy closings tipped off Al Qaeda and undermined US intel efforts:
Qaeda Plot Leak Has Undermined U.S. Intelligence
WASHINGTON — As the nation’s spy agencies assess the fallout from disclosures about their surveillance programs, some government analysts and senior officials have made a startling finding: the impact of a leaked terrorist plot by Al Qaeda in August has caused more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.
Since news reports in early August revealed that the United States intercepted messages between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, analysts have detected a sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel that the authorities were monitoring. Since August, senior American officials have been scrambling to find new ways to surveil the electronic messages and conversations of Al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives.
“The switches weren’t turned off, but there has been a real decrease in quality” of communications, said one United States official, who like others quoted spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence programs.
As to who might be trying to accomplish what with this latest story, who can tell? Is this meant to be false reassurance to Al Qaeda, a valentine to Snowden and his press enablers, or something else entirely (like, a news story...)? I would say that based purely on the timing the August 2013 details were *not* Administration self-promotion like the Obama 2012 re-election leaks.
FOR WANT OF A WORD, or ORIGINAL INTENT: I amended the previous paragraph to reverse its meaning by adding the word "not". Ooops.
I have never seen a player like this and I have never seen a farewell scene like this. Nor do I imagine I will again, although the bar has been set pretty high for the Derek Jeter farewell.
And let's nod to the very gracious Tampa Bay Rays, who have about a quarter of the Yankee attendance and a quarter of their payroll. They still need to win these games to make the playoffs but took a moment to acknowledge both Rivera and Petitte.
Glenn Kessler of the WaPo looks at the recent (and very suspect) denouement in the Yema leak case and leaps to the absurd and self-refuting conclusion that a lot of Republican critics owe Barck Obama and his 2012 reelection team a big apology.
His gist: retired FBI bomb expert Donald Satchleben leaked to the AP that the FBI was studying a new, enhanced Al Qaeda uinderwear bomb picked up as part of a reent plot. At the Administration's request the AP sat on this for a few days, then broke their story - White House reassurances notwithstanding, Al Qaeda had been hatching a plot to mark the anniversary of Bin Laden's death. Liar, liar, pants on fire? Not so fast! The Administration promptly pushed back - let's cut to Kessler's explanation, in which he quotes fellow WaPo reporter Walter Pincus:
In an effort to counter the misimpression caused by the story, John Brennan, then-White House counterterrorism chief, along with others, held backgrounders with analysts and reporters and disclosed immediately after the AP story appeared that there was no threat to the United States — in effect, no real “al-Qaeda plot” because the whole affair was run by the CIA and was thus under U.S. control.
The CIA use of a Saudi agent to get a bomb device by convincing the terrorists he would blow up an America-bound aircraft was a riveting story. But there were other goals for the operation, including finding the location in Yemen of the bomb builder.
And in the course of explaining that 'no plots against the US' meant 'no plots we didn't know about', Brennan spilled enough beans that reporters picked up on the Saudi and British involvement. Ooops.
And from all this Kessler infers that Republican critics alleged that the first leak, which suggested that the White House was lying, came from the White House. Really? And now we know that the original leak didn't come from there, so they should all apologize.
Let's not hold our breath. Kessler explains the role of John Brennan in the overly expansive briefing and quotes from his later confirmation hearing:
This became an issue in Brennan’s confirmation hearing to be CIA director, and so he provided written answers for the record about the briefing (starting on page 18.) Asked if he would have changed his briefing, Brennan said no and added: “Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with Government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al-Qaeda plot.”
Imperative? Said who? Actually, that was asked and answered in the hearing, but Kessler left this bit out:
Q: In retrospect, if you could go back and change what you said in that interview would you, and If so, how? Why was it insufficient to simply say that the U.S. government successfully interdicted or disrupted an al Qaeda plot?
A: No. Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with Government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al Qa’ida plot.
Q: Who instructed you to conduct the call and how were the participants selected?
A: The White House press office asked me to conduct the call to ensure the American people appropriately understood the current threat environment. The White House press office selected the participants.
They pushed back too hard in the course of sparing themselves a bit of awkwardness during the campaign. Like the critics said.
Tom Blumer of PJMedia illustrates the Obamacare "wedding tax" under which Obamacare subsidies are much less generous for married couples than for those shacking up together. Left unmentioned - in a family with one working spouse, employer-sponsored coverage will be judged as "affordable" based on individual, not family coverage.
Working class marriage is already circling the drain in this country, so progressive proponents of alternative lifestyles will cheer the structure of ObamaCare.
Let's close with some timeless financial planning advice from the 60's.
Former F.B.I. Agent Pleads Guilty in Leak to A.P.
WASHINGTON — A former F.B.I. agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen last year, the Justice Department announced Monday. In a twist, the former agent had already been under investigation in a separate child pornography case, and he has also agreed to a guilty plea in it.
That is a heck of a plot twist. The Times provides some details:
Federal investigators said they were able to identify the man, Donald Sachtleben, a former bomb technician, as a suspect in the leak case only after secretly obtaining A.P. reporters’ phone logs, a move that set off an uproar among journalists and members of Congress of both parties when it was disclosed in May.
Yeah, yeah, they needed the very broad subpoena, or so they say:
Nearly a year later, in May 2013, the Justice Department disclosed that after the F.B.I. had interviewed more than 550 officials and been unable to solve the case, investigators secretly used subpoenas to telephone companies to obtain calling records for 20 lines associated with A.P. bureaus and reporters. The scope and secrecy of the subpoenas outraged journalism organizations and lawmakers of both parties, who accused the department of going too far.
But what about the child pornography?
The Justice Department said the phone records had proved crucial in identifying Mr. Sachtleben as a suspect. In a bizarre coincidence, investigators then discovered that other law enforcement officials had already seized his computer and other electronic materials in an unrelated child pornography investigation.
In a bizarre coincidence they already had his computer and had searched it for kiddie porn but never noticed the classified info reportedly stored on it. Really? Or had they noticed the classified intel but were troubled by their lack of a plausible warrant authorizing a search for it?
Eventually the pieces fell into place for these fortunate investigators:
“Sachtleben was identified as a suspect in the case of this unauthorized disclosure only after toll records for phone numbers related to the reporter were obtained through a subpoena and compared to other evidence collected during the leak investigation,” the Justice Department said. “This allowed investigators to obtain a search warrant authorizing a more exhaustive search of Sachtleben’s cellphone, computer and other electronic media, which were in the possession of federal investigators due to the child pornography investigation.”
A court filing said agents discovered evidence that he had stored classified intelligence information on the computer without authorization, leading to a separate charge under the Espionage Act.
The timing of the kiddie porn case was extraordinary:
The court filing said that he met one of the A.P. reporters, identified only as Reporter A, in 2009, and that in the following years he helped the journalist with information about bomb-related issues.
One court filing quoted text messages in which the reporter reached out to Mr. Sachtleben on April 30, 2012, after ABC News reported that Mr. Asiri might have been working on bombs that could be surgically implanted. Mr. Sachtleben and the reporter exchanged several text messages, quoted in the court filing, speculating about the ABC report. As it turns out, the contractor was about to take a trip to Quantico. On May 2, he visited the lab where the underwear device was being examined, it said, and soon called the reporter.
Two and a half hours later, the court filing said, two A.P. reporters began calling government officials saying they knew that the United States government had intercepted a bomb from Yemen and that the F.B.I. was analyzing it.
The next day, May 3, 2012, law enforcement agents in Indiana, working on an unrelated case involving the distribution of child pornography on the Internet, obtained a search warrant for Mr. Sachtleben’s house, court filings show. They seized his computers on May 11.
So in the world being presented by the Justice Department and the Times, government officials became aware of an important leak when reporters began calling on May 2 2012 but only tracked the initial leak back to Schachtleben a year later.
So in a slightly different world from the one described by the Times, worried intelligence officials found out almost immediately who the AP reporter had recently spoken with that might have compromised the Yemen probe (which involved British and Saudi intelligence in an operation that was ongoing as of May 2, so the US leak was a potential international embarrassment).
And the next day the improbable kiddie porn raid shuts the guy up. Seriously - a guy with 25 years with the FBI was trading kiddie porn under the crafty account of "email@example.com"? Hide in plain sight has been done.
Well. The Feds stifled him with the trumped-up kiddie porn charge and waited for the leak investigators to uncover a publicly plausible trail to the truth. But a year later, the leak investigation remained stalled. So, the AP subpoena, the new search warrants for the already-seized computer, et voila. All very above-board, and who will doubt it?
Meanwhile, the Times slides right past an obvious question - Sachtleben may have leaked to the AP about the fact that the Yemen bomb was in the possession of the FBI (original story), but it was in follow-ups that the leaks about the Saudi/British double agent were published. To be fair, the Times probably won't be aggressively investigating other news agencies leaks, but still, here is the timeline they present:
On May 7, 2012, The A.P. broke the news that the bomb plot had been disrupted, setting off further disclosures.
That evening, Richard A. Clarke, a former Clinton administration national security official who had been briefed on the case by John O. Brennan, then the top White House counterterrorism official and now the C.I.A. director, said the plot never came close to being carried out because it was under “insider control” by intelligence officials.
Soon, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times [link] and other news organizations reported that the would-be suicide bomber in the operation had been a double agent.
So a possibility is that Sachtleben tipped the AP to the existence of the bomb plot. Other officials then disclosed during their victory lap that the Brits and Saudis had been involved. And now Sachtleben takes the fall for everything, and why not, since he is dealer in kiddie porn anyway? That saves Eric Holder from having to figure out who at Obama 2012 the White House might have leaked the follow-up details and saves the press from yet another nasty investigation, so win-win-win. [US N&WR says this investigation is not over, but probably over; the double agent leaker was Richard Clarke, so move on:
The story that prompted the probe was a May 7, 2012, report by The Associated Press, which revealed the White House and Department of Homeland Security incorrectly claimed there was no credible terror threat on the anniversary of bin Laden's death. In truth, there was a terror plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airplane using a difficult-to-detect bomb.
But the arguably more damaging piece of information – that an undercover agent had infiltrated Yemen's al-Qaida affiliate – was actually disclosed by Richard Clarke, a former official in the Clinton administration, after the initial May 7 article.
Clarke, Reuters reported, was provided the information by then-Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, who briefed former government officials before they went on TV to discuss the plot.
Neither man has been charged with committing a crime. Brennan now serves as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and unnamed White House officials vehemently denied to Reuters he improperly disclosed classified information.
"This is a really complex investigation and we do have additional steps that we're taking," a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the leak probe told U.S. News.
"THEY'RE ALL INSANE": The Sachtleben arrest was so unlikely on its face that back in the day it was linked to the bizarre disappearance of FBI agent Stephen Ivens. However, the source of the link is the EU Times, which has no credibility, and Sorcha Fall, aka Source Fail.
Knowing what we know now about the capabilites of the NSA, I think it is entirely plausible that they identified the Sachtleben/Yemen leak connection immediately and then felt obliged to conceal their knowledge. As to why he is not fighting the kiddie porn charges, its because they have him on other serious stuff. Well, maybe. Or maybe we have been told the full truth and nothing but the truth.
The NY Times casts a dubious eye on the new health provider networks created under ObamaCare:
Lower Health Insurance Premiums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices
By Robert Pear
WASHINGTON — Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers.
From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.
When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount. To hold down costs, insurers say, they have created smaller networks of doctors and hospitals than are typically found in commercial insurance. And those health care providers will, in many cases, be paid less than what they have been receiving from commercial insurers.
Some consumer advocates and health care providers are increasingly concerned. Decades of experience with Medicaid, the program for low-income people, show that having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers.
And in the final paragraphs the Times describes a very subtle end-run around the new pre-existing conditions rule:
Even though insurers will be forbidden to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, they could subtly discourage the enrollment of sicker patients by limiting the size of their provider networks.
“If a health plan has a narrow network that excludes many doctors, that may shoo away patients with expensive pre-existing conditions who have established relationships with doctors,” said Mark E. Rust, the chairman of the national health care practice at Barnes & Thornburg, a law firm. “Some insurers do not want those patients who, for medical reasons, require a broad network of providers.”
On the other hand, one way to drive down costs is to utilize low-cost providers:
But many insurers see advantages in narrow networks, saying they can steer patients to less expensive doctors and hospitals that provide high-quality care.
Time will tell, unless implementation can be delayed.,
The State Dept says no worries:
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that "our goal is to see forward momentum" by Saturday, not the full list. "We've never said it was a hard and fast deadline."
But the LA Times uncharitably harkens back a day or so:
Secretary of State John F. Kerry had described the date as the first of several "specific timelines" that would indicate whether Syria is committed to the deal that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had worked out.
"We agreed that Syria must submit within a week — not in 30 days, but in one week — a comprehensive listing," Kerry said Saturday. He said the U.S. would allow "no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance."
Well, there are no games - they just aren't going to to do it.
The Wednesday State Dept press briefing is kind of amusing - the press wasn't buying the "not a missed deadline" idea, but the State Dept wasn't selling anything else.
Karl Rove lines up with establishment Republicans against the defunding ObamaCare "strategy". He's right, but not extreme right, so this will fall on deaf ears.
MORE: Jeffrey Lord of TAS exhorts Republicans to draw with bold colors. While avoiding red lines, I presume.
THIS JUST IN: Obama making stuff up? Next they'll us the sun rises in the... east, right?
The NY Times declares a new direction in the gun control debate:
Mental Health Again an Issue in Gun Debate
WASHINGTON — Despite deep divisions that have kept Congress from passing new gun safety laws for almost two decades, there is one aspect of gun control on which many Democrats, Republicans and even the National Rifle Association agree: the need to give mental health providers better resources to treat dangerous people and prevent them from buying weapons.
So far, so good - treat the mentally ill and prevent them from buying weapons. But watch how one of those cards gets palmed two paragraphs later:
The new debate over gun control is beginning to turn not on weapons or ammunition, but on the question of whether to spend more money on treating and preventing mental illness.
What happened to improved reporting to prevent gun purchases by the mentally ill?
We then veer off to la-la land:
“Given the clear connection between recent mass shootings and mental illness, the Senate should not delay bipartisan legislation that would help address this issue,” Senators Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, and Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, wrote Wednesday in a joint statement to the Senate leadership. The legislation they are pushing, which was held up when a more sweeping gun measure was defeated earlier this year, would establish programs to train teachers to recognize the signs of mental illness and how to defuse potentially violent situations.
Adam Lanza of Newtown and Aaron Alexis of the Navy Yard were not disgruntled students. Jared Loughner of the Tucson shooting had been diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia, so a lack of alert teachers wasn't the issue there, either.
La-la or not, Harry Reid is holding mental health provisions hostage:
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a strong proponent of the failed Senate plan to expand the federal background check system, is resisting any move to advance the mental health provisions, fearing that it would be used as a fig leaf by those who oppose expanded checks while closing the door to weapons restrictions in the future. Both Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Begich opposed the gun control bill that failed in April.
Playing politics while people die.
FWIW, New York state included expanded mental health reporting in their recent hastily-conceived post-Newton gun laws, to some controversy.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: This Dec 2012 Gallup poll (post-Newton) headlined mental health:
To Stop Shootings, Americans Focus on Police, Mental Health
Democrats substantially more likely to see assault gun ban as effective
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are most likely to say that an increased police presence at schools, increased government spending on mental health screening and treatment, and decreased depiction of gun violence in entertainment venues would be effective in preventing mass shootings at schools. Americans rate the potential effectiveness of a ban on assault and semi-automatic guns as fourth on a list of six actions Gallup asked about.
Mental health? The mentally ill are victims, and hence clients of the left. As to violent entertainment, Hollywood is one of their piggy banks. And we do have free speech rights, sort of like we also have gun rights, except only one of those counts with Obama.
And in this old post, Connecticut is still grappling with a mental health response to Newton. A state task force is due to report in Feb 2014.
The Fed is going to taper the tiny taper right down to zero, sending stocks, bonds and gold soaring. When Kerry talked about "unbelievably small", who knew he meant the next Fed move?
Paul Krugman gets results!
This week the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee — the group of men and women who set U.S. monetary policy — will be holding its sixth meeting of 2013. At the meeting’s end, the committee is widely expected to announce the so-called “taper” — a slowing of the pace at which it buys long-term assets.
Memo to the Fed: Please don’t do it. True, the arguments for a taper are neither crazy nor stupid, which makes them unusual for current U.S. policy debate. But if you think about the balance of risks, this is a bad time to be doing anything that looks like a tightening of monetary policy.
Summers is over and the doves have the reins (Doves can handle horses? Metaphor Madness!). I think Krugman is right about this, but let me fervently add - I hope he is right.
As we learned last spring, "gun violence" includes homicides and suicides when progressives want to hype the national crisis; when the topic turns to violence committed by the mentally ill, suicide drops out of the mix and "mentally ill" is defined as narrowly as possible to exclude the (common) dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse.
I am not sure "as many as two" is what they meant to present:
As many as two shooters, including one in fatigues, killed at least four people and wounded eight others in a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities tried to contain the incident.
Initial reports were marked by confusion, but by late morning, police said at least one of the shooters was “down.” It was unclear whether that means the suspect was in custody, wounded or dead. They said that another suspect may have been was pinned down in a building on the installation in Southeast Washington near Nationals Park.
"Another suspect" may have been pinned down? That suggests that perhaps no one was there, but also leaves open the possibility that one or more than one person was there.
WAPO UPDATE: Three shooters.
At least nine people are dead after as many as three shooters dressed in military style uniforms opened fire in a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities tried to contain the incident.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said in a mid-day news conference that one of the suspected shooters is dead, while authorities are looking for two other suspects wearing green and tan military style clothing.
After weeks of opposition to his candidacy from an array of progressives, the president’s inability to rally Congressional Democrats on Syria persuaded Mr. Summers that his most important audience — the Senate, which must confirm a Fed chairman — probably could not be won over.
He concluded that the White House was also unlikely to overcome opposition to his candidacy from many of the same Democrats, who view him as an opponent of stronger financial regulation, according to supporters who insisted on anonymity to describe confidential conversations with him.
“Clearly Obama couldn’t bring his own most enthusiastic supporters to back him on an issue of national security,” one supporter said. “How was he going to corral them for Larry?”
Hmm... maybe if Obama had threatened to drop Summers on Syria... naahh.
Obama has lost his mojo, the Times goes on to reveal:
The embarrassing setback reveals an administration increasingly hamstrung by occasional opposition of liberal Democrats, not just its familiar Republican opponents. It adds to the rocky nature of Mr. Obama’s fifth year, following the failure of a gun-rights bill, the stalling of an immigration overhaul and the lack of progress on a budget deal, on top of the back-and-forth over whether to conduct airstrikes in Syria to punish the Assad regime for a poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians.
Three more years! At least one is bound to be better than this, just by dumb luck. But while we await the resuts of the search for the missing mojo, Politico notes that being a friend of Barry ain't what it used to be:
President Obama does friends no favors
Barack Obama’s got a knack for turning trial balloons into piñatas, and then leaving his allies to pick up the mess.
The pattern: He floats a buddy for a top job early, deliberates long enough for the opposition to gather steam, defends his pal too late to do any good and then regretfully accepts defeat.
First it was Susan Rice, his choice for secretary of state. Now, Larry Summers has withdrawn from consideration to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Their candidacies were so poorly handled that neither ever made it to the stage of being nominated, much less getting blocked — or voted down — by the Senate.
The NY Times continues to probe the vast power of Wall Street with an article an tradeable ethanol credits (aka 'RIN'), which are tied to the blending of ethanol into gasoline. Their gist - Big Oil lacked the market power and political savvy to fend off the predators of Wall Street and now needs our help as they stick up the little guy stick-up for the little guy at the pump. I kid you not.
Careful readers of the story (a group that seems to exclude Times editors) will learn that the real problem is a poorly designed market for ethanol credits. Apparently, blame can be assigned to Bush and Congressional Democrats, although I note that Bush has been gone for a while and someone new is at 1600. The Department of Energy chimed in last June with a very different take from the Times as well. Interested folks might also peruse this Bloomberg story or this Biofuels Digest long look at the politics of reform or repeal.
Let me try to extract the key bits from the Times story:
The federal government created the market in special credits tied to ethanol eight years ago when it required refiners to mix ethanol into gasoline or buy credits from companies that do so. The idea was to push refiners to use the cleaner, renewable fuel, or force them to buy the credits.
The market design barely nodded to the laws of chemistry and physics:
As a result, refiners this year began hitting what is known as “the blend wall,” meaning that the amount of ethanol the government is requiring them to use is close to the maximum amount that can be blended into gasoline without creating problems for gas stations and motorists.
Distributing gasoline with greater levels of ethanol is more costly and corrodes gas station pumps and tanks. Raising the ethanol level in gasoline, therefore, would require gas stations across America to install new systems. Therefore, refiners have turned to RINs to meet their government obligations rather than blend more ethanol into gasoline.
So there is a practical limit to the maximum amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, and that will depend on the total amount of gasoline consumed. And since RINs are created by blending physical ethanol with physical gasoline, if less blending occurs fewer credits will be generated.
So how did the bright lights in Washington handle that?
The RINs story began in 2005, when the Bush administration joined Democrats in Congress to pass an energy bill mandating renewable fuel standards. That law was broadened in 2007 to establish requirements for the amount of biofuel to be blended into gasoline annually through 2022. This year, refiners and importers are required to blend 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol, up from 13.2 billion last year. For 2014, the figure is 14.4 billion.
But the estimates Congress used about how much gas Americans would keep buying were wrong. When the biofuel credits were created, gasoline consumption was projected to grow 6 percent by 2013. But thanks in large part to the recession and more fuel-efficient cars, consumption has actually fallen.
So gas consumption is down, which seems like a win for the Green Team. But the law is written as if reduced gasoline consumption is a defeat, since it requires refiners to mix in a total amount of ethanol that would only make sense if aggregate gas consumption was much higher. The result is a predictable combination of higher prices for the credits and squealing from the market participants seeking regulatory relief. The Times has a graph of the price action here; the prospect of regulatory relief for 2014 has brought prices down. The E.P.A. seems to grasp the problem:
Officials at the E.P.A. do not see excessive influence by financial speculators. They suggest the price spikes in RINs this year reflect the expectation of a shortage of the credits because rising renewable fuel mandates are occurring as consumer demand for gasoline is falling. “The market is expecting this future scarcity as the statutory mandates continue to increase,” Mr. Grundler said.
Most of the article blames Wall Street for this and that, because we all know that Big Oil is a pitiful, helpless giant whose players are fundamentally motivated by philanthropy.
Even beyond the likely rise in gasoline prices, critics of the RINs market say it is deeply flawed, and they do not share Ms. Oge’s optimistic takeaway of this year’s market frenzy.
First, by allowing anyone to trade, including those with no real interest in energy, the E.P.A. encouraged speculation, the critics say. Second, the market operates largely in the dark, leaving it vulnerable to manipulation. Third, and perhaps most significant, the federal requirement for ethanol in gasoline means oil companies are captive buyers — meaning they are required to buy the credits when they do not or cannot blend their own fuel — a fact that savvy traders use to their advantage.
First, what is "speculation"? Anyone, including Wall Street firms and energy market participants, could have foreseen a problem when gasoline consumption fell well below projections without an offsetting reduction in ther requirement for blending credits. A shortage of credits was utterly predictable, from which it followed that price hikes, complaints of hoarding, and lacklustere reporting were all utterly predictable.
The utter opacity of the market is not helpful and the EPA ought to address that. One wonders whether a formal futures market could be sustained; my guess is that this RIN market is too artificial and subject to regulatory whim, but who am I?
As to "the federal requirement for ethanol in gasoline means oil companies are captive buyers", well, yeah. The link between total gasoline consumed and total ethanol blended ought to be rethought. Having a target based on projections from 2007 that are already obsolete seems to be sub-optimal. Unless part of the goal was to assure the ongoing vakue of the professional politican fix-it class.
And help may be on the way, based on this recent rerport:
In contrast, in 2014, EPA acknowledges that the carryover credits likely will not be sufficient to avoid the blend wall, as the statutory volume requirement increases significantly. EPA states that it will propose adjustments to the 2014 volume requirements, and that it believes it has the “authorities and tools needed to address these challenges.” However, EPA does not specify the measures it will take. In addition to EPA’s authority to reduce cellulosic and advanced biofuel volumes, and the resulting total renewable fuel volume, EPA has statutory authority to grant a waiver of the total renewable fuel requirements themselves, if EPA determines there will be severe economic hardship. EPA has denied prior petitions for waivers with language that sets a high bar for making the hardship determination. In light of that precedent, the increasing volumetric requirements of the statue and continuing decrease in gasoline demand, it is not clear how much relief EPA will be able to provide without overriding its own precedent.
And this is kind of funny, for those who find this sort of thing funny. Note the orderly market regulation (my emphasis):
Last week EPA finalized the Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS”) levels for 2013. Although EPA missed the statutory deadline of November 30, 2012, for setting levels for the 2013 RFS, EPA notes that the statute does not provide any penalty for missing the deadline, nor does it remove the general requirements of the RFS if the deadline is missed. In light of the significant delay, EPA has extended the deadline for obtaining sufficient credits for gallons of ethanol equivalent fuels (known by the term Renewable Identification Number, or RIN) from February 28 to June 30, 2014. EPA also intends to meet the statutory deadline of November 30, 2013 for the 2014 standards, and therefore will have released the 2014 standards well in advance of the 2013 compliance deadline. This will allow obligated parties to make informed decisions about their 2013 compliance strategies, such as whether to use banked RINs, or save certain RIN categories for 2014 compliance.
So by August 2013 the EPA had finalized the rules for 2013, a mere nine months late. Whatever.
Selected smart diplomacy snippets:
GENEVA — The United States and Russia have reached an agreement that calls for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.
Did either side blink?
WASHINGTON — President Obama will not insist on a United Nations Security Council resolution threatening Syria with military action, senior administration officials said Friday, as American and Russian negotiators meeting in Geneva moved closer to an agreement that would seek to ultimately strip Syria of its chemical weapons.
A significant sign of movement at the United Nations came when the Obama administration effectively took force off the table in discussions over the shape of a Security Council resolution governing any deal with Syria. Although Mr. Obama reserved the right to order an American military strike without the United Nations’ backing if Syria reneges on its commitments, senior officials said he understood that Russia would never allow a Security Council resolution authorizing force.
How do Assad's opponents feel about that?
Much of the Syrian opposition is bitter about President Obama’s decision to shelve the threat of military action and to negotiate with Russia, which is a major arms supplier to the Assad government.
But Mr. Obama’s decision to concede the point early in talks underscored his desire to forge a workable diplomatic compromise and avoid a strike that would be deeply unpopular at home. It came just days after France, his strongest supporter on Syria, proposed a resolution that included a threat of military action.
And Turkey is a NATO member bordering Syria. Does this affect Prime Minister Erdogan?
On Thursday, Mr. Erdogan, a strong advocate for military intervention in the Syrian war, reacted angrily to the United States’ decision to delay a military strike there — a decision analysts said had left Mr. Erdogan more politically vulnerable at home.
This week, as Mr. Obama announced he was delaying strikes, the decision seemed to catch Mr. Erdogan by surprise. After volunteering to take part in any military coalition, and advocating a sustained intervention that he hoped would cause the collapse of the Syrian government, diplomatic maneuvering by Russia had left Mr. Assad, for the moment at least, comfortably in power. And it left a central plank of Mr. Erdogan’s foreign policy in disarray.
Cengiz Candar, a Turkish political columnist, said the American decision amounted to an “embarrassment” for Mr. Erdogan, especially given his other recent setbacks.
Surprising and disappointing our allies while accomodating our adversaries - I don't know how much more smart diplomacy we can handle. Yet Obama has barely placated the anti-war left that propelled him to power. Well, riding the tiger is a lot easier than dismounting it.
AlterNet drops a George Zimmerman bombshell that seems to be of their own manufacture:
Trayvon Martin's Medical Examiner: Prosecution Threw the Case
Dr. Shiping Bao, the Volusia County medical examiner who was in charge of handling slain-teenager Trayvon Martin's body in February 2012, has come out and claimed that the prosecution team was biased against the African-American teenager, and intentionally lost the case.
According to Bao's attorney, Willie Gary, the medical examiner's office, the state attorney's office and the Sanford Police's "general attitude was that [Martin] got what he deserved. He was in essence told to zip his lips. 'Shut up. Don't say those things.'" Dr. Bao is speaking out in the wake of having been fired from the m.e.'s office, and is planning a $100 million lawsuit against the State of Florida.
So far that could havce been taken from this WFTV report. However, Rod Bastanmehr of Alternet then breaks news reported nowhere else:
According to the former assistant coroner, the results of Martin's autopsy clearly showed that, despite Zimmerman's statements regarding their altercation, there was no feasible way for Martin to have been on top of Zimmerman when the gun was fired, because the bullet entered Martin's back.
WFTV did not report on that shot-in-the-back allegation. They described the doctor's suit with this:
[Attorney] Gary said prosecutors never asked
Dr. Bao a question crucial to their case.
"He wanted a question that would have allowed him to explain to the jury with scientific evidence how there was no way Trayvon Martin could have been on top of George Zimmerman," Gary said.
Gary does not describe that evidence to WFTV. Nor, IMHO, does the evidence exist - Bao's coroner report was clear as to Martin being shot in the chest, and two other experts went back and forth as to whether Martin was on top.
On Tuesday, Di Maio told jurors that he agrees with a state crime lab expert, Amy Siewert, who testified last week that the muzzle of Zimmerman's 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was touching Trayvon's hoodie when the defendant fired.
But gunpowder marks on Trayvon's skin, when compared with his clothes, tell a more complicated story, he said.
Every time a bullet is fired, gunpowder flies from the gun barrel in the shape of a cone. Shots from a very close proximity leave a small circle of gunpowder tattoos. Those two to four inches away leave one about the size found on Trayvon's chest, he said.
"If you lean over, you'll notice the clothes tend to fall away from your chest," di Maio said, leaning down in his chair on the witness stand to demonstrate. "We know the cloth is two to four inches away, consistent with somebody leaning over somebody doing the shooting."
Here is USA Today describing Ms. Siewert's testimony:
Siewert also found evidence that the muzzle of Zimmerman's gun was touching Trayvon's sweatshirt when the fatal shot was fired. When pressed by lawyers, Siewert said she couldn't say whether the gun was pressed or lightly touching the fabric, only that the gun was touching Trayvon's clothing.
Evidently the fired medical examiner hopes to cash in on the Trayvon Martin hustle. Clearly there is a deep market for anything suggesting Zimmerman is guilty of premeditated murder (cf AlterNet), so the legal entrepeneurs are circling.
Yet again our honey-tongued President will have an opportunity to present an unpopular case to a distrustful public:
Poll: 44 percent of Americans oppose raising debt ceiling
Americans overwhelmingly do not think Congress should raise the nation’s debt limit as President Barack Obama and Congress prepare once again to wage battle over the issue, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
By a 44-22 percent margin, Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling, which again puts the president in the difficult position of needing to make the case for an unpopular policy with a deadline quickly approaching.
Hmm. I wonder whether 44 percent of the public favors eating in a restaurant and then refusing to pay when the check is presented. The article does note that Obama et al were able to swing the public in 2011:
McInturff also points out that the president has the capability to frame a public debate in ways that can reshape attitudes about an issue.
Indeed, the June 2011 NBC/WSJ poll showed 39 percent opposing raising the debt ceiling, versus 28 percent who supported it. But a month later – after the issue received more attention – those numbers flipped: 38 percent favored raising it, while 31 percent opposed it.
To be fair, this poll question may be far too simplistic. A case could be made (and some Republicans are making it) that the debt ceiling should only be raised as part of a broader deal addressing future deficits; Team Obama is currently insisting that budget deals can't be linked to the debt ceiling. So maybe some of the 44% oppose an unconditional increase in the debt ceiling.
However, as much as I am disinclined to agree with Obama, if the threat to default is credible then it is crazy; if it is not credible, then it is Obama-esque (although I suppose Tea Partiers could insist that the world drew that red default line.)
We finally have an economy that is limping out of intensive care; this is a heck of a time to kick its crutches.
The Times covers the ongoing ObamaCare debacle, this time atthe AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles:
Unions’ Misgivings on Health Law Burst Into View
Despite overtures on both sides — with Mr. Obama agreeing on the call to sit down with some union leaders to address their concerns at the White House, and Mr. Trumka initially hoping to quash such a public rift between the president and his party’s traditional allies — labor leaders criticized the administration and Congress on Wednesday at their convention.
While praising the overall legislation, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a sharply worded resolution that demanded changes to some of its regulations, although Mr. Trumka made sure to strip out some proposals that called for repealing the legislation.
At the convention, though, several labor leaders spoke their minds.
“If the Affordable Care Act is not fixed and it destroys the health and welfare funds that we have fought for and stand for, then I believe it needs to be repealed,” said Terence M. O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “We don’t want it to be repealed. We want it to be fixed, fixed, fixed.
“We’ve had our asses kicked on retirement security and we know our health funds are under siege,” he added. “We ask the president and Congress to do the right thing for the men and women we represent.”
The resolution asserts that the law, by offering tax credits to workers seeking insurance from for-profit and other companies in the exchanges, will place some responsible employers at a competitive disadvantage and destabilize the employment-based health care system.
Unions have negotiated substantial health coverage. Under ObamaCare, however, it will be cheaper for companies to drop their coverage, give their employees raises, and let them buy coverage on the new exchanges, subsidized by Mitt Romney's sons, or the rich, or anyway Somebody Else. That makes it tough when the union structure forces its members to forego the raises and the government subsidies.
Team Obama defends itself by encouraging people to ignore basic arithmetic, insisting that one plus one no longer equals two because Obama:
The administration and health officials have repeatedly tried to assure critics that the legislation will not encourage companies to dump workers from employer-based plans into newly created health insurance exchanges, even if the employer-based coverage stands out as more generous and therefore more expensive for companies and even municipalities.
Evidently union leaders are worried that reality will prevail.
The Times eventually explains the math, which was presented at the labor convention:
Some state labor federations have passed resolutions excoriating the health law. Mr. Trumka, torn between trying not to anger the administration while mollifying some of his unions, may have headed off a full-throated call to repeal the law entirely, but some union presidents say they believe they have no other choice.
Union leaders note that under the law, workers whose family income is less than four times the poverty line will qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to obtain health insurance in the exchanges, with insurance sold by for-profit, nonprofit and cooperative companies. The union leaders say they want similar treatment — for unionized workers to qualify for those tax credits to help finance their Taft-Hartley insurance plans, which covers about 20 million workers and retirees.
“We just want to be treated like equals — we don’t want special treatment,” Mr. Taylor [president of Unite Here, a union of hotel and restaurant workers that has about 200,000 members] said. “An employer will say, ‘O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. I only pay a $2,000 penalty if I drop you. That’s an $8,000 saving for me.’ That’s actually going to happen all over this country.”
I'm sure he's right.
Two puzzles for anyone trying to get ahead of the news on Syria:
1. Is it Nobel Peace Prizes for Putin and Assad, or just Putin?
2. After If it becomes obvious that Putin and Assad are just playing word games with Obama, does Obama shock the world and regain lost mojo by actually bombing Syria without UN or Congressional sanction?
Admit it - such a prompt show of force would be bold, unexpected, and resolute. And if world leaders walked away thinking that this Obama guy is scary, that could be a feature rather than a bug. Well, maybe - as I said, its a puzzle.
COLORADO SPRINGS — Two Colorado Democrats who provided crucial support for a slate of tough new gun-control laws were voted out of office on Tuesday in a recall vote widely seen as a test of popular support for gun restrictions after mass shootings in a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.
The election, which came five months after the United States Senate defeated several gun restrictions, handed another loss to gun-control supporters. It also gave moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws.
Money talked, then walked:
While both sides campaigned vigorously, knocking on doors, holding rallies and driving voters to the polls, gun-control advocates far outspent their opponents. A range of philanthropists, liberal political groups, unions and activists raised a total of $3 million to defend Mr. Morse and Ms. Giron. Mr. Bloomberg personally gave $350,000.
It was not enough to help Mr. Morse overcome the conservative outrage that erupted this winter as Colorado’s Democratic-controlled statehouse passed several gun laws over near-unanimous opposition from Republicans and Second Amendment advocates.
It is not just peace for our time - Ezra Klein actually sees a possible White House victory on Syria!
The White House may really be about to win on Syria
Inspired by an AP report that Syria will sign the chemical weapons treaty and declare its arsenal, Ezra gets on his knees:
Assuming that sticks, it’s game. The White House just achieved its goal.
Remember: The White House’s aim here wasn’t to topple Assad, or even hurt him. It was to affirm and reinforce the international norm against chemical weapons.
Uh huh. Putin can't read the newspapers so he had no idea that the US public, the US Congress, and the international community has abandoned Obama on the military option. Unnerved by Obama's steely resolve and by Kerry's threat of an "unbelievably small" response, he forced Assad to back down. Maybe!
Or maybe not. Back when Obama was drawing red lines like a three year old with mom's Sharpie, Obama's goal was that Assad must go. The US plan was a peace conference, including Russia, that would negotiate a graceful transition to power-sharing with Assad out. Maybe Ezra has forgotten that, but I doubt Putin and Assad have.
So in the improbable scenario in which everything goes according to Ezra's current fantasy, Assad sacrifices some rarely used weapons and remains in power. Sort of a pawn sacrifice. And Putin is firmly positioned as the guy who can fend off the American dragon.
Please. Putin is playing chess while Obama is playing golf. If this is victory then our hands are too small to hold it.
UNSADDLING THE UNICORNS: The NY Times isn't playing along:
But even as the president earned praise for being willing to pursue a diplomatic response in Syria, it was what he did not say in his 16-minute address from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday night that may ultimately shape the broader reaction to his remarks in the days ahead.
The president did not say how long he would wait to see if President Bashar al-Assad relinquishes control of the chemical weapons that administration officials say he used to gas his own people.
Mr. Obama did not detail the steps that the United States would demand from Syria as proof that the diplomatic efforts were more than a delaying tactic to avoid a punishing strike from cruise missiles and American bombers.
And the president did not use his speech to describe his expectations for the role of the United Nations, which has been all but stymied by Russia and China during the two-year civil war in Syria.
if the Times isn't willing to put a favorable gloss on that, allow me - at least Obama is no longer issuing ultimatums and drawing red lines he can't or won't enforce.
MORE MUSH FROM THE WIMP: Nikes Gardiner drops the Peanut Bomb:
Barack Obama’s Syria speech was an incoherent mess – he is outperforming Jimmy Carter as the most feeble US president of modern times
There is still time for Obama to call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Russia.
Live from DC, it's Tuesday night! I can't wait to hear Obama's latest brainwave at 9 Eastern. The NY Times attempts to annotate the laughtrack and includes this:
White House speechwriters have been revising their drafts as a plan put forward by Russia for Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons has gained international support. Mr. Obama is now expected to say that the threat of military action has led to the diplomatic opening, and to urge Congress to keep the pressure on Syria even as his administration examines whether the Russian proposal is serious or a way to obstruct military action.
Yeah, its up to Congress to keep up the pressure. While Team Obama pretends the Russians and Syrians are serious.
Yesterday it was all, “Hey, this is a Munich Moment.” Today the same people are all “We’ve got a deal that means peace in our time!”
Mr. Kerry, appearing before a Congressional committee Tuesday morning, expressed caution about the diplomatic efforts even as he pledged that the president would “take a hard look at” the Russian plan in the days ahead. Mr. Kerry said any diplomatic response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria must be viewed cautiously.
“It has to be swift, it has to be real, it has to be verifiable,” Mr. Kerry told members of the House Armed Services Committee. “It cannot be a delaying tactic.”
Or else what? More red lines in invisible ink.
FROM THE NEW YORKER: Andy Borowitz has some fun:
But after the novelty of not being ignored wore off, Mr. Kerry said, the Russians’ assertion that he had said something worth paying attention to “seemed like a trick.”
“You mean to tell me that after decades of spewing mind-numbing rhetoric I all of a sudden blurted out an idea worth acting on?” he said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Hey, Kerry aced the Global Test!
Scientists blame China's diabetes epidemic — Zimmet called it a potential "apocalypse" — in large part on the country's torrid economy, which has been growing at a rate of roughly 10 percent for the past three decades. As more people become wealthier, they adopt a diet and lifestyle that makes them more susceptible to earlier onset of Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes and a disease that's closely linked to obesity.
"As the country's economy expanded quickly over the last three decades, the standards of living and lifestyles of ordinary Chinese have changed substantially," Ning told China's Xinhua news agency.
"With increased high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar and high-sodium diets, decreased physical activity and more sedentary lifestyles, all factors that could lead to weight gain, diabetes and other chronic diseases are now reaching epidemic proportions in China," he said.
The good news is that the Chinese will apply themselvs to solving this; a country with so little regard for human rights that it can impose a one-child policy ought to be able to engineer a ban sugary soft drinks. Although having said that, sugar provides instant gratification whereas raising babies can be a more uneven project... hmm, would I trade my kids for a case of Coke? Let me come back to that.
The bad news is that American pharmaceitical developers will see the same respect displayed for their intellectual property as US software developers and film-makers. Too bad - it would be nice of the Chinese consumer shouldered some of the financial burden of developing new drugs, but I don't think they will.
Per this NY Times account, John Kerry's suggestion that Syria could spare tha world a lot of aggro by unilaterally turning over its chemical weapons (a proposal Kerry promptly and premptively poo-poohed as improbable) has picked up Russian support:
[Russian foreign minister] Lavrov appeared at a previously unscheduled briefing only hours after Mr. Kerry made his statement in London, seizing on it as a possible compromise.
“We don’t know whether Syria will agree with this, but if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus,” Mr. Lavrov said at the Foreign Ministry. “And we call on the Syrian leadership to not only agree to setting the chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also to their subsequent destruction.”
Mr. Moallem said later in a statement that his government welcomed the Russian proposal, Russia’s Interfax News Agency reported, in what appeared to be the first acknowledgment by the Syrian government that it even possesses chemical weapons. The Syrian government historically has neither confirmed nor denied possessing such weapons.
I don't think Kerry is outsmarting anyone (what's unbelievably small is his common sense), so this might just be an alternative way for Syria to run out the clock as they haggle over terms.
On the other hand, Russia might be looking for a face-saving way to bring Syria a bit closer to international norms, or at least to gracefully distance themselves from them.
And it certainly gives Obama a face-saving excuse to do nothing for a few weeks. Win-win-win!
NOBODY'S FOOL: The Times is all over the four-corner ploy:
Obama administration officials have discussed the idea of presenting Mr. Assad with an ultimatum. But officials are wary of giving the Syrian leader an opportunity to play for time, and carrying out inspections to make sure the Syrian government has not retained hidden stocks of poison gas as fighting rages appeared to be a near impossibility.
LIVE IMPROV WITH J KERRY: From CNN:
But as Russia and Syria later suggested that it could be done, the State Department later sought to clarify Kerry's comment as a "rhetorical argument."
One U.S. official called Kerry's remarks a "major goof," adding that America's top diplomat "clearly went off script."
"There is no one in the administration who is taking this Syria proposal seriously," the official said.
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE! Team Obama will study the Russian proposal, Harry Reid will delay the Senate vote, and the diplomats win. Stephen Hayes explains that Team Obama will insist that it was Obama's forceful resolve that led to this happy talkfest. Uh huh - the threat of an "unbelievably small" attack focused Syrian minds.
Groan. Will it be days, weeks or months before Obama and his press lackeys are telling the world that only Obama's calm patience and steely resolve held off the warmongering Republicans? I think "days".
The NY Times is not exactly cheerleading for Obama's intervention in Syria:
Obama Falls Short on Wider Backing for Syria Attack
The Dead Tree headline is grimmer:
Obama Fails In Bid For Wide Backing For Syria Attack
Oh, dear. But French President Hollande is with us, so we'll always have Paris, oui? Mais non:
The strongest support for Mr. Obama continued to come from President François Hollande of France. But even Mr. Hollande has been under pressure in France to seek the widest possible approval at home and abroad before participating in military action, and on Friday he announced that France would await the findings of United Nations inspectors who visited the site of the Aug. 21 attack.
“We’re now going to wait for the decision by Congress,” Mr. Hollande said, “then the inspectors’ report.”
Mr. Hollande offered no explanation for his decision to await the United Nations findings, the timing of which remain uncertain, but French lawmakers have in recent days increasingly called for him to do so.
The White House explained that it's all good tres bien:
White House aides said such a position was in keeping with theirs since the Congressional debate now effectively means there will be time for the inspectors’ report before any strike.
Yeah, this is all going according to plan.
If the world isn't going to enforce the red line they drew lo these many years ago, who thinks the US Congress will? Obama's bombing isn't going to happen.
COALITION OF THE INVISIBLE UPDATE: The EU endorses waiting for the UN report.
FWIW: Classic video of John Kerry forging an unexpected alliance with victims of chemical warfare. Or something.
The First Communicater explains the principle behind a military attack on Syria:
“Gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children is not something we do,” Mr Obama said at a post-summit press conference. “It’s prohibited in active wars between countries, even more so against children, and we’ve got to stand up for that principle.”
Syria is engaged in a civil war, not an "active war between countries". I don't have the background of a Smart Diplomat but it seems that the 1925 Geneva Accords banned the use of chemical weapons between warring countries and was silent on their internal use. However, norms have evolved and subsequent treaties now ban the production and stockpiling of these weapons, which makes their use in any context a treaty violation, since you can't use what you can't have.
The use of chemical weapons is very clearly prohibited in international law under a number of different legal instruments. Syria is not a party to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which unequivocally prohibits chemical weapons use (and other activities) under any circumstances. However, in 1968, Syria acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare.
Syria’s adherence to the Geneva Protocol may have led the Assad regime to think twice about using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians – in what has now been declared a ‘non-international armed conflict’ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – even if the treaty was originally intended to cover international conflicts. The ICRC concluded in 2005 that customary international humanitarian law includes a ban on the use of chemical weapons in internal as well as international conflicts, and an appellate chamber in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) noted in 1995, in Prosecutor v. Tadic, that ‘there had undisputedly emerged a general consensus in the international community on the principle that the use of chemical weapons is also prohibited in internal armed conflicts’.
Which is fine by me. And if I were explaining the principle by which Syria was violating international norms I would not include a puzzling qualifier about "active wars between countries". Chemical weapons are evil and the world has banned their use - is that too complicated?
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders -- could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.
"We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks," Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.
"Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein's monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it's people," she said.
Iran was going to turn on Syria and embrace the policies of the Great Satan? Putin was going to take his thumb out of Obama's eye? Does that sound naive? Well, yes, and Ms. Soft Power said so a bit later in her speech:
The international system that was founded in 1945 —a system we designed specifically to respond to the kinds of horrors we saw play out in World War II—has not lived up to its promise or its responsibilities in the case of Syria. And it is naive to think that Russia is on the verge of changing its position and allowing the UN Security Council to assume its rightful role as the enforcer of international peace and security.
The timing of her conversion is unclear - was it naive to think Russia might change its policies six months ago, or does she think the naivete only became obvious with recent developments?
It must be tough being that brilliant.
From TIME Magazine:
Foreign Policy Failures
AMERICAN prestige is eroding around the world because of [The President's] weak leadership.
A recent Time magazine article quotes an unnamed U.S. official regarding "scathing" criticism of leaders in Britain, France, Germany and Japan: "They see us as in disarray. As not leading. As having a weak foreign policy team. We're unreliable. We make strong statements of principle about what we'll do, and then we back down. " That attitude is shared by much of the American public. Less than half of those polled in April thought [the President] was doing a good job handling foreign policy....
Columnist Morton Kondracke says [the President's] problem is that "again and again, he has threatened to take a strong position somewhere in the world, only to back off...." In The Wall Street Journal, Karen Elliot House compared Clinton with Theodore Roosevelt, whose maxim was "Speak softly and carry a big stick. " She writes: "America... is led by a president whose maxim appears to be 'Speak loudly and carry a twig. ' "
[The President] seems to assume that Americans don't care much about foreign policy. Kondracke notes: "But they will care if U.S. weakness encourages a foreign adversary to commit aggression in a place that triggers large-scale losses of American lives. "
Did you guess that was about Jimmy Peanut? YOU LOSE! That was a description of Hillarity's Hubby from early in his mal-Administration, 1994 in fact. Eventually Wild Bill found his footing, or at least, Republicans found Bob Dole, and the feckless "pursuit" of Bin Laden followed.
The NY Times tells us that the NSA has been very successful at bypassing the various encryption technologies we all take for granted. The story is kind of a big deal:
Intelligence officials asked The Times and ProPublica not to publish this article, saying it might prompt foreign targets to switch to new forms of encryption or communications that would be harder to collect or read. The news organizations removed some specific facts but decided to publish the article because of the value of a public debate about government actions that weaken the most powerful privacy tools.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.
The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.
Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.
The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.
The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP: Churchill talked of an alliance of the English speaking nations. The Times includes this detail about intelligence sharing:
The full extent of the N.S.A.’s decoding capabilities is known only to a limited group of top analysts from the so-called Five Eyes: the N.S.A. and its counterparts in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Only they are cleared for the Bullrun program, the successor to one called Manassas — both names of an American Civil War battle. A parallel GCHQ counterencryption program is called Edgehill, named for the first battle of the English Civil War of the 17th century.
Peggy Noonan has a headline so good I haven't even read the rest:
Noonan: Why America Is Saying 'No'
Syria and Obama: Wrong time, wrong place, wrong plan, wrong man.
But a nice suit. Empty, but nice. I'll just snip this:
Is Barack Obama a war president? On Syria he has done nothing to inspire confidence. Up to the moment of decision, and even past it, he has seemed ambivalent, confused, unaware of the implications of his words and stands. From the "red line" comment to the "shot across the bow," from the White House leaks about the nature and limits of a planned strike to the president's recent, desperate inclusion of Congress, he has seemed consistently over his head. I have been thinking of the iconic image of American military leadership, Emanuel Leutze's painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware." There Washington stands, sturdy and resolute, looking toward the enemy on the opposite shore. If you imagine Mr. Obama in that moment he is turned, gesturing toward those in the back. "It's not my fault we're in this boat!" That's what "I didn't set a red line" and "My credibility is not at stake" sounded like.
And looked like.
No, Obama is not George Washington.
Pro-Israel groups are lining up behind Obama's push to authorize a pinprick wristslap something or other on Syria. Part of the rationale is this:
Jewish groups said their concern was that a failure to take action against Syria would send lessons to other countries, most notably Iran, that they could act with impunity.
“This is a critical moment when America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah,” AIPAC said in its statement, referring to the Lebanese militia group the U.S. characterizes as a terrorist organization. “Failure to approve this resolution would weaken our country’s credibility to prevent the use and proliferation of unconventional weapons and thereby greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies.”
Team Obama has made this argument as well. I see two problems.
The immediate issue is that it is not enough that the US imposes a cost on Syria for using chemical weapons. The cost must be high enough to actually deter future use, but not so high that we bring down the government and allow Al Qaeda affiliated rebel groups to carry the day. Obama may be an avid golfer but I don't think he knows what club to pick for this shot.
But more importantly, what message has Obama's irresolution already sent the Iranians? Their takeawy will be that Obama can talk all he eants but iuntil the US Congress gets involved no action is imminent.
With that lesson already learned, if Obama and his backers want to send a message to Iran they need to start by sending a resolution to Congress authorizing action against Iran. Establish Presidential authority now, rather than after a lot of empty bluster about red lines drawn by someone else.
This will make it clear to Iran's leaders that the US Congress really has drawn a red line and the President is authorized to enforce it. And this early authorization would be entirely consistent with Obama's current approach of inviting Congress in before the fact rather than ignoring them (as in Libya) or dealing with them after the fact, as required by the War Powers Act:
The War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto. The War Powers Resolution has been violated in the past by President Reagan in regards to the aid to the Contras in Nicaragua and by President Clinton in 1999, during the bombing campaign in Kosovo. All incidents have had congressional disapproval, but none have had any successful legal actions taken against the president for violations.
Well. No one expects Obama to apply his current "principle" consistently; the circumstances and more especially the politics of an attack to disarm a nuclear Iran may be quite different. But the fact that Obasma is not making any effort to send a message to the other countries supposedly learning something from our response to Syria provides one more indication of just how political and unserious this charade really is.
When Obama explained to a bemused world audience that it was the US Congress that had drawn a red line with respect to Syrian use of chemical weapons he cited the "Syria Accountability Act". That presumably is a reference to the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSRA) of 2003 (text):
"First of all, I didn't set a red line," said Obama. "The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are [inaudble] and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation entitled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things happening on the ground there need to be answered for.
Well, Congress used SALSRA to exhort Syria to do all manner of helpful but unlikely things per this CRS summary:
Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 - (Sec. 3) Declares the sense of Congress that the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
Declares the sense of Congress that the Government of Syria should: (1) immediately and unconditionally stop facilitating transit from Syria to Iraq of individuals, military equipment, and all lethal items, except as authorized by the Coalition Provisional Authority or a representative, internationally recognized Iraqi government; (2) cease its support for "volunteers" and terrorists who are traveling from and through Syria into Iraq to launch attacks; (3) undertake concrete, verifiable steps to deter such behavior and control the use of territory under Syrian control; and (4) immediately declare its commitment to completely withdraw its armed forces, including military, paramilitary, and security forces, from Lebanon, and set a firm timetable for such withdrawal.
Declares the sense of Congress that: (1) the Government of Syria should halt the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons; and (2) the Governments of Lebanon and Syria should enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations with the Government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace.
And having made these demands, Congress naturally included an "or else". But despite Obama's rhetoric, the "or else" did not include a threat of military action:
(Sec. 5) Sets forth the following penalties against Syria until the President determines and certifies to Congress that Syria meets the requirements of this Act.
Directs the President to prohibit the export to Syria of any item, including the issuance of an export license, on the United States Munitions List or Commerce Control List of dual-use items in the Export Administration Regulations.
Requires the President, at the same time, to impose two or more of the following sanctions: (1) prohibit the export to Syria of U.S. products (other than food and medicine); (2) prohibit U.S. businesses from investing or operating in Syria; (3) restrict Syrian diplomats in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations in New York City, to travel only within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., or the United Nations headquarters building, respectively; (4) prohibit aircraft of any air carrier owned or controlled by Syria to take off from, land in, or overfly the United States; (5) reduce U.S. diplomatic contacts with Syria (other than those required to protect U.S. interests or carry out the purposes of this Act); and (6) block transactions in any property in which the Government of Syria has any interest, by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Authorizes the President to waive such sanctions for one or more six-month periods if the President determines that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so and reports his reasons to Congress.
Syrian diplomats might be restricted from visiting Disneyland or the Grand Canyon, but cruise missiles don't get a mention.
So that was a pretty pale red line Congress drew back in 2003. However, it was not so pale that George Bush did not use his signing statement to explain that he would maintain the perogatives of the Executive Branch:
Section 5 of the Act purports to impose upon the President requirements to take certain actions against Syria unless the President either determines and certifies to the Congress that the Government of Syria has taken specific actions, or determines that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive such requirements and reports the reasons for that determination to the Congress. A law cannot burden or infringe the President's exercise of a core constitutional power by attaching conditions precedent to the use of that power. The executive branch shall construe and implement section 5 in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs and as Commander in Chief, in particular with respect to the conduct of foreign diplomats in the United States, the conduct of United States diplomats abroad, and the exportation of items and provision of services necessary to the performance of official functions by United States Government personnel abroad.
My approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the various statements of policy in the Act as U.S. foreign policy. Given the Constitution's commitment to the Presidency of the authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs, the executive branch shall construe such policy statements as advisory, giving them the due weight that comity between the legislative and executive branches should require, to the extent consistent with U.S. foreign policy.
Or put another way, however pale that line may have been, George Bush claimed an encroachment on Executive responsibility and erased it.
Speaking to his human rights council, Mr Putin recalled watching a congressional debate where Mr Kerry was asked about al-Qaeda. Mr Putin said he had denied that it was operating in Syria, even though he was aware of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group.
Mr Putin said: "This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans) and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad."
Maybe something got lost in translation - as best we can tell, Kerry didn't say Al Qaeda was not operating in Syria at all; he said their influence was on the wane. But Reuters disputes even that:
(Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.
Kerry took one pass at this in the House hearing on Wednesday:
In a second hearing on Wednesday, Kerry was challenged by Representative Michael McCaul, Texas Republican.
"Who are the rebel forces? Who are they? I ask that in my briefings all the time," McCaul said. "And every time I get briefed on this it gets worse and worse, because the majority now of these rebel forces - and I say majority now - are radical Islamists pouring in from all over the world."
Kerry replied: "I just don't agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys. That's not true. There are about 70,000 to 100,000 oppositionists ... Maybe 15 percent to 25 percent might be in one group or another who are what we would deem to be bad guys.
"There is a real moderate opposition that exists. General Idriss is running the military arm of that," Kerry continued, referring to General Salim Idriss, head of the rebel Free Syrian Army. Increasingly, he said, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are funneling assistance through Idriss.
Kerry said this in a Senate hearing on Tuesday:
It was unclear exactly what Mr Putin was referencing, but Mr Kerry was asked on Tuesday while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if the Syrian opposition had become more infiltrated by al-Qaeda.
Mr Kerry responded that that was "basically incorrect" and that the opposition has "increasingly become more defined by its moderation."
Nick Kristof exhorts his fellow libs to end their useless hand-wringing and deliver a useless shot over the bow of Assad:
Critics of American military action in Syria are right to point out all the risks and uncertainties of missile strikes, and they have American public opinion on their side.
But for those of you who oppose cruise missile strikes, what alternative do you favor?
It’s all very well to urge the United Nations and Arab League to do more, but that means that Syrians will continue to be killed at a rate of 5,000 every month. Involving the International Criminal Court sounds wonderful but would make it more difficult to hammer out a peace deal in which President Bashar al-Assad steps down. So what do you propose other than that we wag our fingers as a government uses chemical weapons on its own people?
Kristof backs a limited strike of limited efficacy:
A decade ago, I was aghast that so many liberals were backing the Iraq war. Today, I’m dismayed that so many liberals, disillusioned by Iraq, seem willing to let an average of 165 Syrians be killed daily rather than contemplate missile strikes that just might, at the margins, make a modest difference.
Yeah, if we can bring that 165 daily figure down to 164, let's go for it!
As to his being aghast about the Iraq war, he seems to have forgotten the famous UNICEF finding that UN sanctions on Iraq were killing 5,000 babies per month. (and another 2,500 adults, by some estimates, but Kristof considered that to be peace.)
To me, the central question isn’t, “What are the risks of cruise missile strikes on Syria?” I grant that those risks are considerable, from errant missiles to Hezbollah retaliation. It’s this: “Are the risks greater if we launch missiles, or if we continue to sit on our hands?”
Let’s be humble enough to acknowledge that we can’t be sure of the answer and that Syria will be bloody whatever we do. We Americans are often so self-absorbed as to think that what happens in Syria depends on us; in fact, it overwhelmingly depends on Syrians.
Yet on balance, while I applaud the general reluctance to reach for the military toolbox, it seems to me that, in this case, the humanitarian and strategic risks of inaction are greater. We’re on a trajectory that leads to accelerating casualties, increasing regional instability, growing strength of Al Qaeda forces, and more chemical weapons usage.
FWIW, he is having a near-unanimous reader revolt in his comments section. if that is a straw in the wind for public support and pressure on Congress, Obama's credibility the world's, the Congress', and everyone but Obama's credibility is in trouble.
Red, red line
Go to my head
Make me forget that I
Said It Was So
Red, red line
It's up to you
All I can do, I've done
But Assad won't go
No, Assad won't go
I just thought that with time
Thoughts of Chem would leave his head
I was wrong, now I find
Just one thing makes me forget
Red, red line
Stay close to me
Don`t use those WMDs
It`s tearin` apart
My UN heart
That was stolen from Bruce in earlier comments. Yes, I could have written it, but really, the world did.
Well. If you want something visual that's not too abysmal, check out Democratic Senator Menendez (It's just a jump to the left) and Republican Senator McCain (and then a step to the right) as they haggle a Senate resolution that will let them do the Bomb War (again).
I don't see how the hawks that want to do a ot in Syria can reconcile with the doves who want to do as little as possible while still managing to send a message of resoultion rather than weakness.
SELECTIVE PERCEPTION: This gap between what the general says he told Obama and what Obama says he heard is telling:
Reports from the Middle East said the Syrian government has begun moving forces and hiding potential targets of a missile strike in anticipation of U.S. military action.
Obama said Saturday that he was told by his military advisers that any attack could be delayed without undermining the mission and thus he decided to seek congressional approval before an attack.
Later in the hearing, Dempsey said “for interest of clarity here, what I actually said to the president is the following: The military resources we have in place can remain in place, and when you ask us to strike, we will make those strikes effective.”
“In other sessions, in the principals committee, not with the president present, we talked about some targets becoming more accessible than they were before,” he said, an apparent reference to intelligence indicating the Syrians had moved forces to locations where they can be more easily attacked.
However, he said “there is evidence, of course, that the regime is reacting not only to the delay, but also they were reacting before that to the very unfortunate leak of military planning.”
“So this is a very dynamic situation.”
Since it is not clear what "effective" means, nor is it obvious just what the mission is or how we could tell if it had been undermined, this bit of verbal haze hardly means anyone is being disingenuous.
Obama explained that he didn't set a red line, he merely articulated the existence of a red line created by international norms and treaties. Furthermore, he explained, it is not his credibility at issue - it is the credibility of the international organizations and the US Congress (which approved these treaties banning chemical weapons) which is at stake. Uh huh. And if there are intruders in my house I'll call the state legislature because they are the ones who made burglary and home invasion illegal. Why bother with an Executive Branch?
As the First Physicist might say with a nod to de Broglie and Schrödinger, the buck stops everywhere. Yike. Having a President who doesn't want the power or responsibility of the office is a bit unnerving.
TO RECAP: Our Nobel Laureate and Greatest Orator in the History of the Spoken Word can't do anything domestically because of intransigent Republican troglodytes. He can't do anything with the UN because of intransigent Russian troglodytes. And unlike with Libya he can't get a fig leaf from NATO or the Arab League on Syria because... hmm, the poisoned legacy of George Bush? I am losing track of the excuses.
TIMING BEING EVERYTHING... The intelligence assessments of the US, Israel, France and Britain point to repeated small scal uses of chemical weapons in Syria over the past year. And the US went public with concerns in April.
So if Obama is committed to involving Congress in this process, how is it that he only came to invite them in on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend? Well, I am belaboring the obvious - no one is pretending that this was a principled decision by Obama. This is some dreadful combinbation of political cowardice and opportunism - he is afraid to lead and hoping to spread the blame for his own failed policies.
LEST YOU DOUBT: Here is the Times coverage of the Stockholm buck-shifting:
Obama Says World Set a ‘Red Line’ on Syria
By Peter Baker
STOCKHOLM — President Obama declared on Wednesday that the confrontation with Syria over chemical weapons was not a personal test for him but for Congress, the country and the world as he worked to strengthen support at home and abroad for a punitive strike.
“I didn’t set a red line,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference here in Stockholm. “The world set a red line.”
He added, “My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility’s on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility’s on the line.”
Well, America elected this guy, so our credibility is gone easily assessed. And the Times notes a bit of a messaging muddle:
Mr. Obama’s comments here about not being the one who set a red line – a year after using the phrase – and Congress’s credibility being at stake rather than his own irritated some of his erstwhile Republican allies on the vote just hours after they agreed to support him.
To them, the comments made it look as if he were disclaiming responsibility. “If he chooses to wash his hands of this, you can surely imagine how a vote will turn out,” said a Republican leadership aide who insisted on anonymity to avoid a more overt rupture with the White House.
Well, wait - why is this coverage limited to Congressional Republicans? Does it look to Congressional Democrats as if Obama is disclaiming responsibility? Has the Times lost its Rolodex of Democrats to call for a quote? It is not as if the left sidse of the aisle is locked up in support of sending Obama to war.
MR LONELY: This is poignant, in a 'couldn't happen to a nicer (or less educable) guy' kind of way, from the same Times story:
Much like his decision to seek Congressional votes in the first place, the president’s remarks reflected an attempt to break out of his isolation when it comes to military action against Syria. Not only has Russia blocked any United Nations action, but even America’s strongest ally, Britain, has opted against participating. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 59 percent of Americans oppose the proposed missile strike.
Standing at Mr. Obama’s side, Sweden’s Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt urged waiting for a report from United Nations inspectors, who have sent samples from the scene of the attack to a Swedish laboratory, and said he preferred any action be supported by the Security Council. “But I also understand the potential consequences of letting a violation like this go unanswered,” Mr. Reinfeldt said, in a nod to Mr. Obama’s position.
No respect. Obama has been dancing away from this for months and is now surprised that no one is behind him.
INSTANT CLASSIC: "Red Red Line" from UB Kidding:
Emerging from their meeting with Obama on Syria House Republicn leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor showed that, if nothing else, this is not their first rodeo and they do not intend to be cast as rodeo clowns. Their subtle ploy - smile, back Obama, and let him do the heavy lifting. Here is Cantor:
"I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria. While the authorizing language will likely change, the underlying reality will not. America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States.
“Understanding that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle, it is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action, and I hope he is successful in that endeavor.
Left unsaid - "Thank you and good luck, Mr. President. Most of the House Republicans have their contact information posted on their websites and I am sure they will be eager to hear from you."
I have the strong impression that neither Boehner nor Cantor will be twisting Republican arms, or even dialing their phones, to make this authoriztion happen. And to whether Team Obama can rustle up some Republican votes, let alone corral Nancy Pelosi's grandson, time will tell.
But publicly they are all smiles and support, so who can blame them if the votes aren't there?
ASK THOSE FOR WHOM THE SHOE FITS: Nancy Pelosi seems to be suggesting that the typical anti-war lib is having the same reaction as a five-year old. Condescending, yes? Or is she prepping herself for an appearance on "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader"? Left unasked - where is Amy Carter when the Dems need her?
MORE THAN A FEELING... Here is Politico, a bit later in the day:
On Syria, House GOP won’t follow their leaders
The whip count on Syria has become like the war itself: No one in Washington wants to own it alone.
While most top congressional leaders have vowed to back President Barack Obama in seeking authority to launch missile strikes, there’s little evidence that they can — or even want to — help him round up the rank-and file-Republicans he’ll need to win a vote in the House.
Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman said that he “expects the White House to provide answers to members’ questions and take the lead on any whipping effort.” Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whose aides and allies run the whip process, isn’t yet in favor of Obama’s request for military authority in Syria.
I don't think Obama could lead a bunch of thirsty sailors into a bar on the 4th of July, so I don't have much confidence in his ability to whip the House Republicans. But it gives his team a chance to learn a lot of new names!
And Boehner and Reid have already promised a vote so the "Hastert rule" under which the Speaker won't bring a bill to the floor without the approvbal of a majority of the Republican caucus won't be in effect.
AND ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE AISLE:
Van Hollen — a key member of the Dem leadership who is also respected by Congressional liberals —...
declined to say whether he thought a majority of House Dems would support Obama’s request in the end. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “This is a matter of conscience, and each member must make up his or her own mind. This is not an issue that will be whipped by the Democratic leadership, so the president will have to make his case to members of Congress individually.”