Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

StormyMondayYou’re no doubt delighted that your hardworking Congressional representatives have begun their desperately needed two-week break to recharge their batteries, get a little spring sun on their overwhelmingly white and male faces, and mull over “new” legislative ideas that haven’t a prayer of becoming law (which of course is, mostly, a good thing). On the brighter side, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran’s notion of adding a new housing stipend to Congressional remuneration appears to be a non-starter, so at least they’ll be lollygagging at their existing undeserved rate of pay.

Meanwhile, 2.4 million unemployed Americans will spend the same two weeks tearing their hair out over unpaid bills, wondering how they’re going to feed their kids, and continuing not to matter worth a damn to Republicans.

John Boehner kicked off his spring break today with a surprise visit to Afghanistan, accompanied by seven senior House Republicans. He’s expected to hug anyone in uniform he sees, lurch aimlessly around the streets of Kabul in search of happy hour, and top off the junket with a tear-stained tribute to whatever the hell it is American troops are supposed to be accomplishing there.

Following the Bureau of Land Management’s weekend return of 400 confiscated head of cattle back to deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the ludicrous confrontation between the government and Bundy’s creepy nitwit militia buddies appears to be over, at least until the BLM attempts to pursue other remedies against the scofflaw and the nitwits get all riled up again. Stay tuned.

Today and tomorrow in New York, China and the United States will hold talks on dealing with North Korea, followed by a third session in Washington on Thursday. While I have no expertise in international relations, it seems to me the two nations could do worse than shipping 400 head of cattle Kim Jong-un’s way for starters. It might at least buy a little time. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

Friday Talking Points [299] -- Happy 50th, Civil Rights Act Of 1964!

FTP3We have some “old business” to take care of here, first, before we begin. Last week, the subtitle of this column was “And Counting,” which referred to the 7.1 million signup figure reached by the Obamacare exchanges. Our point was for all Democrats to always tack this phrase onto any stat quoted about Obamacare, to make a very basic point. We’re happy to report that one week later, the official number has now changed. Which means the new slogan is:

“Obamacare signups: 7.5 million. And counting.”

OK, enough of that, let’s get on with the week that was. Tax time is right around the corner, and the I.R.S. is in the news again, and not in a good way. Seems due to a clause someone (nobody will admit to it) in Congress tacked on to a bill awhile back, the federal government can now go back further than 10 years to collect unpaid debts. Doesn’t sound so controversial, until you hear what “unpaid debts” really means to them: some ancient overpayment from the government (on Social Security, for instance) that they don’t even have records to prove — which were overpaid not to the people the I.R.S. is now going after, but instead, to their parents. Wow. I mean, just… wow. Paul Ryan better hope his family’s paperwork was in order.

This week was a big week for women’s rights, as the Senate pushed for an Equal Pay Act to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day. It was filibustered (of course), which just sets Democrats up in the upcoming campaign to push home the fact that one party cares about women’s rights and one party clearly does not. Republican responses to the whole issue ran from disrespectful to disdainful to insulting all the way up to kissing the women’s vote goodbye completely. When asked what Republicans would do instead on equal pay, the response was: pretty much nothing at all. Democrats are, reportedly, ready and willing to take this case to the voters out on the campaign trail. To top off this week in the ongoing War On Women, a Republican House member was caught on security camera (in his own office, no less) sucking face with a married underling. By week’s end, the aide was out of work, but Representative Vance McAllister — a “family values” kind of guy — was defiantly still in office.

Let’s see, what else? Two key pages of the Senate report on torture leaked out, so check them out if you want a preview (the two pages are a bullet list of conclusions) of the firestorm that is just around the corner, if the 400-page summary is ever released to the public. From just two pages, it seems pretty damning.

Charles Krauthammer offered up some sage advice for his fellow Republicans this week, on the subject of Benghazi, which can be summed up as: get over it — put it behind you. The chances Darrell Issa will follow Krauthammer’s advice are in the slim-to-none category, however.

The House passed Paul Ryan’s budget this week, and Democrats seem downright eager to use it out on the campaign trail, which is always a good sign. So far, President Obama’s had a crack at it, and Elizabeth Warren took the fight to Ryan’s home ground. This is who the GOP are — that’s the main message Democrats need to get across. So far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

Attorney General Eric Holder had an eventful week in front of Congress. After getting into a testy exchange with Louie “Aspersions On My Asparagus” Gohmert, Holder got in the final word: “Good luck with your asparagus.”

Kidding aside, though, Holder did get some pointed questions from the left as well as from the right. In particular, on why he refuses to reschedule marijuana — which could easily be one of those “my pen and my phone” executive actions Obama and Holder could take (the federal Controlled Dangerous Substances Act which set up the schedules clearly says the Attorney General can move a substance from one schedule to another with just a signature). Holder’s answers were less than responsive, shall we say, and basically consisted of “we’d be happy to work with Congress to do so” — which dodges the point entirely. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [299] — Happy 50th, Civil Rights Act Of 1964!

Life After the One Percent

DDI don’t know any members of the one percent, but my daughter does. She’s my eyes and ears in their camp. She’s been trained since birth to observe, synthesize and project at multiple levels, with the virtue and creativity of the human experience at the center of her assessments. We complain about the violations of privacy via our phones and e-mails, but the massive collection of our electronic imprint has no meaning without the hands and minds of people—and we should be focused on their intent along their methods.

History shows that the end game matters. And the goals of the game. I have always been less concerned about surveillance round-ups and wrongful prosecutions than I have about willful prosecutions—the kind I see in Florida and other states, where often those in the cross-hairs don’t reach the courtrooms.

Every police department now has the firepower—and mentality—of a paramilitary unit on rogue missions with a wink and little oversight from the state. New York City had the widest net, but other cities occupied neighborhoods in the name of crime which never seemed to drop. And when it did, it was rarely related to the local version of stop-and-frisk. Neighborhoods don’t require mass round-ups or the concentration camps supposedly being built somewhere in the northwest. Local rogue missions hide behind a screen of local crime and stereotypes; it parallels the gangs; it spirals until communities in the cities are isolated, targeted by legal and illegal operators until they spin out of control and the mechanisms of group actions required for safety and safe passage are broken down. Recording these cell phone calls didn’t improve security or domestic tranquility for many older working neighborhoods in urban areas.

In fact, I wish Florida had an accessible electronic database of calls in the case of Trayvon Martin. A quick check would have shown calls to his father, who lived in the complex where he was walking, and that he was talking to a friend about the usual teenage things. Maybe electronic surveillance would have exonerated him.

It’s a fantasy—and a stretch—but you see my point: the rapid accumulation of police and citizen armed confrontations with other citizens is increasing, and the alarm is silent. We are monitoring the wrong things. But America habitually looks the wrong way.

Turn your attention to the states for a moment. Both Florida and Virginia have developed state standards that are set at different levels by race and ethnicity. Asians and whites have to meet higher standards than blacks and Hispanics. Hear the outrage? No? Learning itself is being re-segregated by developing a two-tier system for knowledge, even when students attend the same schools. Discrimination, in the form of inequality, is officially mandated by the state.

In the meantime, in some systems, upper-income families are receiving vouchers to be used at charter, private, and parochial schools. This takes money away from public schools by allowing tax dollars to be assigned to the child rather than the system. It’s a plan that kicks the poor. Continue reading Life After the One Percent

“Free Speech Wins Big” in McCutcheon Ruling? It’s FALSE NEWS!

FalseNews

FalseNewsThe news hit the political front with the expected clash of ideologies. The left was appalled at yet another blow that would flood the political process with a tidal wave of cash. The right hailed their newfound “freedom” to extend their political reach with that tidal wave reaching across the entire nation.

While most of the media plainly state the ruling as striking down limits on campaign contributions, few are willing to challenge the Roberts Court claim that these limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities’”.

Is the real purpose of campaign finance caps, as Investor’s Business Daily states, an unjustified means of “trying to prevent people financing their own political speech”?

Fact: McCutcheon v. FEC ends over 100 years of battling corruption through limits on campaign spending.

The 1800s were rife with accusations of individuals buying their appointments to the US Senate through the state legislators. One of the more notorious incidents involved William Clark, the “Copper King” of Montana. His bribery of state legislators was so blatant that the Senate refused to seat him after his first campaign, prompting this bombast from Mark Twain: “no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs.”

The New York State insurance scandal followed, exposing political payoffs and enormous sums of money for legislative lobbying.  Theodore Roosevelt came under similar attack during his Presidential election, along with Republican William McKinley who preceded him in office. In an effort to quiet the calls for investigations, President Roosevelt advocated “vigorous measures to eradicate” corruption, saying, “The power of the Government to protect the integrity of the elections of its own officials is inherent and has been recognized and affirmed by repeated declarations of the Supreme Court. There is no enemy of free government more dangerous and none so insidious as the corruption of the electorate.”

As a result, the United States gained our first anti-corruption legislation, the Tillman Act of 1907. While not as broad as many progressive leaders called for at the time, the Act prohibited corporations from making a “money contribution in connection with any election.”

Corruption remained so bad that it became necessary to eliminate state party influence on senate elections through the enactment of the 17th Amendment in April 1913. The Illinois State Grange bluntly proclaimed, “the United States Senate is largely composed of millionaires, who frequently owe their election to the lavish expenditure of money…” This was the feeling of a majority of the States at the time, who pushed for a Constitutional Convention to change the method of electing Senators.

One hundred years later, almost to the day, the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court would have us believe that money in politics is nothing more than a “repugnant” form of protected speech, like “flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades.” Continue reading “Free Speech Wins Big” in McCutcheon Ruling? It’s FALSE NEWS!

Sunday Talks, 4/6/14

On ABC’s This Week, Rep. John Carter (R-TX) and former Army Vice Chief of Staff Ret. Gen. Peter Chiarelli will have the latest on the shooting at Ft. Hood. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will be . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 4/6/14

Friday Talking Points [298] -- 'And Counting'

FTP3Today we’re turning over the whole talking points section to the president, because he certainly deserves a victory lap after announcing this week that — against all odds, and against all the slings and arrows of misfortune — 7.1 million people signed up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

Because this will pre-empt our normal talking points, I’d like to point one thing out up front. Democrats, from this point on, should adopt a very simple technique to disarm Republican squabbles about Obamacare numbers. To every figure quoted for people gaining health insurance, Democrats should end with “…and counting.” This is an easy miniature talking point to insert into any discussion of the numbers, using just two little words to point out a basic fact: these numbers are only going to grow over time. The deadline for signups was extended for just about everybody, so another two weeks of data will be announced later this month. After that, people will still be using the exchanges to buy insurance when their life situation changes (getting married, new job, whatever) outside of the open enrollment period. Which means the number will be even higher than 7.1 million by the start of the next open enrollment period later this year.

It’s an easy way to make a big point. “The figure for signups is 7.1 million… and counting….” So every Democrat out on the campaign trail or on television should use these significant two words as often as possible when talking about Obamacare’s numbers in the next few months.

OK, enough of that. Let’s take an extremely quick look at the political news of the week, before we get to our awards and our special edition of the talking points. First, some Republican follies (since April Fool’s Day fell during the past week, it’s only appropriate). Fox News actually apologized for running a misleading graph in the days before the Obamacare number was announced. Will wonders never cease? Except, of course, I doubt they ran the graph again when Obama actually met the target of 7 million. Even so, “Fox News apologizes” isn’t the normal sort of headline we’re used to seeing.

Paul Ryan put out his budget, which truly deserves a full slate of talking points from Democrats sooner or later (we’ll get to it in the coming weeks, never fear, there’s plenty of time to do so). It’s easy enough to criticize Ryan’s budget. For instance, Ryan cuts Medicare by the same amount he demonized Obama for cutting, out on the campaign trail — and that’s just the most obvious thing to point out. But Ryan got some criticism from an unexpected direction, as Sarah Palin (remember her?) ripped into Ryan for not cutting enough and not cutting faster, and called his budget a “joke” and “the definition of insanity.”

OK, since it’s been four or five years, let’s check in on the ongoing Republican effort to come up with a bill that would replace Obamacare, should they ever successfully repeal it. Here is John Boehner speaking about the progress of this effort: “The president can go out there and tout about all the people he’s signed up. Our job is to show the American people we have better solutions, and we’re working to build a consensus to do that. And when we have something to talk about, we’ll show you.”

Wow. When they have something, they’ll show us. Not exactly confidence-building, is it? I guess we’ll have to check back in another four or five years — maybe they’ll have a bill by then, eh?

Republican War On Women update: the Heritage Foundation held a fun seminar to explain how Republicans need to convince women that the thing they should really do is to get married. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks. The whole story’s hilarious, especially where the Heritage “lectures director” opens the session by addressing the audience (which was “small and mostly male, many of them apparently Heritage interns”) with: “Wow. Where are all the ladies?” Where, indeed. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [298] — ‘And Counting’

Democrats: Speak Up!

DDSmall-time Republicans and big-time media money have been able to change the political messaging in this country by openly calling for an agenda of false rebellion in the name of freedom that actually exerts greater control and is more expensive. Many people hear the previous sentence as: “Republicans have changed the political agenda in the name of freedom.” One of the ways Republicans are successful is they offer a complicated subterfuge and dissemble pieces a few at a time. Democrats respond by talking among themselves (as this piece does!) instead of to the country.

Messages that dissemble or only speak to insiders create a disconnect, but only one of these disconnects has leverage with voters, and it is the Republican choice. Republicans confine truth to the background and focus on the places where logic has become disconnected—the places where things terribly wrong can be easily examined, using lies and blame.

In the global pop news of the moment, the Russia seizure of Crimea, a preposterous event in the modern world where respect for the sanctity of borders is the first principle of international relations, Republicans avoid this first principle and the details of Russia’s energy exports being controlled by a state-owned corporation (which means its revenues are paid to the state not the private sector). Republicans avoid the analysis of how important the massive spider-work of Ukraine’s pipelines is to Russia’s efficient transmission of gas and oil to Europe. They avoid the fears Russia has internally of becoming a country influenced by its Muslim population in its southern regions (14 percent of its population).

Instead, Republicans have created a public narrative which comes close to defending Putin’s actions by blaming Obama for not defending America’s imperialism. It is circulating as if Russia is ideologically free of imperialist tendencies. In essence, it seeks to elevate the false illusion of Russian “strength”—which is its criminality—over the policy of President Obama to allow each country to find its internal stability with a minimum of big power influence.

Imperialism is a big idea with a long history, and blame is short and sweet. Blame is the lemonade made from the political lemons handed your opponents—if you are Republican.

But no evidence supports the GOP recipe (except magical thinking!) that Putin or any Russian leaders have based moves or calculated Obama’s response into their positions and military actions.

Beginning with the Russian revolution itself, the partitioning of Germany after World War II, the 1950s invasions of several eastern European countries, the placement of missiles in Cuba, the support of insurgencies in Africa, the invasion of Afghanistan, and most recently Chechnya, Georgia and Ossetia, there is no predictive proof that a country with a long history of using military force within its region, through a variety of governments, under a variety of leaders, is tempered by American or European reaction!

Blame doesn’t need proof, just popular sentiment; blame Obama.

History and facts show the contrary. Russia plays no zero sum, either/or game; it views its interests singularly. Weighing the importance of the pipelines through Ukraine to the West and the sudden toppling of its puppet, Viktor Yushchenko (who cut bait), had far more to do with Putin’s moves than any imagined review of Obama’s policies.

Putin would be insulted at the idea he contemplated or was influenced by Obama’s policies, rather than acting on his own. He would vehemently argue his view is what is best for Russia and Russians faced with a neighbor whose family income had dropped 25% in 20 years and was leaning heavily westward in search of opportunities missing in the 1930s state-owned Russian political economy.

Putin ignored Barack and did what Russians have always done. Republicans did what they have always done: ignore truth and blame Obama.

Even at home, in the face of one of the most magnificent political successes since the passage of social security, by a President whose failure was an avowed goal of the Republican Party and the House of the national legislature, even with seven million people enrolled in health care through the new marketplace, without demonstrations or riots in the streets, with no more upheaval than paid commercials and very long, calm lines of last minute enrollees, Republicans still plan to run against “Obamacare” in November. It will be an ultimate test of blame against truth, dissembling facts against critical thinking, of bias versus logic. Continue reading Democrats: Speak Up!

Friday Talking Points [297] -- Democrats Unveil 2014 Strategy

FTP3I spent most of my time (and my columns) this week on reviewing Betty Medsger’s new book The Burglary (with both a two-part review of the book and an interview with the author), which meant I wasn’t focusing as closely as I usually do on current politics. So let’s rectify that immediately, starting with our weekly roundup of what’s been going on outside of the literary world.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases where corporations are requiring certain women to wear a scarlet “A” on their uniforms… um, no wait… that can’t be right… let me check my notes….

The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases (joking aside) are going to set a precedent, one way or another, on corporate “rights” versus the rights of actual citizens. The liberal women on the Supreme Court asked some very pointed questions about where, exactly, this would take us as a country; but it’s looking like this is going to be one of those 5-4 decisions, so all eyes will be on Justice Kennedy, the assumed swing vote. There were many excellent articles written this week pointing out the possible ramifications of the cases, to which I added my own point of view for what to expect next in the courts, if Hobby Lobby wins.

Plans to reform the National Security Agency were introduced by both the White House and Congress this week, the culmination of President Obama calling for a quick review of N.S.A. spying a few months ago. None of this would ever have happened without Edward Snowden, of course, which led Glenn Greenwald to take a well-deserved victory lap, of sorts.

New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, released a report that totally exonerated him on the whole “Bridgegate” scandal, which was no surprise since he hired the law firm to write the report in the first place (using a cool million of the New Jersey taxpayers’ dollars to pay for it). I’d like to propose that everyone immediately start calling this the “Nothing To See Here, Move Along…” report. It’s only fitting, really.

[We have to issue a warning here, because our next paragraph is going to contain an ugly and derogatory slur. It has been intentionally included to show precisely how bigoted the person in question was. Consider yourselves warned.]

Fred Phelps, leader of a church which displayed its un-Christian bigotry for all to see (both on a website named for one of their favorite and most-hateful slogans — “God Hates Fags” — as well as on even-worse slogans on signs they held up at military funerals), died this week. One local gay rights organization showed how truly classy they were by staging a counter-demonstration to one of the church’s, and holding up a banner stating: “Sorry for your loss.” One might almost call it a parable about how Christian love is supposed to work, in fact. Meanwhile, the vice-mayor of Maricopa, Arizona, was the poster boy for how not to react to news of Phelps’s death: by praising a satirical obituary for Phelps which ran in The Onion. Clueless about both Phelps and the fact that he was praising a fake news article, Ed Farrell at least had the intelligence to quickly back away from his position, offering up a sweeping condemnation of his own actions (as far as political apologies go, this is one of the best ones we’ve ever seen, to be fair): “I had no idea who this Phelps guy was, I had no idea about the publication The Onion…. I had no clue about this guy; he’s an idiot. I can’t believe that I posted what I posted… shame on me.”

In Michigan, gay couples were allowed a brief window to get married, which hundreds quickly did. The window slammed shut almost immediately, though, which sets up an inherently unequal legal situation, much like Proposition 8 did in California.

In marijuana news, the National Cannabis Industry Association has hired a full-time lobbyist in Washington. Make all the “suits and ties” jokes you want, but this could be crucial to getting very specific changes made to federal law without reviving the Drug War hysteria over the issue. This could solve problems like the one faced right now by Utah. Utah just legalized a form of medical marijuana, but only for its citizens to possess it. With no way to legally acquire it, they could always go next door to Colorado (where it’s legal), but then they’d be faced with a strange problem. It’d be legal (by state law) for them to own it in either Colorado or Utah, but it’d be illegal to transport across the border. Getting commonsense changes to federal laws to solve such problems may be a lot easier with a lobbyist working on them.

Let’s see, what else? The Obamacare website has now signed up over six million people, four days before the deadline. Obama extended this deadline a few weeks, so hitting the original target of seven million may actually be within reach, now. Those millions, of course, aren’t the only ones directly benefiting from Obamacare, as a quick look at this handy graph shows.

And, to close, House Republicans now say it’s just too late to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. This, after they spent time this week trying to strip President Obama of the power to create National Monuments. Way to prioritize, guys….

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

We have two Honorable Mention awards before we get to the main event this week. The first one goes to a Democrat who supported a Republican’s bill in the House, because the bill is such a great idea that we do not care who proposed it. Democratic Representative Raul Ruiz joined Republican Paul Gosar in sponsoring legislation which would prohibit members of Congress flying — on the taxpayers’ dime — in first class. Gosar introduced the bill, saying: “Members of Congress are servants of the people and should not be considered a privileged class.” We could not agree more, and applaud Ruiz for supporting the effort.

The second Honorable Mention goes to Vice President Joe Biden, for having a planet named after him (kind of). That’s both “kind of a planet” and “kind of named after him,” which is why Joe didn’t outright win the MIDOTW for such a feat. The heavenly body in question is a “dwarf planet” (or a “trans-Neptunian object”) and was given the designation 2012 VP 113 — which led the discoverer to decide to use the name “Biden” for it, in the meantime (get it? “VP”?). But, alas, naming objects in the sky is a long process which weeds out all sorts of amusing names, as evidenced by the trans-Neptunian object which caused all the trouble in the first place, years ago (and, also, the downgrade of Pluto). Now named “Eris” (for, appropriately, the goddess of discord), this object was originally casually referred to by its discoverer as “Xena” (and, of course, when a moon was also discovered, it was whimsically named “Gabby”). What this all means is that Planet Biden (or Dwarf Planet Biden, perhaps) is not going to keep this name for long. But still, even for a short period, it’s a pretty impressive thing to have a whole planet named for you, we have to admit. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [297] — Democrats Unveil 2014 Strategy

Obama's Ukraine Affair

DDPresident Obama faced his own Ukraine affair last week. He ordered military action against foreign assets controlled by an unstable interim government facing its own domestic factional opposition after deposing a former corrupt leader. Without NATO approval, the President took action on local officials’ requests. The short-term action was successful. The US military didn’t fire a shot.

Did you know about it? I didn’t.

A continual subtheme of “Digging Deeper” is the media’s tragic fail: at a time when news and information really counts, the media has collectively decided to abandon journalism for sensationalism. The media collective pursues profits and revenue as its main purpose; stories rise and fall with the sun. Ratings and rants count for more than facts or the public’s interest. So much so that the media collectively ignored a dramatic use of force in the Mediterranean Sea by a US President already faced with a military crisis in the same geopolitical theatre, albeit further east.

To me, that’s news.

Anytime the US authorizes the use of military force beyond our national borders, it is a real confrontation and situations can rapidly escalate and spiral out of control. Recent history is replete with small operations turned long-term. In fact we are still unwinding two wars that transferred billions annually to private contractors and corrupt governments without achieving any central policy aims.

Drones are cruel, but they are cheaper. They don’t require the massive movement of troops and materiel, the building of bases, the horrendous cost in lives that marked the warfare of the last decade.

Last week, the President ordered his favorite go-to force, a team of Navy SEALs, to board and seize control of a rogue ship, an oil tanker, the Morning Glory, sailing illegally under a North Korean flag, loaded with oil pumped from Libyan facilities at Sidra (in eastern Libya), after it illegally loaded at the Es-sider oil terminal.

Sidra and the terminal are blockaded on the ground and controlled by a rival faction to Libya’s interim government. This is one of several factions that oppose the recognized governing coalition and, with other dissident groups, has crippled Libya’s oil industry by strikes and sporadic fighting.

In fact, Sidra has 19 storage tanks with total capacity of 6.2 million barrels, mainly owned by Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) and a trio of US companies: Hess, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil. According to one industry analyst, diminishing confidence in reliable local production may motivate Marathon to sell its stake in the joint venture.

Somehow, the Morning Glory was loaded with $20 million worth of oil (some estimates say $34 million) from the NOC storage facility and it sailed away from Sidra toward an unknown destination. Morning Glory was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the central government in Tripoli erupted in July 2013.

Rana Jawal, with the BBC, offered this analysis:

Washington made clear it supports Libya’s elected authorities with the Navy Seals operation.

The US has sent a clear message to both potential traders of illicit oil and to the armed groups blocking Libya’s terminals that it will not permit the sale of oil from rebel-held areas.

Libya matters to the US partly because a failed state would be viewed as yet another failed US adventure abroad, after it backed the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

The intervention will also help to dispel at least one of the many suspicions and rumours among Libyans – that the West will deal with anyone to get hold of crude oil.

It may also restore some of the Libyan government’s credibility with people here, which has been lost over the past year. However, the dangers of this blockade escalating into an armed confrontation remain and it hinges on the government’s next move.

It also cost Libya’s interim Prime Minister Ali Zeidan his job. He was replaced by the Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thani, who received a two-week appointment, which was renewed this week. The new Prime Minister was tasked with coming up with a plan to reopen the Libyan’s eastern oil ports. Libya is currently shipping 275,000 barrels a month, down from 1.6 million barrels last July.

Three takeaways: One, Libya, to a degree greater than Ukraine, exhibits the factional fighting and contention for power and revenue seen throughout the region from North Africa to Eastern Europe to Asia Minor. The completing groups attempt to take advantage of regime change or current instability. They are usually centered around Islamists and several nativist parties who seem intent on relying on arms to settle their differences. Ukraine is the first state to be directly exploited by a former super power. Elsewhere, the groups effect more of a standstill (Syria) than clear winners. Even in Egypt, after winning the election, the Islamists were forced to take a step back.

Two, this factionalism is destabilizing a number of domestic economies. As conditions become more perilous, the conflicts may spiral into cycles of violence involving not only the assets of the political economy but also civilian lives and families, as is already the case in Syria, and to a degree, in Egypt.

Three, the US has no magic wand by which to determine its desired outcomes in local fights, nor can it afford to finance or interfere in every insurgency. Yet its commitment, when made, should not be in half steps. Especially in offering non-military aid. The US commitment to food aid is woefully insufficient and is adding to destabilization by placing unsustainable burdens on countries who are neighbors to states in conflict. A model for creating temporary jobs from mobile production facilities is badly needed in refugee camps. Continue reading Obama’s Ukraine Affair

Sunday Talks, 3/23/14

On ABC’s This Week, FiveThirtyEight.com editor-in-chief and ABC News special contributor Nate Silver will offer his analysis for the 2014 election. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), ABC News’ Cokie Roberts, and Foreign . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 3/23/14