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Daily Kos Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:43 GMT  

Hillary Clinton on foreign policy: Critical perspectives from the Left
President Barack Obama, followed by Chaplain Colonel J. Wesley Smith and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, walks towards the podium during the transfer of remains ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 14, 2012, marking the return to the
Still Life with Deciders and Instruments of Policy
This is the second in a series of essays to be written by Left Flank Daily Kos users providing substantive critiques of Hillary Clinton. Today's entry comes from koNko —Armando

U.S. presidents enjoy special powers in the domain of foreign policy. These powers are not unlimited or absolute, but as commander-in-chief and head of an executive branch containing the apparatus and instruments of foreign policy, presidents set principles of doctrine that guide policy and action, and largely pre-determine policy and treaties put forward to Congress.

They also exercise personal judgment taking executive actions that have expanded since 9/11, now including such controversial powers as authorizing increased electronic surveillance at home and abroad and the use of drones to execute people on foreign soil without due process, arguably, acts of war.

In these roles, presidents have great powers to do good or harm, setting wheels in motion not easy to brake, and often taking actions with unforeseen or unintended consequences for the nation and the world. To call it a grave responsibility is understatement.

Why then is the public so often careless and disengaged from foreign policy debates until events poke us in the eye to remind us how these complex policies, actions and events directly affect our lives, sometimes profoundly? And why do we so often put blind trust in leaders we assume to share our interests and possess the knowledge and judgment to make wise decisions absent evidence of either? Should we not be more critical?

After the fold, let's consider the positions and credentials of Hillary Rodham Clinton, declared candidate and presumed Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential election.


Pensito Review Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:44 GMT  

Huckabee Explains the Limits of SCOTUS’ Jurisprudence

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that — the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God.

— Mike Huckabee, quoted by CNN, on the pending same-sex marriage ruling.

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that — the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God.

— Mike Huckabee, quoted by CNN, on the pending same-sex marriage ruling.


http://blogs.ajc.com/mike-luckovich/feed/ Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:44 GMT  


ThinkProgress Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:46 GMT  

Michigan Hit With Its Second-Largest Earthquake Ever Recorded

Was fracking to blame?

The post Michigan Hit With Its Second-Largest Earthquake Ever Recorded appeared first on ThinkProgress.

The star marks the epicenter of Saturday's earthquake -- the second-biggest in Michigan's history -- which was felt in at least four states.

The star marks the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake — the second-biggest in Michigan’s history — which was felt in at least four states.

CREDIT: USGS.gov

Michigan was hit with a 4.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, the second-strongest in the state’s recorded history, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

There have been no reports of damage or injuries, though the earthquake was big enough that it was reportedly felt in parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. A 4.2 quake is not terribly large — people indoors are expected to feel to movement, and hanging objects might swing back on forth.

Still, the event was decidedly unexpected. Michigan is rarely ever affected by seismic activity. According to the USGS, the area where Saturday’s quake occurred has just a 6 to 10 percent chance of any seismic activity in the next 50 years. And if Michigan is impacted by an earthquake, it’s not expected to be very strong — the state’s strongest recorded event was in August 1947, a 4.6 magnitude in almost the exact same location.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of an earthquake so soon after it has occurred, and the USGS has indicated that they believe Saturday’s quake happened naturally and was not the result of fracking or wastewater injection.

But the event occurred amid very recent warnings from scientists and the U.S. government about the increasing likelihood of earthquakes across the central and eastern United States, due in large part to oil and gas operations. Just last week, the USGS reported that earthquakes caused by oil and gas activity — specifically, the practice of injecting wastewater underground — “are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby.”

Those human-induced earthquakes are expected to get stronger as the process of wastewater injection continues to increase alongside oil and gas drilling. The popular but controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces significantly more wastewater than conventional drilling, which results in more underground injections.

Michigan itself does have fracking, but most of its operations are in the northern part of the state, away from where Saturday’s quake occurred.

Right now, seismologists have said the more notable thing about Saturday’s quake is that it may point to previously undiscovered faults in the state. That is important for general hazard planning, but also could be important for future planning of oil and gas operations in Michigan.

As the link between wastewater injection and earthquakes has become stronger, states have been urged to be more careful when drillers are operating near known faults. Ohio’s government has been relatively proactive about this, requiring oil and gas companies to install earthquake monitors before drilling within three miles of a known fault line, or in any area that has ever experienced an earthquake greater than a 2.0 magnitude.

Recently, Oklahoma has been forced to take this into consideration as well, as human-induced quakes there have rapidly increased. Though it has not laid out requirements for oil and gas companies drilling near faults, Oklahoma’s government announced last week that it would officially embrace that large body of scientific research connecting its seismic activity to wastewater injection, and start figuring out how to deal with it.

Update
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This article has been updated to reflect the correct date of the earthquake. It was Saturday, not Friday.

The post Michigan Hit With Its Second-Largest Earthquake Ever Recorded appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Rick Santorum on Bruce Jenner: ‘If He Says He’s A Woman, Then He’s A Woman’

“If he says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman,” he said.

The post Rick Santorum on Bruce Jenner: ‘If He Says He’s A Woman, Then He’s A Woman’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Rick Santorum

CREDIT: AP

Former Senator and infamous opponent of LGBT rights Rick Santorum had surprisingly conciliatory things to say about Bruce Jenner this weekend, insisting he would “love and accept” the transgender woman for who he is.

While speaking at a Republican Party convention in Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday, Santorum was asked by a BuzzFeed reporter to reflect on the recent media blitz surrounding former Olympian Bruce Jenner, who came out as a trans woman last weekend. Santorum, a famously conservative politician who is evaluating another possible presidential run, offered an unexpectedly open-minded response.

“If he says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman,” he told BuzzFeed. “My responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are. I can criticize, and I do, for what people do, for their behavior. But as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody, and these are obviously complex issues for businesses, for society, and I think we have to look at it in a way that is compassionate and respectful of everybody.”

The tone of Santorum’s comments differs starkly from past remarks on sexuality, as he has traditionally taken a hardline stance against LGBT rights. In 2012, he likened the debate over same-sex marriage to the September 11 terrorist attacks, said he would “die on that hill” fighting against marriage equality, and promised to annul all same-sex marriages if elected president. He has also been confronted by transgender activists in the past, with one woman telling him at a 2012 campaign event “Mr. Santorum, you have spilled queer blood!”

Despite Santorum’s rhetorical shift, however, he made it clear on Saturday that while he may support different sexual identities, he does not support non-heterosexual acts. He also made no move to endorse laws that would assist transgender people, and dodged a question over whether Jenner should be allowed to use women’s public restrooms.

“I haven’t got into the whole issue, and I don’t think the federal government should get into the whole issue of bathrooms,” Santorum said. “I think those are things that the business community and local agencies and organizations should deal with.”

The post Rick Santorum on Bruce Jenner: ‘If He Says He’s A Woman, Then He’s A Woman’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Here’s How The Nation’s Two Largest States Plan To Crack Down On Predatory Lending

State-level regulatory fights around lenders who entrap the working poor in endless repayment cycles are continuing in the shadow of a federal effort at setting national standards for the industry.

The post Here’s How The Nation’s Two Largest States Plan To Crack Down On Predatory Lending appeared first on ThinkProgress.

payday-lenders-ap

CREDIT: AP

Predatory lenders thrive in Texas, where regulations are scarce on stores that offer payday advance loans and allow borrowers to put their cars up as collateral for high-cost, short-term credit. But a trio of bills being considered in the legislature would update state law to make it harder for desperate borrowers to wind up trapped in endless loan-renewal cycles when they turn to payday and auto title loans.

The bills would put a length limit on what lenders can offer, prohibiting unpaid loans from being rolled over more than three times. The industry’s profits depend upon borrowers who get stuck in much longer chains of loan renewals that drive the overall interest rate on the borrowing up over 400 percent APR, according to federal data.

Along with the duration cap on re-lending, companies would have to ensure that a customer pays down the principal amount by at least 25 percent each time they refinance a loan. The two provisions together would help tie loan terms to a borrower’s real income and timely ability to repay.

Such rules are unenforceable without having comprehensive data on who is borrowing what from whom. One of the Texas bills would create a state database to track lending. Payday lenders have fought hard against databases in other states like Alabama, lobbying lawmakers and filing suit to enlist judges in their efforts.

The bills have the backing of the local chapter of the AARP. A fifth of all customers at Texas payday and auto title lending shops are over the age of 50, according to the group, which has also published polls showing that three-quarters of Texans older than 45 say they strongly support tighter rules for the loans.

If the Texas laws pass, the two largest states in the country would likely be building payday loan databases at the same time. California regulators are introducing a new slate of rules for policing high-cost lending, including a database provision that would help the state to better enforce the rules that are already on the books.

“California limits you to one payday loan at a time, but there’s no way to enforce that because there isn’t a database,” Pew Charitable Trusts small-dollar lending expert Alex Horowitz told ThinkProgress, stressing that even a loan that complies with California law is still more expensive than should be allowed. “Databases have acted as a backstop in some states. But they’re not sufficient as regulation. Even with a database and with this proposal, most borrowers cannot afford to repay $300 in two weeks. For an average payday borrower, that’s a quarter of their gross income.”

While Texas’ proposed database is part of a crackdown on brick-and-mortar loan shops, the new California consumer protections are tailored to the digital age. The state wants to prohibit payday lenders from gaining access to borrowers’ bank accounts – a move that could drive internet-only lenders out of business, and decrease the price that low-income borrowers pay for desperation loans – and force them to rely on traditional paper checks as collateral. The regulators are also partnering with Google and Microsoft to make it harder for unscrupulous internet lenders to promote their products to California web users.

Pushing online lenders out of business should make for a less-abusive overall market for resource-starved families who need quick cash. “Interest rates online are generally higher than they are at storefront lenders,” Horowitz said.

Compared to the dozen-plus states that have made payday lending impossible in their borders, California’s current approach is moderate. Storefront lenders that register with the state have “loan sizes capped at $255, and fees capped at $45,” Horowitz said. Interest rates on such loans are still quite high, but far lower than the roughly 400 percent annual interest that lenders charge on average in less-regulated states.

Reform proposals for storefront lending in Texas and online lending in California illustrate the diversity of regulatory approaches that states pursue in the absence of national rules for lending that targets the poor. As the industry siphons billions of dollars per year out of low-income communities, federal neglect has turned efforts to protect consumers into a game of whack-a-mole in which lenders successfully lobby against most regulations. But all that will soon change, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is preparing the first-ever national regulations to link lenders’ offerings to borrowers’ actual ability to repay the loans.

With its new regulations, the agency seeks to balance genuine consumer demand for emergency loans with the public interest in preventing the most predatory and abusive features of the traditional business model. While states like Connecticut and New York have sought to prohibit payday lenders from operating in any form, most Americans live in states like California and Texas that allow the businesses to exist while trying to legislate against their most abusive habits.

The forthcoming federal rules will attempt to replicate the most successful elements of those hybrid regulatory approaches, and impose new underwriting standards on lenders to prevent them from knowingly signing someone up for a loan they can’t afford to repay on time. The final rules are years away, but they will likely be modeled on the approach that states like Colorado take: limit the cost of these loans, prohibit the most egregious fine-print tricks lenders use, but make sure this lending remains economically viable so that desperate low-income people have somewhere to turn.

The post Here’s How The Nation’s Two Largest States Plan To Crack Down On Predatory Lending appeared first on ThinkProgress.


PoliticusUSA Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:46 GMT  

Republicans Admit Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Religious Tyranny Meant to Control Women
Republicans claim their abominable legislation overturning a Washington D.C. anti-discrimination statute that prohibited religious employers from punishing women who use birth control, family planning services, or abortion services was to protect employers' religious liberty according to the Hobby Lobby ruling. However, they revealed the legislation is about using religious tyranny to control women.

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Chuck Todd Lets John Boehner Tell Blatant Obamacare Lies On Meet The Press
NBC's Chuck Todd continued to be the Republican Party's best friend by letting John Boehner tell two gigantic lies about the ACA on Meet The Press.

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Paul Ryan Tries To Use Baltimore Riots As An Excuse To Take Food Away From Poor People
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is trying to use the Baltimore riots as an excuse to take away food and housing from poor adults and children.

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Paul Krugman Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:46 GMT  

US External Debt: A Curious Case
Strength is weakness, I think.
Poverty Policy Truths
Nation of takers not.
Friday Night Music: Lone Bellow, Angel from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo.

Media Matters for America - Latest Items Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:46 GMT  

Clinton Cash Author Admits He Has No Plan To Similarly Produce Book On Jeb Bush

Clinton Cash Author Won't Write A Book About Jeb Bush

Clinton Cash author and Republican activist Peter Schweizer acknowledged that, contrary to earlier reporting, there is no similar book in the works on the personal finances and policy decisions of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a claim journalists have previously cited to legitimize Schweizer's forthcoming book on the Clintons.

There are at least 20 documented errors, fabrications, and distortions in Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, where the conservative author speculates about allegedly unethical ties between the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary Clinton purportedly made as secretary of state. His allegations of impropriety by the Clintons and their family foundation have been picked apart by ABC News, BuzzFeed, MSNBC, NBC News, and ThinkProgress, among several other news agencies, and Schweizer has even been accused by one of his sources of taking comments "badly out of context" in hopes of slighting the Clinton family.

Bloomberg Politics reported on April 23 that in contrast to the "left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton," "Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer." Politico and CNN subsequently reported this would be a "book" on Bush.

But days later, Schweizer admitted that no similar book on Jeb Bush will be published. On the May 3 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz asked about accusations that the book is "pursuing an agenda" based on his conservative political affiliations and activism. Schweizer acknowledged that while he's been researching Bush's finances, there are no plans to publish a book similar to Clinton Cash:

KURTZ: To be fair, you have been digging into Jeb Bush's finances --

SCHWEIZER: Yeah.

KURTZ: -- So the Clintons aren't the only ones you're going to be looking at. But that's not going to result in a book, as I understand.

SCHWEIZER: Right.

A spokesperson for Schweizer's current publisher, HarperCollins, previously told Media Matters that it has no plans to publish a book on Bush's complex finances. Instead, it expects Schweizer to issue a follow-up report at his far-right think tank, the Government Accountability Institute.

See the full segment here:


Right Wing Watch Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:47 GMT  

Right Wing Round-Up - 5/1/15

http://blog.buzzflash.com/rss.xml Sun, 03 May 2015 23:57:47 GMT  


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liberal adj.
  • Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
  • Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
  • Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
  • Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.




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