Tag Archive for Congress

Barack Obama makes case for Syria strikes despite delaying Congress vote to give diplomacy a chance

Barack Obama makes case for Syria strikes despite delaying Congress vote to give diplomacy a chance

Barack Obama has asked Congress to delay a vote on military strikes against Syria pending the outcome of Russian attempts to have Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons put under international control. Read more

Syria crisis: Obama to seek approval of congress as UN inspectors arrive in Netherlands

Syria crisis: Obama to seek approval of congress as UN inspectors arrive in Netherlands

Barack Obama has said that while he wholeheartedly backs military action against Syria, he will put it to a vote within congress.

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Is This About American Muslims Or America

c. 2011 Religion News Service
Lately, Congress appears to be obsessed with Muslims.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is holding hearings Tuesday (March 29) on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims,” and Chairman Peter King has announced a second set of hearings on “Radicalization in the American Muslim Community” in the House Homeland Security Committee, this set focusing on radicalization in prisons.
Although the word “Muslim” is the one getting the most media play, I believe these hearings are really about America, and whether we value the contributions of, and cooperation between, our many different communities.
Our founding fathers were emphatic on where they stood. When George Washington was asked about his preferred workers at Mount Vernon, he replied: “If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa or Europe; they may be Mahometans (Muslims), Jews, Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.” For Washington, it wasn’t just about the principle of freedom, but the practicality that in a diverse nation, bigotry toward any community not only hurts that group, but weakens the nation.
As the leader of the Continental Army, the first truly national American institution, Washington took a strong stand against anti-Catholicism Read more

We Needed Real Debate Before Bombing Libya

Since the dawn of civilization thousands of years ago, the broader Middle East has been a crucible of conflict. Foreign armies have waded in, often with good intentions, to bring peace and impose order. Almost without exception they have failed. Yet once again the Western world seems to believe that it is immune to the lessons of history Read more

Can We Still See and Serve Our True National SelfInterest

The biggest threat to America’s future is not foreign competition. It is the political paralysis that keeps us from rising to the challenge of foreign competition.
There are many sources of this paralysis. Judicial decisions ban limits on political spending. Gerrymandering disenfranchises the political center while empowering the political extremes Read more

Main Street And HighGrowth Startups Legislators Must Make A Distinction

All small businesses are not the same. Until this is registered and embraced by our legislators, this country will not succeed in its efforts to promote economic growth through innovation or unleash our full capacity to compete globally.
As a participant in Treasury’s Access to Capital Conference held Tuesday in Washington D.C., I was invited to speak on a panel about fostering growth and innovation for high growth small businesses, with a specific focus on the role that debt can play. I was appreciative of the opportunity to represent the needs of truly innovative companies that contribute substantially to U.S. GDP, U.S Read more

One Year Later Health Care Reform a Law Worth Keeping

Is the health care reform law a good deal for Americans or is it so badly flawed that Congress should repeal it? Now that the measure is one year old — President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to law on March 23, 2010 — I humbly suggest we attempt an unbiased assessment of what the law really means to us and where we need to go from here.
To do that in a meaningful way, we must remind ourselves why reform was necessary in the first place. I believe the heated rhetoric we’ve been exposed to since the reform debate began has obscured the harsh realities of a health care system that failed to meet the needs of an ever-growing number of Americans.
Among them: seven-year-old Thomas Wilkes of Littleton, Colo., who was born with severe hemophilia. You would never know it to meet Thomas because he looks and acts like any other little boy his age, but to stay alive, he needs expensive treatments that over time will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thomas’s parents were terrified before the law was passed because the family’s health insurance policy had a $1 million lifetime cap Read more

Kentuckys Coal Cabinet

There’s a storm brewing in Kentucky among coal companies and state government. A coalition of environmental and citizen groups has been calling out some of the nation’s biggest coal companies for egregious violations of the Clean Water Act — violations numbering in the tens of thousands over just a few years. The strangest part? Every time the people have the goods on yet another lawbreaking operation, the Commonwealth steps in, sweetheart deal in hand, to insulate the coal barons from justice. If you’re a Kentucky resident wondering whose interests your elected officials serve these days, you can now rest assured: it isn’t yours.
In Kentucky, environmental protection of the commonwealth’s precious natural resources and waterways is supposed to be handled by the Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) Read more

Congress Must Debate the Libya War

The U.S. is now at war in a third Muslim country, according to the “official tally” (that is, counting Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya but not Pakistan or Yemen, for example). But Congress has never authorized or debated the U.S. military intervention in Libya Read more

Death Panels Fact and Fiction

“Death panels” are back in the news, and Congress is turning its attention to them once again. The problem is, lawmakers are looking in all the wrong places.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, now headed by Republicans, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week demanding to know how a controversial provision that was excised from last year’s health reform bill wound up — briefly — in a government “rule” on physician reimbursement.
The proposed provision would have allowed Medicare to pay doctors to counsel patients about their end-of-life medical wishes. That idea originally had bipartisan support, but when the provision was brought to Sarah Palin’s attention, she accused Democrats of wanting to create “death panels” that would decide when to pull the plug on granny and grandpa.
The claim was utterly false, but it was such an irresistible soundbite that Palin posted it on her Facebook page. She and many other Republicans quickly made it a central part of their efforts to scare people away from health care reform Read more

Another Continuing Resolution A Real Life Fairy Tale in Washington

At the stroke of midnight tonight — Friday, March 18th, Cindarella’s coach might have turned back into a pumpkin and the White House could have shut down the government. But fairy tales are true to form, and so we have a Continuing Resolution that lets everyone live happily ever after — at least for 3 weeks.
Regardless of how this next chapter of the budget morality tale ends, the moral of the story is the same: we all need a bit of magic in our lives or a handsome prince with a glass slipper. Reality is just too hard. Watching Washington wrestle with how to cut another swatch from the national budget cloth is getting darn depressing Read more

Winning in Afghanistan

General David Petraeus is in Washington, D.C., this week and, as expected, we are hearing claims of success and progress. No matter that we’ve heard these assertions and predictions before or that our elected representatives, charged on our behalf with oversight, are failing to ask such basic and elementary questions as:
or
or
Over the last couple of years, hasn’t anybody in the Pentagon or administration asked the hard questions of what would happen if we add 50,000 troops and tens of billions of dollars to a 30-year-old war in Afghanistan and it doesn’t turn out as we hoped? What do we do then?
or
Where is al Qaeda?
For those charged with oversight there is always a fine line between deference and respect. However, many members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, motivated by a lack of political and intellectual courage, have clearly chosen to abdicate their oversight responsibility and to elevate our general officers to a near clerical or infallible status and simply defer.
On Tuesday, the same day General Petraeus testified in front of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, I, along with Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings and Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, participated in a panel entitled “Afghanistan: A Countdown to July Redeployment” at the US House of Representatives:
During our panel, Michael Hastings offered a quip comparing the public relations efforts of General Petraeus to Charlie Sheen. At first consideration, it is just a wisecrack, but as Will Keola Thomas, an Afghanistan Study Group Fellow, explains quite well, it should be taken quite seriously:
Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings on the parallels between the PR campaign of a self-destructive major drug-consuming Hollywood star and General Petraeus’ publicity tour for a self-destructive policy in major drug-producing Afghanistan:
“This is the Charlie Sheen counterinsurgency strategy Read more

Market Speculators and the Real Cost of Oil

Last week, the New York Times concluded a story about the day on Wall Street with an interesting – and telling – dichotomy about the cause of skyrocketing gas prices:
Even as American oil supplies remained secure and ample – even as domestic oil production is at its highest level since 2003 – the price of crude in the commodities market is spiking ever upward. The price of gasoline has gone up more than 40 cents over the past three weeks nationally, and it continues to trend higher. Tom Kloza, head of the Oil Price Information Service, said that not only could gas prices continue to rise, but if unrest continues in the Middle East, the cost per gallon could spike to $5 or more.
While that fear is real, it relies on false causation. The two leading exporters of oil to the United States aren’t even in the Middle East; they are Canada and Mexico Read more

Congress Ludicrously Lax Employment Negotiation Rules

On Friday, the chief of staff to the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure left his post to lead the transportation lobbying practice at BGR Group. This is not only a perfect of example of why the revolving door is such a target of public disgust, but also an example of Congress’ lax rules on post-employment negotiations.
House Rules covering employment negotiations for current congressmen and staff have no public element. While lawmakers and staff are required to report on employment negotiations to the Ethics Committee (we’ll get to this in a minute), there is no requirement that the public be informed at all.
This is of little use to a public that sees the revolving door as a corrosive force on the legislative process.
While the rules do provide for disclosure to the Ethics Committee, they provide ludicrous options on when an individual has to report. Here are the rules as written:
As you can see by the portions that I’ve bolded, the individual engaged in employment negotiations has three choices of when to inform the Ethics Committee: upon the commencement of negotiations, upon accepting the new job, or upon receiving compensation from the new job Read more

Toppling Dictators with a Lethal Dose of Technology and Nonviolent Action

A revolution in Egypt: 18 days of tumultuous freedom fighting and a dictator is shamefully evicted. Seems straightforward, doesn’t it? It’s not. Egyptians have been working toward this outcome for years, yet the manner in which they achieved their revolution is clear-cut. Risking everything, far too often by dying, Egyptians pushed against the regime to gain the freedom to define democracy for themselves Read more

Petraeus McCain Continue Afghanistan War Spin But No One Buys It Nor Should They

General David Petraeus is set to testify before Congress today, and he’s expected to again try to put a positive spin on a war effort that’s utterly failing to meet the goals set by its backers. While intelligence assessments show that tactical moves on the ground in Afghanistan have failed to fundamentally weaken the growing insurgency, Petraeus expected to offer “a mostly upbeat assessment today of military progress.” Petraeus’s Potemkin village tours of Afghanistan for visiting dignitaries may have “impressed” people like John McCain, but Defense Intelligence Agency head General Ronald Burgess rains all over the progress talk with the sobering news that the casualties inflicted on the Taliban have caused “no apparent degradation in their capacity to fight.”
As if to underline Burgess’ point, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a recruiting station for the Afghan Army, killing at least 35 people in northern Afghanistan on Monday.
Despite the assurances from the administration, the military and their think-tank allies, the massive troop escalations of 2009 and 2010 have failed to reverse the momentum of the insurgency or protect the Afghan population from insurgent intimidation and violence. From today’s L.A. Times:
While the Taliban maintained momentum in 2010 and early 2011, the escalation strategy backed by Petraeus failed to protect Afghans from violence as promised, with 2010 being the deadliest year of the war so far for civilians.
One of the most hawkish of the Petraeus backers in the Senate, Senator McCain, is working hard to set the bounds for acceptable debate in Congress, but he, like the counterinsurgency campaign, is failing:
McCain only sees what he wants to see, apparently Read more

We Women Must Declare a Nonviolent Revolution

I am calling for a non-violent revolution. A call to arms, without weapons.
On Tuesday the 8th of March, I joined Annie Lennox, Cheri Lunghi, Jude Kelly, Natasha Walter and hundreds of women on a march along London’s Southbank to celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day (IWD).
It was encouraging to see so many women come together, but we should have been thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions perhaps? The first march in 1911 saw over a million women and men campaign to end discrimination against women and to demand equal rights.
Are we so complacent that we feel we do not need to demand gender equality? Many women are convinced there is equality between men and women. The fact however is that the US has never had a female president and, in the UK there has been just one female prime minister out of 52 male leaders Read more

Heeding Teddy Roosevelts Words Investing in Nature is Investing in America

At the beginning of a new century, a young president faced a financial crisis that threatened to cripple his nation. The New York Stock Exchange lost half of its value, while unemployment doubled. The president was simultaneously accused of socialism and “financial negligence” from opposing political corners.
President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt had his hands full with the Panic of 1907 Read more

An Injustice for Republican Readers and Tea Party Partisans

GOPers, gather ’round. For your consideration, a travesty of bureaucracy: Eighty-eight different agencies make a slew of complex and often conflicting rules that mire thousands of small and mid-sized American businesses in snarls of paperwork that run up man-hours, reduce their company output, profit and hamstring their ability to do business.
It’s exactly the kind of thing that Republicans say is wrong with the system. In this case, I have to agree with you.
These bureaucrats create an immense amount of uncertainty for the businesses under their jurisdiction. Their paperwork consumes nearly one-third (31%) of every dollar that they take in Read more

Peter King Ignores Poison Gas Disaster Threat to New York City

Congressman Peter King (R-NY), the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, faced protests from hundreds of New Yorkers and interfaith leaders this weekend over his plans to single out Muslim communities in upcoming Congressional hearings. While Rep. King seeks to look tough on terrorism by scapegoating people for their religious beliefs, last week he showed his willingness to leave New Yorkers and millions of other Americans vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack on dangerous chemical plants.
Instead of ensuring that the highest risk chemical plants convert to safer technologies, King joined Representatives Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in supporting weak chemical plant security standards. Championed by chemical industry lobbyists, these rules leave 110 million Americans threatened by these pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction Read more

The Road to Budget Sanity

Cutting military spending would make us leaner and meaner; stronger, not weaker.
The budget wars have begun. Duck!
President Obama delivered the first salvo by presenting his $3.5 trillion proposal for the 2012 fiscal year to Congress in a telephone book-sized document. It was very Barack — measured and balanced. It cut a little here, put on a little there, added a pinch of taxes and came up with a budget he said would cut more than a trillion dollars from the deficit over the next 10 years.
Republicans in Congress responded with the calm assurance usually associated with Pickett’s charge Read more

Dont Cut Off Your Knows

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke knows it. Education and training are central to our nation’s economic competitiveness. In fact, he recently urged that budget deliberations recognize the benefits of programs that equip workers with needed skills — even when we must grapple with difficult decisions around balancing state and federal budgets.
But House leadership is taking action that will cut off our nose to spite our face. The House-passed Continuing Resolution, which would fund the government through the remainder of FY 2011, includes drastic cuts to adult, dislocated worker and youth programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Read more

ROTC on Campus is a Good Thing

Last night, Columbia University’s Task Force on Military Engagement released its findings. ROTC–the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps–is welcome back on campus. Harvard followed suit. Both pro and con voices at these Ivy League schools have legitimate feelings about a uniformed presence on campus Read more