It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the epoch of incredulity…
One is dead. The other has been resurrected from political death.
Saturday’s Pakistani elections for the National Assembly resulted in a resounding win for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Muslim League (PML-N). Former cricket star Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), appears to be in opposition. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), founded and run by the Bhutto family, got walloped.
This al Jazeera infographic explains the Pakistani election process. The May 11 elections were for the National Assembly, leaving the PPP in charge of the Presidency.
If Sharif can form a government, and the army can be persuaded not to overthrow the democratic process, then it will be the first legal transition of power in the 66-year history of the country.
The 2016 presidential campaign has definitely started. No candidates have announced themselves, but the most likely players are clearly evident. For the Democrats, most speculation has centered around two veteran politicians: former Senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden. On the Republican side stands a bevy of brash young Turks, each trying to out-do the others for the most possible camera time. You can tell which side is already running scared, and which opposing candidate is most feared. Fox “News” and Karl Rove (desperate to remain a player after backing so many losers in 2012) have already created a campaign-style attack ad.
The attacks on Secretary Clinton consist of innuendo and speculation fueled by hearings in the House Oversight Committee chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Vista, CA). Those hearings were in regard to a different attack — the September, 2012, assault on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, an action which resulted in the deaths of Christopher Stevens (then America’s ambassador to Libya) and three other staffers. Republicans have already taken multiple bites off this apple, including non-inhaling former Governor Mitt Romney’s clumsy and ineffective macho blustering that began while the event was still under way; then a sensationalist first set of Congressional hearings in January; and then the scuttling of Susan Rice’s nomination for the post of Secretary of State. In no case was any wrongdoing revealed, only Republican frustration at the Obama Administration’s insufficiently prurient use of the word “terrorism.”
We learned last week, on the May 1 edition of CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett, that our government has been spying on all of us for years. In the relevant portion of the transcript, former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente tells us so matter-of-factly that he almost seems surprised that we didn’t already know:
BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”
At this point I don’t see any harm in discussing it, though I’ve known about this for longer than I’d care to admit. One of the difficult aspects of working in the security realm is that I hear many things from many sources, and quite a few of them involve topics I can’t (or won’t) divulge to others. So it is in this case.
But now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s worth looking at this a bit more thoroughly. (more…)
Three women, missing for a decade, were found alive and relatively healthy (at least physically) in a house in Cleveland, Ohio. Charles Ramsey, a man with his own checkered past, got tagged as a hero for rescuing them, though it appears he played more of a bit part than did Angel Cordero. Ramsey, however, made a far better impact in television interviews and has become an Internet phenomenon…probably for some of the wrong reasons. Ariel Castro, who is suspected of kidnapping the women and holding them hostage, reportedly left a suicide note containing a detailed confession.
And today is Friday, which means you have the floor. Maybe you could sweep it…I see a lot of debris around.
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The January announcement of the impending retirement of Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has set off a scramble for his seat in Georgia, perhaps the best Class 2 Senate seat pickup opportunity for the Democrats. (Senators are divided into three Classes for election dates, and the election of Class 2 Senators will take place in November 2014.)
You might remember Representative John Barrow (D-Augusta, GA) as the only remaining Congressional White Democrat in the Deep South. Barrow was reëlected in 2012 after Republican gerrymandering changed his district from D+1 centered on Savannah to R+10. This rated the redistricting as #5 on Charlie Cook’s list of most politically adroit gerrymanders of the 2010 Census cycle.
(To be fair, Cook calls his list “25 Biggest Redistricting Swings Against the Incumbent Party” but I renamed it for emphasis. Before I hear squawking, notice the gerrymander of Maryland’s 6th District by Democrats is #1.)
Barrow had to leave Savannah and move to Augusta to hold his seat, which he did by a wide margin (54–46 percent) against a weak Republican opponent. He reportedly considered the Senate run, but has just demurred. (more…)
With immigration reform nearer to reality than it has been in decades, voices on many sides of this issue have been speaking up. Bear in mind that the bill being considered in Congress is pretty weak tea. It allows a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, but places tremendous barriers in their way, and requires more stringent enforcement of existing laws. Nevertheless, anti-immigrant forces have been arrayed to oppose even this step, labeling it with their preferred trigger-word, “amnesty.”
On both humanitarian and practical political grounds, the pro-reform movement has the better hand. In human terms, it’s hard to deny that America is an attractive place to live, and people come to this country — legally or not — because it is an improvement over where they were. As a practical consideration, no major political party can afford to anger voters (primarily Latino and Hispanic, but also black and Asian) who identify with the eleven million or so undocumented immigrants in the country today. It is widely thought that Republicans cannot win the White House with less than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, and immigration reform may be an important key to helping GOP candidates move toward that mark.
Just imagine how it could play out. Imagine the Republican Party, which desperately needs Hispanic votes, suddenly came to support a plan to grant full American citizenship to all current undocumented immigrants, on the two simple conditions that they not be guilty of any felonies, and they pass the standard citizenship test. Republicans would win the next dozen election cycles in a series of unprecedented landslides.
Aside from these ethical and political reasons to pass immigration reform, there is another compelling justification — economic. Immigrants, legal or not, are good for the economy. (more…)