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Jerry Brown’s legacy will be decided at the ballot box — again.

Jerry Brown’s legacy will be decided at the ballot box — again.

n an era of constant television advertising, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) stands out. Brown won an unprecedented fourth term in office this month with 59 percent of the vote, without running a single TV spot. Late campaign finance reports showed he maintained almost $21 million in his bank account just two weeks before Election Day.

Despite the big bankroll, Brown wants more. He will appear at a fundraiser Monday in Sacramento with lobbyists and their clients, who will fork over $5,000 checks written to his reelection campaign.

Why does Brown need the money? The 76-year-old governor is barred by law from seeking a fifth term four years from now, and he’s not likely to run for a U.S. Senate seat or some other elected office when his fourth term is over. Despite an endorsement from comedian Bill Maher, Brown isn’t likely to take a fourth shot at the presidency.

Instead, Brown’s campaign war chest is likely to be spent on establishing his legacy through a different type of campaign: advocating for ballot initiatives that advance his legislative and policy goals by bypassing the legislature itself. He can also expend the money on other candidates.

Some of Brown’s biggest achievements in his third term came at the ballot box. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 30, which raised income taxes on the wealthy and the sales taxes. Brown and first lady Anne Gust controlled virtually the entire campaign.

In 2014, Brown spent at least $3.3 million on television advertisements for two more ballot measures — one a massive $7.1 billion water bond that will build infrastructure aimed at helping the state recover from a years-long drought, the other that bolsters the state’s rainy day fund to help it weather the next economic recession.

Even before Election Day, Brown made clear that his campaign war chest would help him avoid losing influence in Sacramento. “I do think having a credible war chest will overcome whatever infirmities lame-duck governors might ordinarily suffer from,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times.

Backstabbing in Hillaryland: Here We Go Again

Backstabbing in Hillaryland: Here We Go Again

We've seen this movie before, and it doesn't end well.

On Friday, ABC News published a story about a email listserv maintained by two Democratic operatives: Robby Mook, a former Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton campaign aide, and Marlon Marshall, an Obama White House staffer named Marlon Marshall. The story's title—"EXCLUSIVE: Read the Secret Emails of the Men Who May Run Hillary Clinton's Campaign"—promised a juicy expose. In reality, the substance of what members posted on this 150-member "secret" listserv, dubbed the "Mook Mafia," was far from explosive. The phrases "smite Republicans mafia-style" and "punish those voters" read badly out of context. But then, who hasn't dashed off a snarky email to friends that you wished you could take back and touch up a little?

The real news isn't that Mook and Marshall had a listserv for fellow Democratic operatives. It's that someone on the listserv leaked its contents in an effort to hurt Mook's chances of becoming the manager of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. In other words, the Clinton '16 effort has yet to officially launch and already the backstabbing and infighting has begun.

It's shades of Hillary '08 all over again.

Internal battles notoriously plagued Clinton's first presidential run. A Washington Post story in March 2008 described the "combustible environment within the Clinton campaign, an operation where internal strife and warring camps have undercut a candidate once seemingly destined for the Democratic nomination."

The Constitution Didn't Foresee Divided Government

The Constitution Didn't Foresee Divided Government

The battle between Obama and a Republican Congress may shake Americans' faith in the Framers.

By Garrett Epps

“The president is completely ignoring the will of the American voters, who turned out on Election Day and overwhelmingly elected people who wanted to change the direction of the country,” Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, complained Thursday to The New York Times.

Barrasso is right. President Obama is ignoring “the will” of those who turned out to vote this month. In a different system, he would have already moved out of the White House, replaced by a leader chosen by the Republican majorities in Congress. (For that matter, he would have been gone after his party took, in his words, a “shellacking” in 2010.)

Instead, however, he is president for two more years. When the voters were directly asked their “will” on his tenure two years ago, they handed him a title deed to the White House good, under our Constitution, until January 2017. With that in hand, he has made clear that he plans to go forward with executive actions to further his agenda.

Already, since the election, he has signed an agreement with China setting more strenuous goals for reducing carbon emissions. He has promised to issue soon an executive order providing broader protections against deportation for undocumented immigrants—in effect using executive authority to impose a limited form of the comprehensive immigration reform the Senate passed but the House refused to enact. Signals from the White House suggest that other executive initiatives may be in the works.

Is this an outrage, a defiance of democratic legitimacy? Is it a welcome sign of courageous presidential leadership? How does the coming duel between legislative and executive branch fit into the design of our Constitution?

Purity politics, Democrat-style

Purity politics, Democrat-style


Here comes the tea party of the left.

On a rainy Monday morning, 50 sodden liberal activists stood on the muddy front lawn of the Capitol Hill home of Sen. Mary Landrieu, advocating for the Louisiana Democrat’s defeat.

“This house is high and dry, but the coastlines of Louisiana are sinking, very much like Senator Landrieu’s career!” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, shouted into a microphone.

The activists behind him, who had inflated a model of an oil pipeline on the senator’s lawn using a generator and a window fan, erupted in cheers of “Woo-hoo!” and “Yeah!”

“And she’s hooking her political career on the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline,” continued Pica, referring to Landrieu’s effort to force a Senate vote on the project in an effort to boost her prospects in next month’s runoff election.

“You would rather allow Big Oil to dictate the politics of this country and your reelection at the expense of . . . this country and the world, just to get reelected,” Pica charged. “Shame on you!”

Democrats lash out at Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi is shown. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Democrats lash out at Nancy Pelosi

House members go on the record with rare open criticism of their leaders.

The discontent with Nancy Pelosi is breaking out in the open.

Democrats in the House have quietly grumbled about Pelosi since suffering devastating losses on Election Day, but there is a growing number of members willing to go public on their party leaders.

The list of grievances — from the election losses, to routine procedures erupting into nasty fights — has shaken the confidence many Democrats hold in their leader. So while Pelosi was reelected unanimously by voice vote to the top House Democratic post on Tuesday during a closed-door party meeting — with no audible disagreement, according to a source in the room — the incoming minority leader is about to be in the worst position with her caucus since the end of their short-lived majority in 2010.

“They wiped the floor with us, so no, we’re not feeling good,” said Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “We think clearly there was a lack of a coherent and compelling message. We believe that certainly our leadership worked hard, but there obviously was something lacking because we lost so many seats. I want to see members who have a better handle on the caucus brought in, whether they be young or old. I want people who have a good pulse of what is going on in our caucus … people who are more inclusive.”

John Boehner: Plenty of fight left for immigration battle

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, takes questions as he meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. | AP Photo

John Boehner: Plenty of fight left for immigration battle

By Jake Sherman

Speaker John Boehner told a closed meeting of Republicans that he has “plenty of fight in him” to confront President Barack Obama on unilateral changes to the enforcement of immigration laws.

The statement came Tuesday morning in the Capitol basement, as Boehner (R-Ohio) and his GOP colleagues begin to plot their strategy for renewing government funding amid simmering anger at the White House’s immigration plans.

Boehner also told House Republicans they need be able to “chew gum and walk” at the same time - a not-so-subtle message that the Ohio Republican wants to continue governing while battling Obama.

Obama’s Executive Overreach Is More Dangerous Than Amnesty

Obama’s Executive Overreach Is More Dangerous Than Amnesty

Obama’s Executive Overreach Is More Dangerous Than Amnesty

 By David Harsanyi

The GOP not only has a strong political reason to fight Obama on executive abuse, they have a constitutional responsibility, as well.

Although it may be difficult to imagine, there are things more devastating to a country than a few years of legislative gridlock. For example, allowing slavish partisanship to corrode principles of American governance for temporary political gain. That sort of thing.

Is this an overreaction? Well, this week, the Senate Majority Leader of the United States sent a letter to the president, urging him to unilaterally change the legal status of millions of people. Since “Republicans have not acted,” Harry Reid and other top Democrats reasoned, “we fully support your decision to use your well-established executive authority to improve as much of the immigration system as you can.”

Reid, Chuck Schumer, Michael Bennet, and a number of liberal pundits contend that if the GOP fails to take up the agenda items laid out by the soon-to-be minority Democrats, the well-established constitutional authority to pass bills through two houses of Congress and waiting for the president sign or veto them can be disregarded for the greater good. Ask Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post, who believes the “only reason President Obama has to act on immigration reform is that House Speaker John Boehner won’t.” Boehner, you see, refuses to do his job, which entails taking up bills the president deems important and then passing them.


Using this rationalization, Obama can act whenever his favored policy is ignored. After all, senators urge Obama to change the status of millions by deferring deportations for illegal immigrants brought here by their parents or families as children—although he may do more. By any reasonable standard, that sort of modification to a law deserves to be wrung through a legislative process. But Obama’s aim, unambiguously laid out by the president in his post-midterm press conference, is to circumvent that process and, as Robinson explains, do Congress’ job. Which, come to think of it, is a perfect definition of executive abuse.

Everything the president doing is completely legal! Well, just because the president gets away with something doesn’t mean it isn’t a misuse of power. Ask any liberal who’s spent the last 15 years bemoaning the excesses of the security state.

Yet Congress isn’t compelled to pass anything. For six years, the media framed Washington’s mess as a battle between obstinate conservatives and “democracy.” Obama had often also often argued—on guns and immigration, among other issues—that a troublesome minority stood in the way of the people’s aspirations. And even though the president seems to count every non-voting American as a staunch supporter, that argument doesn’t even work anymore. A USA Today poll found that 46 percent believe that the president should allow the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate to act on immigration reform and 42 percent of Americans want Obama to “act.”

Democrats press Obama to wait on immigration executive action

Democrats press Obama to wait on immigration executive action

 By Alexander Bolton

President Obama has a tough decision to make on the timing of an executive order to freeze deportations of illegal immigrants. 

Senate Democrats want him to wait to give them time to pass an omnibus spending bill and other legislative priorities in the lame-duck session that is just now ramping up.

But delaying the action, even for a few weeks, could make Obama look weak and inflame immigration advocates who are already furious with him for holding back until after the midterm elections.

“You have growing anxiety amongst the immigrant community that’s losing faith that the president is going to do as he said he would do,” said Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “I really think he’ll lose support from the Latino community if he continues to wait.”

Complicating the situation further, Obama is being asked to do a favor for Democratic lawmakers at a time when they are casting blame on him for the party’s disastrous showing at the ballot box.

One of the sharpest blows came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) chief of staff, who excoriated Obama in a story published almost immediately after Democrats lost the Senate.

Obama postponed executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections at the behest of Democrats, and immigration advocates say there’s no reason to go that route again.

“Waiting doesn’t make sense,” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, deputy vice president of research, advocacy and legislation at the National Council of La Raza. “This is about millions of American families who’ve been waiting for a very long time for something to be done,” she said.

But Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, which has jurisdiction of the immigration enforcement agencies that would be affected, said Obama should wait until next year.

“If I were the president, what I’d say to the Congress — House, Senate, Democrat or Republican — I’m going to give you a little bit of time and in the new Congress expect you to do something,” he said.

How Valerie Jarrett Saved Obama

By Joshua DuBois

In the second half of 2007, Valerie quite literally saved the Obama presidential campaign. We were hemorrhaging support in the late summer and fall of that year, and a sort of depression was settling in among some field and political staff in early primary states. We lagged far behind Hillary Clinton in many of those contests, even among black voters, who didn’t see the campaign making the types of decisions that indicated we wanted their support.

The last straw was when Congressman John Lewis—the Civil Rights legend—came out in support of Hillary Clinton in October 2007. That announcement dealt a huge blow to our morale internally and to the case that we made to minority voters externally. It was hard to talk about making history when the real history-makers like Lewis weren’t backing you.

One core problem was that our young, diverse campaign staff didn’t always feel heard by the powers that be. There were strategic recommendations, views on where the candidate should go, and political intelligence among these lower and middle ranks of staffers, but few places to send them. This resulted in missed opportunities, depressed morale—and declining poll numbers in states where the support of young people, African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities was key.

That’s when Valerie stepped in. She had functionally been a volunteer and an occasional advisor up to that point, but after the Lewis disaster it was clear she needed to take a larger role. So she more formally joined the ranks of the campaign’s senior leadership. And as soon as she became a regular presence at our Michigan Avenue headquarters, things started to change.

Young, black, Latino, women, and gay staffers felt like they had a listening ear and advocate in the upper tiers of the campaign—at times after making a quiet trip to Valerie’s office. The diversity of our endorsements started trending in the right direction, often after a phone call from Valerie to a key supporter. Then-Senator Obama began attending the types of base-rallying events that got people in the early states energized, often after a nudge from Valerie. And in states like South Carolina—which was so central to the campaign’s trajectory after the devastating loss in New Hampshire—Obama finally got his footing, and turned things around.

Drone ‘Shortage’ Hampers ISIS War

Drone ‘Shortage’ Hampers ISIS War

The American campaign against the Islamic State is being largely fought from the sky. And even that aerial effort is being shortchanged, military insiders tell The Daily Beast.

The president has declared the fight against ISIS to be a top priority. But within some corners of the U.S. military, there are growing concerns that the fight isn’t getting the resources it needs. Specifically, senior military officials tell The Daily Beast, there’s a “shortage” of drones and other surveillance planes needed to keep tabs on ISIS militants in Iraq and in Syria.

By now, he coalition’s difficulties in monitoring ISIS have been well documented. ISIS forces are operating in smaller groups and inside the civilian population to avoid being spotted from the sky. And the militant group’s leaders are using encryption or human couriers to send messages. Just last week, key members of the U.S. government met to discuss how hard it’s been to track the militant group.

Until now, most of the internal criticisms about the American-led intelligence effort have largely centered around the lack of U.S. spies on the ground. These American military officials are making a different point: There simply aren’t enough American surveillance flights over the ISIS battlefield. The reason, they add, is because the war in Afghanistan continues to receive preferential treatment, even though it is winding down.

“A shortage of ISR exists,” one Air Force official told The Daily Beast, using the military’s acronym for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. “Afghanistan has the first draw on resources. With it being a NATO-based alliance, there is more face to lose if the U.S. diverts resources to Iraq or Syria against the ISIS tasking. As the troops draw down [in Afghanistan], they will need more, not less, ISR.”

A senior Pentagon official agreed that there is a shortage of surveillance planes needed to track down ISIS. But he disagreed with the Air Force official about the reason for it is the prioritizing of Afghanistan.

“Fair to say that we currently have more ISR requirements than we have the capacity to fulfill,” the official said. “Probably less about ‘losing face’ by diverting any more assets from [Afghanistan] than the need to continue to support the commanders’ high-priority ISR requirements during the drawdown.”

Before Obama’s immigration decision, skepticism is palpable

Before Obama’s immigration decision, skepticism is palpable

President Obama is preparing to announce his big executive action on immigration, possibly as early as this week.

And the earliest indication is that it will be about as popular as he is.

A new poll from USA Today and Princeton Survey Research shows 42 percent approve of Obama acting unilaterally via executive action to address problems in the immigration system. Another 46 percent say Obama should wait for the new GOP-led Congress to pass immigration legislation, while 10 percent are unsure.

The split is somewhat counterintuitive, since a strong majority of Americans approve of what is likely to be the key element of the executive action: effectively legalizing millions of immigrants who are here illegally. As Post pollsters Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement pointed out over the weekend, 57 percent of those who voted on Nov. 4 favored legalization for these people, while 39 percent wanted deportation, according to exit polls. And even that split was actually narrower than most polls have shown.

But in politics, the process matters too, and many of those who otherwise support legalization also appear opposed to or hesitant about doing so without the regular checks and balances of the legislative and executive branches. Threading that needle is a difficult exercise for Obama, but he has said Republican leaders have failed to address the issue and now their time is up.

Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex

Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex

JERUSALEM — Two Palestinians armed with a gun, knives and axes stormed a synagogue complex in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, the Israeli police said, killing four rabbis in the middle of their morning prayers.

The police killed the assailants in a gun battle at the scene that left one officer critically wounded. It was the deadliest attack on Israeli civilians in more than three years, and the worst in Jerusalem since 2008. Witnesses and Israeli leaders were particularly horrified at the religious overtones of an attack on a synagogue that killed men in ritual garments and spilled blood on prayer books.

“To see Jews wearing tefillin and wrapped in the tallit lying in pools of blood, I wondered if I was imagining scenes from the Holocaust,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the veteran leader of a religious emergency-response team, describing the straps and prayer shawls worn by the worshipers. “It was a massacre of Jews at prayer.”

The 7 a.m. attack on a synagogue complex that is at the heart of community life in the Har Nof neighborhood shattered Israelis’ sense of security and further strained relations with Palestinians at a time of heightened tension and violence. Six people, including a baby, a soldier and a border police officer, have been killed in a spate of vehicular and knife attacks fueled in large part by a dispute over a holy site in the Old City known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The four victims were all rabbis, one born in England and three in the United States, including Moshe Twersky, 59, part of a celebrated Hasidic dynasty.


“The Palestinian leadership must condemn this,” Mr. Kerry said in London, after speaking by telephone to Mr. Netanyahu, “and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”

Mr. Abbas responded to Mr. Kerry’s demand, offering his first denouncement of any Palestinian attack during the recent escalation.

“We condemn the killing of civilians from any side,” he said in a statement published by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. “We condemn the killings of worshipers at the synagogue in Jerusalem and condemn acts of violence no matter their source.”

But there were celebrations after the attack in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, and other Palestinian leaders praised the attack as a response to what they see as a threat to the holy site, and to the recent death of a Palestinian bus driver in Jerusalem. Relatives and friends of the driver, Yousef al-Ramouni, who was found hanged in his bus Sunday night, insisted he had been lynched by Jews, though the Israeli police said an autopsy on Monday ruled that his death was a suicide.

In Gaza City, people fired celebratory gunshots in the air. Praise for God and the attackers poured from mosque loudspeakers shortly after the attacks; later, some distributed sweets and paraded through the streets singing victory songs. Palestinian television ran photographs of similar outbursts of joy in Bethlehem, in the West Bank.

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central committee, said on Al Jazeera early Tuesday that the attack on the synagogue complex was “a normal reaction to the Israeli oppression.”

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman, wrote in a Facebook post: “The new operation is heroic and a natural reaction to Zionist criminality against our people and our holy places. We have the full right to revenge for the blood of our martyrs in all possible means.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took credit for the attack, though Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said the authorities were still investigating whether the assailants were affiliated with any group.

Like the two men who recently plowed their cars into crowds of pedestrians in Jerusalem, and one who shot a leader of the movement for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Tuesday’s attackers were Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who carry Israeli identification cards, can travel freely throughout Israel, and often work in Jewish neighborhoods.

“We’re also looking to see why they targeted this synagogue, were they familiar with this neighborhood,” Mr. Rosenfeld told reporters in a conference call.

Within two hours of the attack, scores of Israeli security forces had stormed Jabel Mukaber, the Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem where those believed to have been the assailants lived, spraying tear gas at their family home and into hills of olive trees.

Relatives said the younger assailant’s parents, three sisters and a brother were arrested, along with the wife, mother and five brothers of the older attacker, who had three children, ages 6, 5 and 3.

“I salute Odai and Ghassan for this heroic operation,” said a cousin, Huda Abu Jamal, 46. “Every Palestinian should strike. Our conditions are too bad. These men have no jobs. Al Aqsa is in danger. The settlers brutally hanged Yousef. We raise our heads high.”

Mysterious Russian space object sparks dark speculation

Mysterious Russian space object sparks dark speculation

A report in the Financial Times speculates that the Russians are up to no good in space.

There was a time, not too long ago, when some of the world’s brilliant rocket scientists didn’t think of space as something to conquer, nor monetize, nor explore — but as a means to make war. During the Cold War in the 1960s, they eyed outer space as a potential theater of conflict, where human-piloted space vessels would engage in gravity-free dogfights and fire missiles. The ambitions were unrealistic. But they did nonetheless give birth to a Soviet anti-satellite weaponry program simply called “Istrebitel Sputnikov” — the “satellite killer.”

It was thought the killer was retired. It was thought the Soviet empire’s collapse had grounded it. But now, as the Financial Times first reported, there are whispers of its return out there in the blackness of space.

As news of the Virgin Galactic crash, Antares explosion and Rosetta exploration filled science pages, another space drama has quietly unfurled. In May, Russia launched a rocket to add several satellites to its existing constellation. In the process, it deployed what was first believed to be a piece of space debris but has now become a matter of great speculation.

“I have no idea what it is!” space security expert Patricia Lewis of the think-tank Chatham House told The Washington Post in a phone interview.

Few do. Russia did not declare its orbit, and now the U.S. military, space experts and amateur sleuths have been closely tracking its movements, each of which has been deliberate and precise. The unidentified satellite — called Object 2014-28E — recently navigated toward other Russian space objects, its voyage culminating in its recent hookup with the remains of the rocket stage that originally launched it.


Despite that confusion, every expert interviewed agreed that such satellites, which the Chinese use as well, may be the latest chapter in the militarization of space — first conceived as something akin to science fiction that has now evolved into subtler cyberwarfare, hinging on debilitating vital satellite systems. Virtually every modern technology — cellphones, map services, television shows and any number of communication services — hinges on satellites. Targeting them could cripple a nation’s abilities to conduct its military or shut down crucial global communication services.

“Imagine if you were having a Katrina episode and all of your satellites suddenly got jammed,” Lewis said. “Just imagine that.”

Lewis said there are several explanations for the mysterious Russian satellite. Some benign. Some not. Each possible use would be experimental. One of them, she said, involves the clearance of debris — almost like a space vacuum. Many space-bound nations “are looking at how to do this,” Lewis said. Or the mission could have something to do with search and rescue. Other possibilities are substantially more bellicose. “This satellite could be used as some sort of anti-satellite weapon. Or it could be that you use this to cyber-jam the satellites to grill them and take control of them, and that way you just leave the satellite dead,” Lewis said.

But both options make little sense, she continued. After all, you don’t need to shoot a satellite into space to “cyber-jam” other satellites. Just look at the Chinese. They just hacked U.S. weather systems without launching their own satellites — and did so right here from the ground. And destroying a satellite would create so much debris that “it would affect your own satellites’ surveillance and achieve a null goal.”

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval 'act of war'

keystone xl protest

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval 'act of war'

Climate advocates and representatives from the Rosebud Sioux tribe protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in front of US Senator Mary Landrieu’s home in Washington. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has called a congressional vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war” and vowed to close the reservation’s borders if the US government tries to install a pipeline there.

The prospective route for the pipeline, which would connect Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf coast, runs through the 922,759-acre (1,442 sq mi) Rosebud Sioux reservation in south-central South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 252-161 on Friday to approve the pipeline.

“I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and our grandchildren and our way of life and our culture and our religion here,” the tribe president, Cyril Scott, said on Monday. He represents one of nine tribal governments in the state.

Scott said he will close the reservation’s borders if the government goes through with the deal, which is scheduled to come up for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Environmentalists believe the pipeline would increase US reliance on fossil fuels and that the transport of tar sands oil across the United States could have serious environmental consequences. Campaigners for the pipeline argue that it would create more jobs and lower energy costs.

It is not clear whether President Barack Obama would veto the current legislation. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the president took a “dim view” of the bill. The administration has delayed making a decision about the pipeline and the State Department is currently reviewing litigation about a section of the pipeline route in Nebraska.

Scott said the creation of the pipeline would violate the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, an agreement between the Sioux and the US government allocating parts of the Dakota territory to the Sioux. He also said he has not been consulted by the US government or TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the 1,700-mile pipeline.

Rick Santorum: White House decision around June

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is pictured. | AP Photo

Rick Santorum: White House decision around June

By Kyle Cheney

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who nipped at Mitt Romney’s heels in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, says he’s eyeing mid-2015 for a decision about a second White House bid.

“Four years ago, we ended up announcing in June of 2011. If past is a portent of the future, that’s probably a ballpark,” he said in a phone interview.

Santorum said he’s actively engaged with party donors and activists to assess whether he has a path to the nomination.

“We’re doing everything consistent with making an effort,” he said. “We’re talking to donors, we’re looking at talking to people in the early primary states and trying to get a gauge of support and doing the grunt work, if you will, of seeing whether there’s a path forward for us.”

GOP says Obama immigration plan is 'amnesty.' Is that accurate?

GOP says Obama immigration plan is 'amnesty.' Is that accurate?

By Peter Grier

President Obama is poised to take executive action on immigration, a move many Republicans equate to granting amnesty. But nothing Mr. Obama can do will be permanent.

That’s the word Republicans opposed to the move use to describe it. Just look at Sunday’s morning news shows to see that rhetorical trope in action. Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah, on “Face the Nation,” said that one of the policies voters rejected in the midterm elections was “possible executive action on amnesty.” Over at “Meet the Press,” Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana said “it’s not going to be popular to grant amnesty to millions of folks ... that are here illegally.”

“Amnesty” is a powerful word, of course, which is why the GOP uses it as a talking point. It connotes forgiveness for a past transgression. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines it as “a general pardon granted by a government, especially for political offenses.”

We don’t yet know the details of Mr. Obama’s action, so we can’t say for sure whether it would fit this definition. Preliminary indications are that the White House will defer the deportation of people in the country illegally whose children are American citizens or have permanent residence green cards. That could affect some 3.3 million undocumented immigrants, according to some estimates.

These people would receive work permits and Social Security numbers and could travel freely within the US without worry that they will be seized by law enforcement and kicked out. That sure seems to fit one aspect of the word “pardon,” since they broke the law by sneaking into the US in the first place.

One in 30 US children are homeless as rates rise in 31 states

California homeless shelter

One in 30 US children are homeless as rates rise in 31 states, report finds

Alan Yuhas

State-by-state report links racial disparities, increasing poverty and domestic violence to rising rates as southern states rank particularly poorly.

One in 30 American children are homeless, according to a new state-by-state report that finds racial disparities, increasing poverty and domestic violence responsible for the historic high.

According to the report released on Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness, child homelessness increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 2.5 million children experienced homelessness in the US in 2013, an 8% rise nationally from 2012.

California and states in the south and south-west ranked particularly poorly in an analysis of homelessness, state responses and associated factors. According to the report, California has more than 500,000 homeless children, a high cost of living and only 11,316 housing units for homeless families; only Alabama and Mississippi, with chronically bad poverty rates, ranked worse.

“Child homelessness has reached epidemic proportions in America,” Dr Carmela DeCandia, director of the center, said in a release with the report. “Living in shelters, neighbors’ basements, cars, campgrounds and worse – homeless children are the most invisible and neglected individuals in our society.”

Factors that cause the high rates of child homelessness included high rates of family poverty, particularly in houses headed by single women who are black or Hispanic; a dearth of affordable housing for low-income families; fallout from the recession economy, such as foreclosures and debt; long-lasting effects of trauma; and institutional racism resulting in economic segregation. The report cites a 1999 finding that black children under five were 29 times more likely than white children to be in an emergency shelter.

The report makes special note of the potentially devastating long-term effects of poverty and homelessness on children, showing research that indicates “up to 25% of homeless pre-school children have mental health problems … this increases to 40% among homeless school-age children.” The compilation of Department of Education data, medical and societal research finds that homeless children are more likely to get sick, miss school and have cognitive and emotional problems.

Executive order on immigration would ignite a political firestorm

Executive order on immigration would ignite a political firestorm

Reports are rampant that President Obama will sign an executive order as soon as this week that will allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. Signing such an order would have explosive political consequences — it would not only reshape the near-term fights in Congress but also have a potentially profound effect on the two parties’ national coalitions heading into the 2016 election and beyond.

Republicans have made it clear that if Obama goes forward, it would be the equivalent of giving the middle finger to their incoming majority — and, by extension, the American public, which helped the GOP gain seats in the House and Senate on Nov. 4.

At a news conference held the day after the midterm elections, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the incoming Senate majority leader, compared Obama’s signing of an executive order on immigration to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama will “burn himself” if he moves forward.

You get the idea. Republicans ain’t happy — and they are likely to get a lot less happy over the next week or so. No matter what congressional response McConnell and Boehner craft — and they are undoubtedly looking at their options — the most obvious and predictable outcome of Obama’s expected move on immigration is that any hope of bipartisanship on much of anything in the 114th Congress, set to convene in January, would probably be out of the question.

Obama knows that. And it would seem he doesn’t care. Or rather, he has made the calculation that the chances of genuine bipartisanship on virtually anything was so low in the first place that it didn’t make sense not to do what he believes is the right thing. The post-grand-bargain-collapse version of Obama is far less willing to extend his hand to Republicans — having, in his estimation, had it bitten so many times before. He views the “now the well is poisoned” point being made by Republicans as laughable.

Common ground elusive between Obama, incoming Senate

Common ground elusive between Obama, incoming Senate

Less than two weeks after Republicans won control of Congress, acrimony over immigration is dampening hopes for cooperation on more ambitious initiatives, with President Barack Obama and GOP lawmakers bracing not for compromise but for combat.

White House officials insist Obama remains interested in finding common ground when Republicans consolidate their hold on the Capitol in January, with an overhaul of federal tax laws at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Obama has been promising to cut the nation’s highest-in-the-world corporate tax rate for nearly three years. With a rash of companies moving abroad to escape U.S. taxes, many Republicans see action on that issue as critical to both the U.S. economy and their political fortunes in 2016, when more than 20 GOP senators will be up for re-election.

Instead of engaging with Republicans, however, lawmakers accuse Obama of provoking them on a range issues, most notably his threat to unilaterally halt deportations of millions of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Instead of starting work on tax legislation that promises to be politically and substantively challenging under the best circumstances, Republicans were threatening another bitter partisan showdown that risks shutting down the government.

“I privately talk to senators, and they’re just baffled,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who is in line to head the Senate Budget Committee. “All the things that people were seriously upset with the administration about, it seems the president is doubling down on them.”

Navy deploys Laser Gun to Middle East

Zap: The Navy officially launched the Laser Weapon System in August, the first ever laser combat weapon

Navy's first ever LASER gun that sets fire to enemy aircraft and ships is deployed to the Gulf

By Ap and Josh Gardner for MailOnline

The US military has deployed its first laser weapon ever to be used in combat.

The science fiction made real armament is seven years in the making and comes at a cost of $40 million.

Dubbed the 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System, the devices was installed onto the USS Ponce in August, where the warship has been patrolling with it ever since.

Navy officials say the weapon can set fire to targets at the speed of light. Those targets include aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a floating staging base, is deployed.

Speed of light: Navy officials say the weapon can set fire to targets at the speed of light. Those targets include aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a floating staging base, is deployed

For the Navy, it's not so much about the whiz-bang technology as it is about the economics of such an armament, which costs pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out.

The laser weapon system (LaWS) prototype combines light beams from six commercial, off-the-shelf solid-state welding lasers.

Each beam has a power of 5.5 kilowats, to create a laser with a total power of round 33 kW.

The light from the six lasers is said to be incoherently combined because the individual beams are not merged into a true single beam (i.e., the individual beams are not brought in phase with each other).

Obama and Boehner's Intertwined Legacies

Obama and Boehner's Intertwined Legacies

Obama is now in the final quarter of his presidency, his name never to grace another national ballot. Boehner, though without a fixed expiration date, is almost certainly nearing the end of a three-decade journey in politics. Both have been public in their desire to enact the "big deal," the memorable, dramatic piece of bipartisan legislation that requires ample sacrifice and alters the trajectory of government. Both now risk ending their careers without one.

The outgoing Congress was historically unproductive, by almost any measure. The two parties have been unable to agree on the littlest of things, much less band together to accomplish the big ones. Whether the 114th Congress will be any different depends in part on the GOP-controlled Senate, where new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need 60 votes to get most things done and will be preoccupied with protecting a host of potentially vulnerable Republicans who face reelection in 2016. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will keep a wary eye on Obama for signs he might triangulate her out of a seat at the bargaining table, if that table is set at all.

But the primary actors over the next two years will be Boehner and Obama, leaders still in search of legacies.

Obama doesn't want to leave office as the man who lost both chambers of Congress for his party, along with the trust and goodwill of the majority of the voting public. But that is exactly where he is now, after a 2014 midterm election season that saw his own Democrats distance themselves from his policies, refuse his help on the trail, and suffer a walloping attributed in great part to his failures. And Boehner doesn't want to be known as the speaker who did the best he could—but not much—with an impossible hand: a Republican Conference stocked with lawmakers who revel in being no-compromise conservatives. He doesn't want to be a speaker who tried to find common ground with a Democratic president—but never could.

Their differences aren't so much about substance; the basic pieces of a bipartisan tax-reform deal are at hand, and many ingredients of an (admittedly controversial) immigration package are, too. Agreements on spending, trade, and education also look feasible, in theory.

"It all boils down to what the president wants to do," said former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, a Boehner ally. "If the president takes the view that he'd like these things as his legacy, I think he'll find two people in McConnell and Boehner who will work very hard to put together the 218 and 51 votes needed to make that happen."

But enormous, deal-killing divisions remain over process, politics, and—above all—trust.

Not since George Washington has any president made such a compelling and lasting mark on history simply with his election as did Obama in 2008, when he shattered a two-century-old "whites-only" barrier. He will always be the first black president, his name attached to school buildings, boulevards, and monuments, even if it is never affixed to another piece of memorable legislation.

Will the Obama coalition survive?

Will the Obama coalition survive?

Will the Obama coalition survive?

By Justin Sink and Amie Parnes

The coalition of voters that twice elected President Obama to the White House might not be there for the Democratic nominee in 2016, party strategists are warning.

Following their disastrous showing at the polls this month, many Democrats have consoled themselves with talk of how the groups that fueled Obama’s resounding victories — namely minorities and young people — will make up a bigger slice of the electorate in two years’ time.

But some fear the party is placing far too much trust in demographics, while ignoring the unique circumstances that led to Obama’s rise.

“I don’t think the Democratic Party should take anyone for granted, or should just assume that these voters are just going to back our nominee, and more importantly, going to turn out for the same level as President Obama,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell.

“They’re going to need a reason and they’re going to need a message."

From POTUS to SCOTUS: Obama’s Big Move?

From POTUS to SCOTUS: Obama’s Big Move?

The president has always given off the sense that he doesn’t love the business of politics. So is Supreme Court justice a natural next step for him?

His clashes with Congress and increasing isolation seem to make it abundantly clear that President Barack Obama would rather play just about any game—including, or perhaps especially, golf—than politics. Yet he happens to have picked a line of work in which playing politics, or politicking as some call it, is just as much a part of the job requirements, as signing, or vetoing, a piece of legislation. So would President Barack Obama have been happier on the nation’s highest court than in the nation’s most recognizable house?

“I love the law, intellectually,” Obama said in a recent interview with The New Yorker, before saying “being a Justice is a little bit too monastic for me.” And yet that doesn’t change the fact that he might have ultimately had a greater impact on the issues he cares about as a member of the Supreme Court—and that being a justice might be a more natural fit with who he is as a person. 

Every president hopes to have at least one signature accomplishment or issue his administration can be remembered for. President Obama was poised to have two: healthcare reform and significant advancement on LGBT rights, specifically same-sex marriage. But after a surprising vote from Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to give the Affordable Care Act a reprieve in 2012, the Court is now planning to review another key portion of the law, with a ruling scheduled to come down by June 2015. That ruling could leave millions of those currently benefiting from Obamacare without the necessary subsidies to stay insured, and set the groundwork for a larger dismantling of the law. 

Last week, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on same sex marriage in four states, making it extremely likely the Supreme Court will soon decide that issue as well. From becoming the first sitting President to embrace same-sex marriage, to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, to using executive action to extend a host of federal benefits to same-sex couples, there are few issues that the Obama administration has been as heavily invested in terms of the President’s political capital than LGBT rights.

And yet, ultimately, the Supreme Court holds the power to upheld or undo what it has taken him years to accomplish.

It certainly cannot be an easy pill to swallow, working so hard to get to the White House only to find out that, despite what everyone tells all of us from the time we are children, the president actually isn’t the most powerful man in America. That title belongs to nine men and women who were not elected but whose word is, for lack of a better term, king.

But perhaps even more daunting for the President, and his supporters, is the fact that one of the greatest orators to ever occupy the White House seems to lack the personality for the job. 

Republicans have called him a dictator. So why can’t Obama get his own way?

Barack Obama

Republicans have called him a dictator. So why can’t Obama get his own way?

He should be pushing at an open door on reforms to immigration. But his foes are pushing back.

A crowd of anti-immigration protesters in Oracle, Arizona, gathered in July to block a bus they’d heard was full of children from Central America who had crossed the border unaccompanied, and possibly illegally, and were supposed to be arriving at a local shelter. Seeing a school bus approaching, Adam Kwasman, a Republican state legislator, broke off from a rant about Lady Liberty to tweet: “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.” He then joined the mob of protesters. He later told a television reporter: “I was able to actually see some of the children in the bus – and the fear on their faces … This is not compassion.”

Kwasman was right about one thing. This was not compassion. But then it was not a bus full of migrants either. Kwasman, it turned out, had got his Latinos in a twist. He had, in fact, harangued a bus full of kids from the local YMCA on their way to camp. Kwasman ran for the Republican nomination in the local congressional district but was roundly defeated in the primary. That’s too bad. High on rhetoric, low on facts, utterly misguided, racially motivated, brazen, boorish, ridiculous and a little bit scary – he would have fitted right in with the Republican majorities.

When Republicans recently won the midterms, taking both the House and the Senate, they promised things would change. Less than two weeks later, however, it looks less like a new day than Groundhog Day. Already the discussion has descended into gridlock and trash talk. Hardliners are calling for President Barack Obama to be impeached; the moderates threaten to shut down government – again. The Republican House speaker, John Boehner, has put Obama on “burn notice”: “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself, and he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down that path.” The path in question would lead to a modest immigration reform. According to leaks it would prevent the deportation of up to 5 million people living in the United States while giving many of them work permits and shifting the focus of the nation’s immigration agents to deportations of convicted criminals and people who recently arrived in the country without documents.

This would be a popular path. Around half the country believes undocumented immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship, while another 15% believe they should be able to stay without becoming citizens. An overwhelming majority think immigration is a serious issue and that it’s important that Congress does something about it. Obama should be pushing at an open door. The trouble is, Republicans have put all their baggage behind that door and are now blocking it with all the bodies they have. Obama should not take this personally. Republicans killed immigration reform when George W Bush proposed it in 2007. Last year Boehner couldn’t get any kind of immigration reform through his own caucus.

Obama’s JFK Problem

Obama’s JFK Problem

How the battle between the president and his joint chiefs chairman over Iraq recalls the early days of Vietnam.

President Obama and his Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, seem to be engaged in a policy tug of war over troops on the ground in Iraq. After telling Congress last week that he was considering, once again, the deployment of ground combat forces to assist in the battle against ISIS, Dempsey made a surprise visit to Iraq over the weekend to further assess the evolving American military strategy—despite adamant assurances from the White House that combat forces are off the table.

The tensions between Mr. Obama and his most senior general are reminiscent of what another president, John F. Kennedy, encountered  more than 50 years ago in the early days of America’s involvement in Vietnam. Today as then, it appears the nation’s top military officials are seeking to box the president in to a commitment the White House is extremely reluctant to make.

For Kennedy, the problem of Vietnam was supposed to be resolved by his predecessor and by the partition of the country in 1954 into communist and non-communist spheres with Saigon secured by its own military forces. For Obama, the security of Iraq was supposed to be maintained by the creation of a viable army formed following his predecessor’s invasion of the country in 2003, facilitating an orderly American exit. Then as now, a prior solution to a messy geopolitical conflict did not cohere and the United States was forced to fashion a new strategy.

In both cases a vacuum of attention from American planners as well as the media preceded the eruption of crisis. In the spring of 1961, all eyes in Washington were focused on the aftermath of JFK’s disastrous foray into the Bay of Pigs. By autumn, however, the Kennedy administration was debating intervention in Vietnam amid swift gains by guerrilla forces. In spring 2014, official Washington was consumed by Vladimir Putin’s audacious power grab in Crimea. Just months later, CNN was breathlessly reporting that a marauding jihadi army controlled a 1400-mile swath of territory across Syria and Iraq and was fast approaching Baghdad.

In both instances, a cautious and skeptical president rejected recommendations to deploy combat troops to a murky conflict. In 1961 Kennedy’s military advisers proposed deploying ground forces to South Vietnam five times, to serve variously as a deterrent, a symbol of determination or a means to train Saigon’s army. That fall General Maxwell Taylor, JFK’s personal military adviser, submitted yet another recommendation calling on Kennedy to approve the first 8,000-man deployment of combat forces to South Vietnam, a proposal that was endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, also supportive, chided the president for his hesitation. “I am troubled by your most natural desire to act on other items now, without taking the troop decision,” Bundy scolded, alluding to an optical preoccupation with resolve that today is being brandished by President Obama’s critics. “Whatever the reason, this has now become a sort of touchstone of our will.”

Like Obama today, Kennedy worried that the first dispatch of combat troops would ineluctably be followed by more deployments. “It’s like taking a drink,” he told his trusted aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “The effect wears off and you have to have another.”

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