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Ex-GOP sleuth eyes House seat, Benghazi

From left: Barbara Comstock, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are pictured in this composite. | AP Photos

Ex-GOP sleuth eyes House seat, Benghazi

By ALEX ISENSTADT

Fifteen years later, the Clinton Wars are back.

The backdrop this time isn’t the White House or Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential run. It’s the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where a onetime congressional staffer who made her name digging up dirt on the Clintons, Barbara Comstock, is trying to win a seat in Congress herself.

Lining up behind Comstock are some of the Clintons’ chief ’90s-era adversaries, including Ken Starr, Dan Burton and David Bossie. Determined to stop her is a host of Clinton loyalists led by Terry McAuliffe — who was once forced to testify before a congressional committee after Comstock unearthed his bombshell “Lincoln Bedroom Memo” — from his new perch as Virginia governor.

Comstock’s bid against Democratic Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust has reopened the old wounds of Travelgate, Filegate, Monicagate and more. But the stakes go way beyond settling old scores. Clinton allies worry that if Comstock wins and Hillary Clinton returns to the White House as president, she’ll reprise her role as Clinton investigator-in-chief.

 
Will Dems Dump Plagiarist Senator?

By Ben Jacobs

Montana Dems Have Time To Find A New Candidate, But It Won’t Be Schweitzer

Insiders say Montana’s most popular politician won’t replace scandal-plagued Senator John Walsh on the ballot.

Montana Democrats shouldn’t expect Brian Schweitzer to save them from the plagiarism scandal swirling around incumbent John Walsh, but they do have a little time to find a new candidate if they want to replace him.

Under state law, Walsh has until August 11, 85 days before the election, to withdraw from the race and allow the Montana Democratic Party to select a replacement. However, a source close to the former Montana governor told The Daily Beast that “there is no chance” that Schweitzer would replace Walsh on the ballot in November.

Walsh, who was already trailing in the polls, received what one Montana political insider called “the final nail in his coffin” when the New York Times revealed Wednesday that he had plagiarized his final paper for his master’s degree at the Army War College.

Despite Schweitzer’s propensity for gaffes and controversial comments, the former two-term governor remains the most popular politician in the Republican leaning state. But Schweitzer is also perhaps the least popular politician within the Montana Democratic Party and is widely disliked among party insiders.

 
Russia, MH17 and the West: A web of lies

Russia, MH17 and the West: A web of lies

Vladimir Putin’s epic deceits have grave consequences for his people and the outside world

IN 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path. And yet many around the world, through self-interest or self-deception, have been unwilling to see Mr Putin as he really is.

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the killing of 298 innocent people and the desecration of their bodies in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine, is above all a tragedy of lives cut short and of those left behind to mourn. But it is also a measure of the harm Mr Putin has done. Under him Russia has again become a place in which truth and falsehood are no longer distinct and facts are put into the service of the government. Mr Putin sets himself up as a patriot, but he is a threat—to international norms, to his neighbours and to the Russians themselves, who are intoxicated by his hysterical brand of anti-Western propaganda.

The world needs to face the danger Mr Putin poses. If it does not stand up to him today, worse will follow.

 
John Boehner calls on Obama to support legislation speeding up deportations

John Boehner calls on Obama to support legislation speeding up deportations

Susan Ferrechio

House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday warning that it could be impossible for Congress to green-light additional money to deal with the border crisis unless the president publicly supports a change in a law that is slowing deportations.

President Obama has backed away from his June 30 request to change in a 2008 law that prevents fast deportation of minors who come from countries other than Mexico or Canada.

Democrats in the House and Senate have also expressed growing opposition, but Republicans are insisting on a change in the law, because many of the nearly 60,000 people who have arrived here illegally in recent months are children from Central America. The law prevents them from being sent straight back to their home countries, and they are instead processed and provided court dates, which is costly and is more likely to result in fewer deportations.

Obama’s about-face on the matter has angered Republicans, who said they were already displeased with the notion of providing a “blank check” to the president to deal with the border crisis.

 
Where Child Migrant Surge Could Hit Home

Where Child Migrant Surge Could Hit Home

By Dante Chinni

Immigrant populations tend to cluster in the U.S., and some House districts are much more apt to feel a direct impact from the crisis.

The surge of unaccompanied minors coming over the U.S. borders looks to remain a hot topic for the 2014 midterms, as it adds another troubling dimension to Washington’s long-simmering, intractable fight over immigration.

On Friday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are set to meet with the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to talk about the crisis.

But beyond the national headlines, the impacts may be highly localized. Immigrant populations tend to cluster in the U.S., and some House districts are much more apt to feel a direct impact from the crisis.

Districts with large populations from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are more likely to have residents who are following the story closely. And, perhaps more important, those communities are more likely to see an influx of young immigrants from any unaccompanied children granted even temporary residency to live with a close relative.

 
Hillary 'claimed Bill was addicted to sex because he was abused by his mother'

Hillary 'claimed Bill was addicted to sex because he was abused by his mother'

Family ties: Bill Clinton with his mother Virginia and her husband Dick Kelley. Hillary allegedly claimed her mother-in-law abused Bill as a child

In the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Hillary Clinton claimed that her husband was addicted to sex because he was abused by his mother, a journalist said.

The then First Lady allegedly made the claims during a 1999 interview with Lucinda Franks, but the Pulitzer prize-winner declined to use them for the article she was working on. The revelation is one of a series of sensational claims made in a series of new books being published in anticipation that Clinton will make a presidential run in 2016.

Clinton claimed that Kelley, who died in 1994, hurt her son 'in ways you wouldn't believe' and, while not giving details about the alleged abuse, claimed it had been responsible for her husband's affair.

'When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever,' Clinton allegedly told Franks, 68.

The claims were not included in the article Frank was writing for a magazine called Talk.

But the Daily News has seen a version of the memoir that discussed a fraught relationship between the President's mother and grandmother.

Franks has said she wanted to publish the interview in its entirety at the time but didn't because of the media storm over the Lewinsky affair.

In the 1999 interview, Clinton described her husband's affair as a 'sin of weakness', and said she remained devoted to him despite 'enormous pain, enormous anger' over his infidelities.

She added that the affair had come at a time of upheaval for the President, who was coming to terms with the loss of his mother.

Frank alluded to a difficult upbringing for the President, according to Philly.com, and quoted Clinton as saying: 'He was so young when he was scarred by abuse. There was a terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother.'

 
Lamar Alexander’s secret weapons

In this July 12, 2014 photo, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., takes part in a discussion at the National Governors Association convention in Nashville, Tenn. Early voting is getting underway for Tennessee's primary election that features tea party-styled challenges to Alexander's bid for the Republican nomination to a third term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

 Lamar Alexander’s secret weapons

By Judson Phillips

Liberal Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is in serious trouble. Polling shows his support is declining while challenger Joe Carr’s support is taking off like a Saturn 5 rocket.

Conservatives across America have picked up this fight to get rid of the most liberal Republican senator who is running for re-election. Tea Party groups and major conservative celebrities have come out and endorsed Mr. Carr. Laura Ingraham, nationally syndicated radio host, did an event in Nashville for Mr. Carr on Tuesday.

Mr. Alexander has two secret weapons that may help him hold on to power. The first is George Flinn. Flinn is a Memphis doctor and self admitted friend of Lamar Alexander. Many Tennesseans believe that Dr. Flinn simply got into the race to split the conservative vote. Dr. Flinn is a two-time loser running for Congress. In 2010, he spent over $2 million of his own money to try and get elected to Congress.

But Mr. Alexander has another secret weapon at his disposal.

Democrats.

Tennessee has open primaries. Twenty years ago, Tennessee was a purple state. No longer. It is deep red.

Things are so bad for the Democrats that in 2012, the Party denounced its own nominee who was challenging Republican Bob Corker.

The Democrat nominee for Senate has a better chance of winning the lottery than he does for winning the Senate seat.

 
Chris Cillizza: why President Obama’s dismal approval ratings matter this November

Here’s why President Obama’s dismal approval ratings matter this November

Here’s why President Obama’s dismal approval ratings matter this November

Chris Cillizza

More than half of people who plan to vote Republican say it is a vote against the president.

Any time I write about President Obama's lackluster poll numbers, any number of people take to Twitter to helpfully remind me that he isn't on the ballot this fall and is constitutionally barred from seeking a third time. Their argument comes down to this: Who cares what President Obama's approval ratings are?

A new national Pew Research Center poll shows why any Democrat on the ballot this November should care. Roughly three in ten people said that their vote this fall would be "against" Obama as compared to just 19 percent who said that their vote would be to show support for the president. Those numbers aren't as bad as what George W. Bush and Republicans faced before the 2006 midterms (38 percent voting against Bush, 15 percent voting for him) but are worse for Obama than at this time in the 2010 election cycle (28 percent vote against, 23 percent vote for) in which the president's party lost 63 house seats.

 
E.J. Dionne: A conservative judiciary run amok

A conservative judiciary run amok

 

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens captured our ideal when he wrote of the judge as “an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government.

Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is unlikely to stand. On the same day the D.C. panel issued its opinion, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously the other way, upholding the law.

There is a good chance that the 11-judge D.C. Circuit will take the decision away from its panel — something it is usually reluctant to do — and rule as a full court to affirm the ACA as commonly understood. It is virtually certain that a majority of the court’s members disagrees with the panel’s convoluted reading of the law and wants to avoid creating a needless conflict in jurisprudence with the 4th Circuit.

When Congress wrote the health law, it envisioned that the states would set up the insurance exchanges where individuals could purchase coverage. But knowing that some states might not want to set up these marketplaces themselves, it also created a federal exchange for those that bowed out. There are 36 states under the federal exchange.

The law includes a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance and subsidizes those who need help to pay their premiums. The law falls apart without the subsidies, which go to its central purpose: providing insurance for those who cannot afford it.

 
Isis orders all women and girls in Mosul to undergo FGM, says UN

Iraqi refugees

Isis orders all women and girls in Mosul to undergo FGM, says UN

UN says 'fatwa' issued by militant group in and around Iraqi city could affect 4 million

The militant group Islamic State (Isis) has ordered all girls and women in and around Iraq's northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations says.

The "fatwa" issued by the Sunni Muslim fighters would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Irbil.

"This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed," she said.

"This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists," she added.

 
David Gregory: Dead Head Talking?

 NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, and Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are jockeying to replace the moderator of Meet the Press.

The principal pretenders to the MTP throne are NBC News’ chief White House correspondent and political director, Chuck Todd—who anchors The Daily Rundown, MSNBC’s weekday 9 a.m. show—and the cohosts of the three-hour-long Morning Joe program that precedes it, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

According to my sources, Scarborough, 51, a Washington-savvy former Republican congressman from Florida, and Brzezinski, 47, the supremely well-connected daughter of former White House national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, have been aggressively angling for the job in the event of Gregory’s all-but-certain demise. If they were to be picked as MTP cohosts, it would represent a complete departure from the 69-year-old program’s traditional format.

 
John Kerry 'wanded' by security guards at Egypt's presidential palace

John Kerry 'wanded' by security guards at Egypt's presidential palace

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo 

John Kerry meets Egypt's president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

Incident raises suspicion that US secretary of state was humiliated, weeks after 'snubbing' over al-Jazeera journalists

John Kerry has spent much of this week shuttling between Middle Eastern capitals, trying to get Hamas and Israel to put down their guns. For his efforts, Kerry probably did not expect to be suspected of being an armed threat himself.

Yet that was what briefly happened on Tuesday, when Kerry was stopped by security guards as he entered Cairo's presidential palace to meet Egypt's president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Footage shows America's top diplomat being "wanded" with a hand-held electronic scanner. It was a move that raised eyebrows among members of Kerry's travelling press corps, who said the US secretary of state was usually afforded every courtesy when on official business abroad.

The incident caused a small diplomatic kerfuffle, amid suspicion that Kerry had been purposefully humiliated in a show of Egyptian independence. But taken to task on Egyptian television, Sisi's spokesman, Ehab Badawy, shrugged it off as a "spontaneous" incident. "This security measure is very natural," said Badawy, "one that Egyptian officials abroad are subjected to – and Nabil Fahmy, a former foreign minister, experienced it during his visit to the United States."

 
Jeb Bush Jumps Back Into Changing Immigration Debate

 Neil Munro

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, June 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert)

The Central American migration has scrambled GOP politics

Potential presidential candidate Gov. Jeb Bush jumped back into the GOP’s increasingly hot debate over immigration, with an op-ed article simultaneously calling for the deportation of Central American migrant children and for quick passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“Except for those deserving few who may demonstrate true cause for asylum or protection from sex trafficking, these children must be returned to their homes in Central America,” said Bush, in a Wednesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

The fix for the nation’s immigration problem, Bush said, is a revamp that reduces the number of green cards for the family relatives of recent immigrants, but also increases green cards for people “whose skills and drive will make a difference” to the economy.

“The best antidote to illegal immigration is a functioning system of legal immigration,” Bush wrote. “Congress should not use the present crisis as an excuse to defer comprehensive immigration reform.”

Many GOP insiders and consultants want Congress to pass an immigration rewrite this year, partly to minimize the pro-Democratic turnout by Latino voters in 2016. But the GOP’s populist wing has blocked the Senate’s 2013 immigration rewrite.

Bush’s “must be returned” comment is a sharp change in tone from his comment in April, when he said that many illegal immigrants cross the border in an “act of love” for their dependent families.

 
Obama locks out the press — again

Obama locks out the press — again

By EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE and JOSH GERSTEIN

President Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

President Barack Obama went to the West Coast to meet donors from two top Democratic super PACs, but the press wasn’t invited.

Tuesday, the reporters and photographers traveling with the president on Air Force One and in his motorcade were left on the gravel path not even within sight of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal’s house in the Seattle suburbs where Obama sat for a Senate Majority PAC fundraiser with a $25,000 entrance fee.

Wednesday morning, when he met with big donors for the House Majority PAC at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown San Francisco, they weren’t even told what room or floor he was on.

“We think these fundraisers ought to be open to at least some scrutiny, because the president’s participation in them is fundamentally public in nature,” said Christi Parsons, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. “Denying access to him in that setting undermines the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing. It’s of special concern as these events and the donors they attract become more influential in the political process.”

Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the “most transparent administration in history” tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage.

 
Plane Tragedy Fails to Quiet Ukraine

Plane Tragedy Fails to Quiet Ukraine

By Anton Troianovski in Kiev, Ukraine, Lukas I. Alpert in Moscow and Carol E. Lee in Washington

The escalation in fighting in Ukraine suggests Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the pro-Russia separatists, denting hopes that attention from the Malaysia Airlines crash would force him to change course.

Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over separatist-held territory not far from the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as international outrage over the tragedy has done little to slow the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.

While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country's east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course.

"The fact that you have two additional planes shot down speaks to the pattern we've seen over the last several weeks—which is Russian-backed separatists, armed with Russian anti-aircraft [weapons], posing risks to aircraft in Ukraine," said Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser.

Mr. Putin, who has denied supporting the rebels, remained defiant. His apparent unwillingness to pressure the separatists to lay down their arms—even after the global outcry over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed 298 civilians—poses a challenge for U.S. and European diplomats who have for months tried to offer him a diplomatic route to step back from Ukraine.

With Mr. Putin appearing undeterred from continuing to fuel a conflict in Ukraine's east in what diplomats and analysts say is an attempt to cripple Kiev's turn toward the West, senior European diplomats will meet Thursday to decide on new sanctions targets. They will also discuss a plan to impose sanctions on entire sectors of the Russian economy, including high-tech goods and oil and gas exploration equipment. 

Foreign ministers from the European Union this week said they would activate that plan if Russia didn't use its sway over the rebels to allow international investigators access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site and stop the flow of weapons and men across the border from Russia. With progress being made on the first condition, an EU diplomat said governments will be focusing on whether Mr. Putin has scaled back his alleged support for the rebels.

 
Sen. Jeff Sessions: Obama wants amnesty for 6 million illegals

Sen. Jeff Sessions: Obama wants amnesty for 6 million illegals

Paul Bedard

Sen. Jeff Sessions, taking a hard line on immigration, Wednesday blasted a House reform proposal as weak and warned that President Obama is on the verge of granting amnesty to some 6 million illegal immigrants — half the population of undocumented workers in the United States.

“The border crisis is the direct and predictable result of the president’s sustained policies undermining America’s immigration laws. The president’s continued determination to carry out this nullification remains the singular obstacle in the way of restoring lawfulness,” he said in a just-issued statement.

Turning to the House working group immigration reform plan also issued Wednesday, he added, “They made no mention of the president’s threat of sweeping new executive actions. Multiple reports indicate that these imminent actions are likely to take the form of administrative amnesty and work permits for 5-6 million illegal immigrants.”

Sessions has been urging the president to enforce already established border control laws and said that the House package lets him off the hook.

“Any attempt at improving the border situation would be rendered utterly void if the president follows through on his dramatic nullification acts. How can Congress ignore this brewing constitutional crisis? In fact, granting the president new funds without tackling these orders would be an institutional surrender to the planned illegality.”

 
Snoop Dogg smoked weed in the WHITE HOUSE

Snoop Dogg smoked weed in the WHITE HOUSE

Rapper admits he lit up while in the bathroom

By Dan Bloom

Confession: Taking a big puff on a joint, the rapper told his story to comedian Jimmy Kimmel (left)

The rapper - who was at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in December for the Kennedy Center Honors - confessed to smoking a joint and 'pretending it was a napkin'.

He's been to some high places in his time, but now Snoop Dogg has turned even the White House green - by lighting a cannabis joint in the bathroom. The rapper claimed he reassured Secret Service agents he would only be igniting a 'napkin' before having a luxurious solo smoke on a recent visit.

If his story is true he joins the likes of country singer Willie Nelson, who famously lit up a joint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

And of course he ranks with the President himself - who has probably never lit up in the executive mansion, but was a heavy smoker as a young man. When asked about his habit in 2006, Barack Obama famously replied: 'I inhaled frequently. That was the point.'

 
Harsh Rule, but Order in Jihadist Capital

To those entering Raqqa Province, home to about a million people, ISIS makes clear, immediately, who is in charge. Credit Reuters

Harsh Rule, but Order in Jihadist Capital

By an EMPLOYEE of THE NEW YORK TIMES and BEN HUBBARD

Islamist extremists in control of the Syrian city of Raqqa have blended their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance.

When his factory was bombed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the businessman considered two bleak options: remain at home and risk dying in the next airstrike, or flee like hundreds of thousands of others to a refugee camp in Turkey.

Instead, he took his remaining cash east and moved to a neighboring city, Raqqa, the de facto capital of the world’s fastest growing jihadist force. There he found a degree of order and security absent in other parts of Syria.

“The fighting in Syria will continue, so we have to live our lives,” said the businessman, who gave only a first name, Qadri, as he oversaw a dozen workers in his new children’s clothing factory in Raqqa.

Long before extremists rolled through Iraq and seized a large piece of territory, the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, took over most of Raqqa Province, home to about a million people, and established a headquarters in its capital. Through strategic management and brute force, the group, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State, has begun imposing its vision of a state that blends its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance.

In time, it has won the surprising respect of some war-weary citizens, like Qadri, who will accept any authority that can restore a semblance of normal life. Rebel-held areas of Aleppo, by comparison, remain racked with food shortages and crime. But there is a darker side to Islamic rule, with public executions and strict social codes that have left many in this once-tolerant community deeply worried about the future.

In the city of Raqqa, traffic police officers keep intersections clear, crime is rare, and tax collectors issue receipts. But statues like the landmark lions in Al Rasheed Park have been destroyed because they were considered blasphemous. Public spaces like Al Amasy Square, where young men and women once hung out and flirted in the evenings, have been walled off with heavy metal fences topped with the black flags of ISIS. People accused of stealing have lost their hands in public amputations.

“What I see in Raqqa proves that the Islamic State has a clear vision to establish a state in the real meaning of the word,” said a retired teacher in the city of Raqqa. “It is not a joke.”

 
Norm Ornstein: When Extremism Goes Mainstream

When Extremism Goes Mainstream

Just how far out is the Republican fringe?

By Norm Ornstein

 The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals.

Clinton's election in 1992 moved the Democrats firmly to the center on previously divisive issues like welfare and crime. But it also provided the impetus for the forces that have led to the current Republican problem. These forces were built in part around insurgent Newt Gingrich's plans to overturn the Democratic 38-year hegemony in Congress, and in part around a ruthlessly pragmatic decision by GOP leaders and political strategists to hamper the popular Clinton by delegitimizing him and using the post-Watergate flowering of independent counsels to push for multiple crippling investigations of wrongdoing (to be sure, he gave them a little help along the way). No one was more adroit at using ethics investigations to demonize opponents than Newt. In 1994, Gingrich recruited a passel of more radical candidates for Congress, who ran on a path to overturn most of the welfare state and who themselves demonized Congress and Washington. At a time of rising populist anger—and some disillusionment on the left with Clinton—the approach worked like a charm, giving the GOP its first majority in the House in 40 years, and changing the face of Congress for decades to come.

Newt's strategy and tactics were abetted and amplified by the new force of political talk radio, which had been activated by the disastrous federal pay raise in 1989-90, and of tribal cable television news. As Sean Theriault details in his book The Gingrich Senators, many of Newt's progeny moved on to the Senate and began to change it from an old club into a new forum for tribal warfare. Move on through right-wing frustration with George W. Bush's combination of compassionate conservatism and unfunded social policy (and wars) and then the election of Barack Obama, and the ingredients for a rise of radicalism and a more explosive intra-party struggle were set. They were expanded again with the eager efforts in 2010 of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Young Guns (Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan) to exploit the deep populist right-wing anger at the financial collapse and the bailouts of 2008 and 2009 by inciting the Tea Party movement. But their expectation that they could then co-opt these insurgents backfired badly.

 
Despite rhetoric, gun prosecutions plummet under Obama

"Guns are the problem and access to guns are the problem," said Robert Sanders, a former assistant director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said a policy shift in the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has downgraded the pursuit of criminals with guns as a priority. (Associated Press photographs)

Despite rhetoric, gun prosecutions plummet under Obama

By Kelly Riddell - The Washington Times

While President Obama decries gun violence and presses for more laws to restrict ownership, his Justice Department has prosecuted 25 percent fewer cases referred by the main law enforcement agency charged with reducing firearms violence across the country, a computer analysis of U.S. prosecution data shows.

Federal prosecutors brought a total of 5,082 gun violation cases in 2013 recommended by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, compared with 6,791 during the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2008, according to data obtained from the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.

 
The Leader of the Unfree World

American mass incarceration is without parallel.

By Matt Ford

How large is America's prison problem? More than 2.4 million people are behind bars in the United States today, either awaiting trial or serving a sentence. That's more than the combined population of 15 states, all but three U.S. cities, and the U.S. armed forces. They're scattered throughout a constellation of 102 federal prisons, 1,719 state prisons, 2,259 juvenile facilities, 3,283 local jails, and many more military, immigration, territorial, and Indian Country facilities.

Some individual states like Louisiana contribute disproportionately, but no state is free from mass incarceration. Disturbingly, many states' prison populations outrank even those of dictatorships and illiberal democracies around the world. New York jails more people per capita than Rwanda, where tens of thousands await trial for their roles in the 1994 genocide. California, Illinois, and Ohio each have a higher incarceration rate than Cuba and Russia. Even Maine and Vermont imprison a greater share of people than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or Egypt.

But mass incarceration is more than just an international anomaly; it's also a relatively recent phenomenon in American criminal justice. Starting in the 1970s with the rise of tough-on-crime politicians and the War on Drugs, America's prison population jumped eightfold between 1970 and 2010.
 
Georgia Senate showdown: Can Dixie royalty really run as ‘outsiders’?

Georgia Senate showdown: Can Dixie royalty really run as ‘outsiders’?

Republican US Senate nominee David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn are political newcomers from politically powerful families, running against the establishment.

Apparently appearances still do matter in the South, as does your name – especially, in this political season, if that name is Perdue, Nunn, or Carter.

As Georgia Republicans in a shocker primary Tuesday backed David Perdue, a first-time candidate whose cousin happens to be former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), a US Senate race with huge stakes for the power balance in Washington began to take shape.

Mr. Perdue’s win means that he will face former Points of Light Foundation CEO Michelle Nunn, a centrist Democrat and daughter of former Senate icon Sam Nunn. Despite their storied family names, both have painted themselves as members of a new breed of "outsiders" ready to shake up Washington.

In what promises to be a secondary gauge of Democratic strength in the solidly red South, Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, edged slightly ahead of Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in a poll released last week. That heavyweight Nov. 4 showdown will determine whether a Democrat can kick a Republican out of Georgia's Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road for the first time in a dozen years.

 
Silicon Valley's gig economy is not the future of work – it's driving down wages

dry cleaning

Silicon Valley's gig economy is not the future of work – it's driving down wages

sarah jaffe

Sarah Jaffe

Sites like TaskRabbit are isolating workers and paying them less. But they might force the union of the future

Like many of the other tech companies – Lyft, Zaarly, Fiverr – that have gotten bucketloads of venture capital to match underemployed people with no-commitment gigs, TaskRabbit taps into an existing need – any kind of income in an economy increasingly built on low-wage jobs or no jobs at all – and fulfils a real desire for flexibility among 21st-century workers. The company's CEO has said that TaskRabbit's goal is to "revolutionize the world's labor force".

But TaskRabbit, like all the others, is just a site and an app that matches workers – "taskers", in the company's terminology – with one-off jobs that other people want done for them. In the old days – as in, a couple of weeks ago – workers would bid on jobs posted by potential clients on the TaskRabbit site, and clients would select the best bid for "outsourcing" chores like cleaning the oven, wrapping gifts or assembling Ikea furniture. The pay might have been low at that point, but workers determined it for themselves, just as they determined when and what kind of work they would do.

Now, TaskRabbit has changed its rules. Attempting to capitalize on the explosion in the so-called "gig economy" and set itself apart from the ever-growing competition, TaskRabbit this month has begun using a new algorithm to match workers with clients, who then contact a given worker to see if she is available, and the worker has 30 minutes to accept or reject the bid.

The taskers are not pleased.

 
Clinton and Rubio: They Should Both Lose

Clinton and Rubio: They Should Both Lose

 Conor Friedersdorf

There are good reasons to hope that neither presumptive presidential candidate emerges as a nominee.

Senator Marco Rubio is less accomplished than Hillary Clinton in virtually every way. Even if you prefer his agenda, there's no denying that he has less leadership experience, less foreign-policy experience, a less detailed grasp of domestic-policy detail, and fewer instances of speaking intelligently without a teleprompter. Were I charged with capital murder, and had to hire either Rubio or Clinton to head up my defense team, I'd hire Clinton. Wouldn't you? Were I improbably on the board of directors of a corporation that extracted rents by hiring Washington insiders, and wanted to hire a CEO who'd maximize my morally dubious profits, I would hire Clinton before Rubio. She'd be more competent.

It's little wonder that in attacking the former secretary of state this week, Rubio called her "a 20th-century candidate" who "does not offer an agenda for moving America forward in the 21st century." How could he juxtapose himself favorably with Clinton except by alluding to her ample baggage and his relative youth (especially since their foreign-policy views are more alike than either would like to admit)?

Clinton's response was pablum. "Every election is about the future," she said. "And certainly anyone who wishes to run for president has to make it clear how the experience that you've had in the past and what you believe and how you have acted on those beliefs will translate into positive results for the American people." 

Unfortunately for Clinton, her significant, varied experience—rivaled in recent elections only by Dick Cheney—doesn't much recommend her for higher office. If her time as first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state are predictive, a Hillary Clinton administration would include a failed attempt at passing landmark domestic legislation followed by selling out a minority group to shore up centrist credibility. (I'm guessing it would be Muslim Americans instead of gays this time.) Were there a major terrorist attack, history indicates that Clinton would back a catastrophic war of choice in an unrelated country; sign legislation that needlessly undermines civil liberties; and ramp up mass surveillance. Her career is marked by small, respectable victories and hugely consequential failures.

 
DANIEL HALPER: My Battle With the Clintons

My Battle With the Clintons

I wrote a tough book on the Clinton family. Here's what happened next.

When I started to write Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, I knew the reaction to expect. I was well aware that the former (and perhaps future) first family and its massive retinue of loyalty enforcers, professional defamers and assorted gadflies would rue my intent to examine the real Clintons—especially in my search for the real Chelsea Clinton, who until now has been a media-protected nonperson despite her aggressive public activities on her family’s behalf and despite raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from her role as former first daughter.

MSNBC’s David Shuster learned this the hard way when he was suspended from the network for saying, “But doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” in a live TV hit on how the former first daughter was being used by her mother’s 2008 campaign. The Clintons hit the roof over the single relatively banal comment, as I report in my book, and lobbied the head of parent company GE to get Shuster off the air.

I also had a feeling that some of the sources I spoke to, for and not-for attribution, including alleged Clinton mistresses who’ve stayed out of the press and remain loyal to Bill, would alert the Clintons to what I was doing and help them prepare a counterattack.

But even if I hadn’t known it, many, many people in Washington, on the left and right, popped up to warn me of what to expect from the Clinton PR team. Other authors—legitimate ones with serious pedigrees—who’d written about the Clintons said they were threatened and verbally attacked. Of course, nearly everyone in Washington has seen the much-vaunted Clinton PR machine in action. It’s very predictable.

 
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