Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paul Ryan is no deficit hawk

So you know how Paul Ryan has a reputation -- pushed self-aggrandizingly by the man himself, as well as by his party, and spun by a willing, kowtowing Beltway media establishment -- for being an uncompromising deficit hawk, for being ever so willing, unlike most of his Capitol Hill colleagues, to make the tough fiscal choices that are required at this time of urgent fiscal panic?

Yeah, well, here's a shocker. Seems that reputation is completely undeserved:

A Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis shows that Ryan voted to add a grand total of $6.8 trillion to the federal debt during his time in Congress, voting for at least 65 bills that either reduced revenue or increased spending.

From 2001 to 2008, Congress passed legislation that increased the national deficit by a total of $4 trillion — the number grows to $6 trillion if you add in the how much those policies have cost through 2011. Ryan voted for 90 percent of these deficit increasing bills. 

Of course we knew this already. It's just good to have a number attached to it.

And that number is $6.8 trillion. That's trillion. With a T.

Paul Ryan isn't a deficit hawk, he's an Ayn Rand-loving trickle-downer whose aim is to reduce the tax "burden" on the rich while screwing everyone else.

Remember that next time he's held up, including by Mitt Romney, as a serious, courageous man with serious, courageous "ideas" for America.

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OPSie: The lies and hypocrisies of Obama's "patriot" attackers

A group of former Special Ops personnel are coming after President Obama, accusing him of taking credit for killing Osama bin Laden for himself and leaking national security secrets for political gain. Small problem: according to the Los Angeles Times, they've been leaking secrets themselves:

In politics, the story line rarely changes: Do as I say, not as I do.

Thus several former U.S. intelligence and special operations personnel who have accused President Obama of leaking and "politicizing" national security information have themselves talked publicly about sensitive security matters.

They are members of a new nonprofit group called Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund. Known as OPSEC, military shorthand for operational security, the group says it has raised about $1 million for TV ads and a short film called "Dishonorable Disclosures," which criticizes the Obama administration for alleged national security leaks.

The organizers say they don't intend to release a list of their donors or their members. Neither is required by law.

"It's time for President Obama and other administration officials to stop jeopardizing national security operations for political gain," said Fred Rustmann, an OPSEC member, who worked at the CIA for 24 years before he retired in 1990.

Rustmann and two other key members of the group, all self-described Republicans, have a history of talking openly to the media about national security, a review of articles and transcripts shows.

Rustmann appeared on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" in 2005 to discuss Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA operations officer who was outed in July 2003 by members of the George W. Bush administration. A federal jury convicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, of four felony counts for his role in the crime.

There's another group of like-minded patriots called SOS that bases its opposition to Mr. Obama on the fact that he's Not One of Us:

President Barack Obama is a socialist, was raised by communists, and wasn't born in the United States, according to the former Navy SEAL who founded the group Special Operations Speaks (SOS), which aims to portray Obama as anti-military in this election season.


"I have to admit that I'm a Birther," said SOS founder Larry Bailey, a retired 27-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, in an interview. "If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is."

Do the Republicans really want to have a group going around reminding the voters of who got Osama bid Laden when the last guy they had in office couldn't be bothered? And it really doesn't help when they're as loose-lipped with national security secrets as they claim the president has been.

As for the other group, the general consensus is that as soon as you come out with the birther line, you're nothing but a racist asshole and therefore not worth listening to.

Sighted Swiftboat; sank same.

H/T to mistermix at Balloon Juice.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Still fighting Anita Bryant

Via JMG I find out that not everyone in Florida believes in equality:

In a cliffhanger decision, the Jacksonville City Council by a 10-9 vote Wednesday rejected a bill expanding the city's human rights ordinance to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 500 people tensely watched the votes of council members appear on the digital video board.


The Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of business leaders, supported the bill. They said the lack of local legal protection for gays and lesbians hurts the city's ability to attract talented workers at a time when Jacksonville is competing with other cities for businesses.

The bill's opponents said it would force people to compromise their moral beliefs. They also questioned whether the amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians rises to the level of requiring the government to become involved in the day-to-day affairs of businesses.

It's that last paragraph that jumps out at me. How moral is it to allow discrimination against a segment of the community because of someone's ability to distort their delusional belief in a collection of myths and fables into law? Somewhere in there, the rigidity of faith runs headlong into the basic foundation of the laws of this country as put down in the Constitution. And in this country, the rights of all the people take precedence over the superstition and bigotry of the foolish and the weak who haven't got the moral courage to recognize that a bunch of cobbled-together thou-shalt-nots from 4 B.C. might not work in a society where the carved-in-stone ideal -- equal protection under the law -- is simply treating everyone the same. That doesn't mean you can't believe in whatever you want or worship whomever you choose. It just means you can't force it on everyone else.

As for the idea that the amount of discrimination against the LGBTQ community doesn't rise to the level of requiring government protection, I beg to differ. You can still get fired in Florida just for being gay. You can still be denied housing. Gay people by law cannot adopt children. There are numerous benefits, including insurance, inheritance, and pension benefits that are available only to married couples or survivors that don't go to same-sex partners or widowed mates. And, of course, marriage equality is still denied in Florida. So the question is, which of those discriminatory practices against the gay community rises to the level of requiring government protection? Answer: any one of them.

In 1977 Anita Bryant bolstered her sagging career as a pop singer and orange juice huckster to campaign against equal protection under the law here in Miami-Dade County. She and her polyester-clad bigots won the repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance, but she sparked the rise of awareness among more than just the gay community that discrimination based on sexual orientation is fundamentally wrong. Thirty-five years later, we -- all of us, straight and otherwise -- have won a lot more than we've lost, but this vote in Jacksonville tells us we still have to keep at it. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Islamists vs. Islamists: a positive for Egypt? (Part 2)

By Ali Ezzatyar

(For Part I, from a few days ago, see here.)

The idea that the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power spelled the beginning of a dangerous era underestimated the complexities of the Egyptian landcape and overlooked a number of important nuances.

It is now clear that the Egyptian military establishment had no intention of letting the Brotherhood, or any party but its own, govern freely. While Mohamed Morsi is proving himself to be a competent tactician in the tug and war that has followed his election, his influence is still very limited. He and his party, backed by most Egyptians, are essentially locked in a power struggle with the military. The result of that struggle remains anyone's guess and will take many more months, if not years, to have any notion of permanence.

Further, insofar as Morsi is able to form and implement domestic and foreign policy, the circumstances under which he is forced to formulate such policy is necessarily bringing him away from the extreme elements in his own party. That should be an essential consideration for the international community, and particularly the West, in developing its own policies towards the new Egypt.

The Egyptian military, led symbolically by its president, is currently embarking on an operation that is being called the most significant military exercise by its armed forces in 30 years. That operation, which targets Islamic militants, genuinely flies in the face of the conventional wisdom the world applied to Egypt when its revolution began. At the helm of power, the Brotherhood presidency has at least temporarily abandoned a number of its core pan-Islamic ideals. While this is likely seen by the new president as necessary to maintain stability in the short term, it also serves as a boon for none other than Israel, a purported arch-nemesis, and stability in the region.

This demonstrates two key things. First, power is begetting moderation, and second, Islamists, as with other long-time opposition parties that ascend to power, are rational when their hard-fought and won positions are at stake.

Naturally, since suspicion about the Muslim Brotherhood has not subsided, the media's spin on the events of the last two weeks has painted the military operation as Morsi's way of outmaneuvering the military. But that neglects the reality that the military still wields the power in Egypt -- any maneuvering Morsi is involved in, including dismissing members of the military itself, is likely with the military's support. It is unclear what this all means for the Brotherhood's longevity or its domestic policy going forward, but the current balance of power between the democratically elected party and the military suits the international community, and that community can take a few key steps to help maintain that balance:

First, it can provide the Egyptian military what it needs, in terms of material and moral support, to maintain domestic order. Besides the obvious practical necessities of stability, this will push the image that the government still has the ability to maintain order. Israel has set an example by allowing unprecedented access to movement within the Sinai. What this serves to do is build national confidence in the functioning of the Egyptian bureaucracy, which trickles down to the presidency only if the president publicly supports such activity. Given the precariousness of Morsi's position, he is obliged to give that support. If he later backtracks on the anti-militant stance he has taken, he may ultimately undermine his own legitimacy.

Second, the international community should continue to call on the Egyptian military to allow for the democratic process in Egypt to play itself out. Unlike its decision to ostracize Hamas in the aftermath of its election in the Palestinian territories to no benefit of Israel or the Palestinians, it has so far maintained a pro-democracy stance in Egypt. This is the only rational public face that the West can assume without losing the favor of the Egyptian people, but it is also a win-win situation tactically speaking. It can help further moderate Egypt's new government as it seeks to evolve and grow in stature. And since the military has demonstrated that international pressure to reform must have its limits, it is also relatively risk-free. The West can rest assured that the military will not be handing power to an Islamist government in short order. Meanwhile, the dichotomy between Egypt's two main domestic forces may serve to moderate both, which has the best chance for long-term stability and reform towards a healthy democracy.

Talk of a healthy democracy is still premature, to be sure. But with Morsi and other prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt recently calling for regime change in Syria, it would appear that some sort of order is emerging from the Egyptian chaos that can even serve as an example for Egypt's neighbors.

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The nerve

Mitt Romney is not at all happy at the untoward nature the campaign rhetoric is taking on:

The president's campaign has put out a campaign that's talking about me and attacking me. I think it's just demeaning to the nature of the process, particularly when we face the kinds of challenges we face.

Yes, why can't we have a campaign of honest discourse that concerns itself only with the issues that really matter? Why do we have to talk about how un-American Barack Obama is, how he doesn't get how capitalism works, how he wants to destroy the job creators so that he can give all their hard-earned money to the lazy blah people who don't even want to look for work? Why do you have to keep pestering Mitt Romney about trivial things like his taxes, his wealth, his work history, and what he did when he last held a job working for the government? That's not important. Why? Because he says so, that's why, and if you can't accept that, well, you're just a petty partisan who only wants to destroy America and turn it over to the queers.

I hope the Obama campaign doubles down on everything just to watch this pompous, arrogant, patriarchal and entitled coward get his magic knickers in a twist and blame it all on the Ni-CLANG dog.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Ecuador grants asylum to Assange

You may have heard the news already, but let's recap:

Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in its London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK.

It said his human rights might be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over sex assault claims.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the country and the move was also criticised by Stockholm.

Ecuador said it would seek to negotiate arrangements for Mr Assange to leave.

"We don't think it is reasonable that, after a sovereign government has made the decision of granting political asylum, a citizen is forced to live in an embassy for a long period," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said.

Let me just say that I'm completely behind Ecuador on this. There's no way Assange would ever get a fair trail in any country that he has exposed, and embarrassed, with his truth-telling, including the U.S., and it's good to see that at least one country deemed it important enough to protect him.

It should come as no surprise to you that for the most part I support Assange and Wikileaks and their efforts to enlighten us about the illiberal, undemocratic actions of our Machiavellian, Kafkaesque, and in many ways Orwellian states and corporations.

Assange does far more good than harm, and it should similarly come as no surprise that those states and their corporate cronies are trying to shut him up for good. If the future is anything other than the sort of totalitarian dystopia these states and corporations embody, history will ultimately vindicate him as one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time.

Let's hope Ecuador finds a way to get him out safely -- and to safety.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ah, frell it

I was going to write about how we only have his word for it, since Rmoney refuses to release his tax returns. I was thinking about writing that a married couple filing jointly pays 15% on their earned income over $17,400 ($8,700 for single people), so if you made more that that, you paid more of your income in taxes than did Mittens. And I was going to write about how the Romney campaign has lied about almost everything from the start, so only a loyal Republican or a fool* would accept Romney's word on anything.

But frell it. Not tonight. Blogging about how Romney is, when it comes to being self-entitled, sort of like a enlarged version of Dubya seems kind of like stating that the Earth revolves around the Sun and expecting it to be received as some sort of new revelation.**

So amuse yourselves this evening, gang.
* To the extend that "loyal Republican" is not a subset of "fool", that is.
** Yeah, I know that there is a non-zero percentage of Mittens' base that believes the Sun revolves around the Earth. The fact that the Sun would then have an orbit altitude of 22,000 miles, the Moon would then have to be in between the Earth and the Sun and, if the Earth were indeed stationary, it would be impossible to have geosynchronous communications satellites doesn't seem to bother those fools.

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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Happy birthday, Social Security. And many, many more.

By Ramona

Tuesday marked the 77th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act, and even though it's not one of those anniversaries we might consider A Big One, it's important. For this reason: it may well be the last time any of us will be able to celebrate this landmark law without also being reminded of its untimely death.

Two years ago, when we celebrated Social Security's Diamond Anniversary (well,
some of us did) the usual rumblings against the best and brightest of our safety net programs could be heard, but since they were far off and not unlike anything we had heard before (and since the Democrats were still in the majority), we did the usual and just ignored them.

Two years later, they're not just rumblings, they're lightning strikes. Even the folks who have the most to gain from the continuance of Social Security are getting ready to cast their ballots for the very politicians who are not just promising but
itching to kill it dead. Mitt Romney and his cohort, the Social Security-hating Paul Ryan, would like nothing better than to get the chance in November to kill off all such safety nets once and for all. If they win the presidency, we can kiss goodbye any hope of saving Social Security and its offspring, Medicare and Medicaid. The only reform we'll see is a slow elimination or corruption or privatization of the social programs many more addled Americans have now been lulled into associating with "Big Bad Government."

The creation of the Social Security program was nothing short of a miracle. Days after FDR was sworn in for his first term, in March 1933, he appointed a committee to come up with a plan to help the people who had become victims of a devastating depression by giving them money. Cash in their pockets. Money that the oldest, the ones who couldn't work, would never have to pay back. And they did it without judgment because they knew the people in this nation were poverty-stricken because they, the government, hadn't been governing with the best interests of the citizens in mind. In effect, they owed them. (Well, no, they didn't say that, but they didn't have to.)

Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act into law -- August 14, 1935

Roosevelt envisioned creating a long-term safety net that would eventually be self-sustained by payroll deductions when everyone got back to work, but he was adamant about the need for the federal government to start these payments before the coffers were filled. His idea was that the normal safety nets had long since disappeared, the country was in trouble, and the government had a moral duty to help out.

President Roosevelt appealed his case for Social Security to Congress this way:

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

The amount necessary at this time for the initiation of unemployment compensation, old-age security, children's aid, and the promotion of public health, as outlined in the report of the Committee on Economic Security, is approximately one hundred million dollars.

(Roosevelt's message to Congress on Social Security -- January 17, 1935)

For all intents, remember, the treasury was empty, and such a request must have sounded plain loony to some. Of course it did. The Republicans fought him all the way, but they were in the minority and they lost. (Interesting to note, though, that 81 Republicans in the House and 16 in the Senate voted for the Social Security Act.) 

Three years after the law was enacted he went before the American people and talked about what it meant for the country: 

Five years ago the term "social security" was new to American ears. Today it has significance for more than forty million men and women workers whose applications for old-age insurance accounts have been received; this system is designed to assure them an income for life after old age retires them from their jobs.

It has significance for the needy men, women and children receiving assistance and for their families -- at least two million three hundred thousand all told; with this cash assistance one million seven hundred thousand old folks are spending their last years in surroundings they know and with people they love; more than six hundred thousand dependent children are being taken care of by their own families; and about forty thousand blind people are assured of peace and security among familiar voices.

It has significance for the families and communities to whom expanded public health and child welfare services have brought added protection. And it has significance for all of us who, as citizens, have at heart the Security and the well-being of this great democracy.

These accomplishments of three years are impressive, yet we should not be unduly proud of them. Our Government in fulfilling an obvious obligation to the citizens of the country has been doing so only because the citizens require action from their Representatives. If the people, during these years, had chosen a reactionary Administration or a "do nothing" Congress, Social Security would still be in the conversational stage -- a beautiful dream which might come true in the dim distant future...

Now this is interesting to consider. The first to turn to Government, the first to receive protection from Government, were not the poor and the lowly--those who had no resources other than their daily earnings -- but the rich and the strong. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the United States passed protective laws designed, in the main, to give security to property owners, to industrialists, to merchants and to bankers. True, the little man often profited by this type of legislation; but that was a by-product rather than a motive. 

Taking a generous view of the situation, I think it was not that Government deliberately ignored the working man but that the working man was not sufficiently articulate to make his needs and his problems known. The powerful in industry and commerce had powerful voices, both individually and as a group. And whenever they saw their possessions threatened, they raised their voices in appeals for government protection. 

It was not until workers became more articulate through organization that protective labor legislation was passed. While such laws raised the standards of life, they still gave no assurance of economic security. Strength or skill of arm or brain did not guarantee a man a job; it did not guarantee him a roof; it did not guarantee him the ability to provide for those dependent upon him or to take care of himself when he was too old to work.

Long before the economic blight of the depression descended on the Nation, millions of our people were living in wastelands of want and fear. Men and women too old and infirm to work either depended on those who had but little to share, or spent their remaining years within the walls of a poorhouse. Fatherless children early learned the meaning of being a burden to relatives or to the community. Men and women, still strong, still young, but discarded as gainful workers, were drained of self-confidence and self-respect.

The millions of today want, and have a right to, the same security their forefathers sought--the assurance that with health and the willingness to work they will find a place for themselves in the social and economic system of the time. 

("A Social Security Program Must Include All Those Who Need Its Protection," radio address on the third anniversary of the Social Security Act -- August 15, 1938)

This is what we're fighting to save. The moral code of this country, as spelled out by the founders, has always dictated that government is there to serve the needs of the people. Sometimes that's ignored, as Roosevelt himself infers in his radio address, but it's never forgotten.

Even now, it's not forgotten. Not by us. Reading through Roosevelt's statements on Social Security, it's clear that he intended to work tirelessly to do what was right for the people still suffering from the effects of a man-made, wholly unnecessary depression. We need to remind our leaders today -- also to blame for a wholly unnecessary depression -- that social safety nets are an obligation they've inherited, and are, in fact, an obligation they agreed to when they took their oaths of office and vowed to uphold the constitution.

So let's get to the meat of it: President Obama is no Roosevelt. Not even close. But in my heart of hearts I believe he knows in
his heart of hearts what he should do. So far he hasn't done it well, but there's no denying baby steps have been taken. He dropped the ball early on and hasn't recovered it yet, but there's hope. With President Obama, there's hope.

If Mitt Romney is elected president, either because of or in spite of his running mate, in all likelihood the Republicans will take both the House and the Senate, and that will be the end of Obamacare, of Social Security, of Medicare and Medicaid, of any chance at easing the conditions of the poor and middle class and rebuilding a country nearly devastated by a man-made economic crisis not of our choosing and not of our making.

How do we get that message out? I don't know, but it can't hurt to keep reminding voters that once upon a time, in conditions much like these, something happened in this country that changed us forever. Our government took charge and did, not just what they were elected to do, but what they were morally obligated to do. They took care of a nation in mortal pain. And the country survived. It thrived. So much so that, until this latest man-made fiasco, we were still seen as the greatest nation in the world.

We could keep reminding them of that. 

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices.)

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Shorter Rmoney: "We have nothing to hide, which is why we won't release our tax returns."

That, at least, is what the Spouse of Rmoney is saying.

Bullshit. That is damn near a Nixonian-type claim. Releasing lots of years worth of tax returns is a rite of passage for wannabee presidential candidates that goes all the way back to a guy named George W. Romney. If someone wants to keep that stuff private, then there is one thing they can do: not run for office.

So the allegations that, between 2004 and 2007, Romney invested in Soylent Kitty Ltd., a firm that planned to make protein crackers using the carcasses from high-kill animal shelters as a base source, will just have to stand.

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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Planning ahead

The Romney campaign and its minions cannot seem to decide whose Medicare plan they want to use to end the program as we know it:

The Romney campaign is charging that President Obama has cut $700 billion from Medicare. It has been less vocal about the fact that the Ryan plan, too, takes $700 billion from Medicare.

But one Romney surrogate admitted Tuesday morning that Ryan's plan does make those same cuts.

John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, said the $700 billion in cuts is one of the big differences between the Romney and Ryan plans.

Romney's plan is "very different," Sununu said. "When Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that," Sununu said on CNN's "Starting Point" Tuesday. "The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That's a big difference."

Meanwhile, Mr. Ryan is himself having a bit of a time trying to make it clear that the budget proposal that basically got him on the ticket in the first place isn't what he plans on pushing if he gets elected:

Ryan repeatedly tried to deflect attention from his own highly controversial budget proposal in an interview with Fox News's Brit Hume Tuesday. Ryan's plan is both a rallying point for conservatives and a whipping boy for Democratic strategists.

Hume didn't buy the suggestion that the Romney-Ryan ticket wasn't running on Ryan's budget plan, and the interview focused largely on Ryan's budget package. In one exchange on balancing the budget, Hume objected when Ryan tried to talk about Romney's plan — which has drawn fire for being vague at best. Hume insisted Ryan talk about his own economic vision, which doesn't bring the budget into balance for decades.

Ryan couldn't predict when Romney's plan would balance the budget.

You would have thought they would thought this out, but in fairness, I doubt the Romney folks even thought they'd have to talk about substance. They're running for office, for Pete's sake.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Yet another shooting

A security guard at the Family Research Council was shot and wounded Wednesday morning after a scuffle with a man who expressed disagreement with the group's conservative views in the lobby of the group's headquarters in downtown Washington, authorities said.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the shooter walked into the lobby of the building at about 10:45 and was confronted by the security guard as if the guard were asking him where he was going.

The man then took out a gun and opened fire on the guard, Lanier said. The guard and others wrestled the man to the ground, disarmed him and waited for police, she said. The guard was then taken to the hospital and is in stable condition, the chief said. FBI officials said the guard was shot in the arm.

The FRC is the well-known anti-gay lobbying organization, and of course there are those who are claiming the shooter was there to demonstrate his feelings about their work. But as of yet, no one knows his motive, so speculation is just that: speculation.

Shootings like this are horrific no matter where they happen, regardless of the politics or beliefs of the group being attacked. An attack on the FRC is just as bad as an attack on a mosque, a gay bar, or an abortion clinic, and anyone who qualifies their condemnation of this shooting because of what the FRC stands for is a flaming hypocrite. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Damn the lies -- part II

Perhaps you'll recall my post entitled Damn the Lies the other day about the latest act of treason from the Republican Lie Machine, or Fox News as it's sometimes called. It was about a totally fictitious story warning us about how if  "Obama gets his way" voting rights of military personnel would be restricted in Ohio. I suppose that adherents to the Obamahate faith accept unquestioningly that the POTUS writes election laws unconstitutionally in the State of Ohio. I suppose Fox folk are actually stupid enough, or at least so disgustingly desperate enough  to legitimize their hatred of our uppity president that they will believe anything without question and guard the lies with their miserable lives. But, needless to say, the most polite thing an honest observer can say about Fox Fraudster Shannon Bream is that it's a filthy, contemptible lie worthy of tar and feathers.

But who cares? This isn't actually reality you know, it's a kind of fantasy amusement park for deranged sociopaths and other borderline personalities with room-temperature IQs, and it isn't nearly possible for even a well-funded and staffed effort to counter the lies or disseminate the facts. It's not just that there isn't enough money outside of the insurgency, it's also that believing the lies is a mighty fortress of faith. If you don't like the Flavor Aid, why then, you're a liberal, and that's that.

So, sure "that Obama" hates soldiers or "warriors" or "warfighters," as the anger merchants like to call any GI who ever peeled a potato. It's all just another passion play. So why get angry about the latest round of TV ads, paid for by unidentified "concerned citizens" who actually are the Koch's Folks or Rupert's Raiders insisting in full snark mode that "that Obama" has removed the work-for-welfare system put into place by that other Commie, that most far-left liberal ever, not the real president but that one-term-at-most Bill Clinton.

Do I have to tell you it ain't true? Probably not if you've read this far. Should I mention that not only is it not true, even in part, but that what the White House is trying to accomplish with further welfare reform is to accede to the long time requests of Republican governors to allow them the flexibility to tailor their state's programs to their needs?

Perhaps it's galling to the Fascists and Bigots and Brown Shirts masquerading as Conservatives that, as it was with Bill Clinton, the man they tried to portray as another Trotsky was actually more conservative than they were in some respects and no further to the left than the center. It's nearly as galling to me that a mob of irate patriots doesn't put these lying bastards, these unscrupulous despoilers of liberty, truth, justice, democracy, and decency in a pillory and piss in their faces.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The hypocrisy of Paul Ryan's assault on government

Paul Ryan's right-wing agenda, which seeks the undoing of the American social compact, amounts to nothing less than an assult on democratic self-governance and on the very foundations of government itself.

Which is to say, he basically wants government out of the way so that the supposedly free market can thrive as a Hobbesian state of nature with a police force protecing private property but otherwise with no fetters whatsoever on capitalist supermen of the kind found in Ayn Rand novels.

Yes, it's all about the self-made man for Paul Ryan, and about the evils of government, that obstacle to the creation of wealth. Right?

Well, not so fast. Looks like the Republican wunderkind with the absolutist right-wing ideology is a bit of a hypocrite:

When Paul Ryan took to the stage in Mooresville, North Carolina, as Mitt Romney's running mate, he attacked President Obama's "you didn't build that" remark about the role of government in supporting private innovation. But while Republicans have been clamoring to make this election a false dichotomy between the private sector and the public sector, Paul Ryan — heir to a private fortune made by building public highways — is a gaping pothole in that plan. Paul Ryan is a living, breathing GOP example of how public infrastructure and private entrepreneurship work hand-in-hand.

Paul Ryan's great-grandfather started a construction company to build railroads and, eventually, highways. According to the Web site of Ryan Incorporated Central, the company was "founded in 1884 with a single team of mules building railroad embankments in Southern Wisconsin." And in the 1800s, railroad construction was subsidized by the federal government. Mid-century, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act into law, providing taxpayer dollars to fund the construction of a transcontinental railway. All railroads thereafter connected to, and benefited from, that public investment.

At the turn of the century, Ryan Inc. turned to road building. A subsidiary family corporation, Ryan Incorporated Southern, states on its Web site, "The Ryan workload from 1910 until the rural interstate Highway System was completed 60 years later [and] was mostly Highway construction." The $119 billion spent by the federal government on the Interstate Highway System was, by one account, "the largest public works program since the Pyramids."

And it's still going, this sucking at the government teet:

A current search of Defense Department contracts suggests that "Ryan Incorporated Central" has had at least 22 defense contracts with the federal government since 1996 , including one from 1996 worth $5.6 million.

But that's just the family business, right? In Washington, Ryan fights against this sort of thing. Uh, no:

What's funny is that Mr. Anti-Spending secured millions in earmarks for his home state of Wisconsin, including, among other things, $3.3 million for highway projects. And Ryan voted to preserve $40 billion in special subsidies for big oil, an industry in which, it so happens, Ryan and his wife hold ownership stakes. Yet Ryan wants to gut financial aid for college students, food stamps for hungry families, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security — the very things that have, historically, helped poor families climb the ladder of opportunity in America.

Now, Ryan defends himself by saying that there is in fact a purpose for government:

"Of course we believe in government," Ryan said to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza. "We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports."

In other words, what's good for Ryan and his family, and those like him, as well as for his state and hence for his political career (he opposed President Obama's economic stimulus package but lobbied aggressively for stimulus money for Wisconsin) is fine, while what's good, and desperately needed, by everyone else is a target for Ryan's draconian budget plan.

If you're rich and can build a highway or an airport, the government will give you millions, and you'll benefit from Ryan's massive tax cuts for the rich anyway, the tax burden shifted even more towards everyone else. But if you're poor, or pretty much anywhere in the 99%, screw you. The government of Ryan's right-wing fantasies couldn't care less.

Actually, is it any wonder Romney likes him so much?

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Romney's self-inflicted wound

Oh... shit.

Romney's Paul Ryan honeymoon is over, says Jon Chait.

Not that there really was one, not with Obama supporters rejoicing over the pick, the media unusually quick to point out Ryan's massive flaws and the badness of the pick generally.

Not with the pick pushing two key swing states, Florida and Ohio, towards the president.

Not with Ryan's right-wing ideological extremism now front and center, the election suddenly not so much about the president's handling of the economy but about Ryan's budget plan in all its deleterious madness.

Think Romney wishes he could take a mulligan?

I get that he wanted, or rather needed, a game changer, someone other than a boring white guy like Pawlenty or Portman, but wouldn't Christie or Rubio or Jindal have been a much better pick? 

As I wrote after the announcement, the Ryan pick was an act of desperation on Romney's part. With his poll numbers falling, his campaign flailing about aimlessly, and lying shamelessly instead of having any sort of positive vision to counter the president, and with the Obama campaign's successful efforts to define Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy out for himself and his class and to identify his business experience and personal finances as strikes against him, it was clear that things weren't going well for him. Even he must have seen that.

And so he tried to win back conservatives and the media, and to turn the page on all the talk about his tax returns, tax shelters, and vulture capitalism by picking a conservative ideologue and Beltway media darling.

But just days later, where has that gotten him? Even Republicans are concerned:

Away from the cameras, and with all the usual assurances that people aren't being quoted by name, there is an unmistakable consensus among Republican operatives in Washington: Romney has taken a risk with Ryan that has only a modest chance of going right — and a huge chance of going horribly wrong.

In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

That may be taking it a bit too far -- it's still a competitive race that could turn in his favor, not least given ongoing economic uncertainty -- but there's an undeniable sense already that the Ryan pick was a bad one and that Romney has only made his chances worse, that he took a campaign in decline, and something of a joke after his disastrous foreign trip, and, in trying to turn the page by bringing aboard a conservative "ideas" guy, the GOP's leading wunderkind and de facto leader (given how his plan has become party orthodoxy), and effectively derailed it.

Seems the honeymoon really only exists in Krazy Kristol's head. Here in the real world, Romney has a lot of work to do to recover from his self-inflicted wounds, the Ryan pick the most damaging one of all.

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It's pathological

Last week the Romney campaign put out an ad that claimed President Obama wanted to remove work requirements from welfare reform. Not only was it a gross distortion of reality -- gee, no surprise there -- it got panned by every reputable fact check group out there, and even PolitiFact, which has a rotten reputation for weasling, called it "Pants on Fire."

So what did they do? Take a wild guess:

Mitt Romney's campaign continued to attack President Barack Obama over welfare reform with the release of a new ad on Monday, once again falsely stating that the president dropped work requirements from welfare.

The ad, titled "Long History," is the second ad from the Romney campaign to claim that Obama has "gutted" welfare. The campaign's previous ad on welfare, released just last week, was widely criticized as inaccurate and debunked by numerous fact checkers.

It's not just a campaign strategy in hopes that the pigeons will fall for it; even when they're called out on it they keep doing it.

No one expects a political campaign to be about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but come on; this is beyond strategy. It's unreal. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The many terrible ideas of Paul Ryan

Bain Capital and my tax returns? Let's distract voters with Paul's crazy ideas instead!

He's known for his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, but, as Jon Chait notes, that's actually one of the least terrible of his budgetary ideas:

The real radical elements of Ryan's plan lie elsewhere. There's his huge tax cuts for the rich combined with hide-the-ball mumbo jumbo to obscure its costs, his enormous and wildly disproportionate cuts in programs for the poor, his callous proposal to uninsure everybody who got insurance from Obamacare and then many millions more, and then his crazy budgeting that would slowly phase out the entire non-defense, non-entitlement functions of the federal government. These ideas are all individually dangerous, and collectively extreme almost beyond description. By the current standards of Ryan-esque radicalism, the Medicare component is positively quaint.

And then, of course, there are his other ideas. Take his anti-choice views:

He has said he's "as pro-life as a person gets" (opposing any and all compromise and objecting even to having a "truce"), which makes him radical extremist even by the radically extremist standards of the Republican Party. He doesn't just oppose Planned Parenthood, he would prosecute women for having abortions. As Michelle Goldberg writes, "when it comes to women's control of their bodies, he quickly turns into a statist," in stark contrast to his Ayd Rand-inspired fight for absolute individualism (which is basically the foundation for his economic policies). "To him, a woman's claim to bodily autonomy or self-determination doesn't merit even cursory consideration."

Paul Ryan isn't just the leader of the Republican Party's anti-government movement, which dominates the party, he's the poster boy for its war on women.

He's also stridently against marriage equality (and opposed the repeal of DADT), and so very much in line with his party's anti-gay bigotry, and radically pro-gun, well beyond basic gun ownership. As the Times notes, "He voted in 1999 against a proposal that would have established much more stringent requirements for background checks on people buying firearms at gun shows. He voted last year for a gun-rights bill under which a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state would be valid in almost every other state." 

And of course he would repeal the Affordable Care Act and is opposed to the contraception coverage, which like other opponents he says is about "religious liberty" but which is really about the imposition of theocracy, the imposition of his religious views on everyone else.

On foreign policy, the one good position he's taken was to end the embargo on Cuba, but otherwise he's a typical George W. Bush-style conservative, but without any significant experience or understanding of the world, much like Romney.

I'm not sure terrible is a strong enough way to put it.

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You've got to be kidding - part ii

There's something infuriating about those election year robo-calls.  For me, it's because of the feeling of helplessness.  You can always interrupt a human or even a sub-human caller, or if one has fallen into an incoherent, blubbering rage, can hope for some small effect by slamming down the phone on someone whining obscene untruths in your ear.

I had just finished an annoying conversation with my mechanic yesterday about being in line for a very expensive marine engine repair and before I could stand up, go outside and scream at the top of my lungs, the phone rang again.  I normally screen my calls because the majority of them are from people I've never heard of trying to sell me everything from Viagra to mortgage scams, but this time I didn't look at the caller ID. I just picked it up.

Before I could issue a surly "hello" I was blasted by a wild and frenzied voice demanding that I make "an emergency contribution to help Romney fight Obama's disastrous policies."  Well, of course it was a recording and no human was offended by my returning the handset to its cradle just a bit harder than the Chicxulub asteroid impact, but the real pain was not so much that I couldn't vent my rage but rather that there was no possibility of asking the paid actor just what those "policies" might be.

Doesn't it seem that the reference is always to unspecified policies?  Why would that be but to harness the inchoate rage of the Teabastards while allowing them to preserve the illusion that that rage had anything to do with President Obama and his policies -- and not his ancestry.  Perhaps it's no different than the constant reference to "liberals" rather than to people who are opposed to the various scams and handouts and outrageous intrusions into private life that constitute the Republican political platforms of recent years -- things like the war on birth control, the war on pornography, the battle against public education (because as Rick Santorum told us, it promotes "elitism.") and the continued persecution of people who don't wish to be bound by religious taboos or would like to speak Spanish now and then.

Yes, I would have liked to get Mr. Roboto in a stranglehold and demand to know why Obama is to blame for paying for Bush's war and Bush's Medicare prescription plan and Bush's gifts to the oil cartel and why Obama is to blame for giving a tax break to the 98% of Americans who are not in the upper 2% of income earners rather than telling them to eat cake and giving an extra 2% to the Koch brothers and their ill bred ilk. I'd like to know whey that had nothing to do with the recession that started under Bush.  Really, the only "Obama Policy" of any stature I can think of is the health care plan written by one Willard M. Romney in conjunction with the health care industry and the one that hasn't really gone into effect yet, nor has it been a "disaster" to Massachusetts. 

So what are these "Disastrous Obama Policies" other than paying the bills, other than being unable to remove the Bush tax structure, being unwilling to actually increase the policy that basically broke the back of the economy by neglecting to pay for the Most Expensive War in American History because the Tax Fairy would somehow bail us out by making war profiteers even richer.

Let's face it Tea Twits and  Secessionists and all you dishonest hordes of political whores yearning for a scapegoat to excuse the way you've been fighting to ruin life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America -- repeating lies that you hear because you can't admit that you've been wrong, because you can't admit that you don't know a damned thing about history or economics, because you can't admit that you've made mistakes and because you can't accept that "I've got mine and fuck you" isn't the definition of Capitalism, Democracy or even decency -- let's face it:  you applauded everything that got us here, you mocked and persecuted everyone who warned you and you ignored the history you should have learned from.  

It's your damned fault, not "the Liberals" the Mexicans, the people who told you that no, there were no Goddamn nukes in Iraq and no way to build them: the people who told you that al Qaeda was a menace when your cowboy president shut down the anti-terrorism team right before 9/11 -- it's yours.

Who was it who told us we hated America when we told you slashing the upper bracket would pour a torrent of capital into the markets and hedge funds and real estate, creating the same bubble and bust we had in the 1920's?  It was you, you smug, self pitying, Velveeta and white bread eating, Pat and Rush and Ann cheering sock puppets.

Time to suck it up and take responsibility. There's no way to undo what you've done, no folksy homilies and vague generalities, no Mighty Mitt to save the day.  The debt can't be paid down by putting the old and the sick and the young and dependent on an ice floe. You can't fix things by "deporting" people for their political opinions like that malignant Republican war criminal parasite Allen West suggests. We can't "decrease the size of government by spending even more on Homeland Security the largest Federal Agency ever or by building more carriers and bombers to counter the defunct Soviet Union.  We can't raise taxes enough to do it.  We're going to see inflation - lots of it, at least those of us who can't hide billions offshore like our corporate citizens do, like our Republican supporters and candidates do. We're going to see enough devaluation that foreign countries can hire our non-union, no minimum wage serfs for less than they hire Chinese peasants to work in sweat shops until your grandchildren and your great grandchildren curse your memory, dig up your miserable bones and grind them for fertilizer. 

(Cross posted from Human voices)

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Shoot the Mexicans, says Joe the Plumber

Yeah, so you remember how John McCain and Sarah Palin and pretty much every other Republican drooled over Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher as a voice of good ol' middle American values, how he became a staple on the right-wing media circuit, and how he became a prominent Republican himself?

Well, he's running for Congress in Ohio's 9th district, going up against incumbent Marcy Kaptur, and he's still spewing the good ol' Republican views that made him famous. Like this gem, at a campaign event for a fellow Republican in Arizona on Saturday:

I'm running for Congress. How many congressmen or people running for Congress have you heard, put a fence up and start shooting? None? Well you heard it here first. Put troops on the border and start shooting, I bet that solves our immigration problem real quick.

That's right, he said U.S. border guards should shoot Mexicans trying to get into the country. Even if you think undocumented immigration is a serious problem, this is fucking insane.

But, then, what do you expect from Joe the Fucking Plumber?

I look foward to Republicans distancing themselves en masse from their beloved everyman.

But even if they do, the question remains: do they disagree with him?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

President Obama: "They have tried to sell us this trickle-down fairy dust before. It did not work then, it won't work now."

Romney has spent much of the campaign so far lying about President Obama.

Having embraced the far-right Republican orthodoxy of the likes of his running mate, and having been exposed as a vulture capitalist, a privileged rich douchebag with a plutocratic sense of entitlement, and a knee-jerk ignoramus on foreign affairs, as a candidate hiding the details of his agenda, it's all he's got.

And you never know, right? The economy is still fairly weak (and voters may blame the president for it, even though he pulled it back from the brink of collapse), the media can't be counted on not to turn into a mouthpiece for the Republican smear machine, and the electorate is deeply divided. All of which is to say, the election could still go either way.

But you know what fills me with confidence? President Obama on the campaign trail. Ultimately, he's the best messenger for his own policy agenda and for the vision of hope and change he still offers the country. And, simply, he's amazing out there -- raising the level of discourse, inspiring his supporters, reaching out to independents and undecideds in a serious and genuine way, and presenting clearly the stark contrast between two competing visions for America this election provides.

Just watch him here, and listen to him, discussing the Romney-Ryan plan for America, particularly what it would mean for the middle class -- from today in Boone, Iowa:

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Foreign policy is so 1980s

The same Republicans who criticized President Obama for lacking foreign policy experience in 2008 are now stepping in to defend the dismal international relations record of Romney-Ryan ticket.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on Sunday argued that Romney and Ryan are actually better equipped to lead on international relations than Obama and Biden:

GINGRICH: I think it's an advantage that they're not part of the current mess... Mitt Romney has the same amount of foreign policy experience as Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet empire decisively in 8 years. I would rather have Romney and Ryan rethinking everything than have the current team continue.

PAWLENTY: Romney and Ryan have a terrific national security policy team around them... Governor Romney spent his entire career in global business arrangements, transactions and traveling and understanding different countries, cultures and geography.

Based on Mr. Romney's recent trip overseas, do we really want to "re-think everything"?

Oh, and not for nothing, but if Barack Obama had had the nerve to use a Navy ship as a backdrop to introduce his running mate who never served a day in uniform, the hawks and the veterans groups -- not to mention the brave forces of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists like Rush Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg -- would be on the rampage.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Islamists vs. Islamists: a positive for Egypt?

By Ali Ezzatyar

When purported Islamists in the Sinai brazenly massacred Egyptian border guards and broke through the Israeli border, it was difficult to interpret the event as anything but catastrophic. The attacks seemed to add some substance to fears of a new Islamist Egypt, the primary trepidation of many since the beginning of the uprisings in Tahrir square. Perhaps, though, this all presents an opportunity. The world only need to look at its most recent mistakes.

In the debate surrounding Islam, Islamism, and government, there is a critical question that remains to be answered. Does power moderate? There is little reliable data on the subject, since movements advocating for Islamic governments rarely win power; when they do, they are usually sabotaged.

In Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) came to power in the early '90s through free and fair elections. This represented the only hiatus from government control for the revolutionary FLN, which lead Algeria since its independence (and continues to do so today). The FIS openly called into question the democratic process that brought them to power, asserting instead that the rule of God was superior to the rule of man. Citing the threat to the democratic process that the FIS posed, the Algerian military annulled the electoral process after only two months, driving the FIS underground and Algeria into a bloody civil war that decimated the country.

At the time, many advocated for the FLN and the military to respect the results of a fair electoral process. The argument was made that, if the FIS lead government failed to do things like pick up the trash regularly, ordinary Algerians would regret their choice and ultimately pressure them to change. The experiment never had the opportunity to play itself out.

The more recent and very relevant example is on Egypt and Israel's own doorstep. The Palestinian territories had their first region wide democratic elections in 2006 that pitted Hamas, the Islamist party, against Fatah, Palestine's equivalent of China's Communist Party. Hamas, who still has not recognized the legitimacy of the state of Israel, won a majority. The international community did not know how to react. While they had advocated for democracy and reform in the Palestinian territories, they had trouble reconciling that with the result of the popular vote. As a result, most security council countries acquiesced to Israel's response of effectively annulling the results of that election and sidelining Hamas from any genuine government of the territories.

This was an unfortunate outcome. In that case, there was immediate evidence of Hamas' recognition that they needed to abandon their anti-Israel idealism since they had been transformed from a revolutionary, anti-government movement, to the majority in parliament. Behind the scenes negotiations and meetings revealed that Hamas would even negotiate directly with Israel. Israel and the United States, however, declared Hamas' vocal non-recognition of Israel as a non-starter. Hamas was ejected from the driver's seat rather arbitrarily. Like with the FIS in Algeria, in Palestine, no quantifiable evolution in the political conflict, or the democratic process, has resulted since. Circumvention of the democratic process at the expense of Islamists does not seem to be working.

The Muslim Brotherhood's election in Egypt incited predictions of horror, likening Egypt's future to that of Iran's. As with our other examples, these fears have allowed traditional parties to exercise their influence and maintain their authoritarianism with impunity. Take the dismissal of Egypt's democratically elected, Islamist parliament.

Enter the conflict in the Sinai. The new Islamist presidency in Egypt, contrary to what anyone could have guessed, is locked in a battle with none other than Islamists in the Sinai. Mohamed Morsi has been forced to crack down on the alleged Islamic militants with force, both rhetorically, and militarily (to the extent his limited power allows). The primary reason for this is the obvious necessity to maintain control within Egypt’s borders and prevent a broader conflict with Israel.

But there are other factors at play that are important to note. Firstly, the president of a party whose members vowed to sever ties with Israel as an election platform is now seemingly cooperating closely with Israel. The Israelis are allowing Egypt to perform military sorties in the Sinai for the first time since 1973, despite a peace treaty explicitly outlawing such activities. Israeli politicians have characterized Egypt’s behavior as "positive." Out of catastrophe has grown unexpected collusion of the highest order.

Ultimately, anti government Islamic militancy has forced the new persident's hand in a way nobody, perhaps even Morsi himself, would have imagined. Given the suspicion surrounding his presidency, and the flagrant nature of the attacks in the Sinai and Israel, he had little choice. In essence, power for the Muslim Brotherhood has obliged them to act as any government would have in a similar scenario: crack down on militants that undermine your legitimacy and authority. With the unexpected killing of Egyptian border guards by these militants, an inevitability has surfaced of the sort that the FIS and Hamas never had the opportunity to witness: Power seems to be moderating. But it is more complicated than the events of one week. Sustaining this transition takes effort from everyone.

(Part 2 later in the week.)

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