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Worst Kept Secret in D.C.: Hagel Wasn’t Up for The Job



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Heading into Thanksgiving weekend, D.C. is all a twitter with news that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has been fired, er, asked to step down, er, initiated talks about leaving. It has long been a staple of Washington news reporting (read, gossip) that Hagel simply wasn’t up to the job, either intellectually or physically. Seeing him at various events in person, he looked perpetually exhausted and distant, while damning rumors of his lack of attention to the job could be heard in numerous corners. One high-level source with direct knowledge once told me that Hagel was disengaged in his morning briefings, and when thick briefing papers were presented to him, he would thumb through them and push them aside, reportedly saying things like, “I can’t read this, just tell me what it says.” Those who watched carefully his underwhelming Senate confirmation hearings knew that this was not a good choice for one of the most demanding jobs in government.

The New York Times piece breaking the news about Hagel’s departure peddles the White House line that this is just a boring administrative shuffle: 

​The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ [emphasis added].

The truth of course, is that, as the Times put it, Hagel “struggled to inspire confidence,” code that he was one of the least respected defense secretaries in recent memory. 

Deeper into the Times piece, though, is a much bigger, and more concerning issue — more evidence of the damage that occurs when a president surrounds himself with those he knows he can dominate:

But several of Mr. Obama’s top advisers over the past few months have also acknowledged privately that the president did not want another high-profile defense secretary in the mold of Mr. Gates . . .

So, as the threats from Russia, China, and the Islamic State developed over the past two years, the president was more concerned about his image as the smartest man in the room and who would brook no opposition to his view of the world. A view, one might add, that shows remarkably little evolution during his six years as president. 

Thus, at a time of extraordinary global danger, America was saddled with a defense secretary not respected by his president, not expected to bring a sharp intellectual scalpel to the challenges of the day, and one who simply wasn’t up for the job. Early, private reports from inside the Pentagon indicate a sigh of relief, since the thought is it can’t get any worse.

Oh, That Kind of Book



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From the New York Times Book Review:

Readers also responded to the Bookends column (Nov. 2) that asked, “Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book?” No, some commented, but many more mentioned breaking up when a significant other read a book like “American Psycho,” “The Shack” or the Bible.

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Why Shouldn’t White House Refund Fees to Recent Legal Immigrants?



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Some White House aides must be regretting the day in 2012 that it created a “We The People” website, in which it pledged to make an official response to citizen petitions on it that gathered 5,000 digital “signatures.”

Soon the White House had to increase the number of required signatures to 25,000 due to the site’s popularity. Then it increased it again to 100,000 after it had to formally explain its position on Texas seceding from the Union and deporting then–CNN host Piers Morgan. Even that didn’t fend off the pranksters. In 2013, it had to respond to a petition asking for the White House to “secure resources and funding, and begin construction of the Death Star by 2016.” To which the White House responded by saying: “the Administration does not support blowing up planets,” and by asking: “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?” 

Here’s hoping the White House has to respond to this new petition that’s just been posted on its site to tweak the administration’s new executive actions on immigration: 

Given that illegal immigrants did not pay the fees and did not spend the time legal immigrants did in trying to follow the rules, legal immigrants should be compensated the same way. They followed the rules to come into this country and waited in line.

The petition is brand new, but with a little effort the 100,000 signature threshold can be reached and the administration forced to respond.

Web Briefing: December 21, 2014

Monday Links



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Supercuts of cheesy computer-hacking scenes in ’80s and ’​90s movies.

On November 24, 1793 — or what then became known as Frimaire 4, II – the revolutionary French government officially replaced the Gregorian calendar, introducing one of thirty days each, comprised of three ten-day weeks (each day lasted ten hours, or 1,000 minutes, or 10,000 seconds). It was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806.

Top ten websites you should visit at least once a year.

Really awkward engagement photos.

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th of November and have always wondered, here’s how it works: Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Things you can get away with if you don’t have to worry about an HOA.

Unicorns don’t really dig virgin women, and other lessons from medieval bestiaries debunked.

ICYMIFriday’s links are here, and include the Star Lord and Ronan dance-off, what to take when you time travel, the reason for thumbs, and a gallery of things you don’t see every day.

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Ferguson Protesters Chant Names of Cities They Intend to Shut Down, Demand to Be Arrested



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Protesters in Ferguson, Mo., blocked traffic and surrounded cars on West Florissant Avenue before moving to the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday night. More protesters gathered in front of the police department than in recent nights, and many appeared eager to get arrested. In this video, a protester shouts his demand to be arrested:

Police responded by coming out in front of the station to clear the street and defend their department. Protesters moved to the sidewalk opposite the police and chanted the names of cities they intend to shut down, including Ferguson, St. Ann, and Berkeley.

​The protesters then marched down the road and back into the street to block traffic. Police moved behind their department, came out of an alley, and ordered the protesters and bystanders to move. 

​The protesters continued the game of cat-and-mouse by moving back in front of the department and blocking traffic once again. 

Police led one of the offenders away in handcuffs as the tension rose. 

​Eventually, protesters began to slowly leave the scene of the protest until only a few remained. While protesters were calling for a grand jury to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who is suspected of shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown, many protesters appeared more concerned with getting attention.  

Kristof Approves Immigration Illegality



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Whatever happened to principle and adherence to the rule of law on the Left?

Nicholas Kristof’s column today essentially excuses illegal immigration because–well, his father almost had to commit marriage fraud to get here. From his column:

We need empathy, and humility. My father, a refugee from Eastern Europe, was preparing a fraudulent marriage to an American citizen as a route to this country when he was sponsored, making fraud unnecessary…

What most defines the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America is not illegality but undaunted courage and ambition for a better life. What separates their families from most of ours is simply the passage of time — and the lottery of birth.

But the fraud would have been apparently OK–to Kristof, a necessity, if you will–because all that matters is getting what you want.

Apparently because his father was willing to commit fraud back then, it means that we should quit worrying about immigration illegality today.

Like I asked: Whatever whatever happened to principle on the Left? Unless expedience has become principle. Come to think of it…

Populism and the EU’s ‘Ever Closer Union’



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Writing in the New York Times, Hugo Dixon, editor at large of Reuters News, sees populism on the rise in Europe:

A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of populism. The old political order of Britain, France, Italy and Spain — not to mention smaller countries such as Greece — is facing challenges from populist movements, of the right and the left.

Last week, the United Kingdom Independence Party, a right-wing populist party, won its second seat in the British Parliament. Podemos, a Spanish left-wing populist group whose name means “we can,” is leading in the opinion polls despite having been founded less than a year ago. In France, the right-wing National Front is rocking the establishment, while in Italy the hard-to-categorize Five-Star Movement is a force to be reckoned with.

With the exception of Greece, where the radical left Syriza movement may take control of the government if there is an election next year, none of the populist groups is close to power. But if the traditional parties continue to fail the people for another electoral cycle, the populists could storm the barricades….

The cures proposed by the populists, however, are worse than the disease. UKIP wants to pull Britain out of the European Union. The National Front wants to destroy the Union. The Five-Star Movement wants to yank Italy out of the euro. Podemos wants to audit part of the national debt before writing it off. Syriza wants to write off half of Greece’s debts.

Such policies, if ever implemented, would create a new set of economic crises. Policies such as pulling out of the Union would involve losing full access to its single market. Abandoning the euro, disastrous though the currency has been, or unilateral debt write-offs would lead to bank runs and capital controls.

Extricating the nations of Europe from the mess into which ‘ever closer union’ has landed them will not, to put it mildly, be easy, but staying the course (which is essentially what Mr. Dixon goes on to recommend) risks deepening the economic and democratic destruction that has already opened the door to populism of just the sort that he (in some cases correctly) fears.

But let’s look at the consequences of some of the specific populist policies that so worry Mr. Dixon.

Contrary to what he argues, pulling out of the EU would not, in fact, necessarily lead to loss of access to the EU’s single market. The terms of any country’s departure from the EU would be governed by Article 50 of the EU treaty, which theoretically sets the stage for a reasonably orderly divorce. The terms of that divorce will be a horse trade.  Given the economic value of the UK (and it’s the UK that Mr. Dixon is really writing about) to the rest of the EU there is good reason to think that Britain would be able to negotiate full access to the single market should it so choose.

As for “destroying” the union, well, sometimes destruction can be creative.  To simply blow up the EU, leaving nothing behind, risks chaos, but genuinely radical change to its existing institutional structure, including a legally binding halt to the process of “ever closer union” is long overdue, if hard to imagine as matters currently stand. If it had been done fifteen years ago, Europe would not be in the mess it now is and Brexit would have no part on the agenda of Britain’s mainstream political debate.

And the euro? Again I suspect that the alternatives are less binary than Mr. Dixon would suggest.  We could debate Italy’s ability to navigate a return to the lira, but would it not be better to look (as I have possibly mentioned before) at splitting the euro into two units—‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’—that more accurately reflected the economic realities of the countries in which they circulated?

Mr. Dixon believes that the EU should boost spending, embrace deeper structural reform and loosen current monetary constraints. He also wants the political class to clean up its act:

[P]art of the solution, certainly, has to be zero tolerance toward corruption and cheating. Part of it, too, should be to acknowledge the failings of politics.

Indeed it should. But part of that acknowledgement should include the recognition that “politics” in the EU has been broken by the imposition of a post-democratic political structure that has lost touch both with economic reality and the essentials of democratic governance. Until something is done to address the failings of that structure—and by that I mean at least partial demolition—Europe will remain stuck in a rut.

Anything else is making those deck chairs on the Titanic just a touch more comfortable.

Graham: House Intel Committee Is ‘Full of Crap’ About Benghazi



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Senator Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.) described a report on the Benghazi terrorist attack that was released by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee as “full of crap” because it “absolves” the intelligence community of wrongdoing.

“The House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own,” Graham said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday morning. “But, as to our friends on the Intel Committee in the House, I don’t buy the idea that the agency did not mislead the Congress, because I was there when they misled me.”

Graham said that Mike Morrell, when he was acting director of the CIA, claimed that the FBI changed the administration’s taking points about the attack to eliminate any reference to al Qaeda. Morell later admitted that he had made the changes.

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.”

Graham told National Review Online that he wants the Senate to establish a select committee to join the House Select Committee on Benghazi currently led by Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.).

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

Giuliani: Black Violence Is ‘the Reason for the Heavy Police Presence in Black Community’



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Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani touched of a tense debate with Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson when he suggested that the media was devoting too much attention to the Michael Brown killing.

Giuliani said that incidents of white police officers shooting black men is a “significant exception” to the rule.

“I find it very disappointing that you’re not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America [who are murdered] are killed by other blacks,” the former Republican presidential candidate said on Meet the Press.

Dyson countered that Giuliani was making a “false equivalency,” saying that “black people who kill black people go to jail; white people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail.”

“It is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community,” Giuliani countered. “So why don’t you cut it down so that so many white police forces don’t have to be in black areas?”

As NBC’s Chuck Todd shut down the conversation, Dyson told Giuliani that his arguments revealed “the defensive mechanism of white supremacy at work in your mind.”

Before ending the segment, Todd turned to Anthony Gray, the attorney for Brown’s family, and asked if he was “confident” that protests in Ferguson would remain peaceful.

“I’m not” Gray replied. “I’m hopeful that there will be peace in Ferguson, and I’m prayerful that peace will reign.”

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

Ted Cruz Proposes ‘Detailed, Systematic Plan’ to Stop Obama’s Amnesty



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Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) proposed a plan to stop President Obama’s administrative amnesty, the first step of which can only be taken by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

“Step number one that I have called for is the incoming majority leader should announce that if the president implements this lawless amnesty, that the Senate will not confirm any executive or judicial nominees, other than vital national security positions, for the next two years, unless and until the president ends this lawless amnesty,” Cruz told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “If the majority leader would announce that, it would impose real consequences on the president and the administration.”

Cruz didn’t say if he regards the attorney general as a “vital national security position,” leaving open the question of whether he wants the GOP to block confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder.

“The second constitutional power we’ve got is the power of the purse,” Cruz continued. “And we should fund, one at a time, the critical priorities of the federal government, but also use the power of the purse to attach riders.”

By riders, Cruz is likely referring to an appropriations bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security but stipulate that none of the funds appropriated may be used to implement Obama’s recent executive orders. And, following Cruz’s thinking, if Obama vetoes that bill next year, it wouldn’t result in a government-wide shutdown because Congress will have passed bills funding other parts of government.

Cruz’s plan is very similar to the one he hoped to execute during the fight to defund Obamacare, with one crucial difference: Republicans now control the Senate, so Harry Reid, in theory, can’t block the bills that would fund the rest of government.

“We’ve got to demonstrate that the campaign words Republicans used on the trail were more than just talk, that we’re willing to honor or commitment,” Cruz said.

 

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

A Hell, Not Fresh: Economic Output Relative to Expectations



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This chart has three lines: One shows a (very reasonable) projection of the maximum amount of goods and services the economy could produce, estimated in 2007. Another shows a more recent estimate. And the thick solid line is what the economy actually produced.

Projections are just that. But there should be no doubt that the economy is underperforming, and this chart brings that reality into sharp relief. If the solid line were closer to the dotted line — either one — then more people would have jobs, living standards would be higher, it would be easier for folks to afford medical care and for parents to afford tuition — the machine of capitalism would be bringing more people greater opportunity to flourish.

— Michael R. Strain is deputy director of economic policy studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

Rep. Labrador: ‘We Should Censure the President’



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Republican congressman Raul Labrador called on Congress to formally rebuke President Obama for his executive actions on immigration.

“We should censure the president of the United States,” Labrador told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday. “We need to lay out clearly why this is unlawful.”

Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) has also called for censuring the president as a way to go on record opposing him short of impeachment. The move, while relatively rare in the nation’s history, would not be without precedent.

Labrador called for coupling censure with a funding bill that would not fund the Department of Homeland Security. He added that Congress should “require the president of the United States to go through a comment period,” similar to that undergone by regulatory agencies. 

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

Obama: American People Will Want ‘That New Car Smell’ in 2016 Presidential Candidate



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Asked if Hillary Clinton had his blessing to try to distance herself from him as she mounts her presumptive 2016 presidential campaign, President Obama responded that he thinks the American people want “that new car smell” in their next president.

“They wanna drive somethin’ off the lot that — that doesn’t have as — as much mileage as me,” he told George Stephanopoulos on This Week.

While the president said that he thinks Clinton would be a “great president,” she might not thank him for suggesting that the voters are thirsting for less-used political goods. 

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

Rand Paul Hires McConnell Finance Director



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Rand Paul is bringing on Mitch McConnell’s national finance director, Laura Sequeira, to play a key fundraising role at his political-action committee ahead of an expected 2016 presidential campaign.  

Over the past two years, Paul, a tea-party darling, has labored mightily to woo establishment donors into his camp. Sequeira’s arrival will certainly help with that. She is fresh off the campaign trail, where she helped McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, raise millions for his reelection campaign.

Paul’s fundraising shop now includes operatives with reach into both the Republican establishment and its insurgent wing: Sequeira joins Erika Sather, the former director of development at the Club for Growth, on Paul’s fundraising team. The news was first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, and Doug Stafford, who runs Paul’s political shop, discussed the move with National Review Online

Sequeira began as an office manager is McConnell Senate office; now, she will serve as Paul’s guide to his top-dollar donors, both in Kentucky and around the country. 

The move is significant in another way, too, which was illustrated by McConnell’s virtual endorsement of Paul’s presidential candidacy on the night of his reelection. ”Obviously, I’m a big supporter of Rand Paul. We’ve developed a very tight relationship, and I’m for him,” McConnell told the Herald-Leader. If Paul runs for president, McConnell said, “He’ll be able to count on me.”

After elbowing Jim Bunning out of the Senate in 2010, McConnell backed Paul’s primary challenger, Trey Grayson, and made Paul a political enemy. Paul is one of the few politicians in American life to have defeated McConnell’s vaunted political machine, and the day after his primary victory, McConnell recognized that he had made a rare political miscalculation. Since then, they two have developed something of a symbiotic relationship: McConnell needs support from Paul’s tea-party backers, and Paul needs to curry favor with the establishment. 

The junior senator stumped heavily in the state for McConnell over the past year, and, as Paul mounts his presidential bid, McConnell his team are likely to continue to lend him a hand. 

Rep. McCaul: ‘We Are Not Going to Shut the Government Down’



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Representative Mike McCaul (R., Texas), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, suggested that Congress should exercise the “power of the purse” to combat President Obama’s executive action on immigration, but repeatedly vowed that a government shut down would not occur.

“We are not going to shut the government down, but we are going to shut down this president and his actions as it pertains to granting amnesty to 5 million people,” he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday. He suggested that there were “various options on the table” to accomplish this, but did not specify what they might be. McCaul called for “in the long term” moving ahead with piece-meal legislation on immigration, beginning with a border-security bill. 

McCaul dismissed the idea of impeachment, suggesting that “the constitutionality issue” would be settled by the courts in lawsuits that states are filing against the president’s actions.

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

America’s Friend?



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For decades now the State Department has been talking up the virtues of closer European integration, a stance that has made no sense at all since the end of the Cold War. Why promote the emergence of a political and economic rival saturated with such profound anti-Americanism?

For, example, there’s this…

The Financial Times:

The European parliament is poised to call for a break-up of Google, in one of the most brazen assaults so far on the technology group’s power. The gambit increases the political pressure on the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to take a tougher line on Google, either in its antitrust investigation into the company or through the introduction of laws to curb its reach.

A draft motion seen by the Financial Times says that “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” should be considered as a potential solution to Google’s dominance. It has the backing of the parliament’s two main political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists.

The European People’s Party is a grouping of a large number of European parties on what passes in Europe for the center-right, a grouping so repulsive that even Britain’s Tories quit it a few years back. As for the Socialists…

Back to the FT:

A vote to effectively single out a big US company for censure is extremely rare in the European parliament and is in part a reflection of how Germany’s politicians have turned against Google this year. German centre-right and centre-left politicians are the dominant force in the legislature and German corporate champions, from media groups to telecoms, are among the most vocal of Google’s critics. Since his nomination to be the EU’s digital commissioner, Germany’s Günther Oettinger [a member of Anela Merkel's CDU] has suggested hitting Google with a levy for displaying copyright-protected material; has raised the idea of forcing its search results to be neutral; and voiced concerns about its provision of software for cars. Google has become a lightning rod for European concerns over Silicon Valley, with consumers, regulators and politicians assailing the company over issues ranging from its commercial dominance to its privacy policy…

The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits.

“Unbundling cannot be excluded,” said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP  [also a member of the CDU] who is one of the motion’s backers.

…Google declined to comment. However, executives at the company are understood to be furious at the political nature of the motion and only became aware of the document in the past couple of days, after an MEP contacted Google for advice on its meaning.

One technology industry source with knowledge of the motion also called it a “politically-motivated campaign to do something that is a regulatory matter”. He added: “These guys are calling for the break-up of Google. That is not in proportion to the degree of concern articulated by the commission during its investigation.

Whatever one may think about Google and the way it sometimes conducts its business, it’s important to understand that so far as the EU parliament is concerned, the company’s real offense is being successful while being American.

If anything should be ‘unbundled’ it is the EU parliament, greedy for power, sleazy and post-democratic, a disgrace to the very notion of parliaments. Scrap it. 

Obama: ‘Absolutely Not’ Legitimate for Future Presidents to Apply My Logic on Executive Actions



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President Obama rejected the idea that his executive action on immigration sets a precedent for future presidents to enact their preferred policies without Congress, at least if the policy were tax reform.

George Stephanopoulos asked Obama in an interview airing on This Week about an analogy that many of the president’s critics have drawn: “How do you respond to the argument, a future president comes in, wants lower taxes. Doesn’t happen. Congress won’t do it — he says I’m not going to prosecute those who don’t pay capital gains tax.”

Obama didn’t respond to the question and continued with his talking points, prompting Stephanopoulos to press him again: “So you don’t think it’d be legitimate for a future president to make that argument?

“With respect to taxes? Absolutely not,” the president replied.

Tags: Sunday Shows November 23 2014

Ferguson Protests Grow Larger: ‘We Don’t Give a F--- about Your Laws’



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The protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Friday night grew larger than previous days’ gatherings of protesters, despite the rain and cold weather. Police officers used a megaphone to ask protesters to leave the street outside the Ferguson Police Department or they would be arrested. In this video, protesters responded by chanting ”F— the police” and shouting “We don’t give a f— about your laws like you don’t give a f— about our lives.” Warning: Video contains foul language.

Protesters then moved to West Florissant Street and blocked traffic in front of a McDonald’s restaurant and chanted, “Who shut sh– down? We shut sh– down!” Warning: Video contains foul language.

​The employees working inside of the 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant were so frightened that they locked the doors and temporarily closed the store until protesters moved down the street. 

The protesters meanwhile did not seem nearly as concerned about potential violence, and some even brought their children to help block traffic. 

A grand jury’s decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who is suspected of shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown, could come at any moment. Residents and law enforcement alike are preparing for a worst-case scenario that could include the loss of life as a result of violent protests.

 

Nuland Sends a Message



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The Interpreter:

When the Ukrainian crisis began, some commentators in the West suggested that NATO would not in the end fight to defend the Baltic countries even though the latter are full members of NATO by asking “who is prepared to die for Narva?” But now a senior US State Department has given a clear and unequivocal answer: Western countries are.

During a visit to Latvia this week, Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said that “when NATO and the US as part of NATO took new members into the alliance, this means that we are ready to participate in the defense of the security of these countries, and this means that we are ready to give our lives for the security of these countries.”

That is why there are young American soldiers in Latvia now, she continued, suggesting that there should be “absolute clarity” that if someone attacks Latvia, we will be here to help defend Latvia” because “no one has the right to shoot at Latvia because no one has the right to shoot at the territory of NATO.”

Nuland was right to say what she did. The best chance of avoiding a crisis in the Baltic is if the Russians can be persuaded that military intervention there is not worth the risk.

But there is intervention and intervention. The chances of an overt Russian attack are, I am convinced, very, very low. The possibilities of something more ambiguous still remain remote but are not quite so easy to discount. In the event of a ‘spontaneous’ rising in (overwhelmingly ethnic Russian) Narva, a city in eastern Estonia just a bridge away from Russia, or in Russian-speaking Daugavpils in eastern Latvia, what would the western response be?  Enough has been learnt of Russian tactics in the last year that the US would, I am sure, be able to pull together a posse (Brits? Poles?) to help the Balts out, but would, say,  Germany (more ambivalent than it should be) be quite so willing to agree that it was obliged (under Article V of the NATO treaty) to join in efforts to combat what it might choose to deem to be ‘internal’ disturbances? There are excellent strategic reasons for Nuland to portray the NATO alliance as united and resolute, but that does not mean that it is.

Meanwhile Estonian Public Broadcasting reports:

A joint study by the Estonian Institute of Human Rights and Turu-uuringute AS found that 38 percent of ethnic Russians in Estonia would believe Russian media in case of conflicting reports, while 33 percent would believe information from both sides, and only 6 percent would side with Estonian media accounts.

Given the paranoid narrative now spun by most Russian media, that’s not so good, but the news is not all bleak. Two-thirds of ethnic Russians said they would give a public broadcasting Russian-language [Estonian] television channel “a chance”, including, interestingly, a higher proportion of the elderly (the segment of the population that might be presumed to be the most Sovietized of Estonia’s Russians (although this may merely reflect the fact that they watch more television and speak less Estonian).

Also:

 When asked if Russia has the right to protect its interests abroad, only 12 percent agreed, and 60 percent said Ukraine has the right to protect its territorial integrity.

That 12 percent seems reassuringly low, at least by the standards of neighboring Latvia and is somewhat encouraging if accurate (the fact that some 60 percent were said to support Ukraine’s rights is also not a bad tally under the circumstances). It’s also worth adding that (again, judging by the Latvian data) support for Russia’s adventures abroad is not the same as wanting the Russian army to show up at home.

The report notes that “slightly over 40 percent of ethnic Russians in Estonia do not speak any Estonian”, a number that is higher than I would have thought, but it is a number that is likely skewed by an older generation unwilling to adapt to post-Soviet reality and/or, perhaps, the complexity of the Estonian language.

Ethnic Russians account for roughly 25 percent of the population in Estonia. 

Some Fans of ‘Executive Action’ (2)



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The US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news today that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it seems to me that the bishops now seem rather less focused on the constitution than they were at the time they were objecting to various aspects of Obamacare coverage.

Meanwhile the National Catholic Reporter reports:

Catholic groups across the country have been quick to applaud President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, but they are equally quick to remind that more work remains to be done before finding a “humane” fix to our country’s immigration system.

The executive order, which the president delivered Thursday in a primetime speech, expands the government’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and provides temporary relief from deportation for more than 4 million undocumented immigrant parents who have lived in the country for more than five years.

“Generally, we are celebrating this announcement,” said Michelle Sardone, legalization program director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC. “It’s going to help close to 5 million people. But we’re definitely still working toward finding a permanent solution.”

“This a temporary fix,” she said. “There’s still more fighting to be done, to make sure that everyone is included.”

Press releases from various Catholic organizations echoed the sentiment….

Ah yes, there’s always “more fighting to be done”.

The ratchet turns. 

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