The Unites States government openly stated today that it believes Syria's government used chemical weapons against its own people:
The White House informed Congress about the chemical weapons use in letters to Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., on Thursday. These announcements are the first U.S. indication of confidence in claims of Syria's chemical weapons use.
"The intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue," [Secretary of Defense Chuck] Hagel said. "The decision to make this conclusion was reached in the last 24 hours."
The Defense secretary, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, also said the U.S. government believes "any use of chemical weapons in Syria very likely originated" with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Eric Garland asks, what if foreigners covered the United States the way Americans write about the rest of the world? He proposes the following hypothetical:
Let us say that a guy got drunk at a bar outside of Mobile, Alabama, got in a fight with some dudes about University of Alabama versus Ole Miss college football, and ended up shooting them dead in the parking lot.
Terrible, right? Stupid, violent, too many damn guns, shame, right?
Then he gives the incident some deep think:
Idaho mother locks baby and 3 year old in car with a loaded gun.
Fortunately, when the 3-year-old fired, the shot only grazed the baby's cheek.
But the next time you hear talk of "responsible gun owners," remember that policy also has to take account of the considerable number of irresponsible gun owners.
Ron Brownstein reports on a new National Journal survey of Americans' economic anxieties.
The worries are acutest for white Americans, especially those without a college degree.
Among Hispanics, more respondents said they’d risen above their parents’ station than said they had slipped (47 percent to 22 percent). Responses were similar for African-Americans (33 percent to 22 percent) and college-educated whites (38 percent to 35 percent). But among whites without college degrees, more said they had lost ground (36 percent) rather than gained it (29 percent).
Molly Ball writes at the Atlantic on why Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to recruit more women for political campaigns:
This preference for women candidates may surprise you if you’re accustomed to thinking of female politicians in terms of the barriers they face—from Geraldine Ferraro’s being asked on Meet the Press in 1984 if “the Soviets might be tempted to try to take advantage of you simply because you are a woman,” to Hillary Clinton’s being heckled at a rally in 2008 by men shouting “Iron my shirt!” Women in politics, it has long been assumed, are trapped in a disabling web of double standards—presumed by voters to be weaker and less capable leaders, but punished for violating gender norms if they do act tough or get angry. Even though women were elected to Congress in record numbers in 2012, their representation still languishes at just 18 percent in the House and 20 percent in the Senate.
And yet the political operatives may be onto something. Evidence suggests that double standards may have once applied but don’t any longer. Shields and Myers prefer female candidates for a simple reason: voters, they say, tend to assume women are more trustworthy, less corruptible, and more in touch with everyday concerns. In a white-male-dominated political system, women are seen as outsiders. “Voters want change,” Shields said. “A woman candidate personifies change just by being on the ballot.” Myers added that, in these intolerably gridlocked times, “voters believe women are more likely to compromise and find common ground and solutions, and less likely to argue and triangulate for political advantage.” Both consultants also emphasized that women are harder to criticize than men. Sharp-edged attacks, particularly by male rivals, risk running afoul of the societal bias against, essentially, hitting a girl. The classic example: Clinton’s 2000 Senate race, in which her opponent, Rick Lazio, left his podium during a debate to demand that she sign a campaign-finance pledge. Lazio’s physically confrontational gesture was regarded as bullying, and helped sink his campaign.
Paul Ryan has joined Marco Rubio in the battle to pass the Gang of Eight immigration measure.
Ryan offered pub[l]ic encouragement to Rubio and the other “Gang of 8” senators throughout their negotiations to craft a comprehensive reform bill. And unlike other House leaders who encouraged “reform” in theory while dodging the specifics of what a bill would entail, Ryan specifically embraced a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants right out of the gate.
Is this the re-emergence of Paul Ryan's affiliation with the Jude Wanniski/Jack Kemp school of supply-side economics?
Methinks Ezra Klein, in a Washington Post article pushing back on POLITICO's story about Congress seeking to exempt itself from Obamacare, reveals more than intended about a core problem with Obamacare.
[N]o one is discussing “exempting” congressional staffers from Obamacare. They’re discussing creating some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.
"Can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of [employees]."
Have we heard that before?
Some of us have been warning from the start that forced defaults, sequestrations, and similar devices only end up empowering the executive branch. If Congress wants to determine the shape of spending cuts, it must write a budget. If it simply tells the executive, "spend less in every category," it grants the executive enormous discretion.
And guess what? The executive will use this discretion for its own political purposes. That's just so obvious! Yet House Republicans never saw it coming.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
General Electric won't act as banker to gun stores any more, reported the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
This month, Glenn Duncan, owner of Duncan's Outdoor Store in Bay City, Mich., said he received a letter from GE Capital Retail Bank in which the lender said it had made "the difficult decision" to stop providing financing services to his store. Other gun dealers have received similar notices.
Meanwhile Cerberus is continuing with plans to sell its gun-making business, "which makes brands including Remington, Bushmaster, Marlin and H&R."
Today, April 25, is the anniversary of the first day of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. In Australia and New Zealand, this day is honored as ANZAC Day, in remembrance of the heroic role of the armies of those two nations.
Captain Leslie Morshead (Australia) in a trench at Lone Pine after the battle, looking at Australian and Ottoman dead on the parapet
Yet (and despite the Peter Weir movie "Gallipoli"), it was not an ANZAC show only. The British and French fought at Gallipoli too. Twelve men - six sailors, six soldiers - won Victoria Crosses on this single day. The six soldiers all came from the same British regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Years after the battle, the best of the generals in the opposing Ottoman army paid generous tribute to the defeated soldiers of Gallipoli. By then, the former Mustafa Kemal had renamed himself Ataturk - and emerged as the ruler and remaker of his country. His words are inscribed on the memorial to the Allied forces that now stands at Gallipoli.
Congressional members and staffers are realizing what Obamacare means for them, don't much like it, and are attempting to exempt themselves from the law. From POLITICO (emphasis mine):
There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Plus, lawmakers — especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts — are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.
Rule 1 of Middle East politics: things could always be worse. The Assad regime in Syria seems to be gaining a more attentive audience for its argument that the anti-regime militants represent even a worse option than the regime itself.
Rebel fighters from the al-Ezz bin Abdul Salam Brigade attend a training session at an undisclosed location near the al-Turkman mountains, in Syria's northern Latakia province, on April 24, 2013. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
[British Foreign Secretary William] Hague said there was now “uncontested space” in Syria where Islamist groups were free to establish training camps that would equip and train foreign fighters, including British extremists.
Via Jonathan Foreman (Follow him at @JonEForeman), an Anglo-American journalist who writes often about India, a little insight into how H1-B visas work in practice. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Indian companies such as Infosys Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. have set up large U.S. offices to be closer to clients, staffing the sites overwhelmingly with Indian expatriates, who earn significantly less than their American counterparts. … Indian outsourcing giants sponsor more than half the 65,000 skilled-worker permits, known as H1-B visas, that the U.S. issues annually to workers with at least a bachelor's degree. … Many of these firms have as much as 80% of their staff in the U.S. on H1-B and other visas.
The Senate's immigration bill proposes gradually to curtail these practices over the years ahead.
I very much enjoyed Craig Fehrman's literature review at The American Prospect of a pair of books about the midwest. You might as well:
Some of the region’s stronger communal traits still hold. I grew up in the same sprawling gray farmhouse my grandfather was born in, for instance—his mother gave birth to him in the front room, where we kept my sister’s piano—and while that kind of rootedness has become rarer in other parts of the country, it’s still pretty standard in Southern Indiana.
Still, plenty has changed, for economic but also other reasons. After World War II, interstate highways opened, and new bypasses rerouted life away from cloistered downtowns. Later, manufacturing began to dry up, and local farms became attached to corporate monoliths. Kids who went to college never came back; those who stayed watched their self-reliant communities turn into commuter towns or unemployment zones. I’ve always felt these shifts brought some good with the bad. It’s sad to see boarded-up movie theaters in Sunman-size locales, but a multiplex offers ten times the choice, even if it’s an hour-long drive to the city.
At the Atlantic, David Graham explains that the Montana Democratic primary to replace Sen. Max Baucus may be the first major display of progressive efforts to challenge Democrats with heterodox positions on guns.
In the more militant corners of the left, there have been calls for a liberal Tea Party to enforce more ideological purity, forsaking the likes of Baucus and Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, all of whom voted against the gun bill.
(It's worth noting that even a unified Democratic caucus would have fallen short of the 60 votes required to pass the measure.)