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Can This Man Save the Pentagon?

Harry Hamburg/AP

Bob Work is one of the few defense experts in Washington who thinks strategy first and weapons second. Somehow, he’s about to become the Pentagon’s No. 2.

In Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, there’s a scene where one of Mendy’s boys follows Philip Marlowe out of a bar. There might have been trouble, Marlowe says, “if this enormous man hadn’t got out of an enormous car” and thrown the kid one-handed against the wall. “What was that?” Marlowe asks the bruised gangster. “Big Willie Magoon. A policeman. He thinks he’s tough.”Magoon isn’t that tough, as he finds out when Mendy sends a few more guys to remind him as much.

Fringe Factor

Marriage Is for Breeders

Peter Dazeley/Getty

Gay rights advocates are so intolerant, the head of an NY gun organization wants no part of a pro-gun rally, and the Boy Scouts have kicked out a scout leader for making an issue of his gayness.

VA Clerks: Marriage Is for Couples Who Can Accidentally Get Pregnant
The two Virginia officials appealing a federal judge’s February ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban are really pulling out all the stops to prove that Virginia is only for straight lovers. In their opening briefs, Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George E. Schaefer, III and Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele B. McQuigg both argued that one of the reasons for marriage is to encourage couples to get hitched in the event of an unwanted pregnancy—a problem same-sex couples are spared the pleasure of experiencing.

Four Freedoms

Still Waiting for the 4 Freedoms

AP

Through a depression and a world war, Franklin Roosevelt successfully challenged Americans to embody and protect the Four Freedoms. It’s time we reaffirmed that commitment.

On April 12, 1946—the first anniversary of the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt—the progressive writer and editor Max Lerner published a column titled simply “FDR: The People Remember.”In it, Lerner wrote:  “A few days ago, when it had become clear that the whole nation would observe the first anniversary of FDR’s death … the New York Daily News [which had always hated FDR] published a griping editorial. Why, it asked, should Americans be observing both Roosevelt’s birthday and his death-day? Even for Washington and Lincoln one observance day was enough.

Declaration of Dependence

‘Dependent’ Isn’t a Dirty Word

Chris Keane/Reuters

Too many Americans—including Christians—are afraid that helping the poor will create ‘dependency.’ They’re forgetting that’s what religion is all about.

Not long ago, I preached a Lenten sermon in which I made a lone reference to food stamps as being one of the ways we “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Judging from the reactions of a few congregants, you might have thought it was all I preached about. They went out of their way to tell me how such programs “breed” complacency, laziness, and—wait for it—dependency.It reminded me of Rep. Paul Ryan, who’s always carrying on about America’s “culture of dependency,” and just realized a major budget proposal that would slash food stamps and other government measures that relieve the misery of the poorest Americans.

Crisis

Fixing Military Mental Healthcare

© Umit Bektas / Reuters

To fix the military’s mental healthcare system we need to give service members regular, individualized care so they can get help for problems before they get out of hand.

No one yet knows exactly what led to the shooting rampage at the Fort Hood Army base, where a soldier, Ivan Lopez, killed 3 people and wounded 16 before taking his own life. We do know, that Lopez had reported himself for mental health problems and saw an army psychiatrist a month before his crime.Stigmatizing soldiers by depicting them all as mentally unstable is a damaging fallacy but we have to face up to the serious shortcomings in the way the military treats the psychological and emotional problems of those in its ranks.

Criminal Justice

Too Rich for Prison Rape

The Daily Beast

Choose your outrage: The wealthy litigate their way out of punishment, prisoner abuse makes a mockery of the law, or lawmakers who can’t follow through on prison reforms.

In 2009, Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden ordered probation, not prison, for unemployed DuPont heir Robert Richards IV. We’re only hearing the news now because Richards’ ex-wife Tracy filed civil suit against him last month. But Americans have wasted no time in becoming sick with rage.Why? In her sentencing order, Jurden noted that Richards “would not fare well” behind bars. Instead, he received a suspended sentence. Eight years at the mercy of the state’s inmates turned into probation, treatment, and a prohibition against contact with kids under 16 years of age.

Game Over

How Obama Lost Afghanistan

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

He said it was ‘the right war.’ Then he did everything he could to screw it up.

Despite the violence and uncertainty surrounding this Saturday’s election for a new Afghan President, there’s one positive —Hamid Karzai, the sitting president and the architect of much of the country’s unrest, is not on the ballot this time. But while Karzai must cede power under the rules of the Afghan constitution, the other leader whose mismanagement helped tank Afghanistan abandoned his influence in what he once called “the right war” a long time ago.

Injustice

There’s No Right to Buy Elections

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon that a cap on campaign donations violates freedom of speech. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of the First Amendment and why it exists.

The five justices on the Supreme Court (John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito) who consistently hold unconstitutional laws that attempt to set limits on the size of permissible campaign contributions and expenditures have embraced a distorted—and dangerous—conception of the First Amendment. Perversely, their understanding of the First Amendment threatens to undermine the very democracy that the First Amendment was designed by the Framers of our Constitution to preserve.

Shhhh!

State Dept: Bury CIA Torture Doc

Pool Photo by Evan Vucci

While Joe Biden publicly called for releasing the Senate report on CIA interrogation, the State Department warned that revealing foreign “black sites” could risk American lives.

In April of last year, Vice President Joe Biden called for a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention programs to be declassified. More than two months later, The Daily Beast has learned, the State Department told Congress in a classified letter that declassifying the report could endanger American lives abroad and harm relations with foreign countries.In other words, the Obama administration has been sending mixed signals on the release of the so-called “torture report” for nearly a year.

Preview

Hillary's First 2016 Speech?

Marc Bryan-Brown

Clinton said America needs “evidence-based decision making” and called out commercial agendas disguised as political ideology.

On Thursday night at Women in the World conference, Hillary Clinton hinted to the campaign themes that she might invoke in a potential 2016 run for the presidency. In a discussion with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and International Monetary Fund chair Christine Lagarde, the former First Lady described her vision for America, including the necessity of what she described as “evidence-based decision making” and her belief that “compromise is an essential part of running a great democracy.

Nailed It

Watch RFK’s Greatest Moment

John Lent/AP

On April 4, 1968 Robert Kennedy made the greatest speech of his life. In paying tribute to the fallen Martin Luther King, he proved that improvisation can trump political calculation.

America is the story of improvisation.From the ad hoc debates that framed our founding documents, to the native jazz syncopations that power our cultural soundtrack, to the deeply American notion that we all deserve second chances – our national fabric is woven together by motley patches of spontaneous innovation, creativity and reinvention.It’s no wonder that we cherish the myth that our history’s greatest oration was scribbled furiously on the back of an envelope during a train ride to a Pennsylvania battlefield.

Rich Rules

A Revealing Week for Republicans

Matt McClain/Getty

The McCutcheon decision, Paul Ryan’s budget, and Obamacare deniers all say what the GOP can’t: We protect the well-off from redistribution of their wealth to those who don’t deserve it.

If you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to take three minutes here with me to reflect on this unusually revealing week. Three big developments—the Obamacare enrollment deadline, the Paul Ryan budget, and the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision—return us to first principles, so to speak; remind us of what our two parties (and the philosophical positions behind them) are really and truly about. And they remind me, at least, of why the Republican Party, on a very basic level, can’t ever be truthful with the American people about what matters to it most at the end of the day.

Big Bucks

Supreme Court’s War on Democracy

John Lund/Getty

The conservative-controlled court is taking out one campaign finance law after another. Will Americans keep going to polls if they know it doesn’t matter?

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court fired another salvo in its war on democracy with its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (PDF). In the 5- 4 opinion, the conservative members of the Court joined forces to ensure that the wealthy in our country have even more influence in American politics. I know many of you are thinking: is that even possible? And the answer is yes.This Supreme Court decision struck a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that had limited the aggregate amount an individual could contribute to federal candidates in a year to $48,600 and to other political committees (DNC, RNC, PACs, etc.

Midterms

A Pro-Pot, Anti-NSA Senator?

Andy Jacobsohn/The Daily Beast

Meet Shenna Bellows, Maine’s former ACLU chief who’s looking to unseat Susan Collins with a mix of left and right issues that might appeal to millennials.

The baby boomers had John F. Kennedy—young, charismatic, and TV ready.Forty years later, Barack Obama was supposed to herald in a new generation, one globalized and beyond the narrow box-checking racial and ethnic categories, and, as he put it, beyond the cultural-war campus debates from the ’60s.Now those hashtag lovin’, meme generatin’, self-obsessin’ millennials may have found a political candidate of their own.Shenna Bellows is 39. “I just look 18,” she says.

Under Siege

Congress’ Two-Front War With CIA

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

One thing both sides should agree on: America’s chief spy agency needs far more rigorous oversight.

There is a battle raging between Congress and the CIA this week. Intelligence oversight committees are accusing the spy bureaucracy of lying. The problem for the two panels is that these fights are being fought in two parallel and partisan universes.For Democrats, the action was at the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence, where a bipartisan majority voted Thursday to declassify the executive summary of a massive report on the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation program.

Obamacare's 2014 Midterm Effect

Are Democrats in trouble in the upcoming midterm elections? Yes, says The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky, but not because of the Affordable Care Act.

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