Mitt and Ann Romney will be having lunch this week with Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. The New York Times, which first reported the news, thinks it might be "awkward."
"The event, conceived of weeks ago, was to be the picture of bipartisanship: members of the Romney and Clinton clans, sitting side by side at a luncheon in Manhattan. But Friday’s hush-hush event – featuring Ann and Mitt Romney as well as Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky — just got a little awkward," reports the Times in its morning email, First Draft.
Romney attacked Chelsea's mother, Hillary Clinton, in a speech last night in Mississippi. The Times quotes Romney as calling Hillary "clueless," and offering this barb, “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”
The lunch is in support of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Mezvinsky, according to the Times, sits on the Ann Romney Center's board.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy took to the EPA and White House blogs Wednesday to declare that "We Must Act Now to Protect Our Winters." McCarthy was in Aspen, CO, last week, the famous ski destination and home to an X-Games venue, and she warned that without action on climate change, "Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100." Her post reads in part [emphasis added]:
2014 was the hottest year on record, and each of the last three decades has been hotter than the last.
In mountain towns that depend on winter tourism, the realities of climate change really hit home. Shorter, warmer winters mean a shorter season to enjoy the winter sports we love—and a financial hit for local economies that depend on winter sports.
Even if you hate winter, climate change affects you – because climate risks are economic risks. Skiing, snowboarding and other types of winter recreation add $67 billion to the economy every year, and they support 900,000 jobs....
There are a lot of small businesses in Aspen that can’t survive without tourists coming into town, and I sat down for a chat with them in the afternoon. If we fail to act, Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100. Amarillo is a great town, but it’s a lousy place to ski.
Aspen Annual high temperature: 55.8°F Annual low temperature: 28.3°F Average temperature: 42.05°F Av. annual snowfall: 179 inch
Amarillo Annual high temperature: 70.9°F Annual low temperature: 43.7°F Average temperature: 57.3°F Av. annual snowfall: 19 inch
For the climate of Aspen to resemble that of Amarillo, a temperature swing of 15 degrees and a 13-foot drop in annual snowfall would need to take place over the next 85 years. Even the most catastrophic models of global temperature change in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) do not predict a temperature increase of 15 degrees. An attempt to contact Administrator McCarthy was not returned.
In his 2008 victory speech, President Obama declared that:
"Americans ... sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
Which is a nice sentiment. But in the real political world, as Andy Sullivan of Reuters writes:
Between the 2009 and 2013 fiscal years, funding for a wide swath of discretionary grant programs, from Head Start preschool education to anti drug initiatives, fell by an average of 40 percent in Republican-leaning states like Texas and Mississippi. By contrast, funding to Democratic-leaning states such as California and politically competitive swing states like Ohio dropped by 25 percent.
Harry Reid has long insisted that he's "pro-life" on the issue of abortion, but on Wednesday his Senate Majority PAC sent out a fundraising email calling legislation to ban most abortions during the final four months of pregnancy "our WORST NIGHTMARE":
We knew it would be bad, Friends – but this Republican Congress surpassed our WORST NIGHTMARE:
On DAY ONE, Republican extremists in Congress launched their first major assault on women’s health care – pushing a bill that would have BANNED abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Reid voted in favor of the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which does not include an exception for rape, and also cast a vote expressing his disapproval of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. As late as 2009, Reid's spokesman told TWS that Reid "is strongly pro-life," and, his spokesman added, "I resent any suggestion to the contrary, and his voting record speaks for himself."
Reid then proceeded to push through a national health care bill that funded elective abortions. After abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted in 2013 of murdering infants after they were born, Reid said the lesson of the trial was that we need "clean and sterile" late-term abortion clinics.
According to national polls, voters overwhelmingly support legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point after which infants can feel pain and survive if born prematurely.
During the 2014 elections, Democrats didn't attack candidates like Cory Gardner in Colorado or Tom Cotton in Arkansas for voting for an identical late-term abortion ban in 2013. But last week, some Republicans in the House objected to a provision of the bill they voted for in 2013, and the bill was pulled from the floor, thus creating a controversy where none previously existed.
You can read the full Senate Majority PAC email here:
We knew it would be bad, Friends – but this Republican Congress surpassed our WORST NIGHTMARE:
On DAY ONE, Republican extremists in Congress launched their first major assault on women’s health care – pushing a bill that would have BANNED abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. WORSE YET: The Republican bill would have refused care to rape victims until they report the horrific incident to authorities.
We pushed back hard against these Republican extremists, but we know this won’t be the last time they launch a DANGEROUS attack on life-saving women’s care.
That’s why Senate Majority PAC is doing everything we can to stop Republicans’ extreme attacks against women’s health. And we’re leading the charge to take back our Senate – but we cannot do it without you, now.
Add your name TODAY to join Senate Majority PAC in demanding Congress STOP attacking women’s health care before it’s too late.
Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman and Iraq war veteran, ramped up her criticism of the Obama administration on Tuesday for refusing to identify Islamist terrorists as Islamist terrorists.
"The first thing we have to understand, it's not just about words, it's not about semantics, it's about having a real true understanding of who our enemy is," Gabbard told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. "A couple of days ago Secretary Kerry said in a speech that ISIS and al Qaeda are engaging in, quote, criminal conduct rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill seeking and other factors. Now if we really look at what he's saying and if that's really the cause, then the solution would be to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills."
"Unfortunately we have people who are living in poverty all around the world, people who have this same feeling of alienation from their government but they're not terrorists. So we've got to look at what their ideology is and how that's fueling these tragic attacks that keep occurring."
Two gunmen entered the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli Tuesday morning. When their shooting rampage was over, at least ten people had been killed. For jihadists in Libya, the hotel was an inviting target. Foreign diplomats, Western tourists and officials from Libya’s rival governments are known to frequent it. Indeed, the victims were five foreigners, including an American, and five Libyans.
The American killed in the attack has been identified as David Berry. According to the New York Daily News, Berry is a former U.S. Marine who worked as a security contractor for Crucible, LLC. The company’s web site says that Crucible “provides high-risk environment training and global security solutions to employees of the U.S. Government, NGOs, and multinational corporations who live and work in dangerous and austere locations worldwide.” The company has not identified the client Berry was working for at the time of his death.
In the past, it could take weeks or months for a terrorist organization to take credit for an attack. Sometimes there is no claim of responsibility at all. Before the siege of the Corinthia Hotel had even been ended, however, a group calling itself the Islamic State’s province in Tripoli claimed on Twitter that the attack was the work of its members. In short order, the group posted photos of the two gunmen, identifying one as a Tunisian and the other as being from the Sudan.
The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls much of Iraq and Syria as a self-declared “caliphate,” announced the establishment of several “provinces” in North Africa and the Middle East in November of last year. The group’s provinces are more aspirational than real, as none of them controls much territory.
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State, argues that all other jihadist groups, and indeed all Muslims, in his provinces’ territories owe him their loyalty now that the caliphate has expanded. From Baghdadi’s perspective, this means that more established jihadist groups, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, are now null and void. AQAP, which rejects Baghdadi’s assumed role as “Caliph Ibrahim I,” naturally takes offense to the Islamic State’s proclamations. An already heated rivalry became even testier after the Islamic State’s announcement in November.
Matt Lewis has a column today over at the Daily Beast headlined, "You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin: It’s time to admit that, whatever their motivation was at the time, the Alaska governor’s critics always had a point." I don't really disagree with much of what Matt says when it comes to noting that Palin's speaker-circuit pandering and Hee-Haw witticisms have become cringe-worthy—speaking as a Christian, I was pretty dissappointed last year when Palin referred to waterboarding as baptism for terrorists. As usual, Matt makes some very good points so I encourage you to read his column.
Perhaps Sarah Palin has proven she's not a major intellectual. But let me assure you that there are lots and lots of dumber politicians that were never attacked in such a vicious and unforgivable manner. They are allowed to hide behind handlers, and in many instances, grow into the job. Frankly, I think Palin had raw political talent and intelligence that, had it been properly guided and allowed to develop free from the trauma of having her family being persecuted every five seconds, we'd all be talking about a very different woman. Instead, Andrew Sullivan spun conspiracies that would have made Alex Jones blanche and people such as Bill Maher mocked her developmentally disabled child. Compare how Palin's family has been attacked by the media with the way the media lost all sense of proportion and propriety going after a lone GOP staffer who made some comparatively mild criticisms of Obama's daughters.
The New England Patriots are my guilty sports pleasure.
By all rights I should hate them-as should all men and women of good character born south of the Connecticut River. For starters, they're a bunch of cheats. And they win so often that they've become the NFL version of the New York Yankees. Rooting for the Pats is, as was once said of the Bronx Bombers, like rooting for Microsoft. Also, they harbored an actual murderer on the team! (Allegedly.) And even worse, they denied the Philadelphia Eagles their best shot at a championship in a generation. The Tuck Rule, Spygate, Aaron Hernandez-pretty much every criticism of the Patriots is true.
Yet while I don't root for New England, I'm something of a Patriots sympathizer. It isn't that I admire them-not exactly. But what they've done over the last 15 years is baffling and amazing, and I doubt very much that I'll see anything like it in football again. So against my better judgment, I appreciate them.
I appreciate the way they ruthlessly manage the salary cap. I appreciate the way they find value in the most unexpected places (such as Corey Dillon). I appreciate the way they marched through the 2008 season with Matt Cassel at quarterback, went 11-5, and missed the playoffs without bellyaching. I appreciate the way they then turned around and shipped Cassel out the door to stockpile early draft picks. And I just love the way Belichick mumbles and is so tight-lipped about player information that the NFL had to change requirements for practice and injury reports.
This last bit hints at what Belichick's greatness is built on. He's clearly a guy who is looking to hack the NFL at every opportunity. He saw that teams weren't strictly required to give early-week injury and practice reports, so he lied about player health, constantly, in an attempt to sow confusion among his opponents. Early on, he understood that NFL rules had evolved to make passing undervalued in the league. Today, his pass-first (and second, and third) theories are conventional wisdom. And I've always been convinced that Belichick had found other, subterranean, ways to hack the league. And today we have evidence that he did.
No, I'm not talking about Deflategate. (My buddy Steve Czaban has the definitive call on that. Short version: Yes, they did it. Long version: No, we shouldn't really care.)
I'm talking about this amazing breakdown of what the Patriots have done with regards to fumbling
Sports stat-head Warren Sharp decided to look at fumbles in the NFL. What he found is that over the last five years, the average NFL team ran 105 offensive plays for every fumble they lost. The worst teams in the league ran 76 offensive plays for every lost fumble. The second-best teams ran 140 plays
The North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, will visit Moscow in May.
"North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, plans to visit Moscow this May in his first trip abroad since assuming power in 2011, a Kremlin spokesman announced on Wednesday," the New York Times reports.
The confirmation from Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, came amid a strengthening in ties between the two countries, even as North Korea remains isolated and has seen a chill in relations with its closest ally, China.
“The North Korean leader’s participation has been confirmed, and we are getting ready for his arrival,” Mr. Peskov said in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.
North Korea has not confirmed the trip, which is scheduled for May 9, coinciding with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Mr. Peskov told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, which first reported the planned visit, that about 20 state leaders had said they would attend.
President Obama is scrapping his proposal to tax withdrawals from a popular savings account for college expenses, after facing sharp criticism from both Republicans and outside groups, a White House official said Tuesday.
And a few Democrats, it should be said. To include Nancy Pelosi who:
... pressed the case aboard Air Force One as she was flying with the president from India to Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the conversation. On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) also pushed Obama to back away from the idea.
This makes it pretty clear that the president – and his party – lack the stomach for a big fight over raising taxes to appease the government’s lust for money.
“Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support, as well as the president’s broader package of tax relief for childcare and working families, paid for by eliminating the trust fund loophole and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share,” a White House official said Tuesday.
But if you have only two years left to make your moves, then why not go long.
If the point is to raise money and take it from the rich then why not:
* Go after the mortgage interest deduction above a threshold of, say, $300,000.
* Eliminate the state and local tax deduction, hitting big blue states like New York.
* Do something on carried interest.
These would be big, bold moves that would raise the stakes dramatically and would hit the wealthy, especially in blue states. But if the opposition from people like Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer is enough to intimidate the White House on the taxing of college savings accounts, then these things have no chance.
And the president will continue to play small ball while he talks Super Bowl.
The first ad making the case for Scott Walker for president of the United States, from his newly formed committee called Our American Revival:
"America stands on the brink," says the voiceover. "At a time and place in our history where failed leaders preside over a nation adrift. With family incomes in steady decline. Dreams stifled. A foreign policy that apologizes for America and projects weakness abroad."
At this moment, a still picture of Hillary Clinton comes on screen, and the voiceover continues. "American can't stop this by looking to the past or for answers in Washinton, D.C."
The committee then makes the case for someone from outside Washington, who's been responsible for bold and fresh ideas--that is, Scott Walker. Touting, in particular, these ideas: "conservative reform," "new ideas," "empower people," "eliminate deficits," reduce government," "cut taxes," and "create jobs."
It closes with one of Walker's favorite lines. "In America, we take a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July, and not the Fifteenth of April, because in America we celebrate our independence from the government, not our dependence on it."
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the largest and most expensive in the world, cost at least $700 million to build by the time of its completion in 2009. Several years later in 2012, the embassy was scheduled for a $115 million upgrade as the Washington Postreported at the time. However, in spite of the cost and security measures already in place, the State Department recently prepared to solicit bids to furnish and install steel doors and "T-walls" in the embassy compound in Baghdad.
T-walls are 12-feet high concrete barriers to protect against sniper and bomb attacks. A 2008 Department of Defense report from Camp Victory in Baghdad estimated that one million of these barriers were in place around that entire complex at the time, costing about $800 each. Examples of T-walls from that 2008 report are pictured below:
No further details are provided in the pre-solicitation document about the quantity or specific use for the T-walls and steel doors to be acquired through the upcoming contract. The Request for Proposals is expected in February, but the date of the contract award is not yet determined. The work, however, is expected to be completed within seventy-five days of the contract award.
When asked for more details on the security upgrade and whether or not specific threats to the embassy prompted it, a State Department spokesperson replied, "We do not comment on security upgrades of status-level changes. We are constantly evaluating our security protocols and standard operating procedures to ensure the safety and security of our personnel."
Vice President Joe Biden appeared to be the butt of a joke on tonight's Parks and Recreation, when a character on the show pulled out the (sadly) nonexistent Biden the Rails: 1001 Poems Inspired by My Travels Through Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, by Joe Biden:
Here's the clip:
Biden has had a guest appearance on the show before.