Sen. Mary Landrieu

10 things you need to know today: December 7, 2014

The Guantanamo Bay prison 

The Guantanamo Bay prison | Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The Week

U.S. transfers six Guantanamo prisoners to Uruguay, Sen. Mary Landrieu loses re-election, and more.

1. U.S. releases six Guantanamo prisoners to Uruguay
The United States on Sunday announced it had transferred six low-level prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to Uruguay, where they will be resettled in the country. It was the largest group of inmates to leave the prison at one time since 2009. A federal review had recommended all six men be released five years ago, though political pressure in the U.S. and unstable conditions in the men’s home countries of Syria, Tunisia, and Palestine delayed their release. The release brings Guantanamo’s prison population down to 136. “We are very grateful to Uruguay for this important humanitarian action,” Cliff Sloan, a State Department official said in a statement, adding that the transfer “is a major milestone in our efforts to close the facility.” [The New York Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

2. Sen. Mary Landrieu loses runoff re-election bid
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on Saturday lost a runoff election to retain her seat, falling to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) 56 percent to 44 percent. Cassidy was widely expected to win after neither candidate cleared 50 percent in the first round of voting, leading national Democrats to pull their ad buys and effectively concede the race. The outcome gives the GOP a 54-seat majority in the next Senate. [The Washington Post]

………………………………………………………………………………

3. U.S. to keep 1,000 additional troops in Afghanistan
Up to 1,000 extra American troops will remain in Afghanistan into next year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday, bringing the total number of troops to be left in the country to 10,800. Hagel announced the decision during a visit to Afghanistan, saying it was necessitated by a long delay in finalizing a security agreement with the new Afghan government. In late November, the Afghan parliament approved a security pact with the U.S. and NATO to keep troops in the country beyond the original 2014 withdrawal deadline. [The New York Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

4. India arrests Uber driver over suspected rape
Indian authorities on Sunday arrested an Uber cab driver accused of raping and beating a 26-year-old female passenger Friday night. Police said they would pursue charges against Uber for failing to adequately vet the driver before hiring him. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

5. Mexico IDs remains of one missing student
Forensic experts have positively identified the burned remains of one of the 43 Mexican students who went missing in September. The students are believed to have been abducted and killed by gang-affiliated police at the behest of a corrupt local government. Tens of thousands of Mexicans have protested the mass abduction, setting fire to the presidential palace and calling on President Enrique Pena Nieto to resign. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]

………………………………………………………………………………

6. California protest over police killings turns violent
Two police officers in Berkley, California were injured Saturday night when a small group of demonstrators protesting recent police killings of civilians became violent. “Splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers,” a Berkley police spokesperson said. Police arrested six protesters in what was otherwise a peaceful demonstration. [CBS]

………………………………………………………………………………

7. American journalist faces unknown charges in Iran
Iran has charged an Iranian-American journalist, Jason Rezaian, with unspecified crimes. TheWashington Post reporter was arrested in July, though Tehran has never explained why it detained him. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by the development, adding that it was a “clear violation of Iran’s own laws and international norms.” [BBC, The Washington Post]

………………………………………………………………………………

8. Typhoon kills two in Philippines
Typhoon Hagupit killed two people and forced more than one million more into emergency shelters in the Philippines over the weekend. The category 5 storm also leveled homes and knocked out power in some of the hardest-hit areas. But unlike Typhoon Haiyan, the massive storm that killed more than 7,000 people last year, Hagupit left exponentially fewer fatalities thanks to mass early evacuations. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

9. NASA probe awakens on approach to Pluto
NASA’s New Horizons probe flickered to life on Saturday in preparation for a highly-anticipated study of Pluto and its surrounding celestial neighbors. Launched in January 2006, the probe hibernated for 1,873 days of its 3-billion-mile journey. New Horizons will begin observing Pluto in January, and fly as close as 7,700 miles from its surface. [Discovery News, The Los Angeles Tiems]

………………………………………………………………………………

10. U.S. women’s team draws World Cup ‘Group of Death’
The top-ranked U.S. women’s national soccer team will face Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria in what is considered the toughest draw of the 2015 World Cup. Sweden and Australia are the fifth- and tenth-ranked teams in the world, respectively. The U.S. men’s team also drew the Group of Death in the 2014 World Cup, but scraped by into the knockout round. [ESPN]

Landrieu Stands By Comments On Race And The South: ‘This Is The Truth’

Fvqamv91barwialtvnhq

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) | AP Photo / Melinda Deslatt

This is yet another case of Republicans not wanting anyone to air their dirty laundry in public…

TPM LiveWire

Landrieu had told NBC News that one of the reason President Barack Obama struggles politically in the South, along with his energy policies, is the issue of race.

She held firm in a statement later on Friday, saying that “[e]veryone knows this is the truth.”

“The main reason the President has struggled here is because his energy policies are not in line with the people of Louisiana. We are a pro-drilling, pro-oil, gas state. The offshore moratorium was extremely unpopular and, in my opinion, wholly unwarranted. It made a lot of people angry and put many businesses at risk. In addition, the south has not always been the friendliest or easiest place for African Americans to advance, and it’s been a difficult place for women to be recognized as the leaders we are,” the senator said. “Everyone knows this is the truth, and I will continue to speak the truth even as some would twist my words seeking political advantage.”

Landrieu is facing a strong reelection challenge from Republican Bill Cassidy.

The Magical President doesn’t exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

The Magical President doesn't exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

Barack Obama (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)

Progressives need to pay attention and read this ASAP.  Kudos to Salon‘s Joan Walsh for putting this out there…

Salon – Joan Walsh

The myth of a president who can solve our problems alone is inane. The big task right now? Rescue these midterms

Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to election season, and all Democrats can say for themselves about the coming midterms is: Things look bad, but they could be worse. Republicans will almost certainly gain Senate seats, and could very well take it over, though their chances diminish every time we hear new audio of Mitch McConnell and his GOP cronies sucking up to the Koch brothers at their last retreat. But traditional low midterm Democratic turnout could make McConnell the Senate majority leader in January nonetheless.

This political season opens against a backdrop of profound pessimism, captured in an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found that 71 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low, but so is that of congressional Republicans. Even worse, the two big stories dominating the end-of-summer headlines – the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. and the rise of ISIL – only deepen the political gloom, because they reflect two enormous American problems that are coming to seem almost unsolvable: profound and persistent racial injustice, and the shape-shifting chaos that is Iraq.

These problems are particularly vexing for people who subscribe to the Magical President theory of politics — which includes too many of us, including me sometimes – because those are two issues Americans thought we’d “solved,” or at least responsibly addressed, by electing our first black president, who’d famously opposed the “dumb” Iraq war and promised to end it. Now race relations are arguably worse than when Obama took office, and so is Iraq, and this is a rare case where you can fairly say people on “both sides” blame the president — mostly wrongly.

Cornel West is now slipping deep into Maureen Dowd territory: a formerly incisive, moderately influential social critic (a genuinely important one, in West’s case) driven to cruelty and irrelevance by Obama hatred. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier is a consistent proponent of what some deride as the “Green Lantern” approach to the presidency: If only Obama would justlead, our problems would solve themselves, though Fournier doesn’t stoop to channeling Abraham Lincoln or Aaron Sorkin when he criticizes Obama. But even fair and sober observers are frustrated with some of Obama’s moves.

You can certainly criticize the president on the margins – I have, and I’m sure I will again. Personally, if I worked for him, I’d probably have suggested not golfing after his moving statement on journalist James Foley’s execution, and not equivocating as much in his Ferguson remarks, which Michael Eric Dyson fairly laments. But those are issues more of stage management than statecraft.

Still, even for people who respect Obama, it’s hard to see us mired in what feels like ancient, intractable conflict in both Ferguson and Iraq. It hurts. Yet I would argue (after having been demoralized about both issues) that the unrest in Ferguson is in fact a kind of social progress: Within hours of Mike Brown’s awful shooting a network of new and seasoned activists came together to demand justice, pushing both Gov. Jay Nixon and the president to take action to rein in abusive local cops and drive the investigation into what happened.

Even the ugly situation in Iraq represents political progress, because as painful and outrageous as Foley’s execution was, and as disturbing as it is to see ISIL gain power in Iraq and Syria, the vital debate over what the U.S. can and should do there has actually been strengthened by the existence of intervention skeptics on the left and the right. Obama has repudiated the neocon approach, but he’s still wrestling with Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn doctrine: If you break it, have you really bought it? Certainly, we’ve already paid for it, many times over.

Let’s be clear: There is neither a Democratic nor a progressive consensus on what is to be done there. All we have is a profound skepticism, and I’ll take that over a cynical Cheneyesque certainty, built on lies to the American people. Disagreement, even deadlock, is preferable.

The belief that somehow Obama can lead us out of our summer of misery reflects Magical President thinking. Which leads me back to the rapidly approaching and dispiriting midterms.When I reviewed Rick Perlstein’s “Invisible Bridge,” I noted that the major political difference between the right and left seems to be that when defeated and disillusioned, the right gets back to the nuts and bolts work of electoral politics. The left, or some of it, disintegrates, a flank here promoting direct action over electoral politics (a debate that’s understandably renewed by events in Ferguson); a flank there preaching about a third party; and one over there fantasizing about the perfect left-wing challenge to the mainstream Democratic candidate, like that dreamy African-American senator who opposed the war in Iraq who looked so magical eight years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans count on division on the left, and low turnout by the Democratic base of younger, poorer non-white voters, to help them take back the Senate.

And when they do, Mitch McConnell has promised only more obstruction and gridlock. I should point out, this isn’t just a byproduct of Republican victories, but one of the goals. It’s become obvious in the GOP’s approach to Obama that obstruction is at least partly intended to demoralize the reluctant, occasional voters in the Democratic base. For if there’s no action on those “gosh darn” issues, in McConnell’s words, like a minimum wage hike, student loan relief or extended unemployment insurance, let alone immigration reform or climate change, even after Obama became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win more than 50 percent of the vote twice, those of us who say that voting is the most reliable path to social change sound either foolish or dishonest. People say, why bother?

The cause isn’t helped by spineless Democrats who try to blur their differences with Republicans instead of heighten them. Right now Karl Rove is attacking Democratic senators like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor for endorsing Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission report, which recommended cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But nobody could have predicted anyone would use entitlement cuts as weapons, right? Except many of us did. Again and again.

On the other hand, Hagan, Pryor and also-vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are doing better than expected, either leading their GOP opponents or tied, at least partly because during this election year, they’ve been feistier and more progressive, particularly when it comes to defending the Affordable Care Act. And Kentucky voters may yet make Mitch McConnell pay for sucking up to the Kochs. He shouldn’t be redecorating the Senate majority leader’s office, at any rate.

Democrats have two months to make sure this election doesn’t turn out like 2010 did. It’s not about the president right now, and we shouldn’t wait until 2016 for a new magical president. The kind of thoroughgoing change we need won’t happen in eight years, or even 80. It’s an eternal battle, the constant effort to expand the realm of human freedom to everyone, against the constant crusade by the wealthy to ensure that the trappings of human dignity – education, leisure, family life, childhood itself – are reserved for those who can afford to pay for them. The Kochs and their allies are trying to repeal the 20th century. Progressives can’t just suit up for that battle every four years.

Phoney ACORN “Video Guy” Arrested For Breaking Into Sen. Landrieu’s Office

Remember the guy that made the videos at ACORN, alleging misconduct, pimping, etc?   Well, as karma would have it, James O’Keefe has been arrested along with three other people for breaking into and attempting to wiretap, Lousiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s downtown New orleans office. 

The Atlantic: 

James O’Keefe, the conservative filmmaker who posed as a pimp in video stings at ACORN field offices, has been arrested by the FBI at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office in downtown New Orleans, in connection to what appears to be an attempt to wiretap the offiice, NOLA.com reports:

FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O’Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office’s telephone system.

A fourth person, Stan Dai, was accused of aiding and abetting Basel and Flanagan. All four were charged with entering fedral property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

O’Keefe gained notoriety for his secretly filmed ACORN videos, which caused a firestorm of media intrigue surrounding ACORN after O’Keefe posted them on the Andrew-Brietbart-owned blog Big Government last year.