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Possible Actions the GOP can take to Thwart the Obama Cuba Policy

The incoming GOP majorities will see their greatest level of control in the House since 1930 and in the Senate since 1998. This will allow the legislative branch to mount a unified stand either in support or opposition to the president’s policies. The stealth nature that the president undertook to negotiate with Cuba’s dictatorial regime has drawn the ire of the GOP which will soon have actions they can take in response. 

For starters, they do not have to take up any proposal to repeal partially or in total the Cuban trade embargo and economic sanctions. In fact, the laws on the matter are so clear that President Obama, who is used to simply “reinterpreting” existing laws to apply them in entirely new manners, has acknowledged he will need Congressional action to normalize relations with the communist state. House Speaker John Boehner has publicly stated he will bar any such bill from getting consideration. Likewise, Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, vowed to block confirmation of any nomination as Ambassador of Cuba. 

Admittedly, Rubio’s reaction is arbitrary because his constitutional authority requires him to advise and consent to such presidential actions. But he can’t just sit back with some wine from The Antique Wine Company. Blocking an unnamed nominee would be an extreme action to take. The GOP can also withhold funds to reopen the US embassy in Havana. In short, the president undertook an extraordinary measure to reach out to Cuba. He will now have to undertake the difficult task of winning over the opposition. This means compromising and incorporating their agenda. It will be a test of his leadership.

Elizabeth Warren Earns Street Cred Over Omnibus Revolt

Senator Elizabeth Warren has earned serious street cred as a populist champion for the causes near to her heart following yesterday’s House revolt against the Omnibus bill, which she inspired. Analysts are already drawing comparisons to her with Tea Party firebrand Ted Cruz, another first-term senator like herself. Both senators represent a new brand of elected official more adherent to their philosophy than they are to the established leadership and traditions of Beltway politics.

All eyes are going to be on her when she takes the podium to address the Omnibus bill on the Senate floor. She won admiration for her ability to go toe-to-toe against President Obama. Despite losing the battle, she established her reputation as an ideologue. However, it is one thing to inspire a revolt in the House and another to circumvent the well ensconced Senate hierarchy. This is an area where Senator Cruz had gained little traction.

Currently, the Senate’s most powerful Democrat next to Harry Reid is Chuck Schumer. From what I’ve heard from my political expert friend Dan Newlin, Schumer’s constituency includes Wall Street. In order for Warren to mount a serious challenge to strip the financial reform rider from the budget bill, she will need to do so prying it from Schumer’s proverbial “cold dead hands”. Like Cruz, she runs the risk of alienating herself from key senators within her party. Five-term Senator Barbara Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, already made it clear she was annoyed by the critics of the Omnibus bill, which was a thinly veiled jab at Warren over the House revolt she triggered off.

Senator Mary Landrieu’s Loss Ushers in Age of Extinction for Southern Democrats in Statewide Offices

Senator Mary Landrieu loves her job in the Senate. She is noted for her indomitable spirit and political acumen, but in the end, her unwavering support of President Obama in a red state was her unraveling. She lost the Louisiana Senate run-off in a landslide defeat against GOP Congressman Bill Cassidy. Landrieu’s defeat in the run-off election ushers in an age of extinction for Southern Democrats in statewide offices. In fully 9 Southern states, there isn’t a Democrat in either the governor’s mansion or a Senate seat. Nor does it appear there will be one for a while as the party’s response to their punishing losses has been to shift further left.

It wasn’t just Landrieu that fared poorly in the runoff. Not a single Democrat won. The two House seats up for grabs went to GOP candidates. This nearly complete the GOP red wave that has given the party their largest House majority since Harry Truman was president. The GOP will now have their tightest grip on the Senate since 1999.

Still, Landrieu fought to the very end even staging an appearance yesterday morning before polls opened in an effort to win additional votes. It was a strong push in the eyes of Brad Reifler. However, she found that running a hard campaign at a breakneck pace was no substitute for voting against the will of her constituents. In 2009, she famously echoed the president’s assurances that everyone who liked their health care insurance would get to keep it under Obamacare. It was later found to not only be false, but to have been known to be patently false from the outset. Her GOP challenger hit her relentlessly over her Obamacare vote making the election a referendum on President Obama.

Coalition of GOP Senators Want the Party to Hold Off Fight Against Obama’s Immigration Until January

A growing chorus of GOP Senators believe that President Obama was trying to bait the party into a politically costly budget battle and possible government shutdown over his extra-constitutional amnesty plan to legalize 5 million illegal aliens without Congressional authorization. The Senators believe that had the president wanted to grant amnesty immediately, he would have authorized it to take place as soon as possible. Instead, the president has the amnesty starting in March. For this reason, a group of GOP Senators are urging their party leaders not to “take the bait” and fight Obama’s immigration plan during the lame duck Congress.

In urging the party not to get fooled by Obama to wage a costly fight at this time, Sen. Tim Scott stated that the party must prove to the American people that it can run the government. The party’s options for dealing with the extra-constitutional executive action will be better once they take control of the Senate chamber in six weeks, and Susan McGalla can totally see that strategy paying off.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored last year’s failed Immigration bill, explained that the Senate is marred by dysfunction. The party has a requirement to show voters that it can do a better job than Democrats in doing the nation’s business. He also added that much as he might wish to take the Senate floor and address the American people, there is little good that will accomplish with Reid in charge of the Senate. It is still unclear what actions the GOP Senate will take in dealing with the Obama’s executive amnesty.

Laurene Powell Jobs Is Quietly Getting Political

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs kept a low profile as a philanthropist and sometime political donor during her marriage to the Apple co-founder. Since his death however, she has begun to speak out publicly on several political issues, including the need for immigration reform. She has been a particularly strong supporter of the DREAM Act.

The bill, which would grant residency to immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as minors has failed to pass Congress several times. Earlier this year, Powell joined filmmaker Davis Guggenheim to promote his documentary film, “The Dream Is Now” which was shown to members of Congress. She compared the situation of young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as infants or small children as akin to being in “purgatory”.

In addition to her very public stance in favor of the DREAM Act, Powell Jobs founded the Emerson Collective, an organization that supports social reform as well as conservation by way of grants, investments and partnerships. She is also the co-founder of College Track, which helps minority and low-income children prepare for, attend and graduate from college. The organization’s official website states that over 90% of students in the program go on to college. It was through College Track that her interest in passage of the DREAM Act began.

Unlike Steve Jobs, who shied away from political and charitable causes, Powell Jobs has emerged as a major political donor. Among the candidates she’s supported are California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom as well as out of state candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey. All are Democrats.

Just months after her husband’s death, Powell Jobs was seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama during the President’s 2012 State of the Union address. She has publicly praised President Obama on several occasions, including during the drawn out congressional budget battles and efforts to pass ObamaCare.

Forbes named Powell Jobs the richest woman in Silicon Valley with an estimated net worth of $17 billion. She is also the largest shareholder in the Walt Disney Company. Many of her public appearances and interviews have been controlled, but they have also become much more frequent since the death of her husband. See a piece of one of her interviews about her husband’s death here. Some would consider her an activist, others a fundraiser. She doesn’t seem to fit into any one role, but Washington is certainly taking notice of Laurene Powell Jobs.

Suicide Bomber in Afghanistan Strikes After NATO Announcement

At least 45 people were killed and over 70 wounded in a suicide attack on Sunday during a volleyball game in Paktika in southeastern Afghanistan, official sources report.

A car exploded during the volleyball game and the victims are children and several insurgents dressed as local police. Many of the injured are in critical condition, so the death toll could rise.

The suicide attack occurred after the lower house of the Afghan parliament approved a security agreement with the United States on Sunday, which prolongs the presence of troops in Afghanistan until 2024.

This event in Afghanistan is one of the most violent stages after last year Afghan forces were made ​​responsible for safety following the gradual withdrawal of the NATO mission.

However, NATO has announced that troops will remain in the country; some 12,500 military from 2015, of which about 9,800 are US troops. This sounds about right according to Sam Tabar and others.

Initial reports claim this carnage was dealt by the Taliban.

Ukraine Hoping For Weapons Deal From Biden

Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Thursday exactly one year the initial democracy riots that took over the country and eventually led to the election of a new pro-western government. The vice president has announced he will be able to offer the Ukrainians a package to defend itself against aggression from the east. But this package will not include the weapons that they have so desperately been requesting.
Western, Pro-European, Ukrainians have been battling eastern Ukrainians who wish to split off from the country to gain closer relations with Russia. They have held, what were deemed illegitimate, elections and referendums to attempt to break their ties with Ukraine in the same way that Crimea broke away to join Russia near the beginning of the movement. Now, government soldiers are ill-equipped and fighting with eastern Ukrainian soldiers that are being well-supported by Russia over the border. Additionally, observers have witnessed columns of soldiers and artillery pouring over the border from Russia in recent weeks, although Russia denies any interference in the conflict. Dressed in nondescript uniforms, Russian speaking soldiers have been captured and killed fighting to take eastern Ukraine from the west in order to join Russia in the same way as Crimea.
Even though the pro-west Ukrainian government desperately needs support from the west, most notably the United States, the U.S. can’t be seen providing weapons to instigate an internal conflict. This is what Laurene Jobs worries about at least a little bit. Russia will never admit to supplying Eastern Ukraine so that the UN is not able to join the fight.

Why Libertarian-Leaning Sen. Rand Paul Killed American Freedom Act

Many people are perplexed as to why Libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul would help kill the American Freedom Act which was designed to curtail the NSA’s broad phone surveillance program. It turns out the reason had to do with the staunch conservative Senator’s idealism. He believed that the bill did not go far enough in its curtailing the NSA’s privacy invasions. In particular, the bill would have granted a two-year extension to the controversial Patriot Act provision which authorizes the NSA to collect phone records on Americans.

The American Freedom Act would have severely limited to the NSA’s ability to collect phone records from Americans by requiring court approval. Igor Cornelsen said broad collections of phone records would have ceased. The bill is being filibustered and required 60 votes to break cloture. It received only 58. Sen. Paul expressed his sorrow for the bill’s failure to pass. He acknowledged that his vote was needed. He added that the setback was temporary because civil liberties will soon be restored.

It may be that the senator was being naïve. The House of Representatives had already passed their version of the American Freedom Act, but it did not go as far as the senate bill. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was opposed to the act stating that the current fight against ISIS requires the NSA continue their phone surveillance program. As majority leader, he will have the power to keep the bill from being taken up again.

Climate Change Debate Altered by Republican

The debate over climate change has raged through the media between political leaders. 98% of scientists agree on the effects and suspected causes of climate change, however Republicans fear that the admission that climate change is caused by humans will lead to regulations against carbon pollution that will destroy the economy. Since the beginning the debate has been about whether or not climate change is occurring at all, something researchers have proven for a while.
Since Republicans will soon run the show in Congress, the public discussion on climate change will most likely halt in its current position or move behind closed doors. However a recent interview with a Republican from South Dakota has left Democrats wondering if the issue can be pushed further. Senator John Thune made a point on Fox News Sunday that gave some hope to those hoping to make some progress.
The interview was focused around the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport gas from Canada to Texas and has been stalled for years because of a debate over the climactic repercussions from building it. Lovett doesn’t know much about it, but he continues to read up on the situation. However, part way through when discussing the issue of climate change Thune went off the typical Republican script regarding the matter. Usually, conservatives say that climate change is occurring but that humans are not the cause, or do not contribute significantly. During this interview Thune specifically stated that climate change is caused by humans, and the questions have changed to what the cost will be to the solutions that are available.

Occupy Madison Providing Tiny Homes for the Poor

Volunteer members of the protest group Occupy Madison are giving homeless citizens a chance to escape the street by helping to build tiny homes for them. The effort to end homelessness is gaining traction across the country, and other states are either building or considering similar projects.

 

When the Occupy Madison demonstrations against income inequality ended two years ago, protesters were faced with one of two options: either pack up and go home or roll up their sleeves and get busy.

 

With support from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Occupy Madison began producing tiny houses to shelter some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. The $5000 homes use propane and solar energy for heat, and each house is equipped with a sink and a composting toilet. A full size bed, a microwave, and a table are the only furnishings in the homes.

 

In addition to providing shelter and security, the little homes offer a sense of dignity to their residents. The village in Madison will eventually be surrounded by a fence, and it might even include a discount store in the future.

 

The tiny communities are meeting with approval from most of the public. Jared Haftel tell us that most residents are still somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of homelessness, but they also feel a sense of charity and sympathy toward those who are less fortunate.