How do you solve a problem like the CIA?

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

12 December 2014


In plain English: The torture was far more brutal than we thought, and the CIA lied about that. It didn't work, and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad intel that it most likely impaired our national security, and of course they lied about that as well. They lied to Congress, they lied to the president, and they lied to the media. Despite this, they are still defending their actions.

That's how Kevin Drum summarises the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture, and if you don't find that alarming enough, the Washington Post has a list of ten of the Central Intelligence Agency's lowlights here.

The troubling aspect of the report isn't just the torture, though that is troubling enough. It's also whether the CIA has the ability to hold wrongdoers accountable, to change the institutional structures that allowed wrongdoing to take place, and to ensure that it isn't susceptible to enabling wrongdoing in the future. On all three counts, there seems good reason to doubt the Agency's willingness or capacity. Even more troubling, however, is the prospect that the US government might be unwilling or unable to hold the Agency to account.

President Obama, whether rightly or wrongly, has decided not to prosecute anyone over torture from the Bush years. It is unclear, though unlikely, whether Congress will respond legislatively to the revelations of the report — and, considering how brazenly the CIA disregarded the Senate's authority during the investigation, it's also unclear whether it would consider itself bound by any legal restrictions Congress placed on it. After all, even during the Senate investigation, the CIA spied on senators and then lied about whether it was doing so. It is now defending its actions and claiming they produced useful intelligence. (Director John Brennan: “I think there is more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple of days.”)

This all might be slightly more palatable if a previous extraordinary Congressional investigation hadn't already found the CIA wildly abusing its power. The 1975 Church Committee found the Agency had planned assisinations of foreign leaders, plotted to overthrow foreign governments, and illegally spied on Americans. The aftermath of that investigation was supposed to bring the CIA to heel; if it did, it did not do so permanently. Considering it only came into existence in its current form in 1947, the CIA has spent a lot of its history disregarding legal oversight. Throw in Bay of Pigs and Iran–Contra, and, well:

“Every 10 years or so, the dark side of government goes off track,” said Loch Johnson, who during committee hearings in the 1970s was a special assistant to Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and is now a scholar of the CIA and intelligence. “Periodically the CIA and other agencies end up doing things they should not” and are much more hesitant to do it again. I suspect in the future, if some president asks the CIA to interrogate prisoners, they will say, ‘No thanks, we’ve already been there.’ ”

Government bodies should not be held accountable by running so wild that, every few decades, a major investigation is held to uncover their worst abuses.

And there is reason to believe things might get worse at the CIA, as Henry Farrell explains

In short, the CIA relies on relationships with a variety of people, and in particular with academics and people with semi-academic skills in a broader ecosystem of information. Many of these relationships are likely to be badly damaged by yesterday’s revelations. Academics will be less likely to want to talk to, or work with the CIA than before. Smart and idealistic young people will be less likely to sacrifice other opportunities to work for what is at best likely to seem a flawed and problematic organization.

This will plausibly have a number of consequences. If my argument is right, the CIA will be intellectually weaker and poorer at intelligence analysis than before, especially in areas where it has previously outsourced a lot of its thinking. In response to this challenge, it will become a more internally focused organization than before, since it will have considerably greater difficulty in getting external experts to engage with it. Moreover, there will be differences between the people who will still work together with the CIA, and those who will not. Those who are willing to maintain a relationship will be more likely to be traditional Beltway contractors, more likely to have some pre-existing military or security orientation, and more likely to be politically conservative. Those who will not will be more likely to be academics, less likely to have a direct security orientation, and will be more likely to be politically moderate or liberal.

Hence, the CIA — like many organizations in difficult times — is likely to face social pressures that tend to reinforce its insularity.

And what did the architects of this current era of CIA abuses think of previous efforts at overseeing the Agency? Here's Mark Danner:

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[Vice-President Dick] Cheney believed in a “unitary executive,” believed quite literally that “the executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” He believed that the various post-Watergate hearings of the mid-1970s, the Church and Pike committees and others—he had watched their progress as the thirty-four-year-old chief of staff in President Gerald Ford’s White House—and the laws that had followed their exposé—had “neutered” the intelligence agencies, had “put the gloves on,” and that a vital part of the Bush administration’s post–September 11 mission, his mission, was to take those gloves off.

I will not pretend the CIA does not do valuable — absolutely integral — work in regards to keeping Americans safe. Nor will I pretend I have the answers to the problem of its continued law-breaking. As satisfying as it might be to say the whole organisation must be dismantled, that seems unwise. But we should not see the content of this report as something that can be solved with a few safeguards or by allowing the fearfulness of the immediate post-9/11 era to recede into history. The CIA has shown time and time again that it is an organisation with a deeply flawed culture. Radical action needs to be taken to bring it into line.

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American Daily: December 11, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 December 2014


  • Ten of the most harrowing excerpts from the report on CIA torture.
1. Of the 119 CIA detainees, 26 should not have been apprehended. Among them was Abu Hudhaifa, who was "subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation" before the CIA discovered that he was probably "not the person he was believed to be."
[I]f the program was successful, then why hide it and lie about it? The CIA repeatedly “impeded” oversight from Congress, the White House and even the agency’s own inspector general. It did so by refusing to brief on the program until months after it was already underway (or, in the Office of the Inspector General’s case, only when a detainee died), withholding crucial documents when asked for them, giving inaccurate testimony on the effectiveness of the program in stopping terrorist plots and later destroying evidence of the interrogations, such as the videotapes of the waterboardings of Abu Zubaida. (Wednesday morning, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) revealed that the CIA’s own internal report found that “the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public.”) We still don’t even know the extent of the waterboarding, because the CIA won’t explain why there was a photograph of a “well-used” waterboard device at a detention site where the agency claimed there was no waterboarding.

The excuses are many and are sure to proliferate, as will the defensive tone and the apologetics—and, not without some reason, some call for understanding. The defenses are of two kinds, both as false as they are deeply felt. First, there is the truth that the C.I.A. interrogators were, for the most part, following orders and doing what they had been told they were authorized to do; to make them the prime villains is to clear the democratically elected politicians who allowed this to happen—and, more important, to clear the democracy that elected those politicians. We are all implicated, not just those who drowned and froze and tormented prisoners. If blame is to be had, it must not move only upward, to the bosses; it must move outward, to those who chose the top men and to the many who explicitly endorsed their reading of the “war on terror” and the threat of terrorism. (That prospect, one would guess, was at the heart of President Obama’s reluctance to release the report in the first place; to blame no one might be unacceptable, but to blame anyone in particular was to blame everyone.)

Yes, as a matter of morality, prosecutions would be better; the torture program was illegal and the officials who built it should be held accountable. The problem is that—in addition to civil servants and political appointees—this includes a former president and vice president. Prosecutions would immediately polarize the issue—making this a fight over Bush and Cheney, not torture—entrench the pro-torture position in Republican politics, and almost guarantee a return to the “dark side” for a future GOP administration that sees torture as just another partisan football.

The New Republic’s troubles are reflected in the data for its fellow niche news magazines, which all target an elite audience consisting of older, educated and wealthier readers. Looking at three comparable magazines (The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Economist), the digital side of the business has been making some gains, but single copy sales for this group were down or flat since 2008, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. For the first half of 2014, The Atlantic saw its sales rise 20% from a year before. The New Yorker, however, fell 5% during the same period, while The Economist fell 16%.


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American Daily: December 9, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

9 December 2014


I had long since come to that conclusion myself. As special agent in charge of the criminal investigation task force with investigators and intelligence personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, I was privy to the information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I was aware of no valuable information that came from waterboarding. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which had access to all CIA documents related to the “enhanced interrogation” program—has concluded that abusive techniques didn’t help the hunt for Bin Laden. Cheney’s claim that the frequent waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “produced phenomenal results for us" is simply false.
A Staten Island grand jury has voted not to indict a New York Police Department officer in the killing of Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by the officer. Grand juries, which almost always vote to indict, commonly decline to do so in cases that involve police officers. But there’s another reason the Staten Island grand jury’s decision isn’t surprising: the borough’s politics.
  • Mitch McConnell's "huge mistake" on the latest Obamacare court case.
But even if this isn’t a big “a-ha!” moment, it does lay bare, for any of the justices listening, just how Republicans in Congress will react to an adverse ruling. And that could limit the arguments conservatives resort to when the Court rules in this case next year.
But listening to him describe the factors that produced Eastern’s early success, I realized I’d fallen prey to the same fallacy that had led Milton Gordon to attribute the achievements of Jewish garment workers solely to their industry and ambition, and not the conditions in which their ethic thrived. The self-made mythology has evolved in its 200 years: from an exuberant celebration of opportunity in the young republic to a stern admonition against excess in the antebellum years; from a naive story of pluck rewarded in the post-Civil War-era, to a brazen defense of money-getting in the Gilded Age; from a beacon to the great wave’s huddled masses, to a pep talk for the young women of the digital age. The one constant, however, has been the idea that character trumps circumstance. I’d caught myself buying into it.


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American Daily: December 8, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

8 December 2014


This has something to do with the way police see things. Police are people, after all, subject to the same flaws and vices as the rest of us. America’s police departments tend to be whiter than the general population, and nearly half of whites believe “many” or “almost all” black men are violent. Whites overestimate the amount of crime, in particular violent crime, involving blacks. Whites are also more likely to ascribe supernatural physical abilities to black people, in particular the ability to resist physical pain, a stereotype that harkens back to slavery. Black children like Tamir Rice are “more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.”
  • Confronting the racial past of the North.
Americans have fewer enduring impressions of the North. It simply stands as the nation’s default region. Most Northerners behave as though they come from America writ large, rather than from a subsection of it. The North seems unremarkable. It holds no dark mystery, no agonies buried deep within. We forget that many parts of the North have an identity, culture, politics and racial history all their own.
The police association released a statement in which it called for "the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology." The organization was incensed when five Rams players — Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens and Jared Cook — held up their hands in what has become a well-known sign of support for the Ferguson, Mo. community grappling with the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

My anger as a Black woman fronting an aggressive, politically charged hardcore/metal band with DIY punk ethics is somehow too much for them. White punks screaming about the same politics, the same fucked-up shit, and even about racial issues and injustices they don't even particularly face, are wholeheartedly accepted, never questioned, never told to tone down, and never told to relax. No matter how justified I am, or how down for the cause they are, they're put off by my very valid rage. Why is that? What is it about a Black girl doing the same shit white men do that makes them feel like it's too much? How am I the only one being labeled too aggressive in a genre that is all about aggression?

  • Frank Rich talking to Chris Rock is worth your time.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.


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American Daily: December 1, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

1 December 2014


  • It's incredibly rare for a grand jury not to indict a suspect.

A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. Grand juries nearly always decide to indict.

Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.

Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis’s light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing “saggy pants,” business license violations and vague infractions such as “disturbing the peace” or “affray” that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations. In a white paper released last month, the ArchCity Defenders found a large group of people outside the courthouse in Bel-Ridge who had been fined for not subscribing to the town’s only approved garbage collection service. They hadn’t been fined for having trash on their property, only for not paying for the only legal method the town had designated for disposing of trash.
From reading headlines today, one might think colleges have suddenly become hotbeds of protest by celebrated anti-rape activists. But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no "sex-positive" clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn't an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn't because rape doesn't happen in Charlottesville. It's because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students — who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture — and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal. Some UVA women, so sickened by the university's culture of hidden sexual violence, have taken to calling it "UVrApe."
To most people outside Washington, D.C., and to many living there now, former Mayor Marion Barry’s political appeal remains a mystery. To them, he is a national embarrassment, the big-city mayor who ran America’s glittering national capital into the ground, the guy who was dumb enough to get caught on tape smoking crack while still in office.

Now, Perfume hope to drum up the same sort of recognition they have among artists with audiences. This has been long been the unattainable goal for Japanese pop artists. Kyu Sakamoto, reached number one on the Billboard charts in 1963 with “Ue o Muite Arukou,” but it was all downhill after that. The duo Pink Lady tried to break into the American disco market in the late ‘70s, but ended up starring in what many critics consider one of the worst network television shows ever. Popular ‘90s pair Puffy gained some recognition in the 2000s in North America — as cartoon characters. Ten years ago, Hikaru Utada — responsible for the best-selling album in Asian music history — teamed up with American producers such as Timbaland and The Neptunes to try to break into America. She fizzled out. Perfume are the highest-profile J-pop act to try in a decade, and they hope to succeed where so many others have failed.


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American Daily: November 24, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

24 November 2014


Obama is promising certain classes of immigrants that they won't be deported for a three-year span of time. The program will also issue work permits that are valid for the same amount of time. And in most states, deferred action is also enough to make someone eligible for a driver's license. But as soon as the three years are up, if an immigrant hasn't applied for renewal, he or she is vulnerable to deportation again.
And that assumes that the administration — or a different presidential administration — doesn't stop accepting applications or renewals, killing the program slowly over three years — or eliminating it immediately.
  • How Republicans did better in the midterms than even they expected.
The election of a historically large Republican majority coincided with the lowest turnout in a midterm election since 1942. But the 2014 race for the House played out in two very different sets of states. In the 24 states hosting high-profile, competitive Senate or gubernatorial races, raw votes cast in House races were down an average of 30.5 percent from 2012. But in the 26 states that weren’t, raw votes were down a much more severe 43.9 percent.
  • It's possible neither Republicans nor Obama care about bargaining over Keystone XL.

The superficial logic of a Keystone trade makes sense. Obama doesn’t really care about the project much one way or the other. He regards it as a sideshow with negligible effects on climate change. Republicans, on the other hand, constantly implore him to approve it. That would seem, on the surface, to lay the basis for a logical trade of one kind or another.

  • Walmart workers in California are striking in advance of Black Friday.
Organizers hoped the sit-down protest would raise the profile of their concerns about fair hours and wages in advance of Black Friday. The biggest retail day of the year has become a national day of protest among some Walmart workers, who believe the financial success of the business has not been fairly shared with its workers. The protest inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw store included about 25 workers with tape over their mouth, a symbol of the silence of their colleagues who are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out. A larger protest was planned for later in the day outside the Walmart in nearby Pico Rivera.
  • The mayor of Seattle has "pardoned" a Tofurky for Thanksgiving.

Actually, Murray pardoned two of them. One, Braeburn, got the official pardon. The other, Honeycrisp, is described in a press release from the mayor’s office as an “understudy,” perhaps because one of the Tofurkeys, which come in a box and to be perfectly clear have never been nor ever will be alive, might have been camera-shy.


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Where war meets entertainment

By Thomas Humphries in Sydney, Australia

24 November 2014


The blog is currently featuring posts written by post-graduate students from the USSC 6903 Foreign and National Security Policy class, taught by Dr. Sarah Graham. You can see more of their posts here


In 1960, Eisenhower warned Americans about the emergence of a military-industrial complex. Today, it is now more accurate to call it a military-industrial-media-entertainment network, a collective that has subsumed and implicated large elements of global popular culture. At some point we have to ask what impact this is having on our perceptions of modern warfare.

On one level, we must be concerned about the melding of moral narratives and filmic representations of conflict. As Cynthia Weber has written, post-9/11 war films mark "a site which official US foreign policy converge with popular symbolic and narrative resources" whereby "traditional US moralities are confirmed in this cinematic space." And whilst it is true that these moralities are often confounded, there is a stark reality at the base of this phenomenon.

Consider that in order for movies to have access to military advisers, hardware, and soldier extras — in other words, markers of authenticity — the Pentagon must be given control over the final cut. If there are things it doesn't like — say soldiers or military projects depicted in a less than flattering way — entire movie projects can be altered or axed.

It is clear that this is of enormous economic benefit to both sides, given that movie producers gain access to first rate hardware and action scenes, while the Pentagon is able to ensure that a pertinacious image of the military gets disseminated into the popular consciousness. But serious questions must be asked about the ways these moral narratives are presented, which obfuscate the true nature of the network that produces these same narratives.

It is difficult to measure how large an influence Hollywood has over people’s conception of war, but it is clear in the public discourse that it is a driver of conversation. Consider the debate provoked by the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty. The way we consume our entertainment stimulates the way we think about the nature of war. The problem is that popular products and their narratives are giving us a misleading picture

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Perhaps the most insidious influence of this network is in the world of video games. The US military has invested significant sums of money in the development of games like America's Army and the Call of Duty series, because they function as both a propaganda tool and a training device. P. W. Singer's research on the growing field of cyberwarfare has revealed that these games, aimed at teenagers, familiarises them with controls that are used for drone flights and other unmanned combat systems. So skilled are gamers, in fact, that recruits as young as 19 are actually training prospective drone pilots, putting more experienced officers out of work. This is because the military is making UAV pilot controls as close to Xbox and Playstation controllers as functionality allows.

This trend also applies to the growing field of combat robotics, which one US general predicts could replace up to a quarter of combat soldiers in the Army by 2030. Robotics is the new defence boom industry — well supplied by private firms who have spent years developing the technology. We have to start thinking about how this will affect the conduct of war — separated by a screen and a wireless link, how will we approach the basic moral dilemmas that we have barely been able to answer when troops have been physically present in the immediacy of the battlefield?

If the wider public does not come to terms with these emerging trends, the conversation about military force risks becoming disconnected from the way war is actually conducted.

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American Daily: November 20, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

20 November 2014


  • Activists are pushing Obama to go even further in his executive action on immigration.
Many immigration advocates are using the final hours before President Barack Obama announces executive action on deportations to push the administration to go even further than planned — a last-minute Hail Mary underscoring that the White House move is likely to leave many activists unsatisfied.

Obama is expected to announce Thursday that he will be taking executive actions that will spare up to 5 million undocumented immigrants the threat of being forced to leave the country, based largely on time spent in the United States and family ties.
  • Jim Webb has formed an exploratory committee for a 2016 presidential run.

Jim Webb, a veteran of Ronald Reagan's administration who served one term as a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, has launched a presidential exploratory committee. Late Wednesday night, Webb uploaded a 14-minute statement to YouTube, and a campaign site — Webb2016.com — went live.

  • GOP senators threaten to scuttle any nuclear deal with Iran they don't like.
Forty-three Republican senators sent a letter to the White House Wednesday night warning President Obama not to bypass Congress as the administration nears the deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk wrote the letter, which is signed by every Republican senator who co-sponsored Kirk’s Iran sanctions legislation. That bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, was prevented from coming to a vote by Democratic leadership earlier this year. No Democratic senators signed this letter, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News on Wednesday evening. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who will become the Majority Leader of the new Congress, is among those who signed the letter.
  • Names preferred by Republicans vs names preferred by Democrats.
Of male names that are at least fairly common, the most Democratic are Jonah and Malik, and the most Republican are Delbert and Duane.
For females, the most Democratic are Natasha and Maya, and the most Republican are Bailey and Brittney.
  • Buzzfeed clickbait of the day: This collection of pictures from the Buffalo blizzard.
 

A photo posted by Reynolds Wrap (@corey12xy44) onNov 11, 2014 at 4:45pm PST


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American Daily: November 18, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

18 November 2014


  • Obama at the G20: holding the line on the rebalance, but not revitalising it. 
The speech was given at the University of Queensland, my alma mater, and I recall all too well that November is end-of-year exam time there. So it's only right to attempt a grading. On Asia, this speech scores a credit — solid and respectable, but not spectacular.
The most recent re-ordering of Europe began exactly 25 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall. After the passage of a quarter century, can we now conclude that Western leaders have repeated what might be termed the “Versailles folly”? When crowds surged through the Brandenburg Gate, presaging the birth of a new Europe, did America and its allies then bungle the moment and behave in a way that made today’s confrontation with Russia all but inevitable? Put bluntly, did they cheat and humiliate Russia at its moment of weakness, thereby sowing the seeds of President Vladimir Putin’s revanchism?

The current justices are intellectually qualified in ways we have never seen. Compared with the political operators, philanderers, and alcoholics of bygone eras, they are almost completely devoid of bad habits or scandalous secrets. This is, of course, not a bad thing in itself. But the Court has become worryingly cloistered, even for a famously cloistered institution. Every justice is unavoidably subjected to “public deference” when they ascend to the bench, as I heard Sonia Sotomayor describe it at a conference last June. Now, on top of that, today’s justices filter out anything that might challenge their perspectives. Antonin Scalia won’t read newspapers that conflict with his views and claims to often get very little from amicus briefs. John Roberts has said that he doesn’t believe that most law-review articles—where legal scholars advance new thinking on contemporary problems—are relevant to the justices’ work. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia’s opera-going buddy, increasingly seems to revel in, rather than downplay, her status as a liberal icon. Kennedy spends recesses guest-teaching law school courses in Salzburg.

  • Do Democrats' midterm losses show the party needs to move to the left?

The Democrats’ widespread losses last week have revived a debate inside the party about its fundamental identity, a long-running feud between center and left that has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of a disastrous election and in a time of deeply felt economic anxiety.

The discussion is taking place in postelection meetings, conference calls and dueling memos from liberals and moderates. But it will soon grow louder, shaping the actions of congressional Democrats in President Obama’s final two years and, more notably, defining the party’s presidential primaries in 2016.

Seahawks


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Transcript of President Obama's address to the University of Queensland

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

17 November 2014


Here's the video for President Barack Obama's address at the University of Queensland on the weekend. Transcript is after the jump.


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Thank you so much! (Applause.) Thank you! Thank you, everybody. Everybody, please have a seat. Hello, Brisbane! It’s good to be back in Australia. I love Australia — I really do. The only problem with Australia is every time I come here I’ve got to sit in conference rooms and talk to politicians instead of go to the beach. (Laughter.)

To Chancellor Story, Professor Høj, faculty and staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and most of all, the students of the University of Queensland — it is great to be here at UQ. I know that we are joined by students from universities across this city, and some high school students, as well. And so I want to thank all of the young people especially for welcoming me here today.

On my last visit to this magnificent country three years ago, I had the privilege to meet some of the First Australians; we’re joined by some today. So I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of this land and by paying my respects to your elders, past and present.

This university is recognised as one of the world’s great institutions of science and teaching. Your research led to the vaccine that protects women and girls around the world from cervical cancer. Your innovations have transformed how we treat disease and how we unlock new discoveries. Your studies have warned the world about the urgent threat of climate change. In fact, last year I even tweeted one of your studies to my 31 million followers on Twitter. (Laughter.) Just bragging a little bit. (Applause.) I don’t think that’s quite as much as Lady Gaga, but it’s pretty good. (Laughter.) That’s still not bad.

I thank Prime Minister Abbott and the people of Brisbane and Queensland for hosting us at the G-20 Summit. This city, this part of Australia, is just stunning — “beautiful one day, and then perfect the next.” (Laughter.) That’s what I understand. (Applause.) We travel a lot around the world. My staff was very excited for “Bris Vegas.” (Laughter.) When I arrived they advised I needed some XXXX. (Laughter.) You have some? (Laughter.)

Part of the reason I have fond memories of Australia is I spent some time here as a boy when I was traveling between Hawaii and Indonesia, where I lived for several years. And when I returned three years ago as President, I had the same feelings that I remembered as a child — the warmth of the people of Australia, the sense of humour. I learned to speak a little “strine.” (Laughter.) I’m tempted to “give it a burl.” That’s about as far as I can go actually.

But I do want to take this opportunity to express once again the gratitude of the American people for the extraordinary alliance with Australia. I tell my friends and family and people that I meet that there is an incredible commonality between Australia and the United States. And whether that’s because so many of us travelled here as immigrants — some voluntary and some not; whether it’s because of wide open spaces and the sense of a frontier culture — there’s a bond between our two countries.

And Australia really is everything that you would want in a friend and in an ally. We’re cut from the same cloth — immigrants from an old world who built a new nation. We’re inspired by the same ideals of equality and opportunity — the belief everybody deserves a fair go, a fair shot. And we share that same spirit — that confidence and optimism — that the future is ours to make; that we don’t have to carry with us all the baggage from the past, that we can leave this world a better, safer, more just place for future generations. And that’s what brings me here today — the future that we can build together, here in the Asia Pacific region.

Now, this week, I’ve travelled more than 15,000 miles — from America to China to Burma to Australia. I have no idea what time it is right now. (Laughter.) I’m completely upside down. But despite that distance, we know that our world is getting smaller. One of Australia’s great writers spoke of this — a son of Brisbane and a graduate of this university, David Malouf. And he said, “In that shrinking of distance that is characteristic of our contemporary world, even the Pacific, largest of oceans, has become a lake.” Even the Pacific has become a lake.

And you see it here on this campus, where you welcome students from all across Asia and around the world, including a number of Americans. You go on exchanges, and we’re proud to welcome so many of you to the United States. You walk the streets of this city and you hear Chinese, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, Hindi. And in many neighbourhoods more than half the people you meet were born somewhere else. This is a global city in a globalised world.

And I often tell young people in America that, even with today’s challenges, this is the best time in history to be alive. Never in the history of humanity have people lived longer, are they more likely to be healthy, more likely to be enjoying basic security. The world is actually much less violent today. You wouldn’t know it from watching television that it once was.

And that’s true here in the Asia Pacific as well. Countries once ravaged by war, like South Korea and Japan, are among the world’s most advanced economies. From the Philippines to Indonesia, dictatorships have given way to genuine democracies. In China and across the region, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted from poverty in the span of one generation, joining a global middle class. Empowered by technology, you — the young people in particular of this region — are connecting and collaborating across borders and cultures like never before as you seek to build a new future.

So the opportunities today are limitless. And I don’t watch a lot of Australian television, so — as you might imagine, because I’m really far away. (Laughter.) So I don’t know whether some of the same tendencies that we see in the United States — a focus on conflict and disasters and problem — dominate what’s fed to us visually every single day. But when you look at the facts, opportunities are limitless for this generation. You’re living in an extraordinary time.

But what is also true, is that alongside this dynamism, there are genuine dangers that can undermine progress. And we can’t look at those problems through rose-tinted glasses. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs — that’s a problem. Disputes over territory, remote islands and rocky shoals that threaten to spiral into confrontation.

The failure to uphold universal human rights, denying justice to citizens and denying countries their full potential. Economic inequality and extreme poverty that are a recipe for instability. And energy demands in growing cities that also hasten trends towards a changing climate. Indeed, the same technologies that empower citizens like you also give oppressive regimes new tools to stifle dissent.

So the question that we face is, which of these futures will define the Asia Pacific in the century to come? Do we move towards further integration, more justice, more peace? Or do we move towards disorder and conflict? Those are our choices — conflict or cooperation? Oppression or liberty?

Here in Australia three years ago, in your parliament, I made it clear where the United States stands. We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace; that an effective security order for Asia must be based — not on spheres of influence, or coercion, or intimidation where big nations bully the small — but on alliances of mutual security, international law and international norms that are upheld, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

We believe in open markets and trade that is fair and free — a level playing field where economies play by the same rules; where the purpose of trade is not simply to extract resources from the ground, but to build true partnerships that raise capacity and living standards in poor countries; where small business owners and entrepreneurs and innovators have the freedom to dream and create and flourish; and how well a country does is based on how well they empower their individual citizens.

And we believe in democracy — that the only real source of legitimacy is the consent of the people; that every individual is born equal with fundamental rights, inalienable rights, and that it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights. This is what we stand for. That is our vision — the future America is working toward in the Asia Pacific, with allies and friends.

Now as a Pacific power, the United States has invested our blood and treasure to advance this vision. We don't just talk about it; we invest in this vision. Generations of Americans have served and died in the Asia Pacific so that the people of the region might live free. So no one should ever question our resolve or our commitment to our allies.

When I assumed office, leaders and people across the region were expressing their desire for greater American engagement. And so as President, I decided that — given the importance of this region to American security, to American prosperity — the United States would rebalance our foreign policy and play a larger and lasting role in this region. That’s exactly what we’ve done.

Today, our alliances, including with Australia, are stronger than they have ever been. American exports to this region have reached record levels. We’ve deepened our cooperation with emerging powers and regional organizations, especially in Southeast Asia. We expanded our partnerships with citizens as they've worked to bolster their democracies. And we’ve shown that — whether it’s a tsunami or an earthquake or a typhoon — when our friends are in need, America shows up. We’re there to help. In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America.

Now, there have been times when people have been skeptical of this rebalancing. They're wondering whether America has the staying power to sustain it. And it's true that in recent years pressing events around the world demand our attention. As the world’s only superpower, the United States has unique responsibilities that we gladly embrace. We’re leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIL. We're leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives, among them your fellow citizens. As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families, and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability. So, yes, we have a range of responsibilities. That's the deal. It's a burden we gladly shoulder.

But even in each of these international efforts, some of our strongest partners are our allies and friends in this region, including Australia. So meeting these other challenges in the world is not a distraction from our engagement in this region, it reinforces our engagement in this region. Our rebalance is not only about the United States doing more in Asia, it’s also about the Asia Pacific region doing more with us around the world.

So I’m here today to say that American leadership in the Asia Pacific will always be a fundamental focus of my foreign policy. It won’t always make the headlines. It won’t always be measured in the number of trips I make — although I do keep coming back. (Laughter.) But day in, and day out, steadily, deliberately, we will continue to deepen our engagement using every element of American power — diplomacy, military, economic, development, the power of our values and our ideals. And so in the time I have left, I want to describe, specifically, what America intends to do in the coming years.

First, the United States will continue strengthening our alliances. With Japan, we’ll finalise new defence guidelines and keep realigning our forces for the future. With the Republic of Korea, we’ll deepen our collaboration, including on missile defence, to deter and defend against North Korean threats. With the Philippines, we’ll train and exercise more to prepare for challenges from counterterrorism and piracy to humanitarian crises and disaster relief. And here in Australia, more U.S. Marines will rotate through to promote regional stability, alongside your “diggers.”

Although I will say when I went out to Darwin to inaugurate the new rotation of our U.S. Marines there, that the mayor, I think it was, took out crocodile insurance, which disturbed me. (Laughter.) I mean I was flattered that he took out insurance on my behalf. (Laughter.) But I did ask my ambassador what this was all about. (Laughter.) And he described to me how crocodiles kill more people than sharks, and there are just a lot of things in Australia that can kill you. (Laughter.) But that's an aside. (Laughter.)

We have an ironclad commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and security of every ally. And we’ll expand cooperation between allies, because we believe we’re stronger when we stand together.

The United States will continue to modernise our defence posture across the region. We’ll deploy more of our most advanced military capabilities to keep the peace and deter aggression. Our presence will be more distributed, including in Southeast Asia with partners like Singapore. And we’ll increase military training and education, including working with the military partners we have in this region around the respect for human rights by military and police. And by the end of this decade, a majority of our Navy and Air Force fleets will be based out of the Pacific, because the United States is, and will always be, a Pacific power.

And keep in mind we do this without any territorial claims. We do this based on our belief that a region that is peaceful and prosperous is good for us and is good for the world.

The United States will continue broadening our cooperation with emerging powers and emerging economies. We intend to help Vietnam pursue economic reforms and new maritime capabilities. We will continue to move ahead with our comprehensive partnership with Indonesia, which is a strong example of diversity and pluralism. We’ll continue to expand ties with Malaysia, a growing centre of entrepreneurship and innovation. And we support a greater role in the Asia Pacific for India, which is the world’s largest democracy.

The United States will continue expanding our engagement with regional institutions, because together we can meet shared challenges — from preventing the horror of human trafficking to countering violent extremism, to stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Together, we can improve maritime security, upholding freedom of navigation and encouraging territorial disputes are resolved peacefully. We’ll work with partners to develop the East Asia Summit into the region’s leading forum for addressing political and security challenges. And we’ll support ASEAN’s effort to reach a code of conduct with China that reinforces international law in the South China Sea.

And speaking of China, the United States will continue to pursue a constructive relationship with China. By virtue of its size and its remarkable growth, China will inevitably play a critical role in the future of this region. And the question is, what kind of role will it play? I just came from Beijing, and I said there, the United States welcomes the continuing rise of a China that is peaceful and prosperous and stable and that plays a responsible role in world affairs. It is a remarkable achievement that millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in China because of the extraordinary growth rates that they’ve experienced. That is a good thing. We should want and welcome that kind of development.

And if, in fact, China is playing the role of a responsible actor that is peaceful and prosperous and stable, that is good for this region, it’s good for the world, it’s good for the United States. So we’ll pursue cooperation with China where our interests overlap or align. And there are significant areas of overlap: More trade and investment; more communications between our militaries to prevent misunderstandings or possible conflict; more travel and exchanges between our people; and more cooperation on global challenges, from Ebola to climate change.

But in this engagement we are also encouraging China to adhere to the same rules as other nations — whether in trade or on the seas. And in this engagement we will continue to be frank about where there are differences, because America will continue to stand up for our interests and principles, including our unwavering support for the fundamental human rights of all people.

We do not benefit from a relationship with China or any other country in which we put our values and our ideals aside. And for the young people, practicality is a good thing. There are times where compromise is necessary. That’s part of wisdom. But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe — to know what you believe and then be willing to stand up for it. And what’s true for individuals is also true for countries.

The United States will continue to promote economic growth that is sustainable and shared. So we’re going to work with APEC to tear down barriers to trade and investment and combat the corruption that steals from so many citizens. We’ll keep opposing special preferences for state-owned companies. We’ll oppose cyber-theft of trade secrets. We’ll work with partners to invest in the region’s infrastructure in a way that’s open and transparent. We’ll support reforms that help economies transition to models that boost domestic demand and invest in people and their education and their skills.

We’ll keep leading the effort to realise the Trans-Pacific Partnership to lower barriers, open markets, export goods, and create good jobs for our people. But with the 12 countries of the TPP making up nearly 40 per cent of the global economy, this is also about something bigger. It is our chance to put in place new, high standards for trade in the 21st century that uphold our values. So, for example, we are pushing new standards in this trade agreement, requiring countries that participate to protect their workers better and to protect the environment better, and protect intellectual property that unleashes innovation, and baseline standards to ensure transparency and rule of law.

It’s about a future where instead of being dependent on a single market, countries integrate their economies so they’re innovating and growing together. That’s what TPP does. That’s why it would be a historic achievement. That’s why I believe so strongly that we need to get it done — not just for our countries, but for the world.

But that’s also why it’s hard — because we’re asking all these countries at various stages of development to up their game. And it requires big transitions for a lot of these countries, including for the United States. And TPP is just one part of our overall focus on growing the global economy. That’s what the G-20 meetings are all about.

Over the last few years, the United States has put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined. But America can’t be expected to just carry the world economy on our back. So here in Brisbane, the G-20 has a responsibility to act — to boost demand, and invest more in infrastructure, and create good jobs for the people of all our nations.

As we develop, as we focus on our econ, we cannot forget the need to lead on the global fight against climate change. Now, I know that’s — (applause) — I know there’s been a healthy debate in this country about it. (Laughter.) Here in the Asia Pacific, nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change.

Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands. Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires. The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threated. Worldwide, this past summer was the hottest on record. No nation is immune, and every nation has a responsibility to do its part.

And you’ll recall at the beginning I said the United States and Australia has a lot in common. Well, one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon. Part of it’s this legacy of wide-open spaces and the frontier mentality, and this incredible abundance of resources. And so, historically, we have not been the most energy-efficient of nations, which means we’ve got to step up.

In the United States, our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades — and I’m very proud of that. Under my Climate Action Plan, we intend to do more. In Beijing, I announced our ambitious new goal — reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, which will double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution in the United States. Now, in a historic step, China made its own commitment, for the first time, agreeing to slow, peak and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions. And the reason that’s so important is because if China, as it develops, adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the United States or Australia, this planet doesn’t stand a chance, because they’ve got a lot more people.

So them setting up a target sends a powerful message to the world that all countries — whether you are a developed country, a developing country, or somewhere in between — you’ve got to be able to overcome old divides, look squarely at the science, and reach a strong global climate agreement next year. And if China and the United States can agree on this, then the world can agree on this. We can get this done. And it is necessary for us to get it done. (Applause.) Because I have not had to go to the Great Barrier Reef — (laughter) — and I want to come back, and I want my daughters to be able to come back, and I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit. (Applause.) And I want that there 50 years from now.

Now, today, I’m announcing that the United States will take another important step. We are going to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund so we can help developing nations deal with climate change. (Applause.) So along with the other nations that have pledged support, this gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early-warning system, with stronger defences against storm surges, climate-resilient infrastructure. It allows us to help farmers plant more durable crops. And it allows us to help developing countries break out of this false choice between development and pollution; let them leap-frog some of the dirty industries that powered our development; go straight to a clean-energy economy that allows them to grow, create jobs, and at the same time reduce their carbon pollution.

So we’ve very proud of the work that we have already done. We are mindful of the great work that still has to be done on this issue. But let me say, particularly again to the young people here: Combating climate change cannot be the work of governments alone. Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable. But that is not going to happen unless you are heard.

It is in the nature of things, it is in the nature of the world that those of us who start getting grey hair are a little set in our ways, that interests are entrenched — not because people are bad people, it’s just that’s how we’ve been doing things. And we make investments, and companies start depending on certain energy sources, and change is uncomfortable and difficult. And that’s why it’s so important for the next generation to be able to step and say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to imagine a new future in a way that some of the older folks don’t always have.

And the same is true when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights. There are times where when we speak out on these issues we are told that democracy is just a Western value. I fundamentally disagree with that. (Applause.) Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, they have built thriving democracies. Filipinos showed us the strength of People Power. Indonesians just voted in a historic election. I just came from Burma; this is a place that for 40 years was under the grip of a military junta, one of the most closed and oppressive nations on Earth. And there, I was inspired by citizens and civil society and parliamentarians who are now working to sustain a transition to a democratic future. I had a town hall meeting with young people like you, in which they were asking, what does it mean to create rule of law? And how should we deal with ethnic diversity in our city? You could feel the excitement. What does a free press look like, and how does it operate? And how do we make sure that journalism is responsible? Incredible ferment and debate that’s taking place.

Those young people, they want the same things that you do. The notion that somehow they’re less interested in opportunity or less interested in avoiding arbitrary arrest, or less interested in being censored is fundamentally untrue. Today, people in Hong Kong are speaking out for their universal rights.

And so here in Asia and around the world, America supports free and fair elections, because citizens must be free to choose their own leaders — as in Thailand where we are urging a quick return to inclusive, civilian rule. We support freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, a free and open Internet, strong civil societies, because the voices of the people must be heard and leaders must be held accountable — even though it’s uncomfortable sometimes. I promise you, if you lead a country, there are times where you are aggravated with people voicing opinions that seem to think you’re doing something wrong. You prefer everybody just praise you. I understand. (Laughter.) But that’s not how societies move forward.

We support strong institutions and independent judiciaries and open government, because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law.

And in that same fashion, the United States will continue to stand up for the inherent dignity of every human being. Now, dignity begins with the most basic of needs — a life free of hunger and disease and want. So, yes, we’ll speak out on behalf of human rights, but we are also going to invest in the agriculture that allows farmers to feed their families and boost their incomes. We’ll invest in the development that promotes growth and helps end the injustice of extreme poverty in places like the Lower Mekong Delta. We intend to partner with all the countries in the region to create stronger public health systems and new treatments that save lives and realize our goals of being the first AIDS-free generation.

And what we’ve learned from the Ebola outbreak is that in this globalized world, where the Pacific is like a lake, if countries are so poor that they can’t afford basic public health infrastructure, that threatens our health. We cannot built a moat around our countries, and we shouldn’t try. What we should be doing is making sure everybody has some basic public health systems that allow for early warning when outbreaks of infectious disease may occur. That’s not just out of charity. It is in our self-interest.

And again, I want to speak to young people about this. When we talk about these issues of development, when we invest in the wellbeing of people on the other side of the globe, when we stand up for freedom, including occasionally having to engage in military actions, we don’t do that just because we are charitable. We do that because we recognise that we are linked, and that if somebody, some child is stricken with a curable disease on the other side of the world, at same point that could have an impact on our child.

We’ll advance human dignity by standing up for the rights of minorities, because no one’s equality should ever be denied. We will stand up for freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith as they choose — because we are all children of God, and we are all fallible. And the notion that we, as a majority, or the state should tell somebody else what to believe with respect to their faith, is against our basic values.

We will stand up for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens, because they need to be treated equally under the law. (Applause.) We will stand up for the rights and futures of our wives and daughters and partners, because I believe that the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women and treating them as full participants in politics and society and the econ. (Applause.)

And we’re going to continue to invest in the future of this region, and that means you, this region’s youth — all of you — your optimism, your idealism, your hopes. I see it everywhere I go. I spend a lot of time with young people. I spend a lot of time with old people, too. But I prefer spending time with young people. (Laughter.) I meet them in Tokyo and Seoul, and Manila and Jakarta. It’s the spirit of young men and women in Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon, who are participating in our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. And like you, they’re ready to lead.

To the young woman with an idea who dreams of starting her own business — if she just had the network, if she just had the capital, America wants to be her partner, because we believe in the entrepreneur that you can be, the innovations you can spark and the jobs you can create. And when you succeed, we’ll all be more prosperous.

To the young man who’s working late in a clinic, tending to a patient, who dreams not just of treating diseases, but preventing them — if I just had the resources, if I just had the support — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the advocate that you can be, and in the families you can reach and the lives you can save. And when you succeed, our world will be better.

To the young woman tired of the tensions in her community, who dreams of helping her neighbours see beyond differences — if she could just start a dialogue, if she knew how others had walked the same path — well, America wants to be your partner, because we believe in the activist that you can be, and the empathy that you can build, and the understanding you can foster between people. And when you succeed, our world will be a little more peaceful.

And to the young man who believes his voice isn’t being heard, who dreams of bringing people like him together across his country — if he just knew how to organise and mobilise them — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the leaders that you can be, in the difference you can make to ignite positive change. And when you succeed, the world will be a little more free.

So that’s the future we can build together. That’s the commitment America is making in the Asia Pacific. It’s a partnership not just with nations, but with people, with you, for decades to come. Bound by the values we share, guided by the vision we seek, I am absolutely confident we can advance the security and the prosperity and the dignity of people across this region. And in pursuit of that future, you will have no greater friend than the United States of America.

So thank you very much. God bless Australia. (Applause.) God bless America. God bless our great alliance. Thank you.

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