POLITICS
08/27/2013 05:40 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - The Bomb Buffet Is OPEN

The military is readying for war with Syria, though the USO hasn't announced when Deep Blue will perform for our drones. A judge ordered that Lanny Davis be compensated for its work on behalf of a brutal African regime, leading the CIA to wonder why it never opened up its own government relations shop. And The New York Times was hacked, so expect a Sunday Styles piece next year on the arrival of hacking. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, August 27th, 2013:

PRESIDENT MULLING TARGETS FOR SYRIA BOMBING - It's apparently war o'clock. Times: "President Obama is considering a range of limited military actions against Syria that are designed to 'deter and degrade' the ability of President Bashar al-Assad's regime to launch chemical weapons, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Although no final decisions have been made, it is likely that the attacks would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, even though the Obama administration says the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military is the trigger for the planned attack. They said any effort to target chemical sites risks an environmental and humanitarian disaster and could open up the sites to raids by militants. Instead, the American assault would be aimed at military units thought to have carried out chemical attacks, the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks and the headquarters overseeing the effort, the officials said. One key question facing Mr. Obama and his advisers is whether such a limited attack would compel a change in tactics of the Assad regime..." [NYT]

Lawmakers ask colleagues to return from vacation to stop war. Pfffffft: "A pair of Democratic freshmen want Congressional authorization for action against Syria unless there's an imminent threat to the United States, a position that would seem to require Congress to return from August recess. Their voices, combined with more than 20 House lawmakers who are also seeking to return early to deal with the issue, seem likely to fall on deaf ears. [Connecticut Sen. Chris] Murphy isn't the only Senate newcomer taking a skeptical view. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., issued a separate statement Monday calling for congressional involvement in the decision to act in Syria. Kaine has undertaken an effort with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain aimed at overhauling the War Powers Resolution, which helps define the role of Congress in military intervention." [Roll Call]

GAY VETERANS' SPOUSES STILL NOT RECEIVING BENEFITS - Ryan Reilly: "Gay spouses of military veterans are not able to obtain the benefits given to straight couples even despite the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, an Obama administration official said in a letter released Tuesday. Federal benefits granted to military spouses include disability and survivor benefits and joint burial at a veteran's cemetery. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki wrote in an Aug. 14 letter that because these benefits are governed by Title 38, which defines spouses as members of the opposite sex, the spouses of gay veterans could not receive them. 'Certain provisions in title 38, United States Code, define 'spouse' and 'surviving spouse' to refer only to a person of the opposite-sex,' Shinseki wrote...In the letter... Shinseki says that the VA supports the enactment of the Charlie Morgan Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would remove the requirement that a surviving spouse be a member of the opposite sex in order to receive benefits...Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the Justice Department would no longer defend Title 38 in court." [HuffPost]

Axis of easel: "Two new paintings by former president George W. Bush, published for the first time here on Gawker, give us a new window into the ongoing development of the tortured artist/torture advocate--and opens the possibility for a new phase in his oeuvre: cats." [Gawker]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Utah's welfare drug testing scheme has yielded only a dozen positive results since the program started last year, though it may have deterred some from seeking benefits. From August 2012 through July 2013, the state prescreened 4,730 applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with a written test. The state followed up with an actual drug test for the 466 of those whose written answers suggested a likelihood of drug use. The 466 tests turned out 12 positive results, as the Associated Press first reported. The results were similar when Florida launched welfare drug testing in 2011 and just 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. National surveys usually find that about 8 percent of respondents used drugs in the previous month. [HuffPost]

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BOEHNER VOWS INTENSE DEBT CEILING FIGHT - The House speaker confirmed that America might soon become the world's deadbeat cousin with a failed charm bracelet company, unable to repay its debts. Luke Johnson: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised a 'whale of a fight' over the debt ceiling Monday and said that he wanted cuts greater than the increase in the limit. 'I've made it clear that we're not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit,' he said at a Boise fundraiser for Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), according to the Idaho Statesman. 'The president doesn't think this is fair, thinks I'm being difficult to deal with. But I'll say this: It may be unfair but what I'm trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We're going to have a whale of a fight.' Said Boehner, 'I wish I could tell you it was going to be pretty and polite, and it would all be finished a month before we'd ever get to the debt ceiling. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way.' His comments signal that he and House Republicans will fight to link spending cuts to the debt ceiling -- an approach that President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have flatly rejected." [HuffPost]

GENE SPERLING TO LEAVE WHITE HOUSE: REPORT - Fox Business: "Washington insiders say Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, is telling people he may soon leave the post as one of President Obama's top economic advisers. These same people say that high on the short list of replacements is Jeffrey Zients, a businessman and former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. A White House spokesman would not deny Sperling's departure or that Zients is the leading candidate to take his job. Sperling is a long-time Democratic economic operative with close ties to former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Citigroup executive Robert Rubin. Though he has spent most of his career in government he has also earned income as an adviser to the big investment bank Goldman Sachs, and has received speaking fees from various financial firms." [Fox Business]

ADMINISTRATION LACKING GENDER DIVERSITY - The Times notes that there are fewer women in President Obama's cabinet than at Nellie's on a Sunday night: "[There] is an uncomfortable reality for the White House: the administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago... by most measures of gender diversity, including the proportion of women at the cabinet level, the executive branch looks little different from 20 years ago, even as the House of Representatives, the Senate and corporate America have placed significantly more women in senior roles...Over all, Mr. Obama has named 13 women to cabinet-level posts, matching the historic high achieved by the Clinton administration. Mr. Obama has also put a record number of women in judicial slots, including two on the Supreme Court...Yet the ratio of men to women in the administration is where it was two decades ago, if not a little more heavily male. The Obama administration has a smaller proportion of women in top positions than the Clinton administration did in its second term, for instance." [NYT]

Have a holly jolly Christmas: "A new book co-written by a former senior staffer on Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign alleges that the conservative congresswoman is a fake Christian diva who fires pregnant staffers on Christmas Eve and takes advantage of her devoted supporters, when not being taken advantage of by the political consultants she hired." [Salon]

FREEDOM-LOVING SENATORS WANT TO KILL HILL STAFFERS - Wee bit of an exaggeration. The Hill: "Two Republican senators say they'll introduce legislation to reverse the Obama administration's rule change allowing the federal government to contribute to Capitol Hill employee health insurance premiums. Republicans have argued the rule change amounts to a 'bailout' from ObamaCare for a favored congressional class. Sens. David Vitter (La.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) said they would offer legislation in September to reverse and modify the rule change. The federal government, like many large-scale employees, now subsidizes premium costs for congressional employees. In the government's case, the subsidy can amount to as much as 75 percent of the premium's cost. The ObamaCare law was silent on whether these subsidies could continue, but under a rule issued in August by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government could continue to offer subsidies for premiums to lawmakers and congressional staff. The rule allows each member of Congress to determine whether his or her staffers will get help from the government to cover their premiums." [The Hill]

POLL: AMERICANS SPLIT ON MANDATORY MINIMUMS - America has really lost sight of what makes our country great when we stop locking people up indiscriminately. It's a fate almost as unpatriotic as not purchasing beverages based on their "drinkability." Emily Swanson: "Half of Americans in a new HuffPost/YouGov poll oppose mandatory minimum sentences, the tough sentencing laws that have come under fire again recently for imposing long sentences on low-level criminals and contributing to overcrowding in prisons. According to the new poll, only 32 percent of Americans think that the government should require certain minimum sentences for anyone convicted of a given crime, while 50 percent said that judges should have more leeway in determining sentences...The poll also found that 38 percent of Americans think the sentences usually given for drug crimes such as possession or sale of illegal drugs are too harsh -- slightly less than the combined 43 percent who said that sentences for those crimes were too lenient (23 percent) or about right (20 percent)." [HuffPost]

COURT AWARDS LANNY DAVIS MONEY FOR HIS SOUL - Northrop Grumman should retain Davis' services when it wants that lucrative Death Star exhaust shaft contract. Christina Wilkie: "Lobbyist Lanny Davis on Monday won his lawsuit against the small African dictatorship of Equatorial Guinea that alleged the government failed to reimburse him for more than $150,000 in expenses while he was lobbying for the country. Equatorial Guinea did not respond to Davis's lawsuit, filed in October 2011, and a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia issued a default judgement in favor of Davis, a former legal adviser to President Bill Clinton, for a total of $158,692. The unpaid expenses include $13,405 for a Washington party celebrating Equatorial Guinea's national day, $5,334 for phone calls, and $16,751 in interest on the debt...Equatorial Guinea, on the western coast of Africa, has one of the world's worst human rights records... President Teodoro Obiang has ruled with an iron fist since he came to power in a bloody coup in 1979, and is believed to have amassed a personal fortune of approximately $600 million. From 2010 to 2011, Obiang's government paid Davis and his colleagues more than $1 million for lobbying services..." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a pig that thinks it's a duck

HERO INTERN VICTIM OF SMEAR CAMPAIGN - No, people haven't been saying scurrilous things on Facebook about the person who so admirably compiles your press clippings. Amanda Terkel: "In 2011, Intern Daniel Hernandez Jr... helped save [Gabrielle Gifford's] life. Later that year, he continued his public service when he was elected to the school board for the Sunnyside Unified School District... Now, however, Hernandez is facing not only a recall campaign, but an anonymous anti-gay smear campaign as well...On one side are the two opponents of superintendent Manuel Isquierdo -- including Hernandez. On the other side are the superintendent's supporters, who include board president Louie Gonzales...flyers being passed around to constituents...go after Hernandez for being gay and for supporting gun control measures. 'Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board,' reads one flyer, with a picture of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum event...Gonzales told The Huffington Post that he was not at all involved in the flyers and does not support anti-gay attacks." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- "Miley Cyrus Twerking On Things We Should Talk About." [http://bit.ly/1dJBREH]

- Farrah Fawcett's story of navigating New York's dangerous streets in the 1980s, animated. [http://bit.ly/15eLR8e]

- The Congressional Cemetery has gotten overrun with bugs and other invasive species. Don't worry, though, goats are on it. [http://bit.ly/1dkmG6r]

- Short feature on Arkansas' most beloved politician/magician/mortician. [http://bit.ly/19KEAuR]

- Jaw-dropping aerial footage. [http://bit.ly/1cwcWXf]

- The internet has answered the call: Miley Cyrus twerking on famous paintings. [http://bit.ly/15qw3fM]

- Complicated subjects explained with items found in your kitchen. [http://bit.ly/1azimio]

TWITTERAMA

@xeni: WHOAH if it's true the Syrian Electronic Army took down the @nytimes, forget all I said. I really needed that couscous recipe. Bombs away.

@joshgreenman: If a hipster pairs craft beer with slab bacon in Brooklyn while the New York Times website is down, does it really happen?

@ddayen: "I know I just learned the existence of this city a few hours ago, but I really think Homs makes an excellent military target"

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