President Obama announced a plan for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but didn’t specify whether he’ll sneak Hamid Karzai out of the country with a C-17 or a pair of Groucho Marx glasses. Miami Heat small forward Shane Battier won't run for Senate in Michigan, but our “Dennis Rodman for D.C. Shadow Senator” whisper campaign is in full effect. And the GOP is working on a new “Contract With America.” However, labor has a little too much power in a “contract,” so the party is considering an "At-Will Employment Arrangement With America.” This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, May 27th, 2014:
PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL PLAN - AP: "President Barack Obama announced plans Tuesday for greatly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of the year and then ending the U.S. military commitment by the end of 2016. 'We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected,' Obama acknowledged during an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. 'Now we're finishing the job we've started.' He said American forces, first sent within a month of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have struck significant blows against al-Qaida's leadership, eliminated Osama bin Laden and prevented Afghanistan from being used as a base against the U.S. Even as Obama set a timetable for the drawdown, he said he would keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission formally ends later this year. Those troops would focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts. The president said his plan was contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the accord, but the U.S. is optimistic that the two candidates seeking to replace him in the ongoing Afghan elections will finalize the agreement. Both have pledged to sign it. Obama's blueprint calls for cutting the current U.S. force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops, dispatched throughout Afghanistan, would not be engaged in combat missions." [AP]
ERIC CANTOR MUST HAVE A PRIMARY - Erica Werner: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is boasting in a new campaign mailer of shutting down a plan to give 'amnesty' to 'illegal aliens,' a strongly worded statement from a Republican leader who's spoken favorably about acting on immigration." [Associated Press]
MEET THE GEEZERS AGAINST SENTENCING REFORM - Evan McMorris-Santoro: "When the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in January on a bill that would reduce sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, there was a stark divide in the votes. The divide wasn’t partisan. The average age of the three Republicans who voted for the bill — Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz — was 45.3 years old. The average age of the five Republicans who voted against the bill: 69.4 years old. These days in Washington, there is a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers ready to change the U.S. criminal justice system, from changing drug laws and eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing to changing practices inside prisons like solitary confinement. But standing in the way is a generation of older lawmakers who came of age politically during the 1980s and early 1990s when being tough-on-crime was a prerequisite for office." [BuzzFeed]
Some good news about health care prices.
PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST LOVES MINORITIES - Our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist, who believes the CIA invented trans fats and the Lexus RX 350 to keep fat white lobbyists down, was asked about Ta-Nehisi Coates argument for reparations in the Atlantic. Though PSLGOPL hadn't read the piece he did offer his thoughts on race in politics and media. "I'll be happiest when there are no more elected white men in the Democratic party," PSLGOPL, wrote. "I'm for zero diversity when it comes to white liberals, I'd rather a minority hold every job a white liberal holds. In my dream world, Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff would be working in the service industry." Thanks, PSLGOPL!
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Deirdre Shesgreen: "Before the recession hit, Russ Holton was making more than $100,000 a year at his sales job with a Cincinnati information technology company. Today, the 45-year-old Mason man is on food stamps and barely scraping by on income from a part-time maintenance job — a contract position that’s about to end. Holton is one of about 62,000 Ohioans who have lost their unemployment benefits this year — and who watched anxiously as Congress debated, and then deadlocked, over an extension of that financial assistance for the long-term unemployed. For Holton, the weekly unemployment checks he received until the end of December — about $400 per week for him — were a lifeline. He was using the money to pay his rent, put gas in his car, and buy food while he took night classes to start a new career. In November — if all goes as planned — Holton will earn a certificate from the Warren County Career Center in network administration, putting him back on a path to a good-paying job overseeing computer networks. But Holton is not sure how he’ll get to November." [portclintonnewsherald.com]
DOUBLE DOWNER - Greater Greater Washington has deemed the Spirit of Justice Park, a gem south of the House office buildings, "DC's most useless park." It's not clear if the good people at GGW have ever been to the park or merely spied on it from Google. As actual parkgoers attest in the comments, it's a nice park. [GGW.org]
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OBAMA'S PROMISES UNKEPT YEAR AFTER MAJOR DRONE SPEECH - Sabrina Siddiqui and Matt Sledge: "One year ago last Friday, President Barack Obama gave a major address on drones, targeted killing and terrorism. The president and administration officials promised that the drone program would operate within limits protecting civilians, control would be transferred from the CIA to the Pentagon, and a new era of transparency would begin. The number of drone strikes has fallen since then, but it is far from clear that the drop was a result of a shift in administration policy. Frustrated in part by Congress and the facts on the ground in Pakistan and Yemen, when it comes to drones, Obama has fulfilled few of his promises... First, the numbers: According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based non-profit, both the number of drone strikes and casualties have declined in the year since Obama's big speech. There were a reported 63 strikes in Yemen and Pakistan between May 23, 2012, and May 22, 2013, and 33 the following year. A minimum of 247 people died in the strikes that occurred in the year before the speech, and a minimum of 161 died in those that occurred the year after. But Christopher Swift, an adjunct professor in national security studies at Georgetown University, argued the general reduction in drone strikes 'has more to do with developments on the ground than it does with any significant change in U.S. policy.'" [HuffPost]
ICYMI, the thinking man's Benghazi broke over the weekend: "The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops. The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the 'Chief of Station' in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country. The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover -- the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity -- pierced by his own government. The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq." [WaPo]
GOP PRESSING FOR NEW 'CONTRACT WITH AMERICA' - Politico: "A faction of Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham is agitating for party leaders to unveil a policy manifesto in the midterm elections, detailing for voters what the GOP would attempt with a Senate majority its members are increasingly confident they’ll achieve. Advocates of the strategy, which has triggered a closed-door debate in recent weeks among the party’s current 45 senators, say it would serve as a firm rejoinder to Democrats casting the GOP as the 'party of no.' They say voters should know what they’d be getting by pulling the lever for Republicans in November. With many election handicappers pegging a Senate takeover as a better than 50-50 proposition, the quandary of how specific they should get during the campaign underscores the difficulties Senate Republicans face transitioning from opposition party to governing party. While Republicans are in broad agreement over their principles, such as repealing Obamacare and opposing higher taxes, a new GOP majority would have its own challenges unifying behind an ambitious agenda...Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 4 Senate Republican who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, has asked all ranking members of Senate committees to send him legislative proposals they would want to pursue if they become chairmen next year. It’s not clear, at this point, whether the exercise will yield more policy papers or be presented as a unified GOP agenda, but Barrasso said it would help showcase a slew of GOP economic ideas either way." [Politico]
PRIMARY DAY IN TEXAS - Amanda Terkel: "On March 4, no candidate secured a majority of the vote in the election for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Texas. Dallas dentist David Alameel received 47.1 percent of the vote, and political activist Kesha Rogers garnered 21.7 percent... The winner will face a long-shot bid against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).... Rogers is a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, who heads a fringe political movement that has been compared to a cult. His supporters are often seen carrying signs depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache...There are three Democratic runoff contests for the state Tuesday and nine Republican ones. According to the Star-Telegram, political observers expect turnout to be extremely low, perhaps hovering around 5-6 percent. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is defending his seat against state Sen. Dan Patrick. Patrick founded the tea party caucus in the Texas state legislature, while Dewhurt lost a primary battle to Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate in 2012, despite his strong backing from the GOP establishment. In the runoff for the GOP nomination for state attorney general, the Associated Press reports that state Sen. Ken Paxton -- who models himself after Cruz -- is favored to win against state Rep. Dan Branch." [HuffPost]
WISCONSIN COURT REFUSES TO HEAR GAY MARRIAGE BAN CHALLENGE - Look, it's not like the union of two people of the same sex can collectively bargain for higher pay, so Scott Walker could care less. State Journal: "Without comment, the state Supreme Court last week declined to hear a direct challenge to Wisconsin's constitutional ban on gay marriage. A Milwaukee County couple, Katherine and Linda Halopka-Ivery, had asked the high court to directly hear their lawsuit, which claimed Wisconsin is violating the U.S. Constitution by limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The Halopka-Iverys married in December in California, where same-sex marriage is legal. The lawsuit sought to force Wisconsin to recognize their marriage and to allow them to qualify for all of the benefits that married heterosexual couples have. But the high court, in a decision filed Thursday, declined to hear the case. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, also without comment. Wisconsin's constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage is being challenged by a lawsuit filed in February in U.S. District Court in Madison by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of eight couples." [State Journal]
JOE THE PLUMBER ADDRESSES NATION - Paige Lavender: "Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, insisted the deaths of innocent people 'don't trump' his constitutional rights in an open letter to the families of victims in Friday's shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Wurzelbacher's letter was published on Barbwire Monday, days after one shooting victim's father blamed 'craven, irresponsible politicians' and the National Rifle Association for his son's death." [HuffPost]
CLIVEN, WE HARDLY BUND YE - Mollie Reilly: "Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has decided to leave the Republican Party, theAssociated Press reported Monday.
Bundy and his wife, Carol, registered with the Independent American Party during a Friday event in Las Vegas where Bundy was a featured speaker. 'Well, I haven’t got much good out of the Democrats and Republicans so I decided to try a new one,' Bundy said of his decision." [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat playing Jenga.
SHANE BATTIER NOT RUNNING FOR SENATE - Sam Stein: "Miami Heat small forward Shane Battier told ESPN's Grantland that he was approached by the Michigan Democratic Party about a potential run to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). 'Battier is nearing retirement now, and he can no longer shoot, dribble, or defend like he once did,' reads the Grantland article published Tuesday. 'The Michigan Democratic Party recently called him to see if he might consider running to replace U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Battier said.' Battier turned down the opportunity -- as evidenced by the fact that he is playing spot minutes in the NBA Eastern Conference finals and not having rubber chicken dinners at random campaign stops in the Upper Peninsula. But it's also unclear how serious the suggestion was, if it was made at all...Battier was born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan, and often finds his name on lists of athletes who could conceivably have a future in politics. But his appeal to Michiganders could be limited by the fact that he spurned the state's major colleges to play hoops for Duke. Who, really, could forgive such a sin?" [HuffPost]
- Otters playing keyboards. Presumably an infinite number of them given an infinite amount of time could perform Mozart. [http://bit.ly/1jqKoM4]
- HuffPost Live tackles office bathroom etiquette. [http://huff.to/1oqiO9z]
- Kid pens hate song about his parents... things don't go exactly as planned. [http://bit.ly/1jXQEjd]
- Did you know you can shop clothing factory outlets online? Neither did we. [http://bzfd.it/1tLizFX]
- Kids react to old computers. [http://huff.to/SM8WJX]
- The world bench press record has been surpassed. Watch the record-breaking lift. [http://bit.ly/1pfI7LE]
- Bill Murray crashed a bachelor party, which is worth a million trips to steakhouses or strippers visiting your hotel room. [http://bit.ly/1lOQG9Z]
@KagroX: Tomorrow for lunch, I'm going to try to force Chipotle to quarter troops.
@aedwardslevy: Tried to write "party ID," autocomplete filled in "party ideas." Lesson: My autocomplete is more fun than I am.
@dceiver: Being hashtagged into combat by Twitter might still be preferable to being Judith Millered into combat by the New York Times
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