Saturday, April 12, 2008

On the coffee table – ‘Taking the Hill’

This story of Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq War vet to get elected to Congress is informative and sobering. It’s also a pretty good read. But, it’s not a great read.

The book is more informative when Murphy discusses his run for Congress than in his analysis of how and where Bush went wrong in launching the Iraq War in the first place, or how Bush, Cheney, Bremer, Rumfeld et al screwed up after the invasion.

Throw in the fact that Murphy felt compelled to join the Blue Dog Coalition and renew funding for the School of the Americas, with the larger position that, as a freshman in Congress who got elected on one issue, and this is not a five-star book.

I wound up giving it three stars on Amazon. If I were the first rater, I might give it four stars. But, in light of the five-star fluff of several earlier raters, it had to get knocked down to three stars as a counterweight.

Since there’s nothing new on Iraq here, I focus my critique on the Congressman Murphy latter part of the book.

First, the amount of work involved with getting elected is huge. Especially for a first-time office-seeker with not a lot of name recognition, it can be grueling. Murphy spells that out in detail, both for the Democratic primary and the general election. He then details attack-dog Republican tactics against him in the general election, including a possible Hatch Act violation by the chief of staff of his opponent, incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Next, he discusses the hypocrisy of some endorsements, though he’s either too kind or too soft to use the word “hypocrisy.”

That includes the Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsing Fitzpatrick, a non-veteran. That includes unions endorsing Fitzpatrick because “he returns our phone calls.” (It’s all about access, isn’t it?)

Murphy then explains his decision to join the Blue Dogs because they stand for “balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility.”

But, uhh, Pat … “paygo” on budget issues is an official position of your party as a whole in both houses of Congress. No need to join the Blue Dogs for that, unless you think Pelosi and Reid are giving lip service.

As for SOAR, especially in light of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, you’re naïve at best if you really think that under this administration, all its days of training human rights thugs are in the past. You should have voted to kill it.

In short, a good book but not a great one. While it is interesting to read about the shoe leather of a Congressional campaign, one doesn’t have to be an Iraq vet to do that, either.

There's more: "On the coffee table – ‘Taking the Hill’" >>

This makes me want to shout, "What a lying, cheap, ridiculous cop-out!"

In a change of heart the bush maladministration now claims that al-Qaeda is no longer the primary threat in Iraq, that it has been defeated and routed from Iraq, and that Iran now poses the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East. If this is true then it is time to bring our troops home after being victorious against al-Qaeda; the rest of the Middle East can take care of itself.

Excerpt from the

Last week's violence in Basra and Baghdad has convinced the Bush administration that actions by Iran, and not al-Qaeda, are the primary threat inside Iraq, and has sparked a broad reassessment of policy in the region, according to senior U.S. officials.

Evidence of an increase in Iranian weapons, training and direction for the Shiite militias that battled U.S. and Iraqi security forces in those two cities has fixed new U.S. attention on what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday called Tehran's "malign" influence, the officials said.

The intensified focus on Iran coincides with diminished emphasis on al-Qaeda in Iraq as the leading justification for an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq.[…]

During their Washington visit, Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker barely mentioned al-Qaeda in Iraq but spoke extensively of Iran.

With "al-Qaeda in retreat and disarray" in Iraq, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, "we see other obstacles that were under the waterline more clearly. . . . The Iranian-armed militias are now the biggest threat to internal order."

Partly in response to advice from Petraeus and Crocker, the administration has initiated an interagency assessment of what is known about Iranian activities and intentions, how to combat them and how to capitalize on them. The review stems from an internal conclusion, following last week's fighting, that the administration lacked a comprehensive understanding and a sophisticated approach.

President Bush reiterated yesterday that if Iran continues to help militias in Iraq, "then we'll deal with them," saying in an interview with ABC News that "we're learning more about their habits and learning more about their routes" for infiltrating or sending equipment.
If the administration and army leaders are correct and we have defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq, our mission there is complete, we are victorious, and we have no right to consider attacking Iran, which poses no threat to America or Iraq.

Iraq and Iran have previously, much to bush's dismay, formed a "mutual defense pact" that would require Maliki to turn his armies against Americans in the event that we unlawfully attack Iran. And wouldn't that be a hoot, battling Iran, which is no weakling country as Iraq was and remains, but having Iraqi forces turn on American forces because bush feels like he, still in his "god complex", must bomb Iran at any costs.

bush has already bankrupted us with this ridiculously expensive Iraqi Oil War, to the tune of over 3 TRILLION dollars, and I would wager that bush would spend another three trillion if he attacks Iran.Our military is being rapidly and dangerously depleted, and I don't believe our forces in Iraq could sustain themselves against a dual attack from Iranian and Iraqi forces.

Our country would suffer a multitude of terrorist attacks by from Hamas, the Quds Force, and loyal Iranian sleeper cells already, undoubtedly, in place here in America and around the world should we attack Iran.

Congress needs to yank in bush's chain, forbid an attack on Iran, reduce defense spending that is destroying the "Age of America," and get back down to the business of taking care of the American people and their needs here at home.

I have said it before and I will always maintain that we could have BOUGHT all the oil under Iraq for less than this senseless war will cost in lives and treasure, and attacking yet another Muslim country that poses no threat to America will just reinforce the Muslim worlds belief that America is truly on a new crusade to wipe out Muslims, compounding all our problems exponentially by several orders of magnitude.

bush needs to be hamstrung. Congress should stop action on any bill even resembling authorization or payment of more money for war.

If it were explained to the country by congress that their intent was to hamstring bush, leaving him impotent to pursue war, I believe they would be supported by the vast, vast majority of Americans who are also sick unto the point of death with bush's reckless and dangerous foreign policies and lust for eternal war and American hegemony.

Cross-posted from VidiotSpeak and Edgeing

There's more: "This makes me want to shout, "What a lying, cheap, ridiculous cop-out!"" >>

Politics: The Drumbeat For War in Iran

Persian Gulf regional map

Attention, people! The Bush/Cheney Misadministration is starting the drums beating for a war with Iran. Seymour Hersh warned us about this two years ago. Now that the elections are only six months away, what better present could the crooks and thugs in power deliver to John McInsane's presidential ambitions than to start yet another war?

Here's the evidence: Yesterday (April 11th, 2008), the Times told us that "new satellite photographs" have uncovered a secret launch site in Iran for long-range missiles. Iran has always claimed that this site and the launches therefrom are part of their civilian space program, by the way.

Yesterday (April 11th, 2008), AP informed us that a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Typhoon, trespassing in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf (in order to access which body of water, vessels must first pass through the Straits of Hormuz, Iranian waters) "encountered"

... a small Iranian high-speed boat in the central Persian Gulf and warned it away by firing a flare, the Pentagon said Friday.

Two other similar Iranian boats in the area did not come as close.

The USS Typhoon tried unsuccessfully to establish radio contact with the Iranian boat after it came within an estimated 200 yards of the Typhoon on Thursday, outside Iranian territorial waters. A Navy official said the ship then fired the flare and continued on its way without incident.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there were no signs any boat was armed.
Question: How exactly did the USS Typhoon "try unsuccessfully" to establish radio contact? Do they have Farsi speakers on board? Or was it the old tourist stratagem of "If they don't speak English just shout louder and slower"?

The Iranian authorities are claiming that there was no incident.

Today (April 12th, 2008), in the WahPoo, Staff Writer Karen deYoung tells us that Robert Gates, General Betrayus, and Ambassador Ryan Crockoshit have determined that Iran is the biggest threat to Iraq.

Consider this: Iraq is majority Shi'a. Iran is majority Shi'a. They are two of the very few majority Shi'a nations in the Islamic world.

The Sunni tribes of Iraq form the backbone of the "insurgency," about which not word one has been said of late. Saudi Arabia, home of Gee Dumbya's good friends, is Sunni. The Saudis follow the fundamentalist Wahhabiya flavour of Islam. Most of the hijackers who destroyed the twin towers were Saudi nationals.

Which of these players poses a greater threat to the U.S.?

We're fairly confident that, if asked, the Shi'a majority in Iraq would gladly embrace Iran as good friends and allies. It wasn't that long ago that Iranian President Ahmedi Nejad was greeted with flowers on an official visit to his good friend Nouri al-Maliki.

Don't let Gee Dumbya and his gang of thugs lie us into another war.

Crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat

There's more: "Politics: The Drumbeat For War in Iran" >>

Friday, April 11, 2008

"He is Iraq's Katrina itself"

Just as New Orleans's Ninth War will still be a moonscape when Bush goes out of office, so will Iraq.

Sadly, it's looking less, and less, likely that we will see him exit the White House, handcuffed, in a perp walk - as he so richly deserves.

Mostly due to a brain-dead, Constitution-blinders-firmly-affixed-Congress (How big an outcry from our elected representatives have you heard about the bombshell news the other day, that the torture program was choreographed directly out of the Bush Grindhouse?), he gets to wear his real, and proverbial, flightsuit and play "The Commander Guy" for a number of dwindling months.

And inhabiting the Unreality Bubble he has ensconced himself in, Lord knows what further havoc he will reek.

Especially when he's running his policy speeches up the Neocon flagpole, before he gives them.

Wants to make sure, I suppose, there's enough warmongering in it.

Juan Cole writes/reports one of the best blogs on what's happening in Iraq (and the policies behind it; Another good one is Abu Aardvark).

Cole nails the Bush Legacy;
War turns Republics into dictatorships. The logic is actually quite simple. The Constitution says that the Congress is responsible for declaring war. But in 2002 Congress turned that responsibility over to Bush, gutting the constitution and allowing the American Right to start referring to him not as president but as 'commander in chief' (that is a function of the civilian presidency, not a title.)

So Congress abdicated to Bush. Bush has abdicated to the generals in the field.

That is not a Republic. That is a military dictatorship achieved not by coup but by moral laziness.

And, as Gene Robinson notes today, the Bush Grindhouse, cluelessly, is going through the motions, to pass this mess on to the next president.
Of course, Bush long ago lost any credibility with Congress and the American people on Iraq. It's understandable that he hides behind Petraeus's breastplate of medals and Crocker's thatch of gray hair, sending these loyal and able public servants to explicate the inexplicable: What realistic goal is the United States trying to achieve in Iraq? And in what parallel universe is this open-ended occupation making our nation safer?

Even the most basic question of any war is undefined: Who is the enemy? It was almost painful listening to Petraeus as he faced reporters yesterday and was asked whether Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army were friend or foe. His tortured answer, translated into English, was yes.

But thanks to Cole today, the Legacy Shopping is over.
Ironically, what officers like Petraeus need from Bush is not deference but vigorous leadership in the political realm. Bush needs to intervene to work for political reconciliation in Iraq if Petraeus's military achievements are to bear fruit. But Bush seems incapable of actually conducting policy, as opposed to starting wars. Bush happened to Iraq just as he happened to New Orleans. He cannot do the hard work of patiently addressing disasters and ameliorating them. He just wants to set people to fighting. Crush the Sadr Movement, perhaps the most popular political movement in Iraq? He's all for it. Risk provoking a wider conflagration in the Middle East by worsening relations with Iran? Sounds like a great idea to him. Bush campaigned on being a 'uniter not a divider' in 2000. In fact, he is the ultimate Divider, and leaves burning buildings, millions of refugees, and hundreds of thousands of cadavers in his wake. He is not Iraq's Brownie. He is Iraq's Katrina itself.

Just as New Orleans's Ninth War will still be a moonscape when Bush goes out of office, so will Iraq.


That's a nutshell, alright ... A pretty, darned good nutshell I would say.

Last summer, The Garlic put forth a proposal - and it's still open and viable - that could end this madness.

Please, someone, step up and go for it!

Bonus Links

Amy Goodman: “Iraq Does Not Exist Anymore”: Journalist Nir Rosen on How the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Has Led to Ethnic Cleansing, a Worsening Refugee Crisis and the Destabilization of the Middle East

Bob Herbert: The $2 Trillion Nightmare

12 Former Army Captains: The Real Iraq We Knew

Wanted Dead Or ... Ahh, The Hell With It .. I'll Let The Next President Get'em ...

New Bush Export - Preemptive Horseshit!

There's more: ""He is Iraq's Katrina itself"" >>

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Subjects and Verbs in Iraq

This week's status report on Iraq from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker has featured more of the same: the same vaporous platitudes, the same determination to avoid any measureable definition of 'victory.' Apart from a few particulars of dates, names, and places, their claims are the same claims made month after month since at least 2004: things are getting better, but the war/occupation must continue unabated.

Here, Petraeus outlines his policy for Iraq -- funny how an army general seems to be running US foreign policy:

This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable, however, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.

With this approach, the security achievements of 2007 and early 2008 can form a foundation for the gradual establishment of sustainable security in Iraq. This is not only important to the 27 million citizens of Iraq, it is also vitally important to those in the Gulf region, to the citizens of the United States and to the global community. It clearly is in our national interest to help Iraq prevent the resurgence of al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world, to help Iraq resist Iranian encroachment on its sovereignty, to avoid renewed ethnosectarian violence that could spill over Iraq's borders and make the existing refugee crisis even worse, and to enable Iraq to expand its role in the regional and global economies. [emphases mine]
Note the subjects and verbs in that boilerplate, several of which I've bolded: there are tasks the US has accomplished and many more Petraeus expects the US to accomplish. Nothing is clearly expected of Iraq's government -- the idea of benchmarks serving as enforcement mechanisms for the surge policy is now expressly vacated, exposed for the lie it always was. The purpose of the surge was always to continue the war so that the Bush-Cheney junta would not have to work out a responsible exit. The point was always to kick the can down the road to the next president. Dead US troops, dead Iraqis, and vast borrowed outpourings from the treasury are trifles when set against Bush-Cheney's martial virtue.

Iran and al Qaeda are actors in this, and they have been invited to continue draining blood and cash from the US indefinitely. Of course any enemy of the US can play this same game, not just Iran or al Qaeda: if only they find a way to bomb a marketplace, a government building, a stretch of highway, a hospital, a pipeline, a school, a factory, a power plant, or anything else somewhere in Iraq, then the Crocker-Petraeus "security gains" will be thereby proven "fragile," and the rationale for extending the US occupation secured.

crossposted at faith in honest doubt

There's more: "Subjects and Verbs in Iraq" >>

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ambassador Crocker Meets Eddie Izzard

Or, "The Lord almighty came down and sat in the middle of the table there and said ‘Mr. Ambassador you can eliminate every Al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or every Al Qaeda personnel in Iraq,’ which would you pick?"

Sometime ago (nearly two-years) the Friedman Unit, after ol' Lead-Luvin' Tom, was established, designating the term to mark six-months as a unit of time for things to turn around in Iraq.

So, with the Golden Boy, General Petraeus yesterday, once again, calling for extra time, now 45-days (to evaluate things after they stop the troop pulldown), the question to be asked is what do you call it, in relation to the Friedman Unit.

The Petraeus Pint?

The Petraeus Horseshoe (both for his sunny optimism, and with a nod to Colt 45 Malt Liquor)?

The Bush Grindhouse's marketing seminar didn't go so well

In fact, if it were a sporting event, say, a basketball game, the various Senators can retire to the bench, and bring in the second team scrubs to mop up.

We have heard, for years, the bedrock principle for our being in Iraq (keep in mind, this has shifted many times), was that Iraq was the "Central Front on the War on Terror".

It was Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, all the time.

If we moved one inch away from Iraq, teams of Al Qaeda would swoop in to that inch, and build a metropolis of terror in it.

Hell, even announcing that we would move that one inch out of Iraq, brought sordid tales of Al Qaeda, impatiently waiting at the border, moving van engines running.

Well, that got blown out of the water yesterday, and not by some "defeatocrat" or anybody "Feeling morally, intellectually confused?"

No, it came from the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.

From Think Progress;

SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is Al Qaeda a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?

AMB. CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, Al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is, in my view–

SEN. BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you could take it out? You had a choice: Lord almighty came down and sat in the middle of the table there and said ‘Mr. Ambassador you can eliminate every Al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or every Al Qaeda personnel in Iraq,’ which would you pick?

AMB. CROCKER: Well given the progress that has been made again Al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities, the fact that it is solidly on the defensive, and not in a position of–

SEN. BIDEN: Which would you pick, Mr. Ambassador?

AMB. CROCKER: I would therefore pick Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

SEN BIDEN: That would be a smart choice.

Think Progress also has the video of it, so check it out;

And that brings us to our Eddie Izzard moment.

Writing in Salon today is Mark Benjamin, with "Sizing up Petraeus on Iraq; The top U.S. general gave Congress an upbeat assessment of the war Tuesday. Here's the reality behind the rhetoric".

And there's this gem;

Claim: The Iraqis have redesigned their flag -- which is a big deal because it suggests that Iraq is pulling together as a nation and that things will turn out well.

Crocker: "In January, a vote by the Council of Representatives to change the design of the Iraqi flag means the flag now flies in all parts of the country for the first time in years."

We now turn it over to Mr. Izzard.

Eddie Izzard - Do you have a flag?

Time to cue up Que Sera Sera...

Bonus Through The Looking Glass Links

Ezra Klein: A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy; Our nation's favorite comic book hero might have had the right idea: Use power sparingly and judiciously

Barry Crimmins: Prevarication Nation

Robert Scheer: Everything His President Wants to Hear

Nicole Belle/C&L: The Situation Room: Michael Ware On Who Wields Power In Iraq

"What If Spartacus Had To Account For 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols ..."

Tom Engelhardt: Launching Brand Petraeus

There's more: "Ambassador Crocker Meets Eddie Izzard" >>

"The Real News" About Iraq And Foreign Policy

Did Petraeus Part Ways With The Neocons?
The Real Story examines General Petraeus' testimony and the contending forces in Iraq

McCain's "war on terror" remix
The Real News Network does a first take on McCain's foreign policy view

There's more: ""The Real News" About Iraq And Foreign Policy" >>

Iraq Head-Lines...

PETRAEUS: Iraq Security Improved, but `Fragile, Reversible’
There is a method to it, a scheme that leaches,
Oozing ugliness from the general’s lips.
It burns my anxious ears and disbelieving eyes.
I hear Gaspar Noe’s `Irreversible’,
See the weight of its cruel cacophony.

U.S. FORCES clash with Iraq militia
Boil burn boil burn boil burn `n bubble
Extremists unfound in this capricious mix
Citizens hunched, resentment

AL-SADR calls for million-Iraqi rally against U.S.
One million liberated flora marching
To our one hundred forty thousand
More than enough blooms

NATO BACKS Bush's European Missle Shield
Again with the ideas shielding pragmatism
Roar of incoming freedom haters
Hiss of outbound liberators

CLERIC Suspends Battle in Basra by Shiite Militia
They say it’s the thickness of blood
That shapes our hearts…
All this dissolving.

TRACKING a Marine Lost at Home
He was looking for home
When eyes returned
Murdered occasion.

DESTROYING Torture Tapes - Freeing themselves from serious legal trouble
A shrieking pale
Is and shall be the ghosts haunting the masters of this
Frame by frame

MCCAIN warns of Iraq genocide
And there he was
Hunched like a sniper, crowd of microphones, a glazed, suffering face
Of one who knows not where they are

BUSH LAUDS pace of Iraq progress
Something is missing
Which explains such optimism, his legendary dim sightedness
I say this as it would be shameful not to mention his strengths

FIGHTING IN BASRA sets off clashes throughout Iraq
Misery shuffled like a deck of cards without aces
Game long over, playing on
Keen to craving power

There's more: "Iraq Head-Lines..." >>

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Somebody Should Ask John McCain Why

AP/Mary Altaffer

he won't release his medical records, despite repeated requests, says Raw Story.

Senator McCain, you're in your 70s. Your grandfather died young (61 years), your father died at the age of 70, relatively young also. You've had repeated bouts of a particularly lethal form of cancer:

In 1993, McCain had a cancerous mole removed from his shoulder that proved to be melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to medical records he released in December 1999 when he was diagnosed with a recurrence [emphasis ours, Ed.] of the disease.

Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, blamed for 7,700 deaths annually in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization also notes that 47,700 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
The Wall Street Journal says McCain's had four melanomas removed.

And you were tortured as a POW. You have to release your records. It's not an option for you. People, if the man does not release his medical records and his tax records, how can you vote for him? We're no spring chickens here at La Casa de Los Gatos, and we know the impact aging has had on our health.

And what about mental functioning? Eight years of a dumbkopf in the highest position in the land &mdash a man who can't string eight words into a correct sentence &mdash is plenty enough. Every time we walk into a room and find ourselves thinking, "Now, what did I come here for?" we wonder if that's what is making McCain repeatedly confuse Sunni with Shi'a, and putting al Qaeda in training in Iran, and telling undoubtedly horrified Israelis that Purim is the Jewish version of fucking Halloween, wouldja believe? And we're decades younger than that old fart.

You can't be serious, Senator. You owe it to voters to let them know if you're suffering from something that will make you hit the wrong button at the wrong time. If you can't keep yourself from hitting Rick Renzi, how can we trust you alone with Hu Jintao or Vladimir Putin? Assuming, of course, that you can remember who they are.

In other, more heartening, news, ABC's Martha Raddatz apparently found only one McCain supporter among the troops in Iraq, although she implied that there may be more. (Sure. They're probably Stateside already.) And this was after Snarly McCrashcart showed up to give his rah-rah talk on how they goddamned well volunteered for the fucking war and they could just fucking fuck themselves and stay there till Der Leader was good and ready for what remained of them to come home. Yeah, fuck you too, Dick. Send your worthless taxpayer-titsucking daughters to the frontline, why don't you? Surely they don't have "other priorities," do they? Video clip of Dick at Raw Story, in case you need to go on a diet.

Incidentally, it appears as if the vultures of the press, always ready to attack Hillary Clinton for any reason they can think of (boobs! She has boobs! Cackle! She cackles! crying! She CRIED! &mdash whatever, you worthless turds) haven't said word one about McCain's dragging his feet on releasing either his medical records or his tax records. Senator Clinton has released her tax records; Senator Obama released his a long time ago. Senator McCain, how about you step up to the plate and release yours?

While you're about it, please get your eyes checked. We're aghast at a Reuters headline telling us you "... see Iraq success." What the hell is this success, and where are you seeing it? All we see is about one million dead Iraqis, 2-3 million Iraqi refugees, Iraqi women forced into prostitution to feed their families and murdered for failing to adhere to sufficiently oppressive dress codes, millions of wounded and maimed Iraqi men, women, and children, over four thousand dead Americans, thirty or forty thousand wounded American troops, and goodness knows how many psychologically destroyed human beings. If this is your definition of success, perhaps we shouldn't allow you within a mile of the nuclear button. We're thinkin' you'd feel positively successalicious if you could press it and blow all of us up.

For those of you who think "success" means your friends, relatives, and fellow-citizens return pronto with all limbs intact, here's a petition you can sign to end the war in Iraq.

For those of you who'd like to impeach the sanctimonious, smarmy shits who are responsible for all that death and suffering, check out this PDF, sign it, encourage your neighbours and friends and relatives to sign it, and send it to the appropriate Congresscritter.

Somebody should ask McCain and that "ass-kissing chickenshit" (Admiral Fallon's words) General Betrayus whether success includes thousands of the people you trained taking their training and their weapons over to the other side.

Crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat.

There's more: "Somebody Should Ask John McCain Why" >>

Monday, April 7, 2008

Crunchtime In America: An Interview With Jared Bernstein

Crossposted from Intrepid Liberal Journal

How many economists have you read or watched on television in recent years that claimed the economy was performing well while you struggled to make ends meat and keep up with the cost of living? Indeed, until recently a happy talk virus had infected a cabal of conservative plutocrats who preached the virtues of limited regulation, market forces and free trade as wages declined and predatory lenders had a party. It seemed we were hearing conservative politicians and their mouthpieces at the Heritage Foundation or Fox news refer to the economy as “the greatest story never told” at every opportunity.

Now that the housing and credit crisis has metastasized, conservative apparatchiks are fighting to minimize government intervention on behalf of regular folks while preserving corporate welfare. They accuse anyone who raises a fuss of waging class warfare. Instead these agents of the status quo prefer we erroneously obsess about Social Security going bust and agree to privatize it for Wall Street's benefit.

Thankfully, renowned economist and the director of the Living Standards Program for the Economic Policy Institute, Jared Bernstein is using his megaphone to fight the madness. With his new book, Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Economic Mysteries), Bernstein responds to dozens of questions asked by working Americans that relate to the dollars and cents concerns of real people. Bernstein who often appears as a commentator on CNBC wrote in the preface of his book that,

“I’m tired of being stuck in the studio engaging in rants with Darth Vaders with PhDs. Wouldn’t it be more useful to have an open-ended, rant-free dialogue with real, everyday people about their economic questions.”
With Crunch, Bernstein effectively validates the daily experience of working people struggling to keep up in a treadmill economy. He also adroitly writes with accessible prose and powerful anecdotes to both educate readers about economic nuances and empower them to influence politics in a more populist direction. Bernstein contends that the rich and powerful have as much influence on who benefits from the economy as the will of the market. He therefore hopes to inspire readers not to cede any more ground to the practitioners of hyper individualism at the expense of the American community.

One of the most memorable anecdotes in Bernstein’s book describes how Circuit City announced it planned to lay off 3,400 sales associates in the spring of 2007 in order to appease their shareholders. Bernstein utilized this anecdote to illustrate how corporate greed is both heartless and self-defeating:
“Talk about in-your face management. I can absolutely see why a firm whose stock was down by a third over the past year would decide to make some big changes. But unless your workforce is truly overpaid, replacing a big chunk of it with lower-paid workers is a recipe for lousier service, fewer sales, and lower profits. At the time, many predicted that after the initial jump, stock prices would sink further. We were wrong, though. They never got that initial bump, and the stock just kept sliding, down 15 percent a few months later (while the overall stock market was up strong).”
It’s that kind of prose that led former North Carolina Senator and populist presidential candidate John Edwards to issue the following praise:
Jared Bernstein’s new book is a must read for everyone who cares about restoring economic fairness in an America with the greatest income inequality since the Great Depression. Drawing on everyday examples, Crunch is an accessible explanation of economic principles presented with equal parts of insight, humor, and stimulation. In the process, Bernstein explains how we got to where we are, what to do to fix it, and why fighting for a fair society is so important.”
An expert on issues of labor and income inequality, he frequently testifies on Capitol Hill. Bernstein is also the co-author of eight editions of The State of Working America and he posts frequently on Josh Marshall’s blog, TPM Café. Longtime readers/listeners of the Intrepid Liberal Journal may recall an interview he did for this blog after his book, All Together Now: Common Sense For A Fair Economy was published in 2006.

Bernstein agreed to a podcast interview over the telephone about his current book and the current challenges confronting the American economy. Our conversation was approximately forty-eight minutes and among the issues covered includes the housing and credit crisis, needed regulatory reform, healthcare, globalization, Social Security, America’s investment deficit and free trade. Please refer to the media player below.

This interview can also be accessed for free by searching for “Intrepid Liberal Journal” on Itunes.

There's more: "Crunchtime In America: An Interview With Jared Bernstein" >>

Calling Obama's & Clinton's bluff; stop the war NOW

Another good idea undoubtedly doomed to fail, but worth the effort to try:

Military Families Speak Out is challenging U.S. Senators -- starting with two named Obama and Clinton -- to filibuster and stop President Bush's request for more money for the Iraq war and occupation, another $102-billion.

Democrats aren't even talking about saying no.

The Democrats' plan appears to be to load up the bill with more domestic spending, rather than trying to stop the war spending. They want to add money for everything from storm-damaged national parks to local law enforcement grants to trying to use nuclear fusion to produce energy, CQ reports.

Instead of trying to stop the war, they've written Bush a letter, politely suggesting that he should change his strategy and plans. Right. That'll be happening any day now, no doubt.

Military Families Speak Out has a simple idea: Stop the war by refusing to fund it. That, you may recall, is how we finally got out of Vietnam.

They start by quoting Obama and Clinton, then ask them a simple question:

"Let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year - now." -- Sen. Barack Obama, September 12, 2007

"Our message to the president is clear. It is time to begin ending this war -- not next year, not next month -- but today." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, July 10, 2007

On the campaign trail, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton both say that the war in Iraq needs to end. Military Families Speak Out has one question for them: what are they doing now as sitting United States Senators, to bring our loved ones home from Iraq?
The petition is simple, too:

Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, you have both said that the time to begin ending the war in Iraq is now. As sitting Senators, you have that power in your hands. President Bush cannot spend a penny on the war without the approval of both houses of Congress.

When the Senate takes up the next war funding bill, we call on you to lead a filibuster, refusing to stand down until your colleagues agree to vote against any bill that continues to fund the war in Iraq rather than funding the swift and safe return of our troops
And their call to action makes a point that some of us have been making for a long time:
Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq now. The President can't spend a dime on this war without the approval of both houses of Congress.

A single act of bold leadership by Senator Clinton or Senator Obama could be instrumental in ending this war. When the Senate takes up the next war funding bill, either one of them could lead a filibuster, refusing to stand down until their colleagues agree to vote against any bill that provides funding to continue the war rather than funding specifically for the swift and safe return of all our troops from Iraq. They wouldn't even need a majority of their colleagues to back them up -- all they need is 40 Senators prepared to unite behind their leadership and block additional funding to continue the war from making it through the Senate.
The Senate Democrats' excuse for inaction has been that it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, so they have held some test votes, gotten less than 60, and moved on to the next topic.

It doesn't take 60 votes to stop funding. It takes 41.

Are there 40 Senators who would stand with an Obama or a Clinton -- or maybe a Russ Feingold? -- and refuse to cut off debate?

I'm afraid we know the answer.

Democrats will be too frightened that someone will claim they are "against the troops." If you're "for the troops", you leave them there to be killed and to kill more Iraqis.

Are Military Families Speak Out against the troops? Hardly, since this is who they are:
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones currently in the military or who have served in the military since the buildup to the Iraq war in fall of 2002. Our membership currently includes over 3,700 military families, with new families joining daily.
I hope some Senator will stand up on this. If nothing else, it would provide a good gut-check roll call that would tell us who really wants to end the war and who wants to posture about it.

There's more: "Calling Obama's & Clinton's bluff; stop the war NOW" >>

2008 Elections: McInsane and Iraq

Muhannad Fala'ah /Getty Images

John McCain announced today that Iraq is approaching normalcy. What era is he living in? What drugs is he on?

McCain gave a relatively optimistic appraisal of the situation in Iraq, saying that the recent reductions in violence have returned the country to something "approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi."
Before the invasion in 2003, the average Iraqi suffered from the sanctions that were imposed on Iraq, but as a rule, they could go through an entire day, a week, a month &mdash sometimes even a year &mdash without having to pick up pieces of dead relatives, neighbours, or friends.

And, in fact, The Australian reports that rocket attacks today on the Green Zone in Baghdad and a U.S. military base in Baghdad killed 3 U.S. soldiers and injured 31. Correct us if we're wrong, but we were under the impression that it is not considered "normal" to have rocket and mortar attacks on the Green Zone.

Does the mainstream media even pick up on this shit? Here's this doddering old fool who can't tell a Sunni from a Shi'a after five fucking years of war. He's a fucking Senator, fer crisake, not some shit-shoveler in the George W. Bush Memorial Sewage Plant of San Francisco (no offense to shit-shovelers anywhere, but it's not in your job description to know the warring parties in wars your government starts).

He's accusing Iran of training al Qaeda in Iraq fighters. That would be a handy-dandy thing to do, given that Iran is Shi'a and aQI is Sunni and the two sects are as close to mortal enemies as it gets in the Middle East. Someone ought to let the old fool know that aQI is most likely getting its money, guns, and training from Sunni Saudi Arabia, home of the hardline fundie Wahabi school of Islamic thought and good buddies of McCain's old friend George Dubya.

Meanwhile, Jason Linkins writes in the Huffington Post that ambulatory slimebag Patrick McHenry (Repulsive-Nauseating Conman), who recently made a trip to Iraq on the taxpayer dime and called a serviceman a "two-bit security guard" as a way of showing his support for the troops, may have endangered U.S. troops. No doubt as a way of showing his support. Very supportive fellow, McHenry.

Pam's House Blend notes that Rep. McHenry supports sleepovers at his house involving studly young NOT-GAY college students involved in some sort of voting scandal. There's also plenty of sleaze involving gay prostitution, which resulted in some sort of love triangle murder in Florida.

This blog actively supports gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, and all-around QUEER folk. But we wonder why so many Republicans appear to be gayer than larks, yet actively working against LGBTQ rights, and so deeply closeted they're pooping hangers. C'mon, boys and girls, step out of your closet and fucking admit to being who and what you are. No crime, no sin, no shame. It's natural to love whoever your heart tells you to love.

It's not natural to cement the goddamn closet door shut and hate on everyone who refuses to climb in there with you. But his gayishly gay gayness scandals aside, Patrick McHenry may have done a Very Bad Thing, recently. According to Brandon Friedman of VoteVets:
"Only two days after McHenry promoted a video of himself in the Green Zone describing in detail the effectiveness of the rocket attacks on Easter Sunday," Friedman notes, "the area was hit with a barrage that killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded 17 others." Friedman goes on to assert, "The bottom line is that whoever launched that strike could take the information McHenry provided and use it to kill Americans in the Green Zone."

Friedman is far from alone in his concern:
On Saturday, I communicated with one military officer currently in the Green Zone who stated that this was "undoubtedly a violation of OPSEC." On Sunday evening, I spoke with a senior intelligence official in Washington who seemed dumbfounded by McHenry's remarks. Asked whether he considered this a breach of operations security, the official shouted over the phone at me, "Of course! He's helping to dial them in." He meant the people firing the rockets.
It looks like the Republican definition of "support the troops" is "Encourage the dumb fucks to sign up and put their bodies on the line if Der Leader starts a war. Cut vet benefits; if soldiers get injured in the line of duty, force them to pay back any signup bonuses; give military contracts to your buddies so they get rich giving the troops inferior gear; buy lots of yellow plastic magnets made in China or Kazakhstan; yell loudly anytime anyone points out that you're not really helping the troops at all." Very supportive.

Oh, yeah, and work hard to get some senile warmonger elected even as your own country is falling apart because all the money is being funneled into some tiny poor country that never did anything to you and your'n.

We gotta make sure that John McCain doesn't come with an arm's-length of the Presidency; and we gotta kick out of office all these liars, thugs, crooks, and thieves who purport to support while actively harming the military.

In other exciting news, USA Toady (no typo) is reporting that the number of military recruits requiring "conduct" waivers has tripled in the past four years. Great. Find a felon, sign them up, give them weapons training, teach them might is right. Expose them to ongoing physical and psychological trauma, then bring them home and let them loose on the population.

Oh, yeah, most of these people are guilty of "misdemeanors." That means that they were merely setting markers on the road to more disturbed conduct. So it's OK. Just like Pfc Greene, who raped and murdered Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, killed her entire family, and set all their bodies on fire to destroy the evidence of his criminal acts.

Crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat

There's more: "2008 Elections: McInsane and Iraq" >>

A quick hit on something that irritated me

(Cross-posted from Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time.)

Several folks have commented on an exchange between Cokie Roberts and Katrina Vanden Heuvel on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, during which Roberts avowed that "Americans would prefer to win" in Iraq. DDay at Hullabaloo slapped Roberts for

blather[ing] on about what Americans would prefer. Not that she's likely to have talked to anyone who's had to serve in this war or felt the burdens of this war, of course, but she just feels it in her very sensible and serious gut.
In a similar vein, Glenn Greenwald noted it as Roberts being in line with
the bulk of establishment pundits [who] regularly deploy the same method - simultaneously holding themselves out as Spokesmen for the Regular People while showing complete contempt for what they actually think by lying about their views.
He punctuated the last point being by pointing to polls showing in one case that 60% of the public supports sticking to a timetable for withdrawal regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time and in another case that 61% say that the next president should withdraw most US troops from Iraq within a few months of entering office.

Which is good and to the - or at least a - point, but doesn't address what I think is a more basoc point about Roberts' assertion: It is a fundamentally idiotic argument. Not because it's wrong (which it is) and not because it's presumptuous (which it is) but because it tells us absolutely nothing.

"Do you want to win or do you want to lose?" Who the hell is going to say they want to lose? Hey, you're taking a vacation in Las Vegas! Play some slots! Do you want to win or do you want to lose? Your favorite team is playing today! Do you want them to win or do you want them to lose? Do you want your preferred candidate to win or to lose? Any question phrased that way about anything, including Iraq, is going to get a lot of support for "winning."

But particularly in the case of Iraq, unless the question is followed up by asking you what you think constitutes "winning" (which Vanden Heuvel raised, to her credit), what you think are the chances of that happening, what you think it will cost to achieve that end, and if you think the price in blood, treasure, and disruption is worth it, any statement about a "preference" for "winning" is utterly vacuous, devoid of both meaning and useful content. Not that much of what people like Roberts say has either, but this one just ticked me off and I wish that instead of replying by asking "What is winning?" Vanden Heuvel had said "Don't be stupid."

There's more: "A quick hit on something that irritated me" >>

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Frank Rich's Big Mistake on Iraq War and McCain

via MAL Contends
Madison, Wisconsin—Frank Rick has a piece in this morning’s Times arguing that Obama and Hillary “are flat-out wrong” in condemning John McCain for McCain's allegedly having expressed a willingness “… to keep this (Iraq) war going for 100 years,” as the two Democrats on the campaign trail state their desire for withdrawal, contra McCain.

Rich, among the most perceptive columnists today, cites other writers and fact checkers making the same point, including Zachary Roth in the Columbia Journalism Review.

So what are McCain’s words about the U.S. occupation/war made at a town meeting in January, and repeated since?

“Make it a hundred (in Iraq). ... We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as American, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day."

Writes the CJR’s Roth, “It’s clear from this that McCain isn’t saying he’d support continuing the war for one hundred years, only that it might be necessary to keep troops there that long.”


Rich, though he goes on to blast McCain and the Neocon enablers on other points, chides the Democrats on the 100-year war point, writing: “…The sum total of (McCain’s) public record suggests that he could well prolong the war for another century — not because he’s the crazed militarist portrayed by Democrats, but through sheer inertia, bad judgment and blundering.”

What, how again are Hillary and Obama "flat-out wrong"?

McCain predicates his anti-withdrawal position on a lie—that troops can remain in Iraq without being injured, harmed or wounded—and McCain's conclusion, that of a multi-decade-long occupation, should be taken a commitment for a multi-decade-long occupation that will be justified by still more lies.

Video of McCain Saying “10,000 years” in Iraq with permanent bases

If you have US troops in Iraq, they will remain targets. McCain is simply throwing a bone to the public in his conditional reference (taken as fact, and not a lie, without challenge by the fact checkers) to maintain " long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

No doubt, Rich and the fact checkers, having blasted Hillary and Obama for their critiques of McCain, will point to McCain's pursuit of withdrawal, for full context. No, they don't.

Then Rich and company will point to McCain's candid acknowledgement of the Neocon enterprise in Iraq, for full context? No, they don't.

Perhaps Rich and company will at least point to McCain's rejection of permanent bases, a super permanent embassy, and McCain's commitment to Iraqi control over their own natural resources. Wrong again.

Let's acknowledge that McCain's statement is compound-complex and not a model of clarity. Indeed, the statement is predicated on false premises and lies.

But reading Rich and the fact checkers we are to believe ".... only that it might be necessary to keep troops (in Iraq) that long,” (Roth) and that "...(McCain’s) public record suggests that he could well prolong the war for another century ... through sheer inertia, bad judgment and blundering;” (Rich); but Hillary and Obama's charges that McCain wants to keep the war going for 100 years are nevertheless bogus.

What has happened to Rich and Roth on this one?

Bush, McCain and Neocons don't want out; they want a client oil state, and they will commit troops there as long it takes to establish such a geopolitical agent, while spewing the WMD, al Qaeda, regional stability, and whatever other justification they come up with for however long this Neocon propaganda will hold up.

So Obama and Hillary are spot-on to blast McCain for his 100-year, one-million-year (whatever time comes to his mind) idiocies.

Their criticism accurately reflects his anti-withdrawal commitment and accurately reflects his pro-war statement.

Again, McCain predicates his anti-withdrawal position on lies—that troops can remain in Iraq without being injured, harmed or wounded, (and let's not forget that al Qaeda and Islamofascism are the threat in Iraq)—and McCain's conclusion, that of a multi-decade-long occupation, should be taken a commitment for a multi-decade-long occupation that will be justified by still more lies.

Rich and the fact checkers ought to give this affair a rethink.

There's more: "Frank Rich's Big Mistake on Iraq War and McCain" >>