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September 29, 2007

New Group Boasts Big War Chest and Rising Voice - New York Times

Re: New Group Boasts Big War Chest and Rising Voice - New York Times:

“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”

To that would have required merely the “inconvenience” of violating Germany's sovereignty to kill someoe for his writings.  There being a big difference between speech and action.  Only once the speech is put into action is there action to be taken.  And only when that mounts to a level of national threat does it allow the threatened country to intervene.

That is, unless you are violating American treaties and laws of war and are no longer a member of the U.N. or the civilized nations of Earth, as these wackos apparently suggest.

“Ideologically, we are inspired by much of Ronald Reagan’s thinking — peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise,” Mr. Fleischer said.

To establish your “conservative” credentials, you have to first pay homage to Reagan.  To interpret this doublespeak given the reactionary neoconservative worldview as shown with Iraq, etc, they are saying: peace through bombing & torture, protect & defend by spying on Americans in violation of the Constitution and attacking other countries irrespective of their national sovereignty, and satisfying greed through redirecting government to support cronies.

For years, the group’s founders [a dozen wealthy conservatives] lamented MoveOn’s growing influence, derived in large part from its grass-roots efforts, especially on the debate about the Iraq war. “A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious,” said Mr. Sembler, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”

In conservative circles these days “grassroots” apparently means a dozen multi-millionaires.

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September 28, 2007

Clinton: $5,000 for Every U.S. Baby - Politics on The Huffington Post

Re: Clinton: $5,000 for Every U.S. Baby - Politics on  The Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 “baby bond” from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Clinton, her party's front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home,” she said.

This is a pretty lame, “third-way” economic policy hokum from DC think-tank/consultant types.  In aggregate, a $5,000 per baby bond would be expensive, yet the result would have limited value to the bond holder.  It assumes innumeracy of Americans to think that a $5,000 bond would have great value by the time a newborn graduates from high school.  If the bond value increases on average about 7% per year, it doubles roughly every 10 years.  So by time that baby has reached 18, it has doubled less than twice.  In other words, it would now be worth less than $20,000 ... before inflation.  In inflation-adjusted terms, at say, 3%, it would be worth about $10,000.

To put that in other terms, it would pay for less than half of a car, a year or less of health insurance, wouldn't cover half the down payment for a house, it would cover one year of room and board and plane ticket to college but no tuition, it would cover only about one third of the freshman year of school at a quality liberal arts college.

The US News and World Report College calculator estimates that, if you started with the 5,000 bond, you would need to add over $4400 per year to that bond in order to pay for college:

[For an average 4 year private college], the total projected tuition payments are $151,937 over time, assuming a 5% annual increase. In comparison, if your tuition payments began now, you would be paying a total of $61,520.
You should save $4,414 annually until Student 1 enrolls at Average 4 Year Private College in 2024. Its current tuition is $15,380.

In other words, a $5,000 bond would not be transformative for very many people; it would be a pleasant extra.

Whitewash: Bush Outlines Proposal on Climate Change - New York Times

Re: Bush Outlines Proposal on Climate Change - New York Times:

A White House “fact sheet” declared, for instance, that the United States has invested more than $2.5 billion in clean-coal technology since 2001, and that the administration is committed to helping to build more nuclear power plants without compromising safety.

$2.5B since 2001 = about $0.750B per year.  Which is a few hours of war in Iraq.  Yes, that'll make a big difference in our energy usage and need to guard international oil supplies.  Bush counts on American innumeracy to think he is talking about a big number.

European delegates, in particular, rejected the administration’s insistence that any plan to reduce emissions be voluntary and devised by individual nations rather than as a part of a worldwide treaty. One European representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not wish to publicly embarrass the host, called the meeting a “game” played by the administration to slow momentum toward an international pact.

Precisely!  Exactly how well as Bush's voluntary actions worked out for us in the 7 years of his presidency.  Not!  It is a failed policy that has allowed the problem to fester and grow.

The Senate: Tyranny Of The Tiny Minority

The problem with the Senate:

Re: WorkingForChange: Tyranny Of The Tiny Minority:

Using Census figures, Geoghegan discovers that the 11 percent of Americans living in the least populated states have enough Senate votes — 41 — to sustain a filibuster. Yes, 89 percent of the population may support a policy, but 11 percent of the population has the senators to block that policy's enactment. When you go further than Geoghegan and consider the election-focused mindset of politicians, you see the situation is even more absurd.

Lawmakers trying to keep their jobs only need support from a majority of those who turn out to vote. In those 21 least populated states with filibuster power, that majority is typically about 7 million voters, based on turnout data. That's just 3 percent of America's total voting-age population wielding enough Senate representation to stop almost anything.

Casey tells Congress Army is stretched too thin - The Boston Globe

The weakening of our national security in order to prop up the Republicans occupation of Iraq:

Re: Casey tells Congress Army is stretched too thin - The Boston Globe:

The Army's top officer, General George Casey, told Congress yesterday that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict - one of the strongest warnings yet from a military leader that repeated deployments to war zones in the Middle East have hamstrung the military's ability to deter future aggression.

This needs to be a key focus of the debate about ending the Iraq Occupation: it is diminishing our capability to respond to crises throughout the world.  Place the Iraq debate in the larger national security context.

The strain on the Army has been growing steadily since Bush sent troops into Iraq in 2003 - the longest sustained combat for an all-volunteer American force since the Revolutionary War. The Pentagon and military analysts have documented the signs of the breakdown: serious recruiting problems, an exodus of young officers, and steadily falling readiness rates of nearly every stateside unit.

Casey's testimony yesterday sent a clear message: If President Bush or Congress does not significantly reduce US forces in Iraq soon, the Army will need far more resources - and money - to ensure it is prepared to handle future security threats that the general warned are all but inevitable.

Of course this is part of the Republican plan: creating a long-term war and its attendant costs so as to “starve the beast” of government for social progress.  One might note that Bush's additional supplemental request for the military of over $40B just for this year, would fund the SCHIP program he dislikes for more than five-years.  Coincidence?

As we look to the future, national security experts are virtually unanimous in predicting that the next several decades will be ones of persistent conflict,“ Casey told the panel, citing potential instability caused by globalization, humanitarian crises, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
A major risk for the future, however, is that the Army currently spends nearly all of its time training for counterinsurgency operations - ”to the detriment of preparedness“ for other types of combat, Casey testified. If troops don't continue to train, their skills ”will atrophy over time.“

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September 27, 2007

Runaway (Spending) Train - New York Times

Re: Runaway (Spending) Train - New York Times:

...the additional $42.3 billion [in “emergency” funding for Iraq and Afghanistan] may just register as a few more zeros on the bottom line of a staggeringly big bill. But it’s more than enough to cover the five-year $35 billion proposal for children’s health-care coverage that Mr. Bush has threatened to veto.

Re: The Mayfield decision

Hat-tip to Ridenbaugh Press » The Mayfield decision for highlighting this beautiful judicial statement by Judge Aiken in the Mayfield decision:

... the constitutionally required interplay between Executive action, Judicial decision, and Congressional enactment, has been eliminated by the FISA amendments. Prior to the amendments, the three branches of government operated with thoughtful and deliberate checks and balances - a principle upon which our Nation was founded. These constitutional checks and balances effectively curtail overzealous executive, legislative, or judicial activity regardless of the catalyst for overzealousness. The Constitution contains bedrock principles that the framers believed essential. Those principles should not be easily altered by the expediencies of the moment.

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Failure of Democratic Leadership

It isn't lack of an impeachment effort.

It isn't ineptitude in managing filibusters so votes look like Democratic failure instead of Republican obstruction.

It isn't not the failure to redirect the war so we can rebuild the military and provide durable national security instead of policing a civil war within our occupation of Iraq.

It isn't the caving on FISA.

It isn't the ratcheting up of war rhetoric against Iran to provide cover for an attack to the administration and its Republican enablers.

It isn't the lack of strategy.

It isn't the inability to develop message control.

It isn't the craven support of Republican hypocritical denunciation of MoveOn while  also ignoring he more aggressive and substantive Swiftboating and attack on Max Cleland and calling Democrats traitors.

But it is all of it.

Harry Reid is letting the Republicans backseat drive the Senate.  He is incompetent.

Quit whining we don't have the votes and instead show the leadership to create the conditions to get the backing of the public and go get the votes.  Force them to make painful choices.  Don't wait for the Republicans to give you the votes -- I mean, really, how well has that worked so far for you?

We need to replace Harry Reid as Majority Leader, say with Jim Webb.

Miles Mogulescu: A Hard Day to be a Progressive Democrat - Politics on The Huffington Post

What we need in the Senate is to replace Majority leader Harry let-the-Republicans-backseat-drive Reid, with someone smart, forceful, focused and isn't easily snookered, like Jim Webb.  Here's Webb's view of the craven Iran Is Our Enemy “sense of the Senate” resolution:

Re: Miles Mogulescu: A Hard Day to be a Progressive Democrat - Politics on  The Huffington Post:

As Democratic Sen. Jim Webb (a former Secretary of the Navy under Pres. Reagan) pointed out on the Senate floor, there are 180,000 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which is part of the Iranian state's organized military.  If they are attacking the United States, that would make them an attacking army, not a terrorist organization. The response to an attacking army is to attack them back. But Sen. Webb questioned the evidence on the extend of Iranian military involvement in Iraq.  Sen.Webb noted that American ally Saudi Arabia supplies the plurality of foreign insurgents and the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq today.  Moreover, he pointed out that in the Vietnam War, in which he personally fought, China was a nuclear power bordering Vietnam that spouted a lot of anti-American rhetoric and supplied arms to the North Vietnamese who were fighting American troops. “We engaged China aggressively, through diplomatic and other means. And we have arguably succeeded, along with the rest of the world community, in bringing China into a proper place in the world community.” When cool heads and clever diplomacy is called for in dealing with Iran, a majority of Senate Democrats supported an inflammatory resolution that handed Bush and Cheney Congressional cover for military action against Iran.

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September 26, 2007

Re: Clifford D. May on Iraq on National Review Online

Re: Clifford D. May on Iraq on National Review Online:

The U.S. is now being challenged militarily in Iraq by both al Qaeda and Iran. Does anyone really believe it is not in the U.S. interest to win these battles?

Well, now, if we weren't in Iraq anymore, they couldn't really be fighting us there now, could they?

Does anyone honestly think it would not be a significant defeat for the U.S. to be driven from Iraq by al Qaeda suicide car-bombers and militias armed, trained and directed by Iran?

Oh, I get it.  It is about pride and not being “defeated”, not about whether it is in our total national interest to be there -- where we are wearing out our military, running up ungodly deficits, starving American finances from tackling healthcare reform, global warming, and ... bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

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