Update 4/13/08: Wow, that got pulled in a hurry...
...let's try this instead (not bad, from SNL).
The Bucks County Courier Times tells us today (no link)...
Thumbs Up to the Bush administration for reducing the tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from 15 to 12 months.Ummm - WHAAAA????
We already ask so much of our soldiers, and we're glad to applaud anything that gives them a bit of relief. We're sure that three months less of combat per tour is a welcome change for them and their families.
Last week, (General Richard A. Cody) appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and testified that this method of engineering (tasking our military to fight terrorism, quell the Taliban, invade and pacify Iraq, and, at the same time, prepare for future strategic challenges, whether in China or Korea or Africa all at once) has failed. “Today’s Army is out of balance,” Cody said. He continued:Besides, if George W. Milhous Bush and his Repug cronies gave a damn about the mental and physical well being of our forces, the least they could have done was support Sen. Jim Webb's amendment last year limiting deployments and mandating more downtime before our troops are returned to battle.
The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. . . . Soldiers, families, support systems and equipment are stretched and stressed. . . . Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.
In this environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that General Cody’s plainspoken, valedictory dissent about the Army’s health attracted little attention. His testimony marked a rare public surfacing of the contentious debates at the Pentagon over the strategic costs of the surge. These debates involve overlapping disagreements about doctrine (particularly the importance of counter-insurgency), global priorities (Iraq versus Afghanistan, for instance), and resources. At their core, however, lies Cody’s essential observation: the Army is running on fumes, but (Gen. David) Petraeus and his fellow surge advocates are driving flat out in Iraq, with no destination in sight. It hardly matters whether Petraeus would recommend keeping a hundred and thirty thousand or more combat troops in Iraq for a hundred years, or only ten. Neither scenario is plausible—at least, not without a draft or a radical change in incentives for volunteers.
Flag officers in the Bush Administration’s military have learned that they can be marginalized or retired if they speak out too boldly. The Administration does not romanticize the role of the loyal opposition. Last month, Admiral William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, announced his early retirement, under pressure from the White House, after he argued privately for a faster drawdown from Iraq, to bolster efforts in Afghanistan and to restore a more balanced global military posture. Publicly, Fallon also described the “drumbeat of conflict” against Iran as “not helpful.”
The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn’t re-air a video he'd shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.McHenry pulled the video after Friedman’s post appeared (I would say that the gentleman from North Carolina is a total asshat).
The new criticism stems from a video that was featured on his Web site last Friday. Shot in the Green Zone, it showed McHenry gesturing to a building behind him and saying that one of 11 rockets “hit just over my head.” Then he named two other places struck by the rockets.
On Monday, a veterans group called VoteVets.org accused McHenry of giving away intelligence information that could have aided terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone.
“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,” wrote Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of VoteVets.org, a veterans advocacy group that has called for troop withdrawal and promoted veterans for political office. “This is why professionals operating in a combat zone are trained not to reveal any battle damage after an attack.”
…Speier spoke out about Iraq, and the boos and hoots began from the Republican side of the aisle.All class, those House Repugs (and by the way, in case you'd forgotten, Issa is the fool who once threatened Henry Waxman...and yes, "do you think he really wants to investigate directly" about Blackwater constitutes a threat).
"When will we get out of Iraq?" was the most frequent question she heard, she told the House, while campaigning in the special election she won Tuesday to succeed the late Rep. Tom Lantos.
"The process to bring the troops home must begin immediately," she said, as several Republicans loudly booed. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Vista Republican, bolted from his seat and left the floor.
The hoots grew in volume as Speier, a Hillsborough Democrat, continued....
"Why are they booing my mother?" Speier's middle-school daughter Stephanie asked, according to a staffer.
In his riveting volume In Sickness and In Power, former Foreign Secretary and medic David Owen reviews the health and medication of leaders over the last century. The chapter on Kennedy is jaw-dropping.The review tells us that when Dr. Kraus took over, Kennedy regained his stability (from what the book claims as a bit of incapacitation around the time of the Bay of Pigs, when Kennedy was under Jacobson's "care") enough to lead the nation through the Cuban Missile Crisis, that little dustup Dana Perino didn't know about.
Owen starts by convincingly asserting that Kennedy was much sicker than is commonly appreciated and certainly much sicker than was appreciated at the time. His Addison's disease was very debilitating and needed constant attention.
In particular, without the knowledge of his other doctors and at the same time as they were giving him other drugs, he was being tended to by Max Jacobson, a doctor known as "Dr Feelgood" because of his reputation as a provider of amphetamines and pep pills. In time Jacobson's drug treatment became almost a recreational drug for Kennedy. Jacobson was later struck off.
Owen shows that is quite likely that Dr Feelgood, specially flown to Vienna, injected Kennedy with intravenous amphetamine just before he met Khrushchev.
Then later in the year Dr Hans Kraus took control of Kennedy's medication. He demanded total control and began using massage rather than injections to treat the President.
Reverend John Hagee has called the Catholic Church the "Great Whore." He has said that the Anti-Christ will rise out of the European Union (of course, the Anti-Christ will also be Jewish). He has said all Muslims are trained to kill and will be part of the devil's army when Armageddon comes (which he hopes is soon). John McCain continues to say he is proud of Reverend Hagee's endorsement.Well, then, I'm glad these “men of God” will have an opportunity to communicate these beliefs (with “straight talk” McCain in tow) to an upcoming gathering of their peers, and that would be at the “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College in Harrisburg on Sunday the 13th (noted here).
Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam. Since this is such an outlandish claim, I have to add for the record, that he is not kidding. Reverend Parsley says Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" brought down from a "demon spirit." Of course, we are in a war against all Muslims, including presumably Muslim-Americans. Buts since Parsley believes this is a Christian nation and that it should be run as a theocracy, he is not very concerned what Muslim-Americans think.
John McCain says Reverend Rod Parsley is his "spiritual guide."
Senator McCain has thus far declined the invitation, which is still open.Gosh, I wonder why.
HouseAbstinence programs don’t work anywhere, and certainly not in sub-Saharan Africa, so the logical move is to remove funding for one of Dubya’s pet projects (yet another in a long line of failures). Given that, you just knew Pancake Joe Pitts was going to nix that common sense idea, didn’t you?
HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB. By a vote of 308-116, the House authorized spending $50 billion over five years for U.S. support of global programs to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The bill discontinues a mandate that one-third of AIDS spending be allocated to abstinence programs.
A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 5501).
Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Voting no: Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
HIV/AIDS funding cut. By a vote of 175-248, the House refused to cut the spending authorization in HR 5501 (above) from $50 billion to $30 billion over five years.Typical petty, cheap Repugs and their one-upsmanship (and another gutsy vote by Chris Smith, realizing that trying to save lives in some of the most destitute places on earth is more important than partisan politics)…
A yes vote backed a 40 percent spending cut.
Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton.
Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
SenateAnd just as a reminder, that “60 vote needed for passage” rule is needed because that is the vote total that prevents the automatic filibuster by the Repugs against any Senate action they don’t like (e.g., 60 votes weren’t needed to confirm Mukasey as AG). As a result, the Repugs have already set a record for filibusters in this, the 110th Congress.
Mortgage counseling. In a 44-40 vote, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to double funding in a House bill (HR 3221) for mortgage counseling by nonprofit agencies. The amendment sought to increase the outlay from $100 million to $200 million in order to extend counseling to an additional 250,000 holders of problem mortgages.
A yes vote backed the amendment.
Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
Subprime loans, bankruptcy. Voting 58-36, the Senate killed a measure that sought to give bankruptcy judges authority to change the terms of subprime mortgages on primary residences. The proposal, offered as an amendment to a housing-related bill being debated in the House (HR 3221), would have given the judges power to cut interest rates and principal to help borrowers keep their homes.Here is more on HR 3221; if Carper has a spine, he’ll make it official and change parties to Republican at the end of this session (votes to increase funds for mortgage counseling, then votes against allowing a judge to restructure the terms so it can be paid off - unbelievable; and by the way, he voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, of course).
A yes vote was to kill the amendment.
Voting yes: Carper and Specter.
Voting no: Biden, Casey, Lautenberg and Menendez.
Gulf Coast aid. Voting 74-5, the Senate expanded HR 3221 (above) to include a projected $1 billion for homeowners suffering major losses in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The amendment would fund grants of up to $150,000 designed to narrow the gap between insurance payments and home values.And as we consider the question of $150,000 for homeowners suffering from Katrina and Rita, keep in mind – again – that the Iraq war is costing about $411 million a day (here - and the five cretins who actually voted against this were Jon Kyl, Judd Gregg, Jim DeMint, Bob Corker, and John Barrasso, from here – and I don’t need to mention their political party, do I?).
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey and Menendez.
Not voting: Lautenberg and Specter.
Agencies often could not provide the required paperwork to justify questionable purchases. Investigators also found that federal employees sometimes double-billed or improperly expensed lavish meals and Internet dating for many months without question from supervisors; the charges were often noticed only after auditors or whistle-blowers raised questions.The head of the OMB is Jim Nussle; the following was noted about him from here…
"Breakdowns in internal controls over the use of purchase cards leave the government highly vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse," investigators wrote, calling the government-wide failure rate in enforcing controls "unacceptably high."
"This audit demonstrates that continued vigilance over purchase card use is necessary," the 57-page report stated.
The report calls for the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget, both of which help administer the government's credit-card program, to set guidance to improve accounting for purchased items, particularly Palm Pilots, iPods and other electronic equipment that could be easily stolen.
OMB and GSA were also urged to tighten controls over convenience checks, which are a part of the credit-card program, and to remind federal employees that they will be held responsible for any items if the purchases are later deemed improper.
Half the time he was Budget Committee chairman, Nussle couldn’t even pass a budget -and he played a key role in approving the president’s policies that ran up the debt, mostly to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy. With Nussle at the helm of OMB, Bush’s fiscal policy loses even more credibility.And the head of the GSA is none other than Lurita Doan (pictured) who, as noted here by Think Progress last May, appeared completely befuddled before the Henry Waxman’s House Oversight Committee over whether or not she and/or her employees violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government resources – including employees' time or space in a government building – from being used for partisan politics.
They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it’s going to be the Bad Memory Century. Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate. Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody’s brains, but less of it actually sticks. It’s become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life — to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.Wow, dude, I’m really sorry to hear that. And as if that weren’t enough…
In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.
The dawning of the Bad Memory Century will have vast consequences for the social fabric and the international balance of power. International relations experts will notice that great powers can be defined by their national forgetting styles. Americans forget their sins. Russians forget their weaknesses. The French forget that they’ve forgotten God. And, in the Middle East, they forget everything but their resentments.Well, for a nation that has supposedly “forgotten God,” I believe the story noted here shows some truly honorable compassion in His name…
ABLAIN ST. NAZAIRE, France After 148 Muslim war graves were desecrated on the weekend, Muslims, Christians and Jews prayed yesterday in the Muslim section of the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery in northern France to protest what a local Islamic leader called an "odious and irresponsible act." Abdelkader Aoussedj, deputy head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, said his community was very touched by the "mobilization of national and regional" authorities and by the "marks of sympathy" from other religions. Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders, along with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, have expressed anger at this latest vandalism of Muslim war graves…in France's biggest war cemetery.And BoBo sums up as follows…
As in most great historical transformations, the members of the highly educated upper-middle class will express their suffering most loudly. It is especially painful when narcissists suffer memory loss because they are losing parts of the person they love most. First they lose the subjects they’ve only been pretending to understand — chaos theory, monetary policy, Don Delillo — and pretty soon their conversation is reduced to the core stories of self-heroism.Memo to Clark Hoyt and Andrew Rosenthal of the Times editorial board: is this supposed to be funny? If that’s the intention, then I can tell you that it isn’t.
Their affection for themselves will endure through this Bad Memory Century, but their failure to retrieve will produce one of the epoch’s most notable features: shorter memoirs.
McCain's speech outlined a plan to help struggling homeowners restructure mortgages that have gotten out of control and provide lenders with federal backing to support the new loans. He also called on the Department of Justice to investigate wrongdoing in the mortgage market.Wowsers!
In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years.So…under a John W. McBush presidency (gasp!), how far do you want to bet that those “wrongdoers” would “test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws”?
Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret.
Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.
Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Gay News was pretty upset with Barack Obama here for not accepting an invitation to grant an interview (Hillary Clinton did – “Straight Talk” McCain was invited also…don’t ask).
The Democratic presidential front-runner favors repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays, which was instituted during the Clinton administration. He said his priority for the Joint Chiefs will be that they make decisions to strengthen the military and keep the country safe, not their position on the policy.I got into this a little over a year ago here, but unlike then, there is now hope that we may see a commander-in-chief who lives in the real world and cares foremost about how well our troops serve our country, as opposed to intrusively poking around in an effort to learn about their bedroom habits instead.
"I would never make this a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Obama said in an interview with The Advocate, a gay newsmagazine.
Frank Schaeffer over at The Huffington Post presented the following in which he called for a return of civilian conscription. I would like to reply to some selected passages…
Why don't people protest (John) McCain's lack of patriotism? Because, the all-volunteer military means that civilians have to play the game of military hero worship. Most civilians never volunteer, and so they are hesitant to be critical of military policy articulated by military heroes like McCain.I think it is highly inappropriate to question John McCain’s patriotism in light of his service to our country about 40 years ago, in particular the captivity he endured as a prisoner of war. Besides, there are many other ways McCain can be criticized over his stated perceptions concerning the Iraq war and the policies he support that make him totally indistinguishable from George W. Milhous Bush.
What I didn't know when I started to write on the subject of the military was that I would find that some people in the military perceive themselves as having been forgotten, underrated or disparaged by the larger society, even while at the same time there is a sense of superiority.I think Schaeffer is referring to individuals such as Marine Col. Jessup (think, "you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall!!"), the character portrayed by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” who demanded unquestioning loyalty from his charges and communicated a highly demeaning attitude towards anyone who was not a member of his beloved Corps (or even towards some who were). To say that they thought little of civilians is an understatement.
Problems [in the military] are only exacerbated by the propensity of Congress to micromanage and meddle, by media and academia seething with overt, relentless hostility, by political correctness, and by an irresistible tendency to treat the military as no more than a playpen for social engineering experiments."Schaeffer interprets this as part of the disconnect between civilians and the military, and I would tend to agree with that (particularly regarding the “political correctness” and “social engineering” stuff), though is response Schaeffer tells us…
Civilian leadership of the military is weakened as civilian leaders without military experience are hesitant to tell those with experience what to do, as is in pathetic evidence in Congress, while at the same time people in the military wonder if their civilian leaders have their best interests at heart.At this point, I think it’s time for Schaeffer to remove the phrase “civilian leaders” and replace it with “George W. Bush and the Republican Party.” The Democrats have tried over and over to rein in this renegade, war-mongering cabal on the issue of troop strength, withdrawal timelines and whether or not the Maliki “government” in Iraq has any actual intention of meeting the milestones set for it with the time bought for it to do so by our forces with their talent, bravery, and blood, and in many cases, their lives.
America was founded by farmers, tradesmen, statesmen (and bankers) who were military men when circumstances called for it. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others did not want a country with a military culture, but they expected their countrymen to serve the nation when needed, when asked legitimately, without reservation.That’s actually a good argument for an all-volunteer army, though Schaeffer reaches the directly opposite conclusion…
Progressives need to push for the reintroduction of the draft. It is fair, it is democratic, it will help prevent stupid wars. And that is why people who are determined to start wars don't want the draft back. A draft will confiscate their toys.This is dangerous, willful naiveté of the highest order.
Until recently, newspapers were accustomed to operating as high-margin monopolies. To own the dominant, or only, newspaper in a mid-sized American city was, for many decades, a kind of license to print money. In the Internet age, however, no one has figured out how to rescue the newspaper in the United States or abroad. Newspapers have created Web sites that benefit from the growth of online advertising, but the sums are not nearly enough to replace the loss in revenue from circulation and print ads.Speaking of which, I may give the Inky a pass on this occasion; even though every other Thursday is a “high holy day” with the appearance of Little Ricky and his “Elephant Poop In The Room” column, he is in full “onward Christian soldiers” mode today over the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI (which would be fine if we were talking about the Catholic Standard and Times, which of course we’re not).
Most managers in the industry have reacted to the collapse of their business model with a spiral of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs, and reductions in page size and column inches. Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared. The columnist Molly Ivins complained, shortly before her death, that the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.”
That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising.I have not lost sight of that fact either, by the way; sourcing corporate news organizations is a big part of what I try to do, and I suspect that this site would be considerably less interesting (depending on how interesting one thinks this blog is anyway, I know) if those organizations no longer existed.
Taking its place, of course, is the Internet, which is about to pass newspapers as a source of political news for American readers. For young people, and for the most politically engaged, it has already done so. As early as May, 2004, newspapers had become the least preferred source for news among younger people. According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, thirty-nine per cent of respondents under the age of thirty-five told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just eight per cent said that they would rely on a newspaper. It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper, but that fact is not likely to save any newspaper jobs or increase papers’ stock valuation.
Though Huffington has a news staff (it is tiny, but the hope is to expand in the future), the vast majority of the stories that it features originate elsewhere, whether in print, on television, or on someone’s video camera or cell phone. The editors link to whatever they believe to be the best story on a given topic. Then they repurpose it with a catchy, often liberal-leaning headline and provide a comment section beneath it, where readers can chime in. Surrounding the news articles are the highly opinionated posts of an apparently endless army of both celebrity (Nora Ephron, Larry David) and non-celebrity bloggers—more than eighteen hundred so far. The bloggers are not paid. The over-all effect may appear chaotic and confusing, but, (Kenneth) Lerer (one of HuffPo’s founders) argues, “this new way of thinking about, and presenting, the news, is transforming news as much as CNN did thirty years ago.” Arianna Huffington and her partners believe that their model points to where the news business is heading. “People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous,” she says. “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”I definitely wouldn’t say that about Schaeffer’s post; his arguments show some thought and reflection even though I think he’s fundamentally wrong. But it is fortunate that he can make his case and receive feedback in real time, which is one of the few advantages I would give to online media versus its print counterpart.
Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as “a nation talking to itself.” If only in this respect, the Huffington Post is a great newspaper. It is not unusual for a short blog post to inspire a thousand posts from readers—posts that go off in their own directions and lead to arguments and conversations unrelated to the topic that inspired them. Occasionally, these comments present original perspectives and arguments, but many resemble the graffiti on a bathroom wall.
The notion that the Huffington Post is somehow going to compete with, much less displace, the best traditional newspapers is arguable on other grounds as well. The site’s original-reporting resources are minuscule. The site has no regular sports or book coverage, and its entertainment section is a trashy grab bag of unverified Internet gossip. And, while the Huffington Post has successfully positioned itself as the place where progressive politicians and Hollywood liberal luminaries post their anti-Bush Administration sentiments, many of the original blog posts that it publishes do not merit the effort of even a mouse click.
John McCain's campaign is seizing on Barack Obama’s comments Tuesday night deriding the public financing system for presidential campaigns. A senior McCain adviser calls it the latest signal that the Democratic candidate may abandon a promise to participate in the system, should he become the Democratic nominee.Well, that's about par for the course from the Repugs, I know.
Last week, McCain's campaign returned $3 million in funds received from major donors towards general election expenses, and encouraged them to send the money to the Republican National Committee's Victory Fund instead — one of the strongest signals to date he intends to participate in the public financing system, which prohibits him from receiving those donations from individuals who have already contributed the $2,300 primary season maximum.I have news for you, Dana, based on this; McCain already is participating in the public financing system!
In recent months, a lot of people have been handed financial get-out-of-jail-free cards. C.E.O.s who presided over billions in losses have walked away with tens of millions in compensation. The Federal Reserve has showered cheap money on banks and brokerages. Even Bear Stearns caught a break when, last week, J.P. Morgan agreed to quintuple the price it will pay to take over the firm. But there’s one group for whom forgiveness has not been forthcoming: ordinary consumers struggling with piles of credit-card debt. For them, escaping the burden of their bad decisions and their bad luck has become much harder.And as we know, Dubya promised, not unlike the carney hustler at the circus, that this scheme would “make credit more affordable” …
That’s because of a law that Congress passed (the Bankruptcy Bill), which has made it more difficult for people to write off their debts. Filing for bankruptcy has become much more expensive. More important, while lower income people can still declare Chapter 7, which takes away your assets but then discharges your debts, most middle- and higher-income people now have to declare Chapter 13. That means they have to pay their creditors monthly for five years before they’re free.
So are we (better off)? That depends on your perspective. The law did slash the number of bankruptcies – they fell by sixty-two percent between 2004 and 2006. And the credit-card companies should be happy – their profits rose thirty percent between 2005 and 2007. But the law hasn’t done much for anyone else. Interest rates and credit-card fees have not fallen as promised. And for debtors life has become significantly harder: many can’t afford bankruptcy – strangely enough, it’s possible to be too poor to pay the filing fees – and many others can’t qualify. These people will either spend the next five years having their paychecks garnished or simply muddle along, avoiding debt collectors and accumulating huge interest and late fees on their credit cards.And this Democracy Now! post, including an interview with Dem U.S. House Rep Jim McDermott, tells us…
The core of the bill was written in 1997. The House passed versions of it eight times but it usually stalled in the Senate. When the bill did pass the Senate, then-President Bill Clinton refused to sign it.And speaking of amendments to the Bankruptcy Bill, this incredibly detailed Daily Kos post from March 2005 by Maryscott O’Connor give us a breakdown on how they were defeated in the Senate so the bill in its entirety could be “ramroded” through Congress (as the Washington Post noted at that time – apparently, a moribund journalistic impulse from its editorial board sprung to life - the bill’s “staunchest proponents should be embarrassed that it was muscled through the House in this kind of Potemkin-democracy way. This process-or, more precisely, lack of process-is becoming routine”).
This time around (in ’05), House Republican leaders refused to consider amendments on the floor and voted down a Democratic attempt to return the bill to committee. The amendments would have forced lenders to keep fees in check, expand disclosure, and would have given extra protection to victims of identity theft.
Making it harder for people to discharge their credit-card debts has other drawbacks as well. Homeowners would once do almost anything to keep up their payments on their homes, even if it meant falling behind on other debts. In the past year, though, economists have reported an increase in the number of people who are just walking away from their homes, because it’s now often easier to abandon a mortgage than a credit-card bill. (The practice has even been given a name – “jingle mail,” because people simply send their keys back in an envelope.) So the new law may very well have exacerbated the housing crisis.I know Atrios among others has made that point before now, but it bears repeating - back to Surowiecki...
(During the ‘90s)…a tougher law would have made sense if the U.S. really had been dealing with a crisis. But it wasn’t. While the number of bankruptcies soared, the economy as a whole showed no great signs of strain; it grew briskly, creating millions of new businesses and new jobs. The credit-card companies themselves were doing fine too: between 1995 and 2004, as bankruptcies nearly doubled, their profits nearly tripled. In responding to an imaginary threat, we ended up making the economy less dynamic and less flexible. Now that hard times are here, we may find ourselves with a genuine bankruptcy crisis. But it will be one that Congress created.And how exactly did the three individuals running for president vote on the Bankruptcy Bill? Glad you asked…
To say that this was an inopportune vote for the New York senator to miss is an understatement.
Q Also, how does this latest violence in Iraq and the latest uncertainty about what's going on color the Petraeus-Crocker testimony this time around? It obviously has changed the equation. I mean, weeks ago it looked like the surge was -- you know, had this pretty rosy cast, and now with all this renewed violence, I think it has changed the dynamics. So how has this changed the equation?Meanwhile, Cenk Uygur provides the following dose of reality here...
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think we've thrown out all of the rose-colored glasses in how we look at Iraq, and try to look at it through clear lenses as to what is actually going on in the country. And what is happening there, I think what we are all seeing is that the Iraqi political leadership is trying to take hold of the security for their country. They took a very bold, aggressive action in Basra. It wasn't a overall success, but it -- but we learned a lot about what the capabilities of the Iraqi army are, and we learned a lot -- and maybe this is even the most important thing -- of what the capabilities and intentions of the Iraqi leadership are to go after criminal elements and illegal militias in their country, and to evenly enforce the rule of law across the country.
And that is critically important, and it's something that other political leaders in Iraq have rallied around. Remember what was -- something that was overlooked in here -- I saw a lot of coverage last week about a number of Iraqi soldiers who refused to take part in the Basra action. What didn't get a lot of coverage, but was really significant, was that these were integrated Shia and Sunni Iraqi army units, fighting mainly Shia criminal elements and Shia militia in the Basra region. We also see these same integrated Shia and Sunni units fighting Sunni elements in the north, in Mosul, and in northern Iraq.
And that's important. This is what the -- what the critics have said that the Iraqi leadership didn't have the capability of doing, which was to fight Shia; that they were sectarian -- and I think we're seeing evidence to the contrary of that; that they are willing to fight illegal militia and criminal elements wherever they find them; that if you are carrying a gun in opposition to the government, they were going to oppose you. And that is -- that's very important.
Who is the Iraqi Army? That seems like a strange question. What do I mean?Confused? I sure as hell am (and somehow, I’m sure Fratto and his playmates are also).
The Bush administration claims the Iraqi Army is a unified force of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who fight together for the centralized government of Iraq. That's complete nonsense.
In fact, the different divisions of the army are segregated by sect. The so-called Iraqi Army fighting in the south right now is mainly the Badr Corps. This is a rival Shiite militia to Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
The Badr Corps is connected to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Don't get freaked out, they're theoretically the good guys. Well, at least they are the largest political party in Iraq and the ones we are supporting. Here's the problem -- they're not the good guys at all. They ran death squads and torture chambers out of the Interior Ministry throughout the period of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
And get this, out of all the parties in Iraq, the one most closely linked to Iran is -- the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and their militia partners in the Badr Corps.
…I'm not frustrated by the fact that the public isn't up on all this. I'm frustrated that our media hasn't even bothered to try to figure it out…The press has bought into this fiction that we are fighting against Iranian proxies.
…yesterday demanded a revision of the Commission on Human Relations' practices. If nothing is done, he said, he will sue. Also, he wants an apology from Mayor (Michael) Nutter.And of course, Vento has a second lawyer involved in addition to Albert Weiss who represented him in the original action (his right, I know)…
Vento said yesterday he was insulted by Nutter's returning a $1,000 donation he had made to his election campaign, and by the mayor's statement that the commission's pursuit of the case "was good for the city."
"At this point, I can't have respect for the mayor," Vento told reporters gathered at his shop at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue.
Mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver said Nutter had no comment on Vento's case.
"We recognize that the Human Relations Commission plays an important role in investigating complaints of discrimination and bias-related issues," Oliver said.
Shannon Goessling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm in Atlanta that championed the case as a "First Amendment question," said Vento wanted a change in the way the city handles such cases.OK, so now Vento is prepared to wage another legal battle to try to make Philadelphia’s Human Rights Commission respond more proactively (as he sees it), costing more taxpayer dollars that could be used more effectively for city services and other related costs, a particularly important issue during this recession.
"What the commission did to Mr. Vento in dragging his name through the mud for 21 months was unconscionable and unconstitutional," she said.
"A decision could have been made two days after the complaint was filed," Goessling said. "That's not what happened. But for the resources of Joey Vento and his attitude about standing up for the small-business owner, he might not have been in the position you see now. He is a victor because he had resources."
The GOP has been quick to accuse (Barack) Obama of crossing the politics-of-hope line in the sand with his continued use of this line. Perhaps they have a point. It is because of the Bush campaign's daily flip-flop attacks that no one actually remembers what (John) Kerry meant when he made that infamous statement (in 2004): that he’d voted for the $87 billion war supplemental when it was offset by getting rid of Bush’s tax cuts to the very wealthy.Oh, so NOW you report that! How decent of you!
But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!And as you can see here, McCain is STILL having trouble with that little “Sunni vs. Shiite” thing.
Yes, Harry Fawkes, it’s true; at long last, we’ve delivered enough of our minions from that baad City of Philadelphia to conquer Bucks County, and we’re now poised to “cannibalize” our way into state, federal, and county government forever…BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Don’t be surprised if Bucks and Montgomery County Democrats show up to work a bit foggy-headed this morning.This is what happens when you remain tethered to a political party utterly hijacked by clueless ideologues who believe that they will remain in power forever (and we’re going to keep “banging at the door” of the Commissioners’ HQ in Doylestown with our candidates until we get our majority, Harry; it’s not too early to start planning for ’09).
They had reason to celebrate Monday when word spread that registered Democrats overtook Republicans by a combined 11,000 voters in the two counties — 7,533 in Montgomery and 3,472 in Bucks.
That’s big news for former Republican strongholds where the GOP retains the majority of county commissioners and has held the registration advantage for decades in Bucks and for as long as anyone can remember in Montgomery.
For the first time in the history of Chester and Delaware Counties, the Republican Party cannot claim the majority of registered voters, having been supplanted by a combination of Democrats, independents, and other party affiliations.And what do the Repugs think of that?
Jay Johnston, chairman of the Norwood Republican Party in Delaware County, said he was not worried. Philadelphians moving into the lower part of the county tend to hang on to their Democratic registration, he said, but they would vote for the Republicans in local races, such as borough council.We’ll find out on November 4th, won’t we, Jay?
"They see them do the job and do it well," he said. "Most people don't take their party seriously."
Thus sayeth Dubya here (timed for today’s latest war cheerleading by Ambassador Crocker and The Almighty Petraeus)…
"Al Qaeda in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden," Bush said. "Like bin Laden, they are cold-blooded killers who murder the innocent to achieve al Qaeda's political objectives.Now, for the reality-based community (here, concerning John W. McBush among others)…
"Yet, despite all of the evidence, some will tell you that al Qaeda in Iraq is not really al Qaeda and not really a threat to America."
"McCain is certainly lying when he says that Iraq will become an al Qaeda state if the U.S. leaves," said Nir Rosen, a journalist who has spent extensive time in Iraq. Rosen told IPS that insofar as the "global war on terror" has any coherent meaning, it is certainly not taking place in Iraq.And this would seem to be borne out by this story in the New York Times today, which tells us…
With regards to Iraq, University of Michigan professor and blogger Juan Cole said that no U.S. advantage is to be gained through the war in Iraq and that it could serve to bolster the weakened global Jihadi groups.
"The real al Qaeda is using Iraq as a recruiting tool," he said. "[The U.S. is] playing into the hands of bin Laden. To the extent that the U.S. is involved in the military occupation of an Arab-Muslim country, they're playing by bin Laden's script."
Cole sees no connection between foreign al Qaeda fighters and the struggle in Iraq.
"We have 24,000 prisoners in Iraq. Just about 150 of them are foreigners," said Cole. "So what that tells me is that we're fighting Iraqis. If the foreign fighters -- the al Qaeda types -- are a significant group, we should have more of them in prison. What, do they run faster? It's not possible given that statistic that Iraq is the central front in any war on terror."
…as members of (a terrorist cell suspected of sending insurgents to Iraq early in 2005) are awaiting a verdict in their case (in Paris), French and other European intelligence and law enforcement officials are saying (fears of terrorists returning to France from Iraq to carry out attacks) appear to be overblown. The logistical challenges and expense of reaching Iraq has been one deterrent, they said, particularly with Syria’s making episodic efforts to halt the use of its territory as a transit route. Compared with the thousands of European Muslims who joined the fight in Afghanistan in the 1990s through organized networks in Britain, the number of fighters going to Iraq has been extremely small, according to senior French intelligence officials.We now return you to your regularly scheduled corporate media propaganda.
Another factor, the officials say, is that Iraqi insurgents currently neither need nor welcome European Muslims who lack military training and good Arabic-language skills — except if they are willing to conduct suicide missions.
The nature of the battle has also changed, making Iraq an alien destination for many would-be insurgents. The fight in Iraq is no longer just a jihad against foreign occupiers, but also a confusing civil war pitting Muslim against Muslim. Many young people have family and ethnic ties to Pakistan or North Africa, making those places more attractive destinations, and further advancing those regions’ potential for recruiting and radicalizing young Muslims.
“At the moment, the major threat to Europe is coming from elsewhere — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” a terrorist organization based in North Africa, said Judge (Jean-Louis) Bruguière, (France’s senior counterterrorism magistrate) who now works for the European Union investigating terrorist financing.