Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Stuff

(Posting is questionable for early next week, by the way.)

As you watch this, recall that the whole policy of banning the filming of our returning war dead was instituted by Poppy Bush because he thought CNN made him look bad when our fallen heroes were returning from the first Iraq war (and I liked Lawrence O'Donnell's spirited response to the Cheneys here - would that we had a lot more of it; by the way, speaking of Poppy Bush, nice comments here about the people who voted for you too, dude)...

...and shifting gears a bit, here is the song of the day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Stuff

Rachel Maddow tells us how Joe "He's With Us On Everything Except The War" Lieberman can still inspire nightmares within the Democratic Party (the time to slap down this insect was right after the election, but now Reid and company have to deal with him...for now - and Howard Fineman really gave Lieberman a well-deserved shot at the very end)...

...and in a bit of a lighter vein, here is some Halloween comedy from Lawrence O'Donnell and that laff riot, Pat Robertson...

...and I think this is an appropriately gothic song; according to the name of this briefly-great-but-now-departed group, I can only play a song by them for one more day...

...and do you wanna know something REALLY scary? Grace Slick is 70! Happy Birthday!

(The clip is Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson in "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas," by the way, with Benicio Del Toro, I think.)

Prevent An Awful Trick Three Days After Halloween

(This is a matter that pertains to local politics here in Bucks County, Pa, just to let you know.)

As far as I’m concerned, there are very few good reasons to miss an election, whether or not it’s in a year like last year with the presidential contest, or in a year like this one in PA, where the race that is probably garnering the most attention is that for DA between Chris Asplen and David Heckler (Asplen is the better choice, and he was endorsed by the Courier Times editorial board, which, though it is prone to make numerous bad pronouncements, has just about always come through with the right ones when it mattered most).

However, if you live in the Pennsbury School District and you happen to be reading this, I cannot urge you strongly enough to not only vote for Chris Asplen for DA, Ron Smith for District Judge, and Fran McDonald for Lower Makefield Township Supervisor, but also for Colleen Klock and Jonathan Shain for the Pennsbury School Board. The main reason why is because all of these folks as eminently qualified and live and work in our communities (and to read about a recent candidates’ forum, click here).

And particularly in the matter in the Pennsbury School Board, a vote for Klock/Shain means a vote against Kathleen Zawacki and Simon Campbell (pictured).

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I know barely anything about Zawacki, but the fact that she would choose to align herself with a combative instigator, nuisance and overall troublemaker like Campbell speaks volumes to me.

Campbell cares about slashing teachers’ salaries and pensions and eliminating their right to strike. And that’s about it. And he would be more concerned with developments in Harrisburg than he would about his own backyard.

And I think the following speaks volumes as to what Campbell is all about (from here)…

Some local critics say that Campbell goes beyond strongly preaching his views.

Ronald Smith, a Lower Makefield supervisor and criminal defense lawyer, said he dislikes his behavior.

“I'm of the opinion that he's nothing but a cancer. Although some of his positions may be laudable, he attempts to present his position by confrontation, intimidation and disparaging remarks to all those who may disagree with him,” Smith said. “They're afraid to say this but I'm not afraid. If you don't agree with Campbell, you are his archenemy. His position is — if you don't agree with me, I'll destroy you.”
Now when it comes to teacher strikes, I’ll grant you that trying to ensure coverage for a son or daughter while balancing work responsibilities is a first-class pain in the butt (I grew up in Philadelphia when it wasn’t uncommon to miss large chunks of the academic year for that reason). In response, though, I would ask that you read here to find out whether or not strikes have a net effect on academic performance (as well as to learn about the actual infrequency of strikes in PA overall).

Basically, this is the wave that Campbell has manufactured, and he’s trying to ride it as far as he can.

My guess is that, if you’re even reading this at all, you’ll tend to vote Democratic anyway. However, just because this is an off-year election is no excuse to think it is less important than the ’08 contest. And I would humbly ask you to communicate that to your family and friends who are registered voters in this state.

So please vote for Klock/Shain, Fran McDonald, Ron Smith, and Chris Asplen next Tuesday. That way, the only clout Simon Campbell would have would be on the Op-Ed page of the Bucks County Courier Times, along with all of the other loudmouths :-).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (10/30/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week (and I also posted here).

(By the way, this is another slow week - I've got just about nuthin' here.)


Coast Guard budget. Voting 385-11, the House passed a bill (HR 3619) authorizing $10 billion for the Coast Guard in fiscal 2010, about two-thirds of which would fund core missions such as conducting searches and rescues, combating drug smugglers, and defending the U.S. coast against terrorist threats. The bill, which increases Coast Guard personnel by 1,500 positions to a force of 47,000, awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), 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.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Solar energy. Voting 310-106, the House authorized $2.18 billion between fiscal 2011-2015 for Department of Energy programs to develop solar-energy technologies. The bill (HR 3585) establishes a long-term partnership among the federal government, the private sector, and universities to develop and market solar technologies, in the same way that federal funds and policies have been used to nurture the U.S. semiconductor industry in recent decades.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
This link was embedded in the Wordpress post from today, and the letter available from the link tells us of Al Gore’s actual involvement in the Internet, as opposed to that ridiculous quote that was bandied about all over the place back when he ran for president against a certain clueless governor from Texas.

The reason why I’m including it is because the partnership created in this vote is very much like the one that was formed among the same principal players (universities, government, businesses) back in the ‘90s, leading to the technological revolution that has become such a part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine a time when we lived without it. And hopefully, within the not-too-distant future, we’ll be using solar energy in a much, MUCH more efficient manner than we ever have before, and saying the same thing about that technology also.

And leave it to Joe Pitts to not realize that.


Medicare doctor payments. Voting 47-53, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes for advancing a bill (S 1776) that would avert a 21 percent cut next year in Medicare payments to doctors and 5 percent cuts in following years. The bill was opposed mainly because its cost of $247 billion over 10 years would be added to the national debt. The bill also sought to permanently change the formula for calculating Medicare payments to doctors.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (D., Pa.).

2010 military budget. Voting 68-29, the Senate sent President Obama the final version of a $680 billion defense budget (HR 2647) for fiscal 2010 that includes $130 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan and $27.9 billion for military health care. The bill was opposed mainly over its expansion of the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability. The bill recommends a 3.4 percent military pay raise, would increase active-duty personnel by 40,200 troops to 1.41 million troops, would cap procurement of F-22 Raptor fighter jets, and would end the over-budget VH-71 White House helicopter program.

A yes vote was to adopt the conference report.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.

Homeland-security budget. Voting 79-19, the Senate sent Obama the conference report on a $44.1 billion Department of Homeland Security budget for fiscal 2010. The bill (HR 2892) funds agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Coast Guard. The bill prevents Guantanamo Bay prisoners from being transferred to U.S. soil except for court proceedings, and bars the release of photos and videos showing U.S. mistreatment of prisoners overseas since 9/11.

A yes vote was to approve the conference report.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
This week, the House took up the conference report on the Interior Department's 2010 budget, while the Senate debated an extension of jobless benefits and fiscal 2010 appropriations.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Stuff

Stephen Colbert has been spot-on lately, by the way...

...and concerning the earlier post including the story about Obama meeting our fallen heroes returning to this country, and doing so in the early hours of daybreak, this song once again reminds us why that matters, in particular when discussing Obama's predecessor.

Thursday Mashup (10/29/09)

  • This post from John Hannah at Irrational Spew Online points out the following…

    As a way of repudiating past U.S. policies toward Pakistan, (Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton told the students "there is a huge difference" between the Obama administration's approach and that of former President George W. Bush. "I spent my entire eight years in the Senate opposing him," she said to a burst of applause from the audience of several hundred students. "So to me, it's like daylight and dark."
    To which Hannah (a former Bushie) responds…

    Does anyone advising President Obama and the secretary of state really believe that this kind of partisanship and trash-talking abroad about another American president is really going to buy us much long-term goodwill among either our friends or our adversaries?
    This Think Progress post tells us the following about Hannah…

    As deputy national security advisor to Vice President Cheney, Hannah served as the conduit between Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and the Bush administration, passing along false information about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction that the administration relied upon to justify the invasion. Hannah was also a principal author of the draft speech making the administration’s case for war to the UN. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA director George Tenet rejected most of the content of the speech as exaggerated and unwarranted.
    And when it comes to “trash-talking,” I give you the following from Hannah…

    Reprising his role in misleading the country to war with Iraq, Hannah has told a U.S. ambassador that 2007 is “the year of Iran” and that a U.S. attack is “a real possibility.” [Washington Post, 2/11/07]
    So Hannah warns Obama of "trash-talking" here?

    It is to laugh.

  • And in another “pot, meet kettle” moment, I give you the following from Fix Noise (here)…

    This year, New Jersey’s registered voters can request a mail-in ballot for any reason. (Before 2005, voters needed to provide a reason for why they needed an absentee ballot.) The state received about 150,000 absentee-ballot applications this year.

    On about 2,300 of those applications so far, the signature on the request form does not match the signature on the voter’s registration forms with the state.

    In a development that is depressingly predictable, the New Jersey Democratic party is asking the state to provide provisional ballots for all these voters. Those ballots could, presumably, be used to overcome any narrow lead by Republican Chris Christie over Democrat Jon Corzine on Election Day.
    It sounds to me that events aren’t trending the way Christie wants if the right-wing echo chamber is already making excuses for him.

    That aside, I should note that it’s hypocritical in the extreme even for the Republican Party’s media unit to allege “voter fraud” once again, when you consider the following from here about the Florida 2000 fiasco (and the answer to the question is no; even now with a Democratic president, we’re not going to let go of that)…

    The Florida Republican Party sent a letter with (former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s) signature and the Florida state seal urging Florida Republicans to vote by absentee ballots. But Florida law (which was made even stricter in 1998) is not a "vote-by-mail" system - voters must have a valid reason for voting by mail. The Republican Party was thus encouraging Republican voters to break the law.

    Florida's absentee ballot laws were tightened because of the 1997 Miami absentee ballot scandal that resulted in the voiding of ALL absentees and the overturn of the election. The man who engineered that massive fraud - Mayoral candidate Xavier Suarez - played a key role in the GOP absentee effort in 2000.

    With the active assistance of GOP Election Supervisors, FL GOP officials sent GOP operatives to illegally alter over 2,500 defective Republican absentee ballot applications, while at least 550 Democratic applications were ignored.

    (The Bush/Cheney campaign and the Florida Republican Party) pressured canvassing boards in Republican counties to violate Florida's election laws and count clearly illegal overseas Republican absentee ballots, while fighting to prevent Democratic counties from counting similar absentee ballots.

    (Bush/Cheney and the Florida GOP) forced hand counting of heavily Republican absentee ballots that the machines couldn't read - while delaying and blocking hand counting of poll-cast ballots in heavily Democratic counties that the machines couldn't read, thus treating ballots differently and discriminating against black voters.
    All the excuse-making in the world can’t hide the fact that Christie has been an awful gubernatorial candidate, a fact that cannot be obscured by all of the partisan mythology that the Repugs can conjure here.

    There’ll be GOP crowing in Virginia in a few days, unfortunately, as Creigh Deeds, who sadly is only a slightly better Dem than the Repug Christie (though still awful in his own right) goes down to defeat. However, Christie had better start tuning up his concession speech as well (and I probably shouldn't predict anything based on this, but I stand by what I say here).

  • Update 11/1/09: More ethically compromised stuff by Christie (and for more stuff in a similar vein, click here - third video).

  • Finally, Ben Feller of the AP notes the following about President Obama and his predecessor (here)…

    DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, President Barack Obama saw the real cost of the war in Afghanistan: The Americans who return in flag-covered cases while much of the nation sleeps in peace.

    In a surprise midnight dash to this Delaware base where U.S. forces killed overseas come home, Obama honored the return of 18 fallen Americans Thursday. All were killed in Afghanistan this week, a brutal stretch that turned October into the most deadly month for U.S. troops since the war began.

    The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years. Former President George W. Bush said the appropriate way to show his respect for war's cost was to meet with grieving military families in private, as he often did, but he never went to Dover to observe the remains coming off the cargo plane.
    True enough. And that might have been something for Feller to ask Bush about again when Feller concocted this utterly ridiculous puff piece in Number 43 earlier this year, including the following…

    WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he's like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not.

    For eight years, the nation has been led by a guy who relaxes by clearing brush in scorching heat and taking breakneck bike rides through the woods. He dishes out nicknames to world leaders, and even gave the German chancellor an impromptu, perhaps unwelcome, neck rub. He's annoyed when kept waiting and sticks relentlessly to routine. He stays optimistic in even the most dire circumstances, but readily tears up in public. He has little use for looking within himself, and only lately has done much looking back.

    Bush's style and temperament are as much his legacy as his decisions. Policy shapes lives, but personality creates indelible memories -- positive and negative.

    Call it distinctly Bush.
    And call it distinctly wankerific for Feller and the rest of the Beltway pundit class to be enamored with this egotistical presidential pretender (still too bizarre for yours truly to fathom) to the point where any serious outcry against his ruinous term in office remains as muted as the respectful stillness greeting the 4 AM return of our heroes noted in the story.
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    (And by the way, I managed to post over here also on a local, Bucks County matter.)

    So how exactly did Dubya's speaking gig at that "Get Motivated!" seminar turn out anyway? Well...

    The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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    ...and this is a nice little tune that really rocks out at the end.

    A Cautionary Health Care Reform Post

    I just wanted to point out that Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote an article today which apparently sought to fluff two of the most notorious culprits in the health care reform process (and it made the front page, believe it or not). That would be former House Dem-turned-Repug Billy Tauzin (author of the Medicare Part D drug benefit and the infamous “donut hole”) and Karen Ignagni (who has pledged that the health insurance industry is working for “real reform,” even though Ignagni, a former AFL-CIO lobbyist and staffer of the Senate HELP committee and the U.S. Government’s Department of Health and Human Services, has done everything she could to destroy the public option).

    Well, as a contrast, this Daily Kos post by blogger nyceve tells us of the payoff to Big Pharma in the health care legislation, including Tauzin and his pals (and by no means do I intend to let the Obama Administration off the hook here for their complicity in this, including waiving Medicare drug price bargaining and not supporting the importing of cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe as part of health care reform, as Norman Solomon tells us here).

    And part of that payoff, as nyceve tells us, is the so-called Eshoo/Barton Amendment, which will extend the period of monopolies for biologic medicines before they become generic (and much more affordable) drugs.

    Please read all of nyceve’s post to find out about the impact of health care reform on real people living real lives and dealing with real misery over our broken health care system (and leave the fluff pieces by Stolberg and her pals for the “pay no price, bear no burden” crowd trying to undo reform at every turn).

    Update 10/30/09: As long as I mentioned the Eshoo/Barton Amendment, I should link to Dem Rep. Anna Eshoo's response here.

    Wednesday Mashup (10/28/09)

  • So House Minority Leader John (“Man Tan”) Boehner says that it’s “time to get down to business” here, huh?

    Well, after reading this, I should say that I’m more in favor of honoring Confucius than a bunch of teabaggers (and honoring this, by the way?).

    And claiming that the Dems are “wasting everyone’s time” is really rich from the party that brought us the following, when they ran the happily-now-long-gone 109th Congress (here).

    At least I hope Boehner doesn’t hook his drive into the sand trap. I’d hate to see those fashionable sneakers of his get all dirtied up.

    And I guess this is the point where he says, “now watch this drive,” just like his old boss.

  • I gotta tell ya’, RNC Chair Mike (“What’s Up?”) Steele just makes my job too easy sometimes (here)…

    The Republican National Committee (RNC) demanded an investigation into a report published in The Washington Times that top donors to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had been rewarded with access to privileged White House tours, behind-the-scenes briefings and other perks.

    RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that the White House had effectively become a "full-service resort" during Obama's tenure, likening the alleged access to the benefits former President Bill Clinton had offered to some friends and top donors during his time in office.

    "The seriousness of this issue requires an immediate investigation looking into the degree and details of fundraising efforts between the White House and DNC, whether there was any quid pro quo offered to donors, and the names of White House officials who were involved in such activities," Steele said Wednesday in a statement.
    And we know what a thoroughly credible source the “Moonie Times” is, don’t we (smirk)…

    Well then, I would ask that you consider the following (from here)…

    A London newspaper's report that a Houston lobbyist promised to arrange meetings with top Bush administration officials in exchange for a large donation to the George W. Bush presidential library set off a flurry of denials Monday from Dallas to Washington.

    A story in The Sunday Times of London – complete with online video from a hidden camera – triggered the dust-up. Under a headline that said, in part, "a hotshot lobbyist who can get you into the White House," the newspaper detailed a meeting between Stephen Payne, a lobbyist and Republican donor, and two men he supposedly thought were acting on behalf of the exiled former president of Kyrgyzstan.

    In the meeting at an exclusive London hotel, the story said, Mr. Payne was told that the former president of the central Asian state, Askar Akayev, wanted to rehabilitate his image abroad. Mr. Payne indicated "some things could be done" with top Washington officials, and he suggested that the Akayev family contribute to the Bush library, The Times reported.
    Tee, hee, hee (and by the way, by saying any of this, I don’t mean to imply that Steele is credible against Obama in any way here).

    I can’t tell you how many times I heard Republicans screaming about President Clinton supposedly providing access to the Lincoln bedroom for high-rolling campaign donors way back when (and please remind me once more why I should have ever cared, and not that I did?). And this is just an updated version of that ridiculous tactic.

    This is called “a thoroughly compromised minority party has no inclination whatsoever to help this country solve its myriad problems left over from the previous administration, so it decides to play partisan games instead,” with the willing collaboration of the right-wing media echo chamber.

    This supposed “scandal” is deflating even as I type this. I’ll just wait patiently for the next one to experience a similar fate.

  • Update: More from Media Matters here...

  • And finally, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm tells us of the following here…

    Obama wasn't backing off his war of necessity argument (concerning Afghanistan) in a Florida speech to sailors and Marines earlier Monday (full text here), the necessity being to deny Afghanistan as Al Qaeda's safe haven to repeat the 9/11 attacks.

    A major new troop surge (adding to the 68,000 U.S. troops already there) would anger the Democratic left, which Obama needs for the healthcare vote, especially if he gives up on the public option. And the left is already impatient about other issues, including the promised but continually delayed abolition of don't ask-don't tell.
    I’ve already pointed out numerous times that the public option is favored by almost all Democrats, most independents, and even some Republicans, so I’m not wasting any more time with that. However, I should note from here that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell (and hardly a Democrat), said that DADT should be repealed “immediately.”

    Back to Malcolm…

    The need for unifying distractions could help explain all these gratuitous....fights with Fox News and the Chamber of Commerce. And the Washington Post report(ed) (yesterday) morning the first known resignation of a State Department official in disagreement with the administration's war handling.
    Yes, but after reading this, you would think that the official, former Marine Corps captain Matthew Hoh, resigned because of President’s Obama’s supposed “dithering” on troop levels.

    In fact, as noted from here, Hoh resigned for a very different reason…

    …last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

    "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
    (And we know how this movie ends, so to speak, don't we, people?)

    The fact that Malcolm didn’t bother to do some rather easy verification here leads me to believe that, as Media Matters observed previously here, that he must be bored with his job.

    Well then, please allow me to echo the following sentiments from MM below…'s a suggestion, Mr. Malcolm: Quit. Do it now. Hand in your press pass. There are plenty of out-of-work and soon-to-be-out-of-work-reporters who actually give a damn and who won't have any trouble staying awake for a presidential press conference and who are capable of producing a substantive article that will actually help readers understand what is happening in the world, instead of simply whining that they are insufficiently stimulated. Let one of them have your job. Take up skydiving or running with the bulls or whatever it takes to get you sufficiently excited, and let serious people do your serious job.
    Also, Malcolm could actually try interviewing someone from “the left,” instead of merely writing about us in the abstract. He really should because he doesn’t have anything to fear.

    We don’t bite – much.
  • Some Words On The Latest Dubya "Flim-Flam"

    (And I also posted here.)

    I guess everybody in the world has chimed in by now over the utterly preposterous story of Former President Numbskull’s new career as a motivational speaker, but I thought this was particularly noteworthy from Think Progress, which tells us that’s he’s fetching more dough cashing in than his father.

    This story drums us all kinds of emotions with yours truly, by the way, mainly disgust more than anything else over the fact, at this moment, I cannot imagine a day when Dubya and his pals will actually have to face legal consequences for the heinous acts committed under the foul, fetid Bushco reign. Instead, Number 43’s “punishment,” if you will, will be that he will be a continued object of scorn and ridicule for the rest of his life, which really isn’t much consolation as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and to find out more about the proselytizing going on at these “Get Motivated!” circuses, click here (more faux spirituality packaged and sold to sheep willingly conned by the rich and famous).

    And another thing, didn’t we only recently find out about this guy warning of a “terror-industrial complex” here?

    Well then, what does Colin Powell tell us in this seminar?

    "We are safer than we were before 9-11 because of President Bush," Powell said.
    Words fail me.

    In a way, Powell disgusts me more than Rummy, Cheney and the rest of the unholy Bushco bunch. At least the self-professed neocons know what they are and don’t care, whereas Powell still seems to labor under the delusion that he actually isn’t a bought-and-paid-for lackey doing the bidding of the political party that, as a result of its wretched attempt at governance earlier this decade, brought this country to its knees.

    I guess, at this point, the best thing for me to do is to leave all of this in the hands of Bill Maher (below)…

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    So the public option lives, and President Snowe wails in disbelief - Wa-HOO!..., along comes Arianna to put this into some context (and yep, waiting until 2013 to put this into effect is, I think, pretty damn stupid also)...

    ...and somehow, I find this song to be strangely appropriate...

    ...oh, and by the way, K.O. was busting on Ryan Howard tonight because he's only hit one home run this year against lefthanders, to which I say, "hey, he's waiting to do it when it counts"; my response begins at about 2:04 (tangentially having to do with health care also - well, maybe a little).

    Still Yakin' Iraq With Mr. "Suck. On. This."

    The “Mustache of Understanding,” as Atrios calls him, opined as follows yesterday on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, looking into some magical vision of the future (here, and I also posted here)…

    BAGHDAD, Aug. 25, 2012 — President Obama flew into Baghdad today on his end-of-term tour to highlight successes in U.S. foreign policy. At a time when the Arab-Israel negotiations remain mired in deadlock and Afghanistan remains mired in quagmire, Mr. Obama hailed the peaceful end of America’s combat presence in Iraq as his only Middle East achievement. Speaking to a gathering of Iraqi and U.S. officials under the banner “Mission Actually Accomplished,” written in Arabic and English, Mr. Obama took credit for helping Iraq achieve a decent — albeit hugely costly — end to the war initiated by President Bush. Aides said Mr. Obama would highlight the progress in Iraq in his re-election campaign.
    First of all, if President Obama were actually dumb enough to do anything to imitate Dubya in this fashion, he should be immediately voted out of office (and somehow I’m sure that he has figured that out).


    Remember: Transform Iraq and it will impact the whole Arab-Muslim world. Change Afghanistan and you just change Afghanistan.
    I think here that Little Tommy Friedman has inadvertently crystallized his thoroughly warped view of the legitimate fight we must wage against terrorism (that is, the one fought by grownups in which we work with international agencies of law enforcement and actually obey national sovereignty and the rule of law).

    “Transform” Iraq and you “transform” only Iraq, which is not a realistic option to yours truly at this point, any more than we are likely to “change” Afghanistan either. And please spare me the brainless bromides about how holding those beliefs somehow dishonors the sacrifices of our military; the utterly spineless and nationalist-crazed politicians in this country who sent the fine men and women in our services on the horrific fools errand in Iraq, thus ignoring the legitimate fight in Afghanistan, did that much better than I ever could.

    But of course Friedman is right about these things, because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told him so...

    “The most dangerous thing that would threaten others is that if we really create success in building a democratic state in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose country today now has about 100 newspapers. “The countries whose regimes are built on one party, sect or ethnic group will feel endangered.”

    Maliki knows it won’t be easy: “Saddam ruled for more than 35 years,” he said. “We need one or two generations brought up on democracy and human rights to get rid of this orientation.”

    If this election comes off, it will still be held with U.S. combat troops on hand. The even bigger prize and test will be four years hence, if Iraq can hold an election in which multiethnic coalitions based on differing ideas of governance — not sectarianism — vie for power, and the reins are passed from one government to another without any U.S. military involvement. That would be the first time in modern Arab history where true multisectarian coalitions contest power, and cede power, without foreign interference. That would shake up the whole region.

    Yes, let’s figure out Afghanistan. But let’s not forget that something very important — but so fragile and tentative — is still playing out in Iraq, and we and our allies still need to help bring it to fruition.
    “Four years hence,” huh? Seems that Friedman has graduated from “six more months.”

    So, according to Friedman, we’re supposed to stay in Iraq as long as it is “fragile and tentative,” as in this story, which tells us the following…

    Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 30 Iraqi children riding in a bus were among the 160 people killed in Sunday's twin car bombings in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

    At least 540 people were wounded in Sunday's attacks, the deadliest in the capital in more than two years, the ministry said.

    One of the bombs exploded outside Baghdad's governorate building, the other outside the Justice Ministry. The bombs detonated in quick succession about 10:30 a.m., officials said.

    The children were packed in a mini bus that was outside the Justice Ministry building, a ministry official said.

    Plumes of smoke billowed from the sites as victims fled, some with blood streaming down their faces. The streets were strewn with debris, including charred cars and chunks of concrete. Some government buildings and others in the area were heavily damaged.

    Among the wounded were three American security contractors, the U.S. Embassy said, declining to provide further details. The area struck is close to the heavily guarded "Green Zone," which houses the embassy.
    And I think it’s a bit ironic that, on the day that Friedman pontificated on Iraq, this post was written by blogger Meteor Blades over at The Daily Kos about the estimated 4.2 to 4.7 million Iraqis that fled the country after the war started; an Iraqi official estimates that only 32,000 families have returned, many because their passports permit only a return as opposed to citizenship in Syria or Jordan (or the U.S., which has, as of September 30, admitted some 30,000 Iraqi refugees, most of these in the past 15 months). The post delves into the hardship faced by those who have sought refuge elsewhere.

    Also, this tells us the almost incomprehensible fact that…

    After years of haggling, Iraq's political leaders have yet to reach agreement on a hydrocarbon law that determines how oil profits will be divided among the country's competing factions -- a plan that is necessary to revive an energy sector that has suffered from years of under-investment -- and a steep drop in oil prices from $147 per barrel last July to less than $65 today.
    How on earth are those in charge of Iraq supposed to be able to share political power when they can’t even share their oil wealth (curious to me that Friedman has nothing to say on that)? And speaking of oil, I thought this was illuminating about the pre-war plans to plunder Iraq’s reserves, another journey once more through a Bushco nightmare.

    And because the economy is driven by the price of a barrel of oil, we learn the following (here)…

    BAGHDAD, June 17 (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has proposed a $70 billion plan for rebuilding the country's war-shattered infrastructure, but will ask companies to accept at least a five-year delay in payment for the projects.

    A draft law drawn up by the cabinet and expected to be sent to parliament for approval includes $25 billion in investment in housing, $17.8 billion for agriculture and $8 billion for the transport sector, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Wednesday.

    However, the funds needed for the projects are not available in the Iraqi government's budget because of a fall in oil prices from last year's record high of more than $147 per barrel.

    The authorities therefore plan to finance the construction through credit, direct investment or in a partnership between public agencies and private companies, Dabbagh said in a statement.

    The government will pay off the projects five years or more after their completion, depending on individual agreements Dabbagh said.
    All of this is a consequence of what I could euphemistically call the “magical thinking” of our political-media-industrial complex on Iraq, notably led by Friedman among other suspects, which has brought us to this still-largely-irresolute state (here is another example).

    The only thing that will “transform” “the whole Arab-Muslim world” is our exit, and the only “prize” I care about is seeing all of our service people safely home, tending the wounded, burying the dead, and honoring their sacrifice by ruthlessly holding to account those who, in their ideological cowardice, led them into the hell of Mesopotamia in the first place.

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    Yep, “blocking” ideas such as H1N1 funding in the “stim” by that supposed moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine (yep, keep waiting for our corporate media to hound her on that – get ready to hear crickets a lot)…

    …and I hope everyone is having fun raking their yards.