Thursday, January 31, 2008

Panel calls for modernization of Guard and Reserves

Proposing what it called the first substantive reforms to the National Guard and Reserve in more than 50 years, a panel wants to refashion America's "weekend warriors" into an operational partner with the active-duty military.

That way, the reserve could be quickly mobilized to respond to a terrorist attack or natural disaster on the scale of a hurricane Katrina, says the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, which released its 368-page report Thursday.

"We don't have the capacity remaining to deal with these homeland defense threats in an adequate way," says Marine Gen. Arnold Punaro (ret.), who headed the panel. "We have put our lives, our property, and our economy at greater risk because of that."

Here's a thought: scale down U.S. military presence overseas and begin to focus our military's attention on homeland defense rather than forward projection of military force.

Forward projection of military force is one of the keystones of current military philosophy. In Air Force doctrine, it's referred to as "Global Attack". It means what it sounds like: the ability of the U.S. military to strike any target, any time, any place. While that sounds really cool (or frightening, if you're not an American), it currently costs us $439 billion a year. This does not include the actual application of "Global Attack" in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- this is just to maintain the capability.

I have a few proposals which would radically alter the face of the U.S. military, and thus the face of U.S. militarism:

1) Cut the permanent active duty military to a fraction of its current size.

This will elicit a visceral response in people, and largely be treated as unthinkable. It is not. Right now, many functions are filled on U.S. military bases which could be better filled by civilians. The military is already in the process of making many of those same transitions, but they're going about it the wrong way. Rather than hiring contractors (who, by their very nature, are looking for a quick profit and sometimes tend to cut corners), positions should be filled by civil servants. These would be government employees doing government work accountable to the government, but continuity would be greatly enhanced by taking on civilians who would remain in place on a permanent basis rather than moving around every couple of years the way military personnel do.

The current idea is to turn the military into a strictly expeditionary role: we would bed down into a war zone and build a base up. While at home duty station, we would spend all of our time training to perform that task. But to have people training to perform war-time tasks on a full time basis only makes sense if the U.S. is going to be perpetually at war for generations to come. That's no kind of way to run a country, least of all a democracy.

No, I propose transitioning the maintenance of U.S. military bases to civil servant employees and giving the "expeditionary" role to the Reserves. The Reserves can train to perform these tasks at their monthly drill and practice them in full during their two weeks a year. If mobilized, they can carry out the missions they are assigned every bit as capably as their current active duty counterparts, provided they receive proper training. Current U.S. military bases should be used for that purpose: training our Guard and Reserves to carry out their tasks on an "as needed" basis.

An active duty Navy will be necessary to secure shipping lanes across the seas against pirates or Navies of predatory nations, and an active duty Air Force will be necessary to secure our nation and our allies against aerial attack from aggressive nations. In the event of a war, active duty Marines will be capable of handling the first wave of a major ground assault while our reserve units are activated, as well as most minor skirmishes we might find ourselves engaged in. However, bomber wings should be under the jurisdiction of the Reserves, as they would only be utilized in the event of a war, as should all Army infantry units.

The temptation to always use the military to solve every little foreign policy dispute has proven to be too great for our leaders to resist. We need to take their toys away and go back to treating war as something done in an emergency, not as a natural matter of course.

2) Permanently dedicate the National Guard to homeland defense. If additional personnel are needed for the purposes of an overseas engagement, do the honorable thing and institute a draft.

Overseas engagements should not leave us vulnerable at home the way the war in Iraq has done. National Guardsmen should be defending their own communities during disaster recovery efforts, not Blackwater, USA.

3) Mandatory service of one year for all who are physically capable. Conscientious objectors may be allowed to focus on disaster recovery and humanitarian missions in the Guard, but all who can serve will serve. Eliminate "lifestyle" restrictions for service. All Americans will own a piece of their nation's future.

4) Expand Selective Service to include women. Women serve in the military now, and have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of doing the job. In the event of the kind of crisis which would precipitate the institution of a draft, it makes no sense to limit the selection pool to less than half of the population.

5) Massive mobilization of the Reserves should require a Congressional declaration of war, and they should be demobilized when the war is complete. Rebuilding efforts should be under the jurisdiction of the State Department, not Defense.

6) The U.S. should never take part in running another country. Upon defeating an enemy nation, the peace treaty should include a provision for national elections to be held within six weeks, thus returning sovereignty of that nation back to the people of that nation. That it took years to do this in Iraq is a blight upon our honor.

7) Scale down our overseas military presence almost entirely, only maintaining troops on a rotational basis at NATO allied bases. This would take a while due to diplomatic considerations, but we must begin to move away from our current status of hunkering down and permanently staying whenever we set foot in another country. A big diplomatic step in the right direction would be to partner with China to work toward re-unification of Korea. Sign a treaty with a mutual pledge of non-intervention in Korean affairs, and let "Sparta" (North Korea) and "Athens" (South Korea) come together and stand on their own two feet.

These are just a few of the ideas I've come up with, but another issue which arises from our permanent standing armies is cultural. The active duty military is, by its very nature, authoritarian. The media in our country has fetishized that authoritarian culture, placing the easy comforts of conformity ahead of more natural diversity of thought. It is not the selflessness of common people rising to serve a purpose greater than themselves which they honor; that is demonstrated by their dismissive treatment of veterans upon their return to civilian life. No, it is the authoritarian, seen and not heard, cookie-cutter mold "troops" whom they "support". As long as we salute smartly, shoot straight, and keep our mouths shut, we will continue to have that support. This is no way for members of a democracy to think, and it's something we ought to begin to discourage.

Thoughts?

Why I Hate Hillary, cont'd (kidding, Bartcop... sort of)

To reprise: I'm not a big fan of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), or her husband, former President Bill Clinton. I appreciate the good things that came out of the Clinton years, but I feel I have to acknowledge the bad things, as well. Some of the Clintons' sell-outs have political consequences that we're still feeling today. Sen. Clinton hasn't show herself to be a leader, but an opportunistic politician who does absolutely anything that she thinks will give her a political advantage. She's never met a principle she won't sell out for political gain, and she will never do anything for the greater good that will make her poll numbers go down a percentage point. So without further ado....

3. AIPAC

Google Lawrence Anthony Franklin. This act of espionage on behalf of an organization that represents the interests of an allegedly friendly nation is enough to get my hackles up. Isolated incident? Google Jonathan Pollard.

Let me be clear on this point: all American politicians pander shamelessly to Israeli interests, including my candidate of choice, Barack Obama. It's pretty much a prerequisite for getting into federal office. Sen. Clinton, however, has been especially egregious on this, to the point of actively supporting Israel's use of cluster bombs (and, incidentally, the U.S.'s). Barack Obama supported legislation restricting Pentagon spending on cluster bombs, Hillary Clinton opposed it:

One little-mentioned split occurred on a proposal to restrict Pentagon spending on cluster bombs, which explode and scatter thousands of tiny weapons over a vast area. Those small bombs are prone to going off years after a battle, sometimes killing and maiming Middle Eastern children who mistakenly trigger them. Israel came under fire from the UN and international human rights groups for its use of cluster bombs during its 2006 war with Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. In the autumn of that year, with memories of the conflict still fresh, several Democrats sought to limit US defence spending to cluster bombs that would not be used in civilian areas.

...

Obama voted in favour of limiting use of the bombs, while Clinton and 69 other senators opposed the spending limits, defeating the proposal.

Whether the former first lady cast her vote to avoid a perceived rebuke of Israel or because of the Pentagon's resistance remains unknown: Clinton did not speak during the senate debate and did not issue a statement afterwards, according to her website.

Another interesting issue:

Another disagreement between the two Democratic frontrunners came during Congress's first failed attempt at addressing immigration, also in 2006. Clinton and Obama allied in favour of a path to citizenship for the 12 million people residing illegally in the US, but they differed on the more arcane question of admitting refugees to America who had fought against authoritarian governments overseas.

The proposal, written by judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy, would relax the Bush administration's so-called "material support bar". The bar was intended to prevent anyone supportive of armed terrorist groups from entering the US. But it inadvertently ended up blocking entry for democratic activists from Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.

Even some who aided revolutionary groups after being kidnapped or raped were later stopped from immigrating to the US under the bar.

"We can prevent the entry of those who would do America harm without closing our borders to genuine refugees who urgently need our help," Leahy said at the time, urging colleagues to back his proposal.

Senators opposed to the new refugee policy voiced unease about changing the legal definition of a terrorist group, arguing that the state department could handle the problem through immigration waivers.

Obama supported Leahy's unsuccessful plan to lift the support bar. Clinton opposed it. Just last week, Leahy endorsed Obama for president.

The article also addresses an anti-gun control measure Obama came down on the side of, one which prevented police from confiscating people's firearms during emergency situations. My fellow progressives can assess this particular legislation as they wish (I'm sure most of them will see at as a negative), but I tend to cringe at the thought of authorities using an emergency situation as a pretext for rounding up people's weapons, so I can't say I disagree with the Republicans (or Obama) on this one.

But I digress.

Sen. Clinton, prior to her Kyl-Liebermann Amendment, and prior to the National Intelligence Estimate which state unequivocally that Iran had abandoned its nuclear program four years prior, Sen. Clinton was one of Washington's biggest anti-Iran hawks. She somehow managed to avoid catching egg on her face for being one of the biggest cheerleaders for yet another unnecessary war with a Middle Eastern country, but I'm not going to let this be forgotten:

Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation.

"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."

Clinton spoke at a Manhattan dinner held by the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some 1,700 supporters applauded as she cited her efforts on behalf of the Jewish state and spoke scathingly of Iran's decision to hold a conference last month that questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

"To deny the Holocaust places Iran's leadership in company with the most despicable bigots and historical revisionists," Clinton said, criticizing what she called the Iranian administration's "pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-Israeli rhetoric."

No doubt. But this didn't mean that they're pursuing nukes, and it didn't mean that we needed to engage in rhetoric which might provoke them. This type of rhetoric is irresponsible when so little is known, and it's clear that Sen. Clinton learned exactly nothing from President Bush's earlier Iraq deceptions. It's unclear whether she even cares to, but I do question whether the lives of innocent people in the Middle East are more or less important to Sen. Clinton than her own political ambitions. I suspect I know the answer to that one, but I'm not a mind-reader, and perhaps Sen. Clinton is simply a dupe who will keep falling for the same neo-con tricks over and over again. Either way, it doesn't lend itself to an enthusiastic endorsement from this author.

I'd be hard pressed to endorse a Republican candidate ahead of Sen. Clinton in the general election should she carry the nomination. Despite my many differences with her, I'm a lot closer to her on most issues than I am to any of the Republican candidates, including Sen. McCain. However, if we're going to engage in identity politics the way the New York chapter of NOW is, then I have to confess a certain yearning to support the war veteran, despite my many disagreements with him on almost every issue.

After World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. This marked the first of several WWII veterans elected to the White House. Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and George Bush all served in World War II. Nixon, Carter, and Reagan served in the military in some capacity, but not in WWII. Even Gerald Ford, who was never actually elected to the White House, served as a Naval officer in WWII.

Then Bill Clinton was elected President, and that all ended. Since then, veterans who served in Vietnam have gone up for the Presidency and been summarily turned away: John McCain in 2000 (lost in primaries to George W. Bush), Al Gore in 2000 (lost in general election to Bush), and John Kerry in 2004 (lost, again, to Bush in general election). No Vietnam veterans in the White House; just two draft dodgers. Clinton, who opposed the Vietnam War and thus had no desire to serve in it, got a reservist deferment by joining, then quitting, an advanced ROTC unit. Bush, who supported the Vietnam War but also had no desire to serve in it, used connections to move ahead of 500 applicants to join the Texas Air National Guard. Back then, the National Guard was a way to avoid the draft without being called a draft dodger. I'll do it anyway: George W. Bush was a draft dodger, and he's beaten three men who served in Vietnam for the Presidency. This says a lot about how our nation honors its veterans anymore: they don't. They just "support our troops".

As someone who served in Iraq as a support troop inside the wire (just like the vast majority of troops who deploy to Iraq, for the record), I make no claim to any acts of great gallantry or heroism. I went when I was called, did the best job I could even while coming under fire once in a while, and went home when it was time. Yet it was still a major readjustment to my perspectives, and I will forever hold a kinship with my fellow veterans of any war, regardless of their political affiliations. I want to see a Vietnam veteran in the White House (especially one who endured as much as John McCain), because I feel it would do a lot to heal the wounds of that period in our history, yet I fear that it may never happen now. I largely blame the Republicans for that -- they've honored big business at the expense of honoring the "troops" they pay so much lip service toward, and they smeared the war record of John Kerry in 2004. John McCain is the last hope for a Vietnam veteran President, but it may be too little (McCain has taken a major tumble among Democrats and independents for his sycophancy toward Bush), too late (he's 71 years old and looks to be seriously slowing down).

That's the sympathy I feel toward the McCain candidacy: it's not about the man, but his service and his generation of veterans, all of whom I wish to honor. And yet I see in another candidate a way forward, another path to healing the wounds of past generations through forgiveness and reconciliation. A nomination of Hillary Clinton will inevitably re-open the wounds of those years gone by. We've been picking at the scabs of those wounds ever since Carter pardoned Vietnam-era draft dodgers, our government's first attempt at healing from that time. A Clinton candidacy leads the way backward to the 90s, when Bill Clinton's draft evasion was still fresh on everybody's lips, and the resentment toward the fortunate sons like Bush and Clinton who had the connections to avoid being drafted while others less fortunate went to their deaths still burned deep inside. It burns inside of me now, as I watch Young Republicans cheer lead Bush's war while refusing to serve in it. It burns inside of me as Hillary continues to offer the lives of America's troops to sate AIPAC's lust for Arab blood. It burns... but a path to the future, away from the wounds of the past, offers a much more enticing promise. I hope the Democrats take it and don't fall into the trap of the "good old days".

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NY NOW Puts Sen Kennedy on Blast For Endorsing a Man

The New York chapter of NOW released a scathing rebuke of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for endorsing a black man over a white woman:

"Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal," NOW's New York State chapter said in a scorching rebuke. "Senator Kennedy's endorsement of Hillary Clinton's opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard."

On Monday, Kennedy, D-Mass., his son Patrick and his niece Caroline Kennedy announced their support for Obama. Edward Kennedy said the country needs a leader who can bring people together and create change.

But the move angered the state chapter of NOW, which called Kennedy's decision the "greatest betrayal."

"We are repaid with his abandonment!" the statement said. "He's picked the new guy over us. He's joined the list of progressive white men who can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton."


Wow, that’s pretty strong stuff. (And since they mentioned Ted Kennedy’s race, I felt it appropriate to mention Sen. Clinton’s and Sen. Obama’s. It only seemed fair, given how strongly they condemned Sen. Kennedy for endorsing a black man over a white woman.) The national office released its own statement, backing away from the New York chapter’s acidic words:

"The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Senator Edward Kennedy," NOW President Kim Gandy wrote. "For decades Senator Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that."

Gandy said her group respects Kennedy's decision to back Obama.

"We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote," she said.

If NOW considers Sen. Kennedy’s endorsement of Sen. Obama a betrayal, then that is their prerogative. Many of Sen. Clinton’s supporters are backing her explicitly because she is a woman, as is their right. Given that there are many others who will oppose her for the same reason, it strikes me as only fair that they try to shore up as much support for her as possible to cover any lost ground. I don’t begrudge NOW’s support for Sen. Clinton, but I do begrudge the audacity of implying that anything less than gleefully enthusiastic support for the senator from New York is a betrayal of women everywhere.

To reinforce my point, let me do a run-down of betrayals by Sen. Clinton:

1. Labor.

Hillary Clinton says she’s a supporter of labor, but I have doubts about her sincerity, based on her actions and her affiliations. In 2003, Clinton brought an Indian outsourcing firm to Buffalo, NY, which reportedly did more harm to Buffalo than it did good:

In 2003, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton helped the high-tech firm Tata Consultancy Services of India (TCS) to open a office in Buffalo, N.Y. by hoping that it would bring jobs to the area. Clinton later said the deal showed that outsourcing firms could create jobs both in their home countries and in the United States.

As a part of its program to expand its US presence, TCS will provide advanced IT training to new recruits. The training center is aptly named "Chrysalis", a word signifying the evolution of a larva into a butterfly. Company executives explained that the name alludes to the transformation of bright new talent into advanced IT professionals who would lead the technology industry in the future. The firm said it had already hired 20 new recruits, primarily from western New York, and had plans to triple that number by the middle of next year. But over that same period, Tata sought H-1B visa certifications to import nearly 500 foreign computer programmers and other specialists to upstate New York.

Since 2003,"the reality is that it probably created many more jobs for workers overseas and displaced lots of American workers according to leading news papers.

NRI Sudesh Agnihotra from New York told our representative that NYC residence are very up-set that about 500 foreign computer programmers and other specialists were dumped in their State and they had no gain.

Clinton always said, the United States benefits by admitting high-tech workers from abroad. She backs proposals to increase the number of temporary visas for skilled foreigners.


As a blue-collar kid (and IT professional myself), this kind of hits home for me. Tata couldn’t find any computer programmers in the Buffalo area? I find that hard to believe. If they had hired 500 American programmers, that would have been a boon to Buffalo. Instead, it’s simply a boon to Tata.

Let’s also talk about Mark Penn, CEO of union-busting firm Burson-Marsteller Inc. and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman:

Penn sheds a few crocodile tears over the questions about his firm’s anti-labor activities, but he clearly wasn’t broken up about the big bucks that those activities netted him. To head a firm that engages in anti-labor activities while claiming to be pro-labor because his father was a union man is a level of double-speak worthy of a Clinton campaign. I can see why they picked him.

And then there’s this from Palast:

But first, let’s stop at Wal-Mart. Read an official biography of the Senator and you’ll find her six-month stint on a child-protection task force. Yet you won’t find her SIX YEARS on the board of directors of Wal-Mart Corporation. She may have earned a Grammy for “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” But it takes a Governor’s wife to provide cover for Wal-Mart’s profiteering off systematic wage-enslavement of children in its factories in South America.

Sam Walton called Hillary, “My little lady.” Sam paid her an eyebrow raising sum for a director - equal to 60% of her entire not-insubstantial salary as a lawyer. By contrast, Wendy Diaz (her real name), a 13-year-old in Honduras, was paid 25 cents an hour to make shirts for the “little lady’s” label.

Hillary’s rake-in was made possible by Wal-Mart’s 100% union-free operation and out-sourcing of 100% of its manufacturing, some to prison factories in China. Now, you could say that Hillary couldn’t hear the screams of the kiddies in Kamp Wal-Mart in Honduras. After all, she relied on the intelligence provided her by the President (of Wal-Mart).


2. The Iraq War.

The one consistent thing about Sen. Clinton’s position on the Iraq War is how dishonest she’s been about it.

October 2002:

Clinton gives a long-winded speech on the Senate floor, in which she commits herself to exactly no position at all and angles to cover her ass if things go badly.

Then she votes for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, while claiming that she wasn’t explicitly authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. This isn’t just typical Clintonian hair-splitting or triangulating; it’s just old-fashioned lying.

Skip past the long list of “whereas” statements, and you get to the meat of it:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION.

In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon there after as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, and

(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

(c) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS. --

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION. -- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS. -- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

SEC. 4. REPORTS TO CONGRESS

(a) The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 2 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of Public Law 105-338 (the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).

(b) To the extent that the submission of any report described in subsection (a) coincides with the submission of any other report on matters relevant to this joint resolution otherwise required to be submitted to Congress pursuant to the reporting requirements of Public Law 93-148 (the War Powers Resolution), all such reports may be submitted as a single consolidated report to the Congress.

(c) To the extent that the information required by section 3 of Public Law 102-1 is included in the report required by this section, such report shall be considered as meeting the requirements of section 3 of Public Law 102-1.


Bottom line: the President was required to determine that inspections were not working, send a report to Congress, and bombs away! How is that not an explicit authorization to do whatever the fuck he wants, whenever the fuck he wants? Did Sen. Clinton even read the resolution before voting on it? I know she didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate beforehand.

Then, nearly five years later, Sen. Clinton votes for the Kyl-Liebermann amendment, described correctly by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) “as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action.” By declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, it labels Iran as a nation which harbors and supports terrorists. Not hard to see how that could lead to the U.S. going to war with Iran -- unless you’re Hillary Clinton, of course.

I’ll continue this venture tomorrow, as this entry has taken a bit longer to put together than I’d originally anticipated.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Greg Palast on State of the Union

Greg Palast offered his response to the State of the Union, and broke it down more effectively than anybody else I've seen:
 

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.”

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.

If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America? The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes.

http://www.gregpalast.com/one-bush-left-behind/

Thank you Mr. Palast, for cutting to the heart of the issue in such short order.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama South Carolina victory speech





Has this guy ever given a bad speech? One of these days he'll come out with a dud.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

People are still talking about Al Gore getting into it

Are they kidding? Just trying to stir the pot? Here's Jack Cafferty, talking about the possibility of Al Gore getting into the race.

Here's my thought on Gore:

America needs an elder statesman who's above all the partisan bickering. Bill Clinton has relinquished that role by backing his wife for the Presidency. I'm not blaming Clinton; I'd actually think less of him if he wasn't. But at the same time, he cannot, for a long time in the foreseeable future (especially if his wife wins), be seen as "objective" or in any sense "above it all". Nor can, on the Republican side, former President George H.W. Bush, the father of our current President, for many of the same reasons.

Who does that leave? It leaves two Nobel Laureates: former President James Carter and former Vice President Al Gore. The presence of these two men would be much more profound in an Obama or Edwards White House than in a Clinton White House (especially given Gore's history in the previous Clinton White House). Only Carter has the standing in the Democratic party that Gore has, and Carter is 83 years old. He will be a major presence for as long as he lives, but how much longer will that be? Gore will be 60 in March. Barring accident or illness, he will likely be around for at least another generation.

Clinton has done some admirable work in his time since leaving the White House, but he has not yet stepped away from politics, and therefore does not carry the weight and credibility of a statesman. Even if his wife loses, she will still be a United States Senator, and he will still be her husband. Somebody has to assume the role that Clinton is unable to fill, and in the event that this former President is unable to fulfill those duties, it seems fitting that his Vice President step up and take them on himself.

Gore should stay far, far away from this race. If he does, he will be a much greater asset to the next President than anybody currently running could ever be to him. Anybody who thinks the next President, especially if it's the Democratic nominee, will not have Gore on speed dial hasn't been paying enough attention.

Obama carries South Carolina


Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) won the Presidential primary contest in South Carolina, John Edwards' home state, with 55% of the vote, netting 24 delegates to Sen Clinton's 11 and Edwards' 5. More at CNN.com.

Sen Clinton was not campaigning in South Carolina. However, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was there campaigning on her behalf. Sen Obama had made a comment in one debate that it wasn't always clear to him which of them he was running against (hint for Sen Obama: you're running against both of them), but it can be said that in a one-on-one contest against Bill Clinton in South Carolina, Sen Obama won big.

Looking at the exit polling, there are no really peculiar trends. Obama carried nearly every major demographic except for voters 65 and older (who went for Clinton) and non-blacks over 30, who tended to vote for Edwards.

This win doesn't help Obama nearly as much as a loss would have hurt him, since a win by Clinton would have re-established her as the clear front-runner, and a win by Edwards would have given his campaign new life. Still, it allows Obama to maintain his credibility as a challenger to Clinton. And by beating Edwards on his own turf, he essentially makes Edwards the new Kucinich of the race: a long shot who is quickly becoming a no-shot.

Come Super Tuesday, we may have a clear front-runner. Or, if Obama and Clinton manage to split it down the middle, we may see this race continue for a few more months. Clinton still leads in delegates, but with most of those being super delegates, that 182-89 lead in super delegates will become less and less important. Obama leads in normal delegates, 63-47-23. Super Tuesday may paint a very different picture. If not, later states will become increasingly important, especially large ones like California.

Enough horse race speculation for one day. As an Obama supporter myself, I'm happy with these results, and hope that they become a part of a larger trend.

Nigeria rebels want Clooney's help

Fighters in Nigeria's oil region have invited George Clooney, an actor and peace activist, to visit the region.

They have also asked for UN intervention in the conflict.


Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, designated Clooney as a UN "messenger of peace" on Friday to promote the world body's activities.





The 46-year-old actor has been campaigning for an end to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, and for humanitarian aid for the millions caught up in the conflict.



http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6C4B74F6-82AD-4E81-B514-4610F103F5D9.htm


Notice how they didn't ask our illustrious President? Notice how it's Dennis Leary rebuilding fire stations in New Orleans? Hollywood now officially has more credibility than our government. This is Bush's legacy. We no longer have RFK functioning as a good-will ambassador to the world; now we have George Clooney.

This is just precious.

My original stimulus posting from yesterday elicited this comment from Reuven (good to see people actually reading my blog):

Those "rich" people you hate so much, the people actually working and adding value to America, also pay your taxes for you! The Pelosi "stimulus" package makes me feel like I've been robbed. Some guy in Watsonville will be able to get new Rims for his car, or put a down payment on a new Hummer while I'm busy building businesses and creating jobs.

I won't see a penny of this "stimulus package", and I'm being taxed twice for it. Once because I have absolutely no tax deductions (they all phase out) and twice with these lower interest rates and inflationary policy that prevents me from earning a decent fixed income on my savings.

See http://www.waronsavings.com/ for some constructive suggestions.

This problem was caused by irresponsible people borrowing money they could never pay back to buy houses and cars. America decided not to treat it's citizens like babies and give them access to financial tools. And what does Joe Sixpack do? He buys a house he can only afford the "teaser payments on", two SUVs with 6 year loans, and goes BOO HOO HOO! HELP ME NANCY when he can't pay.

Be a MAN, Joe Sixpack! Sell all your crap and share an apartment with 6 people. That's what my family did when they came to this country and had no money.


So I typed up a comment of my own and checked out his link. (Dildo alert; no, literally.)

Oh, Lord. For those who don't know (I didn't), Watsonville is predominantly Hispanic/Latino. So he's covered a number of bases in one fell swoop:

  1. Racism
  2. Misogyny
  3. Classism
At the link, the posts a picture of a dildo and suggests that she buy that "stimulus package" vice her legislative one. Then he refers to the rich as "the few hard-working Americans who actually pay taxes and are productive" and the middle class as the "non-taxpaying class". He also suggests a stimulus package that will go to the wealthy ($200 for every $100,000 in savings), apparently for no other reason than to suggest a way to flip the bird to the other 99% of the country.

Okay, once we've all had a good laugh at his expense (assuming he's even serious), let me point out a few things:

  1. The bulk of the "rebates" go to middle class citizens who are likely to put this away into savings or pay off debt, and that the middle class who benefit from this (ask Krugman pointed out), most certainly do pay taxes. As part of the class of citizens who make less than $75,000 a year, I can attest to that.
  2. We're supposed to be sympathetic to this guy being "robbed" while he suggests that "Joe Sixpack" go live in an apartment with six other people? Fuck you.
  3. Finally, it's pretty clear that you view the victims of predatory lending practices as the bad guys here. "Blame the victim" type thinking typically reveals a pretty loathsome mindset, as do racism, misogyny, and classism. I don't entirely disagree with your point about living outside one's means, but I do think that you have some strange misconceptions about who pays taxes in this country, and I'm wondering if this isn't actually satire.
All that aside, thank you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts, even if they are rather dickish.

Palast on South Carolina Dock Workers

South Carolina 2000: Six hundred police in riot gear facing a few dozen angry-as-hell workers on the docks of Charleston. In the darkness, rocks, clubs and blood fly. The cops beat the crap out of the protesters. Of course, it’s the union men who are arrested for conspiracy to riot. And of course, of the five men handcuffed, four are Black. The prosecutor: a White, Bible-thumping Attorney General running for Governor. The result: a state ripped in half - White versus Black.

South Carolina 2008: On Saturday, the Palmetto State may well choose our President, or at least the Democrat’s idea of a President. According to CNN and the pundit-ocracy, the only question is, Will the large Black population vote their pride (for Obama) or for “experience” (Hillary)? In other words, the election comes down to a matter of racial vanity.

The story of the dockworkers charged with rioting in 2000 suggest there’s an awfully good reason for Black folk to vote for one of their own. This is the chance to even the historic score in this land of lingering Jim Crow where the Confederate Flag flew over the capital while the longshoreman faced Southern justice.

But maybe there’s more to South Carolina’s story than Black and White.

http://www.gregpalast.com/south-carolina-primary-colors-black-and-white/

Much more at the link.

Paul Krugman addresses "stimulus"

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/opinion/25krugman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin


Krugman addresses the point that most of the people who will be receiving these checks will be tucking them into savings instead of spending them right away.

I'm still not clear on whether this is an actual tax rebate, or whether it's a shell game where they pay you now what they would pay you later. Either way, it doesn't look like the economic downturn is avoidable, and the longer we try to stave it off with these sorts of half-measures, the worse it's going to be.

If you're interested in the economic picture, I highly recommend you visit my friend Monkeyfister. He's been all over this for a while. He's also been on top of peak oil, another factor which may come into play here. I blog-roll him, and I don't blog-roll anybody whom I don't think is worth reading (which is why it's so small).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Karzai: You can call me U.S. puppet

Every once in a while, politicians let the truth slip out.

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN)
-- Unless more is done to tackle growing extremism in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan could once again fall into terrorist hands with dire consequence for the region and the world, the country's president warned Friday.

Hamid Karzai addresses the opening session of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Hamid Karzai said "misguided policy objectives" of unnamed countries or organizations were continuing to fuel violence in Afghanistan, although he was confident al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was no longer within its borders.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Karzai also reluctantly accepted his image as "a puppet of America" but he shied away from accepting reported U.S. doubts that NATO troops lacked the training to combat the Taliban.

(snip)

On his perceived image as an impotent leader in thrall to the U.S. administration, Karzai, said he was willing to shoulder insults in return for U.S. assistance.

"Me a puppet? My God.

"Anyway, Americans have helped Afghanistan tremendously. The American people have a feeling for Afghanistan a very, very great feeling.

"The U.S administration has helped Afghanistan and if we are called puppets, or if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname.

"The truth is that without the United States in Afghanistan, Afghanistan would be a very poor, miserable country, occupied by neighbors and al Qaeda and terrorists."

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/01/25/karzai.interview/index.html

Does anybody actually think that Karzai runs that country? Given how "the U.S. administration" largely abandoned Afghanistan in favor of its capers in Iraq, I would think the tone Karzai would take would be a little less gushing. Besides that, the rest of the article is largely a bunch of observations which anybody who reads Al Jazeera could see.

Musharraf issues warning to West

He can shake his fist defiantly all he wants; we know his game. He's taken the money we've given him to fight terrorism and put it toward preparation for a military conflict with India, a U.S. ally.

President Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan's success in fighting terrorism is critical and any failure could impact on the West.

In an address to a British think tank, he called for support and encouragement not "criticisms and insinuations".

He outlined his strategy for defeating al-Qaeda and the Taleban, and securing Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7209611.stm

Yes, he needs to secure that border, all right.

Musharraf reminds me of Bush: everything he says is bullshit.

Egyptians retreat from Gaza fence

Egyptian security forces have pulled back from the border with Gaza after an apparent failure to reseal it.

Palestinians seemed to be still crossing freely in and out of Egypt for a third consecutive day, to stock up on supplies in defiance of a blockade.

A bulldozer made fresh holes in the border earlier, after Egyptian troops managed to seal earlier breaches.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7210311.stm

And as the U.S. Presidential primaries go on, the world keeps turning.

U.S. Troops to Pakistan

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has said the United States is prepared to send troops to Pakistan to fight alongside the country's forces against Islamic fighters.

"We remain ready, willing and able to assist the Pakistanis and to partner with them, to provide additional training, to conduct joint operations, should they desire to do so," Gates said on Thursday.

He also made it clear that his country was open to providing more direct assistance.Asked if he envisaged US combat troops and Pakistani forces operating together, Gates said: "If the Pakistanis wanted to do that, I think we would."

'Act of war'

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said Gates's suggestion would anger most Pakistanis.

He said
: "The Pakistani people believe that it is only their armed forces that are able to handle the continued violence in the tribal region."

"Musharraf himself said that if foreign intervention is applied, it would be construed as an act of war.

"But ultimately, the government believes that an end to the conflict is via a political solution - not a military one - and it should not be dictated from overseas."

The US military is under strain from fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Bush administration says it is concerned about the ongoing clashes in Pakistan's tribal areas.


http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D06F9A6A-18CC-44D8-8E87-91717FAC7E38.htm


Let me tell you something about military leadership -- and this goes for the appointed civilian leadership at the Pentagon, as well: they don't publicly engage in idle speculation. If they're talking about it, they're planning it, and they're almost certainly going to do it. It's just a matter of time before we have a long-term military presence in Pakistan. My next deployment, perhaps?


I just predicted a few weeks ago that we were going to be going to Pakistan. I told my supervisor to expect it. She and a few others I work with were a bit incredulous about that prediction, but I stated that Pakistan was a nuke state which we couldn't afford to allow to fall to the Taliban or other people who are less than friendly to U.S. interests. Considering Pakistanis are now fleeing to Afghanistan, it struck me as only a matter of time before we sent troops over there. Truth be told though, I didn't expect it to happen quite so quickly.


If Musharraf gives them any push-back on this, expect to start hearing from the White House about how this current "important ally in the War on Terror" is suddenly an evil, terrorist-sympathizing tyrant.


Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

"Stimulus" package passed

The White House and the Democrats in Congress have agreed a $150bn (£76bn) economic stimulus package that will offer tax rebates to boost growth.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would act on the deal "at the earliest date, so those rebate cheques will be in the mail".

Some 117 million US homes will receive a rebate of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for married couples.

Washington is moving fast to try to avoid the US falling into a recession.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7206412.stm

So... what's that supposed to do? Stimulate spending? Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul like we did in 2001, with the $300 checks? Worked so well then, right?

Where have they been while working stiffs have been struggling to get by on wages which don't keep up with the rate of inflation? Now that the super rich might be taking a hit to their bottom line (and let's face it, they can weather it if they need to), suddenly it's Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress to the rescue?

I would advise everybody receiving one of these checks to pay very close attention to the fine print on this one. I'll be truthful: I don't honestly know whether this is actually a true rebate or simply an advance on your anticipated refund like it was in 2001. Back then, if you cashed your check thinking, "ooh, free money", you were in for a surprise come tax time: that $300 was coming out of your normal refund. Or, if you were one of those who don't try to have big refunds from the IRS every year, you would then have to pay that in. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Be careful, is all I'm saying -- especially those of you with children in low-income households. This "economic stimulus" will not find it's way back to you again. That's the problem with this whole plan: businesses have, of late, been experiencing huge gains in this country. The rich have gotten so rich that they literally don't know what to do with all of their money. All they know is that they couldn't possibly afford to pay any more in taxes. Certainly not to rebuild New Orleans, and certainly not to have properly reinforced the levies in the first place. And they most definitely cannot spare that money on higher wages for all the workers who are making them rich in the first place.

Something has to give, and when it all falls apart, can we count on the rich to do right by the rest of the country and give a little in order to prevent mass starvation and rampant violence? Nah, they'll just withdraw to their gated communities and pay Blackwater mercs to guard them.

New Orleans: No Firehouses Rebuilt

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans has yet to rebuild a single fire station more than two years after Katrina destroyed or damaged 22 of the city's 33 firehouses. Appalled by the city's lack of action, an actor is leading the way in reconstruction of the fire stations.

"I gave up on ever hoping that politicians in this country -- local, state or federal -- would step in to help these guys," actor Denis Leary told CNN.

Leary, who stars as a firefighter on a TV show called "Rescue Me," is using his charitable foundation to bring together volunteers from a New York carpenter's union and the New Orleans Fire Department to rebuild the stations. So far, they've rebuilt five, with two more slated to be finished in a couple months.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/24/nola.firehouses/

Good on Leary for doing the right thing here, but this is still an absolute outrage. Over two years later, and the city still hadn't rebuilt their fire stations?

WHAT THE FUCK HAVE THEY BEEN DOING THE PAST TWO YEARS!?

Oh, yeah: tearing down housing.

More from the CNN story:

Edward Blakely, the czar of New Orleans recovery effort, appreciates the work from Leary's foundation and volunteers. He said the city has been focusing on rebuilding its police headquarters to combat the growing crime problem.

The police headquarters just recently reopened, now allowing the city to focus on the fire stations, Blakely said.

"We say to the citizens: 'Look, we are going to have a better city. You don't want us to put it back just the way it was. You want us to improve it,' " Blakely said. "That's what we're going to do. That takes a little more time, but it's worth it."

Bullshit! The whole point of this is to destroy the city and turn it into a test-bed for a laissez-faire paradise. Just like Chile under Pinochet, or the current Iraq situation. Thing is, it always turns out disastrously... for the people. The very, very rich always love it because they make out like bandits, which is why they keep doing it over and over again.

They are intentionally destroying the city's infrastructure to "prove" that the government can't do anything right, after which they will privatize every-fucking-thing in sight and buy it all up at a song, turning New Orleans into a Disneyland version of itself. They'll gut the city of its core identity, let the poor starve or leave, or else work for slave wages serving them Hand Grenades at their favorite pubs while faux jazz musicians play for them, since they don't have a soul in their fucking bodies and can't tell the difference between music with feeling behind it and music that's programed by a fucking computer, just like they won't be able to tell the difference between a New Orleans with rich diversity and a real sense of community and a New Orleans ice cream stand whose only flavor is vanilla.

It's a fucking crime, and the people in the rest of our country need to realize two very simple words before they brush this off as somebody else's problem: you're next. If you haven't figured out that they intend to do what they're doing to New Orleans to the rest of the country, then you need to take another look. New Orleans is a test bed. They're going to figure out which little fuck-overs make them money and which ones don't, and then they're going to try it in every other city in America. If they get away with it in New Orleans, it will be much more difficult to stop them anywhere else, because they'll be everywhere else. They'll have a veneer of credibility that will fool a lot of people: "Come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras; you can get your drinks, toss beads, watch young tarts flash their boobs... just like before, but without all the crime and, you know, black people."

The time is now; the battleground is New Orleans. Anybody who can lend a hand, do so:

http://www.commongroundrelief.org/

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hope Will Not Be Televised

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/campaignmatters?bid=45&pid=273806

Great speeches don't matter if no one hears them. Barack Obama delivered a riveting speech about America's moral crisis this weekend, calling for a united movement to overcome the nation's moral deficit and mounting economic inequality. Political observers praised the address and reporters covered it -- 53 mentions in major papers -- yet it's been largely overshadowed by the escalating fight between Obama and The Clintons, which still dominates this week's media narrative. The candidates and reporters are focused on the fight, a defensible choice given both its impact and the undeniable news of a former U.S. President "spreading demonstrably false information," according to ABC News. But it turns out the public found Obama's speech anyway.

While cable news shows gorge on campaign sparring, Obama's uplifting speech is absolutely dominating YouTube. The 34-minute address from Ebenezer Baptist Church is currently the fourth most viewed video in the world on YouTube, trailing two Britney Spears clips. Not only is that unusual traffic for a long political address – people also like it. On Tuesday, viewers voted it the second most "favorited" video in the world. It also drew the second highest number of incoming links, a key indicator of web interest that drives Google page rankings. About 43 percent of viewers have come from links on Obama's social networking page, MyBO, which encourages supporters to share videos and information with their friends. Other viewers came from apolitical networks, both within YouTube and on other sites. At SomethingAwful, a popular general interest site that proclaims the "Internet makes you stupid," one user wrote that the speech was so good it was worth posting in a non-political forum, attaching the video and text. The single post drew more than 3,000 new viewers in a day.


Here's the speech. It's long, but worth the listen. Seriously.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Please welcome Elizabeth and Pandora

The Command Post is growing, and we now have four authors contributing to our blog. I've been wanting to turn this blog into a team effort rather than the solo effort that it's been, and I'm pleased with the team that we've assembled so far. Just by having Azul, Pandora, and Elizabeth on board, we've already begun to improve this little blog exponentially. We look forward to seeing some great contributions from each of them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day


Every year at this time, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Politicians, columnists, and activists all take their turn assessing the current state of affairs in American civil rights. Some tout the progress our nation has made, while others lament how far we have to go. Some wish for this discussion to go away, while others try to continue the struggle Dr. King led so long ago.

Dr. King died ten years before I was born. Only ten years, yet to hear my teachers tell it in school, the civil rights struggle was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Malcolm X was seldom, if ever, mentioned. To the extent that the nation had to acknowledge that the civil rights movement even happened, they were going to choose to lionize the less threatening of the two, lest children get ideas in their heads about how to affect change.

The nation has come far. To look at the history of where the nation stood when Dr. King was alive is simply mind-boggling. Even more mind-boggling are the number of people who were alive at the time and have seen such profound change. But in light of that, it makes sense that so many would simply want to say, "That's enough change for one life time," hang up their brains and vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

But change continues. Today we have a credible African-American candidate for President of the United States. We also have a credible female candidate. Barring the unexpected, one or the other of them will be the Democratic nominee. Neither of them is the first to run, but they are the first to be taken seriously by their party's establishment.

This gets to the heart of the real issue of progress: it's not about legislation we pass, but about changing people's attitudes. Are women taken seriously in the work place? Are blacks or other racial minorities? Often it depends on where you're talking about. To a white, blue collar worker, the disparity between the races (or the genders) is less apparent. The question of why a guy working 60 hours a week just to feed his family doesn't have a lot of sympathy for the plight of other people should almost answer itself. But it doesn't mean that he necessarily thinks less of his black co-worker, doing the same job as him. Sexist and racist attitudes do prevail, but I would contend that your average "Joe Six Pack" is markedly ahead of the curve compared to the establishment's power brokers in Washington, or the white collar management who cut his pay check. To him, it's a simple issue of fairness, and if he treats the black co-worker as an equal, then that, to his mind, should be enough, as it is largely all he can do.

Yet over the years, the talk of "quotas" often pitted white working class people against black working class people, thus stunting progress for both. Established power used the civil rights movement as a scapegoat for whites, thus stopping them from confronting the real cause of their problems while simultaneously using these whites to stop civil rights legislation, and thus continuing to foster distrust of whites among blacks. This drama continues to play out, as we've seen in this current Presidential election. Issues of women and racial minorities continue to play out, and at times, against each other.

MLK is often presented not as a symbol or spokesman for the larger civil rights movement, but as the "leader" or even as a movement unto himself. With the passage of time, his legend grows until it is no longer a man we remember, but a myth. Nearly 40 years have passed since his death, and here I am, less than ten years younger than he was when he died. Ten years -- that's it. What have I done to better the world? What have any of us?

By ourselves, we can do very little, but together, we can accomplish much. That's the lesson that the civil rights movement should teach us. It seems simple or trite, but it's something that many people have yet to learn. To present Dr. King as a giant that no man can measure up to is to cheat us of that most profound lesson. A Baptist minister from a church in Montgomery, Alabama stood up and made a profound difference, but he could not have done it alone. He did not do it alone. It was a movement in which the people spoke to power, not the other way around. This was not a prophet presenting the "will of God" to the unwashed masses. This was the unwashed masses telling the throne how things were going to be in the future. And they won.

Here we are today, 40 years after his death, yet we are still not yet in the promised land Dr. King spoke of. Injustices abound, and mistrust between the races is still deeply entrenched. There are other minority groups which have still not achieved equal standing. Gay couples do not have the same rights as straight couples, and gays still must hide their nature when serving in the military. Women still make less pay for equal work. The U.S. still keeps colonies (or "territories", if you must) that do not have voting rights in Congress and do not have the right to vote for President. Native American reservations often live in dire poverty, as exemplified by the life expectancy of Lakota men (less than 44 years). De facto segregation still exists, as seen in cities like East St. Louis, over 90% black, where obscene poverty still abounds, and nearby St. Charles County in Missouri, over 90% white, where the economic outlook is much more sunny. New Orleans, a city once over 60% black, was allowed to drown and rot while the poor were kept at bay and prevented from returning. And Iraq today serves as an example of how the U.S. government happily throws away the lives of the poor to further the wants of the rich, much the way they did in Vietnam back in Dr. King's day. These are just examples I've seen with my own eyes, in my own limited time on this earth. It does not even begin to scratch the surface of the injustices which prevail in our nation or the amount of work we still have left to do.

Today we stand in the midst of one of the darkest times in our nation's history, the presidency of George W. Bush. We have a unique opportunity to not only choose a President who will listen when the unwashed masses speak, but also to hold whomever we choose to the promises he or she makes. Regardless of the victor, we must follow Dr. King's example and make them remember that we are the true power, and that we are the ones they answer to. We must make them remember that we owe them no tribute, no acquiescence. They are our servants, and they will acquiesce to us.

If we make them.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Greg Palast: George of Arabia

Greg Palast/ George of Arabia: Better kiss your Abes Goodbye.

excerpt but go read it if you can
---
Since taking office, Bush has doubled the federal debt to more than $5 trillion. And, according to US Treasury figures, on net, foreign investors have purchased close to 100% of that debt. That's $3 trillion borrowed from the Saudis, the Chinese, the Japanese and others.

Now, Bush, our Debt Junkie-in-Chief, needs another fix. The US Treasury, Citibank, Merrill-Lynch and other financial desperados need another hand-out from Abdullah's stash. Abdullah, in turn, gets this financial juice by pumping it out of our pockets at nearly $100 a barrel for his crude.

Bush needs the Saudis to charge us big bucks for oil. The Saudis can't lend the US Treasury and Citibank hundreds of billions of US dollars unless they first get these US dollars from the US. The high price of oil is, in effect, a tax levied by Bush but collected by the oil industry and the Gulf kingdoms to fund our multi-trillion dollar governmental and private debt-load.

The US Treasury is not alone in its frightening dependency on Arabian loot. America's private financial institutions are also begging for foreign treasure. Yesterday, King Abdullah's nephew, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, already the top individual owner of Citibank, joined the Kuwait government's Investment Authority and others to mainline a $12.5 billion injection of capital into the New York bank. Also this week, the Abu Dhabi government and the Saudi Olayan Group are taking a $6.6 billion chunk of Merrill-Lynch. It's no mere coincidence that Bush is in Abdullah's tent when the money-changers made the deal just outside it.

Bush is there to assure Abdullah that, unlike Dubai's ports purchase debacle, there will be no political impediment to the Saudi's buying up Citibank nor the isle of Manhattan.
-snip-
Palast article


Now I think a lot of the Iran sword waving is just to make us seem relevant to the public, over there and over here, while the Saudi Royals and Bushco continue to pocket the profits from their "special" friendship. Something worth dancing about for them it seems.


Photo is from Bob Cesca: Bush Shouldn't Play with Sharp Objects

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama for President

The Command Post has, to this point, remained neutral in the matter of the Democratic primary. No more. I am officially endorsing Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I'll keep my reasons as short and to the point as possible:

  1. My selection is largely a "process of elimination" choice. Obama was not my first choice for President -- that was Al Gore. Nor was he my second choice -- that was Wesley Clark. No was he my third choice -- that was Russ Feingold. Unfortunately, neither Gore, Clark, or Feingold are running in this race. I am thus forced to choose among the field of candidates who are. Wesley Clark has endorsed Clinton, but I had already made my mind up about her. John Edwards has said a lot of things that appeal to me, but his abrupt shift on foreign policy leaves me wondering whether it is sincere or whether it is for the sake of the campaign. I don't know. I do know that he co-sponsored the Iraq War legislation which gave President Bush authorization to invade (despite what the Clintons now claim). That leaves Obama.
  2. Barack Obama represents a break from the past that Hillary Clinton cannot offer. I was never terribly enamored with President Clinton. I felt that too often he sold out his principles for short term political gain. Many of those sell-outs have had long term political consequences. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a prime example. The Communications Decency Act was, thankfully, overturned by the Supreme Court, but it's another example of Clinton selling out his principles. I could go into numerous examples, but I'll just link this article which explains it all pretty well.
  3. Two words: Ted Sorensen.
  4. Obama's campaign has made several seemingly small gestures which, taken as a whole, add up to a portrait of a candidate who is concerned with more than just courting large donors or broad demographics, but with individual people. My own experience (and there are many people with stories like mine) is this: in 2005, when Obama was a new senator, he held a meeting with constituents in Belleville, IL. I was stationed at Scott AFB and had, during the campaign, cast an absentee ballot from Qatar on which I voted for Obama for Senate (and was quite pleased to do so). I went to see Obama at this meeting and listened to him speak and field questions. Afterward, I went up to shake his hand, but I had to jump ahead a couple of times, since I missed him, and when he finally did shake my hand, it was sort of a wet fish, and he didn't look me in the eye. That left me with a sour taste in my mouth, although I resolved that that alone wasn't going to color my entire outlook on him. Still, I relayed the message to my family back home shortly before I went to Iraq. A few months later, I received a letter from the Obama campaign in which Sen. Obama apologized for missing me on the line and expressed his deep respect for people in uniform. I later found out that my sister had notified the campaign of my experience and that she thought that a letter from the campaign would lift my spirits while I was in Iraq. The gesture from my sister meant more, but the gesture from the campaign counted a lot for me, as well. It was a small, easy gesture, but it was one that told me that every vote, every citizen, even a lowly Staff Sergeant like me, matters to this campaign. That counts for a lot. At the time, it didn't immediately sway me to his camp, but... no other campaign has shown me the interest in not only listening to what we have to say, but responding.
  5. Over the summer, I read a quote by Mark Twain (via a friend's MySpace profile): "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great." I also read a book about the Kennedys, and I realized that what America needed was a President who could make the American people feel that we, too, can somehow be great. Hillary Clinton doesn't do that. She talks about "false hope" and belittles the civil rights movement (and MLK specifically) saying that "it took a President" to get civil rights legislation accomplished. Barack Obama inspires people, and to me, that is the most important role that a President can play: not simply managing the government as President Clinton did, but to inspire the American people to rise to greater heights than we ever have before. Clinton is wrong; it didn't "take a President to get it done". It took a movement to push a President to do the right thing. It took the power of the American people. So if Sen Clinton thinks that real power comes from top down, then I'll let her test that theory in the primaries. I think that real power comes from the bottom up, "a mandate from the masses", to quote Monty Python. I believe that Barack Obama sees it that way, too.
  6. What happened to the Baby Boomers? They've gone from John Lennon's Imagine to phrases like "false hope" and "can we have a reality break?" I hate to think that Hillary Clinton is representative of her entire generation, but I've come to the conclusion that leadership which is incapable of dreaming of a better future needs to step aside and let those who have not yet been jaded and embittered by battles lost take the lead and move forward. The Clintons' leadership has lead us down a path which has inspired, instead, A Perfect Circle's cover of Imagine.
Clinton's supporters say that "hope is not a plan". I say that all plans are lost without hope. I say that "a plan" isn't what we need. What we need is hope, because this nation is in one of its darkest hours, and a map, no matter how detailed, is useless without a light: The light of hope.

Obama 2008.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Presidential quick takes:

  1. Huckabee's Iowa win does nothing for him in New Hampshire, but it does reveal a schism between the GOP's religious base and their economic base. That schism will continue to be a factor going into the general election.
  2. I expect to see Hillary hang in there until the convention, given the large number of super delegates she's amassed. If she can keep it close in a three-way race with Obama and Edwards, she could pull out a win without actually winning more primary contests.
  3. Either Obama or Edwards needs to pull out after Super Tuesday if they want to thwart that strategy. Probably Edwards. Obama has a huge advantage right now in terms of material resources and manpower, as well as media buzz. In fact, I'd say that if Edwards can't pull something out in New Hampshire, he should probably drop out before Super Tuesday and throw in with Obama. This is especially true if Clinton wins New Hampshire. Either Edwards or Obama would have the edge in a two-way contest with Hillary. A three-way contest favors Clinton down the stretch.
  4. If Hillary's smart (and I have my doubts), she'll put money into the Edwards campaign (secretly, of course) in order to continue the three-way race. If she's stupid (again, I have my doubts), she'll try to knock out Edwards so she can take on Obama one-on-one. This match-up does not favor her. She needs to play to her strengths (back-room wheeling and dealing), and not her weaknesses (campaigning).
  5. The majority of Democrats in Iowa did not favor the establishment choice. This is different from pointing out that the majority didn't favor Edwards or Obama either, since the votes those two candidates received would be more readily transferable to each other than they are to Hillary. There's Hillary and Not Hillary, and that's what the race is going to boil down to, eventually. Not Hillary wins that contest, but again, if there are two Not Hillarys, then splitting that vote keeps Hillary alive until the convention.
  6. Bottom line: the GOP race is still wide open, and the Democratic race needs to be pared down to a two-person race in order to avoid the establishment choice (Hillary) from cruising to victory.

Obama victory speech in Iowa



Great speech. His actions (such as personally calling Iowans to ask for their vote rather than delegating that task to volunteers or staffers), however, are what really intrigue me. I'm not making an endorsement, but he has my attention.