Monday, August 31, 2009

Prominent Conservative calls for a Pullout from Afghanistan

It's too bad George Will didn't make his arguments during the Bush years. He probably would have been denounced as a traitor. Better late than never, I guess. But some of us like, myself having been calling for a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan for years.

George F. Will, the elite conservative commentator, will call in his next column for U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan, according to publishing sources.

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.

President Obama ordered a total of 21,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan in February and March, and casualties have mounted as the forces began confronting the Taliban more aggressively. August saw the highest monthly death toll for the U.S. since the invasion in 2001, the second record month in a row.

Will’s prescription – in which he urges Obama to remember Bismarck’s decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870 - seems certain to split Republicans. He is a favorite of fiscal conservatives. The more hawkish right can be expected to attack his conclusion as foolhardy, short-sighted and na├»ve, potentially making the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Will's declaration comes at a time when serious questions are being raised about how to sustain a costly war against an intractable enemy.
As public support wanes, the Obama administration feels it needs to deliver speedy progress in Afghanistan so that it can gain time and backing for its long-term military strategy.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Washington - The Obama administration is racing to demonstrate visible headway in the faltering war in Afghanistan, convinced it has only until next summer to slow a hemorrhage in U.S. support and win more time for the military and diplomatic strategy it hopes can rescue the 8-year-old effort.

But the challenge in Afghanistan is becoming more difficult in the face of gains by the Taliban, rising U.S. casualties, a weak Afghan government widely viewed as corrupt, and a sense among U.S. commanders that they must start the military effort largely from scratch nearly eight years after it began.

A turnaround is crucial because military strategists believe they will not be able to get the additional troops they feel they need in coming months if they fail to show that their new approach is working, U.S. officials and advisors say.

There are even some prominent Democratic Senators calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan:
Scores of national security strategists have implored that the U.S. cannot withdraw from Afghanistan anytime soon (if ever) because if Afghanistan falls into the hands of the Taliban it would lead to the further destabilization of Pakistan; and if Pakistan is destabilized, nukes would fall into the hands of al-Qaeda. However, I agree with Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold that reality on the ground has proven the indirect what-if postulates of foreign policy clairvoyants wrong, and it is time for the United States to begin a phased withdrawal.

How Obama is Failing with Health Care Reform

This from Alternet:

The real economic spillovers and side effects of Wall Street-leverage and rocket-science concoctions brought the curtain down on the romance with the unfettered free market. This was a mess that did not need to happen. It was a calamity that will cost the world economy trillions of dollars.

This is the stage that President Obama walked onto when he made his run and was elected to the White House. Government romance had been pounded out of the hearts of Americans for decades. Yet now free market fantasies were in tatters. For Obama, seeds of opportunity were contained in the crisis.

What was remarkable about Obama was his seemingly magical ability to inspire us all to suspend our cynicism about civic engagement and government and give things a new try. Sure, he had help from the dreadful examples of his predecessor's work on Katrina, Iraq, torture and the TARP bailout. Yet he pulled it off, and the idea of a strong leader steering us through a crisis brought visions of FDR into the minds of many.

We took comfort in the notion that "the best and brightest" would be taking over. The Administration promised bold actions on many fronts, including stimulus, climate change, financial regulation, bailout policy and healthcare.

[...]Instead, we got nothing on inauguration day. We got a plan-to-have-a-plan in early February, followed by the announcement of PPIP and infinite forbearance through an intravenous-drip system of capital injections so that the behemoth banks, their executives, their stockholders -- and most profoundly, their unsecured creditors -- could hold onto their money. We got that, coupled with the announcement of AIG bonuses. As a final insult, we heard Administration officials waxing on about the sanctity of contracts while the autoworkers' benefits and pensions were being restructured. The public was rightly enraged.

Obama's own party is confused by the President's lack of leadership on health care:
President Obama can still secure major health-care legislation this year if he learns from his mistakes in recent months and spends more time reminding Americans why they were once eager for fundamental change.

His White House lost sight of the need to make a strong case that reform would deliver specific benefits to the insured as well as the uninsured. Absent a consistent set of arguments from reformers, advocates of the status quo filled the vacuum -- often with outright lies.

The administration also sent mixed and confusing signals about its position on a public insurance option. This set off a liberal firestorm and increased the role that the public option played in the public debate -- which, paradoxically, is exactly the opposite of what Obama's lieutenants intended.

And his aides did not foresee just how fraught the situation would become in the Senate, where Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, allowed Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, to string negotiations along indefinitely without making any commitment to voting for a bill.

Senate leaders signaled Obama as early as June that they wanted him to intervene more actively to push Baucus along. The administration held back, hoping it could postpone its most forceful involvement until after both the Senate and the House had passed bills. But Baucus's failure to produce a proposal before the summer recess added to the sense of legislative chaos and bred uncertainty as to what reformers are seeking.

U.S. Commander: Afghanistan Situation Serious

Sunday, August 30, 2009

McCain Accuses Cheney/Bush of Breaking Law on Torture

Democratic Senator Proposes a "Timetable" for Afghanistan

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CNN's State of the Union Transcript (8-23-09): Health Care Reform, Afghan War

Read the complete transcript of State of the Union for 8-23-09. Excerpt below:

KING: This is the “State of the Union” report for Sunday, August 23rd.

In Afghanistan today, both President Hamid Karzai and his top challenger are claiming victory in last week’s election, raising tensions, even though it could be weeks or more before the official results are certified. It is an uncertain military situation, as well, with fighting between U.S. forces and the Taliban intensifying. And fresh indications President Obama could soon be asked to commit more American troops.

Here to talk about this and other global challenges are the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen , and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. He joins us from Kabul.

And Mr. Ambassador, let me start with you. There are complaints, escalating complaints this Sunday about fraud in the elections. On the threshold question of will this balloting be credible, what is your answer?

EIKENBERRY: Well, John, it was an extraordinary two months that we’ve been through, with this being a very historic election. Afghanistan, the first time in the past 30 years that the Afghan people have led an election for their president, for provincial councils, very intense campaign that occurred over the last two months, all new in Afghanistan. Presidential televised debates, campaign rallies. A very civil debate that occurred over this time.

The election itself, everyone knows how challenging it is in the country like Afghanistan to run an election. There’s an insurgency in parts of the country right now. It was an election in which over 6,000 voting stations were set up, crossing deserts and mountains, donkeys carrying ballots to the last polling stations of Afghanistan, and a very well-organized campaign. The Afghan-led independent electoral commission looks like it managed a pretty good process. There’s adjudication systems that have been up, an electoral complaints commission. There was a media complaints commission that was set up.

I got out myself and looked at some of the voting that was going on, and I can tell you, at least one part of the process, the indelible ink, over three days now I haven’t been able to get it off the finger.

Now, against all of that, where are we? Well, right now we’re waiting for the results of this election to come in. The electoral -- the independent electoral commission, they’re waiting for the tallies to be count from across the country. There’s been charges of fraud. The electoral complaints commission is taking those on right now.

We’re really not going to know, John, for several more weeks exactly where we do stand in this process.

We’re not sure exactly what the level of voter turnout was. Millions turned out to vote, but of course, Taliban intimidation, especially in southern Afghanistan, certainly limited those numbers. But for now, we don’t know, and it’s for us to wait and see and allow this process to move forward.

McCain Defends Palin on Obamacare: Transcript (8-23-09)

Senator John McCain, appearing on ABC's This Week, defended Sarah Palin's attacks on Obama's health care proposal. Read the complete transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also says that the debate has been infected by falsehoods. And probably the most notorious one is the one made by your former running mate, Sarah Palin, who said that his bill would encourage death panels that would encourage euthanasia. He called that an extraordinary lie and he is right about that, isn't he?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that what we are talking about here is do – are we going to have groups that actually advise people as these decisions are made later in life and …

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not in the bill.

MCCAIN: But – it's been taken out, but the way that it was written made it a little bit ambiguous. And another thing …

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that's correct, Senator. The bill, all it said was that, if a patient wanted to have a Medicare consultation about end-of-life issues, they could have it at their request and the doctor would get reimbursed for it, no panel …

MCCAIN: There was a provision in the bill that talks about a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people, OK? Now, we had amendments, we republican have said that in no way would that affect the decisions that the patients would make and their families. That was rejected by the Democrats and the health committee.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's not a death panel.

MCCAIN: So what does – what does that lead to? Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing and decisions made such are made in other countries?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, every single independent group that looked at it said it just wasn't true.

MCCAIN: Well, then why did the Democrats turn down our amendments that clarified that none of the decisions that would be made by this board would in any way affect depriving of needed treatments for patients? I don't know why they did that then.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think Sarah Palin was right?

MCCAIN: Look, I don't think they were called death panels, don't get me wrong. I don't think – but on the best treatment procedures part of the bill, it does open it up to decisions being made as far – that should be left – those choices left to the patient and the individual. That's what I think is pretty clear, which was a different section of the bill.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Big Lie

The Republicans have won the health care reform debate. But they didn't win because of their superior argument. It was the big lie that did it. The Republicans, following the NAZI playbook, repeated a lie often enough so that people began to believe it. The administration could not stand up to the lies just like the Weimar Republic would or could not refute Adolf Hitler.

It was the last administration that ushered in the era of neo-fascism. They put a stranglehold on the constition. And we just stood by allowed them to turn us into the third world country we've now become.

The lies about Obama have not been effectively responded to. Now many millions of Americans believe Obama should
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brazilian Legislator and TV Host Commits Murders for Ratings

Anything for ratings. Not unlike stateside:

In one murder after another, the "Canal Livre" crime TV show had an uncanny knack for being first on the scene, gathering graphic footage of the victim.

Too uncanny, say police, who are investigating the show's host, state legislator Wallace Souza, on suspicion of commissioning at least five of the murders to boost his ratings and prove his claim that Brazil's Amazon region is awash in violent crime. Police also have accused Souza of drug trafficking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

David Brooks Calls Rush Limbaugh Comments Insane

David Brooks is an example of a rational conservative. He made these remarks while appearing on Meet The Press. Read the complete transcript or excerpt below:

MR. DAVID BROOKS: I hadn't seen the Rush Limbaugh thing. That is insane. What he's saying is insane. But I guess I would say the, the first thing is it has been a conventional wisdom among the smartest people in Washington that this is such a tough issue you got to do it on a bipartisan basis. And the Obama administration, for better or worse, decided not to do that. There was a thing called the Wyden-Bennett bill that really could have launched a bipartisan, so leaders of both parties could have gone out to these town meetings. They didn't do it, they chose more or less a Democratic plan and now all hell is breaking loose. And we are now--and it's not just the crazies, among whom we just saw some. But if you take overall poll ratings for health care, they are--people are--the American public is now as skeptical as they were when Clinton care collapsed. So there--it's not just the crazies, there's a real public concern about real issues, aside from the stuff that Rush Limbaugh says.

He also calls Sarah Palin's comments crazy:
MR. GREGORY: David, Sarah, Sarah Palin on Facebook, to the point of the opposition, this is what she writes: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's `death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide...whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." There is the rhetoric; there's also the question of what's true and what's false in what people are arguing about this notion of a death panel.

MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Again, that's crazy. If--the, the, the crazies are attacking the plan because it'll cut off granny, and that--that's simply not true. That simply is not going to happen. The real reason for public skepticism is that Obama very eloquently and very truthfully said, "We've got to bring down healthcare costs." Everybody's healthcare costs are rising. It's eaten into your wages, it's eaten into the budget, it's eaten into everything. And the problem with the House plan is that instead of bending the cost curve down, it would increase the cost curve so inflation would be 8 percent a year when it's all implemented, and that's just disaster. So what the Obama administration has got to do, and I agree with Jon about this, is make this Obama-like; which is to say, "We're going to produce a plan." And from I hear, by the end of this month they will have a plan. And they are going to say, "This is what we stand for." And you can't sell anything without a plan. But it's got to be a plan that actually cuts costs so you can have a rational discussion instead of the scare stories about cutting off grandma.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Business as Usual: 8-5-09

You would never know that we had almost plunged into a great depression just months ago. Professional athletes are making the kinds of obscene salaries did prior to the near collapse. The latest example: Eli Manning. He is having his contract extended for a near $100 million. Is that rational? The free enterprizers would insist that the marketplace is always right therefore it's a good thing. At a time when Americans are barely able to make ends meet, such a salary hike for playing a game is obscene. And who pays those salaries? You and I do with ever rising ticket prices.
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I'm watching MSNBC and they are showing the video created by that Pennsylvania killer. We see a seriously disturbed individual give a tour of his house. And once again a mass killer is given what they want--attention and fame. This encourages others to do the same.

No mention of the fact that once again a gun is used to commit terrible crimes. Its almost as if the press/media were under orders to ignore the issue of guns in our society. As long as the Congress is owned by the gun lobby, mass murder will continue to be America's fastest rising sport.

Also appearing on the program was disgraced former NY Governor, Elliott Spitzer. It seems you can't tell the difference between news programs and reality shows.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The headline reads "Putin Bares Chest." Who is Putin? Do we care? And why is this news? And aren't we romanticizing a dictator who has control over nuclear weapons pointed at the U.S.? The media/press aren't concerned about these questions. A headline isn't about informing as much as it is about sensationalism. And a good headline has to reach the biggest audience. And that's done through the lowest common denominator. Is it any wonder why most of us couldn't even say who Vladimir Putin is, eventhough we should.
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