Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
December 28, 2009 | Washington Post
By Brady Dennis
December 23, 2009 | Washington Post
December 26, 2009 | The Kansas City Star
Sunday, December 27, 2009
By Jared Polis
December 24, 2009 CNN
Editor's note: Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District and is appearing in CNN.com's "Freshman Year" series along with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah.
I recently attended the White House Christmas tree lighting and congressional holiday party. Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and love, quite a juxtaposition for a nation fighting three wars, one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a global war on terror.
We went into Afghanistan eight years ago to oust the Taliban and capture their guest Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda associates. Eight years later, al Qaeda has largely been driven out of Afghanistan.
When should our nation go to war? Only as a last resort.
That's why I opposed the completely unnecessary invasion of Iraq, and why I now oppose an ongoing occupation of Afghanistan.
In meeting after meeting, I have been shown by generals and statesmen what we are doing in Afghanistan, how it could take decades, might not work, and is fraught with risks. In response, I ask the same repeated question: Why?
With all the ambiguity clouding the outcome, the case has not been conclusively made that the possibilities are more favorable with an increase of 30,000 troops.
The very real war on terror must be fought, not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, but across the globe. The terrorists, most notably al Qaeda and their associates, are a stateless menace.
With the manpower and financial resources we are putting into occupying the nation of Afghanistan, we could improve our port security, increase our intelligence gathering to locate and infiltrate terrorist cells, and increase our special operation capacity.
Three areas of focus -- homeland security, intelligence, and special operations -- are the three best tools in our toolbox to fight the war on terror. Focusing our resources on occupying a small mountainous Asian nation is peripheral at best and a lethal distraction at worst.
On military matters, I frequently turn to my colleagues who have more experience in the area, just as I hope they turn to me as it relates to education or small business issues.
My colleague Eric Massa from New York, one of the highest ranking retired officers now serving in Congress, stated my position far more eloquently and with more credibility than I ever could on a radio show last week: "If our security is at stake to the extent that we must rebuild a nation because there are 100 terrorists in Afghanistan, then we better be willing to occupy every single nation on the face of this planet and do the same.
"Our mission is to identify, locate, kill or capture, with malice of forethought, any terrorist anywhere. That does not call for a standing army of 100,000 people executing an occupational strategy in a foreign nation," Massa continued.
"We have tried this over and over and over again and it has never once worked. You cannot achieve this militarily. Period."
Before we send troops, we should truly know why we are doing it, and what their mission is.
Sending troops to capture bin Laden made sense. Had the intelligence reports indicating that he was acquiring nuclear weapons been accurate, going after Saddam Hussein could even have been justified.
Why are we bogging ourselves down in a country that is not a significant al Qaeda host at such great financial and human cost?
If Afghanistan were to become host to terrorist organizations, the answer would be targeted special operations to seek and destroy the terrorists, not embroiling the entire country in an interminable civil war and occupation.
In addition, our ongoing occupation increases the sympathy among some locals for the very terrorism we are there to fight.
The inevitable innocent casualties can turn neutral families into terrorist collaborators and America-haters.
The people that our soldiers are fighting day-in and day-out in Afghanistan are not terrorists.
It is unclear to me how spending $4 billion per month and putting tens of thousands of American lives at risk in Afghanistan is the best way to keep America safe from terrorist attack.
National security is neither partisan nor ideological. I am confident in saying that there isn't a Democrat or Republican in Congress today who doesn't want to protect our country from terrorists.
There is no conservative way to fight terrorists or liberal way to fight terrorists. Regardless of our party and ideology, every member of Congress needs to use the information we are privileged to receive to reach a conclusion as to the best way to protect our great nation from attack.
It is always difficult to oppose our commander in chief on such a vital national security issue, but I owe it to those who put me in office to use my best judgment using the best information I have.
I have done my due diligence, visited Iraq and Afghanistan, met with officers and statesmen, read the reports, and I cannot support sending a single additional American soldier to Afghanistan, much less 30,000.
Premise 1: America is unique (exceptional).
Premise 2: American exceptionalism is the "last best hope of Earth" (ripping Abe Lincoln's words out of their historical context and planting them square in the middle of the health care debate).
Conclusion: Whatever makes America unique is the best.
This false logic would lead us to conclude, for example, that our millions of legal firearms make us the last best hope of Earth (which conservatives do believe); but also that our extremely litigious society with its thousands of tort lawyers makes us the last best hope of Earth (which conservatives would vehemently deny). According to this logic, America's 10-15 million illegal alien residents make it the last best hope of Earth. America's highest incarceration rate in the world makes it the last best hope of Earth. Or, the fact that we consume the most oil per capita makes us he last best hope of Earth. I could go on and on about our uniqueness. You get the point.
In fact, this point is so stupidly obvious I shouldn't have to make it at all. Which brings me to the second, real reason I'm 'splainin' dis fo ya: Prager's argument has been employed for years, if not decades, by American conservatives, who get a free pass from Logic 101. Whenever we durn lib'ruls want to change something for the better, they say it's because we "hate America" or "blame America first," and want turn it into a copy of drab, gray, socialist Scandinavia. But when they criticize something about America, like lib'rul Hollywood, it's because they love America. Their unspoken assumption is that since they truly believe in "American exceptionalism" and treasure this as an ideal, and since they know what the "real" America is all about, they should be free to tinker with society's rules and mores as they see fit. For you see, they are the arbiters of our exceptionalism.
That's not only fallacious reasoning, it's terribly self-serving, too.
Finally, regarding health care reform, which instigated Prager's op-ed: I sincerely doubt that the rest of the world sees America's 40+ million uninsured population as a beacon of hope. Likewise, I truly doubt that immigrants come to the U.S. in the hopes that they, too, won't be able to afford decent health coverage.
Democrats Ensure America Will No Longer Be the Last Best Hope of Earth
By Dennis Prager
December 22, 2009 | Human Events
As the passage of the bill that will start the process of nationalizing health care in America becomes almost inevitable, so, too, the process of undoing America's standing as The Last Best Hope of Earth will have begun.
That description of America was not, as more than a few Americans on the left believe, made by some right-wing chauvinist. It was made by President Abraham Lincoln in an address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862.
The bigger the American government becomes, the more like other countries America becomes. Even a Democrat has to acknowledge the simple logic: America cannot at the same time be the last best hope of earth and increasingly similar to more and more countries.
Either America is unique, in which case it at least has the possibility of uniquely embodying hopes for mankind -- or it is not unique, in which case it is by definition not capable of being the last best hope for humanity -- certainly no more so than, let us say, Sweden or the Netherlands.
Indeed, President Obama acknowledged this in April, when asked by a European reporter if he believes in American exceptionalism. The president's response: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
The president was honest. In his view, as in the view of today's Democratic party, America is special only in the same way we parents regard our children as "special." We all say it and we all believe it, but we know that it is meaningless except as an emotional expression of our love for our children. If every is child is equally special, none can be special, in fact. If every country is exceptional, then no country is exceptional, or at least no more so than any other.
With the largest expansion of the American government and state since the New Deal, the Democratic party -- alone -- is ending a key factor in America's uniqueness and greatness: individualism, which is made possible only when there is limited government.
The formula here is not rocket science: The more the government/state does, the less the individual does.
America's uniqueness and greatness has come from a number of sources, two of which are its moral and social value system, which is a unique combination of Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian values, and its emphasis on individual liberty and responsibility.
Just as the left has waged war on America's Judeo-Christian roots, it has waged war on individual liberty and responsibility.
Hillel, the most important rabbi of the Talmud (which, alongside the Hebrew Bible, is Judaism's most important book), summarized the human being's obligations in these famous words: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
What does this mean in the present context? It means that before anything else, the human being must first take care of himself. When people who are capable of taking care of themselves start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior beings. When people who could take care of their family start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior. And when people who could help take care of fellow citizens start relying on the state to do so, the morally coarsening process continues.
There has always been something profoundly ennobling about American individualism and self-reliance. Nothing in life is as rewarding as leading a responsible life in which one has not to depend on others for sustenance. Little, if anything, in life is as rewarding as successfully taking care of oneself, one's family and one's community. That is why America has always had more voluntary associations than any other country.
But as the state and government have gotten bigger, voluntary associations have been dying. Why help others if the state will do it? Indeed, as in Scandinavia, the attitude gradually becomes: why even help myself when the state will do it?
Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are right about one thing -- they are indeed making history. But their legacy will not be what they think. They will be known as the people who led to the end of America as the last best hope of earth.
UPDATE (Dec. 30, 2009): CNN says the Dutch dude's name is Jasper Schuringa. Jasper's account of his own heroism HAS been independently confirmed.
Jasper: "Hey there, lovely American ladies. My arm really hurts from being such a hero. By the way, I'm Dutch but I'm not gay. Look for me on MySpace."
Dutch Passenger Hurls Into Action to Stop Alleged Terrorist on Plane
December 26, 2009 FOXNews
I know, many of you conservatives will caution, "Don't engage in class warfare." But what we have now is class slaughter: a rich minority is destroying the bottom 90%, while we in the majority do nothing. It's time we fight back.
Top 1 Percent Control 42 Percent of Financial Wealth in the U.S. - How Average Americans are Lured into Debt Servitude by Promises of Mega Wealth.
Posted by mybudget360
Many Americans are not buying the recent stock market rally. This is being reflected in multiple polls showing negative attitudes towards the economy and Wall Street. Wall Street is so disconnected from the average American that they fail to see the 27 million unemployed and underemployed Americans that now have a harder time believing the gospel of financial engineering prosperity. Americans have a reason to be dubious regarding the recovery because jobs are the main push for most Americans. A recent study shows that over 70 percent of Americans derive their monthly income from an actual W-2 job. In other words, working is the prime mover and source of their income. Yet the financial elite have very little understanding of this concept. Why? 42 percent of financial wealth is controlled by the top 1 percent. We would need to go back to the Great Depression to see such lopsided data.
Many Americans are still struggling at the depths of this recession. We have 37 million Americans on food stamps and many wait until midnight of the last day of the month so checks can clear to buy food at Wal-Mart. Do you think these people are starring at the stock market? The overall data is much worse:
If we break the data down further we will find that 93 percent of all financial wealth is controlled by the top 10 percent of the country. That is why these people are cheering their one cent share increase while layoffs keep on improving the bottom line. But what bottom line are we talking about here? The Wall Street crowd would like you to believe that all is now good that the stock market has rallied 60+ percent. Of course they are happy because they control most of this wealth. Yet the typical American still has negative views on the economy because they actually have to work to earn a living:
The above daily poll asks Americans about their view on the health of the economy. Only 13 percent believe the economy is good or excellent. Funny how that correlates with the top 10 percent who control 93 percent of wealth. Many Americans were sold the illusion of the bubble. They were sold on the idea that their homes were worth so much more than they really were. And many used this phony wealth effect to go out and spend beyond their means. They started spending as if they were part of this elite 10 percent crowd. But once the tide rolled out, it was clear they were not. And the horribly built bailouts demonstrate who is controlling our political system. This was not the rule of a capitalist system but a corporate run government.
Just think about the bailouts and which companies were saved. We ended up bailing out the worst performing and troubled companies thus keeping alive companies that should have completely failed. Did we bail out Google? Proctor and Gamble? Of course not. These companies actually produce something that people want. Banks and especially the Wall Street kind merely keep that 42 percent happy by making sure their stock values stay high so they can keep on making money while the average Americans is sold up the river.
Yet many were brought into the easy money fold by going into massive amounts of debt. And who has most of the debt? That is right, the average American:
The bottom 90 percent have been saddled with 73 percent of all debt. In other words much of their so-called wealth is connected to debt. Debt is slavery for many especially with egregious credit card companies taking people out with absurd credit card tricks and scams. Yet the corporate propaganda machine is strong and mighty. Have you ever received an inheritance? A large one? Probably not because only 1.6% of all Americans receive an inheritance larger than $100,000. If this is the case, why in the world do politicians worry so much about the tax impacts of this? Because they want to keep the corporatocracy alive and well so their spawn can get a piece of their pie. They give the illusion to average Americans that if you only work hard enough you too can join this elusive club of cronies. The data shows otherwise.
But if we start looking at investment assets, the true wealth in the country, we start realizing why Wall Street is all giddy about the recent stock market government induced rally:
Of investment assets 90 percent of Americans own 12.2 percent. The rest goes to the top 10 percent. Welcome to the new serfdom. The bailouts that went out to the filthy rich were more about protecting their tiny corner of the world than actually making the economy better. That is why it is interesting to see companies fire people and Wall Street cheer for the increase in earnings per share. Good for the few at the expense of the many. Yet the propaganda out of Wall Street and our government is what is good for Wall Street is good for you. Just like that 1.6% inheritance issue, the vast majority of Americans won't deal with that and their primary concern is simply a job. A job that has provided stagnant wages for a decade while the ultra wealth get richer and richer in a phony form of corporate socialism.
If you break down the data you realize that most Americans don't have time to speculate in stock markets:
Only 34% of U.S. households make more than $65,000 per year. What is that after taxes? Let us use a state like California for example:
Now if we breakdown this data further you will realize that most of the money is consumed by cost of living necessities, not Wall Street speculation. Just to show this example let us look at a family budget for someone in California making $100,000:
Notice after running the budget we are in the hole for $1,000? That is because of many costs that typical families have. We can debate the merits of where they are spending money but the point is this; are these people really making beaucoup money from the stock market? They are putting away $12,000 a year into their 401k. As we have now found out, 8 percent a year is never guaranteed in the stock market although the corporate powers would like you to believe that so they can have other suckers to unload stocks onto.
"Yet the median household income in the U.S. is $50,000 and not $100,000. They have even less to invest."
They are more concerned on working to have a paycheck to pay for necessities. They are more concerned about paying their house off by the time they retire and hopefully, have a little bit of retirement funds coming in. The sad fact is most Americans rely on Social Security when they retire. All those ads of unlimited golf and daily trips to Tahiti are propaganda of how Wall Street lives and they want to sell you the sizzle, and clearly not the steak. They live their lives paper pushing and sucking the life out of the productive part of our economy. The average American should now realize this since this financial crisis was primarily caused by them. They are now on a massive campaign to blame Americans for this. This is hypocrisy to the next level. Many Americans have paid for their mistake by losing their home through foreclosure. We have 300,000 foreclosure filings a month. Many have taken a hit to their overall stock portfolio (if they have one). Yet the corporate cronies have protected their horrible economy crushing debts at the taxpayer expense. Unlike you, many hold bonds on the companies and not common stock like many Americans. Bondholders have been protected at all costs during this crisis. Goldman Sachs through AIG received 100 cents on the dollar for their horrible bets. The banks have unlimited back stops thanks to taxpayers. This is how the top 1 percent rule the new feudal state.
Welcome to the 2010 serfdom. Time to wake up and restructure the system. Many people are starting to wake up to this massive scam.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Gee, whaddya know, maybe all this U.S. military outsourcing not only harmed the morale of our nation's armed forces and undermined the traditional chain of command, but also produced less bang for the buck for U.S. taxpayers. I'm dumbstruck! Whoda thunkit?!
Pentagon sees big savings in replacing contractors with federal employees
By Walter Pincus
December 24, 2009 | Washington Post
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Report Finds ACORN Broke No Laws
By Janie Lorber
December 23, 2009 | New York Times
GOP Lawmaker Behind The Anti-'Happy Holidays' Resolution Sent A 'Happy Holidays' Greeting Last Year
By Lee Fang
December 24, 2009 | Think Progress
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Absurdity of Athlete Worship
By Armstrong Williams
December 22, 2009 Human Events
Monday, December 21, 2009
PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'Death panels'
By Angie Drobnic Holan
December 18, 2009 PolitFact
Megatrends that shape our future
- The average global surface temperature has increased by 0.76 degrees C compared to the 18th century.
- 11 of the 12 years between 1994 and 2005 rank among the 12 warmest since weather observations began.
- Greenhouse gas emissions have risen dramatically since industrialization. Today we face the highest CO2 concentration in the atmosphere for the past 350,000 years.
This is a multi-billion dollar mutli-national corporation saying this. And they're making big-money bets with shareholders' money that these facts mean something.
Like I said, if I'm wrong, just set me straight, because maybe I'm not picking up on the subtle subtext in his argument.
As punishment, he should be released buck naked at 2 a.m. in South Central Los Angeles with nothing but a Confederate flag draped over his bony-ass white body.
SC Sen. Graham adds state's growing African-American population as "problem"
December 21, 2009 South Carolina News
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The measure also trims personnel and maintenance accounts from previous versions of the measure to pump up weapons procurement for Afghanistan and Iraq by almost $2 billion.
… just the earmarks they will admit to. Not counted in that tally are the 10 C-17s for $2.5 billion, nine F-18s for a half a billion dollars (in the war funding part of the bill), plus the added $465 million for the GE engine…
- $1.9 billion in gross reductions to the Military Personnel (pay) account based on the arbitrary justification that there was need for an "undistributed adjustment," or in some cases "reimbursables."
- $2.1 billion in net reductions from the O&M account in the base bill; $1.4 billion of that reduction was based on phony justifications (indirectly based on some flimsy GAO analysis never made public), such as "historic underexecution." (If you want to review my analysis of this flimsy GAO analysis , see it at http://www.cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=4535.)
- The House and Senate Appropriations Committees also raided the direct war fighting O&M account in Title IX of the bill by $1.5 billion.
- Total O&M raids, thus, amount to $3.6 billion.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
December 13, 2009 | New York Times
And to be fair, it does happen now and then. I've been highly critical of Alan Greenspan over the years (since long before it was fashionable), but give the former Fed chairman credit: he has admitted that he was wrong about the ability of financial markets to police themselves.
But he's a rare case. Just how rare was demonstrated by what happened last Friday in the House of Representatives, when — with the meltdown caused by a runaway financial system still fresh in our minds, and the mass unemployment that meltdown caused still very much in evidence — every single Republican and 27 Democrats voted against a quite modest effort to rein in Wall Street excesses.
Let's recall how we got into our current mess.
America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system. The regulations worked: the nation was spared major financial crises for almost four decades after World War II. But as the memory of the Depression faded, bankers began to chafe at the restrictions they faced. And politicians, increasingly under the influence of free-market ideology, showed a growing willingness to give bankers what they wanted.
The first big wave of deregulation took place under Ronald Reagan — and quickly led to disaster, in the form of the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s. Taxpayers ended up paying more than 2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of around $300 billion today, to clean up the mess.
But the proponents of deregulation were undaunted, and in the decade leading up to the current crisis politicians in both parties bought into the notion that New Deal-era restrictions on bankers were nothing but pointless red tape. In a memorable 2003 incident, top bank regulators staged a photo-op in which they used garden shears and a chainsaw to cut up stacks of paper representing regulations.
And the bankers — liberated both by legislation that removed traditional restrictions and by the hands-off attitude of regulators who didn't believe in regulation — responded by dramatically loosening lending standards. The result was a credit boom and a monstrous real estate bubble, followed by the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Ironically, the effort to contain the crisis required government intervention on a much larger scale than would have been needed to prevent the crisis in the first place: government rescues of troubled institutions, large-scale lending by the Federal Reserve to the private sector, and so on.
Given this history, you might have expected the emergence of a national consensus in favor of restoring more-effective financial regulation, so as to avoid a repeat performance. But you would have been wrong.
Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarro universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It's a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It's a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.
Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don't fit the narrative.
In part, the prevalence of this narrative reflects the principle enunciated by Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." As Democrats have pointed out, three days before the House vote on banking reform Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies. But it also reflects the extent to which the modern Republican Party is committed to a bankrupt ideology, one that won't let it face up to the reality of what happened to the U.S. economy.
So it's up to the Democrats — and more specifically, since the House has passed its bill, it's up to "centrist" Democrats in the Senate. Are they willing to learn something from the disaster that has overtaken the U.S. economy, and get behind financial reform?
Let's hope so. For one thing is clear: if politicians refuse to learn from the history of the recent financial crisis, they will condemn all of us to repeat it.
Give us another evil idiot like Bush. Palin will do. It's better than witnessing a politician as gifted and smart as Obama squander his talents and the hopes of most Americans.
But soon enough I'll stop being sad and angry, and just be angry.
President Obama Loses His Base: He Just Ran Out of Slack
By Tom Sullivan
December 18, 2009 | Huffington Post
The historic turnaround at the end of the Middle Ages when armies became permanent and not mercenary is turning back again. Will there come a day when "Support our Troops" bumper stickers are replaced with "Support our Mercs"?
Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know
by Jeremy Scahill
December 19, 2009 | AntiWar.com
These sleazeballs in pinstripes have zero shame, and no morals. Like China, the USG needs to try and execute a few bank CEOs just to put the fear in them.
Consider the irony: more Americans are on welfare because of the financial crisis that Wall Street created; Wall Street gets bailed out at taxpayers' expense, and then manages to take a % cut of Americans' welfare checks provided at taxpayers' expense.
It seems like the sum of their innovation is to figure out ways to steal legally from the U.S. Treasury. Corporate socialism, plain and simple.
How Banks Fleece the Unemployed
By Barbara Koeppel
December 16, 2009 | Consortium News
Just when you thought the big banks had maxed out their chutzpah account, think again.