Saturday, March 31, 2012

Free markets work: Privatize firefighting!

Thanks to the recession and local budget shortfalls, libertarians' dream of citizens paying for all city services on a per-usage basis is coming true.

In this case, the cost of putting out fires will be borne by insurance companies and passed onto policy holders....  The next step is privatizing the fire department.  The next step is having all fire departments purchased by insurance companies, who will put out fires only if you are a policy-holder... or agree to sign on the dotted line for a policy while your house/car/office is on fire.

That's the free market in action, baby!  No free lunch!

How Does $1,000 For House Fires And $600 For Car Fires Grab You?
March 30, 2012 | CBS 2 New York

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gated community to blame for Trayvon Martin's death?

Regardless of what you think about the killing of Trayvon Martin, it's certain that if this self-appointed Dudley Doright had not been patrolling his gated community, armed, that Trayvon (who was armed with nothing but some Skittles and iced tea) would still be alive.

I've been waiting for somebody to talk about the growth of gated communities, and here we go, from an Orlando journalist.

She makes some great points. You take a walled-off community of mostly whites, combined with America's car culture and very few pedestrians or sidewalks, Florida's "stand your ground" law and lots of handguns, stir in a little racism -- OK, phobia of young black men, whatever you want to call it -- and it's the perfect recipe for this type of deadly misunderstanding. Frankly I'm surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. With an increase in gated communities and a shrinking and aging white population, I'm sure it will happen more often. Get ready.

By Bonita Burton
March 28, 2012 | CNN

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Krugman: Right-wing paranoia now mainstream

I can confirm that all the mainstream conservatives I know go in for some or all of the crazy conspiracy theories Krugman lists below. What do you call it when otherwise reasonable, highly-functioning people lose their minds, politically? "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It's an old phenomenon, so we're still crazy after all these years. The difference is that paranoia among Republicans has gone mainstream.

By Paul Krugman
March 22, 2012 | New York Times

Stop, hey, what's that sound? Actually, it's the noise a great political party makes when it loses what's left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

This claim isn't just nuts; it's a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It's the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let's get the facts on gas prices straight.

First, the lie: No, President Obama did not say, as many Republicans now claim, that he wanted higher gasoline prices. He did once say that a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to "skyrocket" — an unfortunate word choice. But saying that such a system would raise energy prices was just a factual statement, not a declaration of intent to punish American consumers. The claim that Mr. Obama wanted higher prices is a lie, pure and simple.

And it's a lie wrapped in an absurdity, because the president of the United States doesn't control gasoline prices, or even have much influence over those prices. Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can't move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports.

Finally, there's the paranoia, the belief that liberals in general, and Obama administration officials in particular, are trying to make driving unaffordable as part of a nefarious plot against the American way of life. And, no, I'm not exaggerating. This is what you hear even from thoroughly mainstream conservatives.

For example, last year George Will declared that the Obama administration's support for train travel had nothing to do with relieving congestion and reducing environmental impacts. No, he insisted, "the real reason for progressives' passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism." Who knew that Dagny Taggart, the railroad executive heroine of "Atlas Shrugged," was a Commie?

O.K., this is all kind of funny. But it's also deeply scary.

As Richard Hofstadter pointed out in his classic 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," crazy conspiracy theories have been an American tradition ever since clergymen began warning that Thomas Jefferson was an agent of the Bavarian Illuminati. But it's one thing to have a paranoid fringe playing a marginal role in a nation's political life; it's something quite different when that fringe takes over a whole party, to the point where candidates must share, or pretend to share, that fringe's paranoia to receive the party's presidential nod.

And it's not just gas prices, of course. In fact, the conspiracy theories are proliferating so fast it's hard to keep up. Thus, large numbers of Republicans — and we're talking about important political figures, not random supporters — firmly believe that global warming is a gigantic hoax perpetrated by a global conspiracy involving thousands of scientists, not one of whom has broken the code of omertà. Meanwhile, others are attributing the recent improvement in economic news to a dastardly plot to withhold stimulus funds, releasing them just before the 2012 election. And let's not even get into health reform.

Why is this happening? At least part of the answer must lie in the way right-wing media create an alternate reality. For example, did you hear about how the cost of Obamacare just doubled? It didn't, but millions of Fox-viewers and Rush-listeners believe that it did. Naturally, people who constantly hear about the evil that liberals do are ready and willing to believe that everything bad is the result of a dastardly liberal plot. And these are the people who vote in Republican primaries.

But what about the broader electorate?

If and when he wins the nomination, Mr. Romney will try, as a hapless adviser put it, to shake his Etch A Sketch — that is, to erase the record of his pandering to the crazy right and convince voters that he's actually a moderate. And maybe he can pull it off.

But let's hope that he can't, because the kind of pandering he has engaged in during his quest for the nomination matters. Whatever Mr. Romney may personally believe, the fact is that by endorsing the right's paranoid fantasies, he is helping to further a dangerous trend in America's political life. And he should be held accountable for his actions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Army Lt. Col.: 'Simply telling the truth' about Afghanistan

It doesn't seem like Lt. Col. Davis's whistleblowing got much coverage in the U.S. media. I'm posting this late but better than never.

Truth, lies and Afghanistan

By Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis

February 2012 | Armed Forces Journal

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army's Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.

Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

My arrival in country in late 2010 marked the start of my fourth combat deployment, and my second in Afghanistan. A Regular Army officer in the Armor Branch, I served in Operation Desert Storm, in Afghanistan in 2005-06 and in Iraq in 2008-09. In the middle of my career, I spent eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and held a number of civilian jobs — among them, legislative correspondent for defense and foreign affairs for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

As a representative for the Rapid Equipping Force, I set out to talk to our troops about their needs and their circumstances. Along the way, I conducted mounted and dismounted combat patrols, spending time with conventional and Special Forces troops. I interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn't want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.

From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.


Much of what I saw during my deployment, let alone read or wrote in official reports, I can't talk about; the information remains classified. But I can say that such reports — mine and others' — serve to illuminate the gulf between conditions on the ground and official statements of progress.

And I can relate a few representative experiences, of the kind that I observed all over the country.

In January 2011, I made my first trip into the mountains of Kunar province near the Pakistan border to visit the troops of 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry. On a patrol to the northernmost U.S. position in eastern Afghanistan, we arrived at an Afghan National Police (ANP) station that had reported being attacked by the Taliban 2½ hours earlier.

Through the interpreter, I asked the police captain where the attack had originated, and he pointed to the side of a nearby mountain.

"What are your normal procedures in situations like these?" I asked. "Do you form up a squad and go after them? Do you periodically send out harassing patrols? What do you do?"

As the interpreter conveyed my questions, the captain's head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.

"No! We don't go after them," he said. "That would be dangerous!"

According to the cavalry troopers, the Afghan policemen rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints. In that part of the province, the Taliban literally run free.

In June, I was in the Zharay district of Kandahar province, returning to a base from a dismounted patrol. Gunshots were audible as the Taliban attacked a U.S. checkpoint about one mile away.

As I entered the unit's command post, the commander and his staff were watching a live video feed of the battle. Two ANP vehicles were blocking the main road leading to the site of the attack. The fire was coming from behind a haystack. We watched as two Afghan men emerged, mounted a motorcycle and began moving toward the Afghan policemen in their vehicles.

The U.S. commander turned around and told the Afghan radio operator to make sure the policemen halted the men. The radio operator shouted into the radio repeatedly, but got no answer.

On the screen, we watched as the two men slowly motored past the ANP vehicles. The policemen neither got out to stop the two men nor answered the radio — until the motorcycle was out of sight.

To a man, the U.S. officers in that unit told me they had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area — and that was before the above incident occurred.

In August, I went on a dismounted patrol with troops in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Several troops from the unit had recently been killed in action, one of whom was a very popular and experienced soldier. One of the unit's senior officers rhetorically asked me, "How do I look these men in the eye and ask them to go out day after day on these missions? What's harder: How do I look [my soldier's] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?"

One of the senior enlisted leaders added, "Guys are saying, 'I hope I live so I can at least get home to R&R leave before I get it,' or 'I hope I only lose a foot.' Sometimes they even say which limb it might be: 'Maybe it'll only be my left foot.' They don't have a lot of confidence that the leadership two levels up really understands what they're living here, what the situation really is."

On Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the infamous attack on the U.S., I visited another unit in Kunar province, this one near the town of Asmar. I talked with the local official who served as the cultural adviser to the U.S. commander. Here's how the conversation went:

Davis: "Here you have many units of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF]. Will they be able to hold out against the Taliban when U.S. troops leave this area?"

Adviser: "No. They are definitely not capable. Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban. [The ANSF] won't shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won't shoot them.

"Also, when a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. So when the Taliban returns [when the Americans leave after 2014], so too go the jobs, especially for everyone like me who has worked with the coalition.

"Recently, I got a cellphone call from a Talib who had captured a friend of mine. While I could hear, he began to beat him, telling me I'd better quit working for the Americans. I could hear my friend crying out in pain. [The Talib] said the next time they would kidnap my sons and do the same to them. Because of the direct threats, I've had to take my children out of school just to keep them safe.

"And last night, right on that mountain there [he pointed to a ridge overlooking the U.S. base, about 700 meters distant], a member of the ANP was murdered. The Taliban came and called him out, kidnapped him in front of his parents, and took him away and murdered him. He was a member of the ANP from another province and had come back to visit his parents. He was only 27 years old. The people are not safe anywhere."

That murder took place within view of the U.S. base, a post nominally responsible for the security of an area of hundreds of square kilometers. Imagine how insecure the population is beyond visual range. And yet that conversation was representative of what I saw in many regions of Afghanistan.

In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described — and many, many more I could mention — had been in the first year of war, or even the third or fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.

As the numbers depicting casualties and enemy violence indicate the absence of progress, so too did my observations of the tactical situation all over Afghanistan.


I'm hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.

A January 2011 report by the Afghan NGO Security Office noted that public statements made by U.S. and ISAF leaders at the end of 2010 were "sharply divergent from IMF, [international military forces, NGO-speak for ISAF] 'strategic communication' messages suggesting improvements. We encourage [nongovernment organization personnel] to recognize that no matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of the nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here."

The following month, Anthony Cordesman, on behalf of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that ISAF and the U.S. leadership failed to report accurately on the reality of the situation in Afghanistan.

"Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively 'spinning' the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead," Cordesman wrote. "They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to 'spin' the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control."

How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what's going on.

I first encountered senior-level equivocation during a 1997 division-level "experiment" that turned out to be far more setpiece than experiment. Over dinner at Fort Hood, Texas, Training and Doctrine Command leaders told me that the Advanced Warfighter Experiment (AWE) had shown that a "digital division" with fewer troops and more gear could be far more effective than current divisions. The next day, our congressional staff delegation observed the demonstration firsthand, and it didn't take long to realize there was little substance to the claims. Virtually no legitimate experimentation was actually conducted. All parameters were carefully scripted. All events had a preordained sequence and outcome. The AWE was simply an expensive show, couched in the language of scientific experimentation and presented in glowing press releases and public statements, intended to persuade Congress to fund the Army's preference. Citing the AWE's "results," Army leaders proceeded to eliminate one maneuver company per combat battalion. But the loss of fighting systems was never offset by a commensurate rise in killing capability.

A decade later, in the summer of 2007, I was assigned to the Future Combat Systems (FCS) organization at Fort Bliss, Texas. It didn't take long to discover that the same thing the Army had done with a single division at Fort Hood in 1997 was now being done on a significantly larger scale with FCS. Year after year, the congressionally mandated reports from the Government Accountability Office revealed significant problems and warned that the system was in danger of failing. Each year, the Army's senior leaders told members of Congress at hearings that GAO didn't really understand the full picture and that to the contrary, the program was on schedule, on budget, and headed for success. Ultimately, of course, the program was canceled, with little but spinoffs to show for $18 billion spent.

If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. Naturally, I am not authorized to divulge classified material to the public. But I am legally able to share it with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members.

A nonclassified version is available at [Editor's note: At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.]


When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what's at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they've gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Obamacare plaintiff shirked unpaid bills onto us

Yep, irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

Plaintiff challenging healthcare law went bankrupt – with unpaid medical bills

Obama administration lawyers say her case is an example of why an insurance mandate is needed to prevent 'uncompensated care that will ultimately be paid by others.'

By David G. Savage

March 8, 2012 | Los Angeles Times


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Madness 'amateurs' should get $265 K a year

Yes, it's that time of year: March Madness. Time to reflect on the hoopla and glam of men's Division I amateur athletics.

And time to reflect on how badly those amateur athletes -- mostly blacks, who will not go on to play professional sports -- get screwed by the NCAA:

The average fair market value of top-tier college football and men's basketball players is over $100,000 each.... [I]f college sports shared their revenues the way pro sports do, the average Football Bowl Subdivision player would be worth $121,000 per year, while the average basketball player at that level would be worth $265,000.

The NCAA could put some of that money in a trust for players. After all, students on full athletic scholarships live below the poverty line at about 85 percent of colleges.

And the NCAA could contribute some money to defray rising tuition costs for students. (Let's recall that over the past decade, tuition and fees for in-state students at public colleges increased an average of 5.6 percent a year above inflation.)

The NCAA men's basketball tourney is a shameful farce of "amateur" athletics, as networks pay almost $780 million a year for the rights to televise the games; fans bet $2.5 billion; and basketball coaches take home as much as $4 million.

By Frederic J. Frommer
September 13, 2011 | AP

Monday, March 12, 2012

Polls show depths of GOP's idiocy

This is what we normal, rational people are up against:

In other words, most Republicans today wear their chauvinism and stupidity like badges of honor. And the smart ones are afraid to speak out for fear of being ostracized from the Clan of the Cave Bear.

What good are facts and sound arguments with such imbeciles? We'd have more luck convincing them by beating our chests and banging sticks on the ground.

Ah, the 'green' old days?

Very nice and point taken: older Americans didn't produce as much garbage as we do today; they re-used glass and paper bags, sometimes; and they washed and re-used cloth diapers... until 1970 when Pampers became a national brand.

Still, what this guy -- I guess technically not a Baby Boomer if he hit retirement age 5 years ago -- is saying is not so much untrue, as only part of the truth, which is that the Greatest Generation (1901-24), Silent Generation (1925-45), and then Baby Boomers (1946-64) each in their turn developed and promoted our modern American throw-away consumer culture.

They were not standing apart from it all these years, in their moral superiority, reminiscing about the good ole' days. They enthusiastically created this mess -- and profited nicely from it -- leaving the consequences (climate change; overflowing landfills; post-industrial ghost towns and urban blight; peak oil, etc.) to us "slackers" from Gens X and Y to handle.

I don't watch Mad Men, but I gather it's about Madison Avenue and the dawn of the ad age in the 1960s, when companies started selling us a lot of stuff we didn't necessarily need with catchy jingles; when convenience, especially around the house, was the operative word. These firms were staffed by the Greatest and Silent Generations. They pushed this way of life on us. So they can't shirk moral responsibility in their old age.

Commentary: The 'green' old days

By Bill Morem

March 10, 2012 | San Luis Obispo Tribune


U.S. export to Afghanistan: Multi-victim shooting rampages

It's a shame this had to happen at such a delicate time in Afghanistan, when emotions are still raw after the U.S. accidentally incinerated a few Korans at Bagram airbase near Kabul.

What Afghans need to understand is that, in America, Americans snap and go on shooting rampages all the time.  So it's nothing personal against them; it has nothing to do with their nationality or religion.  We Americans just tend to lose our s**t sometimes, grab a bunch of guns, and mow down lots of innocent people to blow off steam.  It's this thing we do.

You could even say we were treating them like we treat ourselves.  Hey, we're exporting American culture!  Although they'd probably refuse to take it that way, like, on the bright side I mean, because they're so surly and all lately.

Unfortunately, our cross-cultural dialogue has not yet reached the point where we can convey such simple, everyday realities to our distrustful Afghan brothers and sisters.  (Sigh).

American Soldier Massacres 16 Civilians In Afghanistan
March 11, 2012 | AP

What are Iran's motives?

A better understanding of Iran might save us from catastrophe
As Israel plays up the country's nuclear threat, the west should be seeking active dialogue with Tehran
By Peter Beaumont
March 11, 2012 | Observer

"Actions," said Samuel Johnson in his life of the English poet Abraham Cowley, "are visible." What are secret, Johnson added pointedly, are "motives".
In the case of Iran's nuclear programme what we know of Tehran's actions and motives are the following.

With some degree of "overall credibility" – according to the 2011 board of governors' report from the International Atomic Energy Agency – we know that Tehran, in all likelihood, made active studies of technologies associated with nuclear weapon design and payload design. By and large, the report believes, that activity ceased in 2003, coincident with the US-led invasion of Iraq.

We know, too, because it has been even more visible, that Iran has come close to mastering the nuclear fuel cycle as well, including enrichment of uranium up to 20%.

The problem with the present dangerous debate, as it has been framed ever-more closely through the exclusive prism of Israel's security concerns and its ever-louder threats to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, is that far from illuminating what actually motivates Iran in its nuclear ambitions, it has tended to obscure Tehran's motives instead.

So what does Iran really want?

Writing in 2009, Kayhan Barzegar, an expert on Iran who has taught both in Tehran and in the US, described what he called the "paradox of Iran's nuclear consensus". He was attempting to lay bare the complex and competing historical, political and strategic considerations behind the theocratic regime's nuclear decision-making processes.

Referencing two centuries of internal criticism of Iran's failure "to acquire substantial power, influence and wealth", Barzegar cites more recent history that has persuaded many Iranians, not least in the country's elites, that the west, and Britain and America in particular, have long conspired to throw obstacles in the way of Iran's development both economically and as a major regional player.

From an Iranian point of view, there is ample evidence of this: from the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh's government in a CIA and MI6-led coup in 1953, after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, to western resistance to the shah's Esfahan steel manufacturing project to President Clinton's killing off a $1bn deal for the US energy company Conoco to develop offshore oil fields. It is a suspicion that has been amplified by the country's post-Islamic revolution politics.

Indeed, one of the bleakest of historical ironies is that the early revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini actually halted the western-supported civil nuclear programme in place under the shah and it was only persuaded that it needed to acquire nuclear weapons technology because of Iran's massive losses in the war with Iraq, then supported by the US, which saw Iran targeted with chemical weapons.

It is these twin considerations – a combination of desire for deterrence in a neighbourhood where there are five nuclear powers and a sense of frustrated regional ambitions – that have long driven Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, summed up in its 20-year strategic plan, ratified by its powerful expediency council, which calls for Iran to "rank first in the region".

Iran's decision-making over its nuclear programme, not least its pursuit of weapons technology, is complicated by a number of other factors. Indeed, the 2010 US National Intelligence Estimate, in agreement with other analysts, argued that far from having already concluded it would build a bomb at any cost, Tehran is more flexible on the issue, "guided by a cost-benefit approach", a judgment recently endorsed by 16 US agencies that have studied the issue and concluded there is no evidence Iran is actively trying to build a bomb.

Indeed, as Barzegar argued: "There are quite a number of reasons why, from the perspective of the Iranian leadership, weaponisation is untenable, unnecessary and unwise."

If Iran's deliberate policy of ambiguity is one complicating factor, a second and equally important issue is how the nuclear programme, and the consequent international pressure on Tehran, has become ever more politicised in both the factional wrangling within the regime and the country's wider politics.

That has meant, counterintuitively perhaps, that as international pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions has increased, it has made it harder, not easier, for the regime to come to an accommodation as even some leading members of the Green opposition have criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for any perceived concessions.

If the motivation of Iran is far more complex than that described by the present, simplistic debate, a question needs to be asked, too, about the motivation of Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and those of his Israeli allies who have been pushing most vigorously for military action.

With not even 20% of Israelis believing that Israel should launch a unilateral attack against Iran, according to one poll, and the country divided over how effective a joint Israeli-US strike would be (Israel is not in a position to act alone), Netanyahu, even as he lectured American supporters, has failed to convince his own public.

More cynically, as a recent column in the Economist argued, Netanyahu's promotion of the threat posed by Iran, described in evermore apocalyptic terms, has been a convenient piece of "displacement" by an Israeli leader absolutely determined to avoid any meaningful engagement with the Palestinian peace process or bring an end to the occupation of the West Bank.

Because of this, a debate that should be about Iran's real nuclear ambitions and motives, and about how to engage with the regime constructively to prevent further proliferation, has been hijacked by a largely false premise.

For those of us who were intimate observers of the headlong charge to war against Iraq, it seems nothing more than a dispiriting rerun, not least in David Cameron's hyperbolic claim – counter to the weight of all current available evidence – that Iran is actively pursuing the construction of a intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten the west, an assertion eerily reminiscent of Tony Blair's untrue claim that Iraq could strike British interests within "45 minutes".

A war with Iran is not inevitable, but it might yet become so if the debate does not become both more honest and realistic. Indeed, the west has misread Iran for the best part of a century and more, not least since the country's revolution.

To go to war twice in the Gulf within the space of a decade based on rhetoric, lies and misunderstanding would not simply be a tragedy but an utter catastrophe that would shame the west.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chomsky: The truth of attack on Iran

As always, we can't overlook the learned Noamster (an American Jew) when it comes to U.S. policy on the Mideast, Iran, and Israel.

Noam Chomsky agrees that the real solution is, as Obama stated as America's vision in April 2009, a "world without nuclear weapons"... starting with the Middle East!

By Noam Chomsky
March 2, 2012 | In These Times

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option," by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression—thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.

Concerns about "the imminent threat" of Iran are often attributed to the "international community"—code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.

The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium—an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.

China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course.

Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. In the Arab world, Iran is disliked but seen as a threat only by a very small minority. Rather, Israel and the U.S. are regarded as the pre-eminent threat. A majority think that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 percent held this opinion, according to Brookings Institution/Zogby International polls.

Western commentary has made much of how the Arab dictators allegedly support the U.S. position on Iran, while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes it—a stance too revealing to require comment.

Concerns about Israel's nuclear arsenal have long been expressed by some observers in the United States as well. Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, described Israel's nuclear weapons as "dangerous in the extreme." In a U.S. Army journal, Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote that one "purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their `use' on the United States"—presumably to ensure consistent U.S. support for Israeli policies.

A prime concern right now is that Israel will seek to provoke some Iranian action that will incite a U.S. attack.

One of Israel's leading strategic analysts, Zeev Maoz, in "Defending the Holy Land," his comprehensive analysis of Israeli security and foreign policy, concludes that "the balance sheet of Israel's nuclear policy is decidedly negative"—harmful to the state's security. He urges instead that Israel should seek a regional agreement to ban weapons of mass destruction: a WMD-free zone, called for by a 1974 U.N. General Assembly resolution.

Meanwhile, the West's sanctions on Iran are having their usual effect, causing shortages of basic food supplies—not for the ruling clerics but for the population. Small wonder that the sanctions are condemned by Iran's courageous opposition.

[ This is the same Iranian internal opposition that Romney, McCain and other neocons wish to rally to the U.S. cause of freedom for Iran ... while we starve and deprive it. Wake up, Amurika! - J ]

The sanctions against Iran may have the same effect as their predecessors against Iraq, which were condemned as "genocidal" by the respected U.N. diplomats who administered them before finally resigning in protest.

The Iraq sanctions devastated the population and strengthened Saddam Hussein, probably saving him from the fate of a rogues' gallery of other tyrants supported by the U.S.-U.K.—tyrants who prospered virtually to the day when various internal revolts overthrew them.

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn't pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

[ Gee, why in the world would Iran want to deter anybody? Cough! Iraq! Afghanistan! Cough! Cough! - J ]

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, "If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons" as a deterrent.

An additional charge the West levels against Iran is that it is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries attacked and occupied by the U.S. and Britain, and is supporting resistance to the U.S.-backed Israeli aggression in Lebanon and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Like its deterrence of possible violence by Western countries, Iran's actions are said to be intolerable threats to "global order."

Global opinion agrees with Maoz. Support is overwhelming for a WMDFZ [WMD Free Zone] in the Middle East; this zone would include Iran, Israel and preferably the other two nuclear powers that have refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: India and Pakistan, who, along with Israel, developed their programs with U.S. aid.

Support for this policy at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 was so strong that Washington was forced to agree formally, but with conditions: The zone could not take effect until a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors was in place; Israel's nuclear weapons programs must be exempted from international inspection; and no country (meaning the U.S.) must be obliged to provide information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel."

The 2010 conference called for a session in May 2012 to move toward establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

With all the furor about Iran, however, there is scant attention to that option, which would be the most constructive way of dealing with the nuclear threats in the region: for the "international community," the threat that Iran might gain nuclear capability; for most of the world, the threat posed by the only state in the region with nuclear weapons and a long record of aggression, and its superpower patron.

One can find no mention at all of the fact that the U.S. and Britain have a unique responsibility to dedicate their efforts to this goal. In seeking to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, they invoked U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), which they claimed Iraq was violating by developing WMD.

We may ignore the claim, but not the fact that the resolution explicitly commits signers to establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

Obama the best thing for U.S. gun sales ever

"Some say..."?! That headline is just lib'rul media hesitancy to call a conservative spade a spade. That's like, "Some say Obama's race has something to do with his unpopularity among white Southerners."

Gee, ya think?

"Last year, the FBI received more than 16.3 million inquiries from people running criminal background checks on potential gun buyers. That's up from 12.7 million in 2008 and 11.4 million in 2007, FBI records show."

Perhaps counter-intuitively, federal regulation (or just the whiff of it) is the best boon for gun sales. Clearly, despite Obama's failure to propose any gun control legislation or significant federal regulation, the best thing for the U.S. firearms industry would be a second Obama term. (Just like the best tonic for the growth of "Patriot" groups in the U.S. is a Democrat in the White House!)

By Anna M. Tinsley
March 5, 2012 | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Thursday, March 8, 2012

58% of Israelis opposed to strike on Iran without U.S. backing

What does this poll tell us, folks? That any decision Israel takes will depend on President Obama's orders.

America is in control of this situation, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. So take the opportunity now to tell Obama and your Congressmen "NO" to preemptive war on Iran!

Support for Netanyahu's Likud party is at all-time high, but Israelis still skeptical regarding attack on Iran's nuclear facilities without U.S. backing.
By Yossi Verter
March 8, 2012 | Ha'aretz

Dire results of a preemptive attack on Iran

You all remember Richard Clarke, right? He the guy from the Reagan and Bush Admin.'s who criticized the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He's now cautioning against war with Iran.

There could be many very bad consequences. But here's the real strategy behind a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran [emphasis mine]:

Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.

Therefore, the U.S. cannot allow Israel to attack Iran unilaterally and preemptively, because as Israel's best ally the United States would get sucked into a war with Iran.

Alternatively, we could tell Israel and the rest of the world that Israel would be on its own if it attacked Iran without international support. But with the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., and American sentiment being the way it is, such a scenario is almost impossible to imagine.

By Brian Ross
March 5, 2012 | ABC News

President Obama is meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel at the White House today, and will try to talk him out of an immediate strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

If Israel does decide to bomb Iran, however, what will it mean for the United States? According to former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, Americans should brace for a painful impact. Within a week of the first Israeli attack, says Clarke, a worst case scenario would bring soaring gas prices, terror attacks in U.S. cities, worldwide cyberwar, dead and wounded U.S. sailors, and the real possibility of broad American military involvement.

Gas Prices Could Double

According to U.S. government estimates, about 20 percent of the oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. If Israel were to bomb Iran, oil prices would immediately go up. If Iran responded by attacking oil tankers going through the Persian Gulf, says Clarke, gasoline prices for U.S. consumers could double.

"You could see very quickly Iranian commandos and their small boats attacking tankers, attacking oil platforms," said Clarke. "You could see mines being laid in the Gulf."

The result, said Clarke, "would be a huge crisis in energy." President Obama would tap the U.S.'s strategic petroleum reserve, alleviating some of the price rise. The spike in prices "might not last long if the U.S. and its allies are able to take control of the Gulf," said Clarke. "But that could take more than a week and under some scenarios it could take almost a month."

Terror Threat Against Americans

If Israel were to bomb Iran, American officials fear there could be a new wave of terrorism directed by Tehran, especially if the U.S. gets pulled in to the conflict.

"If we, the United States, we're bombing Iran, then I think they'd certainly want to try to do something on our homeland because we were bombing their homeland," said Clarke.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have already shown a willingness to act outside their own borders, both with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s and the apparent attempted hits on Israeli targets in a number of countries earlier this year.

"Both have strong inroads in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, where they could strike Israeli, Jewish, and U.S. targets," said Clarke.

Israeli embassies and consulates and Jewish places of worship in the U.S. have been put on alert.

The World's First International Cyberwar

An Israeli attack on Iran would likely set off the world's first international cyber war. Before striking, Israel will try to blind the air defenses of Iran and its neighbors with cyber warfare. And the U.S. might end up using capabilities it has kept secret until now.

"The United States has a very powerful ability to cause this sort of disruption to electric power grids, communications networks," said Clarke. "It hasn't done it because it doesn't like to expose its tricks as it's afraid once it does it, people will figure out how the United States does it. But in a war with Iran, they would be willing to run that risk."

Iran would also attempt to hit back. Said Clarke, "Iran also has a cyber command, which might try to retaliate by attacking U.S infrastructure such as the power grid, trains, airlines, refineries."

U.S. Navy Casualties in the Gulf

Should the U.S. become involved in the Israeli-Iran conflict militarily, says Clarke, it will be impossible to avoid American casualties.

"The Iranians have hundreds if not thousands of small boats, armed small boats, commando small boats, that will operate in the Gulf," said Clarke. "They can get in, they can swarm a U.S. destroyer. The Iranians now also have cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles."

Clarke said there is a potential for the U.S. to sustain significant damage to a few ships and lose some sailors, just as it did during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s. Two U.S. ships were hit during that conflict, with a loss of nearly 40 American lives.

The U.S. Enters the War

According to Clarke, Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.

If Israel bombs Iran, Clarke says the cascade of events will lead to attacks on Israeli cities. "Advisors to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak are saying that if Israel bombed Iran, the retaliation on Israel would be tolerable," said Clarke. "But if Hezbollah in Lebanon launched thousands of extended range, improved accuracy rockets on Israel, hundreds of Israelis would die. In such a small country, that would be devastating."

The casualties, in turn, would bring the inevitable call to Washington for help.

"You will very quickly see a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to the President," said Clarke, "and he will say to him, 'Only the United States, Mr. President, can find and destroy these mobile missile launchers. Only you can save the lives of Israelis who are dying as I speak in our cities."

Clarke said that message would probably spur any U.S. president into action -- but especially one who is up for reelection within months. "It's likely to get a yes answer from the president," predicts Clarke, "and bring the U.S. into the war."

Israeli spy chiefs: Stop drumbeat of war against Iran

Said Efraim Halevy, director of Israel's Mossad in the early 2000s and later the head of Israel's National Security Council, to Huffington Post:

"If I'm sitting here in the month of March 2012 reading [Romney's latest op-ed on Iran], and I'm an Iranian leader, what do I understand? I have nine more months to run as fast as I can because this is going to be terrible if the other guys get in."

Another ex-director of Israeli intelligence, Meir Dagan, had this to say to 60 Minutes:

"The regime in Iran is a very rational one," says the former top Israeli spymaster. And President Ahmadinejad? "The answer is yes," he replies, but "Not exactly our rational, but I think he is rational. [...] An attack on Iran before you are exploring all other approaches is not the right way."

IRS investigating Tea-Party 'social welfare' groups

I'm sorry, everybody knows that Tea Party-related 501(c)(4) groups are not "social welfare" organizations -- teabaggers deny the very concept of social welfare -- and so the IRS would be perfectly correct to investigate whether political activists are abusing the tax system to carry out their political activities.

So far, all the IRS is doing is investigating. In fact, "The only known previous action by the IRS came in July, when it denied C4 status to three units of Emerge America, a group that identifies and trains Democratic women to run for office."

So hey, teabaggers, cool your conspiracy jets for now.

By Dan Froomkin
February 8, 2012 | Huffington Post

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Krugman: GOP plans lead to bigger deficit than Obama's

By Paul Krugman
March 1, 2012 | New York Times

Mitt Romney is very concerned about budget deficits. Or at least that's what he says; he likes to warn that President Obama's deficits are leading us toward a "Greece-style collapse."

So why is Mr. Romney offering a budget proposal that would lead to much larger debt and deficits than the corresponding proposal from the Obama administration?

Of course, Mr. Romney isn't alone in his hypocrisy. In fact, all four significant Republican presidential candidates still standing are fiscal phonies. They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich.

And nobody should be surprised. It has been obvious all along, to anyone paying attention, that the politicians shouting loudest about deficits are actually using deficit hysteria as a cover story for their real agenda, which is top-down class warfare. To put it in Romneyesque terms, it's all about finding an excuse to slash programs that help people who like to watch Nascar events, even while lavishing tax cuts on people who like to own Nascar teams.

O.K., let's talk about the numbers.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently published an overview of the budget proposals of the four "major" Republican candidates and, in a separate report, examined the latest Obama budget. I am not, by the way, a big fan of the committee's general role in our policy discourse; I think it has been pushing premature deficit reduction and diverting attention from the more immediately urgent task of reducing unemployment. But the group is honest and technically competent, so its evaluation provides a very useful reference point.

And here's what it tells us: According to an "intermediate debt scenario," the budget proposals of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney would all lead to much higher debt a decade from now than the proposals in the 2013 Obama budget. Ron Paul would do better, roughly matching Mr. Obama. But if you look at the details, it turns out that Mr. Paul is assuming trillions of dollars in unspecified and implausible spending cuts. So, in the end, he's really a spendthrift, too.

Is there any way to make the G.O.P. proposals seem fiscally responsible? Well, no — not unless you believe in magic. Sure enough, voodoo economics is making a big comeback, with Mr. Romney, in particular, asserting that his tax cuts wouldn't actually explode the deficit because they would promote faster economic growth and this would raise revenue.

And you might find this plausible if you spent the past two decades sleeping in a cave somewhere. If you didn't, you probably remember that the same people now telling us what great things tax cuts would do for growth assured us that Bill Clinton's tax increase in 1993 would lead to economic disaster, while George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001 would create vast prosperity. Somehow, neither of those predictions worked out.

So the Republicans screaming about the evils of deficits would not, in fact, reduce the deficit — and, in fact, would do the opposite. What, then, would their policies accomplish? The answer is that they would achieve a major redistribution of income away from working-class Americans toward the very, very rich.

Another nonpartisan group, the Tax Policy Center, has analyzed Mr. Romney's tax proposal. It found that, compared with current policy, the proposal would actually raise taxes on the poorest 20 percent of Americans, while imposing drastic cuts in programs like Medicaid that provide a safety net for the less fortunate. (Although right-wingers like to portray Medicaid as a giveaway to the lazy, the bulk of its money goes to children, disabled, and the elderly.)

But the richest 1 percent would receive large tax cuts — and the richest 0.1 percent would do even better, with the average member of this elite group paying $1.1 million a year less in taxes than he or she would if the high-end Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

There's one more thing you should know about the Republican proposals: Not only are they fiscally irresponsible and tilted heavily against working Americans, they're also terrible policy for a nation suffering from a depressed economy in the short run even as it faces long-run budget problems.

Put it this way: Are you worried about a "Greek-style collapse"? Well, these plans would slash spending in the near term, emulating Europe's catastrophic austerity, even while locking in budget-busting tax cuts for the future.

The question now is whether someone offering this toxic combination of irresponsibility, class warfare, and hypocrisy can actually be elected president.

Friday, March 2, 2012

U.S. Senators swear to Saudi gov't's role in 9/11

The lib'rul NYT deliberately released this story before Breitbart's murder to distract us from the real conspiracy!

Anyway, for what it's worth to those of you so easily distracted from Obama's crimes by the lamestream media, two former U.S. Senators submitted sworn affadavits about the Saudi government's possible involvement in 9/11. (YAAAAWN! 9/11, that was like, so 10 years ago.)

By Eric Lichtblau
February 29, 2012 | New York Times

Ex-Wall Street broker: 'It starts with a lie'

Here's what ex-broker and author Joshua Brown said about what's wrong with his business:

"The basic premise of a broker pitching a client is 'I'm going to be
 able to consistently generate 20 percent returns a year or I'm going to consistently beat the market.' They have no way to show any track record. They are managing hundreds of different accounts, each one is different. So I think it starts with a lie."

And on why he became a reformed broker:

"In 2008, everything really crystallized for me. The market was melting down. But at the retail brokerages, there were analysts still picking stocks. Nobody said, 'Go to cash.' That's when you realize: This has nothing to do with taking care of clients and everything to do with generating gross commissions."

By Devin Leonard
February 28, 2012 | Bloomberg Businessweek

Get in early on the hysteria!: Obama had Breitbart 'offed'

The Great Stalinist Purge of Media Critics? On Obamas Reported Enemies List breitbart obama enemies

I hesitate posting this for folks who are really eager and inclined to believe it.

Then again, why should I put it off a few days/weeks until this thing builds on the rightwing internets and inevitably I get the e-mail forward with an anonymous "article" telling me all about how President Obama killed Andrew Breitbart because he "knew too much"? So let's just get it over with. Here you go, fresh meat for you Obama conspiracy nuts.

UPDATE (03.09.2012): This video, which has been around since at least 2008, is apparently the reason Obama was forced to assassinate Breitbart. Behold the scandalous truth that could bring down a presidency! (Courtesy of YouTube):

A bunch of people seem to believe there's a conspiracy behind Andrew Breitbart's death. The theory is that Breitbart had a video from Obama's college years that Obama didn't want released. So he had to die.

By Matt Stopera
March 1, 2012 | Buzzfeed

Thursday, March 1, 2012

'Mowing the lawn' in Iran won't work; we must invade

Just be aware that if you vote Romney, you're voting for another preemptive war and occupation -- this time in Iran. Unlike Ron Paul or perhaps even Newt Gingrich, Romney has no real thoughts of his own on foreign policy; all his advisers are neocons. Penned Romney's advisers in 2009: "The Iranian regime threatens not only Israel, but also every other nation in the region, and ultimately the world." That's right, the world. Iran threatens the world. You heard it from Team Romney first.

The only way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, (and threatening the world), if it really intends to get one, is to invade and occupy Iran. Are you ready for that? Is the android candidate?

By Robert Wright
March 1, 2012 | The Atlantic

Mitt Romney is tired of hearing President Obama threaten Iran in only vague terms. Enough of this "all options are on the table" stuff. Obama, Romney says, should declare that "we are considering military options" and "they're not just on the table--they are in our hand."

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Romney will get some support next week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington: Netanyahu will ask Obama to say publicly that "the United States is preparing for a military operation in the event that Iran crosses certain 'red lines'."

Before signing on to this mission, could we get some clarity on what exactly this "military operation" will ultimately entail?

There are two main schools of thought about how air strikes on Iran would work out. Most Americans seem to envision something cleanly surgical--a few days of bombing runs and then we get that "mission accomplished" banner out of the closet. A smaller number of Americans--notably including a lot of national security experts--realize that Iran would probably retaliate, possibly in ways that drew America into a sustained and even far-flung conflict.

What too few people emphasize, it seems to me, is that these two scenarios don't exhaust the possibilities. Even if air strikes don't draw us into an instant conflagration, they could drag us into a long-term conflict with Iran that winds up with American boots on the ground. In fact, when you think about the military and political logic of the situation, the invasion and occupation of Iran is the most likely long-term outcome of bombing regardless of what happens in the short term.

Among national security experts there is nearly universal agreement on the following: Bombing could set Iran's nuclear program back by one or two years, maybe even several, but it would also (1) remove any doubt in the minds of Iranian leaders about whether to pursue nuclear weapons; and (2) ensure that the Iranian nuclear program was revamped to resist future air strikes.

And the new, more entrenched Iranian nuclear program wouldn't be the kind of thing that could be undone by a new generation of bunker-buster bombs. According to experts I've talked to, Iran would probably react to bombing not by burying its nuclear facilities deeper, but by dispersing them much more widely. They would be impossible to identify from the air and for that matter not readily identifiable from the street. Meanwhile, the international inspectors who now keep us apprised of Iran's nuclear status would be banned in the wake of air strikes. So even if we were willing to make additional bombing runs on an annual basis ("mowing the lawn," as some call it), we could never be confident that Iran wasn't producing a nuclear weapon. The only path to such confidence would be to invade the country and seize the instruments of state.

Would we actually do that? Probably. In justifying the initial bombing, President Obama will have driven home how unacceptable an Iran with nuclear weapons is, thus establishing as a kind of doctrine that America will never let Iran acquire them. (The "Obama doctrine" has never acquired a clear meaning, and I'm sure some hawks would be happy to assign it this new one as a way of gluing Obama to his commitment.)

Doctrines can be abandoned, of course, but only at some political cost. And this one would be an especially unlikely orphan when you have a president who (being a Democrat) is insecure about his national security credentials and, on top of that, is insecure about his pro-Israel credentials. Of course, if Obama loses in November, then, one or two years down the road, it won't be the creator of this doctrine who is in the White House. But in the event of a Republican presidency, adherence to such a doctrine is pretty much assured anyway. (See first paragraph, above.)

But why take my word for any of this? I'll close with the judgment of now-retired four-star Marine Gen. James Cartwright. Two years ago, when he was Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had this exchange with Sen. Jack Reed during Senate hearings:

Senator Reed: I presume that [a bombing campaign] would not be 100 percent effective in terms of knocking them out. It would probably delay them, but that if they're persistent enough they could at some point succeed. Is that a fair judgment from your position?

General Cartwright: That's a fair judgment.

Senator Reed: So that the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities. Is that a fair, logical conclusion?

General Cartwright: Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, it's a fair conclusion.

Gallup poll: KY most miserable state

Feeling so blue in the Bluegrass State.

Here we see Kentucky ranking last or near-last in yet more national rankings.

In terms of overall wellbeing, Kentucky was second-last behind West Virginia and worse than Mississippi. (No comment.)

In terms of emotional health, Kentucky ranked last.

President Obama's home state of Hawaii had the greatest wellbeing for the third year in a row. Maybe that explains why he is so maddeningly well-adjusted and even-tempered all the time? (Reminds me of that Onion story: "Poll: Happy, Healthy Obamas Out Of Touch With Miserable Americans.")

Maybe if Obama were a little grumpier and more miserable then more Americans would like him? They just can't, like, identify.

By Melanie Standish
February 27, 2012 | Gallup

Rush says what Republicans think: Non-whites hate work, wipe their a**es with American flags, and vote Democrat

Rush Limbaugh and other Republicans have a racist view of blacks and immigrants as people who choose government handouts over honest work and therefore they support Democrats. For their part, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and even Mitt Romney are echoing this line to win support from the radical GOP base.

Rush, "The Titular Head of the GOP," couldn't make it any clearer:

"But Obama is going to be campaigning exclusively to the people who are being pulled in the cart: The people that aren't paying income tax, the people that are on the federal dole. He has made the calculation that that's where he wins. It's clear to me that the Democrat Party has now made the determination that, of the people that vote in this country, a clear majority of them don't work. A clear majority of them don't want to work. A clear majority of them live and breathe on this class envy stuff, and are gonna vote for somebody who's gonna make sure their contraception pills keep coming; their welfare checks keep coming, their disability checks keep coming, their unemployment checks keep coming. Food stamps, you name it.

"That's his group. That's his constituency. Illegal immigrants or families of illegal immigrants. As many minority groups as he can create and convince they are victims of an oppressive America. And, in that calculation, he just casts aside white working-class families while setting up African Americans for Obama."

Yet today, 49 percent of Americans live in a household receiving some form of government assistance. Will that make Republicans' "welfare queen" arguments less effective this election?

Never mind that, even in these tough economic times, only about 1.9 million families receive "pure" welfare (cash assistance) in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, down from 5 million in 1994 before President Clinton's welfare-to-work reforms. And never mind that, as far as welfare goes, Medicaid ($274 billion) and refundable tax credits ($102 billion) far outweigh food stamps ($71.8 billion) and cash assistance ($6.9 billion).

Is the mental image of the black "welfare queen" -- a made-up story by Ronald Reagan that changed with each re-telling -- so deeply embedded in Republicans' brains that no amount of information can erase it?