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Archive for June 25th, 2008

Federal Empire Crisis In Leadership!

GEF @ 5:08 PM MST

Bush gets blank check for war

JOHN NICHOLS
GUEST COLUMNIST

George W. Bush, who has never chosen to take responsibility for addressing the mess he created in Iraq, has now been given permission by the U.S. House to finish his presidency without doing so.

After the House voted 268-to-155 to provide $162 billion in additional “emergency” funding for the Iraq war last week, Bush was effectively assured that he will be able to finish his presidency next Jan. 20 and head back to Texas without taking any steps to conclude a conflict that has killed and permanently disabled tens of thousands of Americans, killed and dislocated millions of Iraqis and destabilized one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world.

“The president basically gets a blank check to dump this war on the next president,” says Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, who voted against letting Bush off the hook — and against setting up a situation where the next commander in chief, be he Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, will be “a war president.”

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, another “no” voter, explained the frustration of those who opposed a measure that ultimately passed with Republican and Democratic support by members of the House who are no more willing than Bush to take responsibility for ending a war that should never have begun.

“We have lost 4,103 of America’s best and brightest young people, another 30,000 are grievously wounded and will require care for much of their lives, and we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. We have built over 800 schools, nearly 5,000 water and sewer projects and over 1,000 roads and bridges — in Iraq — while gas and food prices go through the roof here, home foreclosures wreak havoc on American families, and our infrastructure is in a shambles. Enough is enough! One day of spending in Iraq would finance the entire reconstruction of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis” said Ellison, a first-term Democrat who has been meticulous about opposing moves to continue the war. “I will not vote for more American taxpayers’ money going to Iraq until that proposal contains deadlines and timetables for the safe withdrawal of our troops.”

That’s what a congressman who takes his duties seriously sounds like.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the majority of House members sound like.

The measure was opposed by 151 Democrats — including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Committee chairman Dave Obey — and four Republicans (California’s John Campbell, Tennessee’s John Duncan, Arizona’s Floyd Flake and Texas’ Ron Paul).

Voting for the Iraq spending increase passed were 188 Republicans and 80 Democrats. The votes of those 80 pro-war Democrats were definitional If House Democrats had simply held together as a caucus, this blank check for more killing, maiming, dislocation and mass destruction would not have been written.

Unfortunately, a number of top Democrats in the House — including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and Chief Deputy Whip Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat who has served as a point-man in the chamber for the Democratic Leadership Council — voted with the Bush administration.

Democrats were elected in 2006 to end the war in Iraq. When more than one-third of the House Democratic Caucus supports maintaining the war into the next presidency, it is not just individual Democrats but the party as a whole that is failing.

Any large party caucus in a legislative chamber has mavericks. After all, four Republicans just broke with the Bush lockstep to oppose the additional war founding — and two of them (John Duncan and Ron Paul) are longtime and consistent critics of military misadventures abroad.

But when one of every three members of a caucus — including much of its leadership team — votes to help the president of an opposition party maintain a war that most American oppose, we’re not looking at a case of leaders allowing mavericks to let off steam.

We’re looking at a case of a Democratic Party that is dramatically better at mouthing anti-war platitudes than exercising any sort of leadership.


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America Is Going In The Wrong Direction…

GEF @ 4:18 PM MST

Americans’ loss of confidence: Worse even than it looks

3:00 AM, June 25, 2008

Like a hypnotherapist, the Federal Reserve keeps trying to talk us into an economic recovery.

“You will not need lower interest rates to feel better,” Chairman Ben S. Bernanke tell us in so many words — something he and his fellow Fedsters are likely to repeat again today as they gather and, almost certainly, hold their benchmark rate at the current 2%.

But the latest survey of consumer confidence shows that the Fed’s relatively hopeful message isn’t registering. Americans feel downright terrible about the economy as it is, and their expectations for the near future are even more depressed, according to the Conference Board’s June consumer confidence report, issued Tuesday.

The overall confidence index, derived from questionnaires sent to 5,000 families, fell to 50.4 this month, down from 58.1 in May and the lowest since 1992.

Worse, the expectations index in the survey — how people figure things will look in six months — dropped literally off the chart, to 41.0. That was the lowest figure in the 40 years of the survey, and broke through the previous low of 45.2 reached in December 1973 — just as the economy was beginning to plunge into recession from the effects of the surge in oil prices that followed the Arab embargo announced that fall.

But something else in the latest survey really disturbed Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center in New York, she tells me: The percentage of people who expect their income to drop in the next six months jumped to a record 15.9%. Even in December 1973, when consumers’ overall expectations for the economy were dismal, only 10.8% expected their income to decline in the following six months.

Just 12.3% of consumers are expecting a rise in income over the next six months, compared with 19.4% a year ago.

It’s true that consumer spending hasn’t collapsed in recent months, thanks in large part to the federal tax rebate checks most families received. But once that money is gone, how do you have a consumer-led economic recovery in the second half with so many people feeling so bad about the big picture and about their personal financial situations?

Would lower interest rates help at this point? Maybe not. But in times of serious trouble it’s always better for the Fed to have more bullets in the gun than fewer — and right now, with its key rate at 2%, there aren’t many bullets left.

What’s more, with energy and food price inflation showing no signs of abating, Bernanke and other Fed officials have been talking in recent weeks about the need to begin raising interest rates as early as this fall to beat back price pressures.

Hike rates on consumers who are struggling to fill their gas tanks and have enough cash left over for groceries? It’s true that quite a few other central banks around the world already have taken that unpopular policy route this year. But they’re operating in economies that, for the most part, still are growing at a healthy pace.

The U.S. economy, by contrast, may not officially be in recession, but as Franco put it, never mind the terminology — “to the consumer right now it feels like a recession.”

Bush’s approval hits new low: 23 percent.

Only 23 percent of Americans said they approve of President Bush’s job performance in a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey, which is a new low for him in that poll. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they disapproved of the job Bush is doing.

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By- Suzie-Q @ 12:55 PM MST

Anti-War Soldier Jonathan Hutto: People, Not Politicians, Will End the War in Iraq

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted June 25, 2008

The author of Antiwar Soldier discusses the GI movement, the election and why “the military needs racism” to fight its wars.

Active-duty sailor Jonathan Hutto signed up to join the Navy in December 2003, at the age of 26. Previously a college activist fighting police brutality in Washington, D.C., and later an organizer with the ACLU, he was not the sort of recruit one usually imagines enlisting in the U.S. military. But his experience as an activist would serve him well as he began to protest unjust practices within the armed forces, where almost from the start, he battled institutional racism and the unwillingness of the chain of command to punish it, while also fighting oppressive and arbitrary disciplinary practices by his commanding officers. In 2006, he co-founded Appeal for Redress, one of the only active-duty anti-war groups since Vietnam, devoted to ending the war in Iraq.

The appeal itself is three sentences long:

As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

According to Hutto, more than 2,000 military personnel, 60 percent of whom have served in Iraq, have signed the appeal.

This month, Nation Books published Hutto’s book, Antiwar Soldier: How to Dissent Within the Ranks of the Military. Part military memoir, part training manual, it lays out crucial things a soldier needs to know before resisting. The preface was written by David Cortright, whose 1975 book, Soldiers in Revolt, is considered the definitive chronicle of the Vietnam GI movement. With the Iraq occupation in its sixth year and no real end in sight, Antiwar Soldier comes at a critical time, and a moment where, increasingly, veterans and soldiers are revitalizing the anti-war movement.

More

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Afternoon Jukebox… Sweet Child O’ Mine

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:45 PM MST

Guns N’ Roses- Sweet Child O’ Mine

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By- Suzie-Q @ 7:30 AM MST

Limbaugh: ‘Democrats Will Bend Over, Grab The Ankles, Say Have Your Way With Me’ To Blacks And Gays»

Think Progress

By Faiz on Jun 24th, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Media Matters notes that on his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh told a caller that “Democrats will bend over, grab the ankles, and say have your way with me” to African-Americans and gays:

CALLER: Hello. I want to know how the Republicans don’t need Christians and conservatives, and they think we’re 30 percent. Twelve percent black people in the population. Ten percent — they claim — homosexuals in the population. Rush, honey, when did 30 percent get to be a small number?

LIMBAUGH: I don’t — I think it’s actually larger than 30 percent. But let me see if I can get your question right. You want to know why the Republicans are willing to say, “Screw you,” to 30 percent or more of their voters and yet Democrats will bend over, grab the ankles, and say, “Have your way with me,” for 10 percent and 2 percent of the population?

CALLER: Delicately, yes.

Listen here:

Limbaugh said “these kooks — and I’m not talking about just the blacks — I’m talking about a whole kook-fringe base” have influence because they have money. But, he added, “in addition to the money aspect of this,” there is the “anti-war kook fringe. And it is huge. From MoveOn.org to Think Progress to My Base Book — whatever these things, these things — well, maybe not MySpace or Face, whatever it is.”

Limbaugh complained that these “kooks” have too much influence on the left. All this coming from the far right’s preeminent smear artist, a man who is — as John McCain says — “a voice that is respected by a lot of people who are in our [Republican] party.”

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Big Oil and the war in Iraq

Sudhan @11:35 CET

By Derrick Z. Jackson | The Boston Globe, June 24, 2008

IT TOOK five years, the deaths of 4,100 US soldiers, and the wounding of 30,000 more to make Iraq safe for Exxon. It is the inescapable open question since the reasons given by President Bush for the invasion and occupation did not exist, neither the weapons of mass destruction nor Saddam Hussein’s ties to Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The New York Times reported last week that several Western oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, BP, and Chevron, are about to sign no-bid contracts with the Iraqi government. Western oil had a significant stake in Iraqi oil for much of the last century until the government nationalized the industry in 1972. The Associated Press quoted Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit as saying he believed the contracts were a first step toward production-sharing agreements. “These companies are in it for the money, not to make friends,” Gheit said.

This of course blows a hole in another ancient Bush fallacy, the one in which former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said “the oil wells belong to the Iraqi people” and former secretary of State Colin Powell seconded him by saying Iraqi oil “will be held in trust for the Iraqi people.” Former Deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz once claimed there was so much oil in Iraq that “When it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayer, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government.”

No, all that is really happening is that while the American taxpayer is being turned inside out by the war, and while families bury the brave, the corporate colonialists get all the resources. Halliburton, the oil services company which Vice President Dick Cheney once led, last year reported a 49 percent rise in profits, to $3.5 billion.

KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary that provides food, shelter, and laundry services to soldiers, last year reported record profits and is about to share in a new 10-year, $150 billion contract. The controversial North Carolina-based private security firm Blackwater, whose guards shot and killed 17 Iraqis in one incident last year, has crossed the billion-dollar mark in government contracts, charging, according to the Raleigh News and Observer, $1,221 a day for security guards who are actually paid $500 a day.

This is despite repeated charges of waste, overcharging and recklessness, and a degree of patriotism that verges on betrayal. As many veterans were being treated amid appalling conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar last year moved from Texas to Dubai. The Globe last March reported on how KBR has avoided paying perhaps half a billion dollars in Social Security and Medicare taxes since the start of the invasion by hiring employees through shell companies in the Cayman Islands.

Now comes Big Oil itself, which is already basking in record profits. Its interest in Iraq, which has the world’s third-largest oil reserves according to the federal government, is utterly transparent. A decade ago, then-Chevron CEO Kenneth Derr said “I’d love Chevron to have access to” the Iraqi oil reserves. A Los Angeles Times news account just before the invasion said, “Maybe it’s a coincidence, but American and British oil companies would be long-term beneficiaries of a successful military offensive . . . Industry officials say Hussein’s ouster would help level the playing field . . . a bonanza for the US-dominated oil-services industry.”

Who will stop the bonanza or at least ensure that it is not an utter windfall for CEOs as US soldiers risk their lives keeping the peace and as Iraqis continue to struggle out of the rubble of the invasion? That is unclear. Of the two presumptive nominees for president, Democrat Barack Obama makes the most noise against oil profiteering and indeed, Republican John McCain has received more money overall from Big Oil. But Obama has received enough campaign contributions to leave it an open question as to how much leadership he would exert. We know Big Oil is in this for the money. Nothing says it is returning to Iraq in the name of the people.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.

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Sudhan @11:35 CET

JAMES GLANZ | The New York Times, June 24, 2008

Beyond the declines in overall violence in Iraq, several crucial measures the Bush administration uses to demonstrate economic, political and security progress are either incorrect or far more mixed than the administration has acknowledged, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

Over all, the report says, the American plan for a stable Iraq lacks a strategic framework that meshes with the administration’s goals, is falling out of touch with the realities on the ground and contains serious flaws in its operational guidelines.

Newly declassified data in the report on countrywide attacks in May shows that increases in violence during March and April that were touched off by an Iraqi government assault on militias in Basra have given way to a calmer period. Numbers of daily attacks have been comparable to those earlier in the year, representing about a 70 percent decline since June 2007, the data shows.

While those figures confirm the assessments by American military commanders that many of the security improvements that first became apparent last fall are still holding, a number of the figures that have been used to show broader progress in Iraq are either misleading or simply incorrect, the report says.

Continued . . .

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