Pocket Guide to the Budget Debate

Here’s what you need to know when engaging with Republicans and ConservaDems on the budget.

Our deficit is about $1.2 trillion a year.

We are spending just over $1.2 trillion a year on our military.  We are basically spending our deficit every year on our military.

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts is costing us $860 billion a year.

Corporations are not paying their fair share in taxes, costing us billions more a year in lost revenue.

Republicans (with support from many Democrats) want to enact “austerity measures” – which basically means “cuts for the poor and middle classes”.  These measures total $61 billion, a dollar amount spread thin over a massive number of programs:

From education to job training, the environment and nutrition, few domestic programs were left untouched – and some were eliminated – in the measure

If we did away with the Bush tax cuts, lessened loopholes corporations exploit, and trimmed programs for the military (like their sponsorship of NASCAR) we could totally eliminate the federal deficit.

As it stands today the likelihood of this happening is nil: the intelligence, foresight, and will to enact an approach like this is missing in Washington.  Instead we will reap the benefits of tax immunity for corporations and the wealthy, and austerity measures for everyone else: decreased spending power in an economy that relies primarily on spending power to function.

The New Taliban

What’s keeping me up at night?  Via Majikthise, an article in Rolling Stone by the incredibly brave Nir Rosen.  I couldn’t stop reading it.

At one point, I got the distinct impression our leaders are acting like irresponsible doctors prescribing anti-biotics, sending more and more troops.  Amid the same signs of hope for negotiation Rosen picks out, he finds pretty solid evidence we are seeing the development of superbugs:

The guarantees of safety that once protected civilians have been replaced by a new generation removed from traditional society — one for whom jihad is the only law.

In spite of assurances about women being allowed to attend school and work, we see pictures of theocracy in action:

As we wait for the Doctor to arrive, Shafiq has other problems to deal with. His nephew has been arrested by a Taliban patrol after being spotted walking with a girl. After Shafiq secures his release, other Talib fighters call to complain that they heard music coming from his house the night before. Exasperated, Shafiq protests that it was only Al-Jazeera. He doesn’t mention the Iranian pop singer.

The outlook is pretty grim (emphasis mine):

Simply put, it is too late for Bush’s “quiet surge” — or even for Barack Obama’s plan for a more robust reinforcement — to work in Afghanistan. More soldiers on the ground will only lead to more contact with the enemy, and more air support for troops will only lead to more civilian casualties that will alienate even more Afghans. Sooner or later, the American government will be forced to the negotiating table, just as the Soviets were before them.

What’s more, the direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan is now likely to spill over into Pakistan. It may be tempting to attack the safe havens of the Taliban and Al Qaeda across the border, but that will only produce a worst-case scenario for the United States. Attacks by the U.S. would attract the support of hundreds of millions of Muslims in South Asia. It would also break up Pakistan, leading to a civil war, the collapse of its military and the possible unleashing of its nuclear arsenal.”

…But the Taliban have their own faith, and so far, they are winning.

This is the reality of Afghanistan as it stands today.  A new Taliban, divided, is taking the country back.  We need people with intelligence and good judgement leading this country to take advantage of that:

The internal split provides an opening — if U.S. intelligence is smart enough to exploit it.

“The U.S. should try to weaken the Taliban,” a former Taliban commander tells me. “They should make groups, divide and conquer. If someone wants to use the division between Haqqani and Omar, they can.”

Its a very slim silver lining hiding underneath an enormous storm cloud.

Gays in the Military: Allowed to Die but not to Marry

Its encouraging that 75% of Americans reject McCain’s dangerous stand against Homosexuals serving in the military.  Temper that with the knowledge that the majority of Americans oppose Gay Marriage.

Allowed to die for your country, but not marry the one you love.  A large chunk of my fellow Americans have the polar opposite of “make love not war” shoved ironically up their collective asses.

Call to Investigate Army Murder Cover Up

On July 19, 2005, a US soldier was murdered.  The murder was literally covered up as a suicide, and glaring inconsistencies in the official autopsy with actual wounds ignored.  (Feministing):

Retired Army Col. Ann Wright explains what we all want investigated:

From the day their daughter’s body was returned to them, the parents had grave suspicions about the Army’s investigation into Lavena’s death and the characterization of her death as suicide. In charge of a communications facility, Lavena was able to call home daily. In those calls she gave no indication of emotional problems or being upset. In a letter to her parents, Lavena’s commanding officer Captain David Woods wrote: “Lavena was clearly happy and seemed in very good health both physically and emotionally.”In viewing his daughter’s body at the funeral home, Dr. Johnson was concerned about the bruising on her face. He was puzzled by the discrepancy in the autopsy report on the location of the gunshot wound. As a US Army veteran and a 25-year US Army civilian employee who had counseled veterans, he was mystified how the exit wound of an M-16 shot could be so small. The hole in Lavena’s head appeared to be more the size of a pistol shot rather than an M-16 round. He questioned why the exit hole was on the left side of her head, when she was right handed. But the gluing of military uniform white gloves onto Lavena’s hands hiding burns on one of her hands is what deepened Dr. Johnson’s concerns that the Army’s investigation into the death of his daughter was flawed.

They glued the white gloves onto her hands to hide burns. A literal cover-up. It’s so clear that this and other details of LaVena’s case don’t add up to suicide.

Her family and friends are pushing for justice. It is a stinging slap in the face of rule of law and the integrity of the armed forces that her murder is not being investigated.  It is a crime that the safety and well being of female officers in the US military is clearly off the radar of the top brass.  This is a case that has implications for all women serving:

And it’s sadly not exactly far-fetched that she was sexually assaulted: A full one-third of women veterans report rape or attempted rape during their time in the military. So it’s important to keep the pressure on Congress and the military to open an investigation into her death. For LaVena, yes. Absolutely. But also for other military women whose rapes and murders have been covered up. Wright writes,

The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

Please sign that petition today.

The petition is here.  The cover up (and other similar coverups) are a mark of the deepest shame on the military.  There is no honor there without justice.

Support Matthis Chiroux, Fight The War

Matthis Chiroux is a soldier in DC fighting back against the war.  His fight is attracting notice (AFP):

“I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq,” Chiroux said in the sun-filled rotunda of a congressional building in Washington.

“My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation… I refuse to participate in the Iraq occupation,” he said, as a dozen veterans of the five-year-old Iraq war looked on.

Minutes earlier, Chiroux had cried openly as he listened to former comrades-in-arms testify before members of Congress about the failings of the Iraq war.

The testimonies were the first before Congress by Iraq veterans who have turned against the five-year-old war.

Former army sergeant Kristofer Goldsmith told the landmark haering of “lawless murders, looting and the abuse of countless Iraqis.”

He spoke of the psychologically fragile men and women who return from Iraq to find little help or treatment offered from official circles.

Via his facebook group:

If everyone will give at least $1 it will let him continue his political work in Washington D.C for some time, please check out the group ans see the last post from Matthis, This is not charity money!
while we all do our regular business, Matthis is in d.C trying to stop the war with his very bare hands,
Please lend a hand and go to:
https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_home
and send money to :
chiroux@googlemail.com.
if you want his private address

This is a slightly more direct link: Support Via Paypal.  His a voice we want heard in the halls of power.  He is a man of rare character and bravery, and it is an honor to support him.

Clark’s McCain Comments: Full Media Jacket

General Wes Clark’s comments on John McCain were essential, needed, and to the point.  McCain has a record of exemplary military service and painfully poor judgment.  It is important voters not confuse his service with his judgment.

Predictably, the right wing elements in the media have gone into foaming reactionary mode and fired off a few rounds.  There now being a “controversy”, the rest of the media converges taking a page from the discovery institute:  Cover the Controversy.  Facts are the first casualty (Juliet Eilperin, Wash Post):

ABOARD THE McCAIN CAMPAIGN PLANE — Sen. John McCain defended his Vietnam War military service against Democratic attacks Tuesday, and he pressed Sen. Barack Obama to remove retired Gen. Wesley Clark from any role in his campaign.

When asked how his opponent should treat Clark, who has repeatedly questioned whether McCain’s military tenure qualifies him for the White House, the senator replied, “I think it’s up to Senator Obama now to not only repudiate him, but to cut him loose.”

Wes Clark did not attack McCain’s military service.  He attacked his judgment on current military matters like Iraq and Iran.

There was nothing inartful about his comments.  Obama slipped up in his response, he didn’t spot a bulltshit question and answered it head-on (Rick Klien, ABC):

This was the question asked Monday by a reporter from ABC’s Kansas City affiliate, KMBC: “Yesterday Wesley Clark, on ‘Face the Nation,’ said because John McCain got shot down that doesn’t make him a leader. That seems to be violating the very rule you talked about today about questioning the military service of anybody.”

Obama’s answer: “Well, which is why I was very clear that General Clark’s remarks don’t reflect my beliefs. I have consistently said that John McCain is a genuine American hero and his service deserves to be honored.”

His service was never attacked.  Another dishonest question, and a trap at that.  Barack walked right into that one.

McCain has terrible judgment on the war, and his record on military issues has very problematic weak points (VoteVets).  It is beyond insane to expect that simply serving in the military exempts one from any criticism of any and all military and foreign policy positions.  Senator McCain served his country as a public servant for many years after serving in the military.  Must one avoid criticizing him entirely to avoid criticizing his service as an elected official?

Dear Obama: Listen!

Please listen to Jamelle!  (US of Jamerica):

Obama’s little riff here basically sums up his foreign policy approach.  I actually wish he would use this language to challenge John McCain’s national security “credentials,” since it’s a pretty effective characterization.

Barack’s language is right on, and applies neatly to foreign policy.  From the difference between talking tough and needing to act out, to the wisdom of walking away and “saving it for when you need it”.  These points, especially given the state of our military and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran(Pending Cheney pressing a big red button while Congress just watches), hit home in an easily understandable way.