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A progressive Congressional staffer once told me: "The first rule of Congress is - if you have the opportunity to vote both ways on the same issue, do it."
In "narrowing" the goals for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama appears to have obeyed the first rule of Congress. In his speech on Afghanistan, Obama had it both ways.
He asserted that "we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future" and that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future."
By Dave Lindorff
George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But what about those who don’t just ignore history, but who hire and take counsel from those who committed historic follies in the past?
Back in November 1999, Congress passed legislation pushed by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), rescinding the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The measure, backed by the Clinton administration, and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (90-8) and the House (362-57), opened the way for banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, and led directly to the current financial cataclysm.
President Obama is expected to "announce" his "new" Afghanistan strategy Friday - the traditional Washington day for burying things. But there aren't likely to be many surprises. The Administration has been dribbling details out to the news media, and what has been foreshadowed includes: more troops, more civilians, narrower goals; a renewed concession, perhaps, that there is no military solution.
AIG is chump change -- let's find corporate America's hidden billions
It's time to reform offshore banking, and see what untaxed wealth big business is hiding in overseas tax shelters.
By Joe Conason | Salon
The popular urge to claw back the bogus bonuses paid by American International Group is irresistible and fully justified, but should the Treasury someday retrieve every single bonus dollar, that total of $165 million will make no difference to anyone except a few disgruntled traders. From the jaded perspective of the financiers, the uproar over the AIG bonuses may provide a welcome distraction from far more important (and lucrative) abuses in the world's offshore tax havens.
Floridians Gathering in Melbourne This Saturday to Say: "Hey, Obama, Yes, We Can! Troops Out of Afghanistan!"
When: Saturday, March 28, 2pm
Florida Mass March - Front Street Park to Melbourne City Hall
Join several hundreds from more than 10 cities, Miami to Atlanta, in demanding our government fund human needs instead of war and corporate greed. Bail out the people and the troops, not the banks. ("Hey, Obama, yes, we can. Troops out of Afghanistan.") In addition to sending a message to elected officials, our coming together for this mass march for peace will stir the consciousness of the broader public, educate the uninitiated, and cultivate a new bond between citizens, peace and justice activists and those from more than 60 local, statewide, and national groups.
Here's a news awareness question you might not hear on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." (A search on the NPR website yielded no results.)
On March 13, a US citizen attending a peace demonstration was shot in the head by a soldier of a foreign army. Eyewitnesses report that the American and his companions weren't doing anything and hadn't done anything that would justify the use of force, let alone shooting him in the head.
Here's your news awareness question: name the country.
The American remains hospitalized in critical condition, reported The Independent Tuesday, describing him as "fighting for life" following three brain surgeries. He suffered a multiple fracture to his skull, severe injury to the frontal lobe of his brain, and a collapsed eye socket. Part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed.
By Dave Lindorff
As the country contemplates a major reform and restructuring of the way we run our national health care system (if it can even be called that), it needs to be pointed out that the mammoth health insurance industry is nothing but a parasite on that system.
Health insurance companies add zero value to the delivery of health care. Indeed, they are a significant cost factor that sucks up, according to some estimates such as one by the organization Physicians for a National Health Program, as much as 31 percent of every dollar spent on medical services (a percentage that has been rising steadily year after year).
Insurance companies are damaging in more ways than simply cost, though.
At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil -- which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009 -- rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.
By Dave Lindorff
Wait a minute! Did I hear correctly? Did Treasury Secretary and former New York Federal Reserve Bank screw-up Tim Geithner really tell a House Financial Services Committee today that he needed “new powers” to allow the federal government to take control of non-bank financial corporations whose actions threaten the financial system or the economy and “break them up”?
The subject under discussion at the hearing was AIG, and Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, under attack for those AIG “bonus payments” to executives, were trying to talk tough about the evil insurance giant.
But aren’t the powers that Geithner is calling for exactly the powers that he and Bernanke already have in the case of the banking industry?
Yes they are.
It's 1 PM in Washington. Do you know where your foreign policy is?
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are getting big praise around the world for their new Charm Offensive. As far as I'm concerned, the praise is justified. I heard our Secretary of State interviewed on the BBC a few weeks ago about our diplomatic outreach to Iran on Afghanistan. And the BBC was all, what makes you think Iran is going to help you on Afghanistan? And Hillary was all, you know, actually Iran helped us tremendously in Afghanistan after 2001. Our Ambassador in Afghanistan and the Iranian Ambassador were meeting practically every day. I just about fell off my chair. You'd have thought Hillary was applying for a job at the National Iranian American Council.
Judiciary Committee Announces Plan to Fight Fraud and Protect Taxpayers | Press Release
March 20, 2009
WASHINGTON (DC) – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr.(D-Mich.) announced that the Committee will consider a variety of initiatives to increase vigilance and accountability of taxpayer dollars by preventing and combating fraud, including misuse of taxpayer funds that have been, or will be, expended as part of the government’s economic recovery activities since the Fall of 2008. Hearings are expected to occur during the week of March 30, 2009.
Initiatives under consideration by the Committee as part of this review are expected to include:
- Ensuring effective investigation and prosecution, including effective and severe penalties, for fraud committed in the expenditure of economic stimulus funding
WASHINGTON – Elena Kagan was sworn in as Solicitor General of the United States today by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a ceremony held in the Chief Justice’s chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Elena Kagan’s intelligence, experience and commitment to the rule of law will make her an exceptional Solicitor General," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. "With the addition of Elena Kagan, we are building a strong, effective leadership team to enforce our nation’s laws."
David Walker: Plan B Move to Vancouver
Former Comptroller General for the United States says that he believes things can be turned around economically with a lot of work, or Plan B move to Vancouver.
By Tina Richards
As the mother of a Marine who served two tours in Iraq and who came home 80% disabled, he would call me and say, “Mom, I don't deserve to live anymore, I have a gun in mouth, I have to pull the trigger, I can't live with all the innocent women and children I've killed.” As the mother of a soldier, A son who sought help in the Army for his PTSD last month and the same week they said he was cured, he was arrested and put in a County jail for hitting his wife. My son, who in June will be deployed back to Iraq for his second tour, I say three more years is too long!!!
Before war protesters ended their demonstration Saturday afternoon, several placed cardboard coffins in front of the offices of northern Virginia defense contractors such as KBR Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp. as riot police stood by.
"Lockheed Martin you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" they chanted as part of a demonstration that began in Washington to mark the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Arlington County, Va., police estimated there were 2,500 to 3,000 protesters and said no arrests were made.
Organizers from the ANSWER Coalition said more than 1,000 groups sponsored the protest to call for an end to the Iraq war, and estimated that about 10,000 people participated. Carrying signs saying "We need jobs and schools, not war" and "Indict Bush," demonstrators beat drums and played trumpets as they marched from near the Lincoln Memorial past the Pentagon into Virginia.
President Obama's friendly Persian New Year greetings to the Iranian people and their leaders were welcomed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr with these words:"We welcome the wish of the president of the United States to put away past differences. But the way to do that," he urged, "is not by forgetting the previous hostile and aggressive attitude of the United States. The American administration has to recognise its past mistakes and repair them."
Afghanistan Strategy: Lure Fighters Away From Taliban
A key element of Obama’s plan is to erode militants’ power by strengthening local leaders, who can in turn provide incentives for foot soldiers to stop fighting.
Julian E. Barnes | LA Times
The Obama administration’s plan to overhaul the Afghanistan war will include a reinvigorated effort to sap the strength and influence of Taliban leaders by luring away their foot soldiers, according to advisors involved in a painstaking strategy review.
The plan is based on the assumption that top leaders of extremist groups are unlikely to switch sides wholesale, or would be unreliable allies if they did. Instead, the revised military effort will focus on eroding the power of militant leaders by drawing away low-level fighters – most of whom signed up for financial reasons.
Key to the strategy, according to administration officials, will be strengthening village elders and other local leaders as part of an overall shift in emphasis away from the country’s central government.
DC: Afghanistan: A Road Map For Progress - Seeking Global Security - 1st in 6 Part Series 3/25/09, 2:30 PM
Afghanistan: A Road Map For Progress - Seeking Global Security | Press Release
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) - "77 Strong and Growing" - Open to New and Different Ideas - Hosts Series of Forums to Discuss Military, Political, Economic and Social Policy Options in Afghanistan
Much Bigger Deficits Seen in Budget Office Forecast
By David Stout | NYTimes
President Obama’s budget proposals, if carried out, would produce a staggering $9.3 trillion in total deficits over the next decade, much more than the White House has predicted, the Congressional Budget Office said on Friday.
The office’s estimates of deficits in the fiscal years 2010 through 2019 “exceed those anticipated by the administration by $2.3 trillion.”
The deficits under the Obama plan would be $4.9 trillion more than the projected deficits if there were no changes in current laws and policies — what the nonpartisan budget office calls its baseline assumption.
Six Years of Blood and Lies
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 20, 2009
President Obama Announces End to Orange Jumpsuits
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Barack Obama announced that detainees formerly referred to as enemy combatants will no longer wear orange jumpsuits. In an agreement with Cambio manufacturing of Low Pointe, North Carolina, and UNITE HERE union Local #1984, new purple jumpsuits will be manufactured and phased in over a 38-month period for detainees in Guantanamo, Bagram, and 14 other key locations around the world.
President Obama said, "I’m confident that we will put the era of orange jumpsuits behind us, and am committed to ordering the use of orange jumpsuits only as necessitated by legitimate national security demands and consistent with my constitutional authority and responsibilities. While this change will be too swift and drastic for many, it will not satisfy extremists on the left including activists at afterdowningstreet.org. But we must move forward undeterred."
The President's Message to the Iranian People
Holder Memo Encourages Discretionary Releases, Accountability of FOIA Programs; DOJ Will Only Defend if Harm from Release is Reasonably Foreseeable
Washington, D.C., March 19, 2009 - Attorney General Eric Holder today released new guidelines for federal agencies on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that reinforce the presumption of disclosure articulated by President Obama in his day one Memorandum on FOIA, issued January 21, 2009.
Key Afghan insurgents open door to talks | CS Monitor
The Haqqani network has agreed to discuss a peace proposal with government-backed mediators.
As the Obama administration ponders reaching out to moderate Afghan insurgents, Kabul has opened preliminary negotiations with the country's most dangerous rebel faction, the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
The group is accused of masterminding some of the most brazen attacks here in recent years, and a deal with them will likely be key to ending the war.
"If the Haqqanis can be drawn into the negotiation process," says Kabul-based political analyst Waheed Muzjda, "it would be a serious sign that the insurgents are open to one day making a deal."
By Dave Lindorff
The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.
He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.
Hundreds of U.S. civilians may be sent to Afghanistan in a program to support security, governance and local development, Obama administration officials said.
The new civilian diplomats and specialists from U.S. departments such as Agriculture and Justice, along with hundreds of "full-time, temporary" hires, would work at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the officials said.
Other civilians would be assigned to U.S. "provincial reconstruction teams" and to other efforts "to build Afghan civilian capacity around the country," The Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) reported.
The new civilian force would complement 17,000 new U.S. troops scheduled for deployment this year, bringing the total to about 55,000, administration and Pentagon officials said.
Gates to Dover AFB
Now, watch Gates' Emotional Reaction to His Visit to Dover AFB here.
Gates said: "...very difficult...I will add a sentence or two...I went to the back of the plane by myself, and spent time with each of the 'transfer cases'...I think I'll stop there."
Sources: U.S. to sign U.N. gay rights declaration | MSNBC
Former President Bush had refused to endorse the measure in December
The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.
U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.
The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said.
By Dave Lindorff
For years, advocates of open government, mostly on the left, but also on the right, have railed against the growing secrecy of the US government. But the focus, particularly of left critics, has been on the Intelligence budget, a $40+ billion “black box” that is completely protected from public and even congressional scrutiny, and on large swaths of the Pentagon budget, which are kept hidden allegedly for “national security” reasons.
For the most part, the American public has adopted an ovine attitude towards such secrecy, assuming that the “government knows best.”
Now, however, with the economic crisis, and the collapse of AIG, Citibank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, General Motors, Chrysler and other leading US firms, and with bailouts that are putting taxpayers on the hook to the tune of trillions of dollars, the people are waking up, or at least are starting to get restless in their slumber.