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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Wed Nov 30th 2011, 09:20 PM

Alex Brandon/AP

Barack Obama roused a cheering northeast Pennsylvania crowd Wednesday as he warned of a "massive blow to the economy" if Republicans block a payroll tax extension because of his insistence on a millionaires' tax.

Obama took to the road with a dual pitch for money, campaigning for more cash in the pockets of U.S. workers — and for his campaign treasury as well.

Obama pressed his case at a campaign-style rally in working-class Scranton, Pa., where he said Republicans had to choose between lower taxes for the wealthy, or a payroll tax cut that would help working Americans. Republicans say they would support extending the payroll tax cut, but reject new taxes to offset the costs.

"Are you going to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class, or are you going to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?" he said. "Are you going to ask a few hundred thousand people who have done very, very well to do their fair share or are you going to raise taxes for hundreds of millions of people across the country?"


(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republicans generally continue to oppose increasing taxes. However, they are also seeking to avoid political damage that would result from voting against preserving a tax break that would help middle class families, especially during the Christmas holiday.

In Scranton, Mr. Obama sought to keep the pressure on Republicans, chiding them for votes in October that blocked his $447 billion jobs bill, which contained the payroll tax extension.

Republicans, he suggested, care more about opposing tax increases for the wealthy than keeping and expanding a tax break that will help middle class families.

"How is it that they can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people. That doesn't make any sense. I hope that they don't want to just score political points, I hope that they want to help the economy. This cannot be about who wins or loses in Washington, this is about delivering a win for the American people, that is what this is about," he said.


(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

from the White House transcript:

Last year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000. Now, that’s been showing up in your paychecks each week. You may not be aware of it, because times are tight. But you actually got a tax cut of $1,000 this year. Now, I know you hear a lot of folks on cable TV claiming that I’m this big tax-and-spend liberal. Next time you hear that, you just remind the people who are saying it that since I’ve taken office, I’ve cut your taxes.

Your taxes today -- the average middle-class family, your taxes today are lower than when I took office, just remember that. We have cut taxes for small businesses not once, not twice, but 17 times. The average family’s tax burden is among the lowest it’s been in the last 60 years.

So the problem is not that we’ve been raising taxes. We’ve actually been trying to give families a break during these tough times. But here’s the thing: That payroll tax cut that we passed in December of last year, it’s set to expire at the end of this year, one month from now. If that happens -- if Congress doesn’t act to extend this tax cut -- then most of you, the typical middle-class family, is going to see your taxes go up by $1,000 at the worst possible time. A young lady just said she can’t afford that. It would be tough for you. It would also be a massive blow for the economy, because we’re not fully out of the recession yet. Don’t take my word for it; this is what every independent economist says. We can’t let this tax cut lapse right now.

And that’s why my jobs bill -- part of the American Jobs Act was to extend this tax cut for another year. In fact, it does one better. It says, let’s expand that tax cut. Instead of a $1,000 tax cut next year, the typical working family under my plan would get a tax cut of $1,500. Instead of it coming out of your paycheck, it would be going into your pocket. Now, that’s money that you can spend on a small business right here in Scranton. If you’re a small business owner, my jobs bill will cut your payroll taxes in half. So if you’ve got 50 employees making $50,000 each, you’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000. That’s money that you can then use to hire some more workers and get this economy moving again. That’s a good thing.

Now, this really should not be controversial. A lot of Republicans have agreed with this tax cut in the past. The Republican leader in the Senate said it would -- I’m quoting here -- it would “put a lot of money back in the hands of business and in the hands of individuals.” That’s what he said. Another Republican leader said it would help small business owners create jobs and help their employees spend more money, creating even more jobs. One Republican even called it a “conservative approach to help put our economy back on track.” So what’s the problem?

The bad news is some of those same Republicans voted “no” on my jobs bill and those tax cuts. I don’t know whether it’s just because I proposed it. I don’t know. They said “no” to cutting taxes for small business owners and working families. One of them said just two years ago that this kind of tax cut would boost job creation, and now that I’m proposing it, he said we should let it expire. I mean, what happened?

Republicans say they’re the party of tax cuts. That’s what they say. A lot of them have sworn an oath to never raise taxes on anybody as long as they live. That doesn’t square with their vote against these tax cuts. I mean, how is it that they can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people? That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I hope that they don’t want to just score political points. I hope that they want to help the economy.

This cannot be about who wins and loses in Washington. This is about delivering a win for the American people. That’s what this is about. You know, $1,500 -- that’s not a Band-Aid for middle-class families, that’s a big deal. How many people here could use an extra $1,500? Yes, I thought so.

So I’ll tell you what, Scranton. They may have voted “no” on these tax cuts once. But I’m already filled with the Christmas spirit. There’s kind of some chill in the air. I saw some Christmas decorations at the Festas. So I’m in a Christmas spirit. I want to give them another chance. I want to give them a chance to redeem themselves. We’re going to give them another chance.

So as early as Friday, this Friday, in a couple of days, we’re going to give them a chance to take a simple vote on these tax cuts. If they vote “no,” then the typical family’s taxes will go up by $1,000 next year. If they vote “yes,” then the typical family will have an extra $1,500 in their pocket. So let’s just be clear: If they vote “no,” your taxes go up; vote “yes,” you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote? They should vote “yes,” it’s pretty simple.

Now, if you want to see what this vote will mean for your bottom line, we have this spiffy new tax calculator on our Internet site, So you can go on there and you can punch in your numbers and figure out what it would mean to your family. But this is real money that would go into the economy at a time it needs it.

Now, I really do think your voices are already getting
through, because some of the folks in Congress are starting to say, well, maybe we’re open to this thing. Maybe we’ll be open to these tax cuts. And that’s good news. But I want to make sure that we do this responsibly. So what I’ve said is, to pay for this tax cut, we need to ask wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.

We’re asking -- what we’ve said is let’s ask the folks who’ve seen their incomes rise fastest, who’ve gotten bigger tax breaks under Bush, let’s ask them to help out a little bit, because they made it better through the recession than most of us. Let’s ask them to contribute a little bit more to get the economy going again.

And I just want to point out I’ve done pretty well over these last few years. So I’ve said, let me pay a little bit more. I promise you, I can afford it. (Laughter.) I really can. We’re asking people like me to sacrifice just a little bit so that you guys have a little bit of a leg up.

And by the way, let me say this: When you talk to most folks who are making a million dollars a year, they are willing to do more if they’re asked. Warren Buffett is a good example. They’re willing to do more if they’re asked.

Now, I mean, I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like they’re volunteering. (Laughter.) But if they’re asked, if they feel like it’s going to help middle-class families, help grow the economy, help to reduce the deficit, they’re willing to help. I can’t tell you how many well-to-do folks I meet who say, look, America gave me a chance to succeed. Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a good education. Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a college scholarship. Somewhere along the line, somebody built the information and transportation networks that have helped my business grow. Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a shot. And so now it’s my turn to do the next generation that same good thing. I’ve got to give something back to them as well.

Because, Scranton, this is something everybody in this audience understands. When you think about the history of Scranton and the immigrants who came here and worked hard, each successive generation doing a little bit better -- you guys know that what America is about is that we’re all in this together; that each of us has to do our own individual part, but we also have to be looking out for one another.

And that’s the very simple choice that’s facing Congress right now: Are you going to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class? Or are you going to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom don’t even want those tax breaks? Are you going to ask a few hundred thousand people who have done very, very well to do their fair share? Or are you going to raise taxes for hundreds of millions of people across the country -- 160 million Americans? Are you willing to fight as hard for middle-class families as you do for those who are most fortunate? What’s it going to be?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

That’s the choice in front of Congress. And I hope members of Congress think hard about this, because their actions lately don’t reflect who we are as a people. What does it say about our priorities when we’d rather protect a few really well-to-do people than fight for the jobs of teachers and firefighters?

What does it say when we -- about our values when we’d rather fight for corporate tax breaks than put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools? What does it say about us if we’re willing to cut taxes for the people who don’t need them, and raise them on folks who do need a tax break?

We are better than that. America is better than that. We celebrate individual achievement, we expect everybody to work hard, but we don’t believe in every person for themselves; we believe that out of many, we come together as one. We’re a people who reach for our own success, but we also reach back for the people -- to bring somebody up. Reach back to help others earn their own success as well. And we believe that if the folks at the bottom and the folks in the middle succeed, then American succeeds, and the folks at the top succeed as well.

(Jason Reed / Reuters)

read entire speech:

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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Wed Nov 30th 2011, 11:42 AM
from David Macaray at HuffPo:

Anti-labor Republicans Hit Rock Bottom

___ Since the Taft-Hartley Act (1947), the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) is required to have five members on its panel, all of whom are appointed by the president. The panel usually breaks along party lines, typically with a 3-2 split in favor of the White House. In the absence of all five members, the board is still able to conduct business, so long as it has a quorum, which is a minimum three members.

But when there are fewer than three members, the board can't act. In the absence of a quorum, the board can't conduct any important business. It can't come to the aid of workers illegally discharged for union activism; it can't insist that employees be awarded back pay for overtime hours they were cheated out of; and it can't settle ULPs filed during contract negotiations, no matter how egregious. Without a minimum of three members, the board can't do much of anything.

As it stands today the NLRB consists of just three members, the bare minimum. They are Mark Pearce and Craig Becker, both Democrats ( both Obama appointees), and Brian E. Hayes, a Republican. The reason there are only three is because the Republicans in Congress have steadfastly refused to install anyone who remotely resembles a pro-union vote. In fact, Craig Becker himself is a "recess appointee" (appointed by Obama while Congress was out of session), whose term expires at the end of the year.

Given how much the Republicans despise the NLRB -- given how contemptuous they are of the 76-year-old federal institution that was created specifically to guarantee the rights of working people -- what will they do when important votes come up? With this discouraging 2-1 Democratic majority staring them in the face, how will the Republicans respond?

Answer: They will tear down the edifice. It's true. Brian E. Hayes, the lone Republican panel member, has threatened to resign . . .

read more:


Republicans Angle To Block New Union Rules
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Mon Nov 28th 2011, 12:58 PM
this is from the Thomas Edsall article that's circulating today:

and this one in the Daily Mail UK:

The upshot from the articles, without any more of a source than 'Democratic strategists', is that the Obama campaign will bypass states where the vote is traditionally dominated by working-class whites.

Specifically, Edsall's claim that, "preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class."

I don't see any sign of that at all. In fact, Vice President Joe Biden has already been tasked with drawing that 'blue-collar' vote out for the campaign in states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

But let's be clear who these columnists are referring to. This isn't some concern being expressed by these writers for unions, because, overall, unions aren't just made up of white voters. The President has been a solid supporter of unions and has already garnered several endorsements from several high profile organizations. He'll lean heavily on union organizers to get out the vote and his message. Don't let anyone tell you this is about unions.

What they're really talking about is the President's appeal (or lack of) to white republicans and independents. That isn't something I personally believe he should spend his time on.

From the time of Clinton's run for president, conservative Democrats have argued that the party needs to woo white voters. At the time, there really weren't enough minority voters participating who could make up the difference needed to bridge the electoral gap. There was a mostly successful attempt to posture as more conservative on issues like guns, god, defense; while downplaying other core Democratic issues.

That was straight from a fresh and energized DLC. Jesse Jackson and others argued, successfully, for a more inclusive outreach that didn't ignore, shortchange, or take for granted traditionally Democratic states in the primary process. Instead of narrowing the scope and shutting down the process we got what we experienced the last election with a full-length voting process in which most states got a serious hearing and vote in the primary.

That's not likely going to change.

Moreover, the only other evidence the articles cite is the outreach the Obama campaign is making to "minorities, young people, Hispanics, unmarried women, professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic . . ."

Whoa! So the reason these writers are sounding the alarm and tooting their dog-whistles is because the Obama campaign is looking to energize traditional Democratic constituencies which have traditionally shied away from the polls in numbers that would make a significant difference in the balance of power, which, until the early '70's and '80's, didn't see but a handful of blacks, women and other minorities elected to Congress.

The false line that these writers have drawn between the elevation of these Democratic voters and the diminution of working-class whites isn't a new tactic. It's the same defensive reaction folks who warn ominously about the elevation of minorities in the workplace as some threat to white workers seek to engender among insecure and struggling individuals most susceptible to such an appeal. It won't be the first time conservatives have tried to label the Democratic party as the 'party of blacks, Latinos' in an attempt to drive white voters away.

The elevation and heightened participation of these traditional Democratic voters will ultimately benefit all Americans, not just the select few whose influence these writers want voters to fear. Don't expect them to admit that, however, as they work to make their opportunistic, invented reasoning the conservative mantra.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Thu Nov 24th 2011, 12:53 AM
I'm staying home this Thanksgiving and our two adult boys have only to travel the stairway to the upstairs to eat a decent meal and and grace my wife and I with their interminable charm and wit. It's nice to not have to gussy-up and head out to the in-laws. I'm going to have football on and our Ravens are playing the 49ers this time around . . . Who can ask for anything more?

I haven't always shunned traveling to see relatives on the holidays. Nowadays there's just us 'kids' to gather together, since all of the old ones are gone. There's also a sibling each on both sides of our family missing from the table, as well, so getting together for the holidays these days is less ordered and optional. But there was a time when traveling to see the in-laws for the holidays was a pretty big deal.

Bad blood between my parents and their brothers and sisters always prevented my family from traveling with more than one of them when they journeyed back to their hometowns. Mom would usually take my only sister and I, by train, to Charleston, WVa. to see our grandfather, and Dad would drive us to Reading, Pa. to visit his family.

Union Station in D.C. was my mom's territory. We'd usually arrive on the run, with the baggage porter following behind with our luggage. We'd hit the train platform with the steam blasting across our path and get a hand up onto the train from the most polite men I've ever encountered (sometimes just as the train was starting to pull out of the station). We pull the sliding door between the train open and settle back into the mohair-covered seats with the paper-covered headrests and watch out the window as the city shrank out of sight.

The long journey always led me to memorize every contour of the yellowing plastic controls on the handle of the seats, and to balance the weight of the molded metal footrests that I raised and lowered incessantly (to my mother's practiced consternation). As I type this, I'm looking at one of the little hand games that she'd pull out of her purse to keep us occupied that she saved over the years. It's one of those little plastic board puzzles with sliding letters that you had to unscramble with the benefit of only one open space. I've also got one with the Adams Family on it, and there were ones with ball-bearings and holes like a miniature pinball machine.

In-between fiddling and snacking on the saltines and mints she'd pocketed from the many restaurants we'd frequented, I'd steal a little freedom from my schoolteacher mom and make a couple of adventurous trips through the doors separating the trains to the restroom. It was a rather chaotic arrangement where the trains were coupled in those days, often with little more than a chain or bar keeping you from falling out the sides between the cars. Later, there would be a more elaborate barrier, but the effect was still the same rush of danger as you could see the tracks whizzing by underneath the shifting metal plates on the floor. I can remember sticking my little head outside of one of the windows to recklessly gauge the violent wind as the train sped along.

When we'd arrive at the station in Charleston, Granddad would be waiting with his huge Oldsmobile that smelled like the cigars, pipes, and Pall Malls he smoked constantly. The rest of the trip was a memorable string of visits to relatives, capped off by an extraordinary meal at my cousin Gussy's who would cook greens in ham fat until they literally melted in your mouth. She had two trees in her front yard that were painted white halfway up the trunk and tiny red bugs crawled up and down. There was an active railroad track a few feet from her back door where we'd put pennies on the rail for the passing trains to flatten. Life was as ancient and slow in Charleston; as slow as the snails we poured salt on; as deliberate as my Uncle Moore who would be watching the game with an unbreakable concentration . . . except for that one day when I came down hard on the ground from one of the trees out front with a branch in my hand and he thought I might be dead.

Travel on the holidays with Dad was a decidedly less formal affair. There weren't any of the social rules and the prim and proper trappings that Mom insisted on maintaining while in her company. The three of us would pile into one of his Impalas (Caprices) and hit the turnpike. There would be rest stops and Stuckeys along the way with string licorice, frosted funnel cakes, and giant lollipops to make our little exodus more enjoyable.

We'd sing every song we knew on the AM dial out loud, the three of us. Roger Miller would come on dozen or more times and we'd belt out every line of 'King of the Road'. I think it was Doris Day who would come on with 'You Are My Sunshine', and Sinatra would sing 'Sentimental Journey' as we sang along with the radio. We were the best of friends in that car, away from the strict eye and tongue of my well-meaning mother.

Even my Dad would abandon his suits for the trip (he'd change out of his work suit and tie everyday and put on another to go shopping) and opt for his Army fatigues and sweatshirt. He was the only one of 9 kids to make it out of that town, so the buttoned-down bureaucrat look just wouldn't cut it in the town he said was famous for 'pretzels, prostitutes, and beer' . . . We'd eat at Grandma's house and Granddad would even be welcomed back for dinner.

Grandma was a striking Indian woman with long blond-white hair and a voice like angels purring, but she was a powerful woman who raised her nine children on Relief after Granddad had fled with them to Reading from Black Mountain, N.C., after he had some trouble with the sheriff down there. He kept the kids out of school until the state would agree to provide clothes for them and about half of them ended up integrating the Quaker school there. Later in life, Granddad could be found every day outside of the factory gates at noon and at quitting time watching the women go by.

All of their kids but two would show up (one who died young from a stabbing, the other died young due to another misfortune of their rough life). One Uncle had to sneak in after dark as the sheriff would always lay in wait to try and arrest him (especially at the funerals) for neglecting the several children he had here and there around town. We'd eat a magnificent meal cooked in the tiny kitchen at the back of the house in iron skillets and served on ancient porcelain dinnerware. Granddad, dressed in his purple suit, yellow shirt, and green shoes, would say grace . . .

I own all of these holiday memories from my childhood now, as all of the members of the immediate family I grew up with have passed on. I can only remember the good and the bad times with equal nostalgia. I am the only one left who can recall the sights, smells, and flavor of that past. It's all become part of a wonderful stew of memories to measure my own family's holiday experiences against. Holiday travel; always a sentimental journey . . .

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories

Got my bag, I got my reservation
Spent each dime I could afford
Like a child in wild anticipation
Long to hear that: "All aboard!"

Seven, that's the time we leave at - seven
I'll be waiting up for heaven
Counting every mile of railroad track - that takes me back

Never thought my heart could be so yearning
Why did I decide to roam
Gotta take this sentimental journey
Sentimental journey home
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Sat Nov 19th 2011, 01:57 PM

____ Newt Gingrich, calling his fast rise in the polls 'disorienting', suggested that his supporters starve his campaign of cash and just let it 'whither on the vine'.

"I jumped by a factor of three in a month," Gingrich told reporters after a screening of his film "A Pity Upon a Hill". "I feel almost disoriented. This is a lot."

Asked why the former republican speaker is considering ending his campaign so early in the election, Gingrich bristled.

"I do no campaigning of any kind. I never have," he said. "A very important point I want to make. I have never done campaigning of any kind," Gingrich told Fox News Channel this week. “Voters had a chance to come and be in a meeting with someone who had been speaker of the House, who understood Washington, who understood history," he said. “And we would swap ideas."

Pressed for what he intended to do with the money already contributed to his election effort, Gingrich responded defensively.

"I didn’t take it," Gingrich said. "The funds weren’t paid to me as a candidate. They were Gingrich group's earnings, not my earnings," he said. "Over a period of months, voters paid Gingrich group, which has a number of employees and a number of offices, a consulting fee just like you would pay any other consulting firm."

"What's happened is we've grown a consulting industry, so that instead of having the old-time big city machine bosses, we now have these consultants," he said.

Reports surfaced today that the real reason for Gingrich's pique and anxiety had to do with a refusal of his staffers to offer him a seat on the plane they used to bolt from his campaign when they discovered the candidate and his wife Callista had taken a luxury cruise to Greece while they were toiling away in New Hampshire.

Gingrich responded to the staff mutiny yesterday by threatening to fire all of his professional campaign workers and replace them with poor kids.

"This is something that no liberal wants to deal with," Gingrich said. "Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

"You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You're totally poor," he said. "Most of these campaigns ought to get rid of the unionized workers, have one master and pay local students to take care of the campaign. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride . . ."

How would he respond to those who would criticize his use of child labor to run his dubious presidential campaign, Gingrich offered that, "I'm just a very hard-working business person with a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s."

“I think I represent the wing of America that believes that hard work and success is good, not bad, and I'm happy to answer for it.”
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Wed Nov 02nd 2011, 09:52 AM
I'm reasoning this because there's a patten of activity right now in Afghanistan which resembles the 'declare success and get out' approach President Obama just demonstrated in his decision to move forward with the Iraq withdrawal ahead of schedule; despite the ongoing conflicts and possibly escalating violence in the war-torn nation.

First I'd start with the reported 'planning' by the Pentagon to move forward with their handover and pullback from their self-defined 'litmus test' in the Kandahar region. It hasn't happened yet, and there's a great deal of protest reported from the locals we put in place to manage things in the wake of our forces' deadly and costly assault on Marjah and our occupation of Kandahar City.

from a Nov. 2 AP report: /

"Lawmakers from Kandahar said Tuesday that Afghan forces are far from ready to assume full security responsibility in the province that was the birthplace of the Taliban, stressing it should be among the last regions where NATO forces hand over control to Afghan counterparts . . ."

"The Kandahar legislators fear their province will be on the second list that President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce in the coming weeks as regions where security is to be handed over to Afghan forces."

However . . .

"Instead of a six-stage transition process, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the coalition's top commander in the country, has said the plan is to now achieve the transition in five steps, with the last starting as early as the fall of 2013 instead of later that year or early 2014."

"Initially, the idea was to have Afghan security forces take charge in the most peaceful areas first. But Allen said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that Afghan, coalition officials and others recently decided it would be unwise to transfer the most volatile provinces in 2014, when the international force's footprint will be shrinking."

So, the commanders on the ground are already planning forward to 2013 and 2014, with little regard for the chaos, violence and danger they've bequeathed to Kandahar, and even moving their transition date forward to accommodate the anticipated reduction in force.

Already, the rhetoric about 'success' is being allowed to rise above their own bleak report to Congress in which they claim gains, yet report that civilians have died in record numbers under our military forces' supposed protection and that their 'goals' may not be achieved as planned.

A summary of bullet points from the Pentagon report from Ahmad Shuja at UNDispatch:

--Transition remains on track with no demonstrated effort by the insurgency to target the process.
--International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have made important security gains, reversing violence trends in much of the country (except along the border with Pakistan).
--Overall, year-to-date enemy attacks nationwide were five percent lower than the same period in 2010, and attacks continue to decline.
- The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continued to make substantial progress during the reporting period, increasing in quantity, quality, and operational effectiveness.
--Both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) remain on track to achieve their respective growth goals for October 2012.
--During this reporting period, both the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior made significant progress in being able to train, and thereby generate, their own forces.

You can read the entire report here (PDF):

The report is full of assessments of 'successes and progress' . . . with glaring, contradicting exceptions.

"Civilian casualties -- most caused by the Taliban -- reached an all-time high this summer with approximately 450 civilians killed in July," the report reads. "Attacks using homemade bombs, or IEDs, also reached an all-time high this past summer, with about 750 IED detonations recorded in July."

from Just Foreign Policy:

"Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. fatalities in the war in Afghanistan have occurred during the Obama administration, which has managed the war for a mere quarter of its duration."

And with two months left to go, 2011 is already the second-deadliest year of the Afghanistan war following 2010, the deadliest year of the war with 497 total deaths. The top three deadliest years of the war -- 2010 (497 deaths), 2011 (362), 2009 (303) -- have occurred under President Obama’s tenure. August 2011 was the deadliest month of the war, so far, with 71 total fatalities.

Just as importantly, "the change in Taliban tactics has kept up the number of civilian casualties," said a senior defense official describing the report. Even though there are fewer Taliban attacks overall, he said, the Taliban "are killing more Afghan civilians."

Predictably, resisting Afghans have avoided the areas where U.S. troops have masses and have scattered their violence around the capital and elsewhere -- even killing former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

For these figures alone, this Afghan mission should be scrubbed. I believe that's what commanders must be thinking (and our Commander-in-Chief is thinking as well).

President Obama has already decided that, for better or worse (he says better) that his surge is all but over. His Pentagon and his intelligence agencies took out the original terror suspect who claimed responsibility for the 9-11 plane crashes and more than a few others. For an economically crippled superpower pushing up against the admitted limitations of our military, that's enough for the President to declare 'success' and 'progress' and leave when he says he will -- if not ahead of time.

Already, this week, in fact, our installed autocrat, Karzai has gone fishing for countries willing to fill the void when we eliminate combat troops from Afghanistan as planned in 2014. That's not going to be an easy sell, although you can be certain the U.S. will step up and sweeten the pot for anyone willing to take on the heady burden in our absence.

At a regional conference today on Afghanistan held in Turkey the Afghan and Pakistani presidents met with their neighbors to try and work out some sort of security agreement to keep a lid on things when they anticipate the US leaves in 2014.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi announced at the summit that his country understood that NATO will change their combat role to supporting role after 2014.

Although he emphasized that that the date was a transition period and not a dead-stop end point, he also insisted that Afghan security forces are near ready to take over their security responsibilities.

Now, no one believes that even he believes Afghans will be 'ready' for the U.S. to bug-out in 2014, but almost no one believes the U.S. has the political or operational will to remain long past that date. That's understandable given the virtual stalemate between resistors and the NATO forces (despite the thousands of 'insurgents' they claim to have killed).

More importantly, there's really nothing left for this administration to point to as justification to remain. It's always amazing to hear the President and the administration talk of 'progress' and 'successes' in Afghanistan. The stated aim of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan has been described by military leaders and the White House as an attempt to 'breaking the momentum' of the Taliban insurgency and 'turning' the terrorist-associated organization, instead of the more direct talk at the inception of the escalation of force in December 2009 about 'defeating' al-Qaeda.

What's missing from the assessments of 'progress' and 'success' from occupation supporters is the acknowledgment that our nation's military posture in Afghanistan and the region has actually widened the initial conflict between the U.S. and the original band of 9-11 perpetrators into a proxy war in which Afghans and Pakistanis are bearing the brunt of resentment and resistance to our imposed alliance with the dubious regimes clinging to power. Every move that the U.S. makes to enable or defend those country's regimes deepens the initial, blundering acquiescence to bin Laden's plot to draw the U.S. into a conflict where Muslims and others in the region became targets and casualties of our nations military forces.

Seemingly unaware or indifferent to that initial acquiescence of the U.S. to the aim of the 9-11 perpetrators, this Democratic president doubled-down on Bush's fateful appeasement and has decided to try and temper the fires that our military forces have sparked with their dubious defense against the ghosts, remnants, and outgrowth of our own misguided military activity in the region since 9-11.

The administration's attitude is that past mistakes don't obviate the need and efficacy (in their view) of pressing forward with their military campaign. They're optimistic that our military forces can achieve enough of a push-back against resisting Afghans, and a crippling of anyone operating behind the moniker of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, to allow and encourage Afghans to assume a fight against that insurgence which would compliment our own national security interests in defending against 'al-Qaeda' and against further attacks on our nation.

The obvious problem with that equation is in the self-perpetuated, counterproductive effect the U.S. military presence and activity has on achieving those unifying goals. The present escalation of force unfolded too slowly to achieve any decisive military intimidation of the vast and organic number of individuals compelled to violence.

The resistant unrest hasn't abated; it's intensified, even as our forces are angling to leave. Even the military commanders have recently predicted that violence and deaths will likely increase in the near future. I'm at a loss to imagine how that prospect will enhance or relationship with Afghans or others in the region and encourage them to adopt and carry our nation's banner of war against their resisting country-folk. But, that's the plan . . .

Bush wrote the script for the U.S. in the region; cast the antagonists in his kabuki play - erected Potemkins of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend in contrived protection schemes where we create the 'enemies' we then claim to protect and defend against.

The Taliban is an imposture in our government's terror war. Our own invading and occupying military forces are the most aggravating element in the perpetual violence in Afghanistan and the region. Deliberately so.

Yet, this president has no apparent interest in assuming the mantle of a 'war president' as Bush so opportunistically did after 9-11 to cover for his lackluster domestic agenda. This president campaigned on domestic priorities which are increasingly threatened by the cost of continuing the escalated occupations he's inching toward drawing down. I find it hard to believe that Mr. Obama has as much enthusiasm for making Afghanistan the centerpiece of his foreign policy as Bush did with Iraq. Gone are the last president's references to 'spreading democracy' and the 'center of the terror war'.

Also absent from this new administration's rhetoric is any illusion that there will be some rallying of allies around this president's continued prosecution of the persistent, grudging vengeance against the remnants and ghosts of the original 9-11 fugitive suspects. Indeed, America will soon be standing almost alone in Afghanistan if the president doesn't find a way to define the mission there in terms of some eventual resolution or end.

The President declared in televised remarks in 2009 on 'Meet the Press,' that, "I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration."

The mixed results of the Afghan elections our troops have defended, and the almost negligible effect on the balance of power outside of Kabul (a majority adhering to the tribal leadership of the Taliban and others over the influence and control of Afghanistan's central government), expose the administration's nation-building behind the force of our military as the crap-shoot almost everyone expected it to be.

Facing limited resources (both money and manpower) available to fulfill all of the desires that the President and the Pentagon may have had to perpetuate the occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama is now challenged to end it as soon as he's able. We can only hope that he'd end it sooner than 2014, but I think we can be damned sure there isn't going to be any driving desire for a Democratic administration and their Democratic counterparts in Congress to continue in Afghanistan much longer.

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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Sun Oct 30th 2011, 06:06 PM
OUR legislative agenda is best served when it is initiated and advocated from the ground up, but, at some point, to convert those grass-roots ideas into action, our progressive ideals need to be assigned to our legislators we elect to public office -- the caretakers and managers of the levers of our democracy -- to put them into realization.

Baynard Rustin, a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, argued in his book, 'Strategies for Freedom', that for any movement to have a permanent and transforming imprint, it should have a legislative goal attached which will transcend the whims of the emotions of the moment. Describing a different struggle that America faced with the advancement of civil rights, he wrote that:

"Moral fervor can't maintain your movement, nor can the act of participation itself. There must be a genuine commitment to the advancement of the people. To have such a commitment is also to have a militant sense of responsibility, a recognition that actions have consequences which have a very real effect on the individual lives of those one seeks to advance."

"Far too many movements lack both a (legislative) perspective and a sense of responsibility, and they fail because of it," Ruskin wrote.

"My quarrel with the "no-win" tendency in the civil rights movement (and the reason I have so designated it) parallels my quarrel with the moderates outside the movement," Rustin wrote in his book, 'Down the Line.'

"As the latter lack the vision or will for fundamental change, the former lack a realistic strategy for achieving it." he said. "For such a strategy they substitute militancy. But militancy is a matter of posture and volume and not of effect."

Another important point Ruskin made in reference to unity among blacks within the movement rings true for our own diverse, progressive coalitions which have massed to march together in protest, and have advocated within and without the system (together or independently).

"In a pluralistic democracy," he wrote, "unity (among we who agree) is a meaningless goal. It is far more important to form alliances with other forces in society which share common needs and common goals, and which are in general agreement over the means to achieve them."

Ruskin's advice about alliances is just the lesson I believe we need to heed as we face off against the republican opposition in this election season of discontent and anxious, frustrated citizens (understandably and correctly) taking their grievances to the streets.

I'm not talking about just rolling over and compromising our principles or our positions. Many protests assume that the legislative process is the dominion of the opposition, and that compromise in the system can only mean a sacrifice of principle or belief. But, our political institutions are designed for both argument and compromise. There is little room in our democracy to dictate one view or the other.

While our hundreds of in Congress legislators may come to office with similar goals, like reforming health care, for example, they, nonetheless, come to office with a myriad of ideas and approaches to achieve those goals. Those different views and approaches must be reconciled if legislation is to move out of their respective chambers and up the legislative ladder.

If we are to effectively begin any substantial reversal of the Bush administration's withering legacy of debt and economic turmoil, the solutions will have to come in the form of some sort of compromise, given the fragile balance of power in this Congress and the entrenched republican opposition. For many out here, that effort can't afford to wait for an uncertain change in that balance of power.

Speaking of the struggle for civil rights in his own time, Rustin wrote that, "Confronted with a new agenda, we had to come to terms with developing new tactics. When we had absolute demands for the rights of freedom and dignity, we could insist on absolute solutions. But when you are working within the political system,you can no longer deal in absolute terms. You must be prepared to compromise, you must be prepared to make and accept concessions," he wrote.

Achieving legislative solutions which will adequately confront the republican minority and cause them to move away from their obstinacy is no easy or certain task. That effort will, more than likely, take even more protesting and advocacy, but, as long as we keep our legislative goals at the head of our protests, and form the necessary coalitions of support to advance those legislative efforts within the system, we can assume the necessary responsibility for the consequences of our actions and transform the direction of our movements from agitation to action.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Fri Oct 28th 2011, 09:22 PM
The Pentagon and the White House are holding their breath, hoping no one notices the deepening of their clusterfuck in Afghanistan. As if to underscore the folly of their escalated military offensive, U.S. troops are planning to start withdrawing from Kandahar, the self-proclaimed center of their terror war in Afghanistan.

WaPo reported today that: "American military commanders were encouraged by an overall decline in violence in Kandahar over the summer fighting season," and that, "With President Obama having ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by December — and twice that by the following fall — some combat troops must leave the south, where the bulk of American forces are located, commanders said."

“We will begin to thin out and turn over security of Kandahar to the Afghan security forces, in a similar fashion as we did Kabul,” said Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the second-ranking commander in Afghanistan. Yet, it is precisely the defense of Kabul that is on the military commanders' minds -- much like the defense of Baghdad became Bush's last stand in Iraq.

WaPo: "Their goal is to replicate the situation in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where coalition troops have a low-visibility presence and serve as advisers to Afghan soldiers and police."

The pullback from their self-defined litmus test in Kandahar is no surprise. Declaring that, 'This is not Fallujah', NATO had announced at the beginning of 2010 that they were counting on local 'political leaders' to direct the upcoming U.S.-led assault on their neighborhoods and communities in Kandahar. They pressed on into Kandahar City after declaring 'success' and 'progress' in their assault and takeover of the town of Marjah - an operation which also was preceded by the killing of civilians fleeing the announced raid by NATO forces bent on replacing the Taliban-based authority in the town of 80.000 with representatives from the corrupt Karzai regime.

In the pending Kandahar advance, as in the weeks leading up to the military offensive against Marjah, NATO sought to soften their path by warning off potential resistors and allowing them (and the residents in the way) time to flee to other parts of the country. No refugee centers were established to handle the anticipated flight of residents from the promised fighting on all sides; no provisions of food provided, no medical centers set up, no living quarters contemplated for the residents forced out of their homes by the invading forces.

“The solution to Kandahar will not be done through security,” said the other NATO official, who’s a senior U.S. military official in Kabul. “It will be enhanced through security. But the change, the real dramatic change for Kandahar, will have to happen politically.”

That sentiment was echoed in the remarks of Secretary of State Clinton this week in testimony before Congress in which she described a 'two-pronged' approach in Afghanistan which involved 'talks' with the Taliban, coupled with continued military assaults on the Afghan resistance.

Yet, it's not very likely NATO will ever be able to emphasize their 'political' aims over the destructive and destabilizing impact on the communities of Kandahar from the devastating, U.S.-led military offensive. Through the force of our weapons - outside the limits that our constitution proscribes for the use of our military defenses - we're representing a corrupt regime and imposing it on the Afghan population, especially in regions which were not engaged in elections that we claim gives the new government legitimacy.

Even our would-be puppet, Karzai, has bristled and balked at the prospect of more destructive NATO conquest in Afghanistan on his behalf. The once-willing accomplice has seen the political writing on the wall and appears to be looking to settle for the assumption of power wherever the Taliban would allow. His reported outburst at the beginning of the Kandahar campaign, threatening to 'join the Taliban', was a open-warning to the U.S. that he recognizes there is no 'political solution' that can be reasonably carved out of the devastating, withering military campaign.

The military is quietly hoping we don't notice that they didn't actually transform that Marjah misadventure from the leveling of homes, the taking of resistors lives, and the destruction of farmland and livestock into the nation-building success that they intended for the mission to highlight.

As recently as this Thursday, Taliban fighters launched multiple attacks on two U.S. bases killing three Afghans and wounded six Americans. Despite that continued violence and the prospect of the Taliban forces returning, the Pentagon is committed (finally) to moving out of Kandahar.

The planned drawdown, however, is not born out of any political success or victory, but out of a certain realization that there will never be a defining end to the resistant violence there which will transform the country politically.

The only course left for a beleaguered and faltering U.S. invasion force is to pull back to the capital from their offensive positions in the south of the country and stage a desperate defense of their propped-up, yet insolent regime.

The premise behind President Obama's initial 'surge' of U.S. troops into Bush's Afghanistan quagmire was to 'push back' resisting Afghans enough to allow some sort of political reconciliation. That effort is predictably bogged down by the difficulty in getting the disparate tribes and factions to accept the central authority NATO has set up in Kabul. There's even more difficulty in getting their installed government to accommodate the interests and demands of the resisting rest of the war-split nation.

The U.S. military offensive against Kandahar was an abject failure. What happened to the promised ability of the U.S.-led NATO forces to protect the residents of Kandahar against Taliban blowback from their invasion? Nonexistent. The ability to protect innocent civilians from NATO attacks, or insulate them from the negative consequences and effects of the NATO military advance? Nonexistent. The ability of NATO to provide and deliver the services and amenities of the central government to the displaced residents? Nonexistent.

A new Pentagon report to Congress this week indicated that Afghan civilians are dying in record numbers. "Civilian casualties -- most caused by the Taliban -- reached an all-time high this summer with approximately 450 civilians killed in July. Attacks using homemade bombs, or IEDs, also reached an all-time high this past summer, with about 750 IED detonations recorded in July."

"The change in Taliban tactics has kept up the number of civilian casualties," said the senior defense official describing the report. Even though there are fewer Taliban attacks overall, he said, the Taliban "are killing more Afghan civilians."

Predictably, resisting Afghans have avoided the areas where U.S. troops have masses and have scattered their violence around the capital and elsewhere, killing former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani just this September.

Soon, our military will have the bulk of our forces hunkered down in Kabul, building dirt fortresses with guard towers to surround our unpopular junta, just to cling to the appearance of progress; just to 'stay the course' in the months before the elections as President Obama postures as 'strong' and capable on defense.

President Obama and his republican Pentagon holdovers led our nation to this retreat to Kabul. They're prepared to tolerate the continued deaths of our our soldiers as our troops eventually hunker down there; tolerate the thousands drastically wounded; waiting for some declared 'victory' to materialize out of our their desperate defense of their own lives against the Afghans that the President and the Pentagon claim we're liberating.

We've been in Afghanistan longer than our country fought WWII. No matter to our leaders, though. 'Freedom's' cause for occupation supporters is nothing more than a repression of one group or another within the sovereign nation we invaded into accepting our military forces' false authority over them; and cynical manipulation and control of the Afghan government Karzai lords over by the intimidation of our military occupation.

Our nation's possessive militarism in Afghanistan and elsewhere has divided our nation from within, and, from without against our restive allies. The escalated occupation has ignored whatever Afghans might regard as freedom in our insistence that their country be used as a barrier against the terror forces we've aggravated and enhanced in Pakistan. Yet, the soldiers the President insists on continuing to commit to his retreat to Kabul are mostly fighting and dying because they're not wanted there by the majority of the Afghan people. Our soldiers are fighting to control the Afghans, and they are busy fighting to get the U.S. to release that control.

All the while, most of the original threatening figures in our terror war have been killed -- their violent spawns made witness to the worst of al-Qaeda's warnings about U.S. imperialism, more than satisfied to have the bulk of our nation's military forces bogged down and fighting for their lives in Kabul.

According to the defense official quoted along with the new assessment, despite the obvious and enduring setbacks, "We are succeeding . . . We're going to advance our goals and draw down as we've said."

"Time is running out before the international community transfers control to Kabul by the end of 2014, and many key objectives are unlikely to be achieved by then," the report warned.

Time for the U.S. militarists to declare victory and leave.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Tue Oct 25th 2011, 10:06 PM
THE republican candidates' flirting with the flat tax, and in the cases of Cain and Perry, embracing it, hasn't been met with the same cynicism and derision that the media reserves for anything our Democratic president proposes as an economic remedy or to promote tax fairness. Leaving aside the prospect for any of these radical republican tax schemes of ever becoming law, there's still an overriding question of the fairness of their revenue-enhancing proposals offered to appease their corporate benefactors.

Perry's plan, which he released today, calls for a 20% rate for everyone which would reduce the taxes of the minority of the wealthiest -- even as it allows the 98% or so of the rest of us to either pay the 20% or keep most of the deductions we have now.

Assuming that those middle-class deductions remain in place, and assuming that the wealthy taxpayers actually lose their myriad of deductions and adhere to that 20% level, there will still be the question of fairness as the vast majority of us will still struggle to pay our share, while the wealthier among us will never be forced to miser their basic needs just to ante-up to the federal government.

The result of the cut in the wealthier income taxes will be a certain drop in revenue which Perry wants to make up with another across the board gimmicky cut in spending. The reality, though, is that the taxes will always be easier to manipulate than the spending. It's hard to envision any scenario where the burden of the taxes and revenue needs wouldn't be permanently placed on the backs of the middle and working class.

Predictably, the mavens of finance are already heralding Perry's proposal as a major boon for their corporate allies. The appeal is seductive to folks who believe that simplifying their filing will mean a reduction in their contribution. The WaPo fed into this notion with their mostly-uncritical review and their initial headline parroting the republican candidate, "Perry: Flat tax will shrink filing to postcard."

No doubt that the flat tax would be a huge revenue enhancing measure for their businesses -- that is, if they bothered to invest the money back into job-producing endeavors. The recent history, however, shows that the beneficiaries of these tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans just pocket the dough.

A new memorandum issued Tuesday morning by Mr. Obama’s policy director, James Kvaal argues that both plans would shift the tax burden to the middle-class, and that they would likely lose benefits like child-care and home deductions. ( )

“Many flat tax proposals also eliminate all taxation on capital gains and other investment income so that the wealthiest, who generate much of their income from investments, rather than work, see huge gains,” Kvall argues.

"Both the Romney and Perry economic plans embrace a far-right vision for our tax code," the memo reads. "They share elements with plans offered by congressional Republicans, which independent economists believe would fail to accelerate job creation now. Both plans would cut taxes on wealth and investment income, shifting the tax burden onto work and wages. Both plans are likely to be costly, driving up the deficit at a time of historic fiscal challenges. And under both plans, the most fortunate Americans would pay less while the middle class would pay a higher share."

Working-poor and middle income Americans spend most of what they earn. The only ones with the money left to pay for necessities are the wealthiest of the taxpaying population. The flat tax proposals aim to set that inequity in concrete, likely draining our federal budget of money for priorities other than defense.

Couple that with Perry's Social Security privatization scheme that he included in today's presentation . . . Is there any republican economic proposal which doesn't intend to separate the rich from any obligation outside of their own taxpayer-enabled aggrandizement?
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Tue Oct 25th 2011, 10:33 AM
THE most revealing argument that the Bush administration made in their day against Iran was their reference to Iran's oil and the influence Iran gains by trading with regional actors like Russia, Pakistan and China. Then-U.S. Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in a Feb. 2006 Senate Intelligence committee hearing, that a combination of rising demand for energy and instability in oil-producing regions was increasing the geopolitical leverage of key producing states.

"Record oil revenues and diversification of its trading partners are further strengthening the Tehran government." Negroponte warned.

Did the Bush administration want war with Iran? They were certainly angling for one. The Bush regime saw a short term plus in their efforts to further isolate Iran and those who would dare to trade with them.

"I think everybody understands that with a growing Iranian missile threat," then- Secretary of State Rice said in Berlin, "-- which is quite pronounced -- that there needs to be ways to deal with that problem, and, that we're talking about long lead times to be able to have a defensive counter to offensive missile threats," she said.

Then-VP Dick Cheney in Sydney took it upon himself to complain about China's 'military buildup' and their shooting down of an old weather satellite that year. Cheney wasn't really concerned with any actual threat from China. He was just carrying water for his military industry benefactors, like Lockheed and Boeing who were shopping around Europe for governments willing to buy into their 'missile defense' protection scheme they mapped out with the military industry executives who'd infected the Bush regime even before his ascendance to office.

"Last month's anti-satellite test, China's continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise," he said. Cheney was well aware of efforts reported underway for years to sell missile defense systems in Central Europe which accelerated that year, including reports about a deal underway with Britain's Blair to take his country's defence dollars in return for the false security of hunkering his citizens underneath a U.S. missile 'umbrella', hiding from anticipated reprisals from Bush's continuing and increasing militarism.

However, the reasoning behind the Bush administration's planned deployment of those 'missile interceptors' to Europe had nothing at all to do with some Cold War threat from Russia or China, according to Secretary of State Condi Rice, who told reporters during a trip to Germany that February, "There is no way that 10 interceptors in Poland and radar sites in the Czech Republic are a threat to Russia or that they are somehow going to diminish Russia's deterrent of thousands of warheads." Even General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said last week in Jakarta that he wouldn't directly tie China's satellite shooting to any threat. "We should not assume anything about the Chinese anti-satellite test other than they now have the capacity to shoot down a satellite," he told reporters.

What was it then which compelled the U.S. State Dept. and the Pentagon to ramp up the peddling of these missile systems to these European countries, unsettling decades of peaceful cooperation with their communist neighbors? There was a familiar theme which accompanied the incessant fearmongering militarism by the Bush regime. Secretary Rice spelled it out after claiming Russia had nothing to fear from the new, planned expansion of U.S. military influence in their backyard.

"I think everybody understands that with a growing Iranian missile threat," Rice said in Berlin,"-- which is quite pronounced -- that there needs to be ways to deal with that problem, and, that we're talking about long lead times to be able to have a defensive counter to offensive missile threats," she said.

However, Iran had(has) no intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. continent. Iran's longest range missile is the Shahab-3, which has a target radius of 620 miles. The Pentagon has been claiming for almost a decade that Iran is developing up to three new generations of the Shahab to increase its range. There was absolutely no evidence that Iran even possesses missiles threatening the U.S or had threatened the U.S. with missiles, yet, this entire escalation of concern supposedly prompted the Bush regime to step up the hawking of these dubious systems throughout Europe is predicated on their claims of an Iranian threat.

It was not enough for the U.S. to illegally invade and occupy a sovereign nation in the face of Russian and Chinese objections, the Bush regime was also intent on pressing their aggression and military posturing against Russia and China's economic ally, Iran, to the point of destabilizing the balance of weaponry in Europe which had allowed the decades-old deescalation of tensions and relative peace to prevail. And, they wanted us to believe that the target of their own destabilizing aggression was the most pernicious threat to world peace and security.

It was, in fact, the invasion and occupation of Iraq which emboldened Bush to promote the agenda of his PNAC cronies (who had petitioned for years for the invasion and occupation of the spokes of their 'evil axis') to posture against Iran as a mortal enemy. Yet, it was also the consequence of that invasion and occupation that Iran was advantaged to expand their influence and presence in their former nemesis', U.S. sponsored regime in Iraq.

"If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Bush explained in 2007.

That's the argument of republicans responding to President Obama's announcement of the stepped-up withdrawal from Iraq of all but a handful of U.S. troops. Most of the criticisms from republicans in and out of Congress centers, not on the success or failure of the Maliki regime, but on the curious notion that Iran is 'emboldened' by the move and will somehow force themselves on the U.S. advantaged Iraqi government.

Rep. Michele Bachmann: “President Obama’s decision represents the end of the era of America’s influence in Iraq and the strengthening of Iran’s influence in Iraq with no plan to counter that influence.

Gov. Rick Perry: “I have deep concerns about the conditions left behind. My longtime concern about Iran’s growing influence in Iraq is coming to fruition, and that ultimately hurts America and our allies. Iran’s influence and the potential creation of an Iranian puppet state in Iraq will have disastrous consequences in the Middle East and around the globe.”

Frederick Kagan, big promoter of the 2007 US troop "surge": "The withdrawal of American military protection from a state helpless to defend itself on its own effectively throws Iraq into the arms of Iran, however the Iraqis feel about the matter."

Jennifer Rubin, big Iraq war promoter on twitter yesterday: "WHO KNEW Iran would be emboldened and allies freaked on US withdrawal from Iraq? Oh, everyone on the right..."

Bush's most dangerous mischief (outside of the invasion and occupation) was, by far, his strident attempt to shift blame for the violent resistance to his consolidation of power in Iraq, to the sovereign nation of Iran. Amazingly, Bush cited Iranian support for Shia "death squads" as a rationale for his accusations without any mention at all of his own role in the arming and training of these rogue elements - many of which began as militias under control of the new regime.

Bush made the accusation and rationalization that an al-Qaeda attack on the mosque in Samarra in early 2006 was the reason the Shia militias became independent execution squads, dispensing their barbaric brand of justice wherever and whenever they engage their Sunni rivals. "Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause," Bush claimed, "and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked." he said in a primetime address.

"Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads," Bush said. As Bush proposed an escalation of America's involvement in the middle of Iraq's civil war - including sending 4,000 of the 21,000 additional troops to the al-Anbar province to battle what he called "extremists" in the Sunni communities there - it should be remembered that it was our own forces who inflicted the first damage on a holy site in a siege in Najaf in 2004 when they were trying to dislodge al-Sadr and his Mahdi army who had taken refuge around the Imam Ali shrine. It should also be remembered that it was Sadr and his followers who joined with Shiite leader Sistani and enabled the new regime, headed by Shiite and Sadr ally, Maliki, to assume power.

In Iraq, under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda, Bush intended for our troops to re-enter strongholds like Najaf and Samarra, and they inevitably confronted the anti-American Shia forces who reside there. Bush challenged Maliki to act against his Shiite allies and provide him with Iraqi troops to help with his escalation, or take the blame for whatever chaos and unrest the bolstered U.S. force stirred up with their muckraking.

After sacrificing the strained resources and humanity of our nation's defenses for almost four years to install and establish, to fight and defend a Shiite-dominated regime who had openly curried the favor of the very Iranian government Bush was now demonizing, Bush wanted that same Iran-friendly regime to provide forces to attack and suppress the heart and soul of their very existence in Iraq and in the region. It was the Maliki regime who, earlier in 2007, made a very public trip to Iran to meet and bond with Bush's Iranian nemesis.

It was the Maliki regime that our soldiers were killed and maimed defending, who defied the declared interest of the U.S. and forged a security agreement with the objectionable Iranian regime.

It's more than remarkable for conservatives and republicans to now complain about Iranian influence among the Shias in Iraq after their party's president (with their full and vocal support) removed the only existing wedge in the region against Iranian influence when Saddam's puppet dictatorship was taken down by his fickle U.S. benefactors. It was all the more amazing to hear Bush accuse Iran of sponsoring Shiite death squads when it was our own military who initially armed and trained them as recruits for Iraq's army and police forces, and who tolerated them for months and months -before, during, and after the staged elections - as they terrorized their Sunni rivals and those factions opposed to the new Shiite-dominated regime.

Iran is not occupying Iraq; The U.S. is. Iran has not armed and trained the very individuals who made up the bulk of the Shia death squads; the U.S. has. Iran is not threatening anyone outside of their own borders; it was Bush who, in fact, threatened Iran with our military forces amassed next door (now in a virtual ring around the country and region).

THE Obama administration's new Intelligence Director, Dennis Blair, identified the declining world economy as his “primary near-term security concern” in his first national threat assessment before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Warning of a worldwide economic crisis which could produce unstable governments which would, in turn, threaten the U.S. security, Blair asserted that our nation's economic downturn has led to “increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy.”

“The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he said.

The economy and 'U.S. strategic interests' were also on Blair's mind as he warned about a threat he perceived from Venezuela and the oil-rich country's growing economic ties with Iran. Blair warned that "Venezuela is serving as a bridge to help Iran build relations with other Latin American countries . . . although the two countries are still struggling to overcome bureaucratic and linguistic obstacles to implementing accords," he said.

From those economic ties, Blair extrapolated that none other than Hezbollah had advantaged themselves of relationships in Latin America which he attributed to 'corruption'. "Chavez's growing ties to Iran, coupled with Venezuela's lax financial laws and border controls, and widespread corruption have created a permissive environment for Hezbollah to exploit," he said.

Blair complained, too, that China had also ingratiated themselves in the Latin American economy by arming Venezuela. This focus on economic concerns from the Intelligence Director might seem as unprecedented as they were strikingly removed from the usual analysis of weapon proliferation, terrorist activity, and worldwide reaction to our multi-deployments abroad which would seem more pressing to his department than issues normally assigned to Commerce or State. Yet, Blair was practically mimicking his Bush-era predecessor in the intelligence position, John Negroponte.

Am I the only one who thinks it's out of line for the Director of National Intelligence (or any of our Defense departments) to be musing about and formulating policy around oil exports and trade? Not so unusual, I suppose, if you already consider that all of the U.S. military adventures into the Middle East are driven by an obsession for oil, as well as for power.

The Bush regime saw the prospect of Russia’s shifting alliances as threats to the U.S. 'national security'. The administration would have liked nothing more than for Russia and China to be regarded as pariahs in the world community. Bush and Cheney (and Rice) would have been more than satisfied to isolate Russia, and China with a manufactured pall of suspicion and fear, making oil-producing nations reluctant to do business with them out of fear of U.S. retaliation and making existing deals with Iran appear sinister and threatening.

Now it appears that the Obama WH is content to allow the prospect of the realization of Bush's destabilizing, cynical deployment of these dubious 'missile interceptors' overshadowing their promised diplomacy with Iran. It's a departure from the posture President Obama assumed while campaigning. Candidate Obama had responded to Iran's reported missile tests with a call for direct diplomacy and economic sanctions, if necessary.

In contrast, his republican opponent, John McCain, had called for an acceleration of Bush's efforts to persuade Eastern European countries to sign on to the administration's paranoid missile defense ploy. Obama said at the time that he would listen to his national security team to decide whether Iran's reported tests "indicated any new capabilities on Iran's part." Likewise, early in the transition, Pres. elect Obama's courtesy call to Polish President Lech Kaczynski resulted in reports from Kaczynski's office that Obama had assured him that "the missile defense project would continue."

The Obama transition team quickly put out a statement denying such a promise was made to the Polish president: "President-elect Obama made no commitment on it. His position is as it was throughout the campaign -- that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

The last part about waiting for a 'workable' missile defense system was the hook I had relied on to convince myself that Obama had no intention of committing the U.S. to such a destabilizing boondoggle. It appears that the rhetoric about missile defense from Mr. Obama throughout the campaign - always couched in the 'workability' argument - was designed to give voters the impression that the new administration would walk away from Bush's obviously mischievous provocation. I bought it, anyway.

Now, with a hedge about accepting a missile defense system that "works and is cost-effective," all that stands in the way of moving forward with Bush's destabilizing ploy is some assurance given by the holdover cronies in the Pentagon that the bugs have been worked out and the system is good to go. Whether the god-awful things actually work is certainly important, but the Obama administration's most vital concern should be whether these destabilizing systems are being deployed in response to an actual threat, and, if that perceived threat can, instead, be lessened or eliminated by the careful diplomacy promised in the campaign.

Even as then-president Bush worked to undermine the new neighborly relationship between Iraq and Iran, which produced economic agreements as well as pledges to ensure each other's security, the August 8th image of Maliki and the Iranian president emerging from their meeting holding hands was an undeniable refutation of whatever threat republicans claim Iran poses to Iraqis.

There was even less solace for then-President Bush in the normalization of economic ties between the two former enemies as Iran and Iraq inked a deal on an oil pipeline which would carry oil from Iraqi oil fields to refineries in Iran. Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan to expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — even as the Bush administration had been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.

If we took Bush at his word (and his present conservative minions). . . that, he was really concerned with Iran's influence in Iraq then he really blew it. There is nothing more responsible for, and enabling of, Iranian influence in Iraq than his destabilizing invasion and occupation. There was nothing more empowering of 'extremists' in Iran that both administrations worry out loud about than the reflexive response of the residents of the Middle East to Bush's threatening military expansionism.

Nothing has encouraged support in the region for extremists bent on harming Americas and our interests more than Bush's strident, imperious coup in Iraq. Whatever political atmosphere now exists in Iran was first sparked by all of Bush's saber-rattling and threats against the primary spoke of his 'axis of evil'. If Bush and his conservative acolytes wanted a moderate Iran, they clearly didn't take the influence of their own pernicious militarism into account.

Apparently aware of the contradictions and duplicity in the American position toward Iran, Obama's Secretary of State Clinton warned Iranians this week against exploiting the President's withdrawal. That warning, however is as hollow and transparent as our nation's entire policy toward the sovereign country. The administration knows well that Iran has no need for any sort of military coup, or for any type of destabilizing takeover of the Iraqi government to be able to assume ultimate and decisive influence in in the war-torn nation.

More importantly, Iraq knows, appreciatively, that if they need either military or economic assistance from their obliging next-door neighbor Iran, all they have to do is whistle.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Sat Oct 15th 2011, 08:23 AM
ALL hail the conquering General Petraeus. After leading and orchestrating the muddled and seemingly intractable U.S. military offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan, a critically victorious Petraeus has been kicked upstairs to head our civilian Central Intelligence Agency whose pessimistic intelligence assessments of the conflicts he was managing abroad contrasted sharply with his rosy assessments of the 'progress' and 'success' the general was working to convince Congress and the nation was taking place in the deadly Mideast and Asian quagmires.

From the start, intelligence officials openly complained and questioned how Petraeus could separate his unwavering confidence in the efficacy and ability of the military forces from the convoluted reality on the ground. Now comes a report that Petraeus is already trying to impose his operationally-biased military perspective on the CIA assesments of the military deployments by allowing the 'commanders' in the field to weigh in at the beginning of the process of assessment to 'narrow the gulf between the intelligence community's sometimes negative view of the war versus the more positive views sometimes expressed by commanders in the fight'.

The value of those rosy, more optimistic has always been measured in the intelligence agency's assessments from the commanders and has always been an integral contribution to their decision-making analyses. The difference in this policy change will be the actual inclusion of those conflicting military viewpoints in the final civilian-oriented product. The intelligence officers will also have the option of revising their assessment after input from the military.

Although the CIA says the change was planned before Petraeus took charge, the general, nonetheless, approved the plan and ordered it implemented. Now the general won't have to endure an official rebuke or criticism of military policy or action from his intelligence officers. That's what Petraeus faced repeatedly as each and every report coming from the civilian agency clashed with his and his fellow commanders' optimism and enthusiasm for continuing their military offensive unabated of unaltered.

Spencer Ackerman, an American national security reporter and blogger who began his career at The New Republic and now writes for Wired, recalls how Petraeus basically re-interpreted the goals and aims of the Iraq occupation in the vacuum Bush left with his hands off approach. 'Trust the generals in the field' was his refrain and Petraeus obliged.

"The general spent a lot of time spinning the war without winning it," Ackerman says, "and as a soldier who blurred the line between executing strategy and creating it, his legacy on civilian-military relations will be debated well into the future."

Generals will always find a 'way forward' on the battlefield, but the scope and course of our military offensives should be the determination of our civilian leadership - which carries their mandate directly from the American people - the folks who our forces will be tasked with laying down their lives to defend or fight against; not determined by the military.

Bush had a line about Iraq that he liked to pull out when he was challenged by Congress to account for the American lives he was sacrificing for the Iraqi government. "I think it is wrong for Congress to restrict our military commanders," Bush said way back then. "I can understand having a difference of opinion about Iraq, but our commanders need the flexibility necessary to meet the mission. We should not be substituting political judgment for the judgment of those in our military," he says.

That amazing abdication of responsibility for the direction and scope of our military involvement in Iraq was also an invitation for his handpicked generals to create their own rationale for remaining in Iraq and 'moving forward', instead of adhering to some clear direction from those charged with carrying out the will of the American people. It is not the right of 'generals in the field' to make the determination about whether our nation's defenders should continue to fight and die as mere mercenaries of some foreign government. That right to commit forces is still the job of Congress, despite the Executive's own responsibility for managing them in their deployment. Yet, Bush conjured his own convenient ploy to hide behind the military as they found a 'way forward' in Iraq, and Petraeus proceeded to dig our troops even deeper into the muck surrounding Iraq's civil war.

At one point in the conflict, top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus, told FOX news that he wasn't ready to pull the American prop out from under the beleaguered Iraqi regime, despite the utter lack of progress Iraqi had made in achieving the political stability which had become the administration's main justification for escalating our presence and increasing their assaults on the communities actively resisting the Iraqi regime's presumptive rule.

Offering his opinion that the occupation could still produce a 'stable, democratic government' in Iraq, Petraeus told FOX that, "We are ahead of where we thought, I thought, we would be at this point in time, and then we are behind where we might have been in some other areas."

But he also offered his view that, " . . . it's up to the policymakers and to the legislators to determine the course ahead." Petraeus's assessment, offered months ahead of the September intelligence review of the 'progress' of the occupation he's promised, was typical of a military commander tasked with finding a way to endure on the battlefield. Generals will always find a way forward, but it's just not their job to decide whether or not to continue on.

The job of deciding where and when our forces are deployed is clearly the responsibility of our legislators, and our civilian branches of government is charged with carrying out that legislative will. Aside from Gen. Petraeus' contention that the occupation could still produce a 'stable, democratic government,' there was still the open question of whether or not the U.S. should be engaged in battling for the present one against Iraqis resisting the U.S. enabled regime.

It was the (leaked) conclusion, at the time, of Bush's own civilian intelligence agencies that our occupation not only created and encouraged those elements of armed resistance who had allied themselves with Bush's nemesis, al-Qaeda, but the occupation was actually 'fueling jihad' as more and more Iraqis and others are drawn to fight our forces 'there' as Bush challenged when he called for them to 'bring it on.'

The resistance had increased, as predicted by the intelligence officials, in response to our own increase of force. Still, Gen. Petraeus insisted that our very forces which are aggravating Iraqis to violent expressions of liberty and self-determination could be, nonetheless, effective in eliminating that provoked 'threat' if we just doubled-down our force presence and dug in for the long haul.

Generals will always find a 'way forward' on the battlefield, but it should be the determination of our civilian leadership - which carries their mandate directly from the American people - just who our forces will be tasked with laying down their lives to defend or fight against; not the military.

The military commanders should not be allowed to substitute those judgments of our legislators and our civilian leadership, mostly representative of the opinion of the American people that the occupations are counterproductive to many of the stated aims, with their own biased determination to continue anyway.

The policy of consultation with the commanders in the field, that our new CIA director is enthusiastically planning to enhance by putting their compromised views at the head of the civilian agency's intelligence analysis, is antithetical to the tenets of our democracy. The conquering general wants to carve out a corner for his military cohorts in the heart of our civilian center of leadership and consultation. He'd like to generate something other than the reasoned assessment from his civilian peers at the CIA when evaluating his pet military offensives. Experience has taught the general that few outside his cabal of military officers sees the value in his brand of self-perpetuating, unending conflict. He's hedging against the almost certain evaluation from those who are now his subordinates that the political reconciliation and reform promised to spring from his "pollyandish misadventure" in Afghanistan is doomed to failure. He's hoping that the optimism of his buddies in the military leadership will trump the reasoned assessment of the civilian intelligence agency he intends to lead.

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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Fri Oct 14th 2011, 11:52 AM
Politics and events here at home and in the Mideast have brought a familiar swagger to the incumbent president in this election season. Our Democratic leader in the White House has adopted a rather Bushian posture regarding the war he inherited, and nonetheless, escalated, in Afghanistan.

Contrary to public opinion, in which 70% polled say the war has lasted longer than they expected and nearly as many say the troop presence should be reduced, President Obama appears to be more comfortable advertising his prowess in killing terror suspects than he is determined to committing to end the 'pollyandish misadventure'

With a mere written statement on the 10th anniversary of the nation's longest military engagement, President Obama acknowledged the human cost of his escalated offensive and the 'challenges' remaining, yet he focused most of his statement on his success and 'progress' in 'defeating al-Qaeda'.

"In delivering justice to Osama bin Laden and many other al Qaeda leaders, we are closer than ever to defeating al Qaeda and its murderous network," Obama said in his written remarks.

In fact, any discussion from the President about Afghanistan these days is certain to include a line about the terror suspects the military has managed to kill and the 'progress' we're making along that line. That's fair enough. Few Americans question the shooting of bin Laden, and few Americans give a wit about the others assassinated in recent weeks other than to wonder how the government can execute American citizens like the cleric with impunity in the course of the ongoing terror offensive.

What anyone who is concerned with the unbridled militarism of the U.S. foreign policy abroad should question is the absence of any position from the presumed Democratic nominee for president that would satisfy the vast majority of Americans' long-held opinion that the U.S. should back away significantly from our military commitment in Afghanistan.

Instead, we're still being gratuitously graced by this administration with swaggering accounts of terra missions and hoo-rah assessments of the self-perpetuating battles there. The new Defense secretary, fresh from his privileged perch at the CIA, seemed to suggest that the 'surge' troops the President promised to withdrawal 'by the end of next summer' would likely stay a while longer until the 'fighting season' ends there.

The United States will withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year-end and 23,000 more by next summer, as the United States and its NATO allies work toward handing over security to full Afghan control by the end of 2014. "After a difficult decade, we are responsibly ending today's wars from a position of strength," Obama said in his anniversary statement.

"Peace through strength" That's a Cold War notion that is belied by the nuclear threats that mushroomed during the arms race as nations jockeyed for military domination. That's what the effect is in Afghanistan as tribes and sects vie for military dominance over their rivals in a seemingly unending pattern of attacks and reprisals. The U.S. role in all of that is to keep our finger on the trigger and our foot on the throttle as one NATO shielded faction or the other benefits at the expense of the life and livelihood of their neighbor. Yet, we still press on.

Over the Bush term, the NATO mission in Afghanistan was kept afloat by their unceasing fearmongering - aided by the unceasing propaganda from the fugitive 9-11 suspects that Bush regularly echoed in his speeches.

To be fair, this Democratic administration has rejected and abandoned much of the rhetoric of the last bunch's terra talk. The nonsense is creeping back into this president's political posturing, though.

It's probably too much to ask President Obama to give at least a nod to the anti-war faction of his party supporters and provide some sense in his campaign for re-election that enough will soon be enough in Afghanistan. There's a defensive tone to the administration's political patter that seems worried that any talk of withdrawal must be thoroughly couched in blather about 'defeating' their nebulous al-Qaeda nemesis. It's all too incredible for those of us who are convinced that our military mission in that region is self-perpetuating and counter-productive.

President Obama may well trounce his republican rival in the upcoming election and maintain his presidency. He may, however, need to announce something bold and dramatic to energize his Democratic base and galvanize voters behind his candidacy. Making a firm commitment to bring the bulk of the forces home from Afghanistan and return control of the country's security to the Afghans would almost certainly be met with approval from the vast majority of Americans who have said for years now that they would like to see a significant reduction of our military presence there.

Too much to ask? Even Bush made a transition from his war of opportunity in Iraq a part of his second-term swan song. I'd expect at least that from this Democrat we elected commander.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Mon Oct 10th 2011, 09:15 AM
THE Occupy Wall Street protests and their growing support around the nation among average Americans are the inevitable recasting of the populist sentiment that buoyed the Tea Party in its origination but was hijacked by republican politicians in the midterm election season and exploited to fuel dissatisfaction among voters with the pace and scope of change and progress from the Obama administration in its first two years.

The OWS movement, unlike the Tea Party protests, is nakedly and earnestly apolitical, in that there hasn't yet been any overt effort to recruit politicians, court politicians, or to allow politicians to co-opt or carry concerns expressed by participants into any political arena or campaign.

I suspect that form of organization will come at some point, but right now the overall message behind the myriad and seemingly nebulous declarations of intent and purpose from participants is a repudiation of the entire political process and everyone presently engaged professionally in that governmental effort.

While its mostly true that there's no clear agenda or manifesto guiding the majority of protestors (notwithstanding the declaration of intent from organizers), there are clear themes of criticism and complaint which politicians can claim to be oblivious to, but know well who these folks are speaking to and why.

Protestors have gone directly to the doorsteps and workplaces of the benefactors of the majority of these politicians to tell them they didn't intend at all for the bulk of our nation's resources to be handed to them by the politicians we elected to address and remedy our own needs and concerns.

Protestors have gone directly to the doorsteps and workplaces of the wealthy benefactors of the courts whose conservative members dissolved the limits on the money they could give away to politicians who would bend to their will.

Protestors have gone directly to the doorsteps and workplaces of the moneyed benefactors of Congress to make clear they didn't intend for the politicians they voted into power to make the preservation and furtherance of their corporate sponsors' financial enrichment their first and foremost priority when crafting each and every piece of legislation that they considered and passed into law.

Protestors have gone directly to the doorsteps and workplaces of the industry leeches who manipulate public policy to exploit the resources of the defenseless around the globe for their own enrichment - and to protest the shackling of generations of Americans to a corporate agenda of U.S. world domination supported by the perpetual and unending sacrifice of life, limb, and livelihood in a continuous 'war on terror.

Protestors have gone directly to the doorsteps and workplaces of the moneyed benefactors of Congress to stand between them and the politicians that we routinely elevate to that 1% confederation of corporate interests who routinely siphon off the fruits of our labor for their own benefit and purpose. With our votes,cast for hollow promises of representation in the division and disposition of contributions of blood and sacrifice, we get no more than spattered remains of precious meal from a pig's trough.

Through our nation's faith, and in the trust we place in our elected officials that they would be humbled to serve the will of the folks who voted for them and by their good judgement lead, we've been betrayed by a ruling-class oligarchy which has perpetuated it role and influence in our governance; not by the quality of their service to us, but by the advantages of patronage and association.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors now have politicians scrambling to associate themselves with the movement, but few can associate their record in office, or the their actual legislative efforts, with the movement's demand for attention away from their corporate sponsors' concerns. The movement can, however provide support for those who endeavor to shed their corporate fealty and refocus their time in office on making good on the promises given during their campaigns. It's not as if they stood up before they were elected and declared to voters that corporate agendas would outweigh the needs of those who voted to put them in office.

As long as the OWS movement is active and activist, politicians will be loath to roll over the protesting American public to hold their corporate buddies' hands or carry their industry water when enacting legislation. However, that doesn't mean that all we have to do is just keep protesting to keep them at bay.

Baynard Rustin, a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, argued in his book, 'Strategies for Freedom', that for a movement to have a permanent and transforming imprint, it should have a legislative goal attached which will transcend the whims of the emotions of the moment. Describing a different struggle that America faced with the advancement of civil rights, he wrote that:

"Moral fervor can't maintain your movement, nor can the act of participation itself. There must be a genuine commitment to the advancement of the people. To have such a commitment is also to have a militant sense of responsibility, a recognition that actions have consequences which have a very real effect on the individual lives of those one seeks to advance."

"Far too many movements lack both a (legislative) perspective and a sense of responsibility, and they fail because of it," Ruskin wrote. "My quarrel with the "no-win" tendency in the civil rights movement (and the reason I have so designated it) parallels my quarrel with the moderates outside the movement," Rustin wrote in his book, Down the Line. "As the latter lack the vision or will for fundamental change, the former lack a realistic strategy for achieving it. For such a strategy they substitute militancy. But militancy is a matter of posture and volume and not of effect.

So, there will need to be some sort of coordination of the protestors' demands with the actual legislative conduct of the elected in our political institutions.

For now, though, it's enough for the movement to just keep reminding politicians that this is more than some mere extension of their own petty politics. It's a determined and dedicated wall between the job we sent them to do and the selfish ambitions of the corporate few who feather their political nests.
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Tue Oct 04th 2011, 06:43 AM
Like it or not folks . . . I'm back online at home and ready to stick my nose back into the discussions here full time. It's been about a year without a home internet connection so I'm a bit rusty and out-of-touch. I'm going to work hard to get up to speed on the issues and concerns of our progressive community and I hope to be an asset to the advocacy and activism efforts here in the coming months before the next presidential election.

As always, it's a pleasure to associate myself with the dedicated and informed folks here, and I look forward to many more spirited and enlightening engagements with DUers in the future. Cheers!
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Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Sat Sep 03rd 2011, 10:59 AM
Call me what you will . . . cheerleader, dupe, naive . . . but, I'm doing okay living with this Democratic president. I think his prospects for success on many controversial and desired issues has been overstated and exaggerated throughout his term. I really don't see the point in dismissing the progress he's made so far on many of the planks of his agenda and on many topical issues which have presented themselves during his presidency. I'm still pressing and hoping for a political equation in Congress which will better advantage his presidency in achieving his goals.

Yet, I'm also increasingly mindful that his presidency isn't occurring in a political vacuum. There is still a rabid and dishonest opposition which isn't about to provide much room in this election season for much more presidential progress, other than his batting down their nutty proposals and accusations as they hurl his way. I'm enjoying watching President Obama in the role of their agitator.

I can't imagine having significant success in defending a more radical presidency in this atmosphere. I think we can see the parameters of the political debates and it's hard to imagine maintaining our party's political influence with too strident an agenda, although I admit it would be interesting to watch our party and president try and prevent themselves from being torn to shreds on election day defending a truly progressive agenda. Destructive, but interesting.

I would agree that my rationalization is a poor substitute for actual progress on the issues and initiatives which concern us the most, but I don't believe our Democratic president's actions and agenda is so far removed from what I understand as effective 'politics' that I'm ready to abandon hope for prospects for the advancement of our Democratic and progressive agendas in this toxic atmosphere. Have we EVER had a presidency which has been able to persist and find partisan success in pressing a truly progressive agenda?

I've got to go with the fellow who has managed to advance our party and our agendas this far. It's not enough for me to look to folks for inspiration who haven't managed the political gauntlets which would place them in an actual position to effect change, no matter how much I would agree with their sentiments and proposals. I've got a strong and caring Democrat in place in the presidency right now and I'm looking forward to carrying his agendas into the next campaign and beyond, even as I press for more substantial, progressive progress. I'm excited to support this president to victory against the desperate and confused republican opposition. Steady as she goes . . . Yes We Can!

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ron fullwood
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40348 posts
bigtree's forest

Some Trees

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though
Speech were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I (and others)
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Some comeliness,
we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles,
a winter morning.
Place in a puzzling light,
and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents
seem their own defense.

- John Ashbery
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