The Obama administrations announcement of a withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq by the end of the year offers the possibility of a definitive conclusion for the US militarys involvement in Iraq. But Eli Clifton noted at ThinkProgress.org (10/21) that while the return of all US service men and women by Christmas is a cause for celebration, the costs of the war are only beginning to be fully understood. The cakewalk to Baghdad, as George W. Bush adviser Kenneth Adelman infamously wrote in February 2002, has been anything but. The Iraq War, and the faulty premise that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, has had a staggering humanitarian and economic cost.
Here are some relevant numbers, as of 10/21:
8 years, 260 days since Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence of Saddam Husseins biological weapons program;
8 years, 215 days since the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq;
8 years, 175 days since President George W. Bushs Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln;
4,479 US military fatalities;
30,182 US military injuries;
468 contractor fatalities;
103,142 112,708 documented civilian deaths;
2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis;
$806 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011;
$3 $5 trillion in total economic cost to the United States of the Iraq war, according to economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Blimes;
$60 billion in US expenditures lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001;
0 weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq.
NEOCONS AIM FOR WAR WITH IRAN. The neocons who drove the US into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now drumming up support for a confrontation of Iran, Andrew Sullivan noted at TheDailyBeast.com (10/21). Just as none of the leading neocon figures have suffered an iota of prestige-loss in Washington because they concocted a foreign policy disaster that cost tens of thousands of lives to no serious effect, so they have, almost to a man, refused to cop to a single error in the process, wrote Sullivan, a conservative who has acknowledged he was wrong to support the invasion of Iraq. Their partisan discipline is only matched by their unchanging Stalinist ideology. So what if the Iraq war was a disaster? It's time for a new war with Iran!
He noted that William Kristol, one of the ideologues who urged the Iraq invasion, wrote in the Weekly Standard (10/24), [Iran] is a brutal dictatorship. And its seeking nuclear weapons while denying its doing so. Its long since been time for the United States to speak to this regime in the language it understands force. And now we have an engraved invitation to do so. The plot to kill the Saudi ambassador was a lemon. Statesmanship involves turning lemons into lemonade.
Sullivan noted, Let us pause to note that for Kristol, war is like lemonade. Its a good thing: delicious, refreshing, innocent. One wonders whether he has, for a millisecond, paused to think of the tens of thousands of innocents who died during his beloved occupation of Iraq, or the thousands of permanently maimed veterans who fought and died in Kristol's war only to empower Iran and bankrupt America. You can be wrong in good faith, as I think Kristol was and yet also take responsibility for the consequences of your good faith decisions. But neoconservatism is about the abdication of any intellectual responsibility and the promotion of those not proven right, but proven relentless in the promotion of an agenda. It is now, as it has always been, about power, not freedom. ...
Sullivan concluded, Repeat after me: Romney = Cheneys return. And if your purism demands staying home next year, do not complain when a global religious war breaks out. They've told us quite plainly that's what they want. Like a cold, sparkling drink on a hot summer day. War as a cocktail.
THERE'S MONEY TO BE MADE IN LIBYA. Ironically, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who has consistently opposed the Obamas administrations efforts to rebuild roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure in the US, is eager to get American companies into Libya to rebuild the infrastructure there. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. A lot of oil to be produced. Lets get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles, Graham said on Fox News (10/20). Later, he told TalkingPointMemos Brian Beutler not only is it in Americas interest to get Libyan oil flowing once again, but the US has $34 bln in frozen Libyan assets it can draw from.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has sent former military personnel to Libya to track down and secure surface-to-air missiles from Moammar Gaddafi's stockpiles that US officials worry could be used by terrorists to take down passenger jets. While many missiles were destroyed in NATO bomb attacks on arms depots and hundreds have been recovered by the new Libyan government, an unknown number were carted off by Libyan rebel groups and civilians who swarmed into unguarded storage areas after Gaddafi's forces were defeated, the Washington Post reported (10/13). Already, several missiles have been intercepted on the desert road from Libya to Egypt, according to Egyptian officials, and Tunisias prime minister reportedly is worried about Libyan weapons being smuggled into his country.
VATICAN CALLS FOR GLOBAL ECONOMIC REFORM. The Vatican joined the Occupy movement (10/24) as the Catholic Church called Monday for an overhaul of worlds financial systems and a return to a global economy based on ethical behavior and achievement of a universal common good, the AP reports. While the Vatican has, in the past, criticized uncontrolled capitalism, the new call goes further, decrying an economic liberalism that spurns all rules and controls.
The call for greater control and equality in financial markets comes at a time when Republican presidential candidates many of whom tout their religious credentials on the campaign trail have called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law aimed at preventing a crisis similar to that of 2008, and as Republicans in both Congress and on the campaign trail continue to back budget cuts that would eviscerate programs that help the poor. At the same time, protesters spurred by the original Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have brought increasing attention rising income inequality, corporate greed, and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
The Vatican release is a clear sign that it supports the message of the Occupy Wall Street protests, Vincent J. Miller, the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, said in a press release:
While conservative leaders and several presidential candidates want to eviscerate financial reform, the Vatican has sent a powerful message that prudent regulation of our financial system is a moral priority. I expect Catholic neo-cons who usually present themselves as the defenders of orthodoxy will ignore or scramble to defuse this timely teaching. Its clear the Vatican stands with the Occupy Wall Street protesters and others struggling to return ethics and good governance to a financial sector grown out of control after 30 years of deregulation.
This isnt the first time faith leaders have spoken out against so-called religious conservatives who have prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy and repealing financial regulations over helping low-income Americans. A group of Catholic bishops signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) both practicing Catholics during the debt limit fight, denouncing budget cuts that disproportionately hurt the poor. Other religious leaders made similar calls, with evangelical Christian Rev. Jim Wallis telling Republicans, We did not get into fiscal trouble because of poor people. The poor didnt cause this. Lets not make them pay for it.
Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, wrote in a column anticipating the Vaticans statement in Canadas National Post (10/21) that the Vatican is to the left of every member of Congress and perhaps even the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Reese added that it should not be a surprise, since Pope Benedict in his 2009 encyclical, Charity in Truth, called for a radical rethinking of economics so that it is guided not simply by profits but by an ethics which is people-centered. Sounding like a union organizer, Benedict argued that Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the countrys international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development.
The pope disagreed with those who believe that the economy should be free of government regulation, Reese noted. The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from influences of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way, Benedict wrote. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.
FOX BLAMES REID FOR TELLING TRUTH. Fox News Eric Bolling and Greta Van Susteren (10/19) criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over his statement that it's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine. It's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers. In fact, since the Recovery Act took effect, the private sector has gained 1.4 mln jobs, while the public sector has lost 572,000, MediaMatters.org noted (10/20), citing US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.
REPEALING OBAMACARE WOULD BE BUDGET DISASTER. The Government Accountability Offices updated fiscal outlook for the US government finds that the long-term imbalance will have to be addressed, but not until today's economic troubles are past. But Brian Beutler notes at TalkingPointsMemo.com (10/24) that the report also implies that repealing Obama's Affordable Care Act would cause a fiscal and health care crisis.
Several provisions under current law, including provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) were designed to control the growth of health care costs, GAO notes. The full implementation and effectiveness of these cost-control provisions, which are reflected in the Baseline Extended simulation, would slow the growth in federal health care spending over the long term . However, the Trustees, CBO, and the CMS Actuary have expressed concerns about the effective implementation of certain cost-control measures over the long term.
If Republicans get their way and repeal this and other provisions and if Congress keeps passing temporary doc fixes to prevent payment cuts to doctors who see Medicare patients then Medicare costs will continue to soar, and eventually overwhelm the federal budget.
Republicans propose to phase out Medicare as a single government insurance payer and replace it with a private insurance system with subsidies for beneficiaries that grow much slower than the cost of health care. Democrats reject this approach, Beutler noted, but Republicans arent interested in playing ball with the liberal approach of hacking away at health care costs in a way that ultimately makes Medicare affordable.
BOMB EXPLODES IN 'OCCUPY MAINE' CAMP. A chemical bomb exploded in the kitchen of the Occupy Maine camp in Portland, Maine, the Portland Press Herald reported (10/23). Stephanie Wilburn of Portland told the newspaper she was sitting near where the the chemical mixture in a Gatorade bottle was tossed at 4 a.m. Sunday (10/23). She was started and briefly lost hearing when the device exploded beneath a table about 10 feet away. Her hearing eventually returned and police said no other injuries were reported.
Witnesses said a car had been circling the camp in Lincoln Park before the explosion, its occupants shouting at the protesters before the explosion. Sgt. Glen McGary told the newspaper the homemade bomb, which consisted of chemicals poured into a plastic Gatorade container, could have caused serious injury.
We are more motivated to keep doing what we're doing, Wilburn said. They have heard us and we're making a difference.
91-YEAR-OLD TENN. WOMAN CAN'T GET VOTER ID BECAUSE OF LONG LINES. Voter ID laws were passed by Republican lawmakers in states across the country to systematically disenfranchise the poor, minorities, college students and the elderly. Even when citizens try to abide by the new laws, they are often turned away, Marie Diamond noted at ThinkProgress.org (10/24). When 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper went to apply for an ID in Chattanooga, she was denied because she didnt have her marriage license. Now another senior citizen in Tennessee, 91-year-old Virginia Lasater, may not be able to vote because she wasnt able to stand in a long line at the state driver service center in Murfreesboro to get the necessary ID. Lasater says that she has voted and worked in campaigns for 70 years, but when she tried to get a photo ID recently, she discovered the center was packed and there were no chairs available. A clerk told Lasater and her son there was nothing they could do. Senior citizens who want to be politically active but have trouble moving are apparently just out of luck in 2012, Diamond concluded.
IF THE VILLAINS SHOE FITS. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is walking back his plans to sabotage President Obama's efforts to improve the economy. In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley (10/23), he said the White House has a storyline that isn't true. Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there whos keeping this administration from succeeding, he said.
Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (10/24), The comment comes almost exactly a year to the day after McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his top priority, adding, The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president . Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.
As Jonathan Cohn commented at TNR.com, I wasnt that shocked by McConnells original statement. Heck, I even appreciated the candor. But if youre going to make the presidents failure your top goal and if youre going to brag about it you really cant get upset when the president blames you for it.
Greg Sargent added at WashingtonPost.com, [T]heres simply no longer any doubt that whether for principled, ideological, or cynical reasons Senate Republicans are denying Obama support for his policies partly to damage him politically.
Benen looked at the record:
In March 2010, McConnell explained his decision to try to kill health care reform from the outset, regardless of merit or Democratic compromises, by demanding unanimous Republican opposition: It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is OK, they must have figured it out. Its a dynamic that made compromise, quite literally, impossible.
Soon after, McConnell explained the importance he and the House GOP leadership put on unify[ing] our members in opposition to everything Democrats propose, because unanimous Republican disagreement would necessarily make Democratic ideas less popular. Public opinion can change, but it is affected by what elected officials do, McConnell conceded. Our reaction to what [Democrats] were doing had a lot to do with how the public felt about it. Republican unity in the House and Senate has been the major contributing factor to shifting American public opinion.
In August 2010, McConnell said hell only consider negotiating with the White House if they agree to accept center-right proposals, with no exceptions, even if theres a Democratic majority.
In October 2010, McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his top priority, above literally everything else.
In June 2011, McConnell said if President Obama asks him to consider an idea Republicans dont like, its evidence of the president acting in bad faith.
In August 2011, McConnell admitted that he and his Republican colleagues were willing to hold the nation and its economy hostage, threatening to destroy the United States full faith and credit on purpose.
And two weeks earlier, McConnell had enough breathtaking chutzpah to blame the White House for Washington gridlock.
Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there whos keeping this administration from succeeding, McConnell said. Benen added, The storyline appears to be accurate and the identity of the villain appears obvious.
TEA PARTY GROUPS URGE BUSINESSES NOT TO HIRE. Tea Party leaders are openly lobbying business owners to stop hiring in order to hurt President Obama politically. People For the American Way's RightWingWatch.org reported (10/18) that Tea Party Nation sent a message to their members from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone that called for "A Strike of American Small Businesses Against the Movement for Global Socialism" and asked them to pledge "that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped."
Brookstone cited Democrats support of the Occupy Wall Street movement as proof that Obama, media elites and the like are against business, private property ownership and capitalism.
'OCCUPY' AUDIENCE SCARES CANTOR FROM UPENN SPEECH. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) abruptly canceled a speech on "income inequality" scheduled for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (10/21), expressing concerns after he learned that the university was going to let the general public attend the event. The school said the speech was always billed as open to the public.
In prepared remarks, which were delivered to the campus newspaper, Cantor didn't actually use the words "Income" or "inequality," but he called on students to take after the late Apple Computers executive Steve Jobs and start their own business. He never mentioned the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he previously had dismissed as a "mob," or the Occupy Philadelphia group that had organized a march from City Hall to the school, but he said, There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society, he wrote. They claim that these people have now made enough, and havent paid their fair share. But, pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade the American dream.
GOP KILL JOBS BILL TO DEFEND RICHEST 0.2%. In mid-October, Senate Republicans (joined by a few conservative Democrats) successfully filibustered both President Obamas $447 bln American Jobs Act (10/11) and a separate $35 bln provision (10/20) to help prevent public sector layoffs, using the millionaires surtax that Democrats had proposed as justification. The President should drop his obsession with raising taxes, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But a new analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice found just 0.2% of households in the country would have been subject to the tax. As the Washington Posts Greg Sargent put it, any senators Democrat or Republican who vote against the individual pieces of Obamas jobs bill on the grounds that they impose a new surtax on millionaires is protecting the extremely narrow interests of an extremely tiny minority of their own constituents.
O'REILLY MAKES HASH OF OBAMA'S ECONOMIC RECORD. In a single segment of his Fox "News" show (10/18), Bill O'Reilly made a series of false or misleading claims about President Obama's economic record, arguing that Obama's embrace of spending greatly expanded the deficit, that the stimulus was "didn't work very well," that increasing taxes on the rich won't "put a dent" in federal debt, and that the US is on a path to Greek-style economic disaster. None of these claims stand up to scrutiny, MediaMatters.org noted (10/20).
PERRY'S FUN WITH BIRTHERS. To the rest of the world, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) reviving the Obama birthplace issue looked like a desperate bid to revive a campaign that has sunk into single digits in polls. But in an interview with CNBC (10/25), Perry told John Harwood why he gave credibility to the birthers: "It's a good issue to keep alive. It's fun to poke him."
CLASS WAR IS POPULAR. Republicans have been warning Democrats that President Obama is playing with fire with his proposal to tax the rich to pay for public works and government jobs, but American Crossroads, the big-money GOP group founded by Karl Rove, is warning Republicans that the campaign is a political winner.
Under the header Obamas New Class Warfare May Resonate, the groups director, Steven Law, cited their own polling data in a strategy memo to argue that the White House was gaining ground with its proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy, Benjy Sarlin reported at TalkingPointsMemo.com (10/21).
It may be the result of larger environmental conditions, or he may be moving the needle himself, but Obamas tax the rich mantra is getting traction, Law wrote. Our poll found that 64% favor raising taxes on people with incomes above $200,000.
People are sensitive to the economic consequences of class warfare taxation - but right now, they split evenly between their concern about jobs and Obamas class warfare agitation, according to the memo.
Law recommended Republicans try to rebut Obama by citing quotes from prominent Democrats, like President Clinton, that taxes shouldnt be raised in a recession. But Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (10/21) that Clinton agrees wholeheartedly with the Obama plan which, incidentally, pushes off tax increases to 2013. "Using Clintons line out of context is a lie," Benen wrote.
TOP ECONOMISTS TO ADVISE SANDERS ON FED REFORM. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and other nationally renowned progressive economists have agreed to serve on a panel to help Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) draft legislation to reform the Federal Reserve. Others on the panel include Robert Reich, former labor secretary (and TPP columnist); James K. Galbraith, economist and professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas; Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute; William Black, associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City; Nomi Prins, senior fellow at Demos and former managing director at Goldman Sachs; William Greider, author of Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the County; Jane D'Arista, an Economic Policy Institute research associate and former staff economist for Congress; Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (and TPP columnist); Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute; Tim Canova, professor of economics and law and co-director of the Center for Global Law & Development at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif.; Robert Johnson, senior fellow and director of the Project on Global Finance at the Roosevelt Institute; Gerald Epstein, chair of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Epstein also is the co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute; Robert Auerbach, professor at the LBJ School at UT-Austin; Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute and economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; L. Randall Wray, professor of economics and research director of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability at Missouri-KC; and Stephanie Kelton, associate professor of economics at Missouri-KC.
Sanders announced formation of his advisory panel in the wake of a damning report by the Government Accountability Office that faulted apparent conflicts of interest by bank-picked board members at the 12 regional Fed banks.
Top executives from Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, General Electric and other firms sat on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks while their firms benefited from the central bank's policies during the financial crisis, the GAO investigation found. The dual roles created an appearance of a conflict of interest, according to the GAO.
The unprecedented audits of the Fed were required by a Sanders amendment to last year's Wall Street reform law. For more information see Sanders.Senate.gov.
MAPLE SYRUP FRAUD COULD BECOME A FEDERAL FELONY. There is some room for bipartisan legislation after all. US Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced a bill to make the fraudulent sale of maple syrup a felony, punishable by five years in prison. Under current law, sale of fraudulent maple syrup is a misdemeanor carrying a one year penalty. Vermont US Atty. Tris Coffin sought an indictment against a Rhode Island man whom the FDA accuses of selling cane-sugar-based syrup as "maple" syrup, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a co-sponsor of the bill, noted.
FINANCIERS ARE TOP DONORS FOR PREZ HOPEFULS. The financial sector ranks among the top three sectors backing all major presidential candidates, and stands as the No. 1 sector for three of them. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who raised $7.5 mln, 23.4% of his total, from finance, insurance and real estate sector, also called FIRE; former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), $154,500, 12% of his total from FIRE; and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, $400,723, or 8.9% of his total, the Center for Responsive Politics reported (10/17). FIRE ranks as the No. 2 source of campaign cash for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who raised $1.96 mln, 11.4% of his total, from FIRE; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, $188,000, 6.5% of his total; Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.), $186,878, 2.5% of her total; and Georgia businessman Herman Cain, $129,416, 2.4% of his total.
During his 2008 presidential bid, the finance sector donated more than $42 mln to President Obama's campaign, and Wall Street interests alone contributed more than $15 mln. Obama's relationship with Wall Street has cooled since he pushed through financial regulatory reform legislation, but dozens of Wall Street-connected individuals have bundled money for his re-election effort and the Obama campaign raised nearly $3.9 mln from FIRE out of more than $86 mln raised in 2011 through the third quarter, as FIRE was still the fourth-largest sector of Obama's donors (after "other," $11.1 mln; miscellaneous business, $6.7 mln; and lawyers and lobbyists, $3.98 mln).
Obama's $42 mln haul in the third quarter was 2.5 times larger than his nearest rival, Romney, who raised $14.2 mln during the quarter and $32.2 mln overall for his presidential bid. Perry has raised $17.2 mln, Ron Paul raised $12.6 mln, Michele Bachmann $7.5 mln and Herman Cain $5.3 mln.
SOCIAL SECURITY CUTS CAN'T AVOID CURRENT BENEFICIARIES. While some politicians have proposed Social Security "reform" proposals that they claim would hold current beneficiaries harmless, any cuts to Social Security imposed by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. "Catfood Commission II") would be borne almost entirely by current Social Security beneficiaries and those who are very near retirement, a new analysis by Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss makes clear. Three-quarters of all Social Security payments between 2012 and 2021 the 10-year period in which the Select Committee is required to generate deficit reduction will go to current recipients, while an additional 21% will go to Americans who are very close to retirement-age and will start receiving benefits between 2012 and 2019, according to the actuarys analysis. There is virtually no way for the panel to use Social Security cuts to meet its target without harming current beneficiaries. Current retirees have struggled in recent years because there was no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2010 or 2011. A 3.6% COLA was announced for 2012.
MORE SUICIDES THAN COMBAT DEATHS AMONG GIS. For the second year in a row, more US soldiers killed themselves (486) than died in combat (462) in 2010, Project Censored noted at projectcensored.org in what it said was the top unreported story of 2011. Suicide is a tragic but predictable human reaction to being asked to kill and watch your friends be killed for a war based on lies. Perhaps being forced to bag the mangled flesh of fellow soldiers could be another reason why some are committing suicide." Chris Hedges wrote at Truthdig.com (3/21/11) about a marine, Jess Goodell, who told of a fellow marine brought into the Mortuary Affairs Unit where she worked at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, still breathing. She frantically called to her superiors, but they simply replied, wait. When she protested, the doctor said, "There's nothing we can do. Just wait." She watched while he died. When she returned to the US, Goodell like many others, was diagnosed with deep depression, substance abuse, PTSD and anxiety.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2011
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