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America Is Suffering The Effects Of Short-Sighted GOP Policies

I spent much of last week in a hospital in Cincinnati with my dad. He has Parkinson’s disease, which sucks. He’s home now, with my mom, brother, and sister doing all they can to care for him.  And it hit home for me that we are living not only with the consequences of a horrible disease, but also with the consequences of decisions made in Washington over the last 10 years.

Where would we be with Parkinson’s treatment if George Bush hadn’t banned federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for eight precious years? A hell of a lot further along than we are.

Would my parents, a retired educator and a small businesswoman, be struggling to pay tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs if back in the ’90s Republicans had allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices? Nope.

Would their retirement savings and those of millions of others have been hit so hard by the economic collapse if there had been meaningful regulation of Wall Street? No.

You really don’t need a crystal ball to see the future. Usually a rear view mirror will do just fine. We know what shortsighted Republican policies have done to this country. The Bush years are America’s own lost decade. For my parents, these losses are profound and personal, as they are for millions of others.

Now Republicans seem determined to make this yet another decade when America treads water or risks sinking further.

Right now, Republicans are blocking any meaningful effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and stop climate change in order to protect big oil and some big business.

Right now, while middle class families struggle mightily, Republicans are all about the mighty–going to the mat to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy and loopholes that let corporations pay literally zero taxes.

Right now, budget cuts are being demanded that will provide fewer children with Head Start, cut college loans, and gut Social Security and Medicare.

And right now, somewhere in America, a husband, a father, a mother, a wife is being told they have Parkinson’s. President Obama lifted the Bush ban soon after taking office, but we’ll never get those eight years back. For many of those suffering with Parkinson’s and other diseases that stem cell research could help, the stroke of George Bush’s pen signed away a measure of hope.

Past is precedent. We know our dependence on oil is killing us, so let’s start doing what we must now to end it. We know what happens in the future when kids get shut out of Head Start now, so let’s not do it. We know tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy won’t strengthen the economy (we’ve tried that), so let’s repeal them. We know Social Security and Medicare will continue to be lifelines for millions, so let’s not cut them.  

The hard-won historic change of the last two years has only just begun to undo the damage of the preceding eight. There is no turning back.   We haven’t got a decade to lose. Because we know the wrong policies have real casualties.

My dad is one of them.

By: Greg Pinelo, U.S. News and World Report, March 31, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Economy, Health Care, Medicare, Middle Class, Pharmaceutical Companies, Politics, Republicans, Social Security, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tip Offs That Karl Rove Is A Perpetual Liar

There are certain tip-offs that suggest when somebody is misleadingly describing a politicians’ position. One of those tip offs is when you see somebody quoting a small piece of a sentence fragment, which often suggests a statement being wrenched out of context to alter its meaning. Another tip-off is when you read anything in the frequently-misleading Wall Street Journal editorial page. And yet another is when you come across any statement spoken or written by the compulsively dishonest Karl Rove. So the combination of Rove, writing for the Journal, quoting a sentence fragment is a red-siren tip off that some misleadin’ is going on.

Here’s Rove in today’s Journal, charging President Obama with flip-flopping on democracy promotion:

Mr. Obama also came out rhetorically for his predecessor’s Freedom Agenda, saying America supports “freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders” throughout the region. That statement is at odds with what Mr. Obama said in June 2005, when he insisted “we cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy” on the Middle East.

Okay, having already used heuristics to establish with 99.99% certainty that Rove is lying, let’s nail down the final 0.01% by consulting Obama’s speech from 2005:

In testimony before Congress, Secretary Rice stated that while she believed it was possible to create a multi-ethnic, democratic Iraq under a unified national government, it was also possible that, in the near term, Iraq may look more like a loose federation and less like a tightly-knit, multi-ethnic society. According to the deal struck in the writing of the Constitution, the structure of the national government may still be altered by discussion among the three major factions. If it is the Administration’s most realistic assessment that the Iraqi government will take the form of a loose confederation, then we need to be thinking about how we should calibrate our policies to reflect this reality. We cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy on the Iraqis, and then expect our troops to hold together such a vision militarily.

Notice that Rove has actually distorted Obama’s speech in two different ways. Obama was not invoking “our vision of democracy” to mean democracy, period. He was describing the debate in Iraq between advocates of a loose federation versus a strong national government, and arguing that the U.S. should let Iraqis settle this question rather than foist our vision upon them. Nowhere did Obama state, hint or imply that people in Iraq or elsewhere should not enjoy democracy.

Indeed, Rove cut off the portion of Obama’s sentence that referred to “on the Iraqis” and changed it to “the Middle East,” to further pull it out of the context and transform it into an attack on the rights of Arabs to enjoy democracy.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 31, 2011

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Foreign Policy, GOP, Ideologues, Iraq, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are There No Standards For Punditry?

Last Sunday, ABC’S “This Week” turned to none other than Donald Rumsfeld, the former Bush administration defense secretary, to get his informed judgment of the mission in Libya. Last month, the journal International Finance featured former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan commenting on what is “hampering” the economic recovery.

Fox News trumped even that, trotting out retired Marine Col. Oliver North, the former Reagan security staffer who orchestrated the secret war in Nicaragua, to indict President Obama for — you can’t make this stuff up — failing to get a congressional resolution in support of the mission in Libya.

Next we’ll see a cable talk show inviting the former head of BP to tell us what it takes to do offshore drilling safely.

Are there no standards whatsoever for punditry? Do high government or corporate officials suffer no consequence for leading us into calamity? Public officials who have failed spectacularly in office should have the common decency to retire in disgrace. But even if modern-day officials know no shame, why in the world would opinion pages, network talk shows and reputable journals give them a forum to offer their opinions, when they have shown that their advice isn’t worth the air it disturbs?

On ABC, Rumsfeld criticized Obama for “confusion” in the Libyan mission, noting that the coalition “is the smallest in modern history.”

As Bush’s defense secretary, Rumsfeld played a lead role in perhaps the worst foreign policy calamity since the British burned down the White House in the War of 1812. He helped cook the books that justified the war of choice in Iraq, costing thousands of Americans their lives and limbs and the government a projected $3 trillion. His war squandered the global goodwill in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, left millions of Iraqis dead or displaced, and strengthened our adversaries in Iraq and the terrorists of al-Qaeda.

Rumsfeld personally approved the torture techniques that despoiled the nation’s reputation when they were revealed at Abu Ghraib prison. He is now hawking his unrepentant and disingenuous memoir, which concludes that the Bush administration “got it right” on the big things in Iraq and elsewhere. Why would any rational news show invite his opinion on anything except maybe how to live with yourself after screwing up big-time?

Greenspan, the ex-Maestro Chairman of the Federal Reserve, argues that “the current government activism is hampering what should be a broad-based, robust economic recovery, driven in significant part by the positive wealth effect of a buoyant U.S. and global stock market.”

But Greenspan hasn’t got a clue. His ruinous policies at the Federal Reserve helped drive the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression. He cheered on the housing bubble while denying its existence; touted the benefits of subprime mortgages; turned a blind eye to reports of pervasive fraud and abuse in mortgage markets; and opposed the regulation of derivatives that, he claimed, were making the system more stable.

Greenspan admitted he was “shocked” that his worldview had a “flaw.” An apology, penance, self-reflection and even a memoir describing what he did wrong are in order. Surely we can be spared Mr Greenspan’s opinion of what impedes recovery from the Great Recession that his own blind market fundamentalism did so much to produce.

And do we really need Oliver North’s views on the Constitution and the law? “[I]t’s unparalleled in my entire experience in the military going all the way back to the 1960s,” North said. “Every president has gone to the Congress to get a resolution to support whatever it is he wanted to do.”

This from the White House operative who ran a secret war not only without congressional authorization, but also despite a congressional prohibition — a folly that ended in his indictment and nearly in the impeachment of his president.

There is a striking double standard operating in America. We hear much about enforcing “accountability” from the powers that be. Teachers, students and schools are judged in high-stakes tests. Minority students particularly are subjected to “no excuses” school punishments. Punitive “three strikes and you’re out” prison sentencing disproportionately snares those caught for drug possession or other nonviolent offenses.

At the top of society, bankers, CEOs and hedge funders enjoy increased license, prestige and lavish rewards. Yet when their excesses, lawlessness, ideological blindness or simple incompetence result in calamity, there seems to be no consequence. When Charles Ferguson received an Oscar for his riveting documentary “Inside Job,” he reminded the audience that “not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Wall Street bankers haven’t been prosecuted.

Rumsfeld and the neo-cons still enjoy plush chairs in think tanks as well as high visibility and high speaking fees. Greenspan is allowed to pose as the Maestro, even after his reputation has been completely shredded.

In Japan, high officials who failed so spectacularly would be contemplating seppuku. In Britain, they’d resign, repair to drink and end up in the House of Lords. In America, they become pundits and are offered a stage to argue the same ideas that earlier brought the nation to near-ruin, rewriting history to fit their theory.

As Talleyrand said of the restored French monarchy under Louis XVIII, they have “learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” It is a pity that these discredited pundits are offered a stage to project their inanity on the rest of us.

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 29, 2011

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Constitution, Economic Recovery, Journalist, Journalists, Pundits | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe Scarborough And The Straw Man Problem

Joe Scarborough has an op-ed in Politico premised entirely on the false premise that left-wingers who once “condemned [President Bush] as an immoral beast who killed women and children to get his bloody hands on Iraqi oil” have now “meekly went along” with President Obama’s Libya intervention.

Now, there are all kinds of things wrong with this argument. For one, there are some massive differences in the two cases. Scarborough describes the Libya intervention as an “invasion,” but that’s quite a stretch given that no ground troops are involved. Libya is a multilateral response to an imminent massacre, while Iraq was neither. Third, and worst of all, those who most fervently opposed the Iraq invasion — the blood for oil folks described by Scarborough — are all opposed to the Libya intervention. Has he not been following the debate on this?

The whole failure of Scarborough’s argument points to one of my professional hobbyhorses, which is the need for opinion journalists to quote the people they’re criticizing. It’s a really simple step, but it’s absolutely vital, one that allows your readers to see if the belief you’re attacking is actually held by anybody influential. If Scarborough decided to find some examples of lefties who were wildly denouncing Bush as a wanton murderer of civilians driven by a lust to steal Iraqi oil who also supported the Libya intervention, he’d have quickly discovered that there aren’t any, and that his whole argument is based on a false premise.

Indeed, at the end of his op-ed, Scarborough does cite one real life-example — Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who he calls “one of the few liberals to take a principled stand.” But she’s not the exception. She’s just the one actual case study he bothered to look at.

Now, calling people out by name is sort of rude, and the most prestigious outlets of opinion journalism tend to shy away from it. I believe New York Times columnists are actually instructed not to argue with each other in print, which leads to these weird “Tell Joe I won’t pass the salt until he apologizes” indirect debates. It’s probably no surprise that a chummy guy like Scarborough would only want to name liberals he praises, while leaving the targets of his criticism unnamed. But this is a habit of opinion journalism that leads to terrible, straw man arguments.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Ideologues, Iraq, Libya, Middle East, Neo-Cons, Politics, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq Then, Libya Now: The Case Has Yet To Be Made

Five years ago, in the darkest days of insurgent violence and Sunni-Shia strife, it seemed as if the Iraq war would shadow American foreign policy for decades, frightening a generation’s worth of statesmen away from using military force. Where there had once been a “Vietnam syndrome,” now there would be an “Iraq syndrome,” inspiring harrowing flashbacks to Baghdad and Falluja in any American politician contemplating an intervention overseas.

But in today’s Washington, no such syndrome is in evidence. Indeed, it’s striking how quickly the bipartisan coalition that backed the Iraq invasion has reassembled itself to urge President Obama to use military force against Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The Iraq war became known as George W. Bush’s war after Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction didn’t turn up, because at that point no liberal wanted to take responsibility for the conflict. But the initial invasion was supported by Democrats as well as Republicans, liberal internationalists as well as neoconservatives — Hillary Clinton as well as John McCain, The New Republic as well as The Weekly Standard.

Now a similar chorus is arguing that the United States should intervene
directly in Libya’s civil war: with a no-flight zone, certainly, and perhaps with arms for the Libyan rebels and air strikes against Qaddafi’s military as well. As in 2002 and 2003, the case
for intervention is being pushed by a broad cross-section of politicians and opinion-makers, from Bill Clinton to Bill Kristol, Fareed Zakaria to Newt Gingrich, John Kerry to Christopher Hitchens.

The justifications for military action, too, echo many of the arguments marshaled for toppling Saddam Hussein. America’s credibility is on the line. The Libyan people deserve our support. Deposing Qaddafi will strike a blow for democracy and human rights.

It’s a testament to the resilience of American power that we’re hearing these kind of arguments so soon after the bloodiest years of the Iraq war. It’s also a testament to the achievements of the American military: absent the successes of the 2007 troop surge, we’d probably be too busy extricating ourselves from a war-torn Iraq to even contemplate another military intervention in a Muslim nation.

But that resilience and those achievements may have set a trap for us, by encouraging the American leadership class to draw relatively narrow lessons from the Iraq war — lessons that only apply to wars premised on faulty W.M.D. intelligence, or wars led by Donald Rumsfeld.

In reality, there are lessons from our years of failure in Iraq that can be applied to an air war over Libya as easily as to a full-scale invasion or counterinsurgency. Indeed, they can be applied to any intervention — however limited its aims, multilateral its means, and competent its commanders.

One is that the United States shouldn’t go to war unless it has a plan not only for the initial military action, but also for the day afterward, and the day after that. Another is that the United States shouldn’t go to war without a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.

Moreover, even with the best-laid plans, warfare is always a uniquely high-risk enterprise — which means that the burden of proof should generally rest with hawks rather than with doves, and seven reasonable-sounding reasons for intervening may not add up to a single convincing case for war.

Advocates of a Libyan intervention don’t seem to have internalized these lessons. They have rallied around a no-flight zone as their Plan A for toppling Qaddafi, but most military analysts seem to think that it will fail to do the job, and there’s no consensus on Plan B. Would we escalate to air strikes? Arm the rebels? Sit back and let Qaddafi claim to have outlasted us?

If we did supply the rebels, who exactly would be receiving our money and munitions? Libya’s internal politics are opaque, to put it mildly. But here’s one disquieting data point, courtesy of the Center for a New American Security’s : Eastern Libya, the locus of the rebellion, sent more foreign fighters per capita to join the Iraqi insurgency than any other region in the Arab world.

And if the civil war dragged on, what then? Twice in the last two decades, in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, the United States has helped impose a no-flight zone. In both cases, it was just a stepping-stone to further escalation: bombing campaigns, invasion, occupation and nation-building.

None of this means that an intervention is never the wisest course of action. But the strategic logic needs to be compelling, the threat to our national interest obvious, the case for war airtight.

With Libya, that case has not yet been made.

By: Ross Douthat, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 13, 2011

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Libya, National Security, Neo-Cons, No Fly Zones, Qaddafi, War | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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