30 June 2010

The Afghanistan Paradox: When the War's Defenders Make the Case for Why We Should Stay, They End Up Making the Case for Why We Should Go 28JUN10

MORE on why we need to get out of Afghanistan now......even the propagandist can't get their story straight! AND TODAY ANOTHER AMERICAN WAS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN.......59 AMERICAN LIVES THROWN AWAY BY OUR GOVERNMENT THIS MONTH.....OBAMA'S HANDS ARE GETTING AS BLOODY AS GEORGE W BUSH'S!
Well, President Obama has succeeded in bringing at least one soldier home from Afghanistan -- welcome back, Gen. McChrystal. Now if he can just hold true to his plan to begin bringing the other 100,000 or so home next year.

Before the president fired McChrystal, many wondered if he would be bold enough, decisive enough, and tough enough to go through with it. We now know the answer, but the real test of his toughness will come as we approach July 2011, when he has said he will begin to bring the troops home. The pushback will be furious. Indeed, it's already started -- beginning with those inside his own administration. Just days before the Rolling Stone piece broke, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of the July deadline: "That absolutely has not been decided."
Apparently, McChrystal wasn't the only one off the reservation. In fact, it's a bit hard to make out the borders of the reservation, since Obama's Afghanistan policy has never been clear. And now with the departure of McChrystal, and the arrival of General David Petraeus, it's even less clear. What is clear is that many in Washington will use this personnel switch to try to bring about a policy switch.
On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein was asked what the response should be if Petraeus requests more soldiers over and above those arriving as part of the current troop surge. "I would say give it to him, absolutely," she said, adding that it's Petraeus who "should make the call."
Really, Senator? We just had a showdown in which the idea that we live in a country with civilian control of the military was tested and, fortunately, affirmed. Petraeus wasn't elected, so it's not his call. It's the commander-in-chief's. Sen. Feinstein may be ready to cede the ultimate decision-making power to the military but, thankfully, it's not hers to cede.
"We need to understand that we have to get the [Afghan] military trained," Feinstein said, "get the government... secure and stabilized, and I think do away with the drugs to a great extent, because the drugs are now fueling the Taliban."
Oh, is that all? Talk about moving the goalposts. And how exactly are we suddenly going to do what we haven't been able to do during the nine years we've been trying?
Through the magic of General Petraeus, of course. "I think we put all of our eggs in the Petraeus basket," Feinstein added. How about we put our eggs in the truth basket, instead? Ignoring it hasn't been working out very well. Nor has mission creep.

According to the president, the reason we're in Afghanistan is the "clear and focused goal" to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda." By that standard, we should be pulling out right now. On ABC's This Week, CIA Director Leon Panetta was asked by Jake Tapper how many al Qaeda are left in Afghanistan. "I think the estimate on the number of al Qaeda is actually relatively small," said Panetta. "At most, we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less."
Fifty! That means there are more Kardashians in Los Angeles than al Qaeda in Afghanistan. According to Panetta's figures, we now have 1,000 to 2,000 soldiers for each and every al Qaeda fighter who didn't get the change of address cards bin Laden sent out -- and we're spending $1 billion to $2 billion per terrorist this year.

It's a lousy bang for our buck, but at least we've accomplished our mission, right? Wrong. "Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that al Qaeda never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country," Panetta said, while moving the goalposts even further. "That's the fundamental goal of why the United States is there. And the measure of success for us is: do you have an Afghanistan that is stable enough to make sure that never happens?"

But Pakistan is far more stable than Afghanistan and has proven a relatively safe haven for all sorts of bad guys. Or as Duncan Black put it: "The stability of the state of Afghanistan and its willingness to house bad actors are completely unrelated to each other. More than that, potential bad actors can, roughly, find a 'safe haven' just about anywhere they want."
It's a curious thing about Afghanistan: every time a politician makes a case for why we need to stay, he or she ends up making the case for why we should leave. "It's harder, it's slower than I think anyone anticipated -- but at the same time, we are seeing increasing violence," said Panetta. "We're dealing with a country that has problems with governance, problems with corruption, problems with narcotics trafficking, problems with a Taliban insurgency." Other than that, it's going great.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, appearing on CNN's State of the Union, was asked, when does the U.S. look at the situation in Afghanistan and decide we've done what we can and that it's time to leave? "You have the most corrupt government that we have ever dealt with from a conflict standpoint," said Chambliss. "And until you provide some stability and some confidence in the Afghan people about the way forward from a governing standpoint, then I think that statement probably has some truth to it, that we could win militarily and still have a very ugly victory." And he thinks he's making a case for staying!

And later on he did it again: "In the areas where we have really concentrated militarily, we've done well," said Chambliss. "But you have to give up something when you do that, and certain other areas, the Taliban probably has gained in strength because they've moved troops there." So even when we're succeeding, we're failing.
It's truly bizarre how many in Washington are describing the situation in Afghanistan accurately, but then fail to draw the most obvious conclusion based on what they've just said.
It's unfortunate that it was Gen. McChrystal's petty comments about Obama and his inner circle that grabbed all the headlines from Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone piece, because the real, and much more important, aspect of the story was the dark picture it painted of what's going on in Afghanistan. Several soldiers and aides to McChrystal had no trouble connecting the dots that seem to be eluding those within the Beltway.

Staff Sergeant Kennith Hicks put it very succinctly: "We're f***ing losing this thing," he said.
"If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," said a senior advisor to General McChrystal.
As Frank Rich noted this weekend, "until last week, Obama's only real ally in making his case was public apathy."
And now comes Gen. Petraeus, buttressed by his credulous chorus in Washington, so willing to abdicate the responsibility of making the hard choices we elected them to make. What will the General decide once he's looked over his new portfolio? We don't know. But it's important that, whatever it is, Obama shows the same boldness and leadership he showed with McChrystal and sticks to his plan to withdraw.

The initial signs are not promising. In his speech last week announcing the appointment of Petraeus, the president didn't mention the July 2011 deadline -- an omission that caused Bill Kristol to gush: "Let us now praise Barack Obama... The only thing Obama could have done to more dramatically minimize the significance of the July 2011 date would have been explicitly to repudiate it. He should do that, and in a few months he may." When Bill Kristol is singing hosannas to your war policy, it's past time to rethink it.

Instead, as HuffPost's Sam Stein reports, the president is becoming "increasingly frustrated" with criticism of his Afghan policy and, during his closing press conference at this weekend's G20 summit, lamented that there was "a lot of obsession" over the July 2011 withdrawal date. He should get used to it.

If the president really wants to heed the advice of a conservative, instead of Kristol he should listen to the words of Rory Stewart, an influential Tory Member of Parliament, who this weekend called the war in Afghanistan a "mission impossible," saying: "Even if you put 600,000 troops on the ground, I can't see a credible, legitimate Afghan government emerging."

Rep. Nita Lowey, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees funding for Afghanistan's redevelopment and reconstruction, agrees. As HuffPost's Ryan Grim reported, Lowey said on Monday "that she was stripping money from her foreign aid bill in reaction to pervasive corruption." "I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists," said Lowey.

Obama's decision to replace McChrystal with Petraeus smoothed over one crisis. But it did nothing to solve the one that's been unfolding every day for the last nine years in Afghanistan.

The foes of withdrawal are plainly hoping the arrival of Petraeus will mean the departure of the 2011 withdrawal deadline. But, in making that call, Obama should be guided by the facts on the ground, not the number of politicians who are putting all their eggs in Petraeus' basket.

Petraeus and the Myth of the Surge 23JUN10

As soon as the news was reported that Gen. David Petraeus is succeeding soon-to-be-retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the media narrative was set in stone: the super-general who won the war in Iraq with the so-called surge can now work his magic in another theater.
It's hard to stop a locomotive meme—which is what the surge story has become. But the success of the surge in Iraq remains debatable to this day. Still, try injecting that point into media discussions of Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet with Petraeus taking over the Afghanistan war, it's worth noting the other side of the surge tale. So as a public service, here are a few analyses that question the surge hype.
From Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard:
The surge had two main goals. The first goal was to bring the level of violence down by increasing U.S. force levels in key areas, forging a tactical alliance with cooperative Sunni groups, and shifting to a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasized population protection. This aspect of the surge succeeded, though it is still hard to know how much of the progress was due to increased force levels and improved tactics and how much was due to other developments, such as the prior "ethnic cleansing" that had separated the contending groups.
The second and equally important goal was to promote political reconciliation among the competing factions in Iraq. This goal was not achieved, and the consequences of that failure are increasingly apparent. What lies ahead is a long-delayed test of strength between the various contending groups, until a new formula for allocating political power emerges. That formula has been missing since before the United States invaded -- that is, Washington never had a plausible plan for reconstructing a workable Iraqi state once it dismantled Saddam's regime -- and it will be up to the Iraqi people to work it out amongst themselves. It won’t be pretty.
From Tom Ricks, author/journalist Tom Ricks (March 2009):
I thought some of the surge-era deals in Iraq would unravel but I didn't think that would begin happening this quickly. It's only March 2009, and already Awakening fighters are fighting U.S. soldiers in the streets of Baghdad.
Anyone who tells you that the Iraq war is over should be forced to memorize this paragraph from the Sunday edition of the Washington Post:
As Apache helicopter gunships cruised above Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood, former Sunni insurgents fought from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces, according to witnesses, the Iraqi military and police. At least 15 people were wounded in the gunfights, which lasted several hours. By nightfall, the street fighters had taken five Iraqi soldiers hostage.
That is Iraq 2009. Does it sound peaceful to you? Does it seem like the political questions vexing Iraq have been solved?
From Tom Ricks (April 2010):
I've held off on commenting on the situation in Iraq during this unsettled transitional period. The bombings in Baghdad (another big one today) strike as painful but irrelevant. On the plus side, al Qaeda in Iraq has suffered some good hits. On the negative, the political situation looks as unresolved as ever. The other day an Iraqi friend gloomily predicted to me that the question of the next government would remain open until September, and then, once it was solved and the Americans were out of the way, violence would begin to increase.
My gut feeling is that Iraq is adrift, and that this slow centrifugal process ultimately will result in, at best, a loose confederation. In other words, not only do I think the glass is half empty, I am not sure how long the glass can take the strain of what it is holding.
But the truth is that I don't know and neither does anyone else. But as Tom Friedman used to say every year, the next six months in Iraq could be decisive.
From former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group:
Former Democratic  Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton told that the surge in Iraq may have “temporarily” achieved its military purpose of reducing violence, but its political intention of promoting “reconciliation” has not been accomplished....
“The purpose of the surge in Iraq was to reduce the violence, which it did, but it also had a political purpose and the political purpose was to encourage reconciliation, which has not happened,” Hamilton, current president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told
“So the military objective was achieved temporarily, we’ve had a resurgence of violence in recent days,” he added. “The political objective has not been achieved.”
From Diana West, a conservative columnist:
The main reason the "surge" in Afghanistan is on is because the  conventional wisdom tells us the "surge" in Iraq "worked."
The problem is, the Iraq surge did not work. Yes, the U.S. military perfectly executed its share of the strategy -- the restoration of some semblance of calm to blood-gushing Mesopotamian society -- but that was only Step One. The end-goal of the surge strategy, Step Two was always out of U.S. control -- a fundamental flaw. Step Two was up  to the Iraqis: namely, to take the opportunity afforded by U.S.- provided security (see Step One) to bring about both "national  reconciliation" and, as the powers-that-were further promised, the emergence of a U.S. ally in the so-called war on terror.
Step One worked. Step Two didn't. The surge, like an uncaught touchdown pass, was incomplete. The United States is now walking off  the battlefield with virtually nothing to show for its blood, treasure, time and effort. In fact, another "success" like that could kill us.
Though the success of the surge is regarded in much of the media as an article of faith, it remains open to discussion and examination. Looking at Iraq these days, it's certainly arguable that Petraeus did not work a miracle there. And the mission he faces in Afghanistan is tougher. To achieve anything resembling victory in Afghanistan, he'll likely need far more success than the Iraq surge produced—in reality or myth.

It's the Jobs, Stupid!!!! 27JUN10

Here is a great piece from the Huffington Post...I know Pres Obama has read it.....and I hope and pray he takes it to heart! Enough of this bull of trying to work with the republicans, the vast majority are playing him and the Democrats for fools at the expense of the welfare of the nation. Pres Obama, it is time to KICK ASS AND TAKE NO PRISONERS!!!!! Insist Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi bring employment benefits legislation, job creation legislation, energy legislation, all the bills you know will benefit all Americans to the floors of the House and Senate and bring them to a vote. Force the republicans and the cowardly democrats who may vote with them to cast their votes against the American people, and then make sure the American people know who is cutting their unemployment benefits, who is forcing reductions of teachers in our schools, who is more interested in protecting the wealth of corporate America than protecting and improving the lives of working and middle class Americans. FOR THE LOVE OF OUR COUNTRY PRESIDENT OBAMA, I AM BEGGING YOU TO FIND YOU SPINE AND STAND UP FOR US AND LEAD!!!!
The Americans wrapped up their meetings at the Toronto summit in an oddly contradictory posture. With much of the world afflicted with austerity fever, President Obama's team found itself in the awkward position of pushing the Europeans not to abandon economic stimulus -- while Obama himself is unable to get the U.S. Senate to approve even modest sums to extend expiring unemployment insurance for upwards of a million workers, or his $23 billion request for emergency aid to the states to spare 300,000 schoolteacher layoffs.
The British, Germans, and Canadians, meanwhile were giving priority to deep budget cuts in their own countries -- while smaller European nations were being made to extract even more severe cuts in exchange for guarantees of their government debt. Obviously, if every nation is cutting back, then economic recovery falters. But this seems far from obvious to the world's leaders.
In part, this general outbreak of austerity is the price that Obama is paying for giving too much attention to deficit-reduction at home, and not enough to jobs. The administration's own embrace of austerity, in the form of a freeze on domestic spending after this fiscal year, as well as Obama's fiscal commission, not only undercuts his credibility with the G-8. It gives ammunition to Senate Republicans and Democratic deficit hawks who refuse to appropriate another dime for jobs measures that are not "paid for" by tax increases or other spending cuts (which of course undercuts any stimulus effect.)

One good piece of news is the departure of OMB director Peter Orszag, the leading deficit hawk inside the administration. Orszag was the architect of the fiscal commission and the domestic spending freeze, and the foe of even modest increased outlays on jobs.
It's not clear that his successor will be a great deal better, though some of the names leaked to the press -- notably Laura Tyson or Gene Sperling -- are less hawkish.
If the Republicans make massive gains this November, the main reason will be the lingering economic slump, which now belongs to the incumbent Democratic administration.
You could spin recent events to suggest that President Obama finally had a pretty good week. He showed presidential resolve in getting BP to part with $20 billion. He fired the insubordinate General Stanley McCrystal. And he persuaded Congressional Democrats to put aside House and Senate differences and agree to a conference bill on financial reform.
But in all of these cases, the back story doesn't reflect so well on Obama. McCrystal's policy, which will continue, is a fantasy. He should have been fired for insubordination several months ago when he was trying to back the president into a corner with his public pronouncements.
Had the new administration cleaned house at Dick Cheney's Interior Department early on, and not given BP safety waivers, the spill probably would not have occurred.
And Obama hardly participated in the final deliberations on financial reform. For lack of progressive presidential leadership, the banking lobby gained back some of what it had lost on the Senate floor, in weaker provisions on derivatives, big loopholes in banks' ability to continue risky trading activities, and looser limits on banks' ability to invest in risky hedge funds and private equity.
Polls show a continuing erosion in the public's confidence in Obama and the Democrats. And none of the recent cases of presidential leadership touches on the real issue that is killing the Democrats, namely high unemployment.
Speaking of polls, one of the oddities of the Administration's reticence on the jobs issue is the reported counsel of the White House political staff that the public cares more about deficit-reduction than about jobs. In this account, the public sees deficit reduction as a sign that government is out of control and doesn't believe that more government spending will help solve the jobs crisis.
Political advisers who take such results at face value are fools. Yes, you can get poll respondents to say that the deficit is a serious concern, but it's a far less salient one than worries about losing your job, your health insurance, your pension, or the value of your home. If Obama can persuade the American people that he is their champion on these immediate pocketbook issues, the abstract worry of the deficit evaporates.
The political team also reportedly argues that Obama can't get serious jobs measures through the Senate in any case, and therefore a major effort would only make him look ineffectual. But this is also the wrong reading.
As I argued in a recent piece for The American Prospect, adapted from A Presidency in Peril, Obama needs to learn from the example of Harry Truman. In the summer and fall of 1948, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and Truman was widely given up as a goner, Truman responded by deliberately sending "the do-nothing 80th Congress" legislation on housing and jobs that he knew they would defeat -- to dramatize the difference between his own program and the Republican one.
Truman not only won re-election in November 1948 in American history's greatest
electoral upset; his coattails were so attractive that 75 House seats went from Republican to Democrat, and the Democrats took back both houses of Congress.
If today's Republicans are blocking aid to spare 300,000 school teacher pink slips, and over a million unemployed workers who are losing their unemployment insurance and Cobra health coverage, Obama should be hanging that callous behavior around their necks, Truman style.
And in that respect, there is one surprising piece of news on the polling front from a most unlikely quarter -- the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
The Peterson Foundation, bankrolled at a billion dollars, is spending a small fortune to persuade the American people that the deficit is a more serious menace than economic collapse, and that Social Security and Medicare need to go on the chopping block. I have rebutted this view in a paper for the Scholar's Strategy Network.
One of the Foundation's grantees is a closely linked organization called "America Speaks," which is supposedly a representative sounding of public opinion on the Peterson Foundation's favorite causes.
The "national town meeting" just completed June 26th, involving thousands of Americans by satellite link. You have to read the press release very carefully to find these results, but after extensive deliberations, the America Speaks poll included these findings:
  • 85 percent wanted to raise the cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes--far more than the percent that wanted to reduce benefits or raise the retirement age.
  • 85 percent wanted to cut military spending.
  • 64 percent wanted a carbon tax.
  • 61 percent wanted a financial transactions tax.
  • 58 percent favored a new higher tax bracket for millionaires.

And these surprisingly progressive conclusions came, despite the fact that the exercise was heavily funded by the nation's most powerful propaganda organization that works to frighten Americans into believing that Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the country! See Dean Baker's terrific new analysis of what the public understands and misunderstands about deficits, Social Security, and Medicare. The people are often ahead of the leaders and the pundits. If the administration paid attention to where public opinion really is, we'd be hearing a lot more about jobs and a lot less about deficits.

Barnett Praises Obama's Leadership, Calls for Renewed Cooperation in Afghanistan 28JUN10 & The race is on: Barnett versus Wolf for Congress 23JUN10

I hope you will check out Jeff Barnett's campaign website (click the header or the link on this blog) and you can contribute to his campaign at his website or by clicking this link to his fundraising page 0n ActBlue

We deserve better than Frank Wolf and Jeff Barnett is the right person to represent ALL the citizens of Virginia's 10th district.
From his website 

“The conduct of our wars concerns me not just as a citizen and a veteran, but as a father,” Barnett said. “Both of my children are active duty military officers. My youngest returned from her first tour of duty in Afghanistan in April, and she redeploys on 18 July. My family – like so many other families around the country – is directly affected by this war. I will never allow our children’s lives to become political calculations.”

“Civilian control of the military is among the foremost bulwarks of Democracy,” Barnett continued. “The most troubling aspect of the information in last week’s article about General McChrystal is that it revealed dissent within the highest ranks of command in Afghanistan. As a retired Colonel with 26 years of military experience, I know that clarity of objective and unity of effort are fundamental principles of war. We cannot plan successful offensives in the absence of clear objectives. We cannot accomplish those objectives when our field commander undermines and disagrees with his civilian leadership. Replacing General McChrystal with General Petraeus makes sound strategic sense.”

Last week’s events should remind us of the challenges presented by modern counterinsurgency warfare. “In Afghanistan, our generals manage multinational forces and work to win the support of a troubled population. In that climate, it’s not enough for our officers to be excellent soldiers, they must also be diplomatic leaders,” Barnett warned. “Modern warfare demands modern generalship. It requires leadership in all elements of American power: diplomatic, information, military and economic. To succeed, General Petraeus and Ambassador Eikenberry must strengthen the ties of civil-military collaboration. Only then will we achieve our goals in Afghanistan: kill Al-Qaeda and ensure that the government in Kabul has the strength to prevent its return.

The race is on: Barnett versus Wolf for Congress
At last, the die has been cast for the 10th Congressional district race now that both Democrat and Republican primaries have taken place.
In one corner: senior incumbent Republican Congressman Frank Wolf.
In the opposite corner: upstart Democrat challenger Jeff Barnett.
While it’s not, on the face of it, the race of our times – like others in Virginia are pumped to be in November – it is a race that came about rather unexpectedly, because in the end it came so easily.
It appeared just months ago Wolf would have a tea-infused, intra-party challenger to his right. It looked just as likely that the Democrats would have a trove of challengers jostling to take on the 15-term incumbent.
Over the course of a month this spring, Wolf’s Republican challenger ‘suspended’ his campaign, and the Democrats quietly settled on a single nominee – making the primaries of June 8 superfluous.
So now what? Will 2010 be different?
After Wolf made short shrift of Democratic challenger Judy Feder in the 2006 and 2008 elections (heavily Democratic years, it should be noted,) many are ready to call this year’s race a yawner for Wolf because of what political observers have deemed to be an anti-Democratic mid-term election year.
To which we say, “Now hold on just a sec.”
As some primaries have shown this year, no incumbent can be called ‘safe.’ As much as there may be an “anti-Democratic” tilt – taking into account mid-term election history, mind you—there is just as strong an “anti-incumbent” veneer across the political boxing ring. Just ask amiable incumbent GOP Sen. Bob Bennett, who was unceremoniously turfed out by fellow Utah Republicans last month, or several Democratic incumbents who were given the boot by fellow Democrats in their own primaries.
These are skittish and volatile times. No one is immune. More broadly, what we mean is, no one should take this race – or any other – for granted.
But we think Wolf gets that. His message in the past few months has been reconciled to acknowledge an edgy constituent base searching for solutions instead of partisanship.
It is also our belief that Wolf’s opponent, Barnett, should be given a fair chance to prove his mettle. He has managed to raise a fair amount of money, and Barnett did efficiently dispatch his primary challengers.
He also is well-versed on a subject many people care about deeply. As a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, he can speak with authority on military issues – to wit, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are some things we’d like to see in this race.
The first is more of Wolf and, especially, Barnett.
We know Wolf – elected in 1980. We need to know, and to see more, of Barnett. As a challenger, it’s incumbent upon him to make the case as to why this should be Frank Wolf’s final term in office.
We’d also like to see a solid discussion of the issues – those that matter most to us in Loudoun, in an economy that is as volatile and unsteady as the electorate. Issues such as job creation, small-business growth, economic development, transportation, taming our embarrassingly escalating debt and deficit. More about Middleburg, less so about the Middle East.
If this race turns into a middling, junior-varsity spitball fracas of slogans cheaply demonizing “Barack, bailouts, and BP,” it would be a true disservice to political discourse and the expectations of an apprehensive electorate.
Then, there are the debates.
We vigorously support a busy schedule of joint appearances for both candidates where the audience can ask unscreened questions of each, and candidates can ask each other pointed questions without the useless structural chaperoning of Byzantine debate rules that give voters nothing of value.
Another request: decorum. This is something we believe Wolf understands. Agree with him or not, he’s a gentleman and not a rabid polemicist (note to Tea Partiers.)
So far we’ve seen the same from Barnett. We hope that continues. A year such as this will surely tempt each to go negative. Resist, we say, at all costs. People are turned off enough as it is about politics today.
As we kick off this general election race, we leave this final thought with our readers: Register to vote. Pay attention. Get involved. Demand answers. Attend forums. Force accountability.

29 June 2010


This is the Greenpeace campaign to force Costco to support sustainable fishing and end their sales of fish that are endangered through overfishing. I hope you will participate and share with family and friends.

Latest news and action alert from Greenpeace
Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browse

Millions of Americans, like myself, are preparing to celebrate Independence Day with backyard BBQs and picnics. As people flock to supermarkets and shopping centers to stock up, those ending up at Costco Wholesale might be surprised at what they find.

In the Costco warehouse you'll find freezers and coolers full of unsustainable fish. Greenpeace surveys found that Costco continues to sell fifteen of the twenty-two red list seafood items.

Costco is the largest wholesale club operator in North America. While Costco continues to grow bigger and bigger, so does its footprint on the environment. Did you know that Costco is destroying our oceans through its harmful seafood purchasing practices?

It's time to shine a spotlight on Costco and expose the truth behind their destructive seafood policies. Costco can be a leader in ocean conservation, not a contributor to ocean destruction.

Costco can and must do better!

Greenpeace is urging Costco to implement a sustainable seafood policy, to offer transparency in its seafood labeling, and to stop selling red list seafood starting immediately with orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.

Sign our pledge telling Costco that our oceans deserve better.

For the oceans,
Casson Trenor
Oceans Campaigner

P.S. The power is in your hands. Remember by working together, we were able to improve Trader Joe’s seafood operation through public pressure and campaigning. We can do the same with Costco. Please take action today.
702 H Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20001 | 1-800-326-0959

Is Washing Out Sandwich Baggies a Waste of Time? 28JUN10

| Mon Jun. 28, 2010 3:30 AM PDT
Is it environmentally efficient to wash all of our Ziploc bags for reuse, or do we use more resources than it is worth? And do the bags maintain their integrity for continuous washing, or does the hot water affect their chemical structure? Econundrums reader Susan B. 
I've often wondered the same thing: It'd be nice to have an excuse to do away with the annoying task of washing and drying sandwich baggies. Unfortunately, the poor Ziploc bag doesn't receive nearly as much attention as its politically polarizing cousin, the plastic grocery bag: While countless studies have weighed the pros and cons of shopping bags, as far as I can tell, no one has ever published a single life-cycle analysis of the Ziploc baggie. (SC Johnson, owner of the Ziploc brand, conducted one when they were formulating their new Evolve bag, but they didn't share it with me.)
What we do know is that like grocery bags, most sandwich baggies are made of polyethylene, a substance derived from natural gas. Although sandwich bags are smaller and denser than grocery bags, the two kinds actually weigh about the same: .01 pounds each. So allow me a back-of-the-napkin calculation: One study (PDF) showed that 58 gallons of water were required to produce 1500 plastic grocery bags—about .04 gallons of water per bag. Let's say it takes you five seconds to wash out a baggie. Since most kitchen faucets flow at about two gallons per minute, that's roughly .17 gallons of water per washing, or four times the amount required to make a new plastic bag.
But despite the water cost, the other benefits of reusing baggies—savings on raw materials, emissions from shipping, and landfill space—make washing worthwhile, says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "When plastic bags are reused, fewer plastic bags need to be produced," writes Hoover. "The production of plastic bags uses energy, water, and in most cases a non-renewable resource (fossil fuel-derived); reusing bags, even when you use water to wash them out, saves resources overall."
As for using hot water for washing: There's been some concern that chemicals from bags leach into foods at high temperatures (and Ziploc doesn't recommend microwaving or boiling its standard sandwich bags), though I haven't seen any studies about whether hot washing changes the chemical structure of a bag. If you're worried, you could always use cold water and a little soap. But "if they change color or opacity, I’d say that to be on the safe side, you should discontinue using them," warns Hoover. "I’d also caution against reusing bags that have held raw meat, greasy food, or anything else that might be difficult to rinse out entirely."
Depending on where you live, you might be able to recycle old baggies. Better yet: You could invest in good quality reusable baggies instead. sells a bunch, in all different sizes and patterns.
Got a burning question? Submit your environmental dilemmas to Get all your green questions answered by signing up for our weekly Econundrums newsletter here.

Kiera Butler is an associate editor at Mother Jones. For more of her stories

End the war, not just the general 28JUN10


Obama fired the general,
but not the war.

Tell Congress we want more, we want an end to the war.
add your voice

Last week, President Obama fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal after he gave a crude and candid interview to Rolling Stone in which he insulted the president, the secretary of defense and most Americans for not doing more to support the war.1 Unfortunately, Obama fired only the general, not his strategy -- and he's planning to continue with the wrongheaded plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan that McChrystal championed.2

Obama made the right decision but for the wrong reasons. Now, we're running out of time to change the future, and not just the leadership, of this war.

This week, the House is set to vote on the funding that will keep McChrystal's war alive after he's gone.3 But Rep. Jim McGovern and a caucus of progressive leaders want to use this moment to end the war.4

Can you email your representative today and tell him or her to end the war by refusing to pay for it until there's a timeline for our troops to come home? Click here to tell Congress: "We want more than personnel changes -- we want an end to the war."
Obama wants to replace McChrystal with Gen. Petraeus, another general who thinks we can kill our way to a peaceful Middle-East.5 But Congress holds the power over whether we keep funding that strategy or change course and begin to bring our troops home.

Sen. Robert Byrd, who died today, was a powerful advocate for that idea. He opposed the Bush-Cheney plan to invade Iraq, and was a master at using the wars' funding bills to call for a new strategy.6 But with Sen. Byrd gone, it will fall to a new generation of leaders in Congress to help end the war.

You can help. Click here to tell your Representative to get behind the Progressive plan to stop spending money on the war until we know it will end.



Drew Hudson
TrueMajority / USAction

24 June 2010

What Do Health-Care Reform, the 40-Hour Work Week, Unemployment Insurance, the Minimum Wage, etc., Have in Common? & White House Releases Health Law Details 22JUN10

This is actually from SOJO, posted on 25NOV09 but it applies to today and the Fall elections because the threat by the gop and the tea-baggers to repeal the health care reform law that was passed earlier this year. People need to be reminded that generally the politics of the gop are skewed to support corporate America and the wealthy, and they generally work against the best interest of middle class, working class and poor Americans. This doesn't mean the Democrats are perfect, but generally they do support legislation supporting, protecting and improving the lives of all Americans (even the wealthy, because when the poor are lifted out of poverty the entire nation benefits). It is sad so many American's are allowing their prejudice against the current administration (prejudice that is blatant in the tea-bagger movement) blind them to the fact they are being deceived and manipulated by the gop to gain their support, and so can not see their support of these politicians is only going to degrade their lives health wise, economically, environmentally, morally and  by the time they do realize it it will be too late. Blinded by racism and prejudice, I am afraid many Americans are going to find, after the fall elections, they have been their own worst enemy...and I am also afraid they are going to drag the rest of us down with them.
The second article is from NPR on the new Health Law Details, the link to the article on NPR is

Well, they were all brought to you be political progressives, they were all opposed by political conservatives, and they all are now viewed as fundamental presuppositions of a healthy society by virtually everyone.  Okay, all but health-care reform, but trust me, if it passes, in no time at all it will be viewed so positively that we will no longer be able to remember why it took us so long to implement it.  And, of course, the list actually includes many, many more initiatives—child labor laws, basic workplace safety rules, social security, Medicare, and so on.
In each case, the vast majority of political conservatives opposed them.  They told us that businesses would be ruined, that the problems resulting from implementing the initiatives would be worse than if we left things as they were, that implementing them would make us non-competitive, or, more generally, that the good life as we know it would be gone if we were so foolish as to pass these pieces of legislation.  One would think that after being wrong sooo many times, political conservatives would speak with a bit more humility, but alas, not so.  If one took some of the speeches in opposition to health-care reform, one could substitute “minimum wage laws” or “child labor laws” in place of “health-care reform” and it would be déjà vu all over again—to quote Yogi Berra.
So, it is not at all surprising to find that, as we are on the verge of possibly the most significant reform in American politics in the last 40 years, political conservatives are united against it.  We have the highest health care cost “per unit” than anyone else in the world, we are below the countries with universal coverage as far as customer satisfaction is concerned, we are somewhere near 40th in infant mortality (you’d think the pro-life forces would notice this), and it goes on.  Yet, in the midst of these overwhelming evidences to the contrary, those opposed to health-care reform think things are just fine.  All that is fine, and let’s make no mistake about it, are the financial interests of those who benefit from the status quo—the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, etc.  These are the ones to whom far too many of our politicos are indebted.  We need more politicians indebted to the common good, to the common person, to the public good.
There is no guarantee yet that there will be health care reform, though we are closer than ever before.  If we do succeed in overcoming the monied interests and act on behalf of the common good, check back with me in three years.  We can celebrate yet another case of political progressives going against special interests to move legislation in favor of the common good.  May it be so!
Chuck Gutenson is the chief operating officer for Sojourners.

White House Releases Health Law Details

June 22, 2010
Most health insurance plans will soon be barred from turning children down due to pre-existing medical problems, the White House announced Tuesday, spelling out how early benefits of the new health care law will work.
President Barack Obama is marking the first 90 days since he signed the landmark health care overhaul by packaging a series of consumer safeguards into what the administration is calling a "patients' bill of rights."
The law's major benefit — expansion of coverage to some 32 million now uninsured — doesn't come until 2014. So Obama is doing his best to showcase modest early benefits for a nation that remains divided over the legislation.
In addition to guaranteed coverage for children, the safeguards include:
— A ban on lifetime coverage limits. More than 100 million people are enrolled in plans that currently impose such limits, the White House said.
— Phasing out annual coverage limits. Starting this year, plans can set annual limits no lower than $750,000. Such limits rise to $2 million in 2012, and will be completely prohibited in 2014.
— Forbidding insurers from canceling the policies of people who get sick. Unintentional mistakes on application forms cannot be used to revoke a policy.
— Guaranteed choice of primary care doctors and pediatricians from a plan's network. No referral needed for women to see an ob-gyn specialist. No prior approval needed to seek emergency care out-of-network.
The new rules apply to most health plans, except in cases where they are "grandfathered" under the law.
The White House announcement comes as administration officials meet privately with state insurance commissioners, and CEOs of major insurance companies, amid concerns over continued premium hikes. Obama was expected to attend at least part of the session, and is scheduled to make a speech later.
Consumers who buy their policies directly faced increases averaging 20 percent this year, according to a survey released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Although most Americans are covered on the job, about 14 million purchase insurance on the individual market and have the least bargaining power when it comes to costs.
It's still unclear how insurance companies will price the new guaranteed coverage for children. If premiums are too high, families may still be unable to get health insurance.

Related NPR Stories



Health Care

Afghan Shift: McChrystal Out, Petraeus In 23JUN10

All this angst about what was said by who and when and where and what it means......mcchrystal deserved to be fired.....he has a big mouth, and maybe if he knew what he was doing the mess of Afghanistan left by bush would be getting better. After all, he got the additional troops he wanted, so just maybe he wasn't the person for the job. All in all the bottom line is george w bush left us with a real disaster in Afghanistan and it is time to cut our losses there, and in Iraq, and bring the troops home. This is a great article from NPR, and following is an article from Sojourners from 3DEZ09 calling for a new approach in is very timely in light of the events of the past few days.

President Obama stands 
with Gen. David Petraeus (right) and Vice President Biden.
Enlarge Charles Dharapak/AP President Obama stands with Gen. David Petraeus (right) and Vice President Biden on Wednesday in the Rose Garden as he announces that Petraeus will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
President Obama stands with Gen. David Petraeus 
(right) and Vice President Biden.
Charles Dharapak/AP
President Obama stands with Gen. David Petraeus (right) and Vice President Biden on Wednesday in the Rose Garden as he announces that Petraeus will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
text size A A A
June 23, 2010
Gen. Stanley McChrystal was ousted Wednesday as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, following a face-to-face meeting with President Obama over remarks Chrystal and his staff made in a magazine article about administration officials and the war.
Obama promptly named a veteran commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan.
Petraeus, who may be the best-known general in America, served multiple tours in Iraq. He created the troop surge concept that many credit with bringing some measure of stability to Iraq — where he was in command of U.S. forces in 2007.
McChrystal did not attend a war conference that followed his Oval Office meeting with Obama and later released a statement citing his "desire to see the mission succeed" as the reason for his resignation.
Speaking later from the Rose Garden, with Petraeus at his side, Obama said the time was right for a change in leadership in Afghanistan.
"The war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president," Obama said. "As difficult as it is to lose Gen. McChrystal, I believe it is the right decision for our national security."
Obama said McChrystal's scathing comments, published in Rolling Stone magazine, undermined civilian control of the military and eroded trust among the members of the president's war team.
Obama said he did not make the decision to accept McChrystal's resignation over any disagreement in policy or "out of any sense of personal insult."
He added firmly that he will not tolerate division on his team. "This is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy," Obama emphasized, flanked by Vice President Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Read The 'Rolling Stone' Article

Lawmakers praised the president's choice.
"We think there is no one more qualified or more outstanding leader than Gen. Petraeus to achieve a successful conclusion of the Afghan conflict," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spoke for himself as well as fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Petraeus enjoys widespread support on Capitol Hill and has established relationships with leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Among Troops In Afghanistan, A Sense Of Surprise
NPR's Tom Bowman, who watched the president's remarks with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said McChrystal's firing was not necessarily expected there.
"The sense was among soldiers that this was not a firing offense — that McChrystal would likely get harshly criticized, taken to the woodshed in Washington and then returned to Kabul to run the war," Bowman told NPR's Michele Norris.
Bowman said that the appointment of Petraeus was also a surprise; troops had expected McChrystal's deputy, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to take over.
McChrystal: Rapid Exit, Uncertain Future
McChrystal left the White House following his Oval Office call to accounts, and returned to his military quarters at Washington's Fort McNair.
Had he attended the previously planned Afghan strategy session in the White House Situation Room, he would have faced some of those colleagues that he and his aides had criticized in the magazine. Aides say Obama isn't bothered by honest debate, but he won't tolerate pettiness. He told his team members now is the time for them to come together.
Once the president says you've shown poor judgment, that is a classic case of lack of confidence, and that is a basic reason for release in the military.
"All of us have personal interests. All of us have opinions. Our politics often fuels conflict," Obama said. "But we have to renew our sense of purpose and meet our responsibilities to one another and to our troops who are in harm's way and to our country."
A senior military official said there is no immediate decision about whether he would retire from the Army, which has been his entire career. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Obama had summoned McChrystal to Washington from Afghanistan after learning of the comments by the general and his inner circle about administration officials, including the president. The White House rebuke of McChrystal on Tuesday suggested that it would have been hard for him to give an explanation that would have been enough to save his job.
Before Petraeus can assume his new command, he has to be confirmed by the Senate. McCain suggested it might be the fastest confirmation hearing in history.
Petraeus: A 'Partner' In Afghanistan
Petraeus is currently the head of U.S. Central Command and McChrystal's direct superior.

At A Glance: Army Gen. David Petraeus

Army Gen. 
David Petraeus
Enlarge Alex Wong/Getty Images
Army Gen. David Petraeus
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Born: Nov. 7, 1952; raised in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Recent experience: Took over as head of U.S. Central Command in October 2008 after serving 19 months as the top American commander in Iraq during the troop "surge" to combat the insurgency there. Led the 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and capture of Baghdad.
Education: U.S. Military Academy, 1974; Princeton University, master's degree in 1985, doctoral degree in 1987
Source: U.S. Central Command
The appeal to Petraeus to return to the front lines will help give continuity to the war effort in Afghanistan, which has foundered recently as the Taliban has grown in strength and numbers.
And putting him in charge of the war has another benefit, says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"It shows the Afghans the United States does not intend to leave — that it is going to be a partner," Cordesman said.
The 57-year-old Petraeus has a good reputation among members of the Obama administration. He's considered the architect of the 2007 surge in Iraq and is credited with harnessing sectarian bloodshed there.
Petraeus is widely credited with creating the counterinsurgency strategy that both McChrystal and Obama say will win the war.
NATO officials said that despite the military shakeup, they will continue to support that strategy.
McChrystal had run the war in Afghanistan for a year, bolstered by tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops.
But it's a critical time in the war. An effort to retake Kandahar City from the Taliban has stalled and more of the U.S.'s NATO allies have said they will withdraw at the end of next year. Meanwhile, the death toll for American soldiers and Marines is growing.
Article's Author Expresses Surprise
The author of the Rolling Stone article, "The Runaway General," on Tuesday night told NPR's All Things Considered that he was surprised that his story had raised such a ruckus. Journalist Michael Hastings said he remembered being shocked by the general's candor and outspokenness during the interviews, but he did not anticipate the hullabaloo the article has caused.
Hastings said that, while he could only speculate about what motivated McChrystal and his aides to say what they did, he guessed that they might have wanted "to throw a hand grenade into the pond and create some shockwaves," to get more people to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan.

Timeline: Afghanistan And The U.S.

A U.S. soldier stands near an oil 
well set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops.
Mario Tama/Getty Images From the U.S. invasion in 2001 through President Obama's ouster of top U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, trace important moments in one of America's longest-running wars.
"Perhaps they just created bigger shockwaves than they're accustomed to," Hastings said.
McChrystal didn't criticize Obama himself in the magazine article but called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops "painful" and said Obama appeared ready to hand him an "unsellable" position.
McChrystal also said he was "betrayed" by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan. He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so,' " McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Biden.
If not insubordination, the remarks — as well as even sharper commentary about Obama and his White House from several in McChrystal's inner circle — were at least an indirect and extraordinary challenge and one that consumed Washington. The capital hasn't seen a similar public contretemps between a president and a top wartime commander since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command more than a half-century ago after disagreements over Korean War strategy.
It was an important moment for the president, who otherwise ran the risk of looking like he couldn't command his generals. Obama took a moment to praise McChrystal for his service and his intelligence, but he said in airing his grievances with Rolling Stone, McChrystal had broken the strict code of conduct required of everyone in uniform.
Notably, neither McChrystal nor his team questioned the accuracy of the story or the quotes in it. McChrystal issued an apology.
"The comments are certainly egregious," said Nathaniel Fick, of the Center for a New American Security, on Wednesday's Morning Edition. "They're reprehensible and unforgivable. But I'd make the point that if you caught some NSC staffers or people on the vice president's staff sitting around on a Saturday night with a bottle of scotch, you'd hear a lot of the same things, but the guns would be pointed in a different direction."
Still, military leaders rarely challenge their commanders in chief publicly. When they do, consequences tend to be more severe than a scolding.
"Once the president says you've shown poor judgment, that is a classic case of lack of confidence, and that is a basic reason for release in the military," said Tom Ricks, also of the Center for a New American Security. "When you lose confidence in a subordinate, you're obliged to relieve them — if only as a matter of obligation to the troops underneath that person."
McChrystal was viewed as a visionary with the guts and smarts to turn around the beleaguered Afghanistan war when he was chosen to take over last year. But despite his military achievements, he has a history of making waves.
This is not his first brush with Obama's anger. Last fall, the president scolded McChrystal for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.
Ricks noted on Morning Edition that leaving McChrystal in place would send "a very poor message to the troops about discipline and judgment."
"The troops have a term — 'different spanks for different ranks' — in which they suspect that generals get away with stuff that corporals don't get away with," Ricks said. "And the message here that Obama needs to send is, 'No, the entire military is subordinate to me and must show good judgment and discipline."
With reporting from NPR's Rachel Martin, Tom Bowman, Scott Horsley, JJ Sutherland, Jackie Northam, Diana Douglass, Corey Flintoff and Teri Schultz and material from The Associated Press

We Needed a New Approach in Afghanistan -- and This Isn’t It

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The decision by President Obama to send additional troops to Afghanistan saddens me. I believe it is a mistake, it is the wrong direction for U.S. foreign policy, and it is disappointing to many of us in the faith community and our friends who spearhead the on-the-ground development efforts in Afghanistan and around the world.
We needed a new approach to the very difficult and complicated situation in Afghanistan, and this isn’t it. We were promised fundamental change in the direction of U.S. policy around the world, and this isn’t it. We were promised change we can believe in, and this military escalation is not something many of us as faith leaders can believe in. This is still a primary reliance on military solutions and occupations to defeat terrorism -- a strategy which has not succeeded. The defeat of violent extremism is a necessary goal of the international community -- but old thinking, old ideas, old strategies, have failed time and time again to do that. And we have no reason to believe it will succeed this time.
Two weeks ago, we delivered to the White House an open letter to the president calling on him to lead with a different kind of “surge” -- a surge of strategic and focused international development, diplomacy, and targeted humanitarian assistance (and, yes, the necessary security to support it), rather than again relying on more military escalation. Seventeen thousand people have signed on to that letter. We heard little of that new approach in this announcement of sending more troops to fight terrorism. To undermine, isolate, and roll back the influence, capacity, and power of groups like al Qaeda is a necessary goal, but we still fail to fully comprehend how the presence and consequences of foreign military power serve to strengthen the extremism we seek to weaken. The plan that the president announced last evening is still the wrong kind of surge, and the emphasis of this policy is still in the wrong place. The history of the troubled country of Afghanistan, the lack of a reliable governance partner, the absolute failure of every other occupation of that nation, and the consistent mistake of leading with military solutions all predict sad outcomes for this old approach. Our nation’s growing skepticism about this war is well-founded.
Ultimately, only a whole new approach to Afghanistan will have any chance of success. And many of us will continue to call for that, in the hope that the Obama administration will eventually listen. In the meantime, we will pray for our servicemen and women who will continue to sacrifice for a tragic strategy, for more innocent civilians in Afghanistan who will die from more military escalation, for a president whose deepest instincts we still trust, and for the soul of our own nation. May God save us from our well-intentioned mistakes.


When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist.
- Dom Helder Câmara, late archbishop of the Brazilian diocese of Olinda and Recife. Wednesday, Oct. 13 was the 10th anniversary of his death. (Source: Guardian)

23 June 2010

Move Over, Sarah Palin, There's A Bigger Idiot In Town 23JUN10

It is hard to believe there is someone dumber than sarah palin.......but it seems there is, meet haley barbour, governor of Mississippi. We can only thank God he was in Mississippi and  she was in Alaska while they were of breeding age......because think of the offspring they would have produced.....makes my skin crawl!

I never thought I'd write this, but I think we've discovered a new level of stupid below the heretofore impenetrable Sarah Palin floor.
It's not unlike the discovery of a previously unknown species of protohuman deep within a cave somewhere, revealing some new twist in the constantly expanding canon of human evolution. There is, in fact, a Republican of national prominence who makes Sarah Palin seem brighter and less contradictory by comparison. That's not to say Palin has miraculously become smarter or better spoken, it's just that the idiot curve is now redrawn in her favor.
Yes, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is arguably the new king of all Republican stupids. Palin must now relinquish her Twitter feed, her fork cork and her trident. For Haley Barbour has arrived.
What is it about Republican governors? They're either appearing in interviews with a blood-soaked cletus geeking turkeys in the background, or they're lying about hiking the Appalachian Trail, or they're honoring the Confederate States of America while ignoring slavery, or they're entertaining the treasonous option of state secession, or they're bitching about government stimulus money one minute, then posing with giant stimulus checks the next minute.
2010-06-23-boss_hogg.jpgAnd now there's Haley Barbour, who said this week about the $20 billion escrow fund to compensate victims of the oil spill:
"It bothers me to talk about causing an escrow to be made, uh, which will, which makes it less likely that they'll make the income that they need to pay us."
Let's ignore the Palin-ish phrase "causing an escrow fund to be made" and focus on the substance. Paraphrasing Jon Stewart's analysis: Governor Barbour appears to be suggesting here that if BP sets aside $20 billion to be paid to victims of the oil spill, it won't have enough money to... pay out to victims of the oil spill. In other words, Barbour is against compensating victims because he supports compensating victims.
Perhaps next time, Barbour should consult with his smarter sidekicks Roscoe and Enos before speaking about complicated topics like "causing an escrow fund." (Jon Chait gets full credit for the Boss Hogg comparison.)
Of course, this isn't the first and it surely won't be last blast of stupid from Barbour during the ongoing oil spill disaster. He's a study in colloquial southern language and exaggerated accents -- a real life character from an unproduced Coen Brothers movie, and it seems that whenever Barbour opens his mouth for something other than pie, stupid things gush out.
For many weeks, Barbour has been downplaying the toxicity and danger of the oil. Back in mid-May, Barbour said the oil spill will have "minimal impact," rivaling Tony Hayward's infamous remarks about how environmental damage will be "very, very modest."
He's also coined some of the finest "the oil is just like delicious food and therefore harmless" metaphors during the whole disaster.
Who can forget the classic description of the oil as "weathered, emulsified, caramel-colored mousse, like the food mousse." Yum. The food mousse. If you're like me, you can't wait to sample some delightful Gulf seafood that's been marinating in the food mousse.
And the good news is, according to Barbour, "Once it gets to this stage, it's not poisonous." Oh boy!
Seriously, if that's the case, I'd like to see Barbour strap on a pair of inflatable arm floaties and dive into a big old slick of the food mousse and flail around in it for a while. See if he can eat his way out. Maybe the Mississippi tourist bureau could videotape it for their next advertising campaign. You know, because the food mousse is both delicious and not poisonous.
Yet, at the same time, Barbour said, "But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn't breathe." This made me wonder if Barbour has had one or two mishaps with a gigantic tube of toothpaste. "Dagnabbit! I've accidentally caused toothpaste to be made all over myself again! Can't... breathe! Glug! Glug!" Aides rush into Barbour's bathroom to find the governor coated from head to toe in toothpaste like a real life version of the Shmoo.
But, as with many Republicans carved from the George W. Bush cloth, the doofish behavior tends to overshadow Barbour's more sinister underbelly.
According to Newsweek, Barbour is quite a fan of the Confederacy and all of its trimmins'.
The Republican governor of Mississippi keeps a large portrait of the University Greys, the Confederate rifle company that suffered 100 percent casualties at Gettysburg, on a wall not far from a Stars and Bars Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis.
When Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia fumbled his way through "Confederate History Month," Haley Barbour rushed to his defense, declaring that there was no need to mention slavery in the process. Everyone knows about slavery, Barbour reasoned, so why bother to mention it? Barbour, here, played up the debunked Lost Cause mythology -- deemphasizing slavery as a means of ennobling the South's instigation of the Civil War. Barbour said of the slavery controversy in Virginia, "It's trying to make a big deal out of something doesn't amount to diddly."
Newsweek also reported:
Barbour was embarrassed by an aide's nasty remarks about "coons" at campaign rallies. But in reprimanding the aide, he only made things worse. As The New York Times recounted it, Barbour warned the aide that if he "persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks."
Right. Everyone knows you don't speak the truth out loud. You keep your racist remarks to yourself. However, Confederate flags signed by Jefferson Davis are fine and dandy. And if you're Haley Barbour, it's also okay to appear at a Blackhawk fundraiser hosted by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a paleoconservative white nationalist organization that, among other things, proudly advances the positions of the old Confederacy.
It gets better. Barbour was also the founder of Barbour Griffith & Rogers, a DC lobbying firm with significant connections to the tobacco industry. When Barbour left the company to help run the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, the firm signed a deal with R.J. Reynolds worth more than $17,000 a month. Nothing like being steeped in lobbying and cancer money on top of everything else.
And Haley Barbour is looking like a frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012. I ask you, though: Who better to represent the Republican Party against the first African American presidential incumbent in the entire history of civilization? Here we have an overweight, southern-fried, tobacco-funded, lobbyist superfan of the Confederacy with a history of racially questionable ideas and connections who can barely string together a comprehensible sentence. What better way to put a face and voice to the increasingly regional, homogenized, sophophobic GOP than to nominate Haley Barbour for president.
Keep going, Republicans. You're doing great!