On his recent trip to Iraq, President Bush commented about the future of the US mission. "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," he said near the end of his speech in Anbar province.
Speculation abounded back in Washington. Was Bush hinting that at least some US troops might be coming home soon? Was he heeding the calls of his Joint Chiefs of Staff, who advocate cutting the US presence in half over the next year? Could the war even end on Bush's watch?
Not likely. In an interview with USA Today published this morning, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten said that "I don't think that any realistic observer thinks that by the time the president leaves office in 2009 it'll be possible--- safely--to get all or even most of the American troop presence out."
Where to begin with the latest developments in L'Affaire Craig?
How about with the delicious proposal by Larry Craig's fans at the American Land Rights Association? The group's so upset at the prospect of losing the Idaho Republican's anti-environmental influence on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that it is proposing a boycott of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport where the Senator got busted for cruising in a disorderly manner for anonymous sex.
Land Association leaders claim the airport and the local cops are guilty of "ambushing" their favorite senator -- using the old technique of placing attractive young cops in bathroom stalls frequented by senators who are "not gay (and) and never have been gay."
A disturbing story in The Washington Post yesterday suggested that Congress is losing its cojones when it comes to closing some of the most obscene tax loopholes benefiting the richest of the rich--hedge funders and private equity managers.
According to The Post, proposals to increase tax rates on private equity partnerships like Blackstone from a 15 percent capital gains rate to a 35 percent corporate rate led to "private-equity funds dispens[ing] at least $5.5 million for lobbying assistance" in the first six months of this year.
That kind of pay-to-play politics may be one reason the Senate seems to be balking at raising the tax rates on the profit paid to fund managers--called "carried interest"--which as the New York Times pointed out is a "euphemism for the hefty performance fees that fund managers haul in." That particular loophole allows managers to pay lower tax rates on their income than the average American worker, as I posted previously. The Senate is also considering limiting the rate increase only to private partnerships that trade publicly as corporations--even though most of the private equity and hedge fund firms are private. And those publicly traded firms would be allowed a 5-year grace period before seeing the increased rate--this at a time when the war is draining our nation's treasury to the tune of $12 billion per month and a serious public investment agenda is desperately needed.
In California, where Cindy Sheehan proposes to mount an independent anti-war challenge to cautious House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the political structures used to err on the side of candidates who opted for principles over partisanship. Once in the not so distant past, a Cindy Sheehan or anyone else frustrated by the failure of a Pelosi to work effectively to end the war in Iraq and to hold those responsible for it to account, would have found it much easier to take on so powerful a figure.
In the progressive era in California, contenders for Congress were allowed to run in the primary of any party they chose. In fact, they could run in the primary of every party at the same time. If the candidate won more than one nomination, he or she could then "fuse" their votes from various ballot lines into a whole in the November contest â€“ allowing populist contenders to mount universal appeals and allowing voters to respond to them as they saw fit.
This "cross-filing" option â€“ under which candidates petitioned their way onto the ballots of multiple parties -- was established early in the 20th century as a means to break the grip of party bosses and the corporate special-interest groups with which they were aligned. It was one of many progressive reforms â€“ open primaries, direct election of senators, initiatives and referendums and the lifting of restrictions on third parties -- adopted at the time with the purpose of freeing up political processes that had been rendered moribund by insider control and anti-democratic structures.
What's left of the Republican Party in the Northeast is once again feeling anxious about the war in Iraq. They've been told over and over by party leaders to "wait until September." Well, September is here and six House Republicans don't need to hear from General Petreaus in order to make up their minds.
"Next week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will submit a very important report to Congress regarding efforts to quell violence and reach political compromise in Iraq," they state in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner. "While we are hopeful that their report will show progress, we should not wait any longer to come together in support of a responsible post-surge strategy to safely bring our troops home to their families."
The letter was signed by GOP Reps. Mike Castle, Phil English, Scott Garrett, Jim Gerlach, Charlie Dent, Thomas Petri and House Democrats John Tanner, Tim Mahoney, Allen Boyd, Bob Brady and Dennis Cardoza, leaders of the party's Blue Dog wing.
A deceitful President, masking the chaos his $3 trillion war has unleashed with photo-ops from Iraq, now confronts cynical Democrats in Congress poised to write another check, willfully blind to the waste of US and Iraqi lives.
Last week, President Bush cited the recent Census Report as proof "that more of our citizens are doing better in this economy, with continued rising incomes and more Americans pulling themselves out of poverty." Welcome to the latest episode of Fantasy Island with George Bush.
In fact, as a recent New York Times editorial notes, the 2005 data which the Census Report is based on (and therefore doesn't even account for those suffering from the recent credit crisis) "underscores how the gains from economic growth have failed to benefit most of the population," and that "the gains against poverty last year were remarkably narrow." Since Bush came to power poverty has risen by 9 percent.
And with the passing of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, there is a sense that the window of opportunity the disaster opened to put poverty back on the national agenda has now closed, with too little political leadership and a media that stopped paying attention.
After forcing Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign for the twin "crimes" of being a fool and appearing to be gay, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, tried as hard as he could to seem sorry for the man whose trip to the wrong bathroom on the wrong day cost him a Senate seat.
"It is my hope he will be remembered not for this, but for his three decades of dedicated public service," chirped McConnell, who just days before was denouncing Craig's "unforgivable" desires, sicking the ethics committee on the misdemeanor senator and stripping him of his committee assignments.
Republicans leaders, who took no action against let-the-good-times-roll Senator David Vitter after the Louisiana Republican's penchant for prostitutes was revealed, couldn't get Craig out of their caucus quick enough.
UPDATE, September 1: Bowing to intense pressure from fellow Republicans, Idaho Senator Larry Craig resigned today. In a brief public statement in Boise, Craig issued a general apology, but admitted no wrongdoing.
August 31--One way or another, Larry Craig is a goner. Facing intense pressure from Republican party chiefs and the embarrassment of having audio of his arrest broadcast on national TV, Craig is expected to resign shortly. If he doesn't, the RNC is prepared to call for his head and launch an ethics investigation.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post saying Cindy Sheehan would probably not do very well against Nancy Pelosi, and therefore I was sorry she had decided to run. I said she was more valuable to the antiwar movement as an activist. I said leftists waste a lot of time on futile electoral contests, and cited examples of such contests. These remarks, which were couched in terms of deepest respect for Cindy Sheehan, have evoked much bile and wrath in this blog's comment section and elsewhere in the blogosphere. So much fun are commenters having discussing what a traitor and reactionary I am, few seem to have noticed that, in a followup, I wrote that my comments were actually as much about electoral protest politics in general as about this particular race and "if Cindy Sheehan wants to make an anti-war gesture, running against Nancy Pelosi is one way to do it, so good luck to her."
She's going to need it. Her outraged and self-righteous response to my mild and polite posts make me wonder how she will withstand the rigors of political campaigning. Because I express doubt that she will make much impression on the ballot box, and think that likelihood and its implications are worth discussing frankly, Sheehan accuses me of "stridently" (nice --does anyone EVER use that word for a man?) defending the Democratic Party's "complicity" in the war and of not caring about the sufferings of Iraqis the way she does.
I'm sorry, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Even if I was the reprehensible character she claims -- yellowdog Dem indifferent to the horrors of war, willing to say anything to keep Nancy Pelosi in power -- I could still be right about Sheehan's own electoral prospects and about whether such runs are the best use of the antiwar/progressive movements energies. Shouldn't a serious candidate be trying to show the hundreds of thousands of people who visit this website that I am wrong? Sheehan doesn't address any of the points I raise, or that Gary Younge raises in his excellent column on the same issues. All she does is malign my motives and my personality, attack The Nation for supposedly exploiting her fame, and accuse anyone who questions her judgment of supporting the war.
As Congress prepares to receive reports on Iraq from General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and readies for a debate on George W. Bush's la...
There are many Americans who do not believe in evolution. And it is probably fair to say that a disproportionate number of them reside in Texas.
But it is from Texas that we gain confirmation of the absolute certainty that human evolution is a reality.
When George Bush was governor of Texas in the 1990s, he approved executions with impunity, sending to death those who might have been innocent and those who might have been guilty, those who had repented and those who had not, those who had adequate representation and those whose lawyers slept through the trials, those who had the mental capacity to understand their crimes, those whose mental state would have barred even a trial in more civilized jurisdictions.