Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Israeli Apartheid

A small victory in the fight against the Israeli de facto apartheid state:
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a major access highway to Jerusalem running through the occupied West Bank could no longer be closed to most Palestinian traffic.
In a 2-to-1 decision, the court said the military overstepped its authority when it closed the road to non-Israeli cars in 2002, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising. The justices gave the military five months to come up with another means of ensuring the security of Israelis that permitted broad Palestinian use of the road.
From the Association for Civil Rights in Israel:
In an earlier hearing in March 2008, the High Court issued an interim decision which effectively bestowed a stamp of approval on the separation of roads according to nationality - one set of roads for Palestinians and one for Israelis - representing a watershed moment in the legal history of the Occupation of the West Bank.
One set of roads for Palestinians, and one set of roads for Israelis. The "Israeli De Facto Apartheid State" is not hyperbole. It's impossible to read this without recalling the racist and segregationist "separate but equal" policy which could be found in the United States until the 1960's, or of the dehumanizing system of apartheid employed by the South African regime.
Why does Israel get a free pass? 

Right-wingers will, no doubt, say that it's necessary for security reasons. But historically, Israel has used these policies to appropriate land, money, and political power from Palestinians. This de facto apartheid is the cause of the security concerns, not a result of them. 

Some would say that this is none of our business. Perhaps they would be right, if we weren't sending Israel billions of dollars in aid and arms every year, and offering them unconditional political and strategic support. When we do this, Palestinian sympathizers (specifically, Muslims), assume that we support this policy of apartheid, which they rightly see as dehumanizing. This has a powerful tendency to radicalize Muslims, and to turn them against the Untied States. Radicalization eventually manifests itself in events like this, or this.

While I wouldn't advocate invading Israel over this, just as I wouldn't advocate invading Iran over their human rights violations, it is unconscionable that the United States does not object to these policies, withdraw support, and impose sanctions. This is what we would do if it were any other country but Israel.

This, of course, won't happen. America believes it is a moral, advanced, egalitarian country. Let's not forget that we're not too far removed from Jim Crow ourselves.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Clear Choice

I've been debating the fundamental issues of our current foreign policy and how it affects our national security, and thought I'd post a summary of it here.

The argument really breaks down to this:

Do you believe that radical Muslims are motivated by a hatred of American culture and ideals, or do you think that they are motivated by opposition to US foreign policy?

I believe that they are primarily motivated by US foreign policy choices. The United States has a long history of policies which adversely affect Muslims and Muslim countries. At the same time, numerous polls have shown that large majorities of Muslims admire the culture and the idea of America, including its freedoms. Furthermore, Bin Laden has repeatedly stated that it is US foreign policy which is motivating Al Qaeda. His list of offenses is long, specific, accurate, and compelling.

This leaves us with a clear choice. We can continue these policies, and remain in a perpetual and escalating state of war with Islam. This war, at a minimum, will prove extremely costly, both in terms of money and in the freedoms we will sacrifice in an attempt to maintain security. In all likelihood, our efforts to prevent a billion* Muslims from obtaining a nuclear device and detonating it in the US, which will probably start a world wide war.

Or we can change our policies. This will not be easy. It will require us to become energy efficient, so that we no longer need to invade and occupy Muslim lands, and so that we no longer need to support Arab oil dictatorships. And it will require us to withhold support from Israel. Israel has, unnecessarily, made a lot of enemies in the Muslim world. There is no reason to make their enemies our enemies as well. If Israel wants to pursue expansionist policies, let them do so at their own peril, not ours.

I fear that these policy changes will prove to be politically impossible. The political elite and big business finds oil profits and Israeli influence to be more important than American security. The voters do not understand the issues, and the government is in no hurry to explain them, preferring, instead, to perpetuate the false belief that Muslims hate us for who we are, and so there is nothing else to do but kill them.

I believe that it will take a terrorist attack on an unprecedented scale before Americans will begin to question things. I hope it does not come to this.

* I realize that most Muslims are not radicalized; however, a continuation of current police will assure that most of them will become so.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sadly, Not (A Great Decade

Sadly Not! has an amusing rundown of the best years of the decade. Here are a couple...

4. 2002: Ahh, those innocent days of 2002, as yet unspoiled by the alarming realization that you just took a massive dump on every principle you ever held out of simple, shorts-staining cowardice.
3. 2005: Goldman Sachs gave the GNP of this year to a junior trader as a year-end bonus, some of which eventually trickled down to a coke dealer we know.

I won't give away the best, which is saved for last.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Casualties of the "War on Terror"

There is an important post up at Washington's Blog which talks about some of the truly scary things that have been happening as a result of the Obama administration's attempt to gain total government immunity for everything it does in regards to what it considers national security. Here's an tease; read the rest here.

If the president or one of his subordinates declares someone to be an “enemy combatant” (the 21st century version of “enemy of the state”) he is denied any protection of the law. So any trouble-maker (which means anyone) can be whisked away, incarcerated, tortured, “disappeared,” you name it. Floyd’s commentary:
After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials...
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of “national emergency.” And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
And yet this is what Barack Obama — who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer — has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution….let’s be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand — in court — that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities.
Yves here. The implications are FAR worse. Anyone can be stripped, with NO RECOURSE, of all their legal rights on a Presidential say so. Readers in the US no longer have any security under the law.
Roman citizens enjoyed a right to a trial, a right of appeal, and could not be tortured, whipped, or executed except if found guilty of treason, and anyone charged with treason could demand a trial in Rome. We have regressed more than 2000 years with this appalling ruling. 
To make this worse, this is the Supreme Court which is setting this precedent. They were the last line of defense, and they've completely abdicated they're responsibility to the Constitution in the face of pressure from the Obama administration.

To make it perfectly clear, these decisions quite literally enable the president to order you arrested, to declare you an enemy combatant, and to then proceed to torture you to death. The Supreme court has said that you will have no rights, and that the president or his men cannot be held responsible for anything the do, including torturing and killing you. It will not matter if you are an American citizen. The only thing that will matter is whether the King president wants to kill you. Because there is now no one who can stop him, or even make him think twice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Obama Report Card: FAIL

It's been almost a year since Obama was inaugurated, and, now that the excitement has worn off, it's time to look critically at what he has done for progressives.

Economy/Recession: Obama has filled his administration with Wall Street insiders. He then gave enormous sums of taxpayer money to the same Wall Streeters who destroyed the financial system. He gave this money with few strings attached, and very little protection for the taxpayer. His administration has intentionally sweetened these deals even further, while hiding these actions from the public. He has allowed Wall Street insiders to write the important parts of the financial reform bill, and has turned away from serious reform at almost every opportunity. The Obama Justice Department has done absolutely nothing to hold accountable the people who destroyed our financial system. A charitable view here would be that he was simply out of his league; at this point, however, this view would appear naive, as the administration has actively assisted Wall Street, and while acknowledging that unemployment is unacceptable, has done very little about it. Grade: FAIL

Health Care: After proposing that we reform our health care system, the president left the details of the reform entirely up to Congress. The result is a bill which is stripped of just about everything that would make it appealing to liberals. This bill will force 30 million Americans to buy health insurance from private insurance companies, who will be allowed to make 25% profits on the premiums, and who will often have no competition. It is the biggest giveaway to the health care industry that one could imagine, and it goes hand in hand with the secret agreement Obama made with the pharmaceutical companies. The president has claimed that he wanted a more progressive bill, yet he did absolutely nothing to make this happen. It is now becoming apparent that he got the bill that he wanted. Grade: FAIL.

Foreign Policy: While it would be almost impossible to design a worse foreign policy than his predecessor's, being slightly better than Bush is nothing to hang your hat on. It's commendable that he hasn't tried to nuke Iran, but he has continued to show unconditional support for Israel, a nation that is clearly endangering American security. Afghanistan has been the big issue so far, and he has sent 30,000 troops into a war that has no hope of being won, and for which there are not even any objectives other than a vague desire to make the world safe from terrorists who do not live in Afghanistan, and for whom an Afghan escalation will be a first rate recruiting tool. Grade: FAIL

Civil Rights: Obama's administration has covered up torture, has continued to torture, has claimed the right to hold people in preventative detention without trial until they die, and has now actively and successfully convinced the Supreme Court to rule that the president literally has the power to decide if someone is a "person", and if the president decides that that someone is not, then he literally has the right to imprison, torture, and even kill that individual if he so chooses. He has, in almost every area, been worse than President George Bush, as unbelievable as that may sound.* Grade: FAIL

I realize that this is not a complete account of everything that the president has done. But these were the big issues this year, and in every one of them he has sided against the American people. On health care, he let the insurance lobby write the bill. On foreign policy, Israel and the American military-industrial complex has had its way. On the economy, well, his own administration is full of Wall Streeters, so he didn't even need to lobbied to side with Wall Street over Main Street. On civil rights, he has sided with his own administration against the rights of the citizenry.

It appears that Obama's main goal is to make sure that the campaign contributions keep coming in for the Democrats. If you believe that having the Democrats in control is a good thing in and of itself, even though the policies they pursue are truly terrible, then you will probably disagree with my grades. And if this is the case, then I would say that your love of donkeys some from looking in the mirror at one.

I personally couldn't care less about Democrats. We need real health care reform, we need to stop trying to project power around the world, we need to reform our financial system, and we need to pay attention to civil rights. If the Democrats, and Obama, aren't willing to do this, then I'm ready to find someone or some party who can.

Because the president and the Democrats have failed.

Jameel Jaffer, head of the ACLU's National Security Project, said that while "the Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture, the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity.”

Constitutional Blasphemy? Get Rid of the Senate

Our system of government literally does not work any more. The biggest obstacle to a functioning government is the United States Senate itself.

Does this sound crazy?

Consider the power of a Senator. At the time of the ratification of the Constitution, there were approximately 150,000 citizens per Senator. Today, there are 100 Senators, which means that each US Senator represents 3 million citizens, or 20 times the number in 1788.

What are the consequences of this change?

It's important to note the power which the Senate holds. For all practical purposes, Congress can do nothing without it. The function of Congress is primarily to pass laws, and no law can pass Congress without the assent of the Senate. When considering Congress as law-making body, this means that legislative power in the United States is primarily held by 100 people. More specifically, 100 people have the ability to stop any law from passing, and therefore have the leverage to dictate, to a large degree, the content of any legislation that does pass, as well as to decide whether any will pass at all.

This makes a US Senator one of the most powerful people on earth. It also makes them extremely susceptible to bribery. (Or, if you prefer, lobbying.) It is far easier for organized special interests to buy a good part of the US Senate when there are only 100 of them. It would much more difficult if there were 1000, or 2000 of them. To make things worse, senators are elected to six-year terms, which makes them even less responsive to the electorate.

This extreme concentration of power is fundamentally undemocratic. It is also atypical among western democracies. Here is a quick list of the ratio of elected legislators to citizens in some other countries.
Country          # of Legislators          Population          Ratio

UK                    646                         61,000,000            94,000:1
Germany           622                         82,000,000          132,000:1
France               923                         65,000,000            70,000:1
Japan                 722                        128,000,000          177,000:1
Canada              308                        33,000,000            107,000:1
Italy                   945                        60,000,000            63,000:1
United States     535                       300,000,000           561,000:1

The concentration of political power in the American system is striking. In order for the U.S. to bring its legislator-to-citizen ratio within the middle of the range of the other nations above, it would need to increase the number of elected representatives from 535 to around 3000.

Politically, there is almost no conceivable way to get there from here any time soon, if ever. Concentrated power is always averse to dilution. And there is a huge number of people for whom a change in this direction would be beneficial, but who would oppose it because they are fundamentally conservative in nature, and believe that the American system of government is perfect, even though they descend on Washington regularly screaming about how the individuals who populate our system are personally corrupt.

This belief in American exceptionalism is, in fact well grounded. America has an exceptionally high level of military spending and of people in prison. It has an exceptionally bad health care system. It has an exceptionally high level of income disparity. It is highly likely that many or all of these problems are a result of our exceptionally undemocratic political system. It's time to start working on changing that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Goldman Sachs Bullshit

Goldman Sachs has decided that it's executives will get only stock bonuses this year, and they will be required to hold them for five years.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., moving to defuse public outrage over its pay, said its top 30 executives will receive no cash bonuses for 2009 despite the firm's expected record profits.
Thursday's announcement was the biggest concession yet by Goldman in response to the criticism of its compensation barely a year after the New York company received $10 billion in taxpayer-funded aid. Instead of a mix of cash and stock, Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd C. Blankfein and the rest of Goldman's management committee will be awarded only stock that can't be sold for five years.
But the changes are only for 2009 and don't necessarily affect more than 31,000 other Goldman employees, consultants and temporary workers. That group includes traders and other employees who are fueling most of this year's revenue and profit surge, putting them in line for sharply higher bonuses early next year. In addition, Goldman gave no indication in its announcement that it will buckle to pressure to rein in overall pay levels.
A couple comments are in order.

First, this is good policy,  because it will force the executives to take a slightly longer view. So it's just slightly better than the situation yesterday.

But the situation yesterday was completely fucked up.

The taxpayers have already bailed Goldman out, and the fact that they will delay taking their massive bonuses doesn't make the bonuses any less of a giant rip-off for taxpayers.

Goldman is still making money hand over foot, and they're doing it by gambling with taxpayer money, which is being lent to them at 0% interest from the Federal Reserve. If the Federal Reserve would lend you money at 0%, you might be able to make some yourself. Of course, you don't have every member of your family working for the Obama administration, and you haven't spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress, so you'll just have to settle for whatever your local bank wants to lend you, at whatever rate they feel like charging you. It probably won't be 0%.

What's more, by taking their bonuses in deferred stock, these executives won't have to pay any income tax on them, which means that, between now and then, you'll be giving these guys a personal tax-free loan.

But someone has to pay taxes to pay for all these wars and bailouts, right? Yep. You.

The bankers, of course, will ague that the stock is risky. If something happens to Goldman, the stock price might go down. Well, this would be true except for one thing: it won't go down, because taxpayers will bail them out if anything happens.

But don't worry. They're just doing "God's Work".

A Delusional President?

David Bromwich has a well written piece at the London Review of Books:
 ...on 21 May, he [Obama] gave a speech on law and national security at the National Archives: the worst speech of his presidency. He  said that his paramount duty was ‘to keep the American people safe’: that word, safe, which was accorded a primacy by George W. Bush it had not been given by any earlier president, Obama himself now ranked ahead of the words justicerightliberty and constitution.
And if this is truly what Obama thinks, it means that he has now accepted one of the basic precepts of  the right; namely, that the security of the United States must be defended at all costs, even if it means that everything which these putative patriots proffer as the embodiment of our nation- justice, freedom, equality, democracy, and a government which is answerable to its people- can simply be cast aside the moment any threat, real or imagined, is perceived.

These are the same people who appeal to our founding fathers on a daily basis. But our founding fathers sacrificed their personal security for these ideals, while these cowards would sacrifice our ideals for the illusion of security.

Those same people who would send our soldiers halfway around the world to die for those ideals can't be bothered to defend them here at home.

A foreign government that tortured, claimed the power of indefinite detention, refused to allow defendants a day in court, and considered itself literally above the law in any matter which it deems relevant to whatever it decides is "national security" would be condemned by those some people who support those actions when committed by the United States.

Remember this the next time some politician blathers on about "American Exceptionalism".

Friday, December 11, 2009

And Here's the Taibbi RS Story...It's a Must-Read

Here's why you should care about economic policy. And Taibbi, as always, makes it easy to understand. Here's your teaser...

Whatever the president's real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial "reforms" that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street's political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer's role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama's top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.
How did we get here? It started just moments after the election — and almost nobody noticed.

'Just look at the timeline of the Citigroup deal," says one leading Democratic consultant. "Just look at it. It's fucking amazing. Amazing! And nobody said a thing about it."
Barack Obama was still just the president-elect when it happened, but the revolting and inexcusable $306 billion bailout that Citigroup received was the first major act of his presidency. In order to grasp the full horror of what took place, however, one needs to go back a few weeks before the actual bailout — to November 5th, 2008, the day after Obama's election

Read the rest... 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Taibbi on Obama

Here's a great interview with Matt Taibbi. If you don't know who he is, he's the guy who, among other things, wrote the devastating expose of Goldman Sachs, which famously described them in the opening paragraph this way.
The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. 
Here he describes how Obama made a calculated decision to fill his administration will Wall Street insiders, including the despicable Robert Rubin. (H/T Digby)

There is really no point anymore in defending Obama from the right wing nutcases who attack him as a socialist. They're too blinded by what is all too often overt racism to realize that on economic policy, Obama is one of them. So let them eat their own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Glenn Beck Will Say Whatever He's Paid To Say, Even If Grandma Has to Lose the House Over It

Daily Finance has the story on how Glenn Beck is using his Fox News show to promote gold without telling his viewers that he is a paid salesman for a gold company.

Glenn Beck's dual embrace of gold -- as an investment vehicle for his listeners and a personal moneymaking opportunity for himself -- has drawn boos from various journalism watchdogs. And now it looks like the talk-show host's close relationship with one purveyor of gold coins has gotten him in a bit of trouble with his employer Fox News.

Beck is prominently featured on the website of Goldline International, a vendor of "gold, silver, and platinum coins and bars as well as rare and collectible numismatic coins." According to the site, Beck is a "paid spokesman" for the company. "This is a top notch organization," a thumbnail photo of Beck's head declares.
Beck regularly does "live reads," or live commercials, for Goldline on his syndicated radio show, and has even interviewed Mark Albarian, Goldline's president and CEO, twice on the show, most recently on Nov. 12, 2009.
Critics including Media Matters say it's a major conflict of interest for Beck, who has often advised the viewers of his Fox News program to buy gold to protect themselves against the collapse of the dollar -- and of Western civilization -- without informing them of his Goldline deal.
Fox News must be pretty pissed off. One of their big stars is ruining the integrity (try not to laugh here) of their network so he can promote some company that he's shilling. Surely they must have some rules about this?
Like other news organizations, Fox News prohibits its on-air personalities from making paid product endorsements. But it makes an exception for its commentators who are also radio hosts, who are allowed to perform live reads, says Joel Cheatwood, senior vice president for development.
So, Fox News think it's a conflict of interest for their "journalists" to be paid to promote points of view. And their response is to ban these payments, unless...well, unless they decide to make an exception. Here's Joel Cheatwood, Fox News senior vice president for development.
"When we hired Glenn at Fox News, we hired him with the understanding that he had a well-established, burgeoning radio business, and we had to be accepting of certain elements of that," Cheatwood tells DailyFinance...
Translation: We knew he was corrupt, and we decided we didn't care.

When asked whether Beck was capable of covering the show in an impartial way, Cheatwood replied:
"If gold declines and the dollar goes up," Cheatwood added, "I absolutely guarantee the reporting will be that on the show."
 So, if you listen to Glenn Beck, believing that he is objective, and go out and put your retirement into gold, which subsequently crashes and destroys your life savings, everything will be fine.

Because you have an absolute guarantee from Joel Cheatwood.


Presumably, Beck owns gold himself. This should be enough to get an SEC investigation moving. You are not allowed to give investment advice about stocks or commodities which you own without informing your viewers that you own them, and that you have a potential conflict of interest.

If you're not familiar with these things, here's why.

Let's say you're Glenn Beck, and that you own $10,000 XYZ Corp, which you paid $1 each for, and which is about what those shares are worth. Let's also say that you'd really like to make some money on these shares.

So you go on TV, and talk about how great XYZ is, and how the share price is sure to go up, and how people are going to thank you one day if they follow your advice to buy. So people start buying the stock, which starts to go up in price as more people watch Glenn Beck and decide they need to buy it. Three months later, it peaks at $100 per share. After three months of watching the stock go up as Beck talks about how great it is, someone's Grandma cashes in her $100,000 retirement fund to buy 1000 shares. The next day Glenn sells his 1000 shares for a cool $90,000 profit. This sale triggers a selling frenzy, but Grandma, who does not work on Wall Street, doesn't know what to do, and can't bring herself to sell the stock until it hits $1 per share again, and winds up with a net loss of $90,000.

Perfect example of the free market at it's best. Survival of the fittest, right?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Student Loan Hijinks

The House recently passed a bill which would reform our Rube Goldberg student loan system.

This should be the most uncontroversial bill in the history of government.

Gail Collins, take it away:
Let us stop here and recall how the current loan system works:
1) Federal government provides private banks with capital.
2) Federal government pays private banks a subsidy to lend that capital to students.
3) Federal government guarantees said loans so the banks don’t have any risk.
And now, the proposed reform:
1) The federal government makes the loans.
Wow. You really do wonder why nobody came up with this idea before.
Back to the Washington Post article:

A bill that cleared a House committee Tuesday would largely remove private lenders from the federal student loan industry, generating an estimated $87 billion savings over 10 years to fund more government grants and loans.
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 would eliminate an entire category of student loans issued by private lenders and subsidized by the federal government, vastly expanding direct lending by the government starting next July. Democrats would use the savings to fund a $40 billion increase in federal Pell Grant scholarships over 10 years, $10 billion in community college upgrades and $8 billion in pre-kindergarten changes, among other uses.
Republicans opposed to the legislation say it amounts to a federal takeover of student lending.

Read that last line again, because it's a perfect example of

A) How dumb the Republicans are, or

B) How dumb they think you are.

This whole program is just a huge giveaway to private lenders, who charge us a fee to lend our money to students, when we could just do it ourselves. These lenders make money on the loans, but if the loans go bad, we end up paying.

In all fairness, they do have one actual argument besides just yelling "Government Takeover" in a crowded Tea Party:
Republicans say colleges and universities will be hard-pressed to switch from subsidized to direct government lending.
They say that the conversion will be too hard to do; financial aid offices are just too used to working with these private lenders.

Whatever happened to American Exceptionalism? Didn't our goverment put a man on the moon? Are you telling me that the same people who think our government can build a brand a new country from scratch on the other side of the world in Afghanistan can't figure out how to process their own fucking student loan applications?

That's just unpatriotic.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

This Will End Badly

It's hard to see how there can ever be a successful conclusion to a war like this. At least from our point of view.

The United States, and what's left of our allies, really have only one advantage. We have technological arms superiority. We have tanks, and planes, and bombs, and fancy missiles. We even have nuclear weapons.

The problem is that we really can't use any of these weapons. They were designed for use in large scale, nation versus nation conventional warfare. They are useless against an insurgency which fights using guerilla tactics. And in a conflict in which we are supposedly winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, the collateral damage which these weapons would cause is politically unacceptable as well.

So we find ourselves fighting on the Taliban's terms, with similar weapons, in terrain which is hostile to us (but friendly to them), and at the cost of $1 million per soldier per year. I'm not sure what the Taliban's cost per soldier is, but it's a heck of a lot less than that. And they have an endless supply of them, while we are sending 30,000 more troops to a conflict which needs, according to the Army's own assessment, another 4-500,000 troops.

And what is the goal? CIA estimates that there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The rest are spread around the globe. Fighting a conventional war against a transnational terrorist group, which has real and legitimate problem with United States foreign policy, is ludicrous. Unless we are prepared to invade every country on earth, we are not going to solve the problem this way.

The United States has two choices.

It can continue on its chosen foreign policy path (invasions and occupations of Muslim lands, support for tyrannical, authoritarian regimes which oppress Muslims, unconditional support for Israel), and just accept the security consequences of radicalizing an increasing percentage of the world's second largest religion. There is an excellent possibility that this will eventually result in the detonation of a nuclear weapon in a major US city, but maybe we feel that this is an acceptable price to be paid for cheap oil and the continued congressional campaign contributions of the Israeli lobby.

Or we can withdraw from Muslim lands, stop supporting the likes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and cut Israel loose, requiring it to bear the burden of its immoral and illegal wars and expansion.

But sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan will not make a damn bit of difference.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


From Digby:

Estate taxes should be high. This is not an aristocracy and the concentration of wealth in this country is already distorting our society in myriad ways. And if the deficit is the biggest threat to the American way of life the billionaires keep insisting it is, then perhaps the wealthy dead among them can be asked to help their country in its time of need even if the live ones are too "talented" and "productive" to be asked to sacrifice.