Barbara Boxer: Champion in the Senate Against the Afghanistan War

If you've ever spent quality time trying to move an agenda through Congress, you know that moving an agenda isn't just about lobbying individual Members. You need a "champion" for your issue. The champion introduces your bill. The champion recruits other offices to sign up. The champion introduces an amendment that carries the same idea as the bill and lobbies other Members to vote for it. The champion circulates letters to other offices. The champion raises the profile of your issue in the media.

When Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold lost his bid for re-election, advocates working to end the war in Afghanistan lost their champion in the Senate. It was Feingold's office that introduced the bill, introduced the amendment, circulated the letter, led the lobbying of other offices, led the charge in the media.

Now California Senator Barbara Boxer has re-introduced Feingold's bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan - a timetable with an end date. So far, Senators Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sherrod Brown have signed on as co-sponsors of Senator Boxer's bill.

 

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GOP Busted On 72 Hour Rule!

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) called out Republicans in the House for ignoring their own rule.

 

OMG, I Agree With Michele Bachmann!

In the midst of the crapstorm that has become life in these United States, I sometimes feel as if I’ve slipped into a parallel dimension populated exclusively by tea partiers, Glen Beck clones, Sarah Palin stand up comedians, and our reigning dizzy queen Michele Bachmann. That’s why when I agreed with one of her statements, I headed straight for the antipsychotics.

Please God, don’t let me die a “dittohead”!

The Maybe I’ll Certainly Run for President in 2012 Unless I Change My Mind Before Deciding to Redecide Again candidate laid into The Messiah™ for leading his uncoalesced coalition into Libya. Not surprisingly she’s against it, though I’m confident she would’ve been for it if Obama had decided against intervention. But this this time? I agree with her.

Doin’ the Tripoli Tango
Obama made a mistake in entering the fray. Michele and I agree there seems to be little compelling strategic US interest involved. As for the humanitarianism angle, there are places that DO involve strategic US interests AND plenty of poor wretches being ground under the jackboots of a dozen Col. Loony Toons and DickTaters. We aren’t feeling particularly humanitarian there, so WTF? The US simply cannot be the world’s cop. There’s an infinite supply of bad people and you can’t wipe them all out without weakening yourself. Even Bush the Lesser understood that, though he sometimes didn’t act that way.

I think Michele’s a little weak on the whole “al Qaeda” is afoot angle and by referring to the fiasco in the making as the “Obama Doctrine” she’s ignoring the fact that one decision does not a full doctrine make. These decisions should and are based on the conditions at the moment, whether they’re good or bad.

Now, we’re  seeing the ghosts of neo-conservatism on Obama. He’s apparently signed a “secret order” authorizing covert support for the Libyan rebels. We’re slow learners about this whole, “let’s have a big freedom party and call all the poor kids over for punch, cookies, and purple thumb votes” thing. See Exhibits A (Iraq), B (Afghanistan), C-Z (dozens of other places where we’ve intervened to no great or lasting effect).

In case you haven’t noticed, democracies ain’t easy. If they were, the US would be in a lot better shape than we are. Bringing freedom to people takes more than no-fly zones, 10+ year wars, or secret orders. It’s an illusive thing being imposed on countries that have no real government to begin with – much less a democratic one. It’s a step learning curve, particularly when you’re being shelled by heavy artillery.

What’s it All Not About?
The question here isn’t whether the Carebear acted too slow or too fast. The question isn’t that he pulled together a coalition – no matter how feeble it is. It’s not about using the UN for a fig leaf. It’s not about how or if he consulted Congress. It’s not about whether he’s more inconsistent than George, because they both were. It’s about why we went in and now that we’re there, how the hell we’re going to exit.

The secret order suggests he’s going down the same rabbit hole as our previous Emperor. We’re already hearing about how things are just going ducky and how we’ll be out of Gaddafistan within days or months. It all sounds distressingly like the nearly 8-years the Dub prattled on about how things would be over soon in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yeah, how’s that working out for us?

Never go into a battle unless you know what it means to win and how you will win the peace as well. If you’re stupid enough to go in and it becomes plain you had the intelligence of a donut to do it, figure out how you’re going to back out, gracefully or otherwise. The battlefield of statecraft is pock-marked by the bodies of countries that don’t learn those lessons. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the mood for contributing more cannon fodder for a questionable war.

So Michele, hat’s off to you!

Maybe there’s hope for you yet.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Weekly Audit: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing--The Myth of Fiscal Conservatism

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Fashionable pundits like to say that the Republican Party has shifted its focus from “social conservatism” (e.g., banning abortion, shoving gays back in the closet, teaching school children that humans and dinosaurs once walked the earth hand-in-claw) to fiscal conservatism (e.g., tax cuts for the rich, slashing social programs). But is that really true? Tim Murphy ofMother Jones argues that the old culture war issues never really went away. Rather, the Republicans have simply rephrased their social agenda in fiscal terms.

For example, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is quite upfront about the fact that he hates Planned Parenthood because the group is the nation’s leading abortion provider. Yet, he seeks to de-fund the Planned Parenthood and the entire Title X Family Planning Program in the name of balancing the budget. Never mind that the federal money only goes toward birth control, not abortion, and research shows that every dollar spent on birth control saves $4 in Medicaid costs alone.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly surveys the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls in Iowa and agrees that reports of the death of the culture war have been greatly exaggerated.

But the key takeaway here is that fiscal issues have largely been relegated to afterthought status. That’s just not what these right-wing activists — the ones who’ll largely dictate the outcome of the caucuses — are focused on. Indeed, even Ron Paul, after pandering to a home-school crowd last week, conceded, “I haven’t been asked too much about fiscal issues.”

Budget cuts

Sarah Babbage writes in TAPPED that Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress seem poised to grant an additional $20 billion in spending cuts for FY 2011, in addition to the $10 billion in cuts they’ve already pledged for this fiscal year. Babbage notes that, after weeks of negotiations, we’re right back to the $30 billion in cuts the GOP initially demanded. She warns that these cuts will have a trivial impact on the $1.6 trillion deficit, but they could have a devastating effect on the fragile economy.

Taxes for thee, but not GE

General Electric raked in $14.2 billion in profits last year, $5.1 billion of which came from the United States, yet the company paid $0 in U.S. income tax, Tara Lohan notes in AlterNet. Despite its healthy bottom line, and its sweet tax situation, GE is asking 15,000 unionized U.S. workers to make major concessions at the bargaining table. GE wants union members to give up defined benefit pension programs in exchange for defined contribution programs.

As we discussed last week in The Audit, defined benefit plans guarantee that a retiree will get a set percentage of her working salary for the rest of her life; defined contribution plans pay the worker a share of the revenue from a pool of investments. As the fine print always says, investments can decrease in value. So, if the stock market crashes the day before you retire, you’re out of luck.

Generation Debt

Higher education is supposed to be a stepping stone to a better standard of living, but with unemployment hovering around 10%, many college graduates are struggling to find jobs to pay their student loans. Aliya Karim argues in Campus Progress that the government should compel colleges and universities to be more transparent about the realities of student loan debt:

The government should require colleges to provide information about graduation rates, college costs, and financial aid packages on college websites, enrollment forms, and guidebooks. This information should be easy to find and understand. Without such information available to them, students may not be aware that their future college has a graduation rate lower than 20 percent or that its graduates face close to $30,000 in debt.

The government has a lot of leverage over public and private schools because so much student debt is guaranteed by taxpayers. Greater transparency will enable students to make more informed choices, and give colleges with low graduation rates a greater incentive to clean up their act.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The MulchThe Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Defining myself politically with the changes that have happened in the last 65 years.

On May 24th I'll be sixty five and another 1st generation Baby Boomer will be officially "Old" (though, because of our cruddy economy which stands between employment and age, I am already retired and at the mercy of Social Security... which my Congressional leadership wants to do away with).

Most of my adult life I have been a liberal Democrat... in college during the height of the Civil Rights movement and the fiercest part of the anti-Vietnam War campaign, as a working citizen through booms and busts in the economy ending in the major recession we are apparently now out of (except in my house... yours too?)... and I voted as a liberal Dem in the past couple of elections. Now I'm not certain that "liberal Democrat" has meaning anymore.


While I shudder at people who are now called "Originalists" (heard this term on a CATO Institute panel on C-Span, where it was tied as a label on Justice Clarence Thomas),  who think of the Constitution as unchangeable and fixed, I am upset with some lack of adherence to Constitutional regulations which have not been changed in the document, but have certainly been changed in practice.

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