Guns and Butter

We are spending $2 Billion a week in Afghanistan. If you want to see zeros, that's $2,000,000,000.00 a week. It also means $104 Billion a year.

Meanwhile, we can't afford to keep our education budgets in functional condition. We can't reduce our National Debt. We can't bring down our operating deficit. And we are spending a fortune on foreign servicing (read China) of our debt.

There's more...

Global Updates: N. Korea, Kenya, Haiti, and More!

I haven't posted much on MyDD lately, due to summer jobs and other prior engagements, so I'm doing a double post today.  The first about the open letter to Palin was more of me exercising my frustration in world form.  This one actually has substance.  I hope you enjoy and get something out of it.

(Cross-posted on FDL Seminal)

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for awhile. With the large coverage of things inside the United States  at MyDD, I think its important to catch up on the rest of the world and where recent news breaks and situations begin.

Africa
First off we will start in Africa (and in case you haven’t figured out my trend thus far, one of my favorite stops). Kenya is very close to my heart, so I apologize if it bugs the readers here that I am mentioning it so frequently in the past few weeks. Kenya went through an incredible movement towards a more consummate democracy (at least I believe so) by ratifying the proposed Constitution that has been debated for close to a year now. The vote took place officially on August 4th and the official tally was compiled yesterday. The YES camp, those gunning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, came out on top by a very decisive vote tally.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end. I assure our brothers and sisters who voted against the proposed constitution that their voices have been heard. Let us all join hands together as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

President Kibaki

——————————————-

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts whether the dreams of the founders of our nation are still with us, who still questions our people’s thirst for a better country and democracy, who still questions whether Kenyans really want a break with the past, today we have the answer.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga

The official tally is YES: 6,092,593 (66.9%)
NO: 2,795,059 (30.1%)

Source: The Daily Nation

I believe that, although not anywhere near perfection, the new constitution will serve the people of Kenya well and help progress their country along a path towards a more constructive, fulfilling, and better functioning democracy

Middle-East
President Obama’s approval rating among Arabic people has declined a vast amount in just the past year. Al-Jazeera reports (with data from the Brookings Institution polls) that 62% of those polled have a negative view of the president, as opposed to 23% just a year ago. Could these numbers be prompted by President Obama’s lack of action with troop withdraw in Afghanistan and Iraq? One would assume it at least has an inkling of influence.

This year’s poll surveyed 3,976 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010.

Among the key poll findings are:
A substantial change in the assessment of President Obama, both as president of the United States and of Obama personally.
Remarkably stable views on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the prospects of its resolution.
A majority of the Arab public now see a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
Among other things, the poll also examined how Arabs score specific American policies in the past year, how they rank other countries across a number of variables, and how they prioritize attitudes toward social and religious issues.

ATTITUDES TOWARD OBAMA

Among the most striking findings on the question of attitudes toward President Obama: Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.

As shown from the Brookings Institution data, optimism over American Policy in the Middle East has dropped unfortunately. Its interesting data, for me personally and for the a lot of others I’m assuming, because one of the hopes Obama perpetuated was "pressing the reset button" on foreign policy (I believe that is a Biden quote however)

With Healthcare Reform, Wall-Street issues, and other domestic concerns.. Obama’s time has been consumed to the fullest. Balancing his presidency is a tedious and difficult task of delegating and managing a cornucopia of problems, issues, and other concerns. Al-Jazeera also mentioned another issue Middle-Eastern people polled had with the president:

The precipitous decline in Obama’s popularity, though expected by many Middle East analysts and already documented in a Pew survey of global opinion,has naturally captured the headlines,given the president’s promise to pursue rapprochement with Arabs and Muslims during his campaign and the early months of his presidency.

Arabs’ attitudes toward US foreign policy have turned negative even more rapidly than their opinion of Obama himself.

Source: Al-Jazeera

North/Central America

Haiti has seen better days, I think that goes without saying. The destruction and devastation of the recent earthquake has left the already struggling country in a pit of even bigger despair amongst the valley of the shadow of economic death. A shroud of darkness covers the tattered remains of the country, and guidance is a key issue at this point in their existence as a state.

Popular Record Producer and Recording Artist Wyclef Jean has confirmed his interest in running for the Haitian Presidency. Jean’s response the the quake in the beginning stages was very evident and his passion for his home country has been seen in the wake of disaster.

The Haitian-born singer-songwriter has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he will run for president. For the past five years he has been increasing his engagement with Haiti having left the country when he was nine years old

Source: The Guardian

South America
Venezuelan/Columbian relations improve as Hugo Chavez extends a welcoming hand to Columbia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos. Bitter relations have accompanied the two countries as of recent.

CARACAS Aug 6 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Friday his foreign minister is likely to attend the inauguration of Colombia’s incoming President Juan Manuel Santos, signaling a thaw in ties between the Andean neighbors.

Chavez severed relations with Colombia last month after the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe accused him of turning a blind eye to leftist rebel camps on his territory.

Though Chavez is not expected at Saturday’s ceremony, he has made clear he hopes for better ties with Santos.

Source: Reuters Africa

East Asia
Secretary Clinton has had it up to here with North Korea North Korea, more accurately Kim Jong-Il, has been a pain in the rear for the United States for quite some time. Kim Jong-Il’s cognac benders, gulag appointments, and overall schmuck-like attitude has been something of constant concern… yet set on the backburner in order to pursue more serious matters. Newer sanctions are expected to be instated against North Korea, who is probably coming close to (if not setting) the world record for most sanctions against one country… if any such record exists

In response to the threats made by North korea, Clinton said last Wednesday that US intends to impose new sanctions as a penalty for the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan that killed 46 sailors last March. These sanctions are also meant to suppress any nuclear plans the country might have.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided and malign priorities of their government," Clinton said while touring the Demilitarized Zone separating the North from South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates early this week.

Source: Illume Magazine

I hope you folks have enjoyed this brief dive into a few more international situations happening around the world. I’ll try to do this semi-frequently if its well-received.

 

Global Updates: N. Korea, Kenya, Haiti, and More!

I haven't posted much on MyDD lately, due to summer jobs and other prior engagements, so I'm doing a double post today.  The first about the open letter to Palin was more of me exercising my frustration in world form.  This one actually has substance.  I hope you enjoy and get something out of it.

(Cross-posted on FDL Seminal)

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for awhile. With the large coverage of things inside the United States  at MyDD, I think its important to catch up on the rest of the world and where recent news breaks and situations begin.

Africa
First off we will start in Africa (and in case you haven’t figured out my trend thus far, one of my favorite stops). Kenya is very close to my heart, so I apologize if it bugs the readers here that I am mentioning it so frequently in the past few weeks. Kenya went through an incredible movement towards a more consummate democracy (at least I believe so) by ratifying the proposed Constitution that has been debated for close to a year now. The vote took place officially on August 4th and the official tally was compiled yesterday. The YES camp, those gunning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, came out on top by a very decisive vote tally.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end. I assure our brothers and sisters who voted against the proposed constitution that their voices have been heard. Let us all join hands together as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

President Kibaki

——————————————-

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts whether the dreams of the founders of our nation are still with us, who still questions our people’s thirst for a better country and democracy, who still questions whether Kenyans really want a break with the past, today we have the answer.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga

The official tally is YES: 6,092,593 (66.9%)
NO: 2,795,059 (30.1%)

Source: The Daily Nation

I believe that, although not anywhere near perfection, the new constitution will serve the people of Kenya well and help progress their country along a path towards a more constructive, fulfilling, and better functioning democracy

Middle-East
President Obama’s approval rating among Arabic people has declined a vast amount in just the past year. Al-Jazeera reports (with data from the Brookings Institution polls) that 62% of those polled have a negative view of the president, as opposed to 23% just a year ago. Could these numbers be prompted by President Obama’s lack of action with troop withdraw in Afghanistan and Iraq? One would assume it at least has an inkling of influence.

This year’s poll surveyed 3,976 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010.

Among the key poll findings are:
A substantial change in the assessment of President Obama, both as president of the United States and of Obama personally.
Remarkably stable views on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the prospects of its resolution.
A majority of the Arab public now see a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
Among other things, the poll also examined how Arabs score specific American policies in the past year, how they rank other countries across a number of variables, and how they prioritize attitudes toward social and religious issues.

ATTITUDES TOWARD OBAMA

Among the most striking findings on the question of attitudes toward President Obama: Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.

As shown from the Brookings Institution data, optimism over American Policy in the Middle East has dropped unfortunately. Its interesting data, for me personally and for the a lot of others I’m assuming, because one of the hopes Obama perpetuated was "pressing the reset button" on foreign policy (I believe that is a Biden quote however)

With Healthcare Reform, Wall-Street issues, and other domestic concerns.. Obama’s time has been consumed to the fullest. Balancing his presidency is a tedious and difficult task of delegating and managing a cornucopia of problems, issues, and other concerns. Al-Jazeera also mentioned another issue Middle-Eastern people polled had with the president:

The precipitous decline in Obama’s popularity, though expected by many Middle East analysts and already documented in a Pew survey of global opinion,has naturally captured the headlines,given the president’s promise to pursue rapprochement with Arabs and Muslims during his campaign and the early months of his presidency.

Arabs’ attitudes toward US foreign policy have turned negative even more rapidly than their opinion of Obama himself.

Source: Al-Jazeera

North/Central America

Haiti has seen better days, I think that goes without saying. The destruction and devastation of the recent earthquake has left the already struggling country in a pit of even bigger despair amongst the valley of the shadow of economic death. A shroud of darkness covers the tattered remains of the country, and guidance is a key issue at this point in their existence as a state.

Popular Record Producer and Recording Artist Wyclef Jean has confirmed his interest in running for the Haitian Presidency. Jean’s response the the quake in the beginning stages was very evident and his passion for his home country has been seen in the wake of disaster.

The Haitian-born singer-songwriter has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he will run for president. For the past five years he has been increasing his engagement with Haiti having left the country when he was nine years old

Source: The Guardian

South America
Venezuelan/Columbian relations improve as Hugo Chavez extends a welcoming hand to Columbia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos. Bitter relations have accompanied the two countries as of recent.

CARACAS Aug 6 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Friday his foreign minister is likely to attend the inauguration of Colombia’s incoming President Juan Manuel Santos, signaling a thaw in ties between the Andean neighbors.

Chavez severed relations with Colombia last month after the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe accused him of turning a blind eye to leftist rebel camps on his territory.

Though Chavez is not expected at Saturday’s ceremony, he has made clear he hopes for better ties with Santos.

Source: Reuters Africa

East Asia
Secretary Clinton has had it up to here with North Korea North Korea, more accurately Kim Jong-Il, has been a pain in the rear for the United States for quite some time. Kim Jong-Il’s cognac benders, gulag appointments, and overall schmuck-like attitude has been something of constant concern… yet set on the backburner in order to pursue more serious matters. Newer sanctions are expected to be instated against North Korea, who is probably coming close to (if not setting) the world record for most sanctions against one country… if any such record exists

In response to the threats made by North korea, Clinton said last Wednesday that US intends to impose new sanctions as a penalty for the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan that killed 46 sailors last March. These sanctions are also meant to suppress any nuclear plans the country might have.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided and malign priorities of their government," Clinton said while touring the Demilitarized Zone separating the North from South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates early this week.

Source: Illume Magazine

I hope you folks have enjoyed this brief dive into a few more international situations happening around the world. I’ll try to do this semi-frequently if its well-received.

 

MyDD Weekend Reader

Some longer reads for your perusal this weekend.

Obesity on the Rise
Nearly 2.5 million more US residents were obese in 2009 than in 2007, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (pdf) In total, 72.5 million Americans are obese, or 26.7 percent of the population.

Obesity rates exceeded the 30 percent mark in nine states — Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia — compared to only three states in 2007. In 2000 no state had a rate of 30 percent or more. In 1991, no state exceeded 20 percent. Mississippi remains the state with the highest level of obesity, 34 percent. It's a dubious honor the Magnolia state has held since 2004. The correlation of obesity with the poorest states is striking, the poorest five all have high rates of obesity: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama.

Obesity rates varied according to several factors, including age and ethnicity. People who were 50 years old or older had higher obesity rates than those under 30. The highest rate was found in “non-Hispanic black women” (41.9 percent). Overall, “non-Hispanic blacks” had a rate of 36.8 percent, and Hispanics had a rate of 30.7 percent. Rates also fluctuated across education levels. People with college educations were the least likely to be obese — the rate among men in this category was 22.9 percent, and for women it was 19.8 percent. Colorado and surprisingly the District of Columbia were the least obese, each had rates of under 20 percent.

The CDC cautions that the obesity problem is likely even larger than these numbers suggest because the report is based on self-reported data from a 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS) of 400,000 people conducted by phone.

“Obesity continues to be a major public health problem,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in the press release. “We need intensive, comprehensive and ongoing efforts to address obesity. If we don’t more people will get sick and die from obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of death.”

And obesity is a costly proposition. The CDC estimates that the cost of being fat tops $150 billion a year from obesity-related illnesses. On average, obese people have $1,500 more in annual medical expenses.

Tariq Aziz Interview in The Guardian
In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Tariq Aziz, the long time aide to Saddam Hussein who served in various capacities now serving a 15 year prison sentence, implores the Obama Administration not to leave "Iraq to the wolves." Aziz, an Iraqi Christian, talks of the deal he struck with the invading American force in 2003 in which he traded his freedom for his family's safety. While he does not complain about his confinement, he uses the interview to plead for the US to remain involved in Iraq.

Americans, by and large, confined Iraq to the rear view mirror long ago. To a degree, however, Colin Powell's Pottery Barn dictum still applies: we broke it, we own it. The bitter reality is that the country remains a mess with a fractious political climate. As Aziz notes, "when you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death." It's sad for Iraq is not just an expensive military failure but a moral failure.

Iraq is only seen as stable and tranquil when compared to the situation pre-the-2007 surge but that's hardly the appropriate standard for comparison. While security and services such as water, electricity, health care and education have improved, longer-term prospects remain uncertain and Iraq remains a shadow of its former self. In the end, Iraq is likely to either go one of three paths:

  • A complete partition into a Kurdish north, a Shiite south and a rump Sunni state around Baghdad either as a loose confederation or as independent states.

  • A strongman emerges to bend the country to his will. Perhaps the Dawa-led State of Law coalition of Nouri al Malaki will manage to consolidate its power bringing order through the establishment of hard-line Dawaist state that effectively replaces the former Sunni/Christian Arab nationalist Baathist state for a Shiite state aligned with Iran. Then again the possibility of a return by the Baathists cannot be discounted. 

  • The current political impasse continues. Despite the country's Election Commission confirming that Iyad Allawi, a Shiite former premier, was the March 7 election's narrow victor, Iraq's political parties are still arguing over which of them has the right to try to form a government. At the heart of this potentially damaging impasse is the rivalry between Allawi and incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki. Allawi's Iraqiya coalition narrowly beat the Shiite bloc formed from a merger between al Maliki's Shiite-led State of Law party and the Iran-friendly Iraqi National Alliance into second place in the election, but the prime minister is continuing to fight for a second term in charge.

Iraq remains as George Washington University Professor Mark Lynch describes it: "Iraq is a political house of cards. There are so many unresolved issues and the risk of this house of cards collapsing is really quite high."

Though we are again declaring Iraq to be a "mission accomplished," we will continue to have 50,000 troops there indefinitely amidst a situation that can be best described as controlled chaos. The likelihood that Iraq could again descend into an outright sectarian civil war cannot be discounted though in the near-term Iraq will probably limp from crisis to crisis.

Beyond the 50,000 troops ostensibly there to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts, the US plans to maintain 5,000 diplomats and civilian advisers working with the Iraqi government and nonprofit groups. To protect our vice regal cadre of bureaucrats, the State Department plans on hiring as many 7,000 contract security personnel to provide protection as the U.S. military departs.

Nor is the money hole that is Iraq plugged. The State Department has put in a request for more than $800 million to start a police mentoring and training program with 350 advisers.

For those interested in reading more on the current political situation in Iraq, Joost Hitlermann's piece Iraq: The Impasse in the New York Review of Books is strongly recommended.

The Job Gap
The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution has a monthly series looking at the developing "job gap." This month, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney have a post titled The Long Road Back to Full Employment: How the Great Recession Compares to Previous U.S. Recessions. After analyzing yesterday's tepid employment numbers, they find that the job gap stands at 11.6 million jobs—an increase of 300,000 from last month’s 11.3 million job gap.

The U.S. economy will need more robust growth to close this gap. If future job creation reaches about 208,000 jobs per month, the average monthly job creation for the best year for job creation in the 2000s, it will take almost 140 months (about 11.5 years) to reach pre-recession employment levels. In a more optimistic scenario with 321,000 jobs created per month, the average monthly job creation for the best year in the 1990s, it will take 59 months (almost 5 years).

Rep. Rogers: We Should Have Considered Executing Daniel Ellsberg

We had Congressman Mike Rogers on MSNBC today regarding his controversial comments calling for capital punishment of Pvt. Manning, who is charged with releasing classified information to Wikileaks.

Rep. Rogers was very clear and re-iterated his call for execution of Bradley Manning if he is convicted of the charges because he believes they are tanamount to treason.

But he went further when I asked him what he would have done with Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He said he wasn't clear on the facts of that case, but if Ellsberg had released information that put soldiers in the field at risk that he would have "absolutely" callled for his execution. I don't think even Nixon went that far.


I've actually said before that I understand why the military has to arrest and punish leakers like Pvt. Manning. As much as those leaks added clarity to the kind of wars we've conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can understand why the military can't have privates making that decision on their own. However, I do think there is an option between not doing anything and executing him.

And what would happen if we held other leakers like Scooter Libby, Bob Novak and Karl Rove to Congressman Rogers' standard? Eventually, all three admitted that they released the name of a secret operative to the press when they outed Valerie Plame (they claimed they didn't know how secret her role was and eventually there was no trial on the substance because Scooter Libby obstructed the investigation -- and was convicted for doing so). Leaking her identity could have gotten her and her contacts in the field killed. Should Libby, Novak and Rove been tried for treason and executed?

Finally, it also seems pretty clear that someone close to Gen. McChrystal leaked his plan for Afghanistan before President Obama made his decision on escalation (this was before the on-the-record interviews with Rolling Stone). Should we find who that guy is and hang him, too? What if it was Gen. McChrystal himself? And how come Republicans weren't calling for executions during all of those leaks?

It turns out that things get pretty messy once you start calling for executions. Let's take a deep breath and figure out what the real solution is to a whistleblower that reveals important information that the public has a right to know but violates clear military rules to do so. That's a complicated question and one that doesn't get solved by killing anyone.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks
Become a Fan of The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads