McChrystal's 40,000 Troop Hoax

It's a time-honored Washington tradition. If you want to bully the government into doing something unpopular and the public into accepting it, manufacture a false emergency. Iraq war? If you don't approve it, mushroom cloud. Banker or IMF bailout? If you don't approve it, financial collapse. Social security privatization? If you don't approve it, the system will go "bankrupt."Our brand is crisis, as James Carville might say.

General McChrystal says that if President Obama does not approve 40,000 more U.S. troops for Afghanistan, and approve them right away, "our mission" - whatever that is - will likely "fail" - whatever that is.

But even if President Obama were to approve General McChrystal's request, the 40,000 troops wouldn't arrive in time to significantly affect the 12-month window McChrystal says will be decisive. So McChrystal's request isn't about what's happening in Afghanistan right now. It's about how many troops the U.S. will have in Afghanistan a year from now and beyond.

There is no emergency requiring a quick decision by President Obama.

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WSJ OpEd: Proj. 22%+ Jobless, $9 T+ Nat'l Debt Increase w/update

(UPDATED: Transposed names, Reinhart and Rogoff, for attribution purposes per a request directly from Professor Rogoff's office at Harvard.)

University of Maryland Economics Professor Carmen Reinhart, along with former International Monetary Fund Chief Economist and Harvard University Economics Professor Kenneth Rogoff, have a very notable OpEd piece in today's Wall Street Journal entitled, "What Other Financial Crises Tell Us."

In a sentence they tell us that history dictates this is going to be a rather ugly and prolonged slump.

Perhaps more importantly, and while Reinhart and Rogoff don't say it directly, their historical reference infers that we may very well come close to equalling unemployment levels here in the U.S. that we haven't seen since 1932, at the height of the Great Depression.  (More about that in a moment.)

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Banks Shamefully Lie About Liquidity In Today's WSJ

One of the lead stories in today's Wall Street Journal is a totally contrived piece of crap, entitled: "Lending Drops at Big U.S. Banks."

In this story, the Wall Street Journal, being spoonfed spin from many of our nation's largest lending institutions, would have us believe (infer...imply...etc...whatever) that consumer liquidity in the marketplace only dropped 1.4% between Q3 '08 and Q4 '08.

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FISA News: Not What The Media Thinks

Recently, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review released a decision related to wiretapping - but outlets like the Wall Street Journal ed board either didn't read the decision or didn't care what it said (via Media Matters):

"Ever since the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program was exposed in 2005, critics have denounced it as illegal and unconstitutional. Those allegations rested solely on the fact that the Administration did not first get permission from the special court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA]. Well, as it happens, the same FISA court would beg to differ."

Wrong. The court's decision only examined wiretapping after the 2007 "Protect America Act," a bill passed specifically to bring the Bush Administration's program back under the law by amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The ruling is narrow - it did not rule on the legality of Bush's secret program from the point of its inception (likely 2002) until the PAA passed.

A little backstory:

Before the PAA, Bush had relied the Congressional war authorization to justify his expansion of Executive power (and to disregard the limits in FISA). But after the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling in 2006, this reliance on executive power became legally suspect (if only formally). Glenn Greenwald spotted the problem 2 1/2 years ago.

Which brings us to the PAA - a bill the administration pushed as a fix for their clearly illegal behavior. Congress, in effect, passed a law to make what Bush was doing legal.

So no news, really.

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Obama Will End Torture

It's not all that surprising, but apparently a recent Wall Street Journal article that said Obama is "unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies" was, well...wrong.

From Obama's interview on 60 Minutes last night, (via Thinkprogress):


   CBS: There are a number of different things you can do early on pertaining to executive orders.

   OBAMA: Right.

   CBS: One of them is to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops. Are those things that you plan to take early action on?

   OBAMA: Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world.

As Obama transitions from campaign to governance, there will be plenty of speculation about what he will or will not do as President. And often, stories will blindly cite "advisers" or "aides" as sources to confirm his intent. And while sometimes the stories will be accurate, this example certainly serves as a reminder that sometimes they won't be.

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