2012/02/26

Sorta, kinda half-true

President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right’s image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left’s image of W. was.
Maureen Dowd 26Feb2012

Is this a true statement? Sort of. We progressives felt Bush was a war criminal:

The Nuremberg Tribunal declared that “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

and that his work on the economy places him comfortably within the list of the five worst Presidents America has ever had.

The administration crows that the economy grew—by some 16 percent—during its first six years, but the growth helped mainly people who had no need of any help, and failed to help those who need plenty. A rising tide lifted all yachts. Inequality is now widening in America, and at a rate not seen in three-quarters of a century.

Allowing an American city to be flooded was absolutely inexcusable (Selected items from timeline):

Friday, August 26

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA [Office of the Governor]

Sunday, August 28

AFTERNOON — BUSH, BROWN, CHERTOFF WARNED OF LEVEE FAILURE BY NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR...

Monday, August 29

7:30 AM CDT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION NOTIFIED OF THE LEVEE BREACH...

MORNING — BUSH SHARES BIRTHDAY CAKE PHOTO-OP WITH SEN. JOHN MCCAIN [White House]

Tuesday, August 30

MASS LOOTING REPORTED, SECURITY SHORTAGE CITED...

2PM CDT — PRESIDENT BUSH PLAYS GUITAR WITH COUNTRY SINGER MARK WILLIS [AP]

Wednesday, August 31

PRESIDENT BUSH FINALLY ORGANIZES TASK FORCE TO COORDINATE FEDERAL RESPONSE...

And those are just the "highlights" of Bush's disastrous eight years. Now, Dowd sorta, kinda redeems her statement with her second sentence by pointing out that the right wing's view of Obama is much less reality-based than the left's view of Bush ever was. Birther stories, anyone?

As should be apparent to anyone with half a brain, the whole Birther bs is code for: President Obama is illegitimate.
By which Birthers mean either he’s black;  he’s a liberal;  or he’s not the guy I voted for. Or more likely, a combination of all three.

Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate was well-timed to deflate Donald Trump's budding presidential campaign.

No, sorry, but to compare progressive's "Bush Derangement Syndrome" with right-wing "Obama Derangement Syndrome" is an example of the traditional media's love for "false equivalence."


2012/02/21

Women in the military vs being anti-war


We in the UFPJ-DVN are peaceniks, we think peaceful methods of resolving disagreements should always be our nation's first resort. We think resorts to military force should be way down the list of acceptable responses to these disagreements. That said, how do we view women serving in our armed forces? Liz Trotta of Fox News feels that women should not be serving in the military at all. She feels that for male soldiers to rape their female fellow soldiers, their comrades-in-arms, is not so much an acceptable thing to do as it is an inevitable result of males living in close quarters with each other and of needing to be brutal towards the bad guys, the nation's enemies.

Trotta was condemned for expressing this view, but she decided to double down on it anyway. Is the military being used as, in Trotta's words, “a social services operation or a testing ground for gender wars” or is it and should it be “a fighting machine”? Trotta's reasoning, in her defense of keeping women out of the military, is that the mission of the military must come first and that allowing females to serve alongside males is partially based on the (rather obsolete) idea that success in war depends on the physical strength of the combatants.

How critical is it that combatants be physically capable? I was told a rather amusing story when I was back in the Navy, a small group of sailors was listening to an officer (Not sure whether he was from the Army or the Marines) who tried to get them all motivated and bloodthirsty towards the enemy of the day (This was during the Clinton Administration, so not really sure who the enemy of the day was) and said “You guys are killers!” My fellow sailors gave the officer the outward appearance of agreement, but thought to themselves “Yeah, we kill. We push a button and ten miles away something blows up. But no, we don't go around sticking bayonets into bad guys and getting their blood all over our uniforms. Yeah, technically, we're killers, but not in the sense like this officer is relating to us.”

The Army and the Marines are indeed close-up killers, who take on the enemy in a hand-to-hand manner, but the Navy and the Air Force are more technical services who mostly do their fighting at a distance. Back in Roman times, every single person on the field engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Nobody was in a separate supply corps because soldiers foraged for their food each night, taking meals from either the woods and forests or from the civilian population. By the time of the America Civil War, military units were beginning to develop a long “tail,” a supply line that stretched back to the home front that carried not only ammunition, but food, uniform items and other necessities.

It simply isn't necessary for everyone who wear a military uniform to be a physically strong, hand-to-hand-combat-capable male. That's why it's entirely possible to have females serve alongside males without any loss of combat effectiveness. Can females serve in an actual combat capacity? Well, they did just that in Iraq and are doing so in Afghanistan, where they aren't formally part of combat units but there are no real, formal front lines there anyway, so their official status as combatants or non-combatants isn't terribly relevant. Mibazaar list all current female casualties of the Iraq War and it says that as of February 2012, there are 102 of them. As of December 2011, another site lists 45 female casualties in Afghanistan.

Who's to “blame” for females serving alongside males in combat? Liz Trotta blames feminists, I blame the people who first developed artillery pieces in China (1132) and who then introduced them to Europe (1415). With the move away from swords and spears to artillery and then hand-held rifles, combat was no longer the exclusive province of the rough, tough guys who could engage in hand-to-hand combat.

So, why do females and gays and other minorities wish to take part in the military and/or combat? What's in it for them? Well, blacks during the Civil War recognized that if they were to take an active role in helping to free their brothers and sisters who were still in bondage in the Southern states, then they would have a moral claim to a dignified and respected citizenship in the society that would follow. In the Reconstruction period, this theory wasn't always observed or adhered to, but they sure gave it a good try.

Central to Reconstruction was the effort of former slaves to breathe full meaning into their newly acquired freedom, and to claim their rights as citizens. Rather than passive victims of the actions of others, African Americans were active agents in shaping Reconstruction.

Seems pretty obvious to me that females and gays are building on the example of African-Americans to gain full citizenship and, contrary to Trotta's assertions, it's far from clear that US military effectiveness has to be sacrificed as a result. I've collected a number of pieces at the United for Peace & Justice - Delaware Valley Network - Education Committee page under the tag of “Military Rape,” which heartbreakingly, details the struggle that our military sisters are having to wage in order to gain full citizenship.


Postscript: Interestingly, Trotta agrees with the lefties who claimed back in 2003 that PFC Jessica Lynch was in no real danger after being taken into custody by the Iraqi army, that she was being medically cared for by humane and dedicated Iraqi doctors. In contrast to the early, melodramatic incarnation of the Lynch story, the leftist Guardian of Britain covered the revised view of the story in May 2003. ABC News followed along in June of that year. Lynch herself gave formal testimony in February 2009. Of course, in April 2003, a few days after the event in question, the Toronto Star was noting archly that the Lynch story was a propaganda victory, an

...archetypal, blonde-in-peril, made-for-TV movie coming to a ratings sweeps period near you. (And doesn't Saddam Hussein make the perfect Oil Can Harry, tying the pure-hearted heroine to the railroad tracks?)

Trotta's view that Lynch was presented as a feminist archetype, as a capable, kick-ass female heroine was something that I'm quite, certain no one thought of at the time. A woman getting captured by sinister bad guys and rescued by “elite teams of hunky U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Navy SEALs” is hardly the stuff of feminist propaganda, but rather the stuff of Karl Rove's public-distracting PR machine and that of other propagandists going way, way back in history. We lefties thought the main purpose of the story was to distract from the non-existent WMDs and the fearful toll in blood that was being spilled for no good reason. In that, the Lynch story served its purpose.

2012/02/18

The "joke" from Rick Santorum's funder

Okay, okay, after pondering the question for a bit, I now understand that Rick Santorum's billionaire funder who suggested that women could simply place as aspirin between their legs as a method of contraception was joking and that he was suggesting pure abstinence as a way to make any real form of contraception irrelevant. The reason that literal-minded people like myself said “I don't get it. What's the joke?” is that abstinence-only educational programs have proven to be utterly ineffective in delaying sexual intercourse among adolescents.

Santorum said on February 17th that: "I've also supported abstinence-based education, because I believe that is a healthier alternative. I have been a very strong promoter of that.” The study I provided a link to above agrees that abstinence is the first best strategy for preventing not just pregnancy, but a host of other complications. Problem is, it is by no means sufficient all by itself to really accomplish much of anything. The Federal Government has been providing funding for abstinence-only programs since 1982 and has spent many tens of millions of dollars on it per year. All that money though, is money that might as well have been tossed down the sewer or dumped into a landfill for all the good it did.

Santorum's angry reaction, that "It was a bad joke. It was a stupid joke. It is not reflective of me or my record on this issue," may be entirely true, but as Foster Friess provides a very major chunk of Santorum's campaign funding, it's hardly irrelevant what the 71-year-old billionaire thinks.

Update: In the video conversation with Lawrence O'Donnell, Foster Friess tries to compare Roman Catholic hospitals being made to provide abortions and other pregnancy-related services to female patients and a Muslim-owned restaurant being forced to provide pork to its customers. Problem: Pregnancy-related services are a great deal more difficult to obtain than pork and are a great deal more expensive. Let's say a woman is taken to an emergency room after being raped. She knows that the rapist climaxed while inside of her and that the calendar says it's "that time of the month." If the hospital does not promptly provide birth control services, she could very well end up pregnant. Yes, in theory, in a perfect world where everybody is completely mindful and perfectly capable and has the necessary money, she could shop around by telephone and get herself transferred to another hospital where that service would be taken care of, but why on earth would people force a rape victim to jump through those kinds of hoops? Sorry, but if Catholic hospitals don't wish to provide those services, they shouldn't be in the hospital business to start with.

Motivated! Dedicated!

From page 300 of The Great Game. In 1860, a Russian officer completes his mission in China and jumps on his horse:


Six weeks after leaving Peking (Nowadays called Beijing), Ignatiev arrived in St. Petersburg (About 5150 miles or 122 miles a day). Once again he had ridden the whole way across Asia, this time in the middle of winter. After his filthy clothes, crawling with lice and fleas, had been removed and burned, he was summoned to report to the Tsar at the Winter Palace.

And, not surprisingly after his diplomatic feat in China as well as that heroic feat of travel

There, in recognition of his remarkable services to his country, he was awarded the coveted Order of St. Vladimir by the delighted Alexander.

Sounds like a highly deserved reward! In the Navy, we'd call that

Motivated!
Dedicated!
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Supernatural: "Heart"

Watched "Heart." Sam Winchester is a character that isn't lucky with the ladies at all while his brother Dean usually has no trouble hooking up with them. Sam meets a nice and attractive woman and the two of them hit it off. Wouldn't ya know it? She turns out to be a werewolf! Yeesh! Ain't that always the way? And no, there's no cure for being one of those, so Sam is very unhappy with the way he has to end their all-too-brief affair.

2012/02/08

The Housing Crisis - updated

When Congress was debating G.W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of American citizens (Allegedly, he and his people were just monitoring al Qaeda, but there's never been any formal, credible confirmation of that), US telecommunications companies made it quite clear that they didn't wish to be held accountable for anything they did. Congress was very accommodating and failed to apply what we quaintly term the “Rule of Law.” Apparently, the same general rule applies to banks and their mortgages and their wrongdoing vis-a-vis homeowners.

Bank executives argue that New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is using the lawsuit to go after claims already covered under the settlement

The NY AG Eric Schneiderman is the fellow who has distinguished himself as the hero of the foreclosure crisis that has already resulted in several million homeowners losing their dwellings. The chart at the Calculated Risk blog, the “Total Delinquent and Foreclosure Percent by Month” shows that foreclosures held steady at under 5% per month until around mid-2006 and then stopped rising at the end of 2010 at a little under 11% per month. The drop in foreclosures at that point was not due to a greater rate of compliance and solvency among homeowners, “Foreclosures were in full delay mode in 2011,” which means that “only” 804,000 homes were repossessed and “foreclosure filings jumped 21 percent in the third quarter of 2011,” meaning that banks are cleaning up their procedures and clearing their decks for many, many more foreclosures.

The problem, as far as the mega-banks (Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo) are concerned, is that they thought they had a 50-state settlement negotiation in place that would wipe the books clean with a minimal slap-on-the-wrist fine for them ($25 billion) and continued or slightly altered foreclosure mills for homeowners. But in August 2011, Schneiderman made it clear that there was far too much illegality and far too many questions as to why homeowners were being foreclosed upon to just blindly continue, so he began pursuing criminal charges against the banks.

Initially, homeowners at risk of foreclosure and activist groups representing them were wary that President Obama was going to neutralize Schneiderman by appointing him to the state/federal task force on securitization and origination issues, but thankfully, Schneiderman and the California Attorney General Kamela Harris agreed that the offered settlement was inadequate.

In exchange [for the $25 billion settlement], attorneys general would agree to release the banks from further action related to the improper servicing of loans as well as claims against originating mortgages. Several attorneys general, including New York's Eric Schneiderman and California's Harris, have voiced concerns that those releases are overly broad and would preclude them from carrying out ongoing investigations.

Prospects for serious homeowner relief are looking good and it appears that that ol' quaint “Rule of Law” just might prevail in the end, not because of any action at the Federal level, but because the state attorneys general have been doing their jobs and looking out for citizens and homeowners.

Update:
Well, the settlement is complete and the Attorneys General failed American citizens by agreeing to a truly horrible deal.
As former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Kouril said on FDL this morning, “The court system will be permanently corrupted by forged and perjurious documents…This settlement is an incredible breach of the social contract between the government and the governed.”

2012/02/05

So, how's the anti-war movement doing?

With the down-shifting of the Iraq War into a period not unlike that of the Vietnam War from "Vietnamization" and the pull-out of US combat troops in 1973, Iraq has grown a good deal quieter and has largely slipped off of the US cultural radar screen. The Iraq War brought the anti-war movement back into the streets and back into the public eye. But as there was never any threat of a draft, the youth of America were never mobilized as they were back in the 60s.
Although I would truly love to say that there has been a lot of intellectual back and forth and discussion in the anti-war movement, anyone who really wanted to get their teeth into a real discussion soon ran up against the fact that the justifications given for invading Iraq were transparently bad and didn't really stand up to any serious examinations.
Unlike the Vietnam War with its' "Domino Theory," there was no clear and compelling reason for the US to be fighting in Iraq once the WMD reason had been disposed of (The movie Fair Game concentrates on being an entertaining film, but it's quite clear from the narrative of the film that the WMD excuse was bogus and that the Bush Administration knowingly, consciously and deliberately put out bad information). The belief among the opponents of the war that either  the Bush Administration was seeking Iraq's oil or that it had messianic ambitions to remake the Middle East (In July 2010, The Guardian had a good discussion of the possible motivations behind Britain's joining in) served to explain to the public why the US invaded and then remained in Iraq, but the relative absence of any coherent, publicly-announced reasoning behind sticking with the war after the WMD reason fell apart made the severe splits within American families and the heated anti-communist-inspired arguments of the Vietnam War moot.
So the essential problem that the anti-war movement faced in making its case to the American people was not so much that The Establishment was making intellectually challenging justifications for the war, but that anti-war spokespeople were not in any position to get their message out. For many years, we tried large street demonstrations, marches, vigils, rallies, even an occupation of Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia.
Of course, Indymedia has been enormously helpful to the cause for the past decade. In just the past month or so, taking a look at the Newswire of PhillyIMC, the anti-war movement has been documenting quite a few activities and reporting on a number of upcoming and potential problems. Frequent IMC contributor Stephen Lendman detailed various aggressive US moves against Iran. The radio show Between the Lines looked at the terrorist assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and the Socialist Party USA presidential candidate Stewart Alexander called upon the US to stop threatening Iran. A member of several anti-war groups, Rich Gardner, looked at why the US appears to be suffering a "pyrrhic victory" in Afghanistan, not because the US is suffering disastrous casualties there, but because the war requires resources that the US simply can't assign to that theater (The US Government now apparently agrees, as "the US is [currently] treating the Taliban as a political force and a political stakeholder"). Finally, the Filipino Citizens Action Party, feeling that the Philippines are being squeezed between the US and China, is calling on both of them to resolve their differences peacefully.
The fight to keep America informed continues! Looking forward, United for Peace and Justice will conduct a meet & greet on Friday, February 24th at the Mexican Post, 1601 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 at 5:00pm as the kickoff to several days of meetings. Also, the United National Antiwar Coalition will be holding their National Conference starting Friday, March 23rd at 4:00pm at the Hilton Hotel in Stamford, CT.

improved and updated with editorial assistance from fellow IMCer Amy Dalton

2012/02/04

Two reactions to a Kathleen Parker piece

Kathleen Parker has a piece up about abortion fights taking place. In the first, she claims that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity has the right to stop giving Planned Parenthood $680,000 a year. That's absolutely correct. Komen is a private organization and does indeed have that right. Yes, "given the rabid response from abortion-rights supporters, you’d think that Brinker and her organization were running puppy mills for soup vendors." That's true, because Komen executive made their decision for blatantly political reasons and then tried lying and dissembling and fudging about it. Komen decided to dive into the pool of a heated and divisive political issue and then acted surprised when the people on the other side of that issue started yelling about it.

Parker suggests: "Don’t like it? Don’t run in Komen’s fundraising races. Don’t buy a pink blender. Give directly to Planned Parenthood." What's Parkers' problem? That's precisely what lefty critics have done. No one has threatened to launch any sort of legal action, no one has threatened to burn down their buildings and no one has been beating up or assassinating Komen personnel. Critics have indeed loudly protested Komen's decision, but that's just as much our right as it is Komens' right to decide how to allocate their cash. Parker's complaints about "Coercion and intimidation" are just so much hyperbole. I'm not at all clear on where critics have gone overboard in their reaction to Komen's very bad decision and what Parker thinks the correct response should have been.

BTW, I think it's absolutely hilarious that the Bush Administration spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, is connected to the Komen story. "Fleischer personally interviewed candidates for the position of 'Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations' at Komen last December." Very tellingly, "Fleischer drilled prospective candidates during their interviews on how they would handle the controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood," meaning that, no, the decision to cut off Planned Parenthood was made several months ago and they thought up the whole BS "if you're involved in an investigation" story as a very deliberate way to single out PP for getting cut off. The hilarious part is that "Whu-u-uh?!?! A former Bush Administration official made a clumsy and stupid PR move?!?! Na-a-a-ahh!"I mean, gee, those guys were so nimble and light on their feet when it came to PR [/snark].

The second part is that Parker is upset that Roman Catholic hospitals are being told to "provide health insurance that covers contraception, including in some cases abortifacient drugs." She and the Roman Catholic hierarchy feel that this constitutes an infringement on Catholic religious liberty and she and they also fear that "these requirements are the edge of the wedge." Sorry, I have absolutely zero sympathy for her arguments.

Back when I was in the Navy, Muslims who wanted to get military ID cards for their wives wanted to get them with their wives' faces veiled. We said no. We were willing to have the ID photo taken by a female, with no males nearby to see the wifes' unveiled face, but we were not willing to take a photo of a veiled face for an ID card. The military needed to be absolutely certain that the person holding an ID card was indeed the person they said they were. The religious desires of devout Muslims were incompatible with our military needs, so their religous desires took second place. Some devout Native Americans want to smoke peyote as part of their religious rites. As they were doing so long before white, Anglo-Saxon settlers occupied their land, the usual classification of peyote as a "controlled substance in Schedule I" is lifted, but it's lifted specifically for Native Americans so that they can continue their religious practices uninterrupted.

In both cases, the law and what the Federal Government needs, trumps the law of religious freedom and liberty. If Catholics don't like providing women with the means to control their wombs, then they can sell off their hospitals to private entrepreneurs who are willing to abide by the national law. If Catholics who practice medicine within those hospitals don't like it, they can go to another country or they can find another occupation. Under no circumstances does religious liberty take precedence over a woman's Constitutional rights.

Update: What Digby said.