November 19, 2013 archive

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While you are distracted by the ACA

In Afghanistan: ‘Security Deal’ Means US Occupation Forever

Sarah Lazare, staff writer Common Dreams

Published on Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Days before the so-called bi-lateral security agreement heads to an Afghan council of elders and political leaders for a final decision, the U.S. is attempting to force through a stipulation that would allow U.S. troops to continue raiding Afghan homes, in addition to measures giving U.S. troops and contractors immunity from Afghan law and extending U.S. military presence far beyond Obama’s 2014 pullout date.

The U.S. is pushing for the right to enter Afghan homes over the apparent objection of Afghan negotiators. “We believe it is not only the violation of the Afghan sovereignty, but also of the basic rights of the Afghan people,” said President Hamid Karzai’s spokesperson Aimal Faizi on Monday, referencing the U.S. demand to be allowed to enter Afghan homes.

This latest sticking point comes after attempts on the part of U.S. negotiators to ram through immunity for U.S. troops and independent contractors from Afghan law. According to (t)he Washington Post, the U.S. appears to have succeeded in including this immunity in an accord reached Saturday.

The Washington Post reports that a draft text of the agreement does not specify how many U.S. troops will be allowed to remain in Afghanistan, giving the U.S. unilateral power to determine this number. Furthermore, the document does not prohibit the U.S. from using Afghan territory to launch drone strikes against nearby Pakistan.

Leaked Draft Points To Endless War In Afghanistan

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Tuesday November 19, 2013 10:42 am

Despite constant public promises by President Obama and his administration that US forces were leaving Afghanistan in 2014 a draft of a US-Afghan security deal details plans for endless war in Afghanistan. Support for the war in Afghanistan is non-existent among the American public which rightly sees it as a waste of blood and treasure. The only ones benefiting at this point are opium dealers in Kabul and war profiteers in Washington.

This draft stands in stark contrast to public commitments Obama made to the American people wherein he declared “as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”

15,000 American troops indefinitely? That is the Afghans taking “full responsibility?” And how much will that cost since President Obama keeps searching for a Grand Bargain to cut even more spending on the backs of seniors and the poor. Currently the Afghanistan War is costing $1.7 billion a week – it’s the age of austerity for everything but pointless wars.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Obama Administration’s lack of imagination is only surpassed by its dishonesty. A war that is pointless even by American imperial standards will seemingly go on forever until strong enough opposition can be mustered here at home to stop this senseless killing and profligate spending.

The loya jirga which must ratify this agreement starts meeting on Thursday.  Hamid Karzai has indicated he will lobby in favor of immunity for US Troops and CIA and DOD Mercenaries but is unalterably opposed to allowing random home invasions.

On This Day In History November 19

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 19 is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 42 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address.

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.  The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee’s defeat and retreat from Gettysburg marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army’s ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania’s governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the Gettysburg dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery’s dedication. Almost as an afterthought, Wills also sent a letter to Lincoln-just two weeks before the ceremony-requesting “a few appropriate remarks” to consecrate the grounds.

Text of Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


The Obama Management Style

The piece speaks for itself, as what I choose to highlight so often does.  That is my style, to draw your attention to articles of significance and interest and construct from them a narrative, a story that encapsulates a truth about our current situation.  After all, who are you going to believe?  Me, or your own lying eyes?

I expect that some that read this will be as outraged as I am, others (equally outraged) will spring forth in defense of a President and his intimate staff who choose to immerse themselves in a West Wing bubble no less insular and irrelevant than the Imperial Court of the Forbidden City.

I have rightly called Politico Tiger Beat on the Potomac after the fashion of  Charles Pierce because of its attention to process and personality instead of politics or policy and there is no denying their conservative point of view in a Village that is essentially composed of aristocrats and courtiers, but unlike the stridently partisan depictions of this President and his Administration as do nothing layabouts who lounge all day in their sweats watching Hoopies this one has the air of authenticity even though composed by the same Rolodex stenography I frequently decry.

Maybe better than I can distill it to a few paragraphs, but the rot is so pervasive I can’t easily summarize it.  It is a tale of corruption and greed and disorganization and indifference that touches so many policies and actions that it is hard to condense.

I’ll introduce it as the author does with the tale of Steven Chu, but you should read the whole thing.  This is not an isolated incident.

Locked in the Cabinet

By GLENN THRUSH, Politico Magazine

November 2013

Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, a brilliant innovator whose research fills several all-but-incomprehensible paragraphs of a Wikipedia entry that spans his achievements in single-molecule physics, the slowing of atoms through the use of lasers and the invention of something called an “optical tweezer.” President Barack Obama even credits Chu with solving the 2010 Gulf oil spill, claiming that Chu strolled into BP’s office and “essentially designed the cap that ultimately worked.” With rare exception, Chu is the smartest guy in the room, and that includes the Cabinet Room, which he occupied uneasily as secretary of energy from 2009 to the spring of 2013.

But the president’s aides didn’t quite see Chu that way. He might have been the only Obama administration official with a Nobel other than the president himself, but inside the West Wing of the White House Chu was considered a smart guy who said lots of stupid things, a genius with an appallingly low political IQ-“clueless,” as deputy chief of staff Jim Messina would tell colleagues at the time.

In April 2009, Chu joined Obama’s entourage for one of the administration’s first overseas trips, to Trinidad and Tobago for a Summit of the Americas focused on economic development. Chu was not scheduled to address the media, but reporters kept bugging Josh Earnest, a young staffer, who sheepishly approached his boss, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, with the ask. “No way,” Gibbs told him.

“Come on,” Earnest said. “The guy came all the way down here. Why don’t we just have him talk about all the stuff he’s doing?”

Gibbs reluctantly assented. Then Chu took the podium to tell the tiny island nation that it might soon, sorry to say, be underwater-which not only insulted the good people of Trinidad and Tobago but also raised the climate issue at a time when the White House wanted the economy, and the economy only, on the front burner. “I think the Caribbean countries face rising oceans, and they face increase in the severity of hurricanes,” Chu said. “This is something that is very, very scary to all of us. … The island states … some of them will disappear.”

Earnest slunk backstage. “OK, we’ll never do that again,” he said as Gibbs glared. A phone rang. It was White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel calling Messina to snarl, “If you don’t kill [Chu], I’m going to.”

As Air Force One headed back to Washington, Messina found Chu-who has “no recollection” of this exchange, a person close to him says-sitting at the long table in the plane’s conference room. “What did you say?” Messina demanded, according to a witness. “What were you thinking?” he yelled. “And how, exactly, was this fucking on message?”

The staffers who rule Obama’s West Wing often treat his Cabinet as a nuisance: At the top of the pecking order are the celebrity power players, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to be warily managed; at the bottom, what they see as a bunch of well-intentioned political naifs only a lip-slip away from derailing the president’s agenda. Chu might have been the first Obama Cabinet secretary to earn the disdain of White House aides, but he was hardly the last.

“We are completely marginalized … until the shit hits the fan,” says one former Cabinet deputy secretary, summing up the view of many officials I interviewed. “If your question is: Did the president rely a lot on his Cabinet as a group of advisers? No, he didn’t,” says former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“Going into D.C., I didn’t know the political side. I knew the science and technology side,” recalls Chu, who today professes thinly veiled disdain for the people who “hover around”-the political types who felt little compunction about condescending to a Nobel Prize winner. “It took me a while to realize that one’s own instincts and judgments are sometimes better than the people that have been on the scene for a while.”

The Henry Ford Boycott

What Walmart Could Learn from Henry Ford

Robert Reich

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Walmart just reported shrinking sales for a third straight quarter. What’s going on? Explained William S. Simon, the CEO of Walmart, referring to the company’s customers, “their income is going down while food costs are not. Gas and energy prices, while they’re abating, I think they’re still eating up a big piece of the customer’s budget.”

Walmart’s CEO gets it. Most of Walmart’s customers are still in the Great Recession, grappling with stagnant or declining pay. So, naturally, Walmart’s sales are dropping.

Walmart could learn a thing or two from Henry Ford, who almost exactly a century ago decided to pay his workers three times the typical factory wage at the time. The Wall Street Journal called Ford a traitor to his class but he proved to be a cunning businessman.

Ford’s decision helped boost factory wages across the board – enabling so many working people to buy Model Ts that Ford’s revenues soared far ahead of his increased payrolls, and he made a fortune.

So why can’t Walmart learn from Ford? Because Walmart’s business model is static, depending on cheap labor rather than increased sales, and it doesn’t account for Walmart’s impact on the rest of the economy.

You can help teach Walmart how much power its consumers have: Stand with its workers who deserve a raise, and boycott Walmart on the most important sales day of the year, November 29.

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