FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND THE LATEST VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
By Joshua Holland, Raed Jarrar, AlterNet
The traditional media is incapable of reporting what’s going on in Southern Iraq.
Kadhafi warns US allies could suffer Saddam’s fate
29 Mar 2008
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi warned Arab allies of the United States that they could meet the same fate as former Iraq president Saddam Hussein, hanged in 2006 three years after the US-led invasion. “A foreign force occupied an Arab country and hanged its president and we stood by and watched,” he told an Arab summit in the Syrian capital. Saddam was hanged in December 2006 after being sentenced to death for crimes against humanity over the mass killing of Shiites in the 1980s. “How can they execute a prisoner of war and the president of a member of the Arab League?” Kadhafi asked. He said Saddam had been a friend of the United States during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s “before they turned against him and executed him.” “You could all suffer the same fate,” he warned. “Even you, even we, who are considered friends of America, one day (America) can give the green light for our own hanging,” said the Libyan leader.
From: CLG News
Theodore Roosevelt, Labor Day speech at Syracuse, NY, Sept 7, 1903
The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.
The WasteBasket: A Bulletin on Wasteful Government Spending – A SHOT IN THE DARK
by Taxpayers for Common Sense
A SHOT IN THE DARK
Volume XIII No. 13 – March 28, 2008
Back in 1983, when President Reagan unveiled his vision of a weapons system that could intercept and destroy ballistic missiles before they hit U.S. soil, he warned it would take “years, probably decades” likely marked by “failures and setbacks.”
Today, the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)?originally the Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars”?has racked up plenty of years, failures and dollars. Yet the most expensive weapons system fielded by the United States ($120 billion to date) is operating largely outside the reach of government auditors.
Though BMDS has its roots in the Cold War, its unaccountable budget structure was created more recently by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. By moving the program’s many elements out of the regular Defense Department budget and into a newly-created Missile Defense Agency (MDA), BMDS avoids the pesky review process all Pentagon projects must undergo as they move through various stages of development and production.
MDA exists in an exalted program status, exempted from budgeting rules that require the agency to produce baseline cost and schedule estimates that DoD and Congress can measure progress against. It is not hindered by “fly before you buy” acquisition laws that require the Defense Department’s testing and evaluation office to green-light weapons before they go into full production. It is not subject to independent review. Finally, it classifies its entire budget as research and development funding, allowing it to move money around more easily?despite the fact that it has laid bricks and mortar on projects like the interceptor bases in California and Alaska.
In short, all the hard-earned lessons about how to protect taxpayers from wasteful procurements go out the window when it comes to the MDA.
MDA has a perpetual “get-out-of-jail free” card when one considers the “setbacks” that have, per Reagan’s predictions, befallen BMDS. First there’s the fact that it has only managed to take out incoming missiles in tests so tightly managed that they do not approximate realistic conditions, according to the Government Accountability Office. The test results are about as valid as those of a college applicant who takes the SAT with the answer key in their lap. Then there’s the agency’s failure to meet recent performance goals while jacking up its budget estimate. That nearly 60 percent of MDA’s manpower comes from contractors who cost around $3 billion also cries out for rigorous oversight.
After years of rubber stamping, Congress is finally taking on the MDA’s hide-the-budget strategy. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held the first in a series of hearings on missile defense earlier this month, and language added to the 2008 defense authorization bill called for an independent review by a federally-funded research center of the agency and proposed missile sites in Eastern Europe, among other measures.
But previous actions by MDA indicate Congress will have to bolster its remedies with some strong medicine. The agency rejected GAO recommendations to adopt firm baselines or use procurement funds for its operational systems. And though MDA restructured its 2009 budget request, theoretically to enhance transparency, it neglected to include a schedule baseline or a comprehensive accounting of all the system’s elements.
MDA is asking for a record $10 billion in fiscal year 2009 in a clear attempt to load up its budget before the new administration takes over. But Congress shouldn’t be taken in: MDA’s blank-check days must draw to a close and its budget integrated back into the Defense Department’s planning process. No major weapons program, much less the nation’s costliest, should be allowed to operate completely off the balance sheet.
Going on at Taxpayer.net This Week
Mining Industry Receives Special Tax Treatment
Check out TCS’s Complete FY2008 Database of Congressional Earmarks
Ending the Earmark ATM: An Insider’s View of Congressional Earmarks
TCS in the News
Battle Looms Over Adding Wind Coverage to Federal Flood Insurance (CQPolitics.com)
Bend fails to ask Walden for $15M to aid projects (Bend Bulletin, Oregon)
Farm Lobby Beats Back (Wall Street Journal)
Ex-congressman’s role in water project blasted (Boston Globe)
Coalition forms to oppose flood insurance plan (Reuters)
Yale stands apart from peers in refusing federal earmarks (Yale Daily News, Connecticut)
Pork Three Ways (Town Hall, Washington DC)
Earmark ‘fetish’ confounds lawmaker (Tallahassee Democrat, Florida)
University ranks high in earmarks (The Daily Collegian Online, Pennsylvania)
Political Bacon Or Deserving Projects? (Media General, Washington DC)
Pork Shoveling: Consider it a Virtue (13WHAM-TV, New York)
Billion$ in earmarks go to colleges and universities (OneNewsNow, Mississippi)
Earmark transparency (Bucks County Courier Times, Pennsylvania)
Mack’s area wish list $12.6 million (The News-Press, Florida)
Lawmakers Keep Pork On USF’s Plate (Tampa Tribune)
Something’s fishy about pork debate (Chicago Tribune)
Deal, other Ga. Republicans join anti-earmark crusade (Access North Georgia)
Earmark requests under wraps (Honolulu Advertiser)
‘Ed McMahon Syndrome’? Gilhooley, Holden voice differences over … (Republican & Herald, Pennsylvania)
Texas reaps $2.2 billion in earmarks (Houston Chronicle)
Would Kansas snub McCain over tankers? (The Wichita Eagle, Kansas)
Alaska 1st, Arizona last in pork-barrel spending (USA Today)
Earmarks go to the lawmakers in need (Arizona Republic)
Solar Cities — Santa Rosa — $350000 (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, California)
A Michigan view of earmarks (Detroit Free Press)
Earmarks create a Web collapse (Marketplace, California)
“Something appears to have gone fundamentally wrong inside the Defense Department.”
- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), on federal contracts awarded to AEY Inc. to supply weapons, ammunitions, and munitions to military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Weekly Wastebasket at http://www.taxpayer.net/
U.S. News Media in Quite a State
Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism, March 16, 2008
“The state of the American news media in 2008 is more troubled than a year ago,” opens the latest “State of the News Media” report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Among the major findings is that the Internet is not yet the democratizing media force many hoped for. “Even with so many new sources, more people now consume what old media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before,” the report states. A detailed analysis of the news stories covered in 2007 found that “the media and the public often disagreed about which stories were important,” and that U.S. media mostly ignored the rest of the world. Even though 2007 “was the deadliest for American forces in Afghanistan since that war began,” less than one percent of international news dealt with that country. And journalists are more pessimistic, especially about “cutbacks in the newsroom” and the “broken economic model” for many news operations.
In reporting on McCain’s stated opposition to government “bail out” of “big banks,” Wash. Post, NY Times failed to note his approval of Bear Stearns aid
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that Sen. John McCain, in the words of Times reporters Michael Powell and Jeff Zeleny, “argued this week against a vigorous federal intervention to address the [housing] crisis, saying Washington should not bail out banks and homeowners who in his view had knowingly taken on risky mortgages.” However, neither article noted that McCain reportedly expressed support for the Federal Reserve’s decision to extend a $30 billion line of credit to facilitate the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase.
Worse Than Bush
In 2001, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposed the first round of President Bush’s tax cuts, saying they were “generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower- and middle-income American taxpayers.” But now, as he runs for president, McCain openly mocks rhetoric that talks about “who the, quote, ‘wealthy’ are in America.” In fact, McCain has offered massive tax cuts, mostly for corporations, that are as costly as Bush’s tax cuts and even more regressive. In an analysis released last week, Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow Robert Gordon and Domestic Policy Adviser James Kvaal conclude that McCain’s proposals are “enormously expensive,” as they essentially double the Bush tax cuts. Additionally, “the McCain plan would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers” while shifting “the tax burden from investment income onto earned income.” Not only would McCain ease the tax burden predominantly for the most wealthy, according to Gordon and Kvaal, but his plan “will lead to increased sheltering.” Additionally, “McCain cannot pay for his tax cuts without massive reductions in Social Security, Medicare, or other key programs that benefit the vast majority of Americans.” In essence, McCain has adopted the agenda of anti-tax ideologue Grover Norquist, who wants to make radical changes to the U.S. tax code “at the expense of lower- and middle-income Americans.”
EMBRACED BY NORQUIST: Throughout McCain’s time in the Senate, he has rarely been a favorite of Norquist’s. In fact, just three years ago, Norquist referred to him as “the nut-job from Arizona.” Pressed on the comment by the Washington Post, Norquist said he “misspoke” and that he “meant to say gun-grabbing, tax-increasing Bolshevik.” Now, Norquist — who famously said he wants the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” — calls McCain “very good on taxes” because he has embraced “the Americans for Tax Reform’s entire agenda.” Speaking to Newsweek last month, Norquist said that “on the tax issue,” McCain “has moved very hard and far, and I believe convincingly.” Explaining his recent embrace of McCain, Norquist told the Politico earlier this year that “successful movements accept prodigal sons when they return.”
McCAIN BEGINS BACKING AWAY?: Speaking to the Washington Post last week, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s senior policy adviser, responded to Gordon and Kvaal’s criticism, conceding that they “had a point” on “the question of tax cuts.” “It will make deficits expand up front, no question,” admitted Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office. But Holtz-Eakin defended the central points of McCain’s plan, claiming that “helping corporations ultimately helps workers because it ensures their employer remains internationally competitive.” “That place has to be economically viable, otherwise they have a problem,” said Hotz-Eakin. Moreover, though he conceded to Gordon and Kvaal on tax cuts, Holtz-Eakin’s Washington Post op-ed today about McCain’s plan for “turning around the economy” never mentions the massive corporate tax cuts that McCain billed barely two months ago as the first item in his “economic stimulus plan.”
QUESTIONS FOR McCAIN: Responding to Holtz-Eakin on the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Wonk Room blog, Gordon and Kvaal note that Holtz-Eakin’s “signal that Senator McCain may change his economic agenda yet again” raises four questions: 1) Why is it necessary to cuts taxes for corporations to make them “economically viable” when the United States already has the fourth-lowest corporate tax revenue as a share of the economy in the industrialized world? 2) Why are deficit-financed corporate tax cuts likely to increase growth when (a) in the short-run, Moody’s Economy.com ranked them the least cost-effective stimulus among 13 options, and (b) in the medium or longer-run, the effect on growth of deficit-financed tax cuts “tends to be small?” 3) How do massive tax cuts for the most fortunate further shared prosperity when income inequality is at its highest level since before the Great Depression (or earlier)? 4) Given the admission that this plan will immediately increase federal budget deficits, how will McCain meet his own goal of balancing the budget by 2012?
The Progress Report http://www.americanprogressaction.org/
Borowitz Report – Hillary Vow Shocker
Hillary Vows to Stay in Race 100 Years
Nixes Exit Strategy
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stunned voters at a town hall meeting in Erie, Pennsylvania today by telling them that she was prepared to stay in the nomination fight for an additional century.
“How much longer will I stay in the race?” she responded to a voter’s question. “Fifty years? How about one hundred years?”
When asked to clarify, Sen. Clinton replied, “I’ll stay in this race for a thousand years. A million years. A billion years.”
Sen. Clinton added that she was refusing to announce an exit strategy from the race because “that would send the wrong message to the enemy.”
The New York senator’s comments echoed a strategy outlined in a recently leaked internal campaign memo, which calls for her to remain in the race long after the Democratic National Convention, even if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) becomes the party’s official nominee.
According to the memo, Sen. Clinton plans to follow Sen. Obama’s campaign bus around in a Chevy Suburban in the hopes of running it off the road.
“If necessary, we will sideswipe or ram into his bus,” the memo said. “Just really mess him up.”
For her part, Sen. Clinton remained resolute at the town hall meeting, responding to a question about the recent surge in negative attacks her campaign has lobbed in Sen. Obama’s direction: “What can I tell you? The surge is working.”
Elsewhere, to inaugurate the 2008 Major League Baseball season, former pitching great Roger Clemens threw out the first syringe.
Andy in Montreal – April 8
Andy makes his first-ever appearance in Canada on Tuesday, April 8 at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal. 7:30 PM, 5151 Côte Ste-Catherine; admission free.
Andy’s Only West Coast Appearance – April 24
Andy makes his only scheduled West Coast appearance Thursday, April 24 at University of California, Santa Barbara. 8 PM at Campbell Hall. Tickets available at https://artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu/
Andy with Calvin Trillin, Susie Essman and Jonathan Alter – May 13
Andy hosts “Countdown to ’08″ on Tuesday, May 13 at 8 PM at the 92nd St. Y with his special guests Calvin Trillin (bestselling author, The New Yorker), Susie Essman (HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Jonathan Alter (Newsweek, MSNBC). The Y is located at 92nd St. and Lexington Avenue. For tickets, go to http://www.92y.org/ .
Andy at Mark Twain’s House – May 28
Spend “An Evening With Andy Borowitz” at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut on Wednesday, May 28. Event begins at 6 PM. For tickets and information call Janet Youmans at 860-280-3113 or email Janet.firstname.lastname@example.org
three thousand words
Tom Toles: big guts lead to dementia
Tom the Dancing Bug: the corporate casino
Ted Rall: cultural news from the western world