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The Gross National Debt

Monday, January 22, 2007

HELLO! If you're in this thread you got my email. Use the comments to make suggestions and ask questions so that the group can weigh in.

This is going to be great!!

There are some new links after you click to view the whole diary...

Dem in VA has kindly reminded me to post some links to photo albums of the 2005 Peace March. So here you go, the links:

From Dem in VA

Photo Album 1
Photo Album 2

From Think2004:

Photo Album

From Thom K in LA:

Photo Album

You can see we had a great time. So bring a camera!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:54 PM 16 comments
Friday, January 19, 2007

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, ePluribus Media, and My Left Wing.)

He's a blowhard. He's a DINO. He uses ten words when three will suffice. He's a DLC shill. He has hair plugs.

Figure out who I'm talking about yet? Joe Biden. While I may agree with all of the characterizations above, he got a few key essential things about Iraq and Afghanistan absolutely, completely right and did it on Hardball last night.

Just so I don't get a lot of "HOW can you support this guy?" questions, let me state for the record: I don't support him. If he runs for President, I'm not in his camp. But his interview on Hardball contained so much truth I have to share it. Follow me.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE do not construe my agreement with what was said in the following interview with any support of Joe Biden's run for the White House. Although the source may be odious, it shouldn't diminish the power of the interview itself.

The transcript was just made available (thankfully, so I don't have to transcribe from the video):

MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, is your resolution a resolution of no confidence to the President's campaigning [sic]... running of the war in Iraq?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), CHAIR, FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: The answer is yes, it is. If this were a parliamentary system, there would be-it would bring the government down, I believe. But obviously we`re not.

You know, look, Chris, what made me realize how fractured this was is when we had Condoleezza Rice before my committee, 21 members of the committee. It was stunning, and you reported on it. It was stunning that 20 of the 21 senators, meaning 10 of whom were Republicans, absolutely made it clear they were not at all supportive of the president`s new policy.


MATTHEWS: When do you think you will have a vote so that the American people can watch you, members of the Senate, debate this question publicly? Will it be after the State of the Union next week?

BIDEN: Yes, I had a chance to do it before the State of the Union, but I thought that was inappropriate. We`re going to bring it up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a vote-excuse me-on Wednesday. I expect that we`ll be able to get that vote.

It will then be reported to the floor of the United States Senate. And my guess is that the majority leader, in conjunction with the Republican leader, will set a time.

The word is that the Republican leader is not going to even let us have a vote on it, that they`re going to filibuster it. I don`t know that to be true, so-but the point is, the debate will ensue by the end of next week is my expectation.

MATTHEWS: How long will it take you to get the debate to end, in other words, to get a cloture vote, if you can get one, so you could actually have a vote?

BIDEN: Well, you know, I really-I don`t know that, Chris. My guess is pretty quickly. If the Republican leader decides that he`s going to filibuster it, which I hope wouldn`t be the case-but let`s say he does. It still has the same political impact.

If it`s clear he`s not going to let a vote take place, then it`s still clear that it means he knows there is a clear majority of-a bipartisan majority that want the president to understand, Mr. President, please change course. Listen to your generals. Listen to former generals. Listen to the Iraq Study Group.

Let me pause a moment. I thought this particular line of questions and answers was very effective. In my diary last week entitled NO!, my primary complaint was that the media and administration were putting the onus on Democrats to propose an alternative plan for "success". By getting out in front of this issue and raising the potentially impending Republican filibuster, Biden shifts the onus back to the Republicans.



MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about a constitutional question, Senator. Stephen Hadley was on "Meet The Press" this weekend and sort of dodged the question. Should the president be required to get the approval of Congress before he attacks Iran, should he decide to do so?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively, unequivocally. I have a second resolution-a law actually-that I`m in the process of drafting. I will be seeking bipartisan support, making it clear that the authorization for the use of force that the president got three-and-a-half years ago does not-emphasize does not-give him the authority to attack Syria or Iran. That would be a disaster.

Again - to me, this is the equivalent of a pre-buttal, laying the groundwork for any hostile activities towards Iran and Syria as being unconsitutional. It places a lens of "WRONG" in front of the whole issue, and automatically sets the bar very high for Bush to do such a thing.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t expect him to sign that bill, do you?

BIDEN: No, I don`t, but I expect it to generate a constitutional crisis were he to ignore it and to, in fact, him-for then attack Iran.

MATTHEWS: Suppose the president makes the case to the public that he is not attacking Iran because of its nuclear program, he is attacking it because of its involvement in Iraq, its supplying the forces against our men in the field-men and women in the field, and he says he is simply operating as commander in chief. And then it, of course, escalates it to a blowing up of their nuclear sites if he can find them. Can he go in under that cover?

BIDEN: No, he can`t do it Constitutionally, and I don`t believe the American public are willing, for a moment-for a moment-to trust his judgment to go into war against 72 million people in an adjacent country with 150,000 Americans tied down in the region, in a war that`s-a civil war that has bogged us down. I don`t think there is a prayer of him being able to convince the American people of that rationale.

MATTHEWS: One of your potential rivals for the Democratic nomination for the president is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Senator Clinton has said we need more troops to go to Afghanistan, although she agrees with you on the need to cap the troop number in Iraq. Do you agree we need more troops in Afghanistan?

BIDEN: Yes. When the president announced his surge, I made the case that he should be surging in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. Chris, I know you know a lot about this. Imagine if we fail in Afghanistan.

What that will mean is Musharraf will cut even a closer deal with al Qaeda and with the Taliban, and if he doesn`t, he puts himself in the position of being overthrown more than he is now. That is a radicalized country. It has nuclear weapons and it will be a disaster.

Let me interject here - this is a key point. Those of us out here who follow the news but are not by any means foreign policy experts (like me - essentially a layperson) should have gotten chills when they heard what was said above. The idea that the repeated unwillingness to ensure succes in Afghanistan to bolster a tragic decision in Iraq could lead to a nuclear Pakistan in a position where it HAS to cater to Al Qaeda and the Taliban is chilling. Utterly chilling.

BIDEN: If there was a totally just war since World War II, it is the war in Afghanistan, and we are not-we are not-dealing with it properly. We have diverted resources to Iraq from the beginning. And if anything, we should be increasing resources in Afghanistan which I called for three months ago.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was watching-or actually, I was listening in my car to satellite radio the other day, Senator. I know this will get to your heart. I was listening a young serviceman, a young kid, who had just been brought into a field hospital in Iraq, and the doctor was saying we`re going to have to take off that left leg.

And the poor kid is begging for his leg. He says can`t you try, doctor, can`t you try? And the doctor is doing his job, I guess, and just says no, we can`t save that leg. And then finally he says we can save the right leg, and the kid says good.

I mean, that kind of courage...

BIDEN: Well, I`m telling you what, Chris, I`ve been over there...

MATTHEWS: And I wonder-I just don`t know why we`re wasting those lives. I don`t know why. I mean, the human cost of this war seems to be something that nobody talks about. They talk about surges and escalations and all this nonpersonal language.

YAY! Love Matthews or hate him, he took a stand on this particular issue and injected his own personal disgust both that a) it's happening at all and for no apparent reason; and b) that the administration repeatedly tries to eradicate the human element from the conversation. Surge indeed.

BIDEN: That`s exactly right. Exactly right. Look, I have been there a total-counting Afghanistan-eight times. The fact of the matter is, these people are incredible. I know that sounds like so much malarkey coming from a United States senator.

But all you have to do is see these forces on the ground, see them in Fallujah, see them in Basra, see them in Baghdad, see them in Ramadi. And you see what they are doing. They are incredible.

And, Chris, what people don`t realize yet is that because we`re able to-use the fancy word-triage these injuries, meaning we have incredible medical capability, there are thousands of people coming back with severe head injuries and amputees in a percentage much higher than any other war since the Civil War who are living. Had it been Vietnam, they would be dead.

And what people don`t understand is the human cost that is going to continue, continue. If the war ends today, that`s going to continue for the next 20 years is amazing. And why? And now we`re putting 21,500 people, 17,000 of whom will be going door to door in Iraq?

I had five-four generals before me this morning on Foreign Relations, Chris, people you know, from Barry McCaffrey to General Odom to General Ahora (ph). These are commandants of the Marine Corps, et cetera.

And to a person-to a person-they pointed out that there is-and including the general who supports the surge, says we`re not going and supporting the Iraqis. We`re going to be in the lead. In a city of six-plus million people, we`re going to have young men in the middle of a civil war and women knocking on doors? This is absolutely, absolutely the wrong thing to do.

MATTHEWS: Senator, we had Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, the recently chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the House on yesterday. And he posed what looked to me like a strong political argument. He said if people try to oppose this surge, this 21,000 more troops going to Iraq, they are basically killing reinforcements on the way to protect our service people.

Pay attention - this is key.

BIDEN: Wrong. We`re not sending reinforcements. There are no forces knocking on those doors in those 23 neighborhoods in Baghdad now. Give me a break. Let`s talk about what the facts are.

If you talk about reinforcements for troop protection, that`s a fundamentally different thing than saying guess what we`re going to do now. We`re changing our mission. We are going to go in and take out the Sunni insurgency, and then turn on-as they are telling us-then turn on the Shia militia in a city of 6.1 million people. Chris, we are not doing that now. This is a change in mission. So Mr. Hunter-Congressman Hunter is putting a red herring out there.

I thought that whole line of discussion was absolutely critical. If there are any moves, following a no-confidence resoltuion, to revisit the AUMF, the simple fact that there has been a change in mission is critical to requiring a new authorization.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a last question, Senator Biden. You are chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. You`ve got to be up to date on all this stuff. When we go to vote in November of 2008, will we still be fighting this war? Will it still look like it does this week with all these Iraqis getting killed, our guys walking door to door, kicking down doors, facing hell? Will we still be fighting this war when we vote in November of 2008?

BIDEN: Yes, if the Republicans do not make it clear to the president. Now, look, we`re in the majority by one. But what`s going to happen-you`ve been around this town a long time, like I have. The thing that brought Nixon down and made it clear that he`d hand over the tapes wasn`t any vote in the Congress. It was when a group of Republican senators got in the car and went down to the president, said, "Mr. President, the jig is up."

What`s going to happen here, Chris-and you know this town better than I do, living here-what`s going to happen is when the leading members of the House and Senate on the Republican side say, "Mr. President, no more of this. Listen to all the advice you got."

Think about it, Chris. You had a former secretary of state who`s a Republican. You had leading Republicans on the Iraqi Study Group. You had the chairman-you had the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You had the outgoing leader, General Abizaid, the outgoing leader, General Casey. You had-every single, solitary one of them told him, "This is a mistake. This is a mistake."

And every one of them said some version of the following: "Mr. President, you need a political solution. The only way you`re going to get it is get the region involved and make it clear to the president of the Iraqi government that we`re not staying, we`re not going to precipitously leave, but they`ve got to step up to the ball and make the hard decisions."

Every major voice on both sides of the aisle has said that to him. And the idea that he can make the case politically, that what he`s doing makes sense, I think is just divorced from reality.

Republicans, meet Onus. Onus, go sit with the Republicans. I thought that was masterful. I can't say whether or not it was intentional, but it served multiple purposes: It called on history to point out that an Act of Congress did not stop Nixon's activities. In that statement alone, It at least opened the idea that there are limits to what Congress can do. One of the big risks in running against the Iraq War, in my opinion, was that it would create undue pressure on Democrats to solve the Iraq War. As I argued in NO!, Congress is incredibly limited in what it can do, Constitutionally, to actually stop the war. This statement reinforced that simple fact while shifting the responsibility to leading Republicans to be honorable and to go to the President and inform him that all Congressional support was absent. And if you think about it, this isn't a very risky move for leading Republicans. We are in full 2008 election swing and these guys are severely worried about the blowback from the administration's decisions regarding Iraq. It's the right kind of pressure applied in the right place at the right time, and it's our best chance to get these guys out.

If the Republicans do go to the President, there is an appearance of Democrats as having led that strategy and call. And if the Republicans don't rise to meet the challenge, they set themselves up to fail in 2008.

MATTHEWS: Well, senator, we`ll have to bring back Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania to do that walk down to the White House. I don`t know if any of the Republicans are tough enough to face Bush on this one.

But thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL, Senator Joe Biden, candidate for the presidency.

Loved the last zinger from Matthews, because it really increased the size of the challenge being issued.

I'm no supporter of Joe Biden for Presdident and can't envision becoming a supporter under any circumstances. But he gets props from me for this interview, because he set up a LOT of necessary traps and baselines upon which Democrats can fight this war and this administration. Regardless of what we think about him, he spoke credibly and forcefully and, overall, I think it can only come to good effect.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE do not construe my agreement with what was said in the preceding interview with any support of Joe Biden's run for the White House.

And if you've read this far, I thank you - this was a long one (sorry!).

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:55 AM 2 comments
Monday, January 15, 2007

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media.)

No, no, no, no, NO!

Sometimes an economy of words can express the truest, simplest of realities. I've just finished watching a replay of John McCain on Face the Nation from yesterday (yeah - I know I'm behind, here, but I'm trying to catch up). He is not the first Republican to try to put the onus back on the Democrats to offer a solution or to "put up or shut up".

The response necessary to these calls is simple and has, as yet, not been clearly spoken: NO. Make the jump.

It started with Bush's speech on Wednesday night. In it, he said:

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.
No. It is NOT their responsibility to explain the path to "success". It is up to Bush to define a strategy that makes success likely. In absence of a strategy for success, then it is up to Bush to explain the least objectionable path. Those who oppose this war are not the Commander-in-Chief - there's only one of those. And he is, God help us, George W. Bush.

It continued in Sunday's Presidential Radio Address:
Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.
No. Members of Congress do NOT have this obligation. They are a separate branch of government from that of the executive. Someone should explain to Bush that the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch serve different purposes. The Executive, as Commander-in-Chief, is responsible for wartime strategies and plans. NOT Congress. That they believe and are saying they believe the surge is irresponsible, wrong-headed, and has nothing but past failures to predict future outcomes does NOT make them responsible to assume the powers of the Executive to propose tactics and strategies.

The President seemed to understand this basic separation of powers issue when he was on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, however (sorry - no link - I transcribed it myself during the show):
BUSH: And the reason I brought up the mistakes is one, that's the job of the Commander in Chief and two I don't want people blaming our military. We've got a bunch of good military people out there doing what we've asked them to do and the temptation is going to be to find scapegoats. Well if people want to find a scapegoat, they've got one right here in me because it's my decisions.
That hasn't stopped John McCain from reading, adopting, and then taking one step further the Republican talking points. His interview on CBS' Face The Nation shows the complete transformation of the Straight Talk Express to the Sell Out Express (transcribed from the online video):
SHIEFFER: Let me ask you about voting. The Democrats are preparing to bring to both the Senate and the House floors a bi-partisan - what they hope will be a bi-partisan resolution of disapproval. We hear that some of the Republican leaders are so worried about this that they may try to filibuster it. I must tell you, I have never heard of anybody trying to filibuster a non-binding resolution. Number one, will you vote - how will you vote on that and do you think it will be a good thing to filibuster this and not allow it to come to a vote?

MCCAIN: Obviously I would vote to approve a - against a motion of disapproval. I think it would be foolish to filibuster. The Senate runs in such a way that people can attach amendments all the time. I'd be glad to have that debate. But on this issue - and it's a very important one - if we voice disapproval and send our young troops on their way as the President will do, what message does this send to the troops? That we disapprove of what they're doing but that we still support them but not their mission? Look - if these people are serious that oppose this increase in troops and change in strategy then then should vote to cut off funding and that way they can then say "we tried to stop it". A motion of disapproval I view as purely a political ploy to do further damage to the President of the United States. If they're dead serious, then we should have a motion to cut off funding. And that happened in the Vietnam war and unfortunately about Vietnam as well as Cambodia.
No. McCain is trying to present two bad alternatives and compel the choice of the one that damages him the least. It's not the Democrat's responsibility, to show their veracity, to simply cut off funding. That's not the ONLY method left to them to try to compel some reality-based actions. This no-confidence resolution is one method. Senator Kennedy's proposal from Tuesday of last week is another such method. There is also talk about revisiting the AUMF as the mission has so clearly and substantially changed.

All of these are potential remedies within the Constitutional purview of the United States Congress. Saying that Congress has to either a) propose something that will be successful, thereby assumung the powers of the Executive; or b) choose only one of several Legislative alternatives is a poor-man's attempt to rope-a-dope.

NO. It's a really simple response.

"No, Chris [Matthews]. It's not our job to propose an alternative plan. That's the President's job. I'm surprised that after six years he hasn't learned the differences between the Executive and Legislative branches of government."

"No, Wolf. It's not our only option to suspend funding. We have other options that are within our Constitutional rights. We can move to re-authorize the use of military force. We can move to require the President submit detailed plans for his proposals including the monies attached to new and additional activities. Our only option is NOT to simply pull funding from the troops. I'm surprised Senator McCain doesn't realize that, what with his being in the Senate for so long."

I've seen Durbin, Dodd, and Obama all asked some variation of these questions. Their answers aren't bad, but they aren't a simple "NO." The false choices being presented to Democrats don't require that they respond as though they are being asked something reasonable. And sometimes, as with small children, a simple "NO" is the only answer that sinks in.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 6:00 PM 1 comments
Friday, January 12, 2007

Via this post by Chris Bowers on the recommended list at Daily Kos:
--1. Finding a recent new article from an established news sources that focuses on McCain's support of George Bush. I have determined that the first such article will be the beautifully titled McCain Defend Bush's Iraq Strategy from the Associated Press. It is hard to get any better than that. In fact, it was seeing that headline today that gave me the idea to conduct this campaign.

--2. For an extended period of time, several weeks if necessary, having as many people on the internet as possible embed a hyperlink to the chosen article whenever they use the word McCain, John McCain, Senator John McCain, McCain 2008, or any other popular search term on McCain.

--3. Having as many bloggers as possible place that same embedded hyperlink into the templates of their blog. Instructions on how to do this, and why it is important, can be found here. This will multiply the impact of any Googlebomb on McCain several hundred times. This process is also helped if people on community websites place the appropriate embeded McCain hyperlink in the signature line of their user interface.

--4. Monitoring the progress on the current McCain Googlebomb until it moves into the top five results on McCain in Google. Once this is accomplished, and it should only take a few weeks, we then start the process over again at step one with a different news article that tells the truth on McCain.
So Google Bomb John McCain. No McCain 2008, No John McCain, No McCain, no Straight Talk Express, and certainly no maverick can spew the party line and not get called on it.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:27 PM 1 comments