Regular Features-On This Day In History December 10 by TheMomCatPunting the Pundits by TheMomCatThese Weekly Features-Popular Culture (Music): A Brief History of The Who. Part III by TranslatorThis Week In The Dream Antilles by davidsethHealth and[...]
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As the lovely Susan O' Texas points out, our Lady of The $800 Robotic Diamond-Encrusted Fork & Spoonerator has her hotly anticipated Kitchen Gift List up, and by "hotly anticipated" we mean that McMegan is literally being deluged with special[...]
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NEW YORK ? AmericanLP, a new Democratic Super PAC, announced it is launching a new advertising campaign designed to mock Mitt Romney and the current state of the Republican Party. AmericanLP has produced a new ad entitled ?French Mitt Romney.?
The ad can be seen here:
FRENCH SPEAKING MITT ROMNEY
The ad consists entirely of footage of Mitt Romney speaking French with text transcripts scrolling below of actual quotes from Romney endorsing liberal positions on abortion rights, gay rights, global warming, gun control and state-run mandated healthcare.
AmericanLP founder TJ Walker explained the ad:
?The quotes running in the ad appear to be actual transcripts of Romney speaking in a current political TV ad, but they are actually out-of-context quotes from Romney collected over the years. But if it?s one thing we know about Mitt Romney, he whole-heartedly approves of using out of context quotes in political advertising. In fact, belief in out-of-context advertising appears to be the only political principle Romney has NOT flip flopped on, so we?re sure he will love this ad.?
?So our goal here is to remind GOP primary and caucus voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that Mitt Romney is a left wing radical who has, in all likelihood, hung out with socialistic, atheistic cheese-eaters like Jean Paul Sartre.?
Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer. Lots of queer talking in the last week, including from the California courts, to the United Nations, to the ?how low can he go? Rick Perry campaign. Beginning with the ongoing[...]
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photo source: C-Span
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey said yesterday at a meeting hosted by the Atlantic Council that the absence of a public discussion about shifts and changes in US military strategy amidst certain significant budget goods is a 'good thing' for now.
Dempsey acknowledged that behind the scenes and in "the tank" -- a place where military commanders can meet "without note-takers" and discuss complex strategic problems -- a serious review of security objectives and resources is underway and that he's "encouraged" by the military's process and progress.
C-Span's video of the entire meeting is available here -- and the question I posed on budgets and a responding military strategy shift kicks in at 53:50.
Washington Post national security columnist David Ignatius conducted the exchange with General Dempsey who in what was one of his first debut chats in a public forum was very relaxed, clearly informed about macro and micro military policy issues. He even wrapped up his policy talk with a surprising, full-throated performance singing "Christmas in Kilarney." He was terrific -- much better than John Ashcroft, with all due respect to the former Attorney General.
That said, General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta do a disservice to the national debate by promulgating the notion that America's strategic course should be a function of closed debates by generals and admirals behind closed doors -- that are then negotiated in mostly secret sessions with legislators and appropriators on Capitol Hill. General Dempsey referred to a copy of the US Constitution that he carries with him which he said reminds him of who is responsible for what, noting that Congress is responsible for providing for the provisioning and training of an army and navy.
American citizens and their appetite for strategic obligations are wrongly excluded from these discussions. The General is right that Members of Congress should represent those public interests and its through the Defense Department's exchange with Congress that this gets sorted out. But this is a time of significant discontinuity, a time when America's global social contract with other nations is under stress. Americans rightly feel that the quid pro quo of what America got from the rest of the world in exchange for the economic, geostrategic, and global institutional public goods the US provided has been downsized significantly.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta very frequently offers a roster of the strategic threats facing the United States in his efforts to preempt further defense cuts. At one such presentation in Nebraska at Offutt Air Base, Panetta led his roster of threats with al Qaeda, which earlier in the week the intelligence community which he used to help direct had stated was hanging on by threads. I don't want to take a cheap shot at Panetta who I think has the potential to be a consequential and thoughtful defense secretary.
But the fact is that the military establishment is offering a range of "threats" ranging from Iran's nuclear ambitions to cyber threats to North Korean adventurism, the rise of Chinese swagger, al Qaeda and more. General Dempsey said bluntly that America's strategic risks were shifting to the Asia Pacific, meaning China. He also said in response to David Ignatius' question on whether the age of large-scale US counter-insurgency deployments was over that he would not sign up to the notion that we wouldn't do any more Iraqs in the future -- meaning that he was not willing to go where Defense Secretary Robert Gates went in saying those kind of deployments hurt more than help America's strategic position today.
While Dempsey's knowledge and facility discussing the nuts and bolts of military strategy across a lot of disparate terrains was clear, he didn't show any ankle at all beyond what Obama has said in the past -- mainly that the Pacific matters to America more than the Middle East.
America is most likely going to be in the global policing business for a long time -- but it's clear that the US has to make some choices about what its highest security priorities are and aren't and how to leverage constrained budgets to achieve more with less -- something that Leon Panetta said at the recent Halifax International Security Forum he expects from America's partners in NATO.
This discussion needs to have more inputs from American civil society and those who are asked to pay the bills. There is too much presumption by America's strategic class that strategic commitments can be sorted out and made in the absence of public discussion and debate -- and this is not healthy.
Frequently, generals have gone on political talk shows and made assertions, for instance, on how long US troops should stay in Afghanistan, often pointing to dates or implying troop levels that are larger or that extend beyond official policy as communicated by President Obama and his national security team. These involve commitments of hundreds of billions of dollars without a discussion of the larger strategic costs and benefits to the country. The public should be a part of this discussion, and frankly -- those generals and admirals in the tanks would be wise to take the temperature of an American public that is growing weary of seeing the services that they pay for at home hollowed out in favor of building out the national infrastructure of countries abroad. It's still a remarkable and disturbing data point that the United States is now spending about $120 billion per year in Afghanistan which has a GDP of approximately $14 billion.
The transcript of my exchange with General Dempsey follows below -- but for those with the time and interest, I think that the entire C-Span covered session is worth watching, including the General singing a Christmas tune.
For those interested in singing along with General Dempsey at the end of the C-Span video, here are the lyrics to "Christmas in Kilarney."
Atlantic Council 'Commanders Series' Meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey; interviewed by David Ignatius
David Ignatius:Steve.Steve Clemons, The Atlantic:General Martin Dempsey:
Thank you General, Steve Clemons with The Atlantic.
At the Halifax International Security Summit, Leon Panetta seemed a bit frustrated. Part of his message was that there is an age of austerity upon us and that NATO members, particularly NATO defense secretaries there -- he pushed them sort of hard, saying that they needed to do more with less. We understand that you have less -- but you need to do more. There was some grumbling about the notion that there was not a lot of talk about how the US would do more with less.
He made a statement: "I refuse believe that we have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security." But in the talk, while he was admitting that there are financial hits coming -- as you have done today -- he tilted more towards almost disbelief that it was really happening as opposed to talking about shifts in strategy. When Don Rumsfeld came in as Secretary of Defense before 9/11, you may remember he wrestled with the generals a lot ...I do...Steve Clemons, The Atlantic:...and talked about smart soldiers, smart systems, the applications of IT, the changing nature of war, that we were going to create greater efficiencies in this sector, and I have been surprised that we haven't seen more discussion of that kind of changing role. How can you actually get more security deliverables even if you are going to have less fiscal resources. We talk a lot about dollars but not about capacity, and I'm interested in your reactions. And that was the tone you got from Leon Panetta at that Halifax summit.General Martin Dempsey:Sure. I'll have to go back and tell Leon thanks a lot. That's the third time he has been quoted to me for me to react.
Let me pick up on one thing you said and maybe I can tie it together, and that is that you've been surprised by the lack of discussion about what kind of shifts in strategy...
I'm actually quite remarkably pleased by that, that we haven't played this out in the media. I mean, no offense, but we've had to make some, I mean really go through, I mean multiple "tank sessions" -- and you know what the "tank" is -- it's where military leaders gather and try to have conversations without note-takers; it's just to try to wrestle with ourselves, these complex problems, to provide advice. Then do the same with combatant commanders; do the same with our civilian leaders.
I frankly can only tell you that I am encouraged by where we are. I think some time in the next couple of, well before the budget is submitted we actually have to consult with Congress. I carry a little copy of the Constitution, a little pamphlet of the Constitution, in my black jacket with me to remind myself of who is responsible for what, and of course Congress is responsible for maintaining the navy and organizing, equipping and training an army. That's not to say that they are not interested in the air force or the marines.
The point is that they have responsibilities. We have to consult with them. And then we have to show what the budget does to build a force for the nation. I think the process we've made, the progress we've made, has been encouraging.
There are hard decisions that will manifest themselves here shortly. I wouldn't read too much into the silence. I think the silence has allowed this thing to follow a process that is best for the country.
Progressive congressional candidate Cecil Bothwell (NC-11)
The new Gallup poll may be bad news for corrupt congressional careerists but it's really heartening for average American families. Like the heroes at OccupyWallStreet, Americans have HAD it with Congress.
About three-quarters of registered voters (76%) say most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, the highest such percentage Gallup has measured in its 19-year history of asking this question. The 20% who say most members deserve to be re-elected is also a record low, by one percentage point.
...A substantial majority of Republican (75%), independent (82%), and Democratic (68%) voters agree that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election -- a sign of rare consensus about the legislative body in which both parties currently hold a leadership stake.
How this antipathy toward Congress plays out in next year's congressional elections remains to be seen. Americans were not as negative last October, before the 2010 midterm elections, yet voters flipped 63 seats from Democratic to Republican control and gave the House to the GOP in the process. This was the largest seat gain by any party since 1948. If voters' current sentiments toward Congress prevail through next November's election, it is possible that control of the House would flip back to the Democrats, although such a conclusion is far from certain.
Clark brings to the table a ton of positives and no real negatives that I can think of. There?s the top military profile, the record of heroism going back to Vietnam, the name recognition from his presidential run, he?s someone progressives can get behind and he?d still have broad appeal to more conservative voters, he?d have a huge fundraising list and a national profile, plus he?s got charm and personality. Clark is in his sixties but is still physically fit and active by all accounts. In short, he?s the kind of first rate candidate that could take out Tim Felon.
Last election, however, a relatively unknown candidate from Asheville pulled down nearly 40 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and carried Buncombe County, the most liberal county in the region.
Shuler?s conservative stance helps him during the general election but drags down his primary numbers. Democratic voters punished Shuler during the last primary for not being liberal enough.
...While Bothwell has already started his campaign for the Democratic nomination, Shuler said he does not expect to spend much time or money running a primary race.
?Campaign mode does not kick in til August,? Shuler said.
The New York Times reports today that tens of thousands gathered in a central Moscow square to protest the country’s recent parliamentary elections, which were widely reported as fraudulent on behalf of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. The demonstrators shouted “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin.” The Times adds that “an hour into the event, police estimated the crowd at 25,000, which would make it the largest antigovernment action since the fall of the Soviet Union.”
European leaders went one better this time. Not content with failing to resolve the debt crisis tearing through the Eurozone and threatening a global recession, they have now managed to create a new source of instability: The rift between Britain and the rest of the European Union, whose consequences may prove to be momentous indeed.
It was a long time coming. The tension between the Eurozone ?ins? and the 10 non-Eurozone ?outs? has been building throughout the debt crisis, which has forced the states belonging to the common currency to take extraordinary ? and yet woefully insufficient ? measures to keep the euro from spectacularly collapsing. In the Brussels summit which ended yesterday, France and Germany, drivers of the push towards an ever closer union, were unable to persuade British Prime Minister David Cameron to back their plan for greater fiscal integration.
The deal-breaker was a demand by Cameron for special treatment for Britain?s lucrative financial services industry. Though apparently the French and the Germans were willing to go some way to accommodate the UK, whose economy is significantly dependent on the City of London, it was not enough. Cameron refused to budge and, as it turned out, he opened the way for the rest of the EU members (with the possible exception of Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic) to agree on an intergovernmental deal outside the framework of the EU which will more closely coordinate fiscal policy. This was something French president Nicolas Sarkozy had long sought, seeing intergovernmentalism as a way to maximize French influence on developments. Germany?s Angela Merkel had resisted this path, preferring to advance with the support of the entire EU membership. But the British Prime Minister, under pressure from unswerving Euroskeptic members of his own Conservative party, made it impossible for her to escape it. ?I don?t think David Cameron was ever with us at the table? is how the German chancellor put it.
Britain?s veto may well be the first step in the country?s exit from the European Union. By their decision to forge ahead without the perenially euro-dyspeptic British, the leaders of the Eurozone, whatever one may think of their plans, signaled that they are no longer willing to be held hostage by the eccentricities of each individual member-state. The crisis of the last two years has shown that the Eurozone cannot survive unless it becomes a much closer union. The significance of the latest summit is that the two pivotal countries in the common currency, Germany and France (in that order), have shown that they are willing to pursue the goal of a deepening union even at the cost of breaking up of the EU.
Given all this, one might be excused for thinking that the British have performed yet another feat of self-harm in their long and tortuous relationship with ?the Continent? (as they call Europe). It is a likely outcome that Britain will become increasingly isolated and probably lose business for the City, as the Eurozone becomes more fully divorced from it and more financially integrated. But there is a big ?if? to all this ? it is the correct analysis if the Eurozone itself doesn?t break apart. And on this crucial front, Thursday and Friday?s summit offered little cause for reassurance.
The central element of the new ?fiscal compact? agreed by the 23 countries on Friday is a fiscal rule, to be adopted by each of the signatories into their legal systems ?at constitutional or equivalent level?, that stipulates that national budgets should converge towards balance, i.e. structural deficits should not exceed 0.5 percent of GDP. Though there is some flexibility to the rule, to allow for cyclical downturns and what the official statement calls ?exceptional economic circumstances?, member-states are called upon to put automatic mechanisms in place to safeguard against deviations. In particular, if a Eurozone country?s deficit exceeds 3 percent of GDP, there will be automatic European sanctions against it (which are, ominously, not spelled out) and the country will have to submit to an austerity program concocted by the European Commission and the European Council in order to return to fiscal virtue.
One problem with this approach is a legal one. Given that the UK has blocked a treaty change, which requires unanimity, and that the new rule is the product of an intergovernmental agreement, it is highly questionable whether the Council and the Commission, which are EU bodies, can carry out their new tasks as the bulldogs of balanced budgets.
The more serious drawback of this approach is that it exhibits all the hallmarks of the flawed German view of the euro crisis. To the austerity-prone Germans, every problem that Europe faces stems from an addiction to spending. But a union between fiscally sound, competitive Northerners and profligate, uncompetitive Southerners cannot work unless both sides as willing to move from their fixed ways. The Franco-German proposals that won the day in Brussels recognize the need for greater fiscal discipline in the South, but not the concomitant need for solidarity. The most immediate form such solidarity must take is a commitment to eurobonds. This was once again left out of the official statements.
Still, Mario Draghi, head of the ECB, was pleased with the outcome of the summit, which hopefully means the Bank will be more active in coming weeks if Italian and Spanish bond rates again threaten to reach unsustainable levels. And the decisions to bring forward the ESM (the permanent and financially more robust rescue mechanism, that will now succeed the EFSF as of next July instead of mid-2013), to drop a requirement that private bondholders take losses in future rescues and to increase IMF funding from European countries by 200 billion euros, are all welcome palliatives.
But make no mistake: this was not the ?quantum leap? (the phrase belongs to former ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet) needed for the Eurozone to finally convince the markets of its long-term viability. The doubts persist ? until the next ?make-or-break? summit.
Karl Rove is spending a lot of money trying to help his close friend Sen. Scott Brown, but his ads just aren?t passing the laugh test. Just last week, an ad from Rove?s Crossroads GPS was saying Elizabeth Warren was too radical because she was so close to the Occupy movement, but that didn?t work: her numbers actually went up, and she is now leading Brown by 7 points in the latest polling. So now Rove, ? who, according to sources of mine in the banking industry, has taken millions of dollars from the big banks for his secret slush fund, American Crossroads ? is saying Warren presided over big bank bailouts.
It?s hard to decide whether this blatantly dishonest ad is more pathetic or funny. It does once again show that Rove and the Wall Street boys giving him money have absolutely no shame. To take Wall Street millions to run an ad tying Warren to the TARP bailouts because she was an independent watchdog of the fund is theater of the absurd ? especially given that the reason she became so well-known was because she took both Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner to task for being too easy on the big banks. It?s classic Rove: attack your opponent?s greatest strength. And the fact that Rove?s group just one week before had run an ad trying to tie Warren to Occupy Wall Street because it was so ?radical? makes this funny on a grand scale.
Here is the ad in case you haven?t seen it:
OK, go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor. I know what you are probably saying: ?I know this is Karl Rove, but I didn?t think even he could be this brazen and ridiculous.? Well, he can ? on behalf of his close friend Scott Brown. These guys will say anything, do anything, and go to any lengths to try to stop Warren from winning, simply because they know what an incredible voice she would in the Senate in speaking up for the 99% and taking on the Wall Street bigwigs. It is richly ironic that because they are finding out their anti-Occupy messaging didn?t work, they are now taking our message to attack Warren because they know it works better. We will see a lot more of this before we are through ? in this race and others.
Pass these around and sound the alarm: Karl Rove is blatantly lying again to help out his dear friend Scott Brown. Do whatever you can to help.