Bob Gates' abilities as a masterful bureaucrat and Washington shapeshifter has rarely been on more public display than in his just-completed press conference. He was expected to unveil a Pentagon review of Don't Ask Don't Tell that would clear the way[...]
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Okay, not exactly 'You Lie!' But moments after Sec Def Bob Gates called for Congress to repeal DADT this year, Reps. Joe Wilson (R) and Buck McKeon (R) sent out a statement calling for "comprehensive oversight" of the Pentagon's study showing that[...]
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Rep. Steve King (R-IA) says the USDA's black farmer settlement is backdoor "slavery reparations" cooked up by a "very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama."[...]
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The Pentagon just released its report on its misbegotten "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and both Defense Secretary Bob Gates and the Joint Chiefs' Admiral Mullen believe it's time that Congress send the legislation through repealing it:
The study found that 70 percent of troops surveyed believed that repealing the law would have mixed, positive or no effect, while 30 percent predicted negative consequences. Opposition was strongest among combat troops, with at least 40 percent saying it was a bad idea. That number climbs to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles. The study also draws a strong correlation between troops who have worked with a gay service member and those who support repeal. According to the assessment, 92 percent of troops who have served with someone they believed to be gay thought that their unit's ability to work together was either very good, good, or neither good nor poor.
One person familiar with the report said it will show that military commanders believe gay and lesbian troops have a strong desire to fit in and feel accepted by their units. The report will also show that gay service members currently serving in the military have expressed a patriotic desire to serve, and want to be subject to the same rules as other service members. The survey is based on responses by some 115,000 troops and 44,200 military spouses to more than a half million questionnaires distributed last summer by an independent polling firm.
Okay, I've got some more detail for you on the findings in that forthcoming Pentagon report on the impact repeal of Don't Ask Don't tell will have on the military. The upshot: It will leave GOP moderates with no reasons left to oppose repeal.
One of the key findings in the report is that a whopping 74 percent of spouses of military service-members say repeal of DADT would have no impact on their view of whether their husbands or wives should continue to serve. This number comes by way of a Congressional staffer who attended a private briefing that the report's authors, Defense Department officials Jeh Johnson and Carter Ham, gave to Senate Armed Services Committee staffers this morning.
This finding is important, because it undercuts a key argument made by repeal opponents: That having service-members mingle with gay colleagues could worry their families.
Also: The report will also undercut another key argument being made by repeal opponents: That opposition remains strong in the Marines. According to the source, while the report does find that concern runs high among Marines, it also finds that 84 percent of Marine combat corps combat arms units who said they thought they'd worked with homosexual service-members in the past found the experience either very good, good, or neutral.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who requested the report, echoed their sentiments: "This can be done, and should be done, without posing a serious risk to military readiness."
"Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year," Gates said. "I believe this is a matter of some urgency because, as we have seen this past year, the federal courts are increasingly becoming involved in this issue."
The right will dig up any little tidbit they can to try and undermine the repeal of DADT so I always felt that this report was a delaying tactic to undermine its chances.
Steve Benen thinks that Republicans have lost the information battle, but to these Republicans, truth and facts do not matter.
As for the larger legislative context, remember, Senate Republicans recently refused to even allow a debate on funding U.S. troops because they wanted to wait for this report. They took a gamble, of sorts -- maybe the survey results would show servicemen and women agreeing with the GOP's anti-gay animus, thus giving the party a boost fighting pro-repeal Democrats.
The gamble failed. We now know a majority of U.S. troops, a majority of U.S. civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are all ready to see DADT repeal move forward.
If John McCain and other anti-gay senators hoped to gain some leverage, those hopes were in vain. They've run out of excuses. It's time for the Senate to do the right and decent thing.
Remember, Democrats only need two Republicans -- literally, just two -- to break ranks. These GOP senators, if they exist, don't even have to vote for the spending bill that includes the DADT provision; they just need to let the Senate vote up or own. If this report doesn't lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.
McCain, who has apparently decided to make his lasting legacy be that of the last man standing against the civil rights issue of the twenty-first century, will presumably continue to argue that violating Americans' 14th Amendment rights isn't a problem.
But the bottom line here is, the findings in this report removes any excuse for opposing the repeal by moderate Republican Senators who have said their vote on the issue would be based on its findings.
But bear in mind that this is just a recommendation on gradually implementing the repeal. It's a victory, but the war isn't won. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has promised a vote on the repeal before the end of the year.
Sam Stein in the Huffington Post (my emphasis):
With just weeks remaining before tax rates revert back to pre-Bush levels, Senate Democrats have come to the fragile conclusion that they should and will hold a solitary vote to extend rates for the middle class while letting those for the wealthy expire. ...Talking with Rachel Maddow (see below), Stein calls that first vote "symbolic."
"A lot of people want to have that contrast vote, to make it clear what we stand for," said one Senior Democratic aide. "So we take that middle-class vote first, then we look to a compromise and see what's in the grab bag."
What's in the grab bag could end up being the key towards passage. Democrats may be willing to give in to Republican demands that the rates for the wealthy be extended (at least temporarily) but not without getting some legislative goodies in return. ... [Yet] the prevailing belief is that GOP lawmakers would be willing to scuttle the whole tax cut package. "I don't see the Republicans going for anything this administration has proposed," the aide said.
I continue to be mesmerized by the number of liberals, progressives and libertarians (or perhaps "libertarians," who the hell knows any longer) who express extraordinarily negative views of WikiLeaks. My post yesterday revisited this general territory, examining one of the critics' oft-repeated complaints: that certain of WikiLeaks' revelations will lead to more war, not less. See yesterday's entry for my reasons for concluding that this argument is entirely without merit and completely irrelevant to an evaluation of WikiLeaks and its work.
Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine that WikiLeaks releases a cache of documents which conclusively establishes that any attack on Iran by any country, but especially by the United States, would lead to the following results: the consolidation of power by the current Iranian regime, which power is now supported by almost all Iranians since they correctly perceive they are under attack by a common external enemy; the related dissolution of all those groups which had been opposed to Iran's government; Iran's absolute determination to have a nuclear arsenal as quickly as possible, which determination had not existed before; the explosion of Iraq into a nightmare of bloody destruction, as Iran sends troops into that country (I should properly say, more of a nightmare of bloody destruction); attacks on Israel which come close to destroying that nation utterly (some of the attacks come from Iran, others are of undetermined origin as more countries are drawn into the war); the complete collapse of Pakistan's government, with most of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a terrorist group that had previously been unknown ... and on and on.
Some of these results are close to certain; all of them are possible, perhaps even probable. (That's true right now, and you don't need an imagined WikiLeaks release to understand it. Most people refuse to acknowledge it.) The WikiLeaks release includes internal (and top secret!) U.S. government reports which offer extensive evidence for all these conclusions and identify all these results -- and it's not just one U.S. government analysis saying this, but dozens of them from a variety of agencies.
The news is dominated by the Iran story for days and weeks. As one, every major media outlet declares that any attack on Iran must be viewed as unthinkable. The results would be catastrophic, on a scale that defies comprehension. Finally, every "responsible" voice states without reservation that an attack on Iran must irrevocably be taken off the table. Everyone waits for Obama to give a speech in which he will say that, under present and foreseeable circumstances, the U.S. will not attack Iran, for the consequences could not be countenanced. Everyone begins to consider such a speech all but inevitable.
Do you have any doubt -- any doubt at all -- that many or even most of the same people who criticize WikiLeaks for its "irresponsibility" in allegedly providing support for those who seek still more war would herald WikiLeaks for its heroism and history-changing courage? That the same people would ceaselessly praise WikiLeaks as a unique and uniquely far-seeing and groundbreaking force for peace? I certainly don't.
I intentionally cast my hypothetical in an extreme version in the opposite direction to highlight one particular issue. For all the reasons identified in my previous article, the position of the WikiLeaks' critics (those critics I've identified; I'm not referring here to conservative critics, who obviously have very different reasons) reduces to this: leaks that may lead to results I view negatively are irresponsible and organizations like WikiLeaks are merely "useful idiots" for Empire, while leaks that may lead to results I view positively are heroic and admirable, and those who make such material available to the world have done humanity an enduring and indispensable service. (You'll find some thoughts about "irresponsibility," including observations from Hannah Arendt on that topic, here.)
More briefly: leaks I like, good; leaks I don't like, bad. I've analyzed another instance of this same approach, in the area of "intelligence" and its uses. I preliminarily note that to argue in terms of intelligence at all is a grave mistake. I won't offer my arguments again; I've gone through them countless times and almost everyone continues to argue about intelligence constantly. So be it. If you're interested, you'll find the case set out in "Fools for Empire," -- in both Part I and Part II. (Very briefly: intelligence, which is almost always wrong, is irrelevant to major policy decisions. Even when it's correct, it will be disregarded when it runs counter to policy decisions that have already been made. The primary and usually the sole purpose of intelligence is as propaganda, and it is used after the fact to justify a course of action already decided upon.)
After discussing the erroneous treatment of "intelligence" by two writers in particular (which I did with some reluctance, since the writers in question are valuable antiwar voices), I identified the problem this way -- and it is the same problem that now afflicts many of the WikiLeaks critics:
In other words: when the intelligence community happens to agree with the policy Raimondo himself prefers (as I do, too), it is telling the truth and nothing but the truth. But when the intelligence community offers judgments that support the case for military confrontation, its assessment is determined by political pressure.Another significant similarity between the "intelligence" and WikiLeaks examples deserves to be highlighted. The continued insistence by virtually everyone on arguing about "intelligence" arises in large part from the reliance on authority that is drummed into all of us, usually beginning in early childhood. In Part II of "Fools for Empire," I set out several notable examples of what is wrong with relying on intelligence in the manner most people do. One of those examples is from Barbara Tuchman, and here's part of what she said (writing about Vietnam):
This is exactly the argument offered by Larry Johnson (as discussed in Part I), and by Ron Rosenbaum (as Raimondo discusses), with the polarities reversed: Johnson, Rosenbaum and many other advocates of aggressive interventionism contend that when the intelligence agencies state that Iran represents no threat whatsoever, they do so as the result of improper political pressure, but when the intelligence agencies judge that Iran constitutes a genuine threat, and perhaps a very dire one, they're telling the truth and nothing but.
Arguments in the form, "When you agree with me, you're telling the truth, and when you don't, you're lying," are singularly unconvincing. Moreover, this approach with regard to the intelligence community ignores the much more fundamental problems I've already identified.
The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, "We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against." This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. "Foreign policy decisions," concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, "are in general much more influenced by irrational motives" than are domestic ones.And in making the connection between that passage and how we are all taught to rely on authority and to obey, I wrote:
To connect Tuchman's argument to my ongoing discussion of the crucial significance of Alice Miller's work, I will rephrase Tuchman's statement, "This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand...," as follows:With regard to WikiLeaks, you see the same issue, as I observed yesterday:Mommy and Daddy [and usually, especially Daddy] have special, secret knowledge that I can't possibly have or understand, since I'm just a kid. So when it comes to most things, and particularly when really big questions are involved, I have to do what they say. Mommy and Daddy know best. I have to obey them.
WikiLeaks' primary purpose is to make information available to everyone. Each one of us can make our own judgments as to what should be done with that information, if anything, and what course of action might be indicated or not. But the kind of complaint conveyed by this Corrente post is precisely the issue I previously addressed: the complaint is that providing vast amounts of information freely to everyone isn't a good idea and might even be a very bad idea -- unless a particular outcome can be assured.I realize that this is a complex issue, and that it can require a good deal of time to untangle it. I remarked in my series of articles on WikiLeaks last summer that I myself found many of these connections far from obvious.
Despite the poster's kind comments about me personally, I will state the conclusion plainly: this completely misses what is most fundamental about WikiLeaks and why its work challenges established authority so profoundly. This particular Corrente poster may want authority to prevent rather than enable further war -- but he still wants some authority to guarantee the result he prefers.
[T]he very purpose of Wikileaks is to challenge any and every authority of this kind. For Wikileaks, the only authority that matters -- the only person who is ultimately entitled to all available information and who properly should judge it -- is you. In this sense, which I submit is the highest and best sense of the term, Wikileaks is a genuine "leveller." It seeks to make each and every individual the ultimate judge of the truth, just as it seeks to empower all people to make the determination as to what course of action is indicated, if any. This, dear reader, is what a real revolution looks like.And, to tie some of these elements together:
Given the unrelieved fraud that is "intelligence," and in light of the conclusively and repeatedly proven inability to trust any part of the Establishment to "filter" any of this or any other material whatsoever, including "raw data," I view it as a complete and shining triumph for Wikileaks and other organizations to release as much information, and as much "raw data," as they can get their hands on. Wikileaks thus increases what is in the public record, and thereby provides more information on the basis of which you can make your own judgment. We -- by which I mean you, me and everyone else -- certainly can't do any worse than the politicians and "experts" in trying to make sense of it. Moreover, I consider it much more likely that we will do a significantly better job. And even if we don't, we aren't the ones who will be ordering bombing runs, assassinations, or invasions.Time moves on, and events press in upon us. Soon we will be able to travel beyond my hypothetical, for WikiLeaks has a different target in mind for early next year: a major American bank. From a just published interview with Julian Assange in Forbes:
You?ve been focused on the U.S. military mostly in the last year. Does that mean you have private sector-focused leaks in the works?When this release occurs, I will eagerly devour the denunciations of WikiLeaks and of Assange, especially from liberals, progressives and assorted "libertarians."
Yes. If you think about it, we have a publishing pipeline that?s increasing linearly, and an exponential number of leaks, so we?re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.
So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?
Yes, but maybe not as high impact?I mean, it could take down a bank or two.
That sounds like high impact.
But not as big an impact as the history of a whole war. But it depends on how you measure these things.
When will it happen?
Early next year. I won?t say more.
What do you want to be the result of this release?
[Pauses] I?m not sure.
It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.
Usually when you get leaks at this level, it?s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there?s only one similar example. It?s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.
This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that?s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.
You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it?s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that?s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they?re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.
Making full use of their arsenal for gridlock, many GOP members are itching for the opportunity to force a government shutdown next year. Forming a veritable “shutdown caucus,” a new cohort of Republicans like Rep.-elect Alan Nunnelee (MS), Rep.-elect Tim Walberg (MI), and Sen.-elect Mike Lee (UT) joined veteran Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to push the radical tactic, popular among their conservative base. Indeed, Tea Party leaders and their conservative cohort are keen to pull the shutdown trigger, firing warning shots at Republicans who “may be growing squeamish” at the thought.
But “one of the most popular Republicans in the nation” is brushing off such clamoring as political noise. Asked by Newsmax’s Kathleen Walter whether he viewed the “grassroots conservatives” push for shutdown as a “mistake,” Bush dismissed the notion as “a little naive,” because, quite simply, “you can’t shut down the government”:
WALTER: Governor Bush, some grassroots conservatives say that Republicans should reserve the right to shutdown the federal government rather than vote to raise the debt ceiling in the next Congress. Do you view that as a mistake?
BUSH: I view it as a little na´ve. First of all, you can?t shut down the government. There are public safety, national security issues, that override a well-intended point, I?m sure, that government is way too big. Better to have a plan on how you reduce the debt by reducing the deficit. And that plan is out there…You can create a roadmap where you have declining deficits that would create a whole lot of confidence, a lot more confidence than shutting down government for a couple of weeks and then admitting that its not going to be finished. It’s harder to build consensus around the tough choices that have to be made, but that’s what has to be done.
Watch it (starting at 9:00):
Dubbing a government shutdown over the debt ceiling “naive” is a bit of an understatement. The GOP’s first attempt to shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 threatened “worldwide economic catastrophe,” cost taxpayers more than $800 million and “shook international confidence in U.S. government bonds.” What’s more, a failure to raise the debt ceiling would not only result in a government shutdown itself, but would cause “worldwide financial panic,” a “default on the national debt,” a “severe drop in economic growth and employment,” and an “actual increase in long-term deficits and debt.” The GOP plan to threaten public safety and national security in order to secure a full-on economic meltdown is much more than naive, it’s a surefire disaster.
Like Bush, some GOP members including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) are beginning to realize the “chaos” that would ensure from such a policy. As the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes, certainly their public remarks which “position a shutdown as beyond the pale help create an incentive for Republicans to avoid one.” But Paul’s own impossible proposal to find enough cuts to balance the deficit in one to two years threatens “chaos” of its own and “even possibly a shutdown.” Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, which Bush touts as a good shutdown alternative, is just as misguided. Not only would it radically undermine Social Security through privatization, it would tax the middle class at a higher rate than the wealthy and end Medicare as we know it. While Bush is right to warn his comrades against a shutdown, his misplaced “hope” that younger GOP members will “show a better path” appears to be equally naive.
As the Pentagon releases its long-awaited report on "don't ask, don't tell," a look at recent public opinion polls on gay men and lesbians serving in the military.
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As much as the village likes to pretend otherwise, fact is, Republicans don't give a damn about the deficit. They grow them, while Democratic administrations shrink them. That's the objective and provable reality, no matter what anyone else might think.
However, the teabaggers have imposed a new level of party discipline on Republicans. Witness Kay Bailey Hutchison and Olympia Snowe signing on to the Senate GOP's unilateral ban on earmarks. They refused to sign on just a few months ago, but both are slated to face teabagger challenges, and think that these late-minute flip flops will protect them. It won't, they are both goners, but they'll try and pretend otherwise for as long as they can until they realize that their best chances for reelection are to go independent.
But the earmark thing won't be the only hot potato Republicans wrestle with this coming congressional term.
In a clear sign of momentum against ethanol subsidies, a bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators has signed onto a letter urging Senate leaders to let the subsidies expire during this Congress, a move that could put many officials in a tricky political spot and could even have ramifications for the 2012 presidential race.
The letter, which I obtained from a source, was authored by senators Dianne Feinstein and Jon Kyl, and includes a number of Democrats and Republicans, including John McCain, Susan Collins, Richard Burr, and Mike Enzi. This is key, because the question of whether the subsidies should expire is emerging as a key test -- just like earmarks -- of whether Republicans are serious about reining in spending and the deficit.
Ethanol subsidies have had a two-track level of support -- farm state legislators of both parties support them, as well as anyone with presidential ambitions. Iowa, anyone? But even beyond the primaries, The midwest is a key electoral battleground, and ethanol is huge in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. South Dakota isn't competitive at the presidential level, but one congressional district in Nebraska is (1 EV) as well as another 68 EVs in the other states (minus a handful they'll lose in next year reapportionment).
That's quite a few senators who will fight to protect free government money to their agricultural sector. Not a single one of those states is represented in the letter calling for the abolition of those subsidies. And it's significant money. From the letter:
We are writing to make you aware that we do not support an extension of either the 54 cent-per-gallon tariff on ethanol imports or the 45 cent-per-gallon subsidy for blending ethanol into gasoline. These provisions are fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unwise, and their extension would make our country more dependent on foreign oil.
Subsidizing blending ethanol into gasoline is fiscally indefensible. If the current subsidy is extended for five years, the Federal Treasury would pay oil companies at least $31 billion to use 69 billion gallons of corn ethanol that the Federal Renewable Fuels Standard already requires them to use. We cannot afford to pay industry for following the law....
Democrats will fall along regional lines on the matter, like they always do. Wasteful spending in Iowa won't seem so wasteful to Iowa's Democratic congressional delegation. And in normal times, the same would apply to the region's Republicans.
But these aren't normal times, with the teabaggers demanding that Republicans pay more than lip service to deficit reduction. And there's no doubt that these subsidies aren't just wasteful, but they're unsound on any possible policy grounds. Subsidizing Big Oil and Big Agribusiness for environmentally unsound ethanol subsidies is madness, and has only persisted as long as it has because of Iowa's presidential clout.
And in a presidential cycle where Republicans will be tripping over themselves to curry favor with the teabaggers and with Iowans ... well, this topic should prove entertaining to say the least.
Cypher: I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill? markos: "I get that there are those who think Obama can do no wrong, or[...]
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