Republican Right Offers Reagan Redux

The Republican right’s Pledge to America is widely being compared with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. But for those of us with long enough memories, it more clearly harkens back a decade further, to the early days of the Reagan Administration. Now, as then, the Republican agenda has two major political thrusts.

First, the Republicans are advancing a Reaganesque program based around defense Keynesianism, an economic pump-prime through military spending. It signals a victory for the Pentagon generals who have been fighting Obama to further expand what certainly appears to be a futile war in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan–one that can go on and on indefinitely. Moreover, the Republicans want to fund an expensive missile defense system. Just as with Reagan, once this kind of spending gets going, they will be congratulating themselves on new jobs making armaments. At the same time, they can talk of shrinking the deficit by reducing or eliminating domestic programs.

That’s the nub of the pledge, with one adroit addition. This document makes no mention of reducing or eliminating Social Security. This is good politics before the election, and it’s bound to undercut the Obama administration, which has created the fiscal commission to reduce deficits, and is widely assumed to have Medicare and Social Security in its sights.

The Fog Rolls in for the Afghanistan Assessment

At the beginning of the Iraq “surge” in 2007, Senator Barack Obama was leery of General David Petraeus, but now, we learn, he has warmed to the four-star Pentagon celebrity and calls him “Dave.”

In meetings, according to an anonymous White House official, when the talk is of Afghanistan, Petraeus “always brings up Iraq” and the surge there, The New York Times reports.

By all accounts a very savvy politician always aware of his image, it is not strange that Petraeus would remind people of the thing he is most revered for, which is the so-called “surge” in Anbar Province of Iraq, the strategy that turned a hemorrhaging disaster into a stabilized, suppurating wound.

The Fog of War is Thickening in AfghanistanThe Fog of War is Thickening in Afghanistan

Now, he is doing the same thing in Afghanistan – except Afghanistan is politically and culturally about six centuries behind Iraq.

Exclusive! New Test Shows Key Witnesses Lied at Abu-Jamal Trial; Sidewalk Murder Scene Should Have Displayed Bullet Impacts

ATTN: See a short film by Ted Passon on this story near the bottom of this homepage

During the contentious 1982 murder trial of Philadelphia radio-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a central argument of the prosecution in making its case for the conviction and for imposition of a death penalty was the trial testimony of two key eyewitnesses who claimed to have actually seen Abu-Jamal fire his pistol repeatedly, at virtually point-blank range, into the prone Officer Daniel Faulkner.
This testimony about Abu-Jamal’s shooting at the defenseless policeman execution-style solidified the prosecution’s portrayal of Abu-Jamal as a cold-blooded assassin.

There was however, always the lingering question, never raised at trial, or even during the subsequent nearly three-decades-long appeals process, of why, if Abu-Jamal had fired four bullets downward at Faulkner, only hitting him once with a bullet between the eyes on the morning of December 9, 1981, there was no evidence in the surface of the sidewalk around the officer’s body of the bullets that missed.

    Now ThisCantBeHappening! has raised further questions about that troubling lack of any evidence of missed shots by doing something that neither defense nor prosecution ever bothered to do, namely conducting a gun test using a similar gun and similar bullets fired from a similar distance into a slab of old concrete sidewalk similar to the sidewalk at the scene of the original shooting on the south side of Locust Street just east of 13th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.

Harah!: Israeli Company Hired by State Government to Spy on Pennsylvanians

The surprise disclosure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through its state Homeland Security Agency, along with a number of local police departments in the state, have been employing a private Israeli security company with strong links to Mossad and the Israeli Defense Force to spy on law-abiding citizens, grows increasingly disturbing when the website of the company, called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, is examined.

ITRR’s slick site at TerrorResponse.org features a homepage image of an armor-clad soldier or riot policeman preparing to fire an automatic pistol, while the company boasts of being “the preeminent Isreal/American security firm, providing training, intelligence and education for clients across the globe.”

Image captured from ITRR's websiteImage captured from ITRR's website

The farce that keeps on giving in Afghanistan

“The Obama administration is debating whether to make Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government, including giving him more oversight of graft investigations and notifying him before any arrests.”

This was the lead paragraph in a front page New York Times story on September 15 by reporters Mark Mazzetti and Rod Nordland.

President Obama, they wrote, has instructed key players in his administration to come up with more “sophisticated” guidelines for dealing with Afghan corruption. Specifically, they want to attack only that corruption that drives Afghans into the arms of the insurgency. All other corruption is OK.

The country that overthrew duly-elected moderate governments in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, sponsored a bloody 1973 coup in Chile and connived with France to bring down 40 years of war on the people of Vietnam is now “debating” whether to notify the elected president of a sovereign nation before it arrests members of his government?

What other than hubris gives us the right to do this kind of thing?

No Bull: The Rain in Catalonia Doesn't Fall on Spain

 The weekly Sardana in Barcelona's Old TownDancing for Independence: The weekly Sardana in Barcelona's Old Town

But the new constitution was shot down by Spain’s Constitutional Court three months ago, which declared that the central government alone can legally rule, with no self-rule allowed. A huge demonstration, the biggest in 20 years, followed in Barcelona on July 6th. “Tension is growing daily,” says Guillem, the 22-year-old concierge at our hotel, who resembles a young Paul Newman.

Obama's Rose-Colored Glasses: Growth Has Little or Nothing to Do with Jobs or Reducing Poverty

Faced with the bad, but hardly surprising news, that poverty has increased in the US on his watch, to a record level not seen since before President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, President Obama is declaring that the answer to poverty and joblessness is economic growth.

He’s wrong, but, as they say on NPR’s “Marketplace” program, “But first, the numbers.”

According to new figures from the Census Bureau, the poverty rate in America in 2009 jumped to 15%, up from 13.2% of the population in 2008. That would be one in seven of us, or about 45 million people living below the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four. Now, obviously, things are pretty tough for people who are earning a lot more than that. It’s not easy getting by with a family of four on $35,000, especially in some parts of the country, so the real poverty rate is probably a whole lot higher than 15%, but let’s not quibble. The point is that we now have the highest rate of poverty that the country has seen since the mid-’60s.

Obama's rosy view of economic growth is at odds with realityObama's rosy view of growth is at odds with reality

Obama is claiming that growing the economy is the answer for these people. As he put it at a White House news conference, “The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there…If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle.”

The problem with this answer is that economic growth doesn’t guarantee jobs, and it also doesn’t guarantee that any jobs created, or already there, will pay better wages.

Journalists in Rose-Colored Glasses: Economic Cheerleading Instead of Reporting

It’s no surprise that the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress are trying to claim that the recession (which they blame on Bush and Cheney) is over and that the economy is slowly returning to health thanks to their efforts at economic stimulus. At least those highly dubious claims get challenged by Republicans, who can be relied on to counter with evidence to the contrary, and to claim (with equal self-serving deception) that the economy is in a slump thanks to Democratic policies.

The problem comes when the media, which are supposed to take a skeptical stance, start playing economic cheerleaders, and providing the public with false information and false hopes.

This has come to be pretty much the norm these days. Those who warn that the underpinnings of the US economy are eroded, and that there is really nothing left to drive a recovery, or who warn that there is a serious danger of a slide into an even deeper recession or even a depression, are written off as “doomsayers,” and given little credence or ink, while the slightest sign of something positive gets hailed as evidence that things are on the mend.

The Corruption Conundrum

Corruption is more and more being built up as our greatest problem in Afghanistan. It’s all over the newspapers and the TV. At the epi-center of this corruption, the Kabul Bank we helped create and maintain has run aground and there’s talk in the air of a financial bail-out.

Meanwhile, the $250 million commission created to buy off Taliban fighters is “almost dead,” according to a top Afghan official at the commission. We have no trouble giving US tax dollars to the government and banking system in Afghanistan, but we can’t seem to get the Taliban to take our money.

“In Kabul, politics is all about money,” a prominent Afghan businessman recently told New York Times reporters in a story on the political connections between President Hamid Karzai and the Kabul Bank. It seems the bank gave $14 million for Karzai’s re-election after he agreed to name a bank shareholder’s brother – the fearsome Tajik General Muhammad Fahim — as his vice presidential candidate.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Afghan President Hamid KarzaiUS Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Misery of Massive Unemployment Mocks Meaning of Labor Day

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats deservedly receive criticism for failing to take decisive action on the nation’s deepening crisis of prolonged joblessness – inaction constituting gross negligence.

The defiant intransigent of congressional Republicans painfully aggravates this unemployment crisis.

But give credit where credit is due: Obama and his Capitol Hill critics have been doing a great job in boosting newly created jobs in at least a few areas like sales of anti-Obama paraphernalia plus sales of weapons and ammunition.