In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.
There are currently 90,000 troops left in Afghanistan, with a batch of 22,000 due home by the fall. There will be 68,000 left, scheduled to be completely out by the end of 2014.
Mr. Panetta offered no details of what stepping back from combat would mean, saying only that the troops would move into an "advise-and-assist" role to Afghanistan's security forces. Such definitions are typically murky, particularly in a country like Afghanistan, where American forces are spread widely among small bases across the desert, farmland and mountains, and where the native security forces have a mixed record of success at best.
At last count, American forces have suffered 1,889 killed in action in Afghanistan a number that rises to 2,882 when you include other allied forces, and untold hundreds of thousands if you include Afghans themselves (remember them?). We lost 25 soldiers in January of this year alone.
OK, so not misery so much as well-earned criticism.
But never mind that. Dave and Chuck have taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to decry the White House's shameless prejudice against meddling gazillionaires.
OK, so not them personally, but their lawyer. Things like speaking to the public -- even through the filter of print -- are entirely beneath them. But this so-called "President" Obama has been talking smack about them and they're not going to stand for it. Enough is enough. They're just people like everyone else -- except when they get a bug up their collective ass, they can hire former Solicitor General Theodore Olson to write them an op-ed in the freakin' Wall Street Journal. I'm sure their butlers hold the page up for them to read it, so they don't get newsprint ink on their hands. Otherwise, they're just folks.
Of course, some people don't see them that way. Some people insist on being distracted by reality.
"On issues ranging from climate change to health reform to tax policy to corporate regulation, in venues far and wide from Congress to state legislatures to Tea Party rallies to every foot of nearly every campaign trail, the Kochs have become an omnipresent force in right-wing politics, and a big factor in the polarization of the country," writes Ed Kilgore. "With the collapse of campaign finance rules, their ability to wield influence with little or no accountability is becoming almost unlimited. Even if you agree with them on every conceivable issue, the idea that they are cowering victims of the big-bad-bullies in the White House has to make you just burst out in derisive laughter. If I, God forbid, were a Koch Brother I'd fire Olson instantly for making me look so weak and feckless."
Olson begins his piece with a question. And it's a question I'm more than willing to answer.
"How would you feel if aides to the president of the United States singled you out by name for attack, and if you were featured prominently in the president's re-election campaign as an enemy of the people?" he asks, in all apparent seriousness.
Is this for the bonus round? Because it's way too easy: I'd feel like George Soros or every goddam Hollywood liberal or celebrity who spoke out against the invasion of Iraq.
Victim card rejected. (Wall Street Journal)
"We know that pumping oil out of the ground does not create many jobs. It does not foster an entrepreneurial spirit, nor does it sharpen critical faculties." [...]
"Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are among humanity's most pressing concerns. Societal expectations on climate change are real, and our industry is expected to take a leadership role." -Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi
The Saudi oil minister, who probably knows more about oil than anyone on the planet, says oil doesn't create jobs and that climate change is very real.
I'm fairly certain the Saudis aren't socialists or diabolical liberals, so what will the Fox News spin be on this one?###
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the supposed out of control spending of the Obama Administration is actually in control and will shrink another $200 billion in 2012.
The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday it expects this year's gap between spending and revenue to total $1.1 trillion, down from last year's $1.3 trillion. It attributed the decline to stronger tax revenue and the smallest increase in spending in years.
Read that again. The deficit has decreased by another $200 billion under the uber-socialist President Obama.
The CBO report isn't all roses, and it concedes that the automatic spending cuts that will take effect next year unless congress acts may increase unemployment, however it also indicates that allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire may be the best thing since sliced bread.
It seems likely to me the automatic triggers will end up being postponed by the current congress and then immediately swept under the rug by the next congress.
Why? Because the Republicans love making the economy look worse before an election, but after the election is over their primary concern will be stopping the automatic cuts coming to the Pentagon. Some Republicans, including John McCain, have already expressed their wish to see the automatic triggers go away if it means the Pentagon will be spared.
As far as the president is concerned, I doubt he would try to get in the way of ending the automatic triggers. They've already served their purpose, politically speaking.
Steve Benen, now writing for Maddowblog, adds:
The health care law (1) is combating fraud and abuse, which in turns saves Americans quite a bit of money; (2) has brought coverage to 2.5 million young adults; (3) is delivering major savings to seniors on prescription drugs; (4) is giving a boost to small businesses through ACA tax credits; (5) has slowed the growth of Medicare spending; (6) has provided new treatment options for cancer patients; and (7) has offered new coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Also, the Obama administration's mandated that all contraception be covered without deductibles or copays.
Meanwhile, did you know the California Senate voted on a single-payer, "Medicare for All" plan on Monday? It happened. And I didn't hear a word from the usual single-payer-or-kill-the-bill people because they probably didn't even know about it, much less rally in support of it.
The bill failed. By two goddamn votes. Two votes.
This is why we lose. Too many of us are almost exclusively concerned with parroting the agenda of certain activists and their collection of two or three pet issues, so we miss the big picture. California won't get a single-payer healthcare system built into the new structure of the president's healthcare reform act partly because progressives didn't even show up to fight. But we'll scramble over each other to bitch and screech about the "centrism" and "compromised" nature of above list of successes because they're not progressive enough.
David "I love to have prostitutes put diapers on me" Vitter boasts about Komen move
Yesterday we learned that a top Komen official is also a GOP anti-abortion activist who promised less than two years ago to shut down funding to Planned Parenthood.
Today we learn from Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones that Komen's founder, Nancy Goodman Brinker, is a major Republican donor who served as an ambassador in the George W. Bush administration, one assumes as payback for the more than $175,000 she gave to Republican candidates and the RNC since 1990.
Kate has more:
This is all to say that perhaps the Planned Parenthood decision isn't all that big of a surprise, given the politics of people involved with Komen. The flap might end up benefiting Planned Parenthood in the end, however. The group has raised more than $400,000 since the news broke, a spokesman said Wednesday afternoon.
And now that there are serious concerns as to whether the Race for the Cure and its founder are simply an arm of the anti-abortion wing of the Republican party, it's hard to imagine any Democrats or Independents wanting to be a part of that fundraiser any more - unless of course it's to protest it.
Let this be a case study in how to destroy an amazing brand in just 24 hours.
The best, most delicious aspect of this is the fact that there simply is no way for the Komen foundation to undo the damage they have done. They simply can't- this action will forever leave them branded as a tool of the reactionary right. And even if they wanted to reverse course, and begin working with Planned Parenthood again, they couldn't because of the weaselly way they rolled this out. Are they going to change their rules back and claim they no longer care if someone is under investigation? Preposterous. Are they going to just hope that Republicans will drop their politically motivated investigations? Fat chance- PP, Acorn, and all the other boogeymen the right have created are constantly going to be heckled by wingnuts in congress with nuisance investigations.
This seems like a no-brainer to me:
Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will introduce a bill Wednesday requiring large U.S. companies to disclose how many of their jobs are based on U.S. soil and how many are based abroad, an attempt to shed light on the number of American jobs being outsourced.
Such data is closely guarded by some of the country's biggest multinationals, including Pfizer, Apple and IBM. Public filings by these firms disclose their total number of employees, but don't specify where those jobs are located. Meanwhile, other data shows that multinationals overall cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.
The Outsourcing Accountability Act would require firms with revenues over $1 billion to report how many employees they have in the United States and break them down by state; jobs abroad would have to be broken down by country. Firms would also have to track the percentage increase or decrease of these figures from the previous year.
"This is fairly easy for a company to do," said Peters. "They certainly have that information readily available, and I think it'd be surprising for a company to say it doesn't know where it sends its paychecks."
I understand that companies might have perfectly good reasons for outsourcing jobs but given how much today's Galtian ballers/shock-collars like to brag to the American people about all the jobs they've created, it's only fair that they be required to disclose how many of these jobs are in the US and how many are elsewhere.
Apple (directly and indirectly) employs about 700K people worldwide but only 43K in America. Those kinds of numbers need to be part of the debate and that requires more transparency.
Five GOP senators are trying to stop the automatic defense cuts triggered by the super committee's failure to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. Their bill, to be released today, is expected to be similar to a proposal by House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), who introduced a bill to halt the first year of sequestration cuts by slashing federal jobs.
House Republicans are bringing a bill to the floor today to ensure that low-income Americans don't use federal benefits to pay for "lap dances."