Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Basically love ‘em or hate ‘em one can’t deny the fact that President Bush has got a large set of balls on him, and I am talking about big balls, balls the size of grapefruits. Despite the fact that his party was basically thrown out of Congress due almost entirely to opposition to the current handling of the Iraq war here is how President Bush has responded:
- General Casey, who opposed an escalation and more troops in Iraq, was fired and replaced with a General who will do what the president wants him to do.
- He is going through with an escalation despite the fact that even Republican Senators are opposed to the plan.
- He is going through with an escalation despite the fact that 70% of Iraqis want American troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.
- According to the latest polls 66% of Americans are opposed to the plan and yet that won’t stop him.
- The Iraq Study Group offered the president numerous options including increased diplomacy with Iran and Syria, and yet he decided to ignore almost all of their suggestions and decided to threaten Iran and Syria in his January 10th speech.
- In one of Donald Rumfeld’s final memos he even opposed more troops and described it as a “less attractive option” yet Bush is going ahead anyways.
- Even though a large majority of congress is opposed to this escalation Bush has stated that, "I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I've made my decision. And we're going forward." (see the picture above for my visual interpretation of his remarks)
So there you have it, no matter what you think about the president you have to admit that he’s got balls. The American public opposes his plan, his military commanders oppose his plan, Iraqis oppose his plan, Congress opposes his plan and yet nothing will stop him from escalating this war…and that my friends takes balls.
So what in all of this is the response from the Democratic controlled Congress? Thus far all I have heard is that short of cutting funding for the Iraq war there really isn’t much that Congress can do to stop the president…which is complete bollocks according to constitutional scholars. In fact here is a short list of how Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to limit the President’s ability to escalate existing military engagements by capping the number of American military personnel available for deployment and by refusing to release appropriated funds:
- In the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, P.L. 93-559, enacted during the Vietnam War, Congress limited the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam to 4,000 within six months and 3,000 within a year of the Act’s enactment.
- The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983, P.L. 98-43, required the President to “obtain statutory authorization from the Congress with respect to any substantial expansion in the number or role in Lebanon of the United States Armed Forces, including any introduction of United States Armed Forces into Lebanon in conjunction with agreements providing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the creation of a new multinational peace-keeping force in Lebanon.”
- Through the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1985, P.L. 98-525, Congress prohibited the use of funds appropriated in the Act or in subsequent Acts from being used to increase the number of U.S. military personnel deployed in European nations of NATO. The Act provided that Congress might authorize increased troop levels above the prescribed ceiling upon the Secretary of Defense’s certification to Congress that the European nations had taken significant measures to improve their defense capacity.
- In the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001, P.L. 106-246, Congress limited the involvement of U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors in counter-narcotics activities in Colombia by prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to expand their presence above specified levels.
- The Second Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1973, P.L. 93-50, specified that none of the funds appropriated by the Act were to be used “to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam or off the shores of Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam by United States Forces and after August 15, 1973, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other Act may be expended for such purpose.”
- Congress authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces in Somalia in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1994, P.L. 103-139, but set a deadline after which appropriated funds could no longer be used to pay for their involvement. The Act specified that the deadline could only be extended if requested by the President and authorized by the Congress.
- In the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1995, P.L. 103-335, Congress required congressional approval of “any change in the United States mission in Rwanda from one of strict refugee relief to security, peace-enforcing, or nation-building or any other substantive role” and blocked funding for continued participation of the U.S. military in Operation Support Hope beyond a specified date.
- The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, P.L. 105-85, provided that no funds appropriated for fiscal year 1998 or any subsequent year could be used for the deployment of any U.S. ground combat forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina after a specified cutoff date unless the President first consulted with Congress and then certified to Congress that certain conditions existed in the field.
But fortunately for the president Democrats in Congress are not willing to actually do anything to stop him except for offering a non-binding resolution opposing further escalation of the war, or in other words they will be symbolically sticking their thumb up their ass (it might feel nice, but it really doesn’t accomplish anything).
I find it pathetic that even though Democrats won control of both houses due to the American publics opposition to the war in Iraq and even though 66% of the country is opposed to escalating the war Democrats are still too scared to do anything. I guess it would be nice if the Democrats decided to grow a pair sometime in the near future.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
Here is what I see as being the funniest part of the story. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but it is one of the oldest cup tournaments in the country. Basically how the cup works is this: qualifying amateur teams start out in the tournament and as it progresses low level professional teams are filtered into the mix and eventually MLS teams play those teams, both amateur and small professional teams, until there is ultimately a Cup champion.
The beauty of the U.S. Open Cup is that small market teams, such as the Minnesota Thunder, have an opportunity to play larger market MLS teams. Some of you may remember back in 2004 when the Minnesota Thunder beat the L.A. Galaxy in a game held at the Metrodome and then went on to lose to Landon Donavan and the San Jose Earthquakes at the Jimmy (James Griffin Stadium aka Central High Schools football field) in a shootout.
The thought of David Beckham, the most well known athlete on the planet, being forced to play a game in a high school football stadium just kind of makes me chuckle.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Mr. Bush is under the illusion that Iraq is basically good, except for the bad elements which can be purged and cleared with more troops. This misbegotten belief in the cleansing act of violence only points in one direction: overkill. "Rationalistic metaphors about cleaning," as William T. Vollmann writes in Rising Up, Rising Down, his massive study of violence, suggest "processes which require overkill for their effectiveness to be guaranteed." Hence the problem with Bush's "surge" of troops is not only that it will fail, but that from the get-go it stops well short of the numbers that would be required to impose an effective police state in Iraq. As the Times says, "There is nothing ahead but even greater disaster in Iraq."
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Another thing we could do with that tax code that would generate substantial revenue while enhancing the progressivity of our tax code and minimizing harmful environmental effects would be to eliminate or drastically reduce the mortgage interest deduction. The mortgage interest deduction is one of the more egregious deductions. One can deduct the interest on their mortgage from their income tax. The cap is up to 1 million dollars and one can also deduct the the interest on a second home mortgage or a home equity loan. It does not take too much imagination to envision who benefits from such an arrangement.
Anyhow, looking ahead to 2008, Republicans have to face the music. New revenues will need to be found to fund the growing entitlement program. We are likely to be in a minority for at least an election cycle. Democrats picked up 30 seats in the house and while they have razor thin majority in the Senate they will be defending fewer vulnerable seats in 2008. Republicans should consider revenue neutral tax reform if it is married to such things as means testing entitlement programs, raising the eligibility age, and carve out accounts for social security. Republicans need to focus on curbing the spending pressure the entitlement programs present but also on the least bad options for raising new revenues.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The antic ghost of Nabokov hovers over this buoyantly literate first novel, a murder mystery narrated by a teenager enamored of her own precocity but also in thrall to her father, an enigmatic itinerant professor, and to the charismatic female teacher whose death is announced on the first page. Each of the 36 chapters is titled for a classic (by authors ranging from Shakespeare to Carlo Emilio Gadda), and the plot snakes ingeniously toward a revelation capped by a clever ''final exam.'' All this is beguiling, but the most solid pleasures of this book originate in the freshness of Pessl's voice and in the purity of her storytelling gift.
Indeed, Pessl gives voice to a mystery, but the real mystery is why the NYT has bouyed her image to the extent that it has.