Friday, March 15, 2019

Beto, Tulsi, Woody Guthrie and more


From earlier tonight, Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Real Issues."

Beto O'Rourke is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Some of us like him, some of us don't.  I was on the don't.  But C.I.'s point about Beto in Congress (see snapshot at the end of my post here) reminded me that he did ask intelligent questions and did press for truth in hearings.  So I will consider him.  And when I see garbage like this from Danielle Tcholakian (DAILY BEAST), I really am willing to consider him:

Women often jokingly exhort one another to have the confidence of a mediocre white man. The joke is as much about the society that enables and supports unearned hubris as it is about the men it references.
Is Beto O’Rourke mediocre? Maybe not. He’s charismatic and had the guts to run for a statewide elected position in Texas as a real Democrat—something even Wendy Davis, who famously and literally stood up for reproductive rights, didn’t do when she took the “blue dog” approach of positioning herself as a pro-gun Democrat. But his three terms as a member of the House of Representatives were unremarkable, and his policy positions are so vague that one is hard-pressed to outline a single one.

She lost me at "medicore White man."  Not interested in her bullying or hate aimed at a group of people.  If she has a problem with Beto, make it about him.  How dare she slime a group of people.  As a feminist, I wouldn't stand for it if she were sliming women, I won't play double standard or hypocrite.


SHAPIRO: He did not waste any time. He's already in Iowa talking to voters, huh?

KURTZLEBEN: Right, yeah. He's there. He's there for a three-day swing. And yeah. We heard in that video there that, also, he's trying to distinguish himself. And one way that he's trying to do that is through that tone. You may have noticed there that kind of epic, fight-for-our-existence, big, climactic scene of a movie hero's speech...

SHAPIRO: Yeah (laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: ...Thing he's doing there. And I mean, this really is a way that Beto O'Rourke distinguishes himself. He has this tone that's epic, but it's not grim. It's just aggressively positive. But aside from that, you know, there are a couple of issue areas that stood out today. One is immigration. Here's one thing he said in that announcement video.


O'ROURKE: And all of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem, it's the best possible problem for this country to have.

KURTZLEBEN: That's a strong statement. That's a definitive statement. And it also neatly manages to evoke President Trump and counter him without actually naming him. Now, one more thing is climate change. He mentioned that in this video and in the speech he gave in Keokuk, Iowa, today. Now, that's an issue that - I've been out on the campaign trail. It gets young voters very excited and very concerned. And today in Iowa, he praised the Green New Deal pretty strongly. And that's a policy that really energizes those young voters.

On NPR and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, let me note music.  They did a report on Woody Guthrie and his song "This Land Is Your Land:"

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: To understand the song, it helps to understand the guy who wrote it. In February 1940, Woody Guthrie was sitting in his room in a midtown Manhattan hotel called Hanover House.

NORA GUTHRIE: Which was a kind of fleabag hotel.

BLAIR: Standing where that fleabag hotel once stood, the late Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, says her dad might not be keen about the corporate bank across the street, but he'd be thrilled to know what is still on the corner.

N GUTHRIE: And I'm sure he ate at a hot dog stand right on this corner many times.

BLAIR: And did Woody Guthrie like hot dogs?

N GUTHRIE: Loved (laughter).

BLAIR: Hot dogs, fries and root beer were Sunday brunch, says Nora. Woody Guthrie was a no-frills kind of guy, a deeply curious wanderer. Nora says he'd go out for a pack of cigarettes and not come home for a week or two.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 15, 2019.  Iraq gets a little attention from the US Congress, Beto's running and more.

US General Joseph Dunford, who is the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his "fourth and final appearance" before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday "in support of the Department's annual budget request."  Also appearing before the Committee was Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.  The topic was the Defense Dept's budget

In his written statement, Dunford noted the following:

Iraq and Syria. U.S. troops remain engaged in the D-ISIS campaign. As the campaign transitions from clearing ISIS-held territory to a focus on stabilizing the region, activities such as training local security forces, enabling local governance, and conducting counterterrorism operations will help prevent a power vacuum in Northeast Syria and a resurgence of ISIS. We are working with our Coalition partners to ensure we meet Turkish security concerns as well as protect those that fought with us against ISIS.

Wow. How novel.  How new.  Year after year, this is the same cycle.  Oh, now we're just clearing and holding.  Let's train.

What is this?  War or a shampoo?  Rinse and repeat?

How many years is the Iraq War going to drag on?  This is about the sixth time that the US government has declared we just need to train forces.  How many times are they going to be trained?

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over," said Senator Martha McSally but she wasn't talking about Iraq.  She was talking about "blue on blue crimes" -- assault within in the military.

Senator Martha McSally:  In 2017, there were 6,769 sexual assaults reported across our entire military, likely thousands of others that were not reported.  These blue on blue crimes are unacceptable.  They're harming our warriors and they're degrading good order and discipline and military readiness.  Many steps have been taken by the military over the last years and this body -- over a hundred legislative actions. But it's not enough.  There are thousands of our warriors and military readiness that have been harmed by these crimes.  I believe commanders must be educated, equipped and held accountable and still be responsible for the decisions, the culture and the discipline regarding sexual assault. However, something needs to change. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting  a different result.  Perhaps we need to take a fresh look at this issue.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and more so over the last week.  We have weeks now before the NDAA will be marked up before this committee.  I am fully locked on like a missile on this target.  And I want to be working with you and the military services to take a fresh look at this.  I've asked the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff to start with a summit at the Air Force but it's not just the Air Force, it's across our military forces.  So can I get your commitment that we are going to partner on this and we are going to take a fresh look and tackle this over the next forty-five days together?  Which includes being responsive to my questions and maybe forming a team of experts and resources to be able to really dial in as to what's working, what's not working, across the spectrum of prevention and in response and prosecution? And we can tackle this together, come up with some ideas and impact on the NDAA, culminating with a Tank meeting with all the leaders there including myself  and solve this thing together?  Can I get your commitment you'll work with me on that?

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan:  Senator, you have my commitment.

Senator Martha McSally: Thank you. Chairman, Dunford?

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan:  Absolutely, Senator.

Senator Martha McSally:  Okay, great. Let's follow up immediately on that.  I appreciate it.

Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned the increase in the budget and we'll note that in another snapshot, including her statement that the budget was establishing  "a slush fund to hide what's happening with Defense spending."  Back to Iraq, AL-MONITOR notes:

Testifying before Congress today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said the Pentagon’s proposed 2020 budget will support an “enduring presence” of US troops in Iraq that’s “slightly less than the forces that are on the ground right now.”
Why it matters: The comments from Marine Gen. Dunford, the US military’s top officer, indicate the US plans to let Iraqi forces carry a larger load in the future as they clean up the remnants of the Islamic State (IS), which appears set to morph into an insurgency.
But that doesn’t appear to gel with President Donald Trump’s remarks last month that the United States would keep troops at Iraq’s Al Asad Air Base to “watch” Iran. Those comments sparked a firestorm in Iraq, where US troops are stationed at the invitation of the government in Baghdad. Dunford said in a prepared statement that the United States plans on “leveraging a relatively small footprint of US forces to enable local partners throughout the world.”

When do the training wheels come off?

Never because taking the training wheels off would mean the US couldn't occupy Iraq.  It would mean that the illegitimate government, installed by the US, could fall.  It would mean that the Iraqi people might be able to put in a leader who actually represents them and their needs.

That's Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Beto's running" which went up yesterday and, yes, former US House Rep Beto O'Rourke announced he is seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  From an overview of his stands put together by PBS' THE NEWSHOUR (Trina noted it in "Beto"), we'll note this:

 Afghanistan and Syria: It is not clear where O’Rourke stands on President Donald Trump’s proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.

O’Rourke has said he thinks U.S. policy in Syria should be debated and discussed in a more meaningful way. It is not clear if he supports troop withdrawal from the country. Likewise it is not clear if he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

I'm not anti-Beto.  He impressed me in Congress, we noted him in coverage of many hearings.  But I am not impressed with that nonsense.  He is a former member of Congress and he now wants to be president but he can't figure out a clear position on these issues?  What about Iraq?  These are issues he should have figured out before deciding to run.

It's not a vanity contest.  Don't run if you don't think you can make needed changes.  Don't run if you can't communicate what those changes need to be.

At PRI,  Ori Swed and Thomas Crosbie shine a light on the hidden world of US forces in Iraq that are private contractors:

In 2016, 1 in 4 US armed personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan was a private contractor. This means that the war is already being outsourced, yet scholars, the media and the general public know almost nothing about it.
Because contractors operate in the shadows, without effective public oversight, they allow policymakers to have their cake and eat it too — by appearing to withdraw, while keeping proxy forces in theater. Who are the contractors who actually execute American policy? Are they equipped to succeed in this important task? What risks is the US asking them to take?
The simple truth is that there is little reliable data about this industry. Without this data, scholars cannot ask even the most basic questions of whether using contractors works better than the alternative, namely military personal or local forces — or, indeed, whether it works at all.
We are researchers who study the privatization of security and its implications. In our study, published on Dec. 5 in Armed Forces & Society, we shed light on some of the aspects of this largely invisible workforce for the first time.
It’s hard to get data about private military contractors, mainly because of the proprietary business secrets. Despite the fact that those companies act as proxies of the state, they are not legally obligated to share information with the public on their actions, organization or labor force.
Given how centrally private military companies feature in American foreign policy debates lately, Americans may assume that their policymakers are working from a detailed understanding of the contractor workforce. After all, the point is to weigh the contractors’ merits against uniformed service members, about whom the public have excellent information.
But this does not appear to be the case. There isn’t a detailed account of the private military industry’s practices, workforce, misconducts or contracts. Noticing this gap, in 2008, Congress instructed the Department of Defense to start collecting data on private security personnel.
However, this data is limited, as security contractors comprise just 10 to 20 percent of DOD contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest provide mission essential functions, such as engineering, communication and transportation and many others. Those roles take place in conflict areas and place those contractors at similar risk level as the soldiers.

6 women are running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination:

Last month, I told Chair Powell that he needs to hear from workers & consumers before approving the & merger, instead of making a deal behind closed doors. Today, the Fed announced 2 public meetings on the merger. It's a step toward transparency.
We have real emergencies in this country that our govt needs to address. Gun violence. Climate change. The opioid epidemic. Student debt. The Senate, House & a majority of Americans agree, : your scheme to build a monument to hate at the border isn’t an emergency.

lesson for the day:
Trump's budget guts social safety nets and dumps the money into the swamp.

  • Through the grace of God may the unbearable be made bearable for all the agonized hearts in New Zealand. Dear God, please bring them peace. Amen.
    Looking forward to being in Las Vegas Friday evening, March 15 at 5:30PM PST. Join us and spread the word! RSVP →

    My heart is heavy with grief for New Zealand & Muslims worldwide affected by the tragic murders in Christchurch. The massacre of those in a house of worship, in prayer, is evil & cowardly. We stand with our friends around the world to condemn hate & speak out against intolerance.
    Excited to be in Houston next Saturday! If you’re in the area, I’d love to share my vision for America with you, your family, and friends. RSVP today for our first campaign rally in Texas →

    Right now, LGBTQ Americans in a majority of states can be: ❌fired ❌evicted from their homes ❌denied credit ❌refused service at restaurants ❌bullied without any legal protection. We need to pass the and finally outlaw this discrimination.
    What a disgrace. It's clear that President Trump cares more about his own hateful political agenda than our national security or our service members. Shame on the Pentagon for bending to this disgusting policy.

    This is heartbreaking. My prayers are with the people of New Zealand and the families of those 49 killed and dozens injured at the mosques in Christchurch. People should be able to worship in this world without fear and know they will come home safe.
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    The following sites updated: