links, commentary, toons, pics, fun!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


No Status of Forces Agreement forthcoming:

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.

In place of the formal status-of-forces agreement negotiators had hoped to complete by July 31, the two governments are now working on a "bridge" document, more limited in both time and scope, that would allow basic U.S. military operations to continue beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of the year.

The failure of months of negotiations over the more detailed accord -- blamed on both the Iraqi refusal to accept U.S. terms and the complexity of the task -- deals a blow to the Bush administration's plans to leave in place a formal military architecture in Iraq that could last for years.

Although President Bush has repeatedly rejected calls for a troop withdrawal timeline, "we are talking about dates," acknowledged one U.S. official close to the negotiations. Iraqi political leaders "are all telling us the same thing. They need something like this in there. . . . Iraqis want to know that foreign troops are not going to be here forever."

The NYT on McCain's economic "plan:"

Mr. McCain's main campaign promises, if fulfilled, would lead to huge budget deficits. Extending the Bush tax cuts, enacting more tax cuts of his own and staying the course in Iraq would cost hundreds of billions of dollars more, every year, than the small bore spending cuts he has specified. Mr. McCain cannot balance the budget on a crusade against pork and a one-year freeze in a sliver of federal spending. Either he has a secret plan to balance the budget or he's blowing smoke.

Mr. McCain and his advisers must know that his numbers do not add up. But adding up is not their point. Their point is to perpetuate the fantasy that Americans can have ever bigger tax cuts and a balanced federal budget. They cannot. The unbalanced budgets of the Reagan years and two Bush presidencies are proof.

No one — not presidents, not members of Congress, not the voters — has ever been willing, and rightly so, to starve government to the point that would make never-ending tax cuts affordable. But feeding the fantasy is easier than presenting tough choices, and it worked for Mr. McCain's Republican predecessors.

Following in those footsteps does not, however, make a good case for his candidacy. Americans face hardship in the years to come. The demands of a tanking economy, coming on top of years of unmet needs — for health care, infrastructure repair and alternative energy, to name a few — will require the next president to spend more and to raise taxes to support that spending. A blanket commitment to cutting tax cuts while balancing the budget precludes sensible discussion of how to do that.

Bob Herbert:

The Democrats, timid as always, should be pounding the populist pavement from one coast to another, explaining how the reckless and deliberately inequitable policies of the past several years have gotten the U.S. into this terrible fix.

We should be getting chapter and verse about how badly the war in Iraq is hurting us here at home. We should be seeing charts and graphs explaining how ordinary Americans, now the hardest-working people on the planet, have been cheated out of their share of the extraordinary productivity improvements they've racked up over the years.

There should be a sense of urgency coming from the Democrats in this campaign, a clarion call compelling enough to rally the legions who have been treated unfairly and badly hurt in the nation's other undeclared war: the class war.

Bush Adm. selling meetings with Cheney, Rice

A photojournalist reflects on a famous pic he took. The photo was of an American soldier heroicly rescuing an Iraqi boy. The man in the picture, who upon return home suffered from PTSD, recently killed himself. It's a thoughtful piece, which he ends this way:

I don't know that the photograph of Joseph was the best one I ever took, or my favorite, but I think it represented something important. At the time, it represented hope. Hope that what we were doing as a nation in Iraq was the right thing. Hope that our soldiers were helping people. Hope that soldiers such as Joseph cared more about human life than anything else.

But now when I look at the picture, it doesn't feel hopeful. It makes me realize that so many soldiers are physically torn and in such mental anguish that for some of them, hope has turned to hopelessness. That, I have to believe, is what happened to Joseph Dwyer, who was haunted by the ghosts of what he'd seen in Iraq, by fears he had lived with for too long. He could never leave the battlefield behind.

He was memorialized in that image trying to preserve life. But he could no longer preserve his own.

Obama digs Wilco:

at a Lincoln Park nightclub, Obama spoke to a raucous crowd of music fans, who paid up to $500 per person to see a performance by Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy, and two other band members.

"Before these guys go, I want them to know that I had heard a rumor that they had suggested that I had nothing by them on my iPod," Obama said. "That is not true. I love Wilco."

Pundit Round-Up (Sat)

Pundit Round-Up (Sun)

No comments: