It is more then unfortunate that too many Americans think of their fiscal well being solely in terms of tax cuts. Paying taxes is like going to the dentist, except for Arthur Denton in Little Shop of Horrors, no one likes going to the dentist or paying taxes, but most people would agree that both of these obligations have their benefits. The bottom line should be whether we're getting our money's worth. Are our tax dollars being well spent, Setting the Wrong Priorities: An Analysis of the President's 2007 Budget
The last five years have seen a sharp reduction in the federal government's ability to raise adequate revenue. At 17.6 percent of GDP, federal revenue is near 30-year lows. While revenue showed a slight surge in 2005 as a share of GDP, it was largely the result of temporary factors.3 The federal budget deficit is projected to reach $423 billion in 2006 under the president's proposals. Federal spending on domestic programs is not \out-of-control" as many conservatives contend. Most of the recent increases in federal outlays have been primarily due to increased military and national security spending. The growth of spending on domestic discretionary spending has been significantly reduced-and the president again proposes cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, leaving many of the nation's problems unaddressed
Sometimes an idea is a reaction to something that we should not be doing.
Democratic Ideas and Iraq, A Real Plan for Success in Iraq
Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The US should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects, and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. Iraq's neighbors should be asked to assist. This will also provide a better opportunity for meaningful back-door discussions of Iran's nuclear program, Syria's interests in Lebanon, and Turkish interaction with the Kurds in Iraq. The US should tone down its raw rhetoric for US-style democracy as an answer to all problems and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. A public US declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would also be helpful in engaging both regional and Iraqi support at this point.On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution are less important than the substance. It is up to American leadership to help engineer a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and the neighbors can support. So, no Kurdish vote on independence; a restricted role for Islam, and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.
In addition, the US needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice – along with additional US civilian personnel aimed at strengthening the institutions of government. Three month in-country tours should be replaced by a minimum two year stay for civilian advisors and technical experts. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice trained and established, and the rule of law promoted at the local levels. With the majority of Iraqis having known no other leader than Saddam Hussein, there will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training, and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqi sovereignty. Hand-in-glove are the requirements for infrastructure repair, job creation, and economic development without which no government will be safe from an insurgent force. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential..
Much of what we've seen in the last few years in Iraq is what seems to be a race between the administration's two Achille's heels, poor planning and incompetent implimentation. Despite any claims the administarion is going to shake things up with some personnel changes, there's no reason to believe, given its track record these changes will have a positive impact on its ability to be both proactive and proficient. As they've shown little to no ability to shift gears as circumstances would dictate there is no reason to think new personnel would redirect the Bush juggernaut in a new and more productive direction. Bush's like minded supporters are engaged in an infantile game of redirection wherein the war isn't going that badly because more people were murdered in New York last year, as a for instance; by that convoluted reasoning shouldn't we be declaring a war on crime in New York and bring the Guard home. Its impossible to have a debate with people that insist on being experts in the Daffy school of debate. From American Progress 2006 Iraq Report Card
Economic Reconstruction D-
• After spending months promoting its provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), this key component of the Bush administration main reconstruction plan is still mostly dormant.
• Iraq produces less oil now than it did on the eve of the invasion, and many Iraqis continue to suffer from a lack of basic services.
Impact on U.S. National Security F
• Three years of a continuous U.S. troop presence in Iraq has weakened U.S. ground forces.
• The open-ended commitment to Iraq has served as a rallying cry for global terrorists.
• U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that Iraq has become the new leading training ground for global terrorists
• The total costs of the war continue to rise, approaching $300 billion for American taxpayers, including the forthcoming bill for supplemental funding.
Thanks to Crooks and Liars for mentioning me in their blog round up.
You haven't done anything wrong. You're removed from your home, family, work, friends. You are not able to face a judge or jury to make your case or see what if any evidence there is against you. Sounds Kafkaesque, but its not its Bushleague justice, Yemenis Freed After Transfer From Secret Prisons, Report Says
Three Yemeni men who were held for well over a year in secret American prisons overseas were quietly released last month after being transferred to their home country, where a court concluded they had no terrorist ties, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.
The report says evidence promised by the United States was apparently never transferred to Yemeni authorities. It also adds other new details to accounts of the Central Intelligence Agency's program of holding terrorist suspects in secret detention centers or transferring them to other countries, where some said they were tortured.
The Yemenis said their American jailers, whom they do not accuse of abusing them, took great care to keep them from surmising the detention centers' location, keeping windows covered and removing wrappers and labels from food, clothing and water bottles, the report says.
Jim Powell was a Jelly-bean. Much as I desire to make him an appealing character, I feel that it would be unscrupulous to deceive you on that point. He was a bred-in-the-bone, dyed-in-the-wool, ninety-nine three-quarters per cent Jelly-bean and he grew lazily all during Jelly-bean season, which is every season, down in the land of the Jelly-beans well below the Mason-Dixon line.
from the story THE JELLY-BEAN by F. Scott Fitzgerald