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Afghanistan Withdrawal: Not Fast Enough (Up Date)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Up Date: The President’s speech with a link to the transcript is below. As expected, not big enough or fast enough nor will all the troops ever be withdrawn.

Only 10,000 troops from the last surge of 33,000 are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 the end of next summer. Seriously, another 18 15 months. There are 100,000 service men and women serving in Afghanistan alone. Leaving the money aside, what about the them? How many more killed, maimed and psychologically scarred? For what? A war that is not winnable where the US is doing more harm than good and is not wanted. I haven’t even mentioned the cost and suffering of Afghan civilians.

No, Mr. Obama, this is not good enough.

Cost of Wars a Rising Issue as Obama Weighs Troop Levels

WASHINGTON – President Obama will talk about troop numbers in Afghanistan when he makes a prime-time speech from the White House on Wednesday night. But behind his words will be an acute awareness of what $1.3 trillion in spending on two wars in the past decade has meant at home: a ballooning budget deficit and a soaring national debt at a time when the economy is still struggling to get back on its feet.

I’m not alone in my anger and frustration with the president’s policy. Since last year the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the war in Afghanistan. That number is now two thirds, two of every three Americans.

A new poll from the Washington Post shows American have turned decisively against our military engagement in Afghanistan. Nearly two-thirds oppose the war, and even larger percentage believes in a considerable withdrawal from the region

US Mayors meeting last week in San Francisco called for the president to “bring the war dollars home” and invest in America.

That resolution will now become official policy of the mayors’ organization — a small symbol of growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan. The mayors are asking that money spent on wars abroad be used in the United States to develop cities and towns. The last time the conference approved a resolution like this was during the Vietnam War.

Nor will there be any discussion about the 865 foreign bases that the US has scattered around the world that eat up precious tax dollars:

President Obama may claim he’s got to go slow in drawing down U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan but what’s his excuse for keeping open 268 U.S. bases in Germany? Is he expecting an attack by the Red Army? There are folks living well on those 268 bases at public expense as well as the military contractors supplying them.

No other nation begins to operate even a tiny fraction of the 865-plus bases the Pentagon runs overseas to, depending on your viewpoint, (a) protect America from dangerous potential enemies who are lurking everywhere, or (b) to dominate the rest of the world. And since 95% of all overseas bases located in somebody else’s country are operated by the USA, millions of people suspect (b) is the answer; indeed, foreigners fear Uncle Sam might subjugate them.

Democrats in congress are getting impatient as well

On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the most conservative Democrats in the chamber, sent Obama a letter urging a change of course in the war and an acceleration of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“After 10 years and $443 billion, I believe it is time [to] focus our resources on rebuilding America, not on rebuilding Afghanistan,” he wrote. “It is time for the Afghan people to decide their destiny and take responsibility for governing themselves. … It is my hope that by redefining the mission in Afghanistan away from nation-building, you will pursue significant troop reductions immediately and end the scope of our current mission well before the 2014 deadline.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) is calling for a minimum withdrawal of 15,000 troops:

“In my judgment, a minimum of 15,000 reduction in troops would be needed for this to be a significant reduction, and since the president has committed himself a few months ago to a significant reduction, I think that’s what will happen,” Levin told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

When asked how he came up with that number, Levin replied, “It’s based on what would it take to let the Afghans know the significance of the importance of shifting the responsibility — the principal responsibility to them for the security of their own country.”

Americans and Afghans will be paying dearly for years even after the last service person is gone from both Afghanistan and Iraq. This cannot happen fast enough for all our sakes.

Up Date: Obama spoke tonight about the troop withdrawal. 10,000 troops will leave by the end of this year. By the end summer in 2012, the other 23,000 will have left. By 2014, all combat troops will have departed but a residual force of about 25,000 will remain, forever and ever. The rest was pure political rhetoric. You can read the transcript to spare yourself the vision of another lie.  

But We Can’t Raise Their Taxes

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

While CEO’s are rolling in more money than any average workers could imagine in a lifetime, raising their taxes and closing the tax loop holes that allow then to pay even less or, in some instances, nothing at all. According to a USA Today analysis, CEO’s pay went up 27% in 2010 while workers’ pay rose only 2%.

Paychecks as Big as Tajikistan

By Gretchen Morgenson

WHEN does big become excessive? If the question involves executive pay, the answer is “often.”

snip

Answers to that question come fast and furious in a recent, immensely detailed report in The Analyst’s Accounting Observer, a publication of R. G. Associates, an independent research firm in Baltimore. Jack Ciesielski, the firm’s president, and his colleague Melissa Herboldsheimer have examined proxy statements and financial filings for the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. In a report titled “S.& P. 500 Executive Pay: Bigger Than …Whatever You Think It Is,” they compare senior executives’ pay with other corporate costs and measures.

It’s an enlightening, if enraging, exercise. And it provides the perspective that shareholders desperately need, particularly now that they are being asked to vote on corporate pay practices.

Let’s begin with the view from 30,000 feet. Total executive pay increased by 13.9 percent in 2010 among the 483 companies where data was available for the analysis. The total pay for those companies’ 2,591 named executives, before taxes, was $14.3 billion.

That’s some pile of pay, right? But Mr. Ciesielski puts it into perspective by noting that the total is almost equal to the gross domestic product of Tajikistan, which has a population of more than 7 million.

Warming to his subject, Mr. Ciesielski also determined that 158 companies paid more in cash compensation to their top guys and gals last year than they paid in audit fees to their accounting firms. Thirty-two companies paid their top executives more in 2010 than they paid in cash income taxes.

The report also blows a hole in the argument that stock grants to executives align the interests of managers with those of shareholders. The report calculated that at 179 companies in the study, the average value of stockholders’ stakes fell between 2008 and 2010 while the top executives at those companies received raises. The report really gets meaty when it compares executive pay with items like research and development costs, and earnings per share.

Using Disney CEO, Robert Iger and workers at Disney World in Florida as an example, Time looks at the ever widening income gap:

Disney’s Robert Iger got a 45% bigger bonus in 2010

The corporate PR teams are defending these bonuses by saying that the executives deserve the pay because stock prices and earnings are up. A Walt Disney spokesperson says that shareholder return at the company was up nearly 24%, substantially more than the Standard & Poors 500. But haven’t we already learned, through bubble after bubble, that stock prices are a poor indication of anything. They are irrational, give us false positives, and crash.

But here’s what is the real problem. Yes, if higher profits and a higher stock price warrant better pay for CEOs, why doesn’t the same ring true for the average employee. Workers at Disney’s Florida amusement park Walt Disney World fought for months last year and early this year for higher wages. What they finally ended up getting, in a new contract settled earlier this month, was an annual raise of 3% to 4% over the next three years. The workers will get a bonus, too, of $650, a mere 20,769 times less than Iger’s bonus. As long as it remains that only a small segment of our population will be rewarded for better performance, while the rest of us do more and more work for the same pay, the wealth gap in America is certain to get worse.

It is very evident that the White House, Congress and many state governors and legislatures have not learned that tax cuts for the wealthy will not improve the economy or create jobs. They have done nothing to reverse the trend of the widening income gap. They have dug themselves and us into a hole so deep that they cannot hear rational ideas for even stopping the spiral into a economic morass.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

If you can’t watch here Timbuk3 has supplied a link to DU

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Due to playing in the mud (don’t ask, trust me it’s messy), the Evening Edition this week will be an Abbreviated Evening Edition by c’est moi.

Our regular featured content-

Wednesday is mishima‘s well deserved day of rest

This featured article-

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is an Open Thread

Storms

War Powers, Impeachment & Obama

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Has Barack Obama over-stepped his constitutional authority by continuing to participate in the Libya NATO action without congressional consent? Like George W. Bush ignoring the law banning water boarding as torture, Obama has decided to ignore the War Powers Resolution and the advice of two top lawyers from the Pentagon and his own DOJ. In the New York Times, Charlie Savage writes a scathing analysis of the president’s actions:

   President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

   Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

   But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team – including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh – who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

The question is could this open an investigation by the House to consider impeachment. Several other lawyers have their own views, none of them very pretty.

Stewart to Wallace: “You’re Insane” (Up Date)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show appeared on Fox News Sunday to debate with Chris Wallace “media bias”. Guess who lost? No betting, I won’t take your money.

   WALLACE: Even you make fun of the fact that “The New York Times” and the “Washington Post” when this document dump of 24,000 e-mails of Sarah Palin was released, and they got so excited about it, they asked their readers, can you help us go through these 24,00 documents?

   STEWART: Right.

   WALLACE: How do you explain the fact that they would do that? They would ask the readers to help them go through the Palin e-mails — inconsequential as they turned out to be —

   STEWART: Right.

   WALLACE: — but they never said help us go through the 2,000 pages of the Obama health care bill?

   STEWART: Because I think their bias is towards sensationalism and laziness. I wouldn’t say it’s towards a liberal agenda. It’s light fluff. So, it’s absolutely within the wheelhouse.

   I mean, if your suggestion is that they are relentlessly partisan and why haven’t they gone and backed away from Weiner? Now, they’ve dove, they’ve jumped into the Weiner pool — so, with such delight and relish, because the bias —

   WALLACE: Some things are indefensible.

   STEWART: — the bias of the mainstream media — oh, I’m not saying it’s defensible, but the bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict and laziness.

Amazing. Who was interviewing whom? Comparing Fox News to Comedy Central? Wallace is not only insane but really stupid. Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow discussed Jon’s “interview” on O’Donnell’s The Last Word:

Up Date: From John Aravosis @AMERICAblog News: Fox Edits Out Jon Stewart’s criticism of Fox exec

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Farm-Fresh Favas

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   They require double peeling, a job you might find tedious. But it goes more quickly than you’d think, especially if you have some company around to help, glasses of rosé in hand. Don’t believe those who tell you that young favas in particular don’t require double peeling; the light green skins that surround the beautiful darker bean have nothing going for them – they’re bitter and fibrous.

   When the beans are really young, you can eat them uncooked as a snack. I learned this from Lulu Peyraud, the proprietress of the famous French winery Domaine Tempier. She would serve tender shelled favas as an aperitif with chilled wine, red or rosé, setting them out on plates for guests to skin and snack on before dinner.

   To skin favas, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Drop the shelled fava beans into the water, and boil them for five minutes. Drain, and transfer immediately to the cold water. Allow the beans to cool for several minutes, then, holding several beans in one hand, slip off their skins by pinching the eye of the skin and squeezing gently. Place the shelled favas in a bowl.

Fava Bean Purée

A simple fava bean purée from Apulia, in Southern Italy.

Fava and Buttermilk Soup

Inspired by a soup made with buttermilk and peas in Patricia Wells’s wonderful new book, “Salad as a Meal.”

Fresh Fava Bean and Shrimp Risotto

This luxurious risotto is a cinch to make.

Spaghetti With Fava Beans, Bread Crumbs and Marjoram

A southern-Italy-inspired dish that can also be made with peas rather than fava beans.

Mediterranean Artichoke and Fresh Fava Stew

Here’s a way to use favas, artichokes, spring onions and green garlic – all fleetingly in season at this time of year.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Due to playing in the mud (don’t ask, trust me it’s messy), the Evening Edition this week will be an Abbreviated Evening Edition by c’est moi.

Our regular featured content-

This featured article-

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is an Open Thread

Summer Solstice 2011

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

We are halfway through the year and are ready to celebrate the first harvest amidst climate disruption, natural disasters compounded by man’s foolish idea that he could harness the devil. I spent some time this morning weeding my herb garden, snipping the flower buds from the huge pot of sweet basil so the energy goes to the flavorful leaves and a short walk on the beach. This morning I will watch the sun rise for the last few hours of Spring and later watch it set on the first few hours of Summer which ushers in at 1:16 PM EDT as the Earth tilts towards the sun at its Northern maximum, the Tropic of Cancer. It is a but a moment in time significant for so many cultures, religions and countries. Here in the US there are many cities that will light huge fires in public places to celebrate the longest day of the year, Midsummer. The fires will be lit in the stone fire pit in my yard. We’ll eat some of the newly harvested vegetable that are available at the local markets and eat food cooked with the herbs from my garden.

A Solstice Approaches, Unnoticed By James Caroll

ONCE, HUMANS were intimate with the cycles of nature, and never more than on the summer solstice. Vestiges of such awareness survive in White Nights and Midnight Sun festivals in far northern climes, and in neo-pagan adaptations of Midsummer celebrations, but contemporary people take little notice of the sun reaching its far point on the horizon. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the official start of the summer season, the fullest of light – yet we are apt to miss this phenomenon of Earth’s axial tilt, as we miss so much of what the natural world does in our surrounds.

In recent months, catastrophic weather events have dominated headlines as rarely before – earthquakes and tsunami in Asia; volcanic cloud in Europe; massive ice melts at the poles; tornadoes, floods, and fires in America. “Records are not just broken,” an atmospheric scientist said last week, “they are smashed.” Without getting into questions of causality, and without anthropomorphizing nature, we can still take these events as nature’s cri de coeur – as the degraded environment’s grabbing of human lapels to say, “Pay attention!”

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

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