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April 04, 2007

Comments

Hey, it still works for him. You aren't going to catch any of the MSM outlets calling him out for the lying liar he is. They prefer words like mendacity for Republicans anyway.

* The President was also asked about Nancy Pelosi's trip to Iraq

I think you mean "to Syria" there.

Oops! will update. Thanks.

My two favorite parts:
1)the part where he says some troops will have to stay longer or get shipped out early. Maybe Im missing something, but how does a lack of money make us send *more* troops over sooner? Im reading this as "If Congress doesn't act, adorable puppies and kittens will die". That is, as so completely unconnected as to be bizarre. But maybe Ive got a neuron misfiring, anyone see the connection?
2)The entire second-to-last paragraph, where he graciously allows Congress to have- and even express!- their own precious opinions, as long as they fulfill their duty to do exactly what he says.

OT: Tapped is reporting that Giuliani said something to the effect that the President can fund the war without Congress bc Congress OKed the use of force.

I guess the White House had bought too many one-way tickets to Baghdad and can't get the troops out because the accounting office would call him on the waste (and the travel agency refused to swap them for return tickets without a hefty fee).

How dare that Pelosi b##ch interfering with the imminent liberation of Syria?

The taking of that picture of Republicans meeting with Assad is as treasonous as the public showing of that Rummy-Saddam handshake. How dare the librul media being that off message.

[/snark]

Hilzoy, I don't want to distract from *official* administration lies, but there's a specific pack of lies coming from their watercarriers that's been driving me nuts, because it's *so* easy to check and yet it seems to be getting little attention from the blogosphere (although firedoglake picked up on it today).

I refer to Orrin Hatch's rant about Carol Lam on Meet the Press on Sunday.

SEN. HATCH: ...Take Carol Lam, for instance. Carol Lam was raised on your program, Tim, by Schumer. Carol Lam, it’s amazing to me she wasn’t fired earlier because for three years members of the Congress had complained that there had been all kinds of border patrol capture of these people but hardly any prosecutions. She was a former law professor, no prosecutorial experience, and the former campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton, and they’re trying to say that this administration appoints people politically? Of course they do. That’s what these positions are.

***
Virtually everything Hatch says there is factually wrong. According to Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Lam> -- which is not contradicted by any other reference I can find online -- Lam has never been a professor and has spent almost her entire professional career as a prosecutor. In 1986, she went straight from her clerkship to a job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California: this was of course during the Reagan administration. She served with that title until being made Chief of the Major Frauds Section from 1997 to 2000. It's unclear from Wikipedia, but it seems that she was appointed to a judgeship in 2000, which might thus be Clinton's doing. She then became the US attorney in her region in 2002, appointed by the Bush administration.

I can find neither confirmation nor denial of Lam ever having been connected to the Clinton campaign -- which makes me suspect she *wasn't* -- but the point is irrelevant, since she was appointed by Bush.

The facts are so totally wrong that I can only conclude that Hatch's people briefed him on the wrong Carol Lam or that he confused her curriculum vitae with someone else's.

Neither Leahy nor Russert corrected these "facts."

Limbaugh subsequently made hay of this:

RUSH: ...Carol Lam was a campaign manager! These people would normally be made ambassadors, but Clinton put her in as a US attorney. This is the kind of people that Clintons and Democrats appoint as federal judges. What I was talking about earlier, is their attempt here to insulate Democrats and liberals from election results. Now, Bush could have gotten rid of this woman when he took office. He chose not to. The new tone, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
*****

I mean, how wrong can you get about something that involves no interpretation but simply facts that are on the public record?

"The President wants to make it sound as though his veto is some sort of inevitable, inexorable fact: just as a stone dropped from a rooftop will fall to earth, a supplemental appropriations bill that includes a timeline will be vetoed."

Homer: "All right, pie, I'm just going to do this. [chomps air] And if you get eaten, it's your own fault!"

i was going to write that Bush's mendacity is shocking, but not as shocking as the press' disinterest in telling the real story. but then i read an article on CNN.com that almost gave me hope:

    The Army has warned program managers to prepare for a possible money crunch if President Bush vetoes an emergency war spending bill that calls for the eventual withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.

look at that, it's accurate!

and, it gets better:

    But the president has threatened to veto any bill that includes a timetable for bringing the 4-year-old war to an end. Both the House and Senate have attached language calling for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq in 2008 -- the House by the end of August, the Senate by March.

    Bush told reporters Tuesday that the military would begin running short of funds in mid-April. But the independent Congressional Research Service concluded last week that the military will have the money to continue fighting through July without additional funding.

    Bush has said the Democratic leadership of Congress would be to blame if he vetoes the bill.

they catch Bush lying! they snark at him for trying to blame the Dems for his actions!


Maybe Im missing something, but how does a lack of money make us send *more* troops over sooner?

from that same CNN.com story:


    Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said a budget crunch could force troops now in the field to have their tours extended, since training for their replacements could be cut, while other units now at home could have to return to combat early.

seems iffy, IMO.

and the final paragraph:

    Under those conditions, American units would have to hunker down and wait for resupply -- or hand over more combat responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police.

OMG! the Iraqis will finally have to do what Bush has been telling us the Iraqis are going to do for the past two years! OMG!

more like that, CNN. don't hold back.

What comes around, goes around. In 1993 John McCain and the Repubican Senate argued that Congress had the ability to restrict the President's power to deploy troops and they used it to force Clinton out of Somalia.

Excerpts from October 1993 speeches by Senators, John McCain, Strom Thurmond, Phil Gramm, Dirk Kempthorne, Slade Gorton, Jesse Helms, Alan Simpson and Judd Gregg are available here http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2007/01/republicans-and-congress-war-powers.html . They were calling for immediate withdrawal of the troops. Then again things change when oil, Big Oil, is involved.

I can't imagine what we did to deserve the level of dishonesty this administration has been throwing at us

We failed to riot in the streets when they stole the election six years ago. After that, they knew we'd put up with anything.

I’m torn on all this. I’m on record as opposing the surge and admitting that it is past time to wrap this up (although when there are signs of success, even ambiguous signs, I start to rethink that). I also said that I think this bill (sans pork) is OK in that it is responsible in how it calls for redeployment.

I admit that an appropriations bill is the most obvious way for Congress to do this, but OTOH I have a problem with the Senate unanimously confirming Petraeus and then turning around and tying his hands. If they did not agree with his plan they should not have confirmed him. Has he done any differently than what he told them he would do prior to confirmation? I take unanimous confirmation as overwhelming support.

I have a real problem with buying votes on this most important issue rather than all politicians voting their conscience and the will of their constituents.

It would also help if the Democrats could get their own caucus on the same sheet of music. As long as there are cracks there are places to drive a wedge. Why would Bush think he has to accept this bill when you have Rangel on TV admitting it had to be porked up even to get Democrat votes? Obama in an AP interview on Sunday said “If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because no lawmaker ``wants to play chicken with our troops'”. Those are mixed messages at best.

I think it was irresponsible of them to break for vacation without having a final bill on Bush’s desk.

Mostly though, I don’t want to see the troops caught in the middle. I think we could all agree on that. You have to remember how long the supply train is here. All the supplies already in the pipeline mean that troops are not going to run out of food and bullets right away. But once that pipeline is empty it will take a while to get it flowing again. Beyond supplies, military pay is a huge issue. Democrats are making a huge miscalculation if they are not considering what the mood will be when stories start running about military dependents stateside having to go to the loan sharks circling outside every base in the country because pay is not hitting the bank. When the first national story hits about the military spouse with 2 kids standing in line at the soup kitchen they will be scrambling to approve any bill at all. Stories about units being extended because the unit slated to replace them is unavailable due to lack of funding won’t help either.

I think a smart short term compromise would be for Congress to immediately approve a 3 month funding bill with no strings attached, and then go back to haggling with Bush over this bill.

All of the above is nothing more than the thoughts pinging back and forth in my skull on a crappy Wednesday morning…

I think a smart short term compromise would be for Congress to immediately approve a 3 month funding bill with no strings attached, and then go back to haggling with Bush over this bill.

and then Bush will have 'won' the point. he'll know he can veto any kind of timetable or forced-withdrawal bill, and just force Congress to keep sending more and more super-emergency money.

I dunno, seems like the president could just man up and accept this supplemental. Then he could spend more time working on integrating the needed war funds into the regular budgetary process.

* And a pony, etc...

OCSteve:

1. Petreus is not executing his plan. He's executing his boss' plan. How do I know? Because the counterinsurgency stuff that Petraus has written suggests that we need 200,000, not 20,000 additional troops.


2. I understand your discomfort with the pork in the supplemental bills. However, I must ask you, were you as upset last year when the republican congress passed a suplemental with just as much pork? Did you write about your discomfort then anywhere?

Can you point to a single military funding bill in the last decade that was loaded down with pork? If you cannot, then might it be time to dispense with your boyhood fantasy of how government should work? I mean, this is serious business and with the troops on the line, we can't really afford to let our fantasies take precedence over reality.

Then again, I suppose doing that is exactly what got us in trouble in the first place . . .

"Just three more months" has been Bush's strategy for extending the war all along. Every time the issue comes up, there's another corner we're just about to turn, and bam, we're in there for another Friedman Interval without anything actually changing.

I swear I hit preview...

/re-lurking for mo coffee

OCSteve:I have a real problem with buying votes on this most important issue rather than all politicians voting their conscience and the will of their constituents.

I am too cynical to believe that even a third of the people in Congress are voting their conscience and have much doubt that the (true) will of their constituents wins against other interests in the majority of cases. Nonetheless I find the pork equally disgusting.
Another question: What keeps Bush from using the normal Pentagon budget to pay for the most necessary and immediate costs? Can't remember that Congress put a ban on that yet (and even Bush should not yet have spent all the .5 trillion $).

I have argued that everytime Congress approves an appropriations bill for the war, that is a "declaration of war" that fits the requirement of the Constitution that only Congress can declare war. The Constitution is silent on what exactly a declaration of war looks like, and it has always seemed to me that funding a war is about as concrete as you can get about your intentions.

Other than the pork, it is hard to find fault with Congress' method here: It is the power they have to influence a war. For years Conservatives (me included on the foriegn policy side) have said that is all Congress should do (rather than get into specific methods of fighting the war). How then can Congress be overstepping its bounds when it is doing exactly what the Constitution requires them to do?

I think the bill is well crafted, provides a means for continued funding if there is some measurable reason for doing so, but also exercises its power to say "enough."

Hartmut,

Appropriations to the military come in specific "colors." You can't shift money from one pot to the other (which is a pain, because I often find myself with more money than I can spend of one appropriaton, but not enough of another. It is illegal for training money to be used to build housing, or schools money to pay for unit training, for example. Some money can be robbed from non-deployed units to plus up the deployed units because it is the same kind of appropriation, but other money can not be. That is why it may be true that if money is cut off, rotations will cease, but there will be bullet and beans for those deployed.

In 1986, she went straight from her clerkship to a job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California: this was of course during the Reagan administration. She served with that title until being made Chief of the Major Frauds Section from 1997 to 2000. It's unclear from Wikipedia, but it seems that she was appointed to a judgeship in 2000, which might thus be Clinton's doing. She then became the US attorney in her region in 2002, appointed by the Bush administration.

According to Nexis, Carol Lam was a Superior Court Judge in San Diego in 2001. That's the state court system, not federal, so she wouldn't have been appointed by Clinton.

News stories from throughout the 1990s refer to her as being with the US Attorney's office. I have no idea where the wingers are getting all this phony biographical information from. A San Diego Union Tribune article from 8/14/01 says:

Four more people have applied for the job of top federal prosecutor for San Diego and Imperial counties.

Joining the list of those seeking the position of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California:

[] Edward Allard, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego.

[] Carol Lam, a San Diego Superior Court judge.

[] Christopher Pace, a San Diego civil attorney.

[] Jeffrey Taylor, counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee...

Lam, 42, was appointed to the Superior Court in November. Before the appointment, she worked as a federal prosecutor in San Diego for 14 years.


OCSteve:

I admit that an appropriations bill is the most obvious way for Congress to do this, but OTOH I have a problem with the Senate unanimously confirming Petraeus and then turning around and tying his hands. If they did not agree with his plan they should not have confirmed him. Has he done any differently than what he told them he would do prior to confirmation? I take unanimous confirmation as overwhelming support.

1st off, it isn't Petraeus's plan, it's a scaled down version of the AEI plan (Kagan et al) which Bush adopted and hired Petraeus to implement utilizing his revamped counterinsurgency doctrine. Democrats really had no input into Bush's plan whatsoever and no basis on which to refuse Bush's personnel choice of who would lead the effort.

2nd. The Congress isn't proposing to tie Petraeus's hands, they are seeking to impose limits on the current open ended commitment in Iraq, something that is clearly endorsed by the public. The troops are already caught in the middle between the President's failed strategy and the lack of public support for continued intervention in which Bush's unrealistic expectations of 'victory' are the true road block.

Democrats are making a huge miscalculation if they are not considering what the mood will be when stories start running about military dependents stateside having to go to the loan sharks circling outside every base in the country

Waht are you talking about, Steve? That's already the case due to the penurious "support" of the enlisted ranks from the Republicans over the last five years. The GOP gambled, correctly, that they didn't have to worry "what the mood will be when stories start running about military dependents stateside having to go to the loan sharks circling outside every base in the country."

It doesn't matter where Rove et al scraped up some lies about Carol Lam--once Rush repeated it, there are 15 million people who believe Carol Lam=Clenis, and they will never ever believe a word she says.

The President's line about politicians in Washington playing with troops is pretty much priceless, though. Have y'all checked the last decade of your own resume, Mr. Bush?

I admit that an appropriations bill is the most obvious way for Congress to do this, but OTOH I have a problem with the Senate unanimously confirming Petraeus and then turning around and tying his hands. If they did not agree with his plan they should not have confirmed him.

This doesn't make sense to me- the President gets to pick his military commanders, and Congress ought not object via the confirmation process unless the person is incompetent in some manner.
The confirmation process is only a policy-related process insofar as some "policies" (eg warrantless wiretapping) are beyond the pale (ie an AG who thinks the President can wiretap anyone he wants to is providing incompetent advice).

If Congress plans to pass a pro-choice law, they still ought to confirm a pro-life AG as long as he has the qualifications to do the job. The two things are completely different.

Why does the job of serving as commander of US forces in Iraq require Senate confirmation anyway? It's not like it's a Cabinet post.

Thanks, jrudkis. I had assumed that things like ammo and other material were "general budget" and could therefore be easily shifted to where they are needed, i.e. the budget would provide money for ammo (or not) and it would then be the military's "free choice" where to spent the legally bought stuff. And the Pentagon is quite known for creative accounting, isn't it?
---
Would be difficult to explain to somebody in the past that a war is fought without using the budget of the war department for it.

All officers are confirmed by the Senate. They just take special care with the senior leadership. Every promotion list goes to the Senate, and has been known to be held up because the list did not meet the racial/gender breakdown wanted by the Senate.

Hartmut,

The military approprations budget is so full of earmarks (such as moving 1st AD to Fort Riley to appease the congressional delegation, and all the post renovation necessary for that) that there is not a whole lot of room for moving the amount of money around that is required here.

The Defense Department still has to fund the future (weapons, training, recruitment), so robbing it of its normal operations for the current war does not make long term sense, though budgeting the war in that system would be reasonable.

Concerning tying Petraeus' hands. This is pretty inaccurate, as far as I can tell, as from the President on down, the general estimate is 3-6 months to see real progress. And this bill supplies the funds for that. And I think it is really ridiculous to think that if the "surge" worked and real progress was suddenly seen in Iraq that Congress would not change some or most of the timetable contingencies.

I think there would be enough middle of the road Dems who would vote to continue to support the effort if that scenario happened. Therefore Bush could sign this bill with the understanding (in one of his notorious signing statements) that he could come back and request additional funding.

Of course he wouldn't because he would rather play politics with the lives of the troops.

robbing it of its normal operations for the current war does not make long term sense

3 month wouldn't be long term in my book. At least it would not work as an argument for "give me the money immediately without restrictions or all our troops die before you can reconcile the different versions of the bill and their blood is on your hands (not mine)."
Clarification: That is not meant as an objection to you or your general argument.

A comment on the accusation of "micromanagement."

My performance was micromanged at times during my Army career. I resented it for a number of reasons, principally because it violated any number of Army philosophical threads aimed at leader development.

But this claim by the Pres and evil Dick is absurd. It is not micromanagement at all, nay it is not even management per se.

It is simply a change of mission statement. Any commander knows that a change of mission changes the desired end state and that he can now plan for that case.

Most of the President's arguments are lame but this one is just so transparently false.

@jrudkis: Do you have any information or informed guesses on whether the Iraq and Afghanistan occupation/war funding is included in the 2008 defense budget bill, or whether the administration will come back with another "supplemental" request in the next six months?

I heard an antiwar activist in a TV interview predict another supplemental as big as this recent one within the next five months, but I need more evidence than that. I'm asking in a lot of places, but you're professionally experienced in the ways of the military budget, so would be interested in your thoughts.

Democrats are making a huge miscalculation if they are not considering what the mood will be when stories start running about military dependents stateside having to go to the loan sharks circling outside every base in the country because pay is not hitting the bank. When the first national story hits about the military spouse with 2 kids standing in line at the soup kitchen they will be scrambling to approve any bill at all.

What a steaming load of crap. It's not been exactly a secret for the last six years that a large proportion of enlisted families live below the poverty line and are on welfare, but what have we heard from the Republican leadership and its drones in the blogosphere, on talk radio and on FOX News? Not a peep, that's what.

Nell,

I don't know, but my guess is that they won't. In some ways it makes sense to me that it is a separate budgetary appropriation, because it helps limit the intraservice rivalry for the spoils (apparently there had been a detente on the budget in that it was split evenly three ways, but if the war is thrown into the budget, I would think that would increase the share for the army/marines, throwing off that balance).

Also, as a separate budget, it should help us keep the eye on the ball when some future administration claims to have "cut the military budget" when in fact it is less or no spending on Iraq, but increased spending on the defense department.

I don't like the war spending not being on the overall budget proposed by the President, but I can see it not being included in the Pentagon's budget.

And I am sure there will be another 80 billion dollar budget request in 6 months. If they asked for the trillion dollars all at once, it would never have been passed.

What a steaming load of crap. It's not been exactly a secret for the last six years that a large proportion of enlisted families live below the poverty line and are on welfare, but what have we heard from the Republican leadership and its drones in the blogosphere, on talk radio and on FOX News? Not a peep, that's what.

Just wait. RightBlogistan will harp on that as soon as it's feasible (if not accurate) to blame it on the Dems.

Phil,

I am all for paying soldiers more, but it is certainly not a "large proportion" of soldiers who are on welfare, and typically the ones that are enlisted after having children and came to the army in part because of the free housing and healthcare. The article you cited indicates that after taxes a specialist brings home 1300 dollars. That would only be true if he was living in on post housing, and not having to pay for it. Even then, most of the taxes paid are returned (except for SS/medicare), and few pay state taxes. After housing costs are paid for, $1,300 dollars a month is a fairly substantial budget for someone typically young and with no experience.

I have had soldiers come into the army with large families that they could not support on their pay, and others who had large families before they made enough to feed them, but I don't see that as a failing of the army or the pay. I assume that you would refrain from having kids until you could afford them.

The reality is that a single person at 18 years old with a high school education can enlist, have their housing and food paid for, earn $18,000 a year on top of that as spending money, and if they work hard can double that amount in six years, and still only be 24 years old, no high school education. I don't know about you, but I did not have 1300 dollars a month to blow when I was 18.

When soldiers start making lifestyle choices and having children they can't afford, do you think they should get paid extra? In the Army they actually do, through extra housing allowance and health care. But I don't know of any other place in america where you get paid more because you chose to have kids.

I don't think our lowest raking soldiers are especially underpaid. At the mid range, when they have made the army their career, they are, but just this month there was a fairly substantial pay increase for NCO's with 8 to 26 years experience, and it helps some.

What a steaming load of crap. It's not been exactly a secret for the last six years that a large proportion of enlisted families live below the poverty line and are on welfare,

Not to change the subject, Phil, but the 'soldiers living below the poverty line' matter is something of a myth.

There are servicemen who are below the poverty line because other forms of service compensation aren't counted. For instance, the armed services provide housing or housing allowances, free healthcare, free dining services or food allowances, uniform allowances and the like. This does not include other benefits such as commissary or PX privileges, reduced cost entertainment and services, childcare, and educational opportunities.

In my experience, servicemen who are in dire financial straits have usually entered the service in poor financial shape or have made extremely poor financial decisions.

1. The Army and National Guard, at least, are recruiting people who are entering the service in poor financial shape -- and much more so in the last two years.

2. The predatory lending businesses surrounding bases also enable "extremely poor financial decisions". Maybe the services are doing everything they can to counter them, but the reality of #1 makes it a growing risk.

Thanks, jrudkis, that's helpful. This has been hard to follow even for wonks. There's a need for this spending to be highlighted and brought home to people.

The predatory lending businesses surrounding bases also enable "extremely poor financial decisions". Maybe the services are doing everything they can to counter them, but the reality of #1 makes it a growing risk.

Very true. Typically, it's car dealers near bases that will extend credit (at exorbitant interest rates) to a young serviceman to buy the "hot" car. It's a vicious circle since the service usually ends up as the dealership's collection agency.

Some commands do take a proactive role in shutting down or discouraging predatory retailers and lenders but it's spotty, at best. The armed services could do a better job by providing all recruits with personal finance training. Currently, such training is provided on an ad hoc basis by JOs whose own financial habits may not be so hot.

I think a certain amount of fatalism leads soldiers to buy nice cars and electronics that they can't afford, in case they don't get that chance later.

Lenders know that if a soldier does not pay, they can call the commander and force the payment. I recall having a lender call me once in Germany about a soldier, and when I asked him about getting a loan for myself, he said "you don't want a loan from me, the interest is too high." When I asked him how much, it was 25%.

I told him I would not help him get his money. Since then I always ask what the interest rate is, and if it is unreasonable, I just hang up. The soldier still has to pay like any debt, but he doesn't get any additional pressure from me.

Soldiers are no different than all Americans when it comes to debt, except that lenders have additional pressure they apply through the command. That is why so many are willing to make large loans to privates: they are pretty certain of getting their money.

I think a certain amount of fatalism leads soldiers to buy nice cars and electronics that they can't afford, in case they don't get that chance later.

I disagree; my experience has been it's a combination of youthful immaturity, little or no financial acumen, and access to credit one wouldn't see in the civilian world. Generally, a credit check is no more than showing one's ID.

Retailers and lenders love to extend credit to military personnel because they'll get their money. Uncle Sam becomes a no-fee collection agency.

cleek: he'll know he can veto any kind of timetable or forced-withdrawal bill, and just force Congress to keep sending more and more super-emergency money.

You are probably right. Implied I guess was that they could somehow make it clear – this is it Bub.


Common Sense: You are right of course that Petreus is not implementing his plan. I should have said that they knew what he was going to do (follow Bush’s plan) before they confirmed him.
On Pork – Out of control Republican spending is one of the two big reasons that they lost me. I also looked to the Democrats to keep their word about a moratorium on earmarks for this budget season.
As for my “boyhood fantasy of how government should work”, well that actually involved me in charge of the entire world with lots of hot babes in my cabinet. Grew out of that though (seemed like way too much work). I think you may have missed my point though, which is that if Democrats feel they were elected with a mandate to do this, why do they have to buy even Democrat votes? They claim the mantle here but can’t even get their own caucus in line. You say this is serious business with troops on the line (I agree) but you still seem to be OK (or at least reconciled) with horse trading over it.


Carleton: I agree with you. “Congress ought not object via the confirmation process unless the person is incompetent in some manner”. I am on board with that. But that is not the standard we have seen in confirmation hearings for some time. I am still with you though…


john miller: You make a lot of sense. I think most would have a hard time admitting the type of progress you mention, but if it was too obvious to deny I like to think you are correct.


Phil: I certainly hope that it was a steaming load of crap. It will be a sorry day if it happens. As to the rest, jrudkis and Leong responded better than I could have.


I’m glad I mentioned, “All of the above is nothing more than the thoughts pinging back and forth in my skull on a crappy Wednesday morning” or I assume you all would have gotten really feisty ;)

JFTR to jrudkis and Leong, I grew up an Army brat, so I'm aware of a lot of the nuances you bring up; nonetheless, the fact remains that the lower enlisted ranks are paid pretty poorly all things considered, and even if a lot of their problems are of their own making, it doesn't speak well of us as a culture. And a lot more of the impact re: poverty in military families is falling on the families of reservists and the like who have been called up for the war and had to give up the income from their probably higher-paying civilian jobs.

The loan shark apparatus employed against the military lower ranks has always been a source of horror and interest to me (I've spent some time a few years ago reading a Japanese comic book about loan shark tactics here, so I'd be interested in comparing the two) so jrudkis and leong, I'd be happy to put a guest post from either (or both) of you at TiO about that (or anything else that arises from discussions here)

"I think you may have missed my point though, which is that if Democrats feel they were elected with a mandate to do this, why do they have to buy even Democrat votes? "

One thing you have to take into consideration that most of the Democrats whose votes needed to be "bought" didn't want to give any more money at all.

Plus the more I look at it the less I view it as pork. And I didn't really see any earmarks of the sort that tend to have a lot of money spent in a small geographic area.

LJ,

Thanks for the offer. I don't think I will have time for anything substantive like that for several months, but I would love to write a post for you someday. I think I will be settled in by mid July, and maybe there will be a topic at that time that would be appropriate.

Great! I have a sad feeling that the loan shark problem will still be there, but anything you'd like to write about would be fine by me.

On Pelosi’s trip, there is an interesting update:

HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. What's more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria," she said.
Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message. "What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel," said a statement quickly issued by the prime minister's office. In fact, Mr. Olmert told Ms. Pelosi that "a number of Senate and House members who recently visited Damascus received the impression that despite the declarations of Bashar Assad, there is no change in the position of his country regarding a possible peace process with Israel." In other words, Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel's position but was virtually alone in failing to discern that Mr. Assad's words were mere propaganda.

Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.

OCSteve, of course it would be nice if Hiatt actually paid any attention to reality. The "no such message" line has no basis in reality. And in fact, Olmert has stated publicly in the past that Israel is interested in peace talks with Syria, but under certain conditions, which Pelosi reiterated to Assad.

Also, everybody present, including Republicans, have stated that Pelosi did not vary from official administration policy.

I popped over to DKOS* today for the first time in maybe four months and they have a post up regarding John Boehner's outrage at Nancy Pelosi's trip.

They quote Associated Press reports from the Republican in Pelosi's group defending Pelosi.

And surprise!, more Republicans are jetting off to Syria, namely Darrell Issa of California and Frank Wolf of Virginia. When asked about the White House's displeasure with folks visiting Damascus, Wolf replied that he didn't care what the White House thinks.

Republicans are bumping into each other all over Damascus. I don't believe they could make quorum this month in the House.

I fully expect Erick Erickson of Redstate to begin taking unnamed Democrats and Michael Ware (a named Democrat) to task from his new digs in the lobby of the Damascus Intercontinental. Can you pick up Drudge from so far away, you know, just to keep up with the "news" from Stateside?

My hostility for Redstate is oddly enough turning into pity for the pathetic. They touch my liberal bleeding heart with their cute junior high-school punkishness. They talk like Republican gansgters and they turn out to be Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys. Remember them? Ronald Reagan use to give them spankings in B movies when they were the Dead-End Kids back in the late 1930's.

*Take the Daily KOS report with a grain of salt, if you like. They, unlike we hypocrites here at Obsidian Wings, seem to have a Party line. ;)

john miller: I posted it without comment beyond “interesting”. Publius has a front page post up on it now so I’ll move there for further comment.

OCSteve, I seem to be responding to you a lot today here and at TiO. I hope you realize it is nothing personal and that you have nothing but my unqualified respect.

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