Archive for April 8th, 2011

Congress to cut about $38 billion in federal spending but won’t touch $30 additional billion going to Israel

Congress to cut about $38 billion in federal spending and avert the first federal closure in 15 years but won’t touch the $30 additional billion going to Israel

‘Historic’ deal to avoid government shutdown

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent David Espo, Ap Special Correspondent 15 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Perilously close to a government shutdown, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a historic agreement late Friday night to cut about $38 billion in federal spending and avert the first federal closure in 15 years.

Obama hailed the deal as “the biggest annual spending cut in history.” House Speaker John Boehner said that over the next decade it would cut government spending by $500 billion, and won an ovation from his rank and file _tea party adherents among them.

“This is historic, what we’ve done,” agreed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the third man involved in negotiations that ratified a new era of divided government.

They announced the agreement less than an hour before government funding was due to run out. The shutdown would have closed national parks, tax-season help lines and other popular services, though the military would have stayed on duty and other essential efforts such as air traffic control would have continued in effect.

On side issues — “riders,” the negotiators called them — the Democrats and the White House rebuffed numerous Republican attempts to curtail the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency and sidetracked their demand to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Anti-abortion lawmakers succeeded in winning a provision to ban the use of federal or local government funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia.

Lawmakers raced to pass an interim measure to prevent a shutdown, however brief, and keep the federal machinery running for the next several days. The Senate acted within minutes. The House worked past midnight, so the federal government was to be technically unfunded for a short period of time, but there would be little — if any — practical impact

The deal came together after six grueling weeks and an outbreak of budget brinksmanship over the past few days as the two sides sought to squeeze every drop of advantage in private talks.

“We know the whole world is watching us today,” Reid said earlier in a day that produced incendiary, campaign style rhetoric as well as intense negotiation.

Reid, Obama and Boehner all agreed a shutdown posed risks to an economy still recovering from the worst recession in decades.

But there were disagreements aplenty among the principal players in an early test of divided government — Obama in the White House, fellow Democrats in control in the Senate and a new, tea party-flavored Republican majority in the House.

“Republican leaders in the House have only a few hours left to look in the mirror, snap out of it and realize how positively shameful that would be,” Reid said at one point, accusing Republicans of risking a shutdown to pursue a radical social agenda.

For much of the day, Reid and Boehner disagreed about what the disagreement was about.

Reid said there had been an agreement at a White House meeting Thursday night to cut spending by about $38 billion. He said Republicans also were demanding unspecified cuts in health services for lower income women that were unacceptable to Democrats. “Republicans want to shut down our nation’s government because they want to make it harder to get cancer screenings,” he said. “They want to throw women under the bus.”

Boehner said repeatedly that wasn’t the case — it was spending cuts that divided two sides.

“Most of the policy issues have been dealt with, and the big fight is about spending,” he said. “When will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting federal spending.”

By midday Friday, 12 hours before the funding would run out, most federal employees had been told whether they had been deemed essential or would be temporarily laid off in the event of a shutdown.

Obama canceled a scheduled Friday trip to Indianapolis — and a weekend family visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia — and kept in touch with both Boehner and Reid.

The standoff began several weeks ago, when the new Republican majority in the House passed legislation to cut $61 billion from federal spending and place numerous curbs on the government.

In the weeks since, the two sides have alternately negotiated and taken time out to pass interim measures.

Originally, Republicans wanted to ban federal funds for Planned Parenthood, a health care services provider that is also the nation’s largest provider of abortions.

Federal funds may not be used to pay for abortions except in strictly regulated cases, but supporters of the ban said cutting off government funds for the organization — currently about $330 million a year — would make it harder for it to use its own money for the same purpose.

Democrats rejected the proposal in private talks. Officials in both parties said Republicans returned earlier in the week with a proposal to distribute federal funds for family planning and related health services to the states, rather than directly to Planned Parenthood and other organizations.

Democrats said they rejected that proposal, as well, and then refused to agree to allow a separate Senate vote on the issue as part of debate over any compromise bill.

Instead, they launched a sustained campaign at both ends of the Capitol to criticize Republicans.

“We’ll not allow them to use women as pawns,” said Sen. Patty Murray, a fourth-term lawmaker from Washington who doubles as head of the Democratic senatorial campaign committee.

For Congress and Obama there are even tougher struggles still ahead — over a Republican budget that would remake entire federal programs, and a vote to raise the nation’s debt limit.


Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram, Julie Pace and Ben Feller contributed to this story.


Republicans want to cut 30 to 60 billion dollars from the budget but wont dare oppose the additional 30 billion Israel is asking for as US states go broke:

Humanitarian Interventionism by the Numbers

Humanitarian Interventionism by the Numbers

Posted By Philip Giraldi On April 6, 2011 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 33 Comments

If there was any doubt about why the United States is involved in an increasingly messy military engagement in Libya, President Barack Obama cleared the air in his speech on March 29th.  The US has no vital interest at stake but is involved in a humanitarian mission, to save innocent lives, akin to the Balkan enterprise of the 1990s.  Other evidence provided by top administration officials suggests that the ultimate intention is to replace Muammar Gadhafi, in other words regime change, similar to the military action that removed Saddam Hussein from Iraq. 

Obama could have made a plausible case for removing Gadhafi based on imminent threat.  Gadhafi has been a major state supporter of terrorism, no doubt about it, and he did down both American and French commercial airliners in 1988 and 1989, resulting in major loss of life.  He also ordered his agents to bomb a club frequented by American soldiers in Berlin in 1986, killing three, and resulting in a punitive attack by US military aircraft on Tripoli.  Though the United States has come to terms with Libya and its regime it is indisputable that Gadhafi is a murderous thug and he is eminently capable of resorting to the terrorism card if he feels his interests demand it.  Now that he has been condemned by the UN and attacked by NATO, he almost certainly will again exploit his considerable financial resources to fund terrorism.  But President Barack Obama did not cite the danger posed by Gadhafi and instead chose to emphasize the humanitarian aspect of a US military intervention.

Recall for a moment that when Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1991 there were tales of Iraqi soldiers hurling infants out of incubators.  Additional atrocities were described tearfully by a young woman who turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States.  Almost everything being reported about the bloodthirsty Iraqis turned out to be false, deliberately so, to make the case for war.  In light of the deliberate deception that has been part and parcel of every American intervention anywhere since the end of the Second World War, how can anyone believe the official narrative?  Why should anyone assume that Muammar Gadhafi will decide to slaughter his own people, particularly since he has a major interest in making the rebellion to his rule go away, an unlikely outcome if he engages in wholesale massacres. 

Most Americans would accept that there will be times when our country must use its armed forces as an instrument of foreign policy, but this is not one of those moments.  Gadhafi posed no imminent threat to anyone but his own people and it is far from clear whether he was in fact poised to kill large numbers of them in some kind of paroxysm of revenge for the rebellion against his authority.  And the problem with humanitarian intervention as a concept is that it opens the door to more of the same wherever there are violations of fundamental rights.  It is perhaps necessary to step back and establish some sort of metric for intervention, but attempting to do so produces some odd results.  When should one intervene on humanitarian grounds and what are the numbers of deaths required to trigger some kind of United States response?

Many countries are not shy about massacring civilians.  The United States has itself killed tens of thousands of them in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even accepting that Gadhafi might have killed some hundreds of Libyans, he is not exactly unique.  Protesters have recently been met by force in a number of countries in the Arab world, to include Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria and there have been large numbers of fatalities.  How does the United States make a decision whether or not to intervene in those places to save lives?  Is the decision based on the number of deaths, the types of deaths, or, one suspects, the relationship of Washington with whoever is in charge in the respective countries?  Gadhafi was a convenient fall guy and it now appears that President Bashar Assad of Syria is possibly also being set up, but is there any chance that Washington will pull the plug on its support of the Kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?

And then there are other non-Arab friends of the United States like Israel.  By any metric Israel should be attacked first to prevent massacres of civilians as it has killed thousands of Arabs in internationally recognized war crimes carried out in Lebanon and Gaza. That Israel is untouchable on humanitarian grounds raises the inevitable question about Washington’s hypocrisy.  A friendly Saudi Arabia too has demonstrated that it is more than willing to use force to maintain its autarchic rule.  It sent troops to aid neighboring Bahrain, which exacerbated the problem in that nation rather than mitigating the unrest, and has indicated that it is prepared to use force to continue its dominance in the oil producing eastern parts of the country, which are predominantly Shi’ite.  And then there are countries like Burma, where repression is so regular that it is hardly remarked upon, and the Ivory Coast, which is currently going through its own brand of bloodletting with more than 1,000 bodies discovered over the weekend.

In short, there are a whole lot of countries that are ripe for a little humanitarian intervention and even regime change in the more obdurate cases, but there are a couple of good reasons not to do so. First is the ethical consideration that interventions might be grounded in good intentions but they are generally based on inaccurate or even false information about the situation on the ground, which renders suspect the humanitarian aspect itself.  Second, whenever a humanitarian intervention takes place it often produces a bad result.  America’s assistance to the mujahedin in Afghanistan certainly did remove an occupying Russian army but it also led to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  The often cited massacres in the Balkans in the 1990s turned out to be mostly fictional and the result of the intervention has been a Kosovar state that has become a center for drug trafficking, organ sales, and Islamic radicalism in Europe. 

And then there is Iraq.  Iraq is a poster child for the collateral damage that goes hand in hand with interventions.  It is called mission creep, which happens every time a humanitarian mission is launched.  The neocon fantasy of a short, surgical invasion of Iraq to topple a tyrant and free the people, all paid for by oil revenue, and a quick exit turned out to be anything but.  To be sure, Saddam fell on schedule but he was succeeded by an eight year occupation and still counting, a multiple trillion dollar accounts due, hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced, and a corrupt government in Baghdad that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.  Somalia likewise started as a UN program to feed Mogadishu and wound up as Blackhawk Down.  Libya is already beginning to look a lot like Uncle Remus’ tar baby.  Easy to take hold of but hard to release.

The Democratic Party’s undying affection for humanitarian gestures is more than regrettable.  Watching President Obama’s half smirk as he explains in the most honest and truthful terms how he is doing something wonderful for the Libyan people is reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s similar unctuously sincere performances as he ordered the bombing of Serbia.  Neither should be any more acceptable than the truly awful Bush Doctrine that gave the United States carte blanche to invade any country in the world for reasons of security.  Both Republican and Democratic doctrines should be rejected because experience suggests that they do not save lives anywhere, quite the contrary, and each unfortunate overseas adventure only represents a new burden that has to be borne with no discernible gain for the American people.

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