Friday the thirteenth is proving to be a bad day at the end of a bad week for the nation’s neo-conservative types.
Internationally, their grand strategy in the war against terrorism is unraveling as Iraq implodes. The forces of Islamic insurgency–which weren’t players prior to the US invasion–are marching on Baghdad, fueled by covert support from our ‘allies’ in the war on terror. The nation that was supposed to be President Bush’s beacon for democracy in the middle east is likely to end up as Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish partitions ruled by warlords propped up by the Saudis, Iran and Big Oil.
Domestically, the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by an insurgent Tea Party candidate signals, as Paul Krugman notes in the New York Times today, the unraveling of an alliance where so-called ‘movement conservatives’ (vested in a crony capitalist agenda) used social fears to motivate Tea Party voting blocks at election time.
The Rise of the Caliphate?
More than 90,000 members of the US trained Iraq army deserted this week in the face of military advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). My read on the coverage this morning is that we can expect to see US air support combined with “volunteers” from Iran and Iraqi Shiite militias fighting to save Baghdad from being overrun.
It’s a mess. I’m sure that after Mssrs.‘W’, Cheney, Rummy, Powell, Condi, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Woolsey, Bolton, Blair, etc, etc get their neo-warmonger acts together, we’ll see lots of denunciations of the Obama administration, especially if any restraints on the use of military force are involved. Maybe they can send Rep. Darrell Issa over to Iraq to investigate.
The Iraqis, for those who have forgotten, invited the US to get the hell out of their country. Shiite leaders, following decades of repression under Saddam Hussein, wanted nothing to do with the kinds of power-sharing agreements with Sunnis and Kurds favored by the State department. The best backgrounder I’ve see this morning is from Vox.com: “11 facts that explain the escalating crisis in Iraq.”
The US now has to face the legacy of having wasted $1.7 trillion plus the cost of veterans benefits and interest on the financing of the war that could end up costing $6 trillion over the next four decades.
The Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University estimates total casualties in Iraq to be 176,000 to 189,000 when security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included. And then there’s the matter of the 4,487 total deaths in the US armed forces (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 32,223 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A story by Reuters News, published shortly after the Watson Institute findings were made public back in March, included the following:
The report also examined the burden on U.S. veterans and their families, showing a deep social cost as well as an increase in spending on veterans. The 2011 study found U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans after a decade of war totaled $33 billion. Two years later, that number had risen to $134.7 billion.
The report concluded the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women’s rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system, the report said. Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud, it said.
Former President George W. Bush’s administration cited its belief that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s government held weapons of mass destruction to justify the decision to go to war. U.S. and allied forces later found that such stockpiles did not exist.
Meanwhile, Back in Eric Cantor’s World
While the traditional Republicans have moved quickly to fill the leadership void in the House of Representative with one of their own–California Congressman Kevin McCarthy– the rebellion in the ranks is growing. At a closed-door GOP caucus on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner stressed the importance of unity ahead of midterm elections, reminding attendees that the GOP is expected to increase its majority in the House and hopes to win control of the Senate.
Columnist Paul Krugman gave his perspective on the turnover in GOP leadership in the New York Times:
How big a deal is the surprise primary defeat of Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader? Very. Movement conservatism, which dominated American politics from the election of Ronald Reagan to the election of Barack Obama — and which many pundits thought could make a comeback this year — is unraveling before our eyes.
I don’t mean that conservatism in general is dying. But what I and others mean by “movement conservatism,” a term I think I learned from the historian Rick Perlstein, is something more specific: an interlocking set of institutions and alliances that won elections by stoking cultural and racial anxiety but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological loyalists.
By rejecting Mr. Cantor, the Republican base showed that it has gotten wise to the electoral bait and switch, and, by his fall, Mr. Cantor showed that the support network can no longer guarantee job security. For around three decades, the conservative fix was in; but no more.
I’m not 100% sure about his analysis, given the amount of money that’s flowed from corporate America via the Movement conservatives to the Teahadists. Let’s see where the money flows come November.
And for those who think along the lines of ‘electing these types of yahoos is good for progressivism,’ I present the State of Mississippi as a rebuttal. By that standard Ole Miss ought to be a socialist paradise by now.
About That Court Ruling on Tenure…
I’ve been holding off on commenting on the landmark court ruling in the Vergara v. California case challenging teacher tenure and seniority protections in California. The overwrought punditry proclaiming the verdict to be some sort of victory for quality education is like fingernails dragging across a blackboard to me.
This is a complicated situation, deserving a more nuanced treatment than I can give it here today. And I fully expect we’ll have some further discussion in the near future at SDFP.
None-the-less, facts do matter, and it turns out the assertion leading to bulk of the judge’s conclusion was simply made up, as Diane Ravitch points out in her blog:
Jordan Weissman, a business correspondent for Slate, read the Vergara decision and noted that the judge’s conclusion hinged on a strange allegation. The judge quoted David Berliner as saying that 1-3% of the teachers in the state were “grossly ineffective.” The judge then calculated that this translated into thousands of teachers, between 2,750 and 8,750, who are “grossly ineffective.”
Weissman called Professor Berliner and asked where the number 1-3% came from. Dr. Berliner said it was a “guesstimate,”
He told Weissman, “It’s not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular. “I pulled that out of the air,” says Berliner, an emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University. “There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.” He also never used the words “grossly ineffective.” And he does not support the judge’s belief that teacher quality can be judged by student test scores.
Student Loans: The Party of No Strikes Again
I hope the Democratic party can get their act together to get the word out this fall about just how down and dirty the GOP is in Congress. Student debt could easily be the next “bubble” causing the economy to contract, and there’s already plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that college loans are a drag on the economy. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposals on this issue make sense, but have been stymied by the party of No.
Hey, Carl DeMaio: Yes or No Question. Would you support this bill?
I’m guessing his answer would be something like: “Blah, blah, blah…sensible reforms…blah, blah..I’ll get back to you on that…”
Consider this snippet from the Huffington Post:
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 56-38 against a measure that would have helped millions of Americans with expensive student loans.
The measure, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would have allowed people to refinance their student loan debt at lower rates. President Barack Obama got behind the measure earlier this week.
Other than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who voted against the measure on procedural grounds in order to preserve Democrats’ ability to reconsider it at a later date, only Republicans voted against the proposal, which failed to get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Only three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted in favor of Warren’s proposal.
If It Walks Like a Duck Dept…
UT-San Diego has been hard at work tracking down recipients of a charity used by County Supervisor Bill Horn. And the search has been less-than-fruitful.
Back in the day Horn used the Basic Faith Foundation’s bank account to park funds in escrow as he wheeled and dealed in the real estate world. He told an inewsource reporter the interest from those deals was donated to Christian missionaries in Mexico and South America.
This particular funding mechanism caused a few raised eyebrows, but no hard evidence emerged in the reporting that anything illegal or unethical occurred. Issues of tax law, real estate deals and administration of the nonprofit were raised. Horn maintained nothing was amiss.
It was all old news and financial records were scarce.
The UT Watchdog’s followup includes this:
After two weeks working with Horn’s attorney, the Watchdog was unable to locate a single person who recalled getting charitable donations from Horn’s nonprofit.
And while board members recognize their signatures on the organization’s early paperwork, none could recall meeting or voting on anything.
Hmmmm…Is that quacking I hear?
On This Day: 1947- The Congress of Industrial Organizations expelled the Fur and Leather Workers union and the American Communications Association for what it described as communist activities.1958 – Frank Zappa graduated from Antelope Valley High in Lancaster, CA. 1971 – The New York Times began publishing the “Pentagon Papers”. The articles were a secret study of America’s involvement in Vietnam.
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bob dorn says
Terrific column, from that dismal failure of arms in Iraq, to the neo-con loss in Virginia, to do-Godly Bill Horn with his hand in the collection plate. Frank Zappa would be happy to read it.
Iraq was cobbled together by the French and it might just get divided again. Ashes to ashes, so to speak. Might not be a bad thing. Perhaps the Sunnis and Shia would stop killing each other (quite so much) and Kurds might actually get a (fairly) peaceful homeland. Which they deserve. Kurds aren’t quite so beholden to any “warlords”.
Sorry; British, not French.
bob dorn says
The big resource in Iraq is oil (which is probably why we deposed Sadam Hussein) and in Iraq most of it is up north, so a divided state would necessarily leave one or two of the combatant groups gunning for the oil. It’s a tough place to unite or pacify.
I guess we could have taken over the oil fields, but then that would have looked sorta evil.
Of course, that WAS Cheney’s plan (remember he said the entire war would cost us nothing) all along. But, gee — something went awry, eh ;-)
And we still looked evil to most of the world.
John Lawrence says
Even though Elizabeth Warren’s proposal was passed in the Senate (then filibustered), it never would have passed the House where the Republicans have a majority. So it was an exercise in futility from the get-go. It just goes to show how dysfunctional our whole political system is. It’s not whether something makes sense. It’s does it benefit the bankers or not. That determines how the vote will go down.
“You broke it, you bought it.”- Colin Powell to George Bush on Iraq. Seems as if we have.