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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Clothing for the Wounded at Ramstein 

Via Paperwight and originally Juan Cole, this request is reprinted for you here... Holiday generosity now mixes with the horror of war and makes this request especially appropriate.

From: Lori Noyes
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2004 12:28 AM
Subject: Request for Help for our wounded troops at LRMC

Dear CAP Friends:

I am writing is to tell you about a project the Ramstein Cadet Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is starting. The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) here in Germany got an influx of about 500 wounded troops from Iraq last week and more arrive almost daily. They arrive straight from the battlefield, with only the torn, dirty, bloody clothes on their back. They have no clothes, underwear, or toiletry items. The hospital provides them with only a cotton gown or pajamas, robe, and disposable slippers. Some stay only a few days before being sent to hospitals stateside, while others are here up to several weeks. The military gives them a $250 voucher to buy clothing and toiletries at the BX, but many are not ambulatory, and those who are have to wait for a bus to get down to the BX on Ramstein 7 miles away. The BX runs out of the clothing and it takes weeks for more to come in. Those who can go to the BX still need something to wear to get there!

The cadets are collecting new clothing and toiletries to that they can take to the wounded at LRMC. Below is a list of items the wounded need. It is cold here in Germany and warm items are needed. Items need not be name brands . . .

For males - all sizes, but mostly medium and large


briefs

boxer shorts

undershirts or T-shirts

white crew sox

cotton turtleneck shirts

flannel shirts

sweatshirts (crew or zip-up hooded)

sweat pants

inexpensive athletic shoes

knit caps

knit gloves


For females - all sizes, but mostly medium and large

cotton briefs

cotton T-shirts

cotton turtleneck shirts

flannel shirts

bras - mostly sizes 34, 36, 38 with cup sizes B and C

white crew sox

sweatshirts (crew or zip-up hooded)

sweat pants

inexpensive athletic shoes

knit caps

knit gloves


Toiletry articles -

disposable razors

shaving cream - regular and/or travel size

deodorant - regular and/or travel size

tooth brushes

tooth paste - regular and/or travel size

nail clippers

combs

hair brushes

The hospital could also use new or used video tapes or DVDs of movies for the patients to watch. Comedies or light drama are best. Please avoid movies about war or those with excessive violence.

If your squadron would like to help, we would greatly appreciate it, no matter what the quantity. Every little bit helps.

If you wish to send money, make your check out to the Ramstein Cadet Squadron and put "Help for LRMC" on the memo line. We will use the money to purchase toiletry items and movies. But American-sized clothing listed below is what is mostly needed, which the BX is currently out of.


Send your donations to:

Lt Col Lori Noyes
PSC 2 Box 6037
APO AE 09012

or

Ramstein Cadet Squadron NHQ-OS-119
Unit 3395
APO AE 09094


We can get items to the hospital faster if they come to my mailing address, but feel free to send them to the squadron address.

Feel free to pass the word along to other CAP units in your wing. Thank you for your support of our troops.


In service,


Lori L. Noyes, Lt Col, CAP

Deputy Commander

Ramstein Cadet Squadron

Getting Out 

For anyone looking for inside-the-beltway approval for pulling up stakes in Iraq, see links available in Altercation, Eric Alterman's blog. Several not so dovish policy wonks are advocating getting out and the biggest question ought to be now, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

America, Come Home for Christmas 

It’s Christmas, and another tradition in American life remains intact. Thirty-odd years have passed and still we can read the paper on Christmas Day to see that George McGovern is calling once again to bring American troops home from a foreign land where our goals have become murky and their mission is no longer worth their lives being lost.

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, McGovern writes today:

“…as George Aiken, that wonderful old Republican senator said of an earlier time of troubles, Declare victory and come home.

Once we left Vietnam and quit bombing its people, they became friends and trading partners. Iraq has been nestled along the Tigris and Euphrates for 6,000 years. It will be there for 6,000 more whether we stay or leave, as earlier conquerors learned.

I tried to persuade Santa Claus to bring our troops home for Christmas, but he said, “No, Rumsfeld sees the light at the end of the tunnel if we hang in there and don’t listen to old veterans like McGovern.” ”

****
Sadly, another American tradition is that we don’t listen to old veterans like McGovern.

Let’s hope for a safe Christmas Day for our troops and the people of Iraq. Then, let’s open our ears.

Friday, December 24, 2004

More TPM Focus on Social Security Waverers 

I see Josh Marshall has been burning the midnight oil to toil away regarding Social Security wobblers. I have to admit to being crabby the other day about his entertaining the possibility of losing on SSI. He makes an important point about lining up Democratic legislators as a way of increasing the likelihood of peeling off Republicans from the Administration's position.

Lining up advocacy on this early is crucial. Once Congress is back in session it'll be the President's offense game.

Holiday Reading in the Press 

Among recent columns, there are three to offer up for suggested scanning, if you haven’t seen them already:

Maureen Dowd (yeah, I know, it’s getting too predictable) has written perhaps the most impassioned and direct attack on the Iraq War and the hacks of the Bush Administration prosecuting it I’ve yet read. She puts her anger about the war in even harsher and crisper terms than she has to date.

Bob Herbert continues to write about the human cost of the war at home.

Thomas Friedman, one of the most ardent cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion and a continued supporter of the war as good v. evil, excoriates the bumbling and stumbling US prosecution of it and makes allowances for how it may now be lost. He now uses only Tony Blair as his North Star to follow, citing his superior understanding of same good and evil.

In a less recent, but still timely column, E.J. Dionne Jr. wishes the Democratic Party will adopt the higher tech grassroots fundraising and organizing tactics of Karl Rove and Co. and discusses Howard Dean’s candidacy for DNC Chair in that light.

Happy Holiday reading! I’ll be settling in with a copy of Bush's Brain, to get a closer look at Karl Rove and re-reading Ron Sussman’s Equire article on him from 2003. Know the opposition, they say…

PS- …for New Yorkers, see today’s NY Times editorial to remember that we needn’t travel to Ohio or Washington State to improve on our election process. Look only as far as Yonkers, where voters’ preferences are being thwarted by Republicans in the courts.

PPS- Today’s WSJ reports:

“Sunni politician Pachachi, whom the Bush Administration has courted, accuses the US of siding with Shiites by resisting any postponement in elections”


Thursday, December 23, 2004

TPM Discusses Dwindling Public Support for the War 

Let's all hope that Josh Marshall is correct in his belief that Americans can now focus more nonpartisan skepticism on the wisdom of the Iraq War and help force the Administration to come to its senses.

Iraq Endgame 

Well, 24 hours later, I pick up the paper and see that the last ray of hope for an honorable way out of Iraq has been closed off, as if someone just closed a distant shutter in an airshaft.

The international election monitors have decided it’s too dangerous to observe the upcoming Iraqi elections from anywhere IN Iraq. They’ll be doing it from Amman, Jordan. I can’t say I blame them, given the events of the last days and weeks. It is, however, a total collapse for the potential transition. It should be the last disaster we endure, before saying that this adventure isn’t worth one more American life.

The elections were (I’ll explain the past tense) the last possible hope for some semblance of order and potential peace coming from the disastrous invasion of Iraq. The only way that potential peace might come from the elections, though, would have been if there was international recognition that the conduct of the polling was fair and open. Barring that, while set in the future, these elections are now already past tense in any realistic way.

Without international oversight, the polling will be seen as a sham. If that happens, there’s no possible Iraqi future that involves the US as a positive influence for overseeing a transition to democracy. As brutal as the facts are, Bush (and the American people, who ratified his policies in an election just a month ago) has screwed up Iraq to the point where he can only be more destructive by staying.

What’s more to the point, we Americans can only lose the lives and destroy the futures of more American soldiers and their loved ones by staying. These men and women signed on for the military with the expectation that they would be protecting their country and the values they hold dear. They deserve nothing short of our honesty. It’s become clear, however well intended (and we best not argue about intentions at this moment), that this adventure has lost all value to protect American interests.

I posted yesterday about the potential futures for Iraq, but the only reason to stay I could see was to legitimize the upcoming elections. That’s now over, in the wake of the violence and the Administration’s dishonest lowballing of the troop commitment necessary to safeguard their own transition plan.

Unless the Administration can pull off a miracle and turn the situation around in time to bring in the observers safely, it’s time to set a timetable and come home. No more (unphotographed) coffins with American soldiers inside should be shipped back to the States. Let’s face reality and bring our men and women home alive.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Iraq's Future and Ours 

Many hard questions come to mind today, especially after yesterday’s devastating attack on US soldiers in Mosul.

It’s impossible among the longstanding political opposition to President Bush’s policies in Iraq not to shake one’s head and lament that our soldiers are in the position they are. It is, however, less clear what America can do now to extricate itself without seeing Iraq devolve into the kind of chaos that gave rise to a failed state in Afghanistan. That prospect has long term consequences for America that are possibly worse than the present mess.

Given that the Administration is now committed to the policy of pushing an Iraqi election scheduled for the end of January, several factors now seem to loom as obstacles to developing a workable policy. The coming election under the provisional constitution has adopted few safeguards for the Sunni minority and the looming prospect of civil strife between ethnic groups following a likely victory by parties representing the Shiite majority is a dark likelihood to contemplate.

In addition to the constitutional disincentive given the Sunnis to take part, the various factions fighting against the provisional government and the US all are focusing on limiting Sunni electoral participation through violence like the attacks now occurring in the “triangle of death.” It seems likely that many Sunnis will stay home, whether out of support for the resistance or because they fear the foreign terror groups and the internal resistance that are now racking the country with violence.

The option which would have seemed best in the short term, a massive infusion of multinational troops before the election, accompanied by a plan to de-Americanize the occupation after the election, would require a supply of international goodwill and diplomatic understanding that appears impossible at present. In addition to the futility of asking already reluctant nations to send forces without relinquishing some control, it seems clear that the Bush Administration finds it undesirable to go hat in hand to allies who it has spurned to ask for their help anyway.

Nations bordering the Iraq conflict will make their own moves to position themselves well with the ruling elements in the future there. It would probably behoove the US to deal effectively with Iran behind the scenes, as there will clearly be some areas of mutual interest between our two countries relative to Iraq’s Shiites. But even this area of diplomacy is limited at present, since we are locked in a diplomatic tug of war over Iran’s developing nuclear capability. A Shiite theocracy, Iranian style, seems a possible tendency in Iraq. Will supporting democracy still seem in our interests if radical theocrats take electoral power and rule with draconian laws?

It’s hard to say what the best of the bad options are now in Iraq, but getting to the elections relatively safely, or delaying them if that isn’t possible, but staying the course with the UN’s administrative lead in either case seems the only short term option. If the UN will continue to plan for and staff election oversight, then the US must protect international election workers, whatever it takes. Unless the elections are seen to be broadly accessible, fairly administrated, and attract broad participation by Iraqis—including the Sunnis—the next few months afterwards will be bloodier than ever, it seems.

This said, I have no expectation that the Administration will make any policy or tactical changes between now and the election, if it occurs. God help us all. I pray for our soldiers’ safety.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

SSI Hold Messages Linked to Pavlov's Studies 

TPM blogs today about the scare tactics being employed for those (I imagine mostly older folks, calling about their benefits) waiting on hold to get a human being to answer their questions at the Social Security Administration.

Marshall notes some of the political hype, disguished as information being dispensed, like, "changes will need to be made to Social Security" to keep the program solvent. And "most experts agree the sooner those changes are made the less they are going to cost."

If only we could have played some soothing messages for the people on voting lines in Cleveland last month, like, "Did you know that voters in nearby Republican suburbs are already home now, 'cause they had voting machines there," or "Did you know that your provisional ballot will be tossed in the trash if it's left at the wrong district machine, even if we know you are registered elsewhere?"

Think the IRS lines will soon have messages about the need for a tax overhaul?

Prayers for the Stryker Brigade 

Terrible news from Mosul.

So sad for these soldiers and their families, as well as the civilians. God... how wretched.

Drum One-Liners on Privatization 

Kevin Drum has offered up four “practical” (i.e. easily quotable) arguments against Social Security privatization for use by one and all over holiday hot rum toddies. For your approval, here they are:

"1. Politicians lie all the time, and now they're lying about Social Security being in trouble. What is it they're really after?

2. Wall Street tycoons are being cagey about this, but the truth is that they can't wait to get their hands on your retirement money. Management fees is what this is really all about, isn't it?

3. Today your retirement benefits are guaranteed. With private accounts you're taking on a big risk. What happens if you turn 65 right after a stock market crash?

4. Take a look at Chile. Take a look at Argentina. They tried private accounts and look how their retirees are doing.”

Thanks for those pithy one-liners. To these I would add:

“How many trillion in borrowing did they just say they want?”

And...

“Let me get this straight, you want to have younger people invest their money in a scheme that’s not sensible for older people? But neither of them has the same pension plan you guys want to keep for Congress and the President? S’cuse me, I gotta go now.”

A Dose of Reality on Iraq 

Maura Reynolds and Sonni Efron point to the likelihood of civil war (unlike what is going on now?) as a byproduct of the Iraqi elections next month in their downbeat LA Times account of Bush's press conference yesterday.

Reynolds and Efron make note of the dictinctions between Bush's more honest assessment of the situation in Iraq yesterday and the election year hype the Administration had been employing to date. The beat goes on.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Lobbying for Privatization Ramps Up 

Let's gear up for the fight over Social Security. Wall St already has.

"Our sense is there is a lot of activity behind the curtain," said Bill Patterson, the director of the office of investment at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. "There is a dangerous confluence between the industry and the ideologues of the right. These groups can't do it by themselves - they need the covert and overt support of the financial services industry."

That's from tomorrow's NY Times article by Landon Thomas Jr. citing the efforts being carefully ratcheted up on Wall St. to promote privatization. Our opposition needs to ramp up in synch.

No Surrender- Part 2 

Josh Marshall's point is well taken that we should fight our hearts out. BBDB's previous post is not intended to disagree with him on that. In fact, to be clear-- I have great respect for the position he takes on no tweaking with compromise, even agreeing with Nick Confessore about jettisoning Democrats who do.

An additional concern about any consideration of losing the battle now on privatization is that there's a Rubicon crossed if Bush is allowed to win-- he'll have created new "stakeholders" with private accounts if he does. These will be young people who will be hard to win back-- until years have passed and their positions are seen to have been more risky for all but the investment community who'll profit.

It's hard to convince people that no matter what paltry investment (like the $600 tax rebates most people got in the initial Bush tax cut and deficits for years...) they're given in a bait and switch, that they should return it--even if it's in exchange for something more secure. Winning this time, therefore, is that much more important.

On the fight, we agree- no compromise.

No Surrender on Social Security 

I’m writing to take up a specific issue with TPM's post today. The offending point in particular is regarding the outcome of the coming battle for Social Security. Josh Marshall points out that Democrats don’t have control of the votes in Congress over Social Security and goes on to note that often in life we don’t have control over what happens… OK, so far, I’m with him.

Then he goes on to say that it’s important that, “if Democrats have to lose this, they must be sure to lose well.”

This is where I get off. I’m not ready to discuss losing the heart and soul of the New Deal, but doing it well. Democrats need not to look for how to turn this to the party’s advantage or to differentiate Democrats’ ideology from Bush’s on Social Security. Democrats-- and anyone else interested in maintaining America's social contract-- need to win this battle. This issue calls for some of that old Republican black and white vision—scorched earth.

Yeah, I know… Bush won the election. Big deal.

Nowhere was it written that the centerpiece of a second term was going to be the dismantlement of the safety net for older Americans. In fact, if Bush’s priority on privatization had been made clear to the American public before November 2, Bush’s plurality with older Americans would have disappeared entirely and John Kerry would be organizing a transition to the White House right now. George W. Bush remained in power in spite of his position on Social Security privatization, not because of it.

Given that Bush referred to Social Security in the context of protecting it during the campaign and only then at several graphs lower than the lead in any pre-election story, he’s vulnerable on this issue. His congressional majority and any Senator up for re-election during the 2006 cycle know that they’re vulnerable to voter backlash as well. This battle can be won by exploiting the fact that Bush won’t be around long enough to reward his supporters, that he’s already off to a halting start to his coming second term, and that Social Security is still the third rail of American politics. Republican votes can be won over and Republican voters can as well.

Now I’m not ignoring that Josh Marshall notes in today’s post that he’s more optimistic than most about the outcome of the Social Security fight. I don’t see his position as defeatist (in fact, to the extent that he advocates clarity, I’m right there with him). But I think it’s time on the left that we employ a more vociferous tactical position on the important battles ahead. There is no more important bulwark than Social Security to defend domestically. It’s not a handout, not for special interests, it’s our contract with each other. There can be no retreat from it, no surrender on this issue; it’s in protecting Social Security that progressives and moderates together will take this country back from the extremism of the Bush Administration.

Let’s remember that before progressives began beating up on George Bush over the conduct of his foreign policy in 2003, there was no sense in the Democratic Party that it was possible to do so. It’s crucial that the response to the assault on Social Security be overwhelming and unyielding—and determined to win. This is a time to stand up and fight.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch 

Thanks to Paperwight, we've come across another bit of placename fun (see
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg
) and cross-referenced it with the internet to link you to the longest single-word domain name on the web.

Go to the link for the South Wales village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch and you'll be able not only to see their name emblazoned on the local train station, but also to have the opportunity to send your loved ones a holiday e-mail from there.

A Wonderful World, If Not a Wonderful Life 

Yes, it's Sunday. Time for another valentine to Maureen Dowd. She's really outdone herself today, with a wonderfully topsy turvy version of a holiday classic featuring Rummy, an angel, and Sam Nunn. Read it if you want to imagine a world in which Dick Cheney and his wife run a bait and tackle shop instead of the country.

Campaign for Fiscal Equity 

I had a conversation with a young man the other day about his job teaching in the Bronx. He mentioned how draining the experience is and how overfilled his classrooms are. It appears that unless something changes, his students will lose this idealistic and bright teacher soon.

I mention this because it seems, in this dark period of American history, the need for quality education for all our young people has never been greater.

In New York, we have some hope that this can happen and our hope stems from the persistent efforts of one organization, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. The CFE has persued a civil lawsuit that should bring New York schoolchildren some relief from the lack of resources they’ve endured for too long.

Keeping and attracting good teachers and reducing class size is basic to providing kids with a quality education. If you’re thinking about a way to make an impact with end of the year giving, or just want to know more about their work, you can send mail (or checks) to:

Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc.
317 Madison Avenue, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10017

For anyone interested in efforts in other states, check the Access website for details in your state.

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