Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Road to Afghanistan, Are these Stimulating Cuts?

It's bad enough that Michael Phelps got bonged, or that the DEA raided four medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, but the AP says that there really is a change in US policy, a whiff in the air, you might say. As reported in the Gazette: "The message is clear, said UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, a former Justice Department official and an expert on crime and drug policy.

" It is no longer federal policy to beat up on hippies." said Kleiman."

One of the world leaders who did not attend the Obama Inauguration was Hamid Kharzai, he did not receive an invitation. The Ny Times explains: "The world has changed for Mr. Karzai, and for Afghanistan, too. A White House favorite — a celebrity in flowing cape and dark gray fez — in each of the seven years that he has led this country since the fall of the Taliban, Mr. Karzai now finds himself not so favored at all. Not by Washington, and not by his own.

In the White House, President Obama said he regarded Mr. Karzai as unreliable and ineffective. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said he presided over a “narco-state.” The Americans making Afghan policy, worried that the war is being lost, are vowing to bypass Mr. Karzai and deal directly with the governors in the countryside.

At home, Mr. Karzai faces a widening insurgency and a population that blames him for the manifest lack of economic progress and the corrupt officials that seem to stand at every doorway of his government. His face, which once adorned the walls of tea shops across the country, is today much less visible."  

The Pentagon will have to rethink what its objectives are in Afghanistan now that the Khyber Pass is blown up and we are getting kicked out of the nearest air force base, out-manipulated by the Russians. Ironically, in order to get supply trucks to the Afghan border, bribes had to be paid to local Pakistani Talibans, as the NY Times reports:

"Kifayatullah Jan, the manager of Port World Logistics, a major North Atlantic Treaty Organization contractor, said his drivers were ready to pack it in when Pakistani insurgents torched 106 containers. "No protection, no business," lamented Jan. NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan require 70,000 containers of supplies per year, or about 75 percent of their total needs in fuel, food, equipment and construction materials. On any given day, there are 3 million gallons of fuel on Pakistani roads destined for allied forces in Afghanistan. In some cases, the Taliban extracted payments of $1,000 per vehicle at the point of a gun. Helicopter engines valued at $13 million were also hijacked. Taliban fighters gave Pakistani drivers certificates guaranteeing their trucks were requisitioned, not stolen.

The southern route through Pakistan was kept open while negotiations proceeded with Russia and the former Soviet Muslim republics -- known as the "Stans" -- for an alternate northern route. Supplies would be unloaded onto trains in German ports and taken by rail through Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and then by truck into Afghanistan, a distance five times longer than the 1,000-kilometer journey from Karachi to Kabul. Hardly an incentive for NATO and U.S. staying power against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It doesn't require an overwhelming effort of geopolitical imagination to see the potential for Russian troublemaking along the northern supply route. After all, the Soviets spent 10 years fighting the mujahedin guerrillas -- and were forced into a humiliating withdrawal six months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. They wouldn't mind seeing superpower America suffer the same fate." 
Pentagon officials have said they expect to send as many as 30,000 more troops there, including several brigades in the coming months.

The Washington Monthly suggests that Congressional Republicans should stop shouting about tax cuts, tax cuts, and tax cuts. They have gotten more than they wished, and the tax cut solution is part of supply-side economical theory, which was vigorously practiced since the Reagan administration, and has a lot to do with our economic woes:

John Cole explained this week, "I really don't understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane."

When it comes to economic policy, now would be an excellent time for the Republican Party to enjoy a little quiet time. We're talking about a party that insisted that Bill Clinton's economic policies would be a complete disaster, and then rallied enthusiastically behind George W. Bush's economic agenda. In recent weeks, these same lawmakers have been questioning FDR, while embracing Hoover.

Given all of this, why the Republican Party believes it has credibility on economic policies is a mystery. After getting everything spectacularly wrong for years, we still hear McConnell, Boehner, & Co. sounding downright Cartman-like, demanding, "You will respect my authority!"

A list of programs cut (actually reduced proposed allocations) from the House/Obama bill by Senate negotiators, put together by a Republican leadership aide:

$40 billion State Fiscal Stabilization
$16 billion School Construction
$1.25 billion project-based rental
$2.25 Neighborhood Stabilization (Eliminate)
$1.2 billion in Retrofiting Project 8 Housing
$7.5 billion of State Incentive Grants
$3.5 billion Higher Ed Construction (Eliminated)
$100 million FSA modernization
$50 million CSERES Research
$65 million Watershed Rehab
$30 million SD Salaries
$100 million Distance Learning
$98 million School Nutrition
$50 million aquaculture
$2 billion broadband
$1 billion Head Start/Early Start
$5.8 billion Health Prevention Activity.
$2 billion HIT Grants
$1 billion Energy Loan Guarantees
$4.5 billion GSA
$3.5 billion Federal Bldgs Greening

(Smaller cuts -- $10-$600 million -- after the jump)

$100 million NIST
$100 million NOAA
$100 million Law Enforcement Wireless
$50 million Detention Trustee
$25 million Marshalls Construction
$100 million FBI Construction
$300 million Federal Prisons
$300 million BYRNE Formula
$140 million BYRNE Competitive
$10 million State and Local Law Enforcement
$50 million NASA
$50 million Aeronautics
$50 million Exploration
$50 million Cross Agency Support
$200 million NSF
$100 million Science
$89 million GSA Operations
$300 million Fed Hybrid Vehicles
$50 million from DHS
$200 million TSA
$122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use
$25 million Fish and Wildlife
$55 million Historic Preservation
$20 million working capital fund
$200 million Superfund
$165 million Forest Svc Capital Improvement
$90 million State & Private Wildlife Fire Management
$75 million Smithsonian
$600 million Title I (NCLB)

You can decide, are these good cuts, or are they shameless pork that will not let me meet my next payroll?

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