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Hometown: Chicago area in Indiana
Home country: USA
Current location: Burlington, Vermont
Member since: Tue Jan 18, 2005, 10:05 AM
Number of posts: 55,724

Journal Archives

the administration does not trust the mullahs and has said so

Give the peaceful Solution a chance

Source: Burlington freepress

Some have reflexively denounced the agreement before even reading it. Many are the same people who reflexively supported going to war in Iraq. I voted against that war, after reading the intelligence files and finding no credible evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That colossal mistake killed or maimed thousands and by now has cost more than $2 trillion, with the meter still running.

It’s not easy to stick with the long slog of tough negotiations when others are clamoring for military solutions. I know from conversations with the president and with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz how difficult this was and that we were prepared to walk away rather than settle for a bad deal. But they stuck with it.

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, some of President Kennedy’s top advisors pushed for a military attack. A war between the two nuclear superpowers would have risked the annihilation of both countries, and probably the rest of the world. We can be grateful that President Kennedy stuck with diplomacy and peacefully ended the crisis without taking us into war.

A workable agreement would not just buy more time; it can also buy new opportunities. In Iran, the impetus for reforming its hostile and destabilizing foreign policy comes from the Iranian people. Ordinary Iranians overwhelmingly do not want empire; they want economic reform and to re-engage with the world. For decades the Iranian middle class has been smothered — first, by a revolution that abandoned their dreams, and then by a regime that imposed the consequences of its own bad behavior on their own people. With this agreement, the Iranian middle class can continue to be a factor in future negotiations.

Read more: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/2015/07/20/opinion-give-peaceful-iran-solution-chance/30425615/

This is news in that it is the first endorsement of the Iran deal by the most senior Democratic Senator. Rather than any news account of Leahy's endorsement - this is the endorsement itself.

Congo's M23 rebels declare ceasefire but shelling continues

Source: Reuters

[div class = "excerpt"]
Congo's M23 rebels declared a ceasefire on Sunday after a string of defeats by government forces, but clashes with the Congolese army continued in the steep, forested hills to where the rebels have withdrawn.

Uganda, which has led attempts to end the rebellion, has called for both sides to stop fighting. A spokesman for Congo's government called the rebel statement "a step in the right direction" but said it was waiting to see if the ceasefire was implemented on the ground.

Congo's government has dispatched senior negotiators to talks in Uganda but the army is keen to finish off the rebellion, the last in a series of uprisings led by Congolese Tutsis and linked to Rwanda.

In a sign of optimism for an end to violence that has killed millions through conflict and related disease, Russ Feingold, U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, had said a peace deal could be reached as soon as this weekend.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/03/us-congo-democratic-rebels-idUSBRE9A208120131103

The civil war in the Congo has killed millions. Russ Feingold, as chair of the African sub committee of the SFRC and Kerry as the chair both held several hearings on the problem. ( Hillary Clinton visited the area in 2009 and spoke of the evil use of rape as a weapon of war)

Last June, Kerry announced that Russ Feingold would be a special envoy to the Great Lakes Region. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014511980 In the past,The US, especially Susan Rice, were criticized as too close to Rwanda. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/world/un-envoy-rice-faulted-for-rwanda-tie-in-congo-conflict.html

Earlier this fall, Kerry chaired a UN session on both Syria, Israel/Palestine and the Great Lakes
[div class = "excerpt"]
Secretary of State John Kerry made his first official visit to the United Nations on Thursday to discuss three of the world’s most intractable crises: the turmoil in Africa’s Great Lakes region, the Syrian war and what he called “the granddaddy of them all,” the Israel-Palestinian conflict.


Leading a delegation that included a former Senate colleague, Russ Feingold, whom he appointed as his special envoy to the Great Lakes region last month, Mr. Kerry’s main order of business at the United Nations on Thursday was to lead a special Security Council meeting on the protracted conflicts in the area that he said had been “beleaguered by targeted, egregious violence.”

The Great Lakes region includes Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the mineral-rich eastern section of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area of recurrent fighting, atrocities and no government authority. Millions of Congolese have been killed since the 1990s in chronic mayhem and pillaging carried out by armed groups vying for control of the area’s abundant resources.


Last week there were several stories that spoke of how the UN effort to fight the M23 guerrillas in the Congo were on the verge of success partially due to Secretary Kerry successfully persuaded Rwanda to end its support of the rebels. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/democraticrepublicofcongo/10417909/DR-Congo-M23-rebels-close-to-defeat-after-US-and-Britain-urge-Rwanda-to-stay-out.html

Last week the UN stepped up pressure on the DRC government and the M23 to reach agreement at long-running negotiations in Kampala. Russ Feingold was considered a "balanced" mediator between the countries.

The US's new representative for Africa's Great Lakes region has upped the pressure on Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to end the bloody M23 rebellion in north-east DRC.

After years of close relations between Washington and Rwanda, Russ Feingold is being welcomed as more "balanced" in his dealings with both governments.

Feingold, who took over as Great Lakes envoy in September, met DRC President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday before flying to Kigali where he was expected to meet President Paul Kagame.

Last week the UN stepped up pressure on the DRC government and the M23 to reach agreement at long-running negotiations in Kampala.


Here is another article written last week, that provides a lot of context to the war and how this is an historic moment, but it does not mean that everything will be peaceful. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2013/1031/In-East-Congo-days-of-high-drama-as-long-war-begins-to-end-video

This really is a major foreign policy accomplishment for Obama working with the UN and the countries in the region.

I think that is more semantics than real

"Insider trading" is something monitored by the SEC and they oversee publicly traded companies. The rules specifically list the positions in companies that are subject to its provisions. As legislators are not included in this, it is true to say that they are not subject to insider trading rules.

That said, there are ethics rules in both the House and the Senate. They can investigate whether a legislator used his position for financial gain. Highly publicized recent examples include both the House and the Senate looking at Countrywide giving preferential loans to legislators, including Senators Dodd and Conrad. The same could be done for any REAL, provable insider trading or use of inside information. Here, the most obvious example would be positioning oneself to gain from a not yet public earmark that has been accepted in a bill. (Here's an example of Speaker Hastert - http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2006/06/15/5792/hastert-pictures-of-corruption/?mobile=nc )

Strengthening the ethics rules could more explicitly prohibit some unethical behavior, but the current wave of action is really more political than reality based. The sudden desire to act against this - though Louise Slaughter's bill has been pretty dormant since 2006 when it was first introduced was caused by Sarah Palin's "national security" adviser's book that 60 Minutes profiled in an explosive expose. The problem is that the research methods are simplistic and beyond that there are some pretty mindbogling "mistakes". Palin "wrote" an op-ed on insider trading for the WSJ and has spoken of Schweitzer as one of her posse.

Here is the method used. He looked at all committees a legislator was on and then looked at the legally mandated disclosures made. He then identified all transactions made that are for companies in the businesses that the legislator oversees. One example is that he labeled ANY purchase of any health care stock or fund in 2009 suspect for Senators on the Finance or HELP committee suspect - because apparently it was insider information that they were working on a health care bill. Then, to add more smoke to that fire, he found that a year later when the bill passed, the value of these stocks were way up. Ignored is the fact that the market itself rose about 59% from the bottom in 2009 to the spring of 2010. (In fact, they would have done better buying Tiffany in March 2009 - as it went up about 250% by April 2010) It should also be noted that he ignored if the transactions occurred in blind accounts or accounts managed by others.

As to the errors, the ones I saw in the excerpts in the media included saying that Kerry was chair of the Finance committee's subcommittee on health in 2003 and thus led the effort on the 2003 drug bill - so like with 2009, any healthcare stocks are suspicious. In fact, it was a Bush supported bill and the republicans controlled the Senate and the bill was written in the full Finance committee. Kerry was running for President speaking against the bill and voted against it. I doubt many here do not know the 2003 bill was not a Democratic bill. Another error - likely coming from having created the above "truth" was to then suggest that Kerry was on the Health committee (HELP) and could have been informed of any Bush HHS change in drugs covered. Kerry was not on Kennedy's committee and before arguing insider information it would seem prudent to actually determine if the HHS department notifies the House and/or Senate about routine executive functions - such as which drugs are covered. My guess - they don't - - thus the weasel word "could".

The Boston Globe looked at a more comprehensive analysis that showed that if you look at all transactions - instead of cherry picked ones - legislators do not do better than others. http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-14/bostonglobe/30516909_1_insider-suspicious-trades-portfolio

Here is a defense one Colorado Democrat, who had done everything anyone would have asked to avoid conflict of interest, but was still named by Palin's goon, wrote. http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_19801816

In addition, there is something wrong when an analysis like that is made and the person intending to level serious charges at public officials that will damage their reputations and question their integrity, that NO effort was made to ask the accused for any response. In addition, publicly available information that diminishes the likelihood of culpability is ignored. That is true in the case of the Colorado legislator and in the case of John Kerry. (In Kerry's case all the transactions mentioned were made by the Heinz trust, that Teresa is one of many beneficiaries but not a trustee of - and that was clear on the Senate disclosure.) When the allegation came out, Kerry demanded a retraction - http://www.businessinsider.com/insider-trading-congress-john-kerry-retraction-peter-schweizer-2011-11 )

My guess is that Obama is attempting to head off in the pass what otherwise would be a Palin led attack in the 2012 election. Counterintuitive as it is, the republicans may see that further diminishing the historically low confidence in Congress is good for the anti-Government wing of the Republican party. Not to mention - it could make the ethics rules tighter which was one of the things Obama did as a Senator. Oddly, this might be the only regulation the republicans are for.

NYT - The big lie - an oped on the RW lie that Freddie and Fannie caused the economic collapse

You begin with a hypothesis that has a certain surface plausibility. You find an ally whose background suggests that he’s an “expert”; out of thin air, he devises “data.” You write articles in sympathetic publications, repeating the data endlessly; in time, some of these publications make your cause their own. Like-minded congressmen pick up your mantra and invite you to testify at hearings.

You’re chosen for an investigative panel related to your topic. When other panel members, after inspecting your evidence, reject your thesis, you claim that they did so for ideological reasons. This, too, is repeated by your allies. Soon, the echo chamber you created drowns out dissenting views; even presidential candidates begin repeating the Big Lie.

Thus has Peter Wallison, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, almost single-handedly created the myth that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis. His partner in crime is another A.E.I. scholar, Edward Pinto, who a very long time ago was Fannie’s chief credit officer. Pinto claims that as of June 2008, 27 million “risky” mortgages had been issued — “and a lion’s share was on Fannie and Freddie’s books,” as Wallison wrote recently. Never mind that his definition of “risky” is so all-encompassing that it includes mortgages with extremely low default rates as well as those with default rates nearing 30 percent. These latter mortgages were the ones created by the unholy alliance between subprime lenders and Wall Street. Pinto’s numbers are the Big Lie’s primary data point


It is important to fight this and other Republican lies. (A case could be made that Peter Schweitzer did the same with Congressional Inside trading. The Boston Globe reported a study that looked at ALL the trades made for Congressmen - and they did worse than a passive index fund would have done - http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-14/bostonglobe/30516909_1_insider-suspicious-trades-portfolio )

You likely have been too influenced by Fox News

1) Solyndra is a green energy company that received a grant and failed. Congress passed legislation that called for grants for green energy as part of the stimulus. It is not the least surprising that a company, even with a grant, could fail in what everyone knows is the toughest economy in recent times. As to top people in the company being Obama donators - I would bet they contributed to Kerry and Gore as well. It is hard to imagine that, having a passion for environmentally clean energy, they did not see that the Democrats were much more in line with their values.

2) Fast & Furious is an idiotic, immoral program, started when Bush was President in ATF. The Republicans blocked not just Obama's choice to head ATF , BUT Bush's choice to head the ATF. ( http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/06/nation/la-na-atf-director-20110907 ) This because the NRA has been against everyone nominated. Though Senator Grassley says that not having a confirmed head would have not made a difference, that is speculation. Note that the acting head was also only part time. It would seem that a confirmed, full time head of the organization would have more authority to set the agenda. The problem here is that ATF is a troubled organization - and it was so in the 1990s. The NRA's actions precluded the possibility that a good, strong head could have reset the organization's goals. The real problem is that the NRA, not wanting any regulation of guns, used its power to make the organization dysfunctional.

3) Indiana primary fraud is the dumbest Fox claim I have heard - and there's a lot of competition there. The fact is that they found TWO invalid signatures in a 150 signature sample. Then they declared this meant Obama should not have been on the ballot. The fact is that there always are some invalid signatures - which is why all candidates gather more than are needed and eliminate the obvious ones. Here, using the fraud rate identified, it is well outside the 95% confidence interval that Obama had insufficient signatures. (Here is what I wrote then - http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=433&topic_id=828461&mesg_id=828499 ) Beyond that, it was incumbent on his opponents or the state to challenge the petition and none did.

4) Executive overreach - Uhmm, it is hard to out do the Bush administration on this. Not to mention, the right pushed Alito onto the Supreme Court even though he was a proponent of the unitary executive. Senator Kerry and others passionately and eloquently spoke of the danger of moving in that direction.

5) Politicized DOJ - You mean pushing federal DA's to open investigations and make indictments - that did not have merit to hurt candidates in the opposing party in the mid terms? That did happen and they were caught at it, but that was the Bush administration in 2006, not Obama. (Small side fact, it was Chris Christie's office that investigated Senator Menendez, who was running in 2006 - the case dropped as having no merit after Menendez was elected.

6) Health insurance costs have risen fast for years. The fact is your costs would not have remained constant if there were no law passed.

7) 5 Trillion spent? The President does not have the power to spend money that Congress does not legislate. Not to mention, a large part of what was spent was for the two wars that started in the Bush era, including one that was not necessary. It is entirely likely that had Bush not diverted troops and resources to Iraq, that Afghanistan would have ended in his first term. He also might not have outsourced the capture of Osama Bin Laden and his key people to warlords that weeks before were allied with the Taliban. Not to mention, the Bush tax cuts, which were rammed through the Senate under reconciliation, were unaffordable. (This also led to the passage of the Byrd rule that bills passed under reconciliation must lower the deficit. ) The United States has never fought a war while cutting taxes. Yet Bush refused to even reduce the tax cuts to pay for the war - he threatened to veto the $87 billion supplemental if Congress paid for it that way. (So, like Kerry, he also had two positions on the $87 billion. Our financial standing now would have been better if Bush and the Congress would have taken the position Kerry voted for. )

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