Limbering up for some rigorous holiday chillin’, Calbuzz made a quick online check to find the origin of Memorial Day, figuring we’d just casually…drop it in…to the barbecue conversation; as with most things political, however, the answer came neither quickly nor clearly, as it turns out bragging rights are in dispute and break down along red state-blue state lines.
The holiday formerly known as Decoration Day was started by freed slaves in celebration of Union soldiers who died in prison camps, according to Newsweek, but a Purdue history professor in a new book traces it to Southern ladies honoring Confederate troops. The official, establishment version, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has it both ways, stating that Yankees and Rebs alike got flowers on their graves at Decoration Day I in 1868. Maybe we won’t mention it after all.
Not sure how the NYT missed this one: Mega-kudos to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who appears to be one of the few politicians in America to use Memorial Day as an opportunity to think seriously about the costs and benefits of our current military policy.
Beyond the 5,000 lives of American service members that have been lost in Iraq – seven years after W. strutted across that carrier deck – and Afghanistan – launched Oct. 7, 2001 -Schakowsky reports that, as of Sunday, the nation has spent $1 trillion – (twelve zeros cq) – on the two conflicts:
This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.
The only clear winner of the Iraq war is Iran. Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shiites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.
And then there’s Afghanistan, which, after nearly a decade of war, represents the longest continuous U.S. military engagement ever. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently declared the situation in Afghanistan as a “deteriorating security situation and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight.” And the U.S. military just suffered its 1,000th casualty in Afghanistan on Friday.
So the real question is: What have we bought for $1 trillion? Are we safer? As our troops and treasure are still locked down in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists are training, recruiting and organizing in Somalia, Yemen and dozens of other places around the globe. While it appears that we have made significant progress in weakening Al Qaeda’s network, we have increasing concerns about homegrown terrorists.
Oil, oil everywhere: As long as we’re talking awful, intractable problems, no less a figure than Obama environment and energy adviser Carol Browner has now declared that the ongoing, day-to-day horror show of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is “probably the worst environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country.”
“Probably?” Really? “Probably?” Ya’ think?
On the day the offshore rig exploded and sank, we wrote that at the very least, the tragedy would doom efforts to expand offshore drilling in California’s state waters (citing the incident, Schwarzenegger gave up on his pet Tranquillon Ridge project not long after); not wanting to seem ghoulish at the time, we said it was too early then to assess the broader political implications.
It’s now clear that it is a true, catastrophic event that will have policy and political reverberations for decades to come; one thing that seems certain already is that it has inflicted serious, potentially fatal, damage to Obama’s presidency.
The White House communications operation, which already failed the president during the stimulus, health care and financial reform debates, has disgraced itself once again; combined with Obama’s too-cool-for-school personal style, the Administration’s utter failure to display a shred of forceful leadership in the crisis has not only put the lie to his claims of competence but once again undercut his promise to take back control of the government from corporate interests, leaving him to appear weak, hapless and way over his head, reminding us of nothing so much as Jimmy Carter’s impotent, failed performance during the Iran hostage crisis.
We want Hillary.
Whitman lies: Even as the L.A. Times poll has restored the mantle of inevitability to Meg Whitman’ quest for the Republican nomination for governor, it’s becoming clearer by the day that eMeg has but a passing acquaintance with the truth.
Having previously dissembled about her voting record, her residency in California, her cynical pandering on immigration, her ties to Goldman Sachs and the release of her tax returns, among other issues, Her Megness is now claiming with a straight face that she’s always opposed offshore oil drilling.
Aw, come on.
Calbuzz has asked Whitman face-to-face about offshore oil drilling twice, once on Sept. 1, 2009 and again on May 20, 2010, following the disaster in the Gulf, when she acknowledged she’d changed her position.
Here’s what she said the first time:
We have to say times have changed and we’ve got to look at this again…
I would say that when I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells – slant drilling and other things and I think we ought to look at this very carefully because there’s no question that the resources off the coast of California and other parts of the country can help us rescue our dependence on foreign oil.
Here’s what she said the second time:
Historically I was against offshore oil drilling, but I am the living example of someone who believes technology can enable you to do things you’d never dream you could do. So I wanted to look into slant drilling…and convene a group to say, you know, ‘is this possible to do with zero to minimal environmental risk?’
I will say what has happened in Louisiana I think has raised the bar on what, you know, technology is going to be able to have to do, and what we can assure ourselves of. Because, gosh, you look at what has happened in the Gulf, the economic devastation of the shrimpers, the fishermen. I mean you’re starting to see it now go on the north shore of the coast of Florida there, the hospitality industry is at risk.
So, according to her own chronology, eMeg a) was “historically” against offshore drilling; b) changed her mind after she started running for governor because she “began to understand deeply the new technology that is available”; c) changed her mind again after Deepwater Horizon and is currently against coastal drilling.
For “right now,” anyway.