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Democratic Committee Meeting

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Neo-con War Dogs are Barking

Dick Cheney is high on drugs again and Liz is looking for a job.   John McCain suffers from a drifting mind and the dogs of war are barking. 

In a new op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, cowritten with his daughter lame  Lizzie, the former vice-president gives President Obama a major scolding on Iraq.   Dick Cheney is one of the major assholes that got us into Iraq based on lies originally.   The Cheneys accuse, Obama of a grave mistake by not stepping up to ISIS earlier.   As dirty Dick and Liz phrase it,  "Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change."   America's enemies, they write, "are emboldened and on the march."   Obama "abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory."    How crazy is this old fool?   This kind of talk and lies used to attack the President is what emboldens the enemy and stir up the right wing fanatics that follow the Cheneys.

        No Job, plenty time to hang with dad.

And without a hint of self-awareness: "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."  The Bush administration was wrong on weapons of mass destruction, wrong on Saddam Hussein's ties to 9/11, wrong on just how hard democracy-building in Iraq would be.   Wrong on the aluminum tubes, wrong on the yellow cake, wrong om everything.   George W and Rummy and Cheney and Bremer and all the neo cons should have been drummed out of the public conscience.   As this bunch tries to rewrite history to hide their failures they disrespect the valor of the service by our troops, especially the thousands and thousands dead and wounded.   

There's obviously a lot to say when you're talking about an op-ed written by a guy who helped oversee an Iraq War that a majority of Americans think was a mistake now acting as the voice of wisdom and reason.   And there's a lot to be frustrated by when that op-ed doesn't really address the larger circumstances that have led Iraq to its current crisis, outside of suggesting that al-Qaida in Iraq had been "largely defeated" by the end of the Bush administration.   The piece doesn't even mention the name of Obama's White House predecessor.   

Be aware of the highjinks and folly of one old war dog named John McCain.   McCain cannot remember from one day to the next what his positions were.   John McCain has not recovered from being beat for the presidency by Obama and it doesn't look as if he will ever get over the defeat.

Paul Bremer reacts after a shoe is thrown at him at an event organized by the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society in London. (Feb 2013)

         GW passed out medals like candy.

While giving a speech at an event organized by the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society in London, former U.S. civil administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer was confronted by the legacy of the human catastrophe he had helped facilitate during 
his tenure in that country.   In an incident, an Iraqi man in the crowd who stood up to address the panel and said that he had been forced to flee Iraq after “the U.S. destroyed my country” threw both his shoes at a seemingly stunned Bremer before being removed from the event.   In the commotion afterward he can be heard to yell  “You fucked up my country, you destroyed the country.    Fuck you and fuck your democracy.”    After regaining his composure and suggesting that the Iraqi man “improve his aim if he wants to do things like that,”   Bremer addressed the quieted crowd by saying,  “If he had done that while Saddam Hussain had been alive he would be a dead man right now.”    Upon hearing Bremer’s words of proud reassurance, the gathering of neoconservative think-tank intellectuals burst into applause — a moment emblematic of the arrogance that legal impunity has generated for the architects of one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century.    For Bremer — who often refers critics to “the Iraqi people” when questioned over the country’s monumental cost in human suffering during his civil administration — to be confronted by one of those very same Iraqis and still maintain his hubristic defiance is indicative of his moral bankruptcy and that of the neoconservative movement for which he remains an esteemed representative.

In a legitimately meritocratic society governed by the rule of law, it would be reasonable to expect that after presiding over an unmitigated strategic and humanitarian calamity such as the Iraq War neoconservatives such as Bremer would face legal charges or at least devastating career repercussions that would exclude them from taking part in public discourse — but regrettably this has not happened to a great degree.   While it is true that former Bush administration figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo and Dick Cheney have been subject to criminal charges in countries around the world from Germany to Malaysia, many of those most prominently associated with the neoconservative movement in America are still making an impact pushing the same policies of aggressive military action and disregard for the rule of law that they were a decade ago.   Figures such as John Bolton, Elliot Cohen and Bremer’s former spokesman, Dan Senor, can still be found in the public sphere peddling the same criminally disastrous political ideology that killed and made refugees out of millions in Iraq while costing the United States trillions of dollars, thousands of soldiers’ lives, and much of its moral and political legitimacy in the Middle East.    The stated refusal of the Obama administration to “look back” at past transgressions has in many ways made possible the repetition of such crimes at a particularly crucial moment as the U.S. crafts a policy to confront an alleged nuclear program in Iran.    In what would seem to be a case of history repeating as farce, the same neoconservative hawks who cynically pushed claims about weapons of mass destruction are publicly singing the exact same tune today about Iran and trying to resurrect the same aggressively militaristic ideology.

Bremer himself, formerly the effective vice-regent of Iraq during its military occupation, is perhaps the most visceral example of a man whose ability to escape legal sanction for his actions has engendered a sense of hubris that could potentially one day 

again make him as damaging to the United States and the world as he was nearly a decade ago.    After a tenure as Coalition Provisional Authority administrator over the country where he disastrously dissolved the Iraqi army, lost billions of public dollars to corruption and graft, presided over the destruction of the country’s museums and cultural history, ordered the muzzling of civilian newspapers, oversaw the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, and granted legal immunity to American contractors who would later take advantage of it to commit wholesale public massacres of Iraqi civilians, Bremer returned to life in the United States  without facing censure for the monumental disaster his tenure had created for the Iraqi people nor for his role in grievously mismanaging American strategic interests in the region.    Upon returning to private life, Bremer would say of the 

war that he helped facilitate that “Iraq is a better place” and that the consequences of the invasion and occupation were “absolutely worth it.”    Stating that Iraq was, in his opinion, peaceful, Bremer also made several other disastrously incorrect predictions including that the country would have a stable and sovereign government in place for a handover of power by 2004.   While he cynically portrayed a positive picture of development and progress in the country of which he was the effective governor, his spokesman would tell journalists that “off the record, Paris is burning.”

Bremer’s own worldview gives insight into the callousness with which he viewed his role as well as the civilian population he was administering.  While the Bush administration proclaimed that the invasion had been an effort to liberate Iraq, Bremer stated his position regarding Iraq that: “We’re going to be running a colony almost.”    After evidence of his own incompetence and brutality toward Iraq during his administration began to mount and commensurate hostility toward U.S. presence in the region began to build, he would attribute his own perceived blamelessness in the situation – as the self-described colonial 
administrator of a militarily occupied country – to the fact that  “These people hate the United States not for what we do, but for who we are and what we are.”   Today, in addition to being a vocal critic of the Obama administration and frequent guest 
speaker at neoconservative think-tank events, Bremer is an advocate of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis and warns of the need to confront growing Muslim populations in Western countries.    Proudly unremorseful for his central role in the biggest American foreign policy disaster of the past generation, Bremer today lives peacefully free from the threat of legal blowback for his actions and has, incongruously enough, become known for producing oil paintings of nudes and landscapes of the New England countryside from his home in Vermont.

From time to time the bubble of self-assurance and hubris that wealthy and powerful individuals manage to build for themselves are burst by those who are the victims of their excesses.    The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at Bremer in London, like the millions of other Iraqis who were killed, maimed or forced to leave their homes as refugees – as well as the thousands of American soldiers and their families who paid the ultimate price due to the war and occupation Bremer helped prosecute – 
represent the nameless and usually voiceless victims of unchecked official criminality.   While there may be some degree of fleeting emotional satisfaction in seeing an ostensible war criminal such as Bremer publicly humiliated, until the American government decides to formally “look back” at the crimes of the “War on Terror” era, real justice will remain elusive and the very real possibility of a replay of its worst transgressions will continue to exist.

Paul Wolfowitz, Cops to Failure

The former deputy Pentagon chief, Paul Wolfowitz, a driving force behind the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, has conceded that a series of blunders by George W. Bush’s administration plunged Iraq into a cycle of violence that “spiralled out of control”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, he said there “should have been Iraqi leadership from the beginning”, rather than a 14-month occupation led by an American viceroy and based on “this idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them”.

He accepted that too many Iraqis were excluded by a programme to purge members of the ruling Ba’ath party, that the dissolution of the Iraqi army was botched and that the “biggest hole” in post-war planning was not to anticipate the possibility of an

“The most consequential failure was to understand the tenacity of Saddam’s regime,” he said.
Wolfowitz, 69, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington since he stepped down as World Bank president in 2007, has a somewhat diffident manner but he became animated as he reflected on the lead-up to the invasion and its aftermath.

He portrayed the Bush administration as deeply divided and he was fiercely critical of Colin Powell, the then secretary of state.

It was “outrageous” and “a joke” for Powell — who reportedly used to speak of a “Gestapo office” at the Pentagon — to have suggested that the case for the Iraq War was concocted by Wolfowitz and a cabal of fellow neoconservatives within the Bush
administration, he said.

“I don’t think I ever met with the president alone. I didn’t meet with him very often.   Powell had access to him whenever he wanted it.   And if he was so sure it was a mistake why didn’t he say so?”

Wolfowitz called for Saddam’s overthrow during the 1991 Gulf War and was the first senior official to advise Bush, days after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, to seek regime change in Iraq.

He denied that he was “the architect” of the Iraq invasion.   “It wasn’t conducted according to my plan.”

His desire, he said, was to train Iraqi exile troops to take part in the invasion and then avoid the “illusion” that Americans could run the country better than Iraqis. “Most Americans needed a translator, which in itself was a terrible weakness because translators were either vulnerable to assassination or they were working for the enemy.”

Wolfowitz’s familiar shock of greying hair — mocked by Michael Moore in the anti-war documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which uses
footage of him trying to smooth it down with spit before a television appearance — is now almost white.

But he believes it is still too soon to pass judgment on the wisdom of the invasion of Iraq, which began 10 years ago this week.

“We still don’t know how all this is all going to end,” he said. “With the Korean War , it is amazing how different Korea looks after 60 years than it looked after 10 or even 30.”

The Iraq counterinsurgency strategy implemented in 2007, two years after Wolfowitz had left the Pentagon, was “impressively successful in a relatively short space of time”, even though the situation “had spiralled out of control and we’d had sectarian war”.

There would have been a high price to pay for inaction over Saddam, he insisted. “We would have had a growing development of Saddam’s support for terrorism.

“We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”

Wolfowitz lambasted those who accuse Bush of lying about Iraq.   The conclusion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was “the consensus judgment of the intelligence community” and of most Democratic senators — “Hillary Clinton certainly was one of them”.

He added: “The falsehood that the president lied, which by the way is itself a lie, is so much worse than saying we were wrong.

A mistake is one thing, a lie is something else.”

                                Ahmad Chalabi

Before the invasion, Wolfowitz was an admirer of Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile who has since broken with the US government.

Asked if he thought Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress is said to have supplied much of the information to US intelligence that prompted the invasion, had been straight with America, Wolfowitz replied: “I don’t think anybody in that part of the world was completely straight with us.  They all had their agendas.”

By implication, Wolfowitz is critical of the US military, some of whose generals suggested sending in as many as 300,000 troops.

“I don’t want to get into the finger-pointing business but we had sort of forgotten everything we learned 30 years before about counterinsurgency . . . this was not the kind of war you win by overwhelming force.”

His biggest fear now is that war weariness will prompt America to abandon Iraq and leave Syria’s rebels to their fate, just as the Shi’ite rebels in southern Iraq were allowed to be crushed by Saddam in 1991.

“If those rebellions had succeeded, we would never have had that second [Iraq] war . . . that is the lesson we should be applying in Syria today.

“Instead, somehow people are afraid to do anything to help the Syrian rebels lest we end up with an invasion and occupation of Syria.   But that isn’t on the table.”

Over the years, Wolfowitz has quietly visited grievously wounded troops at Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington as well as the families of those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Asked whether the deaths and injuries of troops weigh on him, he paused before responding: “I realise these are consequential decisions.   It’s just that they’re consequential both ways.

“I don’t want to start to reopen this whole debate about 9/11 and what our overall response was and the fact that we haven’t been hit again.

“But at the core of it to me is we faced a very serious threat,  the Supreme Court affirms Rumsfeld’s immunity from torture lawsuit.    I
think we’ve done remarkably well at preventing a recurrence.”

Supreme Court affirms Rumsfeld’s immunity from torture lawsuits (June 2013)

U.S. military officials who engaged in ordering or carrying out the torture of individuals in custody can now rely upon an across-the-board legal defense that protects them from being sued for committing what amounts to an international crime, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

The court affirmed an earlier ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which held in 2012 that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could not be sued for personally approving torture techniques used against prisoners held during the
Bush administration’s terror war.

The earlier ruling was so broad that it applied to all military officials, including the individuals who carried out torture.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of that ruling on Monday without comment, solidifying the lower court’s opinion that military officials are immune to civil lawsuits over torture.

The lawsuit sprang from the internment of two Americans, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, who worked for an Iraqi-owned contractor in occupied territory. Vance reported the contractor, Shield Group Security, to the FBI in 2006 for allegedly running illegal guns and trading U.S. troops booze for ammunition.

Shortly after filing that report, Vance and Ertel were arrested and placed in a U.S. military prison in Baghdad, then subjected to torture techniques that proponents, like the Seventh Circuit Court, preferred to call “harsh interrogation” methods.    Both men were ultimately released without charge after about three months.

So, if Rumsfeld is innocent for ordering torture then why did soldiers go to prison for following his orders?

Amherst County Virginia Democratic News


Friday, June 13, 2014

Amherst Democrats June 2014 Meeting with Photos

The background for the June Meeting was full of exciting happenings in the political world.   

A state senator was rumored to have taken a bribe to step down and surrender his office and control of the senate to the republicans.  

 Eric Cantor had lost his seat in the House to a unknown college professor and the republicans were in turmoil.

The voter ID laws were in the mist of restructure and no one was sure where the changes would land.  

1040 people in Amherst county will be affected by the voter Id changes and the Amherst Democrats were seeking ways to help these people keep their right to vote.

In the larger world Iraq had fallen apart and the war dogs were barking with John McCain calling for the firing of the entire team that works with President Obama. 

McCain who lives to send American sons and daughters to war zones in other countries had finally correctly predicted something and he was doing the tour of television and talk radio shows telling anybody who would listen that he was the smartest man ever beaten to a pulp in a presidential run.  

Thank all the powers of the universe McCain was not elected president.

With McCain at the helm of our ship of state we would have to start an accelerated breeding program to supply warm bodies for all the countries he would wish to occupy.

That paints the background  for the June meeting of the Amherst County Democrats, need I tell you it was a far ranging and lively discussion.  

These photos are from the meeting .

As poscards from far away place often proclaim, wish you were here.

We meet monthly so make plans to join us every now and then.

Amherst County Virginia Democratic News


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

House GOP resorts to bribery, 400,000 Virginians uninsured?

New low in GOP health care obstructionism, Americans United for Change issued the following statement reacting to the report that Virginia House Republicans appear to have persuaded a Democratic senator to resign his seat – “paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship” - which will temporarily tip control of the Va Senate to the GOP and further impede the governor’s push to close the coverage gap under the Affordable Care Act.

400,000 Virginians with no insurance!!!    Is the GOP Happy?

These highly suspicious developments signal a new low in Republican healthcare obstructionism,” said Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir. Americans United for Change.   It shows they are even willing to stoop to bribery to keep 400,000 Virginians without coverage and one health emergency away from bankruptcy.   Resorting to shady backroom deals shows that Virginia Republicans have seen the 
polling and know they’ve lost the public debate over closing the coverage gap.  Republicans know they have no good answer for why they want Virginians who do have insurance to continue paying around $1,000 more in premiums every year to make up for uncompensated ER careincurred by the uninsured.

Tom says "I was in Lynchburg a few years back and will return when I need some votes.   These 400,000 people should not have health insurance and I will work hard everyday  to insure they are forgotten."

“They know there’s no excuse for refusing to accept resources sitting on the table from the federal government to cover 400,000 
Virginians for three free years and pick up 90% of the tab after that.   Republicans know that amounts to around 5 percent more than what the state would have spent on Medicaid anyways in the absence of the Affordable Care Act.   But in return for that tiny investment three years down the road, it will save thousands of lives, boost Virginia’s economy by $3.9 billion annually and created 30,000 jobs. 

Saving lives, boosting the economy, creating 30,000 jobs, I'll have none of that crap.    These people are always trying to get something for nothing, Forget Um

 The health and economic benefits far outweigh the costs.  I’m talking about hard-working Virginians that are not impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too much to qualify for subsidies to get private insurance in the new health law’s Exchange.   But if Virginia Republicans only want to deal in quid pro quos, here’s one where everyone wins:   take the available ACA resources today in exchange for saving lives, lowering premiums, and creating jobs in Virginia”

Virginia state government has been locked in a fierce budget fight for the last several months. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), after having run on the issue of Medicaid expansion last year,  has said he won’t approve a budget without the policy, which would bring coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians, boost the state’s finances, and improve the state’s economy.

The Republican-dominated House of Delegates refuses to pass a budget with the policy because, well, they have an irrational hatred of “Obamacare.”    The state Senate, meanwhile, is evenly split, with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, and is siding with the governor on the issue.

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday.

Senator Puckett quickly covered his tracks after news of the inside deal leawked out.   The Senator admits to interviewing for the deputy director of the state tobacco commission job but now says he has no interest in it.   Puckett says he quit due to 

family problems.   In any event 400,000 uninusured Virginians will suffer from Puckett's action but Puckett's daughter can receive the judgeship the republicans were blocking.

Look what I traded my senator's job for brags the sell out senator.

This story is about more than republican obstruction, it is also about a corrupt democrat willing to sell out for personal and family gain.   Politicians of both parties are beneath contempt in this matter.

There are a few moving pieces to this one. Puckett will give up his seat and Republicans will reward him with a different job, 
plus a judgeship for his daughter. There will be a special election in Puckett’s district, which will very likely elect a Republican and shift control of the state Senate from Democrats to the GOP.

Medicaid expansion was going to be difficult in Virginia anyway, but with Republicans controlling both chambers of the commonwealth’s legislature, the uphill climb just got a little steeper and the hopes of 400,000 struggling Virginians just got a little bleaker.

Indeed, just as striking as the scheme itself is the motivation behind it.   At this point, it looks as if Virginia Republicans effectively enticed a state senator to quit in order to help ensure low-income families are denied access to affordable medical 

Senator Newman says "I don't know anything about it, Puckett is a great senator who votes with the republicans and a decent honorable man who is my hero"

Imagine what would be possible if conservative policymakers invested this much effort in actually helping working families.

In a written statement, McAuliffe said last night,  “I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially in Southwest Virginia.   This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.”

The “especially in Southwest Virginia” reference stood out.  Puckett represents one of the poorest parts of the state, and many of his own constituents stand to benefit greatly from Medicaid expansion. In other words, by quitting and helping GOP state lawmakers, Puckett is leaving his own community much worse off.

The full details of this arrangement, including whether or not Puckett was explicitly offered the position as deputy director of 
the tobacco commission in return for his agreement to resign his senate seat, are not yet known. 

Although the executive director of the commission is appointed by the governor — who is currently Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the deputy director is appointed by the commission itself.    Both the chair and the vice chair of the commission are Republicans.

If Puckett was offered the seat on this commission in exchange for his decision to resign from the state legislature, however, he may have committed a very serious crime.    Under Virginia’s bribery law, it is a felony for a state lawmaker to “accept, or agree to accept from another … any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.

Given this statutory language, two questions need to be answered before Puckett could be prosecuted.    The first is whether Puckett agreed to accept the tobacco commission job “as consideration for” his resignation from the state senate — that is, whether there was a quid pro quo deal where the job was offered up as the prize Puckett received if he agreed to resign.

The second is whether Puckett’s resignation counts as an “exercise of discretion as a public servant.”    Based on a search of Virginia court cases using the legal search engine Lexis, there does not appear to be a court decision answering this question.   

 In any event, the circumstances of this anticipated resignation — in which a Democratic senator throws control of the state legislature to the GOP, and then immediately receives a job from a commission controlled by a Republican chair and vice-chair — 
is suspicious.    It also could have very serious consequences for Virginia’s least fortunate residents.

The McDonalds, Virginia's last carnival act wish Senator Puckett the very best and can endorse several lawers with experience in his type of situation

Puckett can join former Virginia governor Bob McDonald in the political hall of deceit and shame.

Can You Prove It?   The republicans say I'm innocent.

In the wake of a “firestorm of criticism regarding his resignation from the Virginia Senate,” Puckett withdrew his name from consideration for the tobacco commission job. The fact that Puckett will not take this job, however, will not necessarily save him from prosecution if he did, in fact, agree to trade his seat in the state senate for a new role with the tobacco commission before this firestorm arose.  

Virginia’s bribery law provides that anyone who “accepts or agrees to accept” a bribe in return for an “exercise of discretion as a public servant” is guilty of a felony, so Puckett could have committed the crime of bribery if and when he agreed to deal away his senate seat — regardless of whether he later decided not to take the prize that he was offered.

400,000 uninsured Virginians or something for me, guess who won?

It’s also worth noting that the bribery law also punishes anyone who “offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another . . . .any pecuniary benefit as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.” 

Thus, if a Republican official or other individual offered 
Puckett the tobacco commission job in exchange for his resignation from the senate, this action does not become less criminal just because Puckett ultimately decided not to take this job.

Republicans are blocking a program that will save thousands of lives, boost Virginia’s economy by $3.9 billion annually and created 30,000 jobs.   When a party votes against your interests, throw those bums out.

State elections in Virginia were often bought with booze.  Even George Washington got voters really, really drunk.

Elections in colonial Virginia were often decided by how much free alcohol and food a candidate provided for voters.    George Washington first learned this the hard way in 1755 when he ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses at the age of 23 and failed to offer alcohol.    Sure, there could have been other factors at play, but Washington didn't even come close to winning.

When Washington ran again for the same office in 1758, he was sure not to make the same mistake twice.    Washington provided almost half a gallon of alcohol for each voter.    Apparently, the exact amount of libations was "nearly 47 gallons of beer, more than 70 gallons of rum punch, about 34½ gallons of wine, 2 gallons of cider, and 3½ pints of brandy."    Washington was actually worried this wouldn't be enough and told his campaign manager, James Wood, that “my only fear is that you spent with too sparing a hand.”   Washington ended up winning this election in a landslide.

Well that sorta explains some of the mistakes of the past.    What is the excuse for this fellow?
                  ????How did this happen????

Bob doesn't like poor people having health insurance, he's GOP all the way.


Amherst County Virginia Democratic News


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Next Meeting: Thursday June 12 at 6:30 at Merredith’s Restaurant

Next Meeting:  Thursday June 12 at 6:30 at Merredith’s Restaurant, 1558 Dixie Airport Rd, Madison Heights.   A Buffet Dinner will be available from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by a Program explaining the new Photo ID requirements which will be effective for the upcoming November elections.

Note that according to the Board of Elections, there are 1,040 Amherst voters who do not have Photo ID’s and will have to get them by November. This is 5.5% of the voters of Amherst.

We are not in as bad shape as the City of Lynchburg, where 18% of registered voters are without a Photo ID, but we need to work on getting our voters photo IDs.

Come and share your thoughts on how we do this.  Please RSVP to if you plan to attend the dinner. so we can give the restaurant a count.

Ned Kable, Chair
Amherst County Democratic Committee 

Amherst County Democratic Committee
P.O. Box 1411
Amherst, Va 24521

GOP Urged White House To  'Do All It Can' To Rescue POW  Bowe Bergdahl

As soon as President Barack Obama told the nation Saturday evening that America's only prisoner of war in Afghanistan had been rescued, Republican lawmakers and pundits began criticizing the administration on how it handled the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Many lawmakers have been upset that Obama did not give Congress 30 days notice, as required by law.   Others are upset that five Taliban detainees who were being held at Guantanamo Bay were released in return, with some conservatives even accusing the 
administration of negotiating with terrorists.    (The government of Qatar actually negotiated the deal.)   There are also now questions about Bergdahl himself, and whether he initially deserted his post.

"With 29 percent of former Guantanamo detainees having reengaged or being suspected of reengaging in terrorism, the 
administration's decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).    "It also sets a precedent that could encourage our enemies to capture more Americans in order to gain concessions from our government."

But prior to Bergdahl's release, Republican lawmakers were some of the sergeant's biggest advocates, and repeatedly pressed the 
administration to do something -- in fact, everything within its power -- to get him returned to the United States.

A May 22 press release from Ayotte's office read,  "As part of ongoing efforts to urge the Department of Defense to do all it 
can to find Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home safely, Senator Ayotte worked successfully to include a provision in the 
bill that presses Pakistan to fully cooperate in the search for SGT Bergdahl."

When asked for comment on why she is now criticizing Obama's handling of the prisoner swap, Ayotte's office pointed to her 
longstanding views on Guantanamo, arguing that her position is not inconsistent.    Her office said the senator backs a policy that includes permanent limits on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries.

"Senator Ayotte has led efforts in Congress to prevent the release of high risk detainees from Guantanamo, and she never would 
have supported trading five dangerous terrorists who are likely to reengage in terrorist activities against Americans and our 
allies,"  Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone wrote in an email.

"We have a responsibility to ensure no service member is left behind, which is why Senator Ayotte pushed DoD to find Bergdahl 
and to determine whether he could be safely rescued and returned home," he added.

Some lawmakers who have spoken critically in recent days of the Bergdahl deal had appeared, not too long ago, to have endorsed 
the concept of a prisoner swap, in which he could be exchanged for Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Take Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). On Feb. 18, 2014, he told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he could support such an arrangement, 
albeit reserving judgment for some of the details:

COOPER: Would you oppose the idea of some form of negotiations or prisoner exchange? I know back in 2012 you called the idea of 
even negotiating with the Taliban bizarre, highly questionable.
McCAIN: Well, at that time the proposal was that they would release -- Taliban, some of them really hard-core, particularly 
five really hard-core Taliban leaders, as a confidence-building measure. Now this idea is for an exchange of prisoners for our 
American fighting man.

I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details. [...]

COOPER: So if there was some -- the possibility of some sort of exchange, that's something you would support?

McCAIN: I would support. Obviously I'd have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home, and if exchange 
was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.

The day after Bergdahl's release was secured, however, McCain was on the Sunday morning talk shows questioning why the 
administration would release the "hardest of the hard core."    On Monday, the following day, he stressed that he "would not have 
made this deal."     If it has been more than a half an hour since McCain voiced his opinion there is a good chance he has a different opinion.   Due to McCain's mental condition he is unaware that he has changed his mind.

"I would have done everything in my power to repatriate him and I would have done everything I possibly could.   But I would not 
have put the lives of American servicemen at risk in the future," he said.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the senator's objections lie in the details and that the staff is working up John's latest position and will release it later.

"The details that we know so far are troubling and could enable these hard-core Taliban leaders to return to the battlefield against Americans and our allies and partners next year," he said.

On Tuesday, his office issued a statement, saying the senator had "serious concerns" about a report that the five detainees being transferred to Qatar would be "able to travel freely in the country and, after one year, will be able to leave Qatar, including travel to Afghanistan."

Another outspoken champion for Bergdahl's release was Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), who wanted the administration to "do everything possible" for his safe return.

"Last year, on the fourth anniversary of Sgt. Bergdahl's capture, on the floor of the House of Representatives, I introduced a resolution in the House calling on the United States to do everything possible not to leave any members of the armed forces behind during the drawdown of Iraq and Afghanistan.   Believe it or not, I had members of Congress come up to me and say, 'I didn't know we had a living POW in Afghanistan.'    That was shocking to me," said Nugent, according to a Feb. 24 article in the Citrus County Chronicle.

In a statement to The Huffington Post, Nugent said that for the sake of Bergdahl's family, he was "very glad that our only living POW is back home."    He added, however, that he disagreed with how the administration handled the release.    Anything Obama does will fail to measure up to the GOP's floating standards he noted.

"But what angers me so much about this situation is that knowing full well that there was strong opposition to a prisoner swap in Congress, the Administration decided to go behind our backs and release the detainees without the notification required by law," he said.    We would have investigated the matter and appointed committees to hold a hearing before deciding what to do about Bergdalh.

"As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I look forward to getting answers from the Administration soon about how they intend to ensure that these senior Taliban detainees do not return to the battlefield.    Now mind you I am still getting all of my information from press accounts three days later, but apparently the detainees are completely free to move about Qatar however they please and will be free to travel after one year.    So while I appreciate the President's assurances to the press that these individuals won't pose a threat to civilians or our troops, you can understand why many of us have been and continue to be skeptical."

In April, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), introduced a resolution "to express the sense of the Senate that no member of the armed forces who is missing in action or captured should be left behind."

Toomey has not yet put out a statement.   McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the minority leader was pleased that Bergdahl is 
safe but still has questions about the administration's handling of the situation, including the lack of mandated notification and concerns that the Taliban detainees may return to the battlefield.

Sen. James Risch (R), who represents Bergdahl's home state of Idaho, declined to criticize the Obama administration during an 
interview with the Idaho Statesman, saying it was not the right time for such comments.

"There will be time to delve into those matters," he said.

He also said that members of the Intelligence Committee, on which he serves, were constantly updated on Bergdahl's whereabouts.

"There wasn't a week that went by that we didn't get a briefing," he added.    Usually we get the chance to leak information to our friends in the press but Obama's mishandeling of the matter quashed that, he said.

John Bellinger, who served as a national security adviser to President George W. Bush, said in a Fox News interview Tuesday 
that he believed Obama did the right thing in its recovery of Bergdahl.    He noted that because the war in Afghanistan is winding down -- U.S. troops will be out by the end of 2016 -- the administration would have had to release the five detainees soon 

"Sometime in the next couple of years, whether it's in the beginning of 2015 or shortly thereafter, this conflict in Afghanistan is winding down, and we would be required, at least under the traditional laws of war, to return people that we've detained in that conflict," he said. "So it seems in this case, we've gotten -- we traded them for reasonable deal here."

Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey also defended Bergdahl's recovery on Facebook Tuesday, writing that it was "likely the last, best opportunity to free him."

UPDATE: 6/4 -- ThinkProgress notes that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), another lawmaker who has criticized Obama for freeing 
"people who have killed Americans," was also among those pressing the administration to do more to rescue Bergdahl.    Last year, Inhofe said of Bergdahl, "The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end.   It's important that we 
make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family."

POLITICS at its Worst

A land speed record must have been broken in the time it took to turn the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from weekend newsbreak to full-blown political controversy.

In the three days since the Obama administration announced that it would free five top Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl's release, the topic has dominated a White House briefing, shadowed the president on his trip to Europe and overtaken the cable news circuit.

The War on Terror suddenly had its own fantasy league. On Fox News Monday night, the National Review's Rich Lowry called the swap an "astonishing trade" in which the administration gave up "the top five Taliban guys." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the five released men "The Taliban Dream Team."

On Tuesday, the wave showed no signs of cresting. The Drudge Report had 17 separate items about Bergdahl, 15 of which were above the fold. Bergdahl was being mentioned in 7,200 tweets per hour.  "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade accused Bergdahl's father of looking like a member of the Taliban, because of the long, unkempt beard he grew in solidarity with his son.   And former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) has even called for President Barack Obama to be impeached over the matter.

But the gush of commentary obscured the complexity of the story at hand. The various critiques of the administration all ran in wildly different directions.   Some clearly need to be addressed, but many others seem based on flimsy foundations, undone by basic counter factual questions.

Did the Obama administration get fleeced?

This is the most common complaint about the deal. The five Taliban members released from Guantanamo are hardened, top-level officials.   Reports suggest that the restrictions being placed on them in Qatar, where they are being sent, will not do enough. 

Could the administration have held out for more?

The White House contends that given Bergdahl's failing health, it had to act quickly. And even in that case, they got some concessions.   The initial demand from the Haqqani network, according to a Feb. 23 BBC report, was "millions of dollars" and 21 Taliban detainees.   On "Morning Joe" Tuesday, The Washington Post's David Ignatius suggested that holding out further might have hurt the administration's position.

"It does seem one-sided, although less so than the exchanges the Israelis have made... so there's this precedent for this," he said. "I think it's useful to ask the reverse question. Suppose he hadn't been released, and it's a year from now, and American troops are getting ready to come home, and you have this American sitting there in ever more frequent propaganda videos from the Taliban.   The pressure on the president to act in a much more precipitous way would be enormous. So think about the alternative."

But why release Guantanamo detainees at all?

When critics of the president ask this question, they seem to be suggesting that a risky trade-off could have been avoided had Bergdahl been extracted through other means, such as a military-led operation.

Perhaps so, but as shown by the fact that troops died searching for Bergdahl when he first left base, that's a high-risk proposition in its own right.    A top Obama administration official told The Huffington Post that a rescue mission was considered, as were other tactics.   But going in with military forces would have put other U.S. soldiers in harm's way and there was no guarantee that Bergdahl would be extracted alive.

When Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday morning that "this was likely the last, best opportunity to free him," the key word was "best."

Is this merely a backdoor method of emptying out Guantanamo?

It's no secret that the president wants the detention facility closed, and The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin reported that Republicans on Capitol Hill are concerned that the prisoner exchange was a means to another end. But can detainees be kept there forever?

Ken Gude noted at ThinkProgress that because none of the five prisoners were "facing charges in either military or civilian courts for their actions" and because the war is coming to an end, they had to be released anyway.  J. Bellinger, former Bush administration lawyer, made a virtually identical point:

In my view, the U.S. would not be able to hold them forever. Indeed, it is likely that the U.S. would be required, as a matter of international law, to release them shortly after the end of 2014, when U.S. combat operations cease in Afghanistan.   The Administration appears to have reached a defensible, hold-your-nose compromise by arranging, in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl, for the individuals to be held in Qatar for a year before they return to Afghanistan.

Why didn't the White House consult Congress beforehand?

Here, the critics seem to have their strongest argument.    The law requires the president to give 30 days' notice before transferring detainees out of Guantanamo.    And while Obama issued a signing statement challenging the constitutionality of that provision, his prior history questioning the use of signing statements is fairly well established.

The White House has responded to this criticism in a scattershot manner. On Tuesday morning, Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that the advance notice would have interfered with Obama's ability to get Bergdahl home. 

Because of that, she added, officials had determined that "Congress did not intend that the Administration would be barred from taking the action it did in these circumstances.”

At other points, the White House hasn't even bothered with the legalese, arguing that, in the broadest sense of the word consultation, it had met the requirements.   In November 2011, the administration discussed a potential prisoner swap with senior House Republicans. On Feb. 17, 2014, The Washington Post reported the contours of the deal in clear detail.   And when talks with the Taliban fell apart, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration was still "actively engaged in an effort to see [Bergdahl's] return."

But discussing something publicly in broad terms is a different than consulting lawmakers in private about specific operations. 

The White House seemed to acknowledge this distinction late Tuesday when top officials apologized to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for not having given them prior warning.

Did Bergdahl deserve to be rescued?

No one has actually argued that Bergdahl should have been left behind, left to endure Taliban-style justice for walking off his post, though The New Republic's Brian Beutler has made the case that critics should provide a price of exchange that they would have found acceptable.

The more illuminating question to ask, instead, is what would have happened politically had the White House sat on its hands and not acted.   Some of the very Republicans criticizing the president today were imploring him to do more to free Bergdahl just a few months prior.   Some even suggested he pursue any means necessary to get him released.   Let's say the White House had waited to act in hopes of a better deal -- and never reached one.   What then?

Said the Obama administration official: "Imagine the outrage from Republicans if we had left him there."

Army Still May Pursue Desertion Investigation On Bowe Bergdahl

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Army may still pursue an investigation that could lead to desertion or other charges against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from five years of Taliban captivity in a prisoner exchange last weekend, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.

Dempsey also told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his plane that Bergdahl's next promotion to staff sergeant, which was set to happen soon, is no longer automatic because Bergdahl isn't missing in action any longer.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the case, Dempsey said he does not want to prejudge the outcome of any investigation or say anything that might influence a commander's decision.

But he said U.S. military leaders "have been accused of looking away from misconduct, and it's premature" to assume they would do so in Bergdahl's case, despite the soldier's five years as a Taliban prisoner.

Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. Army special forces Saturday in exchange for the release of five detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility.

Service members who are missing in action routinely continue to be promoted on the same schedule as their peers.   But, Dempsey said, "his status has now changed, and therefore the requirements for promotion are more consistent with normal duty status." 

As a result, he said, other things needed for promotion, such as proper levels of education and job performance, would now apply.    That makes Bergdahl's promotion less automatic.

There are a variety of offenses related to an absence without proper approval, and a number of potential actions could be taken by the military.   He could be tried by court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for desertion;  he could be given a non-judicial punishment for a lesser charge, such as being away without leave.   And he could be given credit for time already served while he was a prisoner.

Dempsey stressed that any decision would be up to the Army.

He said he has not yet spoken to Bergdahl or his parents since the release, noting that medical personnel want him to come to grips first with his new freedom and status.

Members of Bergdahl's unit and military officials have complained that Bergdahl's decision to leave his base unarmed put his fellow soldiers in danger and that some were killed in missions that included looking for him.


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