Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ayotte, Lamontagne both lead Hodes ...

Here is the latest ARG poll: ["Ayotte/Hodes. Hodes/Lamontagne, 2010 US Senate Ballots"].
Still huge undecideds. But look at all those Dems going to the Republicans: 13 percent. This is like all those Democrats in Florida voting for Bush instead of Gore in 2000. Wow.
Even Lamontagne - a right-wing Republican if ever there was one - is leading Hodes in a head-to-head match up. Double-wow.
Remember, this was a guy who got shellacked by Jeanne Shaheen in 1996 in the gubernatorial race that year, when the state was a lot more conservative than it is now. Triple-wow? Maybe. But, it's still early.
Frankly, this is a bit worrisome for the Democrats. I wonder, is it time for someone else to wade a toe in the water? Should the Dems start thinking about a different candidate in the primary? Like maybe, a moderate woman, a Marcy Kaptur-type who isn't totally in the tank with the corporatists and is good on personal liberties and common sense? Do those Democrats exist any more or are they just totally in the tank now?
Why should the Democrats worry? Well, this latest poll shows that Hodes is not holding a good chunk of his base: 30 percent of Dems are either voting for Ayotte or are undecided; vs. Lamontagne, it's 39 percent. This even more surprising since Lamontagne is a lot more conservative than Ayotte.

Sidebar: The shift of 9 percent of Dems from Hodes to undecided when matched against Lamontagne could be because these folks are new to the state and don't know who the guy is. Unless these Democrats are McCainiacs, they should be solidly in the Hodes camp. Lamontagne is that conservative. St. A's Jennifer Donhue was quoted on Politico saying, "There won’t be anyone to the right of him in the race among the potential candidates." That pretty much says it all.

It is way too early to tell but it would seem that the only thing that would save Hodes in November is a strong, well-financed Libertarian candidate who might shave off enough votes from the presumed GOP nominee to have Hodes squeak to victory. Two or 3 percent is all that would be needed probably as it gets down to the wire.
Republican businessmen Jim Bender and William Binnie are also running but are not included in the poll, for whatever reason. There are rumors that Tom Alciere, a Ron Paul Republican and former state representative, is also considering a run. It will be interesting to see if any of them can get any traction in the race which is bound to be an enjoyable bloodfest.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More proof of a divided nation?

Via Political Wire
Check out the best selling political books from the NYT for the last few weeks: ["Poli-Books Best-Seller List"]. It would be interesting to see the best sellers list from the entire year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday reading list 2009

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
This is the golden age of muckraking books and documentaries but some of them may have escaped your attention because reviews and promotions cannot keep up with the sheer volume of material.

Here are my recommendations for your Holiday and later reading time:

1. "Achieving the Impossible," by Lois Marie Gibbs; Published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice ( is an inspiring collection of short stories about how ordinary people have risen to meet the challenges of toxic pollution confronting their families and communities. The author herself rose from the Love Canal controversy in Niagara Falls, New York to lead a grand national grass roots organization.

2. "Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope In An Insecure Age," by Stephen Hill (University of California Press, 2010). His thesis is that Western Europe treats its people better in many ways than the United States does its people, and not just in social insurance and services. Read, wonder and galvanize!

3. "Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in A Two-Party Tyranny," by Theresa Amato (New Press, 2009.) My former campaign manager weighs in with an indictment of the two-party barriers to a competitive electoral system, candidate ballot access and voter choice. Partly personal memoir of her battles in 2000 and 2004, part history about the decades long ago when third parties could get on the ballot easier and make a difference and part a series of reforms that only an outraged public can make happen.

4. "Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times," by Edgar S. Cahn is a revolutionary elevation of traditional assets in how time can become a currency—a means of exchange that is beyond price—that does not allow market price to define value. It is a limited edition booklet you’ll never forget, free. Send two first class stamps to TimeBanksUSA, 5500 39th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20015.

5. "Empire of Illusion," by Chris Hedges (Nation Books, 2009). The Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent turned prolific author and lecturer, Mr. Hedges goes to the core of a culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. He “exposes the mechanisms used to divert us from confronting the economic, political and moral collapse around us.” In gripping, memorable concrete prose that resonates the moment we let ourselves think.

6. "The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis," by Josh Kosman (Portfolio Hardcover, 2009). Think it is all about the brand names of a corrupt, reckless Wall Street? Try the entirely unregulated private equity firms that acquire and strip mine them under the guise of saving them, then leave behind debt time bombs and mass layoffs as the value of these leveraged buyouts is sucked out by the corporate bunccaneers. Kosman predicts a coming private equity-caused big bubble crisis.

7. "Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary: The Story of Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Initiative Process," by Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober. This husband-wife team “just ordinary people,” in their words, started out powerless and in over a decade, largely in the seventies, built Initiative power to qualify reforms on the California ballot for the popular vote. A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness. This small but invigorating paperback can be obtained from The People’s Lobby ( for $15, including shipping. California St., Unit 201, San Francisco, CA 94109.

8. "Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law," by Christopher H. Pyle (Potomac Books, 2009). A former captain in army intelligence and Congressional staffer, now teaching constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College, Mr. Pyle shatters our belief in the rule of law before the unconstitutional government of Bush and Cheney in waging war crimes and torture, while seeking Congressional amnesty to those responsible for implementing their rogue, secret regime. Veteran constitutional law specialist, Louis Fisher asserts these practices have “left American weaker politically, economically, morally, and legally.”

9. "It Takes A Pillage," by Nomi Prins (Wiley, 2009). A former managing director of Goldman Sachs, who quit Wall Street, and now is dedicated to educating and mobilizing the American people so that they press for reforms to prevent myopic greed from bringing down our economy again and to hold the speculators and crooks accountable. She “gets inside how the banks looted the Treasury, stole the bailout, and continued with business as usual,” in the words of one reviewer.

10. "Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09," edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff with Project Censored (Seven Stories Press, 2009). This book contains investigative pieces on important topics too often neglected by the mainstream news organizations. Read this book, it will make you angry and then it will energize you to take on a significant societal problem in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stupid, sucker Americans ...

While I have been busy with freelance projects and local stuff going on in Concord, Politizine has been a bit slow. Sorry about that. I'll get back to it after the holidays (Happy Christmas everyone, BTW).
But, I did want to note two pretty huge things, especially while the health care debate is going on.
First, there is this overview of why the plan should be rejected: ["10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill"].
So many reasons, so little time ...
And then this, from Political Wire this morning: ["Obama Got What He Wanted"].
In other words, all of you who voted for this clown and voted for these spineless Democrats and are now upset, have only yourselves to blame. The lesser of two evils is still evil. When are you all going to realize this? What good are Democrats if they are just going to cave to the worst, craven interests controlling D.C.? It's disgraceful. It really is.

Agent of Change

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (535-475 BC) said that “character is destiny.” He might have added that “personality is decisive.” Where is Barack Obama in this framework?

The venerable historian, James MacGregor Burns, in his book “Transforming Leadership,” drew an important distinction between “transforming and transactional leadership,” and calling Franklin Delano Roosevelt a reflection of the former genre.

Given all the burgeoning crises in the United States and the world, the only global military and economic superpower (albeit in serious deficit straits) needs a transforming leader, when, at best, it has a transactional leader in the White House.

I say “at best,” because President Obama displays an uncanny inability to deal. He is not even anywhere near Lyndon Baines Johnson in that regard. This lack is due more to his personality than to his character.

His is a concessionary demeanor, an aversion to conflict and to taking on entrenched power, a devotee of harmony ideology not because he doesn’t believe in necessary re-directions, but because he does not project the strength of his beliefs and willingness to draw the line—here and no further—as did Ronald Reagan or FDR.

In the shark tank known as the federal Washington, D.C. Obama’s personality projects weakness as someone who does not take a stand and fight, as someone inclined to rely on his rhetoric to explain his withdrawals, retreats and reversals. Some examples follow.

First, the President has been openly for single payer health insurance (full Medicare for all with free choice of physician and hospital) since before he became a politician. His friends included single payer leaders such as the stalwart Dr. Quentin Young in Chicago.

So, instead of starting with “single payer,” he descends to vague policy declarations, asks Congress to come up with a specific bill, while cutting private deals in meetings in the White House with drug industry and health insurance executives.

Now months later, with Blue Dog Democrats emboldened, with his progressive wing angry and starting to rebel, a hoked up insurance bill is having many provisions eviscerated. Once the Republicans smelled his lack of resolve, his wavering on one amendment after another, they became ravenous in their demands and obstructions.

Second, Barack Obama, before he came to Washington, was also a supporter of Palestinian rights. Between election and inauguration, he proceeded to categorically back the illegal blockade and invasion of Gaza by Israel and did not object to the slaughter of 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, young and old. Apparently, the impoverished, pummeled people of a half-destroyed Gaza, whose many newly elected members of the Palestinian parliament were kidnapped and jailed by the Israelis two years earlier, had no right to feebly defend themselves against constant border raids and missiles by the fifth most powerful army in the world.

Third, Mr. Obama’s tough talk about a reckless and greedy Wall Street is not paralleled with tough regulatory proposals. He allowed, without working his will, the banks and Banking Committee Chairman, Barney Frank to produce a weakened regulatory bill that passed the House of Representatives.

For example, regulatory provisions on the rating agencies (such as Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s) and derivatives were mere taps on the wrists, ridiculed by former Chairs of the Securities and Exchange Commission from both parties.

Fourth, on labor and NAFTA, his campaign speeches were about the need for reform. He has started nothing there and says nothing about this promise to revisit the U.S. participation in NAFTA. He believes in the card check version of labor law reform but has not used his political capital to advance this modest reform at all.

Fifth, on climate change, where so much of the world looks for him to be a transforming leader, Mr. Obama has bought into the cap and trade morass instead of a simpler, more enforceable carbon tax. His words on this subject are often well-spoken but his rhetoric is undermined by his inaction. His opponents in Congress and the corporate sector are strengthened as a consequence.

Mr. Obama leaves Copenhagen without a deal after outlining three steps—mitigation of greenhouse gases, openness of each country’s progress or lack thereof, and a very modest financial commitment from the world’s biggest polluter to help the more beleaguered countries with climate change (poor countries that are recipients of the Western countries emissions.) He hardly set an example for a government whose ownership and control of GM and Chrysler could transform automotive technology.

He cannot transform his hope and change slogan into meaningful policies if he signals that he can be had on one issue after another by being desperate to get any legislation so long as he can give it the right public relations label.

Most importantly, The President cannot be a transforming leader if he turns his back on the liberal and progressive constituency that elected him because he thinks they have nowhere to go.

He must give visibility to their expectations of him, including access to many cabinet secretaries and regulatory agency heads who have been reluctant even to meet with civic leaders, unlike the open doors regularly available to the corporatists and their lobbyists.

“Personality,” “character,” pretty soon they become indistinguishable and very resistant to both “hope and change.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

High schoolers needed at the State House

From the inbox:
The N.H. House of Representatives has launched a volunteer page program for high school students at least 15-years-old.
A page serves during a House session and, among other duties, delivers messages to members of the House of Representatives. The program provides an excellent opportunity for high school students to see the legislative process up close.
Information about the program has been sent to all public high schools in New Hampshire, but it is open to all 15-year-old students. Sessions begin on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Those interested in participating may contact the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at 603-271-3315.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New income tax on small biz will cripple NH's recovery

Guest perspective by Andy Sanborn
With more than 55,000 people unemployed and hundreds of thousands underemployed, the current leaders of our state are trying to institute a new, personal income tax on 30,000 small business owners in New Hampshire. At a time when even the ultra spending President Obama is suggesting creating small business incentives to spur job growth, our current state government is trying to institute new taxes in an all out assault against an economic recovery. If passed, these new tax rules will be the most crushing in decades.
Our state is based on small business. It is who we are and how we live, grow and feed our families.
At issue is an attack on New Hampshire small business owners, which, if approved, will send our great state to the back of the pack in its ability to come out of the recession by creating jobs and economic opportunities. The state is now enforcing legislation that allows the Department of Revenue Administration to come into any New Hampshire business and determine whether the owner is making too much money. If so, they will enact additional taxation, that will result in a new 13.5 percent tax to their personal income. It is the DRA's sole discretion to determine how much is too much.
The state is trying to impose this new 13.5 percent tax (through a 5 percent “dividends" tax combined with a 8.5 percent "business profit’s" tax) on all individuals who own LLCs and Partnerships in New Hampshire. LLCs or Limited Liability Corporations, the foundation of New Hampshire small businesses, are small neighborhood operations that have some legal liability protections similar to “real” corporations, while being taxed as individual operators. Think of your local convenience store, roofer, car mechanic or restaurant. The “net profit” of LLCs and partnerships are actually the personal incomes of these operators, and already taxed through the K1 portion of the federal tax return. It is the state’s intent to “claim” business owners are making too much money and impose taxing the personal income of the estimated 30,000 New Hampshire residents operating these small businesses around our state.
In addition, the state is trying to impose a 5 percent personal income tax on the owners of LLCs or Partnerships that borrow money to grow or expand their business. How will that act help to encourage economic growth and adding employees? As a business owner, if I borrow money or remortgage my property to start a new operation or expand my business, the State feels that it is now entitled to 5 percent of that mortgage as a tax, claiming that it is actually income and not an investment in my company.
This new tax isn’t closing a loophole; it’s squeezing the remaining blood from the stone. Our current state legislators fail to understand that money does not grow on trees. Like a teen with an open hand to their parents’ wallet, they obviously have no understanding where money comes from. They are in fact trying to take the money that should be being used to stop layoffs and to provide raises, health insurance and other benefits.
The federal government is not going to pull us out of the recession. We are. Our ability to kick start the New Hampshire economy will come directly from small businesses in New Hampshire who create opportunities that will lead to job growth. Now, more than ever, the State should be doing all in its power to encourage economic growth and job creation, not inhibit it.
If you are concerned about getting a job, or keeping the one you have, please contact your legislator, the Governor or better yet, show up to the public hearing on Dec. 16 in Concord.
Andy Sanborn is the owner of The Draft Bar & Grill in Concord.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will it be 1994 all over again?

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
President Obama, the Afghan war escalator, received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, and proceeded to deliver his acceptance speech outlining the three criteria for a “just war” which he himself is violating.

The criteria are in this words: “If it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”

After 9/11, warmonger George W. Bush could have used the international law doctrine of hot pursuit with a multilateral force of commandoes, linguists and bribers to pursue the backers of the attackers. Instead, he blew the country of Afghanistan apart and started occupying it, joined forces with a rump regime and launched a divide-and-rule tribal strategy that set the stage for a low-tiered civil war.

Eight years later, Obama is expanding the war within a graft-ridden government in Kabul, fraudulent elections, an Afghan army of northern tribesmen loathed by the southern and south-eastern tribes of 40 million Pashtuns, an impoverished economy whose largest crop by far is a narcotic, and a devastated population embittered by foreign occupiers and non-existent government services.

President Obama’s national security adviser, former Marine General James Jones, said two months ago: “The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

Since Mr. Obama repeats George W. Bush’s reason for going into Afghanistan—to destroy al-Qaeda—why is he sending 30,000 soldiers plus an even greater number of corporate contractors there in the near future at a cost stated by the White House of one million dollars per solider per year? Is this “proportional force”?

Always small in number, al-Qaeda has moved over the border into Pakistan and anywhere its supporters can in the world—east Africa, north Africa, Indonesia. The gang is a migrant traveler.

Is Obama pouring soldiers into Afghanistan so that they and our inaccurate, civilian-destroying drones can start fighting across the border in Pakistan, as indicated by The New York Times? Beyond the violations of international law and absence of constitutional authorization involved, this could so roil Pakistanis as to make the U.S. experience next door look like a modest struggle.

Obama has emphasized weakening the Taliban as the other objective of our military buildup with its horrible consequence in casualties and other costs. Who are the Taliban? They include people with different causes, such as protecting their valleys, drug trafficking to live on, fighters against foreign occupiers or, being mostly Pashtuns, protecting their tribal turf against the northern Tajiks and Uzbecks.

How many Taliban fighters are there? The Pentagon estimates around 25,000. Their methods make them unpopular with the villagers. They have no air force, navy, artillery, tanks, missiles, no bases, no central command. They have rifles, grenade launchers, bombs and suiciders. Unlike al-Qaeda, they have only domestic ambitions counteracted by their adversarial tribesmen who make up most of the Afghan army.

Robert Baer, former CIA officer with experience in that part of Asia, asserted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.”

To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base.

For as President Eisenhower stated so eloquently in his 1953 “cross of iron” speech, every dollar spent on munitions and saber-rattling takes away from building schools, clinics, roads and other necessities of the American people.

The Afghan War and the Iraq war-occupation—already directly costing a trillion dollars—are costing the American people every time Washington says there is not enough money for neonatal care, occupational disease prevention, cleaner drinking water systems, safer hospitals, prosecution of corporate criminals, cleaner air or upgrading and repairing key public facilities.

Even the hardiest and earliest supporters of his presidential campaign in 2008 are speaking out. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as John Conyers (D-MI) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have recently criticized the President for not doing enough to help African-Americans weather the hard times.

In a stinging ironic rebuke to the first African-American President, Rep. Waters declared “We can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”

According to Congressman Conyers, an upset Barack Obama called to ask why the Michigan lawmaker was “demeaning” him. Conyers has been increasingly turned off by the President’s policies—among them health care reform, the war in Afghanistan, slippage on Guantanamo and the extension of the Patriot Act’s invasive provisions.

The 80-year old Congressman spent most weekends in 2007 and 2008 tirelessly on the campaign trail trying to get Obama elected.

White House aides are not troubled by the rumblings from the moderate Left. They said they have all of 2010 to bring them back into the fold by the November Congressional elections. Besides, where else are they going to go?

Well, they could stay home. Remember 1994 and the Gingrich takeover.

Post-special election bias?

I received the link to this report in the mail from, which analyzes some of the newspaper and television reporting in the wake of Mass. Senate special election primaries on Tuesday:

Very nice job finding the clips and putting this together. Unlike blogs or political gossip sites, these are news organizations. Coakley hasn't been elected in the final, even though the safe bet says she will be. The fact that they are acting as if she has won the final is pretty sloppy ... and sad.

On another front, Dan Kennedy has some thoughts about indie Joe Kennedy and what role, if any, he will play in the election and whether he should even be covered: ["What to do about the other Joe Kennedy"].
I make some points here too, as do others. It's an interesting conversation, to say the least.

Update: I missed Jon Keller's post election blog post which is pretty good: ["Reading the Tea Leaves"].
It just goes to show you that I should by watching my Twitter feed more closely. I love this line from Election Night though:

"Jack E. Robinson - with all due respect, time to find another hobby."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tightening Senate race in Mass.

The polls are getting interesting in Mass., as noted on the Phoenix's David Bernstein's blog recently: ["Confirmation Of Contradiction"].
Personally, I think the easy money is on Coakley to win. I think the gender thing is going to be big this time around, with even moderates saying, You know, Massachusetts should really have a woman in there after all these years ...
But as I told Samantha Clemens yesterday and mentioned elsewhere online, I don't think it will be a 40-plus percent blowout for Coakley. The other three didn't land any real blows against why Coakley can't or shouldn't be the Senator. The final result is probably going to be between 20 and 30 percent for all the candidates (of course, what do I know, I predicted that Stephen Lynch would be the new Senator from Massachusetts months ago ...).
The other thing is this: Had the race been longer or had Sen. Kennedy stepped down earlier before he passed on, allowing for a special election to be held in November instead of December, I think Alan Khazei would win. It is clear that he has the vision thing going on, a pretty good ground organization, and an interesting story to tell about his life. Had he just had a bit more time ...
If Coakley wins the primary, she wins the final. Republican Scott Brown just doesn't bring enough to the table. Coakley can also reverse the left-wing course and talk about how she has been tough on crime and corruption. If one of the other three wins the primary, Brown has a slim shot, especially if he tones down the conservatism and goes moderate. The Democrats have painted themselves in such a corner to win the primary that many voters will be turned off by them in the final. It's important to remember that while liberals tend to win the most statewide in Massachusetts, the bulk of the voters are moderate to conservative. The GOP controls about 14 percent of the state. When combined with the 52 percent of voters who are unenrolled - the great majority of them moderate to conservative (the liberals are already involved in the Democrat Party) - there are votes there to be harvested for Brown. This coalition is how Romney, Cellucci, and Weld were able to win the corner office. It's why Gov. Deval Patrick's poll numbers are in the basement.
However, whoever wins the primary, the wild card will be how many votes independent (very libertarian) Joe Kennedy squeaks out - due to his name. Will little old ladies get confused and pull a lever for Joe Kennedy?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Talking Mass. Senate race

On Saturday morning, I'll be doing a bit of radio with Samantha Clemens talking about the U.S. Senate special election race. David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix will be in the first segment; I'll be on the second one. We may talk about Afghanistan too.
The Samantha Clemens Show is heard on 1510 AM in the Boston area or online at The show airs from 10 to 11 a.m. WWZN's signal says it runs from Manch to Providence in a big circle around 495. Tune in and check it out.

It's time to get out of Afghanistan

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Misusing professional cadets at West Point as a political prop, President Barack Obama delivered his speech on the Afghanistan war forcefully but with fearful undertones. He chose to escalate this undeclared war with at least 30,000 more soldiers plus an even larger number of corporate contractors.

He chose the path the military-industrial complex wanted. The “military” planners, whatever their earlier doubts about the quagmire, once in, want to prevail. The “industrial” barons because their sales and profits rise with larger military budgets.

A majority of Americans are opposed or skeptical about getting deeper into a bloody, costly fight in the mountains of central Asia while facing recession, unemployment, foreclosures, debt and deficits at home. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), after hearing Mr. Obama’s speech said, “Why is it that war is a priority but the basic needs of people in this country are not?”

Let’s say needs like waking up to do something about 60,000 fatalities a year in our country related to workplace diseases and trauma. Or 250 fatalities a day due to hospital induced infections, or 100,000 fatalities a year due to hospital malpractice, or 45,000 fatalities a year due to the absence of health insurance to pay for treatment, or, or, or, even before we get into the economic poverty and deprivation. Any Obama national speeches on these casualties?

Back to the West Point teleprompter speech. If this is the product of a robust internal Administration debate, the result was the same cookie-cutter, Vietnam approach of throwing more soldiers at a poorly analyzed situation. In September, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen told an American Legion Convention, “I’ve seen the public opinion polls saying that a majority of Americans don’t support the effort at all. I say, good. Let’s have the debate, let’s have that discussion.”

Where? Not in Congress. There were only rubberstamps and grumbles; certainly nothing like the Fulbright Senate hearings on the Vietnam War.

Where else? Not in the influential commercial media. Forget jingoistic television and radio other than the satire of Jon Stewart plus an occasional non-commercial Bill Moyers show or rare public radio commentary. Not in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post.

A FAIR study published in the organization’s monthly newsletter EXTRA reports that of all opinion columns in The New York Times and the Washington Post over the first 10 months of 2009, thirty-six out of forty-three columns on the Afghanistan War in the Times supported the war while sixty-one of the sixty-seven Post columns supported a continued war.

So what would a rigorous public and internal administration debate have highlighted? First, the more occupation forces there are, the more they fuel the insurgency against the occupation, especially since so many more civilians than fighters lose their lives. Witness the wedding parties, villagers, and innocent bystanders blown up by the U.S. military’s superior weaponry.

Second, there was a remarkable absence in Obama’s speech about the tribal conflicts and the diversity of motivations of those he lumped under the name of “Taliban.” Some are protecting their valleys, others are in the drug trade, others want to drive out the occupiers, others are struggling for supremacy between the Pashtuns on one side and the Tajiks and Uzbeks on the other (roughly the south against the north). The latter has been the substance of a continuing civil war for many years.

Third, how can Obama’s plan begin to work, requiring a stable, functioning Afghan government—which now is largely a collection of illicit businesses milking the graft, which grows larger in proportion to what the American taxpayers have to spend there—and the disorganized, untrained Afghan army—mainly composed of Tajiks and Uzbeks loathed by the Pashtuns.

Fourth, destroying or capturing al Qaeda attackers in Afghanistan ignores Obama’s own intelligence estimates. Many observers believe al Qaeda has gone to Pakistan or elsewhere. The New York Times reports that “quietly, Mr. Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well—if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms.”

Hello! Congress did not authorize a war in Pakistan, so does Obama, like Bush, just decree what the Constitution requires to be authorized by the legislative branch? Can we expect another speech at the Air Force Academy on the Pakistan war?

Fifth, as is known, al Qaeda is a transnational movement. Highly mobile, when it is squeezed. As Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the former CIA officer operating in Pakistan, said: “There is no direct impact on stopping terrorists around the world because we are or are not in Afghanistan.” He argues that safe havens can be moved to different countries, as has indeed happened since 9/11.

Sixth, the audacity of hope in Obama’s speech was illustrated by his unconvincing date of mid-2011 for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan. The tendered exit strategy, tied to unspecified conditions, was a bone he tossed to his shaky liberal base.

The White House recently said it costs $1 million a year to keep each single soldier in Afghanistan. Take one fifth of that sum and connect with the tribal chiefs to build public facilities in transportation, agriculture, schools, clinics, public health, and safe drinking water.

Thus strengthened, these tribal leaders know how to establish order. This is partly what Ashraf Ghani, the former respected Afghan finance minister and former American anthropology professor, called concrete “justice” as the way to undermine insurgency.

Withdraw the occupation, which now is pouring gasoline on the fire. Bring back the saved four-fifths of that million dollars per soldier to America and provide these and other soldiers with tuition for their education and training.

The principal authority in Afghanistan is tribal. Provide the assistance, based on stage-by-stage performance, and the tribal leaders obtain a stake in stability. Blown apart by so many foreign invaders—British, Soviet, American—and internally riven, the people in the countryside look to tribal security as the best hope for a nation that has not known unity for decades.

Lifting the fog of war allows other wiser policies urged by experienced people to be considered for peace and security.

Rather than expanding a boomeranging war, this alternative has some probability of modest success unlike the sure, mounting loss of American and Afghani lives and resources.