Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I find it infinitely sad that nearly fifty years after we elected the first Catholic President we seem to be no further along than we were then.  If anything we seem to be more intolerant of religion than ever.  I have been wondering why that should be so and I think I have identified at least part of the answer.  It came strangely enough when I examined my responses to one aspect of religious debate in this election year.  The only candidate that roused suspicion in me wasn't the Mormon or the black man suspected of being a closet Muslim and later castigated for his association with a black pastor who has become controversial simply because of the political association. (Face it--Jeremiah Wright would never have made a blip on the national scene, outside the black community, without the politics.)  It was Governor Mike Huckabee.

One part of my unease stems from the fact that fundamentalists for the last generation have been at the forefront pushing political agendas with which I strongly disagree.  As a minister and politician, governor Huckabee did not surprise me in the positions he took and I decided rather quickly I could not support him.  My own position is best described as 'moral Libertarianism' because I do not believe that most moral issues should be legislated.  The Religious Right offends me deeply on this matter.

However, a second issue, an issue of fairness, came to the forefront as his campaign progressed.  That issue involved the very unequal treatment of two violent convicted criminals. In one case Governor Huckabee insisted on a pardon for a convicted rapist.  (That man, required to leave Arkansas by the terms of the pardon, went to Missouri where, if my memory is accurate,  he raped two women murdering one of them.)  In the other case, the Governor not only refused to pardon a violent multiple murderer but advanced the man's execution date.  The cases share many similarities: two violent criminals sentenced for violent crimes who experienced religious conversions and appeared to reform their lives.  Each had co-religionists who actively lobbied for their pardons.  

The Christian ministers who appealed for the rapist's pardon did so because of the prisoner's conversion to Christianity AND because they claimed that his conviction and sentence was politically motivated The one woman he was convicted of raping was a distant cousin of the Clintons. (There were other women who claimed he had raped them but those cases never made it to court.) The situation quickly became murky as Governor Huckabee claimed he merely did as the pardon board directed while members of that board claimed that the Governor exerted extreme pressure on them to recommend the pardon.  

The other convict, the murderer, found Buddhism instead of Christianity.  He became a writer, an advocate of non-violence, a teacher while waiting out his appeals.  When the appeals were exhausted his supporters, which included not just fellow Buddhists but other religious activists as well, petitioned the Governor for a pardon.  Instead of pardoning the man, or even commuting the sentence to life in prison, Governor Huckabee, as mentioned above, advanced the execution date. Check out this link (scroll down to Jan 16, 2008), or this one (which doesn't mention the Buddhist issue but does raise the problem of 'Christian cronyism'). 

What disturbs me about these two stories is the sense I have that for Governor Huckabee the transformative influence of religion and spirituality is reserved for Christian religion and spirituality.  The Buddhist's conversion and reformation is somehow suspect BECAUSE it was Buddhist and not Christian.  He allowed the Christian conversion a legitimacy he denied the Buddhist conversion.  It disturbs me because we cannot have equal justice if in the delivery of justice we privilege some over others on the ground of our own religious belief.  If we grant clemency as part of justice then it must be granted even handedly and this case smells of favoritism based on religious affiliation.

I noted yesterday that white fundamentalist ministers were given gentle handling when they declared that the we in the U.S. brought 9/11 on ourselves because of our support of gays, abortions, and liberal policies generally.  Go here to read a transcript of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson discussing this very topic.  Reverend Falwell later apologized but, with or without the apology, the matter was given very little coverage in the mainstream medium. And perhaps we should question the sincerity of such apologies since both (as well as their religious allies) have had a history of blaming those they consider sinners for calamity.  Both have had close connections with political leaders so one cannot explain the gentle handling by the mainstream medium as a lack of political ties.

I find it troublesome that President Bush was allowed to quietly disassociate himself from the Falwell/Robertson flap while Senator Obama has to repeatedly disavow, dissociate himself from and denounce Jeremiah Wright.  I applaud Reverend Wright's courage in sticking to his guns and his statements.  He has a right to them.  My respect for Barak Obama has dipped south several notches over this issue.  I wish he had simply told the national press that though he respects Reverend Wright he does not share all of his beliefs; that, though Reverend Wright has been a spiritual mentor, he (Barak Obama) reserves the right, as an individual, to weigh matters and decide for him self.  

At bottom, what I find troubling is the level of self-serving hypocrisy  that permeates our politics and our media.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 has a couple of interesting paragraphs today.  One notes that the Senate is holding hearings on the Real ID program which requires states to verify the identity and citizenship of anyone getting a driver's license or other state issued id.  The other refers to the Supreme Court decision yesterday upholding state laws (as in Indiana, my home state) which requires voters to show a photo id in order to vote.  Both ask the readers opinion.  I am ambivalent.  About three years ago, when I was working in a small store in a neighboring small town, the state decided to consolidate its driver's license branches eliminating service in some areas.  That small town was one.  From that point to the present, and for the foreseeable future, people have to go to the county seat, where I live, or to other near by larger towns.  Most of those are a minimum of 12-15 miles away.  Not much of a problem, you think?  What if you have no car and no one who can dive you?  Walk, you think? Well, because of a fair number of loose nuts behind wheels I have encountered, I don't like driving on many of the roads one would have to traverse to get to our branch and the other branches may be farther away reachable only by braving even worse traffic.  What if you are elderly or otherwise less mobile?  How do those people get their state approved ID in order to vote?  I expect that, after the primary next week, we will be hearing some stories of people who find that their rights to vote are curtailed by their inability to get the kind of ID required.  

Foreign Policy In Focus had an interesting post, 'The Erased."  It recounts the decade long ordeal of people the Slovenian government erased from its citizenship roles in the early 1990s.  Many had been born in Slovenia of immigrant parents.  Others had spotty documentation.  Some were deported to places with which they had no linguistic or cultural connection.  The Erased persons lost livelihoods and government supported health care.  What scares me is that the same kind of situation can occur in the U.S.  Sometime in the last couple of months I read an account, I think it was in the AARP magazine but wouldn't bet the farm on it, recounting the struggles of Native Americans who were born, raised, and living on Indian lands who have been unable to sign up for Medicaid and other government programs because they don't have 'documents' proving they were citizens.  Getting the required documents have been difficult to say the least.  Native Unity web site has also recounted the difficulty Navajo and other Native peoples in the southwest have had getting access to government health programs for those who were exposed to fallout from nuclear tests and those whose health has been affected by their stint working for uranium mining companies.  Again the crux of the problem was the lack of documentation.  People lived for decades, even their entire lives, in one spot and couldn't provide the documentation to prove it and thereby get the benefits.  This ties into my ambivalence about the Real ID program and the voter ID programs.  Are we setting up a situation where we will have our own Erased?

It has been a long time since I recognized the fact that what was once 'news' has morphed into 'entertainment.'  When I was young we only got half an hour daily of news split between local and national/international.  Now we get 2 and a half hours each week day evening and I am sorry to say little of it is news.  Sometime ago the designation shifted from 'news' to 'news/entertainment' to now, when everything before the / should be erased.  Usually the noise of the news casts goes in one ear and out the other.  If I thought much about what the networks are presenting in alleged news programs I would be constantly irritated at best, angry more likely.  I can't afford the emotional investment to get irritated or angry that frequently.  However I am not immune to periodic bouts of irritation or anger.  Over the couple of weeks two stories have managed to piss me off.  

One is the coverage of a very nasty accident in Chicago in which the driver of a semi truck lost control and plowed into the entrance to one of the mass transit stations killing two and injuring several more.  We get repeated mention of 'details' which may or may not be significant when the accident investigation has finally been concluded.  The news casters have mentioned frequently since last night that the driver has been cited as if somehow his culpability has been confirmed by the citation.  The citation merely means he has been accused NOT that he has been proven guilty of anything.  This morning we 'learned' that the police found a filled prescription for an unnamed drug for someone other than the driver in the cab of the truck and that a compete tox screen was ordered for the driver's blood.  The implication is that the driver may have taken someone else's drug; but, there isn't any proof and may never be any.  They noted that the driver 'missed' his pickup in Champagne, IL and was empty when the accident occurred as though that has some significant bearing on the accident.  The poor guy may simply have been delayed by traffic, missed his assigned window, arrived to find his load was assigned to another driver and then had to dead-head home.  Then, of course, there is the focus on the dead and their bereaved families.  The pathos and human interest has become merely pathetic.  

The second story that has gotten under my skin is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright flap, which I realize has gone on for much longer than a couple of weeks and is likely to continue for more than a couple of weeks longer.  Last night George Stephanopolis covered the latest installment with a particular and insulting reference to Hoosiers and the Indiana primary.  It seems we white, working class, older Hoosiers are scared out of our knickers by the radical Reverend's pronouncements.  Well, let me tell Georgie somethings.  I am white, older, and  female. My daddy was a truck driver and his daddy was a farmer.  And Pastor Wright doesn't scare me one damn bit.  I don't know what George's religious background is but it clearly doesn't encompass experience with Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or other denominations with a tradition of revivals and charismatic preaching.   That is my background, Mr. Stephanopolis, along with considerable exposure to Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, and Presbyterian churches as well.  

What I see in Reverend Wright's sermons is the ancient revival strain of the jeremiad, named not for Jeremiah Wright but for the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah.  The role of the prophets was to call the Israelites back to the ways of God.  Through brutally honest and astringent  sermons, they revealed and condemned individual and societal sins; and called down the wrath of God upon both.  Reverend Wright says that we brought 9/11 on ourselves because of our own terrorism abroad and asked, later, how we thought we could engage in terrorism abroad and somehow, magically, think we could escape it at home. We don't like to think of ourselves as terrorists and blind ourselves to how others perceive our actions. We, as Christ said, see the mote in our brothers' eyes but miss the beam in our own.   And we condemn the messenger as unpatriotic.  As a society we have a long history of racism, ethnic discrimination, persecution and outright theft.  To point out that history and underline the persistence of those attitudes in the present isn't to diminish the progress that has been made.  It simply states what should be obvious to anyone: there is more work to be done.  But it is far easier to rest on our supposed laurels and condemn the messenger as unpatriotic.  I won't even go into the fact that the sources of these 'radical' sound bites are the political opponents of a member of Mr. Wright's church and the sole purpose is to devise a way to win at any cost.  

By the way, where was the mainstream media and the pundits when prominent white ministers said, in the days after 9/11, that America deserved what she got because of our tolerance of homosexuals and abortion?  Why were they not accused of lack of patriotism?  Or were they wearing flag pins in their lapels?  

When I was a child my father like to end arguments concerning the shortcomings of the United States with the phrase 'my country, right or wrong' and followed with 'love it, or leave it.' He did that until the day I discovered a different quote: 'my country; when she is right to be kept right and when she is wrong to be put right.'  I think the second notion is a much better measure of patriotism which is why Jeremiah Wright doesn't frighten me. 

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm Ba-a-ack!!

It has been a very mixed three weeks.  The b
est part of it was the week I spent finishing the quilt on the left.  It was a baby shower gift for my nephew's wife who is expecting their second boy in a couple of months and finished just in time for the shower two weeks ago Sunday.  It began as a kit that just didn't go together right.  I hated it from the beginning.  The fabric was flimsy and split at the machine satin stitching with the first washing.  I cut it all apart but just couldn't throw the pieces away.    The little cross-stitched dogs on the right are the figures I sewed on to the quilt at the internal intersections of the sashing.  I think I actually like how it came out.  Kuma seems to approve also.  He is just disappointed that I didn't let him try it out.

But the rest has been hell.  I started a cold on the Tuesday after the shower.  My usual thing that goes from continuous sneezing and stuffy head to scratchy throat to bronchitis.  But then it turned really wicked Saturday with nausea and vomiting.  We bit the bullet and Mom took me to the off hours medical practice nearby.  Thanks to the medication I am well on the road to recovery although I know I will have the cough for another month and will not have much energy for another week or so.  At least I can read, write and do needlework.  Hallelujah!!

Elegantly saying what I have been thinking for a long time.  Sometime last year I read an article about self-storage units which, evidently, had become the fasted growing business in the country.  I has some visual evidence of that.  Each work day I passed a u-store business that had five long buildings.  Last fall it doubled its space.  I remember laughing at the commercial for one nationally franchised outfit that featured a family hemmed in by their 'stuff',' with little room for themselves.  They solved the problem by renting a storage unit and then celebrated by going shopping for more 'stuff.'  Some years ago, I decided that I didn't want any house that had more rooms in it than I used each day: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and sewing/computer room.  And I wanted no more stuff than would fit comfortably in that size dwelling.  I am getting there. 

As if we needed another example of the insatiable greed of the corporate world, here it is.  I think our currency still bears the legend "legal tender for all debts public and private" but it seems we are going to be charged for the privilege of inconveniencing corporations by paying our bills in cash.  Of course the crux of the matter is contained in the quote from an ATT spokesman: "It is a way of saving money ... it helps us keep our costs lower," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "We want our associates to spend their time helping customers as they are thinking about their wireless plans or looking at phones." They want to sell more plans and phones, not waste their time serving the needs of existing customers.

We have all heard by now that Costco and Sam's Club have restricted customers' purchases of rice.  The story made short appearances on all the news programs yesterday.  No one bothered to explain the particulars behind the story but it sounded ominous given the recent international stories concerning tortilla protests in Mexico, bread riots in Egypt,  demonstrations protesting the price of pasta in Italy, and export restrictions on rice in some south-east Asian countries.  Today, I read on The Wastrel Show that two southern California Wal-Mart and Costco outlets were responding to a run on rice by foreign customers who were shipping it to relatives in countries where rice is in short supply.  I followed her links but couldn't find the connection between foreigners buying large quantities of rice and the restrictions imposed by the two warehouse outlets.  So I went looking.  Several stories noted the doubling of rice prices in the recent past.  Most note that restaurants, particularly Mexican restaurants which are heavy users of rice, are stockpiling against future price increases and that has put a bit of pressure on the supplies at Sam's Club and Costco (and probably other large scale suppliers.)  Here is one with an interesting conclusion.  Business 360 notes that by the time the mainstream media get a story, especially economic stories, the peak has either passed or is about to peak.  "There is a school of thought in financial circles that when the media finally sits up and takes notice, the tide has already turned. This may be true for commodities. After making a record run at $120 a barrel Tuesday, crude oil fell $4 in Thursday’s New York session before finally settling around $116 a barrel. Gold fell to a four-month low. Rice prices stayed close to record levels, but wheat, corn and soybean futures all moved lower.  Global consumers could clearly use some relief from sky high fuel and food costs. But investors who have exposure to the commodity markets might want to take profits and take cover. An oil trader I spoke with in New York warned crude was no longer trading based on the rules of supply and demand. Instead, he said oil had now become a financial tool. Farmers have complained the same is happening in grain markets. Speculators are in the driver’s seat. Up till now they have been buyers. If that changes, the sell-off could be swift and painful."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bail outs, financial fraud

Here is a little snippet of Eric Alterman's Altercation blog today.  

"I have a moral (and decidedly politically incorrect) problem with bailing out homeowners whose interest rates have risen beyond where they can pay. I know that a lot of innocent people were the victims of predatory lenders -- just as many people with credit card debt are -- and I hope the bad guys are punished and, in the future, regulated. But I pay my credit card on time, and I took out any number of fixed-rate mortgages over the past 20 years, paying a higher rate than I could have had I gotten short-term rates that would later rise if overall rates rose. In other words, I paid tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that this entirely predictable development would not bankrupt me or my family. These people didn't. They took the easy way out, and now they are being forced to pay for it. Why shouldn't they? Why should this good, responsible citizen with his relatively high mortgage rate be asked to bail them out? Am I responsible for their credit card debt as well?"

It sums up my own ambivalence about bailing out anyone (homeowner, bank, whoever).  Unlike Alterman I can't point to a string of good decisions I have made in the past.  I have made a number of bone-headed choices, rotten assumptions, and just plain silly decisions.  Some of this I realized only in hindsight because the options seemed well thought out and logical at the time. I have paid for some of them. I am still paying for some of them and expect to pay for one for the rest of my natural life, barring some unforeseeable lightning stroke of good luck.  And I have come out of one, at least, by the grace of whatever deity without major harm.  I fear that bail outs will only reinforce the most negative tendencies in our modern society--greed, selfishness, thoughtless and wasteful accumulation.  We need a really strong purgative and, perhaps, refusing to bail out anyone is the right medicine. 

Having said that there is another aspect which should be dealt with--the fraud that was involved in so many of the sub-prime mortgages.  TPM Cafe has an article citing a JP Morgan/chase memo to brokers with tips on how to make sure their applications got approved by the bank's automated approval system.  The memo is quoted as "explicitly suggesting that brokers inflate borrowers’ income or otherwise falsify loan applications".  Once upon a time, I do believe that was called FRAUD.  And that memo would have been a 'SMOKING GUN.'  I wonder if anything will come of the FBI investigations into Countrywide.  How about investigating the practices of some other banks?  This 'prosecute the bastards' policy should be the flip side of the 'no bail out' proposition.  It is one thing to suggest, as a realtor I once dealt with did, that one cherry pick the largest of the last six or twelve pay stubs to get the largest estimate of one's income and another to make up what ever numbers will ensure the approval of a mortgage.  The first has at least some tenuous link to reality.  The other is a LIE.  Even though the JP Morgan/ Chase claims the memo doesn't reflect their policy, I don't think I can sum up the matter any better than the author of the blog:

"The bank says that although the memo bears a Chase corporate logo and was emailed from Chase, it does not reflect the bank’s corporate policy. 

The Oregonian, reporting on the issue, commented: “Even if the memo was penned by a single employee, it illustrates an attitude prevalent in certain corners of the mortgage industry during the boom years. In the face of sustained and significant home price increases, much of the industry veered away from traditional notions of safe and sound lending. Loan volume became as important as loan quality, particularly for the rank and file typically paid on commission.” 

After being forced to write down $1.3 billion in nonperforming mortgages at the end of 2007, Chase no longer makes the stated income loans (also known as no document loans and liar loans) to which the memo was referring. But while Chase waited for this inevitable lesson, thousands of families were induced to take bad mortgages and the taxpayer funded FDIC was tricked in to insuring a bank making consistently bad loans. 

The existence of the memo is a powerful reminder of what many advocates have been saying for years: we need regulation that anticipates that even the nation’s largest and most respected lending institutions are all too capable of systematically manipulating their customers and lying to the federal government, which not only insures them, but is certain to bail them out when times get tough. They face unchanging and powerful incentives to be profitable; they need equally powerful incentives to be honest and ethical."

I was going to get into Obama's campaign but I think I will put that off.  I just downloaded his 'Blueprint for Change" pdf and will spend some time reading it today.  I did notice two things:  first that the top of the agenda in the Blueprint (or at least the first point listed) was Civil Rights; and, second, that the majority of his points on issues, especially those first listed, seem to speak to ordinary folks.  That is a positive thing.  But I will come back when I have a better handle on the details.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Visit to Hillary Clinton's Campaign

Hi, and happy April Fools' Day.

A bit of a correction before going on.  I was thinking one thing and typing another yesterday when I wrote about Senator McCain's proposal to provide a $2500 tax credit (not a deduction).  I think my major concern still holds.  To qualify, a person has to pay the insurance premium up front and then claim it for the next tax filing.  I don't know many people who have the equivalent of $200 a month to pay out.  Most people I know have much more limited budgets.  I remember the argument that this kind of plan would result in greater competition and thus reduced insurance costs.  After all people who have to put up the money will be looking for the biggest bang for the buck.  Nice in theory. But I am not convinced.  The first question is whether you can find coverage for the $2500 allowed by the credit.  That is all you would get back back no matter how much the insurance companies charge.  If you can't then you have to shell out the $2500 plus what ever the true costs of the coverage is knowing you will only get a portion of the expense back.  Also, the plan does nothing for those who are uninsurable at any price.  Even if congress requires the companies to cover everyone regardless of pre-existing condition or family health history, the coverage may not be affordable.  I also had a thought about opening the market to nationwide companies.  Has anyone seen the confusion that comes up whenever the open enrollment periods for Medicare comes up?  It is confusing as hell beyond the regional boundaries for each of the companies and gets even more so when you have to consider which drugs each plan will cover.  What we need is better, clearer, simpler information which will allow consumers to make truly informed choices. But I doubt Senator McCain's proposal will get us that.  Instead, I think that any plan will prove Bert Gummer correct (Tremors 3): the government will take something simple and 'complicate it.' It is what government does best.

Now on to a tour of Senator Clinton's web site and her position on the issues.  I noticed one thing right off the bat and it is an interesting contrast with Senator McCain.  The issues at the top of his list focused primarily on stimulating business with tax cuts and credits.  The major offering for middle income people was the proposal to repeal the alternative minimum tax.  By contrast, Senator Clinton's top items all focus on the middle and working class.  That said, much of her plan is not specified beyond broad goals. I haven't yet decided whether that is good or bad.  After all no President does much of anything without the cooperation of the Senate and Congress.  Any candidate can promise anything but may not be able to influence the legislative branch to go along.  

Senator Clinton's health care plan relies on tax credits just like Senator McCain's does and has, therefore, the same weaknesses with regard to affordability.  She wants to mandate coverage for everyone regardless of health and family history.  However, mandating coverage doesn't necessarily mean it will be affordable.  I very much like her notion that the insurance should be portable and independent of one's job or employment status.  Tax credits to help small business provide health coverage is nice.  But, having worked for small businesses for the better part of the last decade, I don't know that the credits could be generous enough to encourage enough small businesses to extend coverage to employees.  One of my former employers never made a profit in the three years the business was open.  The other scrambled to pay wages, taxes, overhead and managed to make a comfortable living for the owner.  Paying for medical coverage would have taken it from a modestly successful operation to a losing proposition.  And remember, the tax credit is an expense paid now to be reclaimed later to the extent allowed.

Both Senator Clinton and Senator McCain rely on commercial companies whose be all and end all is profit to provide the insurance.  We have all read the horror stories of what happens when the bottom line is endangered: people who were denied benefits they had paid for under any plausible or implausible pretext and coverage drastically changed and limited with little or no notice.  We can expect more of the same under both these systems.

Senator Clinton, unlike Senator McCain, does address the credit crisis/mortgage meltdown problem.  I can't do justice to her proposals so please read them for yourself.  I can tell that they will cost a great deal of money.  But the whole situation is one I am deeply ambivalent about.  It was fraught with fraud and greed on all sides.  And I don't think there is any way to separate the sheep from the goats and make sure the virtuous are protected while punishing the guilty.  I am glad to see her proposal for dealing with the fraudulent companies offering bogus foreclosure assistance.  But the problems with the mortgage industry are long term and will take a while and some realistic regulation to sort out.  It has been twenty-five years since I made my only foray into home ownership.  I well remember the efforts our realtor made to expand my (then) husband's and my income to the maximum.  At least we did have to verify our income and the expansion consisted largely of choosing the largest recent pay stubs to submit.  But I also remember being assured that the mortgage would not be significantly larger than the amount we paid in rent at that time.  Well, technically, the mortgage wasn't.  But no one mentioned the additional amount that went into the escrow to pay taxes and insurance.  That very significantly added to our monthly payment.  As first time home buyers we had no idea what was going on.  We did not even realize the questions we should have asked.  

One the war in Iraq, Senator Clinton promises 'redeployment' from day one if she is elected.  Good start.  Better is her program for achieving a meaningful peace in the area. 
  • Non-interference. Working with the U.N. representative, the group would work to convince Iraq's neighbors to refrain from getting involved in the civil war. (Do you include us in this--or will we be free to interfere if others don't tow our line. Also the 'group' is supposed to include Iraq's neighbors.  So the group is going to convince the group to not interfere.)
  • Mediation. The group would attempt to mediate among the different sectarian groups in Iraq with the goal of attaining compromises on fundamental points of disputes. (Good. However, Bush also promised mediation and negotiation.  He never followed through.)
  • Reconstruction funding. The members of the group would hold themselves and other countries to their past pledges to provide funding to Iraq and will encourage additional contributions to meet Iraq's extensive needs. (I get the feeling that this would, in the final analysis, mean that we would foot the bill for reconstruction on top of the bill for the war itself.)

The sections in black are my thoughts.  The blue are from Senator Clinton's site.  I may seem a bit cynical but I have a great deal of difficulty believing that our national leaders can so easily get past the notion of the U.S. being the world's 'hyper-power.'  She claims that the military should target 'terrorists.' But that is how we got into this quagmire in the first place.  Terrorism allowed the Bush administration the wedge it needed to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

I have to quit now but I will come back to Senator Clinton's position papers another time.