Friday, August 26, 2011

Khaddafi's CREEPY Obsession ...

This was the best version of the story, if only to hear our endearingly geeky Chris Hayes recite Khaddafi's lovelorn teen prose: "Leeza, Leeza, Leeza, I love her very much" ... Aargh.

Was Khadaffi a "30 Rock" fan, too? Eat your heart out, Moammar, wherever you may be in this cruel, cruel world:

Quotable: Gail McGovern, Red Cross CEO, On Hurricane Irene

"It's going to be huge. From a time perspective this can take weeks, maybe even months, to respond to."

Is it just me, or is this statement totally unacceptable? Understand, I'm not blaming Ms McGovern — she is simply providing solid information based on the realistic assessment of, apparently, our limited capacity to respond to Hurricane Irene.

My question is this: To what extent is Ms McGovern's unacceptable assessment governed by the ignorant Tea Party luddites wagging the dog and Republican House Leader Eric Cantor, who shamelessly sucks up to them, insisting that any emergency response spending will have to be offset by corresponding budget cuts elsewhere? Private NGOs like the American Red Cross, for all their good works, do not by definition have the capacity and resources of the federal government. Haven't we learned anything from Katrina? It's for responding to catastrophes of this scale that government exists.

When will this Teabagger madness end?

This is the richest, most powerful nation in history. That we cannot respond to a potential natural catastrophe more timely than the response time to the Haiti earthquake, or the Japanese earthquake/tsunami, is to concede that the crazies holding our government hostage have succeeded in turning the United States into a helpless, poverty-stricken banana republic.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

America And Genocide: The Good, THE BAD, And The Ugly

Back to the nasty, aka, government, politics, and fascism ... by any other name, it's still the same. In the checkered, dastardly history of U.S. support for genocidal dictators, none is more craven than U.S. involvement in the destruction of Chilean democracy culminating in the 1973 military coup that toppled socialist president Salvador Allende and installed in his place the fascist monster, General Augusto Pinochet. New revelations have surfaced: A tape of Nixon and Kissinger openly discussing political assassination, a reference to Chile's senior military commander, General Rene Schneider, who was loyal to President Allende in that he was a constitutionalist and a patriot who believed in civilian rule. General Schneider was murdered in a botched CIA-backed kidnapping. Here's an excerpt from the tape:
Kissinger: CIA’s too incompetent to do it. You remember—
Nixon: Sure, but that’s the best thing. [Unclear].
Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.
 Kissinger effectively is a prisoner within his own country; small consolation for those of us who believe he should be charged and tried for crimes against humanity — but should he travel to any country that is a signatory to extradition treaties, he will risk immediate arrest and indictment for war crimes and may well end up a defendant in a Spanish Court (whose citizens were murdered by Pinochet) or the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.

Now we learn there was a bit of a counting error concerning the extent and enormity of Pinochet's crimes. This is from the BBC:
A Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses under the former military leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet says there are many more victims than previously documented.

Commission director Maria Luisa Sepulveda said they had identified another 9,800 people who had been held as political prisoners and tortured [between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1990, when Gen Pinochet was in power].

The new figures bring the total of recognised victims to 40,018.

The survivors will get lifetime pensions of about $260 (£157) a month.

An earlier report by the commission recognised 27,153 people who suffered human rights violations under military rule.

The official number of those killed or forcibly disappeared now stands at 3,065.
Chile has placed a price for the torture inflicted on its citizens by Pinochet: $260 monthly. That's $260 more than the U.S. compensates innocent victims of waterboarding, as both the Bush and Obama administrations have declined to own up to the international crime of torture committed in our name. It would explain why Kissinger, Cheney, and Bush are protected from criminal investigation and litigation.

Consider these sobering statistics: The number of Chileans murdered by Pinochet stands at a conservative 3,065. The number of people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is 2,753. On the day democracy died in Chile, September 11, 1973, a date which will live in infamy in Chilean history, Chile's population was barely larger than New York City's, fewer than 10 million people.

Sports Magic: Brazil's Amazing Golden Boys

This past weekend Brazil captured the FIFA Under-20 World Cup beating Portugal 3-2 in overtime, in a thrilling final. Brazil wasn't even at full strength because its precocious 19-year old phenom, Neymar, has already cracked the top national team. No matter, this team was deep with talented kids. Watch No. 20 Negueba flip the ball over the man marking him, in a play of uncommon panache that is called a "hat" or a "sheet" — as in floating a sheet over a bed when making it. It's rarely seen because it's considered showing up the other team. But kids will be kids.

Watch the goals of the campaign below (excusing the video quality, but I couldn't find better). A festival of great goals, crisp passing and teamwork, showcasing the best football in the world. All the kids were great, but No. 11 Oscar in particular impressed me the most. Oscar scored a "hat trick" against Portugal, notching all three of Brazil's goals. He was a joy to watch, gliding effortlessly over the pitch, hitting his passing targets with pinpoint precision. I thought, 'this kid is really good!'

Then he scored his third goal, which clinched the championship. There's an imaginary window, about the size of the strike zone in baseball, that floats just outside the goalkeeper's reach and below the far corner goalpost. That was Oscar's target. He had the ball on the right wing and noticed Portugal's keeper was only slightly off his line, anticipating a cross. Oscar launched the ball, then fell back still in his follow-through motion, arms swinging freely, as he looked up to admire his masterpiece-in-progress. He laid it in perfectly, past the goalkeeper's desperate outstretched arm. Oscar is seen admiring his shot from afar, then the ball comes into the frame. Nothing but net. The deadly arc of the ball reminded me of a Michael Jordan fadeaway three-point shot at the buzzer.

Man, what a beautiful game.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Living PROOF That Corporations ARE PEOPLE!

This astonishing video FINALLY validates the Supreme Court's assertion that corporations are PEOPLE just like you and me. Watch and listen closely as Mr. BANK OF AMERICA approaches Willard "Thurston" Mitt Romney Rick "The Professor" Perry, author of Fucked Up!, introduces himself, and promises his support:

The Great D.C. Quake REDUX: Tweet Of The Day

HAT TIP to @emptywheel ...

America And Genocide: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

FIRST, THE GOOD: The people of Libya stand poised to secure their freedom from the dictator who held his country in chains for forty years. As one jubilant Libyan man on the streets of Tripoli said: “My life begins today. FREEDOM.”

When this uprising began and Colonel Khaddafi threatened a blood bath against his people as the world stood idly by, I posted these words on March 17:
Meanwhile, In Libya …

A genocide looms as Khaddafi's forces rally and President Obama dithers.
The very next day, President Obama, who had rallied NATO — principally Britain and France — to this cause, announced America’s humanitarian intervention. I posted this:
The Obama Doctrine

President Obama established today what is possibly the only legitimate use of UN-sanctioned military force: Intervening in an internecine conflict to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in which largely defenseless civilians are slaughtered by a dictatorial or rogue state authority. The international community, as represented by the UN and led by the United States, has a MORAL RESPONSIBILITY to use all necessary power to prevent atrocities against civilians. PERIOD.

This is the 21st century, and we, as civilized people, should not tolerate a horrific repeat of the atrocities that happened in Bosnia, Rwanda, and northern Kurdish Iraq. Military intervention on humanitarian grounds rests on a solid legal and moral foundation of international law dating back to the Nuremberg Trials.
I think I made a pretty good call. Most importantly, President Obama made the absolute right call, in every respect. There was a lot of hand-wringing and a split among progressives about this military intervention. Some of my progressive friends blew a gasket, arguing we were now engaged in three wars simultaneously, while the right wing suddenly discovered long neglected constitutional prerogatives and thundered that the President should have sought Congress’s approval before acting.

Unlike Bush’s adventurism in Iraq, time was of the essence. President Obama had to act swiftly to avert an imminent slaughter of civilians in Libya. Some of the rationalizations offered by my friends on the left were, frankly, stunning in their insensate absurdity. Conversely, we should recognize it’s always essential to question military intervention. Understood. We simply had a difference of opinion. President Obama acted correctly. And those of us who supported him were right.

The President’s decision-making was flawless. His diagnosis of the Libyan uprising and its dynamics in the larger context of the Arab Spring was less tortured than that of his critics, probably because it hinged on saving lives. It was a no-brainer. Mr. Obama went with his gut, overruling Bob Gates and the Pentagon’s misgivings (which, ironically, paralleled progressive concerns) of a quagmire and mission creep. Justice and freedom broke out in Libya as a result.

President Obama did what presidents do best in such situations, which was to consult with his allies and decide on a plan of action: The U.S. would carry out the initial sorties (no ground troops were committed) and then hand over major military responsibilities to our European allies, Britain and France, acting under NATO’s operational umbrella. The Pentagon and certain progressives were skeptical; Dennis Kucinich made silly noises about impeaching President Obama … but it worked. It was a sound plan. Most significantly, it established a number of important precedents for future military interventions:
  • First, President Obama successfully established the framework for a UN-sanctioned doctrine of military intervention in humanitarian crises, which he should proudly own as the Obama Doctrine. Credit where credit is due. Never again will the international community stand idly by, helplessly, in the face of genocide as occurred in Rwanda, Bosnia, or Kurdish Iraq.
  • Second, by encouraging our NATO allies to take a more proactive role in military interventions that occur in their backyard so to speak, especially of a humanitarian character, President Obama laid the groundwork for our departure from the solo cowboy interventionism of the Bush years. We’ll never get a handle on reducing the Pentagon budget unless we encourage our allies to take the point in certain situations and build up their own military capabilities.
The notion that our European allies aren’t fully capable militarily is nonsense; it’s a red herring intended to perpetuate a false dependency and keep our domestic war machine — Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex — at full capacity. The truth is, we cannot bankroll foreign wars with borrowed Chinese money and leave the Pentagon’s budget inviolate as Republicans aim to destroy Medicare and Social Security. Something’s got to give, and it should be our bloated Pentagon budget.
  • Finally, by keeping our “footprint” in the Libyan uprising small, the President avoided the negative blowback of possible U.S. casualties and the inevitable blame game for so-called “collateral damage” — innocent civilian casualties of the fog of war. He demonstrated confidence in the French and the British — derided by Republican politicians — and was fully rewarded by our allies for taking the political heat. Not to belabor the point, given post-colonialist sensitivities, but the French and Brits can do military interventions as well as anyone. They've got a couple centuries of history on us.
In the last analysis, President Obama realized this Libyan conflict was one that should be owned by the Libyan people. NATO and the U.S. would offer logistical support and air cover to level the playing field and avoid atrocities by Khaddafi’s military. But ultimately, it was important that this conflict, and victory over the dictator, be the Libyan people’s win. This is a very significant foreign policy win for President Obama, as well. It's one for the history books as a lasting positive legacy of his presidency.

Breaking News: EARTHQUAKE Strikes East Coast

I hope there were no injuries. Preliminary reports are, thankfully, there were none and structural damage to buildings was minimal.

Now for the fun part: The epicenter was on or about Washington D.C. — perhaps even inside the Beltway ... Could the Almighty be expressing his upset over the goings-on in our nation's capital? Stay tuned for color commentary from Pat Robertson.

This is the Huffington Post's front page. See that red star in the center? It's the seat of our government and home to the Beltway Media. Oh my. On a serious and hopeful note, it appears our civil defense response is going pretty smoothly.

P.S. - Oh, and the President was playing golf on Martha's Vineyard when the earthquake struck. As the Church Lady would say ... "Isn't that special!"

Postcript To What's The Matter With Obama

It's not just me. But it should be instructive to readers of this blog that my policy-centered fulminations on President Obama's "kowtowing" to his opposition, particularly the Tea Party, whose candidates totalled far fewer than half the votes we gave the President — if anyone wants to talk "mandate" or what "the American people" want — independent of prominent progressive voices of criticism are in sync with a growing consensus among liberals and progressives.

Moreover, I've been no starry-eyed lib who "needs to grow up" and awaken from "recurring liberal fantasy that if only the president of the United States would give a stirring speech, he would sweep the country along with the sheer power of his poetry and enact his agenda." This is a variation on the Melissa Harris-Perry theme that President Obama is not "Superman." But I am in complete agreement with Stephen Kaus, who writes in the Huffington Post:
Liberals understand that Obama is not going to enact an economic policy by fiat; that something has to actually pass. But all this kowtowing to the need for a long term deficit fix at the cost of ignoring the spending necessary for jobs, indeed not even advancing the cause of a second stimulus, has made the President not only look like he has pre-settled, but that he has been pre-rolled.
The time for compromise is OVER. The time for fighting for a DEMOCRATIC, AMERICAN POLICY AGENDA is NOW. That is, if the President and his clueless advisers harbor any hopes for his re-election. Ultimately, it's about President Obama using his mothballed bully pulpit to redirect the terms of the debate to the American people's turf. Odds, anyone? I have my doubts the President's up to it. Partisan political combat doesn't seem to be in his character.

Word is, President Obama is consulting with Warren Buffett before his big jobs speech. A millionaire talks to a billionaire regarding us other 99.9 percent of the American population. No offense to Mr. Buffett. I'm a fan. But if this isn't an appropriate metaphor for the Obama presidency and the times we live in, I don't know what is.
P.S. Could we please have more of the informed and insightful Ms. Guthrie on MTP and less of Mr. Gregory? He could do the third hour of the Today Show.
Forget it, Stephen. Haven't you heard? The untouchable David Gregory is the High Priest of the Idiot Punditocracy. As I've written here before and reiterate, Gregory is a disgrace to his profession. But it's nice to know that liberals outside the Beltway are noticing. Thom Hartmann (who is immunized from the Idiot Punditocracy) said listening to Gregory makes him walk out of the room; the guy's too upsetting. It's a typical reaction for progressives.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Drew Wensten's Devastating Critique Of Obama's Presidency

The rising voices of criticism of President Obama from his supporters, among liberals, progressives, and prominent African Americans are growing too loud and too urgent to be ignored, even by the President's staunchest supporters. I counted myself in that camp, in those initial days of promise, and still do, frustratingly so, for reasons that are obvious to any thinking supporter of this President. On the balance sheet of pros and cons, the most important considerations being Supreme Court appointments and holding on to the few gains we have made — health care reform such as it is, preserving the rights of gays to marriage and open military service, of women to family planning services — those critically important policy agenda items outweigh all else and demand the President's re-election.

Which is infuriating to progressives who feel we must oppose the President as vigorously as we defend him from his adversaries on the right who would destroy his presidency. When the Tea Party prevented John Boehner from taking the so-called "Grand Bargain" President Obama had offered them, progressives from Senator Bernie Sanders on down the line exhaled an audible sigh of relief. The Beltway Media that, let us be clear, is an arm of the corporate ruling class and counts itself among the top two or three percent highest wage earners in the nation praised this raw deal to the heavens. Only the other day, President Obama was back at it in a network interview, lamenting that the Tea Party had rejected his total capitulation "Grand Bargain," which in his mind was a "fair and balanced" deal. All the same, John Boehner said he got 98 percent of what he wanted. He wasn't too far off the mark.

The fire sale could still come from the President's unconstitutional "supercommittee." Progressives are counting on Senator Patty Murray to stand strong — not so much John Kerry, who is salivating over being the next Secretary of State, a plum which the President is dangling in front of him, and least of all Max Baucus, who is the President's ideological twin in the Senate. So the President can count on two votes to sell the American people down the river on deep spending and "entitlement" cuts. Which pits Senator Murray behind the eight ball since all the President needs is for one Democrat to flip to make significant elements of his Grand Sellout come to pass. Which didn't stop the Republican extremists from viciously attacking Murray's appointment. Just on general "principle" because they have so thoroughly neutered this President.

Still, the President can count on a large pool of uncritical support among African Americans, who have been hardest hit by this deep economic recession, and his friends in the media who have chosen to push back against the formidable right wing forces arrayed against him. Even so, if not for Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz reporting from the front lines in Republican-controlled states, ordinary people whom Mr. Obama has effectively abandoned to the wolves, would not have anyone to carry their voices nationally. The President has been MIA on this just cause. Oh, he'll utter a few bromides about how terrible the people's plight is and then crawl right back into his defensive crouch.

The extent to which the pro-Obama media has held him largely unaccountable is unsurprising but disappointing nonetheless. On one level, I can understand it: When you break bread with the President, hang out with his closest advisers, have cocktails with Valerie Jarrett, it's difficult then to turn around and criticize this President. At some point — soon — they've got to step it up and do their jobs. This country is in trouble and they have a responsibility to come to grips with this presidency in a more realistic way. Just saying.

To be fair, some of the President's biggest early supporters in the media are taking a more critical approach. Jonathan Alter is one; Frank Rich, who said Mr. Obama was too "passive" is another. But for each one of these criticisms, there is a Melissa Harris-Perry (whose insights I very much enjoy) to make the obvious but wrong-headed assertion that Mr. Obama is not "Superman."

With all due respect, Melissa, this Nixonian notion that the President (for our narrow purposes) is a "pitiful, helpless giant" is relatively new in our political discourse, perhaps generational, and completely off the mark. It plays right into the hands of the right in this country whose aim is to cripple the power and effectiveness of this President, in particular. Read your history, Melissa, okay? You don't even have to look too far back, just to the LBJ presidency to take note of how LBJ generally got his way with Congress or anyone else who opposed him, and thoroughly enjoyed the hand-to-hand combat.

Speaking of Superman, we actually did have one as President. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ironic isn't it, because FDR was a paraplegic. Every president brings some particular "baggage" to the White House. Each has particular challenges which they must overcome. The great ones use these challenges as incentives to take that bull by the horns, and tame it. Those who do not tend to focus on the limitations of the office until it becomes a paralyzing self-fulfilling prophecy and sinks their presidency.

Progressives who are infuriated by this President conceding to the other side the terms and conditions of the debate and narrative which got him elected without spelling out the competing narrative (nice try Rachel, but it's mealy-mouthed nonpartisan bullshit) are beginning to realize that we've got to take this fight to the right ourselves — this President is missing-in-action and is likely to remain so for the duration. Come what may, we must hold the line against the unprecedented assault of the oligarchy and its right wing storm troopers to destroy the New Deal, from Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid, even attacking a citizen's right to vote, striking down labor laws and the rights of unions to organize and bargain collectively — with President Obama's apparent collaboration. Unions, he said, must "sacrifice."

Which brings me to this MUST READ essay by Drew Westen, appropriately titled "What Happened to Obama?" Mr. Westen is professor of psychology at Emory University and the author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.” He brilliantly lays out the frustration felt by many Obama supporters with his presidency. We thought we were voting for a transformational president; what we got instead was a transactional leader whose conciliatory and conservative approach to the office is not what these times demand. The injustice in this nation is growing by the day, Mr. President. Bobby Kennedy said it beautifully:
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ~Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation Address, University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Out Of The 'Bunch Of Grapes' Bookstore

It's in idyllic Martha's Vineyard where President Obama happens to be vacationing. He was spotted in the bookstore carrying a stack of books, one of which happened to be the Aldous Huxley dystopian classic, Brave New World.

Oh my.

News of Mr. Obama's purchase touched off something of a viral eruption on the internets, across the ideological spectrum. The snarky right wing blogosphere which smears first and asks questions later, was quick to feed its commercial paranoid delusions of the President as a scary black Kenyan socialist out to re-engineer our liberties away. Here's a typical offering from the libertarian right that equates universal healthcare with sacrificing one's liberty — to die of terminal cancer in the gutter. (What's the difference between the Tea Party and libertarians? Libertarians are college-educated Teabaggers who want to get laid and hang out with Dylan Ratigan and his harem of lovelies.)
Interesting that the president would chose [sic - it's "choose"]  for relaxing vacation reading, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley‘s famous 1932 novel. Maybe he has never read it, or maybe he wanted a refresher read.

In either case he may find some similarities between Huxley’s seemingly ideal but actually twisted dystopia and the destination to which his own stultifying governing policies would lead.


I do hope the president gets Huxley’s basic message: that the unacceptable price of government-controlled universal happiness will be the absolute sacrifice of our liberty — in exchange for an insipid “happiness” that is anything but.

You’re feeling a bit nervous?

Here – take a soma.

Obamacare anyone?

Have a nice day!
But others should know better; like the Gray Lady's frivolous "flame-head flamethrower" Maureen Dowd, who found her column's hook when President Obama chanced upon a town called Alpha, Illinois (seriously) then was fortuitously seen purchasing Brave New World at the 'Bunch Of Grapes' bookstore. (MEMO to President Obama: Next time order the book through a proxy — Valerie Jarrett? — and make sure it arrives in plain brown paper wrapping.)

As our libertarian pal explains:
Embryos are mass produced conditioned to belong to one of five official castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon. ... The Alpha embryos are destined to become the leaders and thinkers of the World State and view only MSNBC-TV.
Gee, now that's a cheap shot; everyone knows the future "leaders and thinkers of the World State" watch Fox and the caste system predicted in Brave New World is already a reality. Just ask Warren Buffett. He said all this "class warfare" talk is old news to keep the Tea Party zombies riled up. They've already had a class war and, Buffett noted wryly, "my class won."

Here's Maureen Dowd on President Obama:
There were no pictures allowed of him at the Vineyard Golf Club, only shots of the president shopping for books with his daughters. He was seen in the Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Friday holding “Brave New World.” Maybe he was brushing up on dystopias and alphas.
There's only one problem with all this kerfuffle over the President's Brave New World purchase. It wasn't for him. The LA Times reports that "[i]t was unclear which books Obama ultimately purchased at Bunch of Grapes, but “Brave New World” was most likely for his 13-year-old daughter, Malia. The book is required reading for eighth-grade students at Sidwell Friends School, where she attends.

Oops. To which I can only say:

BIG BROTHER DOES NOT APPROVE of Malia's school assignment. So here's a little assignment for those myopic (read that, lazy) commenters who jumped the shark on the President's book purchase — no excuses for Maureen Dowd who should have (?) some of the best researchers and fact checkers in the business just down the hall ... refresh your observational skills by figuring this out: