February 1, 2009Little Things Mean a Lot -- In the first 10 days of Obama's administration Congress passed and he signed a bill Bush had vetoed twice, which will give 4 million children healthcare coverage who did not have it. Bush was against anything that wasn't war. Meanwhile, this is one positive thing that can be enjoyed even if in fact the people are right who say that Obama is just a new face for the same old corporate power structure that owns and rules the country. These little differences can make very big differences to many people. truthout.org
February 2, 2009Emergency Centre Plans -- "A bill proposed by Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings would set up a series of emergency centres on U. S. military installations. House Resolution 645 provides that no fewer than six such centres will be built and would give emergency aid, housing and relief services for citizens during a time of disaster or national emergency." centrepointnews.com
February 3, 2009Rush Limbaugh Ugh! -- How gross a human being he is! For the Republicans he serves to swerve the public dialogue so far to the extreme right that it keeps the "center" far to the right of where public opinion actually falls. Here is this guy who talks the hard line against drug addicts and then turns out to be one himself, who was preaching extreme measures against other addicts, but who, when he was caught himself, of course paid no penalty. Here is a spokesman for the "family values" party who refers to the new president in terms of a metaphor of anal sex, and using himself as an example. "So we're just supposed to bend over and grab our ankles..." evoking the image of himself receiving anal sex from Obama. What could be a more grotesque image to introduce into the political debate? Who would want to have any kind of sex with Limbaugh? Yet this giant hunk of flab rules the Republican party. He has Republican congressmen crawling to him. How could he be a spokesman or leader for anything but the most foul gang of thugs?
February 4, 2009Enough with the Wars Already -- Norman Solomon writes, "The United States began its war in Afghanistan 88 months ago. 'The war on terror' has no sunset clause. As a perpetual emotion machine, it offers to avenge what can never heal and to fix grief that is irreparable... The US war effort in Afghanistan owes itself to the enduring 'war on terrorism,' chasing a holy grail of victory that can never be." Quoting Joan Didion: "We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of Sept. 11 to justify the reconception of America's correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war." And from the Vietnam War era, Richard Farina: "And death will be our darling and fear will be our name." truthout.org
February 5, 2009Go Obama -- Obama announced a $500,000 CEO salary cap on heads of failed banks who are taking government handouts to subsidize their failed enterprises. A basic, common sense of justice makes this a self evident judgment. But we have been in an environment where that kind of outrageous corporate thievery has gone unquestioned. Yes!
Mad Dick -- Cheney poked his malign head out from whatever hole he enjoys his war millions in to warn America that the Obama administration was going to cause America to be attacked again because those people are too liberal, "more interested in reading Miranda rights to an Al Qaeda member than protecting America." The madness of Cheney has such a different visage in repose. Without the power of the US military at his hip his malevolence takes on a comic shade. Media Mad -- This Blagojevich character. What kind of mad creature is this? He's like the Cheshire Cat. What is the story? It seemed like an open and shut book long ago. Now he's appearing on David Letterman. It's all very through-the-looking-glass. Letterman says there are some people who will say you are here because you can pollute the jury pool, make it so no one can be found who has no prejudice in the case. But then, why Dave do you have him on your show? Why indeed. Blagojevich sits with that incorrigible grin on his face in front of an audience who despises him, scorns him. What sort of personality chases that kind of celebrity at the expense of his last shred of dignity?
February 6, 2009Changing Times -- It is fascinating to see the times changing. There is a short window in which to observe this clearly. Very soon everyone will become used to the new situation and will forget what it was like before.
No, our troubles aren't over, they have only begun. But it is very different to have Obama in the White House than it was to have Bush and Cheney and their pack of mad dogs running the show. Today Obama met with people who lost family members in 9/11 or the attack on the USS Cole. One of them appeared on Keith Olbermann's Countdown. She said some them had been trying to meet with Bush for years, but "he just turned them down flat." According to the one who appeared with Olbermann, they were all amazed that Obama chose to meet with them.
It is a striking difference in personality that makes a huge difference the way the White House operates. And that influence radiates outward. There is a great deal of power inherent in the presidency, and every personality characteristic is magnified and projected.
Bush was not a democratically elected president. He was a defeated candidate who pushed himself into power with his mob and his colossal audacity. He never had a feel for the people because he never cared about them for a minute. He cared about him and his and they had ways to manipulate elections, so he never really had to concern himself all that much about the will of the people. And he showed it. Every action or gesture broadcast his contempt for the people. He knew people didn't really elect him, and he seemed to hate them for it. He thumbed his nose at the world for eight years.
But it's not all about Obama. It's a different world. Different things are possible. Different things are acceptable. George Carlin told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann he was the best thing going on TV news. Now Rachel Maddow is on MSNBC, bridging the gap between Olbermann and Jon Stewart, who covered the news better on Comedy Central than real news stations. Maddow has taken prime time news to another place. She gives the best analysis of events on TV news. It's unapologetically intelligent and does not talk down to its audience. It also pokes ridicule at political figures in the news, appropriately. A year ago there was nothing like her on the air. And her ratings are strong. According to the New York Observer, she "doubled the audience for a cable news channel's 9 p.m. hour in a matter of days."
Early in the year Maddow joined MSNBC as an analyst while still doing a daily show on Air America Radio. During the election season commentary she fell into a dialectical partnership with affable right wing madman Pat Buchanan. She was easily a match for him in repartee, and was able to make tough points while remaining good natured. When MSNBC gave her her own show in September, she looked nervous at first. All her guests started by saying, "Congratulations on the show, Rachel." She was out of nowhere, and so uncharacteristic of the standard dull-witted conformists usually thrust in our faces by the TV news business. She seemed out of place, and if she failed to bring good ratings, she would have been bounced in a minute. Instead she was a big hit. She represents a point of view that was effectively suppressed and discredited for years. This is the release of the spirit of the American people that was pent-up during the Bush-Cheney assault on America.
To hear these clowns like Andy Card and Dick Cheney coming out now complaining about the way Obama is handling the presidency after what they did to this country is outrageous. For Andrew Card to say that not wearing a tie in the Oval Office is an affront to the U.S. Constitution after the way his mob shredded the Constitution is beyond arrogance. The Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act when the country was still in shock a few days after 9/11. Though the attacks supposedly took them completely by surprise, the voluminous Patriot Act was all set to go a few days after the attacks, and it explicitly negated most of the rights protected by the Constitution. Their dismissal of habeus corpus, of the right of the imprisoned to be shown charges, the use of torture, their attempt to politicize the justice system and many other things were far greater violations of the Constitution than occasionally taking off the suit jacket in the Oval Office. These guys are deeply misguided.
Cheney is grumbling that any change Obama makes in their most oppressive, outrageous policies will bring on another attack on the US. Somehow they are always able to gloss over the fact that it was on their watch that the country received its worst blow ever. For a while they were able to manipulate that into support for Bush. But the transparency of the lies eventually caught up with them. The extremes to which Bush was able to go to manipulate and abuse the trust of the people eventually destroyed his credibility. No one believed in him in the end, virtually no one.
So finally the administration that should have never been is gone. The unelected, unwelcome, alien administration is finally deposed. At least we can hope they are gone. But the full-on assault by the Republicans on Obama's attempt to stimulate the economy shows that there isn't going to be any honeymoon. These guys do not play nice. They are like the bully who cries if anyone stands up to him, and demands political civility, but the minute your guard is down will crack you in the face.
It was good to see Obama become stern today with the Republicans that are obstructing his stimulus bill and advocating only more tax-cuts and more laissez faire capitalism. The days of playing nice with the Republicans are over. Hardball is all these guys understand or respect. So now the new constellation begins to fall into shape. The new world takes form.
February 7, 2009Time to Get Tough, Barack -- As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said (forbes.com), more Bush-style tax cuts for the rich are not going to help the US come out of recession. These Byzantine Republican lunatics are driving the whole country over a cliff. They don't care that they were resoundingly rejected in the polls nationally. The House members obviously survived, so they know their consituencies still support them. But they are religious and economic fundamentalists who have no clue about reality and don't even want to know. They would rather get their way even if it pulls the country into a full-fledged catastrophe. It is obvious that Obama's attempts to achieve "bipartisanship" with these animals will only be used against him. They see a conciliatory approach as weakness and seek only to gain an advantage from it. Obama is getting the message. Compromising with these people will only dilute the program to the extent that it won't do any good anymore. As Krugman says in his column in the New York Times today, "What should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts." But now the stakes are really high. The party that wanted to abolish the Department of Education and shrink government until they could "drown it in the bathtub" are on the verge of succeeding in crippling this country. It is lunacy. It's hard to figure out what drives them. But they can't be given the power to further break down the country.
February 8, 2009Inside the Obamanian Cranium -- Fascinating speculations on 9/11 and the mind of Barack Obama by Michael Hasty at onlinejournal.com. One of the most intriguing quotes is the reference to a film reviewer in the London Sunday Times who said that "if the truth of 9/11 gets out, it will essentially destroy the present world order." That is, if there is still anything left of the old world order. The way things are going there is less and less reason to hold onto the world order that stands so unsteadily today. Hasty also quotes from a letter sent from then-Senator Obama to someone who wrote to him about concerns with the official story about 9/11. Amazing to see how the formerly clear-thinking Obama accommodates to the madness of the presidency.
Random Acts of Responsibility -- The Sunday Times reports that Obama has "put [the] brake" on the Afghan surge. According to the Times, "President Barack Obama has demanded that American defence chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge. There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy. The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Robert Gates, the defence secretary, postponed the decision after questions from Obama. The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the US joint chiefs of staff last month in 'the tank', the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: 'What's the endgame?' and did not receive a convincing answer." This is extremely encouraging. The new president is finding his footing. The Pentagon is getting ready to let loose. But Obama is requiring them to be responsible and present an objective, something that may not have occurred to them. Who needs a reason, they wonder, for war? When Will We Find Out? Gene Cappa at opednews.com asks, "Obama Should Commission An Independent 9/11 Special Prosecutor Investigation?" Well, probably not right this minute. But one wonders, when a major crime has never been subjected to the rigor of a court or an investigation that was not controlled by the administration that resisted any investigation at all for over a year, when the official story relies on a one-day suspension of the physical laws of the universe to stand, how long will it be before the phony story just collapses and loses all credibility to the whole world? It will be interesting to see the evolution of all of this as the world culture evolves beyond the anti-science, anti-democracy, anti-transparency Bush administration loses its hold on power. Just as the Scalia-Supreme Court decision Bush vs Gore specified that it could never be used as a precedent in any other case, the 9/11 story requires us to suspend science, as the Bush administration did when it censored scientific information from government reports about global warming, or the toxicity of the atmosphere in the days after 9/11. The Bush administration took fundamentalist, anti-science views on global warming, stem cell research, evolution vs creationism. It is exciting to think of how social evolution will progress with the removal of the fundamentalist blinders of the Bush administration. They were fundamenatlist Christians, fundamentalist free market capitalists and fundamentalists of militarist imperialism. Though the Bush administration crippled the country economically and spiritually, we also are seeing the release of the tremendous pent-up energy of living under such an oppressive government. When you take off the chains and blindfolds, who knows what can happen? Shirtsleeves in the Oval Office -- Andrew Card lecturing about dress at a time like this. No wonder the Bush administration was such a failure. Bush himself worked in shirtsleeves in the Oval Office. democraticunderground.com More Tax Money for KBR -- Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Cheney's Halliburton, just won another $35 million defense contract even though it is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq. AP The Chomsky Lens -- "It was pretty clear that Obama would accept the Bush doctrine that the United States can bomb Pakistan freely... The first message of the Pakistani government to General [David] Petraeus, the American General when he took command of the region was that they did not want any more bombings in Pakistan. Actually, the first message to the new Obama administration by President [Hamid] Karzai of Afghanistan was the same, that he wanted no more bombings. He also said that he wants a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign troops, US and other troops, from Afghanistan. That was of course just ignored." On George Mitchell and the Middle East. "George Mitchell is, of the various appointments that have been made, he is the most decent let's say. He has a pretty decent record. He achieved something in Northern Ireland, but of course, in that case there was an objective. The objective was that the British would put an end to the resort to violence in response to IRA terror and would attend to the legitimate grievances that were the source of the terror. He did manage that, Britain did pay attention to the grievances, and the terror stopped- so that was successful. But there is no such outcome sketched in the Middle East, specially the Israel-Palestine problem. I mean, there is a solution, a straightforward solution very similar to the British one. Israel could stop its US-backed crimes in the occupied territories and then presumably the reaction to them would stop. But that's not on the agenda." Znet
February 14, 2009The Real, Underlying Change -- "The old world is crashing down, welcome back the older," writes Jan Lundberg. See culturechange.org
Third Time, the Charm? House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers subpoenaed Karl Rove a third time. Rove says he still will not comply. huffingtonpost.co Statesman or Politician? Principle or expedience? Jonathan Turley writes about the obligation to investigate war crimes, "This has been a uniquely bad week for civil libertarians. The Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations."
February 22, 2009Back From Israel -- Back in the USA after a 10-day trip to Israel that really turned my head around. Much to absorb and assimilate. It's always much different to see a place in person than to read about it. Surprised at the extent to which Jews, Muslims and Christians do actually live together cooperatively. Much to think about. Learning more, knowing less.
It's interesting to see the way the US missile strikes in Pakistan are being played in the media. They are being flashed quickly and then put aside and forgotten. The emphasis is on the excitement of the new administration, the glamour of the new young first family, the glory of America finally electing a black president, forever vanquishing the country of all its prior sins. The drama of the news shows is built around new battles shaping up between Republicans and Democrats. There is little discussion of the missile strikes, of whether it matters that we are breaking international law to launch strikes inside a sovereign country against the will of its government. By not discussing whether or not the US has the right to do it, or whether it is good for the American people, it is implicit that there is no question. It is not a matter in question. The further implication is that it is unanimously approved. There is no protest, no nay vote. It shows in clear relief that the people who are in control are still in control notwithstanding the promotion of a new president to the front line of the political theater.
Yesterday there were missile strikes, today it has vanished from Google's news page. It vanished. Did it happen? What is happening? People are still being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has all been submerged in a glitzy, star-studded presentation about the exciting new president.
Yes, I do believe there has been meaningful change, brought about by a great popular effort and led by the talented young leader. But incidents like the bombings in Pakistan provide perspective.
Obama has some reckonings ahead. His popularity is reminiscent of the popularity of Muhammad Ali, much of which was won by the way he stood up to the establishment against the war and paid a huge price for doing it. Obama is behaving intelligently under the circumstances. Like Ali, he may be designated the world champ, but there are powers greater than he. His test will be after he has mastered this fundamental layer of leadership. If he is successful on these initial levels, meeting the challenge of the economic collapse primarily, he will be challenged to leave a real mark on the country, and then we'll see what he does. Will he rise to the occasion as Ali did? As Lincoln did? Even Lincoln did not live to fulfill the second part of his agenda, the healing, the reconstruction. We shall see.
Meanwhile it is important to bear in mind that we have now a transfer of power, not a political revolution. The power to create a nonviolent political revolution is still latent within the people and the situation. Obama is using the Web to organize large numbers of people. It is possible to build power on a popular base as opposed to a financial one. It requires people remaining active, fighting for their causes.
We may be in for some very tough economic weather and these speculations may turn out to seem very naive. Early in the Bush term I marveled at how much he had been able to re-run the Nazi play book without having any economic catastrophe in the U.S. as there was in Germany when the Nazis grabbed power. Economically things were pretty good in the U.S. when Bush shoved his way into power. But he was able to use 9/11 to create a panic as great as the economic collapse of the 1930s was for Germany. Finally he left us with an economic collapse too.
Other Indications that the permanent government is still fully in control, we see Obama backing the Bush position that Afghan prisoners have no legal rights. (huffingtonpost.com)
February 25, 2009Inside The Warfare State -- Last night on the news I saw Tony Blankley interviewed about the stimulus package. Blankley is a dandy conservative who was Newt Gingrich's spokesman during Gingrich's reign, and was more recently a regular guest on the McLaughlin Group. He's a columnist in the Washington Times and now he's the vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington. Blankley was complaining about how universal healthcare will cost $200 billion. He said it as if it should be obvious to everyone that the exorbitance of the project makes it out of the question. The $700 billion defense budget doesn't even count
Check out military spending for a second. The United States is responsible for 48 percent of the military spending of the entire world. Military domination of the globe was the stated Bush policy. More than half of the entire U.S. budget goes for the military. (warresisters.org)
The cost of the Iraq war is up to almost $600 trillion (nationalpriorities.org). These military expenditures have destroyed the country. According to globalresearch.ca, "Military Spending: Cost of Iraq War is but the Tip of the Iceberg. Since 1948, an accumulated defense budget of more than 20 trillion dollars has sunk the US Economy."
I'm tired of Republicans yakking about fiscal responsibility. This whole idea that Democrats are big spenders and the Republicans are fiscal conservatives is ludicrous. They only object to domestic spending, giving money back to the people, investing back in the country. Military spending is okay. It doesn't count as spending.
Blankley is carping about spending $200 billion to provide universal healthcare. Under Bush, Congress gave AIG, one corporation, $150 billion, no strings attached. But $200 billion to provide healthcare for every American is too much. Whew!
February 26, 2009Browne vs. McCain -- Jackson Browne is kicking some butt, going after the John McCain campaign for using one of his songs in a commercial without asking. New York Times
Right Wing Crazy Promoted by CBS -- CBS's new vice president of communications is a Republican activist who recently said, "Obama is incredibly dangerous." huffingtonpost.com No Inherent Rights -- The Obama administration is sticking with Bush's policy that U.S. detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts. More Off to War -- Obama signed off on sending more troops to Afghanistan. Raw Story Riots in America? Rob Kall -- OpEd News Sacrificial Lamb -- Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, made a big scene out of rejecting the unemployment benefits that will come to his state because of the stimulus bill. He didn't turn down the rest of the money, just the part that would have gone to help unemployed people in his state. After Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Jindal was the Republican designated to give the rebuttal speech. He went on and meandered around starting with a summary of Obama's life story, which is familiar to most Americans by now. He then told his own story, drawing comparisons to Obama. He went on to pan the stimulus package. But it looks like even Republicans didn't think he went over so well. bloomberg.com.
February 27, 2009Rabid Dogs -- Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek, writes that the GOP has its pack of mad dogs loose again, just like it did when Clinton was president. (see truthout.org) Bipartisanship? What a laugh! It is total war and that's the only way these guys play. During the Clinton years it was a total assault from beginning to end, giving $50 million to attack dog Ken Starr to get something on the Clintons, finally using Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky to nail him to the wall. The Republican party, what's left of it, is employing the same strategy again and hoping for the same success that they had with Clinton in the '90s.
The news stations, trying desperately to keep portraying the right wing view, are having trouble finding legitimate spokespeople for the Republican. The party has been narrowed down to a very extreme form of right wing thinking. So the only people they can find to scream the Republican message are people like Tom Delay, who was driven from office while under indictment, or the former governor of Maryland, Governor Bobby of Louisiana. The Republican party has reduced itself to such a narrow spectrum of ideology it has marginalized itself almost out of existence. It's hard to find anyone of any stature who will speak for it.
-- David Cogswell