Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Tax Cuts Are Their Jesus" In 2009 Too

(Note: That's a quote from actor Bradley Whitford, formerly of "The West Wing," on "Real Time With Bill Maher" a couple of years ago - referring to the Repugs, of course.)

U.S. News and World Report's Gloria Borger says the following (from here, in yet another "oh God the Dems are having another hissy fit even though the congressional Repugs did this for years and we ignored it" column)...

If there were eight years in which to spend the money, it might be different. But the new administration is looking for what he describes as "a very quick jolt -- and that's hard to do without a combination of things."

Do the corporate tax cuts help to bring in some GOP votes? Sure. But please explain why there is something wrong with that.
Fair enough - I'll do my best.

It's because tax cuts don't do a damn thing to stimulate the economy, that's why. They end up as saved income in the pockets of the investor class.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to Paul Krugman, who tells us from here that...

...there’s a reasonable economic case for including a significant amount of tax cuts in the (Obama stimulus) package, mainly in year one.

But the numbers being reported — 40 percent of the whole, two-year plan — sound high. And all the news reports say that the high tax-cut share is intended to assuage Republicans; what this presumably means is that this was the message the off-the-record Obamanauts were told to convey.

And that’s bad news.

Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they’ll demand 100%. Then they’ll start the thing about how you can’t cut taxes on people who don’t pay taxes (with only income taxes counting, of course) and demand that the plan focus on the affluent. Then they’ll demand cuts in corporate taxes. And Mitch McConnell is already saying that state and local governments should get loans, not aid — which would undermine that part of the plan, too.
And as noted above, you have the antics of Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao here, calling for a tax cuts on the "middle class" which for them is anyone who is a multi-millionaire (h/t Media Matters).

If ANY Democrat doesn't know by now that trying to sign on to a Repug scheme masquerading as anything but what it is (namely, yet another attack on the vast majority of working men and women and families in this country) is a bet for suckers, then they never will (though I'm sure Obama does; if by some miracle over time he can lead us to better days, rest assured that the Repugs and their acolytes in the media will give him credit for absolutely nothing).

Update 1/22/09: And oh yes, Borger was so "spot-on" here also, wasn't she?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Stuff

I know I laid into him with the "Joke Line" references in the past, but kudos to the senior Time correspondent for hitting the nail on the proverbial head concerning the damage wrought by Bushco to our image throughout the world (giving Hulu a try here)...

...and here's a review of the Errol Morris film, "Standard Operating Procedure," filmed from the perspective of those who participated in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib (and I'm sorry, but I can't absolve Lynndie England, though I of course agree totally with reviewer Jonathan Kim, particularly at the end - and by the way, I find this to be worrisome)...

...oh, and "Bush The Liberator"? Puh-leeeeeze!...

...and "switching gears" a bit, I didn't really have anything to say about the fact that yesterday would have been the 74th birthday of a guy named Elvis Aaron Presley, so with that in mind, here's "If I Can Dream" (10 days to go, people).

Doing Our Duty To Be Ever Informed

(I realize that sounds like the title of a high school civics class, but it's the best I can do.)

It’s been awhile since I found out what Paul Craig Roberts is up to (the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronnie Baby), but I checked today (here), and he confirms what we already knew…

The American print and TV media have never been very good. These days, they are horrible. If a person intends to be informed, he must turn to foreign news broadcasts, to Internet sites, to foreign newspapers available on the Internet or to alternative newspapers that are springing up in various cities.

It is the same propagandistic American print and TV media that have rationalized President Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan based on seven years of lies and deception.

It is the same media that today provide only Israeli propaganda as "coverage" of the Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

When the truth cuts against the position of the U.S. government, conservatives see it as "liberal."

When propaganda supports the government's lies, conservatives see it as "patriotic."

The public is slowly catching on, and the print media are slowly dying. The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times are all on the ropes to one extent or another.

Americans are still subjected to Fox "News" and CNN propaganda piped into airport waiting rooms, doctors' offices and exercise centers. It is very much the situation that George Orwell describes in "1984."

People ask me where they can get reliable information. I tell them that their goal cannot be reached without commitment of their time.

People who have access to television services that provide English language foreign broadcasts, such as Iran's Press TV, Russia Today or Al Jazeera, can get news and insights from those parts of the world demonized by the U.S. media.

The BBC World Service still reports facts while covering itself by providing the views of the U.S., British and Israeli governments.

Both the Asia Times and Israeli newspapers such as Haaretz can be read online in English. There are other such newspapers, and all of them provide information that Americans will never see in their own media. Any American newspaper that was as truthful about the Israeli government as Haaretz would be closed down.

The only U.S. print media with which I am familiar in which some honest reporting can be found on a regular basis is the McClatchy papers.
Given this, I think this post from Editor and Publisher Online is fortuitous; it tells us that veteran Boston Globe journalist Charles Sennott is starting a new venture called, which…

…will offer regular dispatches for an American audience to supplement coverage from the AP, Reuters and other news organizations still covering the world. GlobalPost also will sell stories to papers to run in print or online.

"We cannot cover every plane crash or be there for every press conference," Sennott said. "What we can do is have a network of talented writers who live in the places they write and who deliver stories that are comparable to a metro newspaper's columnist, stories that connect the dots, that give you a sense of a place in a relatively short space."

At launch, Boston-based GlobalPost will span nearly 50 countries, including Brazil, Indonesia and other regions that Sennott believes are undercovered in American media. Reporters also will be concentrated in key emerging markets like China and India.
I think this addresses the “open source” idea that Dan Froomkin of the WaPo notes here among his list of recommendations on how he believes Google can help the news business in this country to survive (definitely some good ideas there).

There are a lot of good sites out there noted by both Froomkin and Roberts that deserve our support if we’re going to obtain the information we need to develop intelligent viewpoints and make decisions in our best interest and that of our country.

Update 1/13/09: The fact that this asshat even gets the time of day from anyone is way beyond a joke.

Will A Trenton Triumph Cap Christie's Climb?

(And by the way, I also posted over here concerning another matter close to home.)

The New York Times reports here on something that had been anticipated for some time, and that is the entry of former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie into the race for governor as a Republican primary candidate.

Although Christie did obtain convictions as U.S. attorney against Republican office holders in Monmouth County, this Times story from last November also tells us that Christie made a name for himself primarily by prosecuting (and convicting) high-profile Democrats, including former Newark mayor Sharpe James and John A. Lynch Jr., former president of the State Senate.

And the November Times story features the following quote which I suspect will come back to haunt the current governor…

“Since President Bush appointed him U.S. attorney, Chris Christie has been a strong contributing actor” in efforts to improve the ethical standards of New Jersey politics, Mr. Corzine said.
Christie has conducted the typical slash-and-burn, politically-motivated Repug inquisitions into Democrats in the past that has definitely warmed the cockles of Bushco’s coal-black hearts, often engaging in theatrical tactics in the process, such as noted here when, as the story by Times Reporter David Kocieniewski tells us, “Mr. Christie’s office…began an investigation of Senator Robert Menendez in September 2006, two months before the election in which Mr. Menendez was seeking a full term.”

(It turns out that Menendez had leased a building to a social service agency for whom he had obtained federal financing, which Menendez had cleared through the Congressional Ethics Office, as the story tells us, something Christie could have learned himself before he decided to waste taxpayer dollars investigating Menendez, though, based on this, filing the charges against the Dem senator saved Christie’s job.)

The story with the Menendez note, by the way, deals chiefly with how Christie “drew the attention of the Justice Department’s criminal division and Congress after awarding tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to his friends and political allies” (love that pic of Ass-Croft in the story, by the way).

To be fair, though, Christie has vented his wrath against Republicans as well on occasion; in the same story where we learn about the Menendez investigation, we also find out that…

In 2002, when Mr. Christie’s office won an indictment against the Essex County executive, James Treffinger, a popular Republican, he was not permitted to surrender like most elected officials who find themselves in similar circumstances. Instead, Mr. Treffinger, who was about to begin a campaign for the United States Senate, was arrested and spent more than six hours in handcuffs and leg shackles.

Mr. Christie’s aides said that the decisions on how to arrest and detain Mr. Treffinger were made by the United States Marshal’s Service out of concern that Mr. Treffinger might have access to a gun.

But politicians and lawyers involved in the corruption case say that they knew that an informant had secretly recorded Mr. Treffinger making a vulgar derogatory comment about Mr. Christie’s hulking frame, and some former Treffinger aides contend that his harsh treatment was a payback.
It should also be noted that Christie benefitted from Dubya’s victory in the ’04 presidential election (not going to get into Ohio, I promise); as this Times analysis tells us, had Christie chosen to run in ’04, he would have competed in a field with former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, perpetual Repug candidate Doug Forrester, and State Senator and former T.V. anchorwoman Diane Allen (all three considered to have “star power” for the Repugs).

This time around, Christie will have to compete in a primary also, but he’ll have the James and Lynch convictions to use for bragging rights, as well as the fact that, though no charges were brought against former governor Jim McGreevey, he was referred to prominently in the indictment of a donor (Charles Kushner) who pleaded guilty to extorting campaign contributions.

Also, Christie is definitely no “wallflower” in the spotlight; this tells us how he phoned in to a Repug-friendly talk radio show and tried his best to tie Jesse Jackson, Jr. to the Blago scandal (the Blue Jersey post also provides a summary of how Christie ended up as a U.S. attorney to begin with – think “raising big dough for Bush/Cheney in 2000” and you go to the head of the class).

So we’ll see how Christie fares first in the Repug primary, and then if he emerges as the party standard bearer, I’m sure there’ll be stories and posting material galore.

And it should be a reasonably fair fight, even for Jersey standards, since, with a Dem attorney general in charge in Washington, Corzine won’t have to worry about being served a subpoena after mysteriously being named as “a person of interest in an ongoing investigation” in the timeframe of about September or October next year before the November election.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thursday Stuff

K.O. hosts Margaret Carlson from couple of days ago, who reports on one of the final acts of Bushco pettiness and stupidity, and that is the denial of the Obamas to move into Blair House before January 15th; hey, they're trying to settle in earlier so the girls can get used to new schools, O-KAAYY???...

...and TODD! is back to hawk a new recording ("Arena") and provide the following no-holds-barred commentary on the departing bunch at the White House in particular...

"The people who have been running the country are liars and cowards and hypocrites and perverts," he said. "And I wouldn't want all the rest of the men in the world to think that's how you succeed in life. Now that they are out of here, we have to ... reclaim what our traditional ideals were: You protect the weak, you bear up under the horrible burdens, and you seek the truth. ... You sacrifice for others."
Given that, I think the least I can do is put up this vid ("Black And White," a tune that I think has aged pretty well in 33 years).

Farewell To A Dupe

Father Richard John Neuhaus, someone who this USA Today post called, “a ‘key architect’ in aligning conservative Catholics with Protestant evangelicals, and ‘free market neo-conservatives’ with ‘faith and values’ social conservatives,” has died.

I have to admit that I did not pay a lot of attention to this man because I’ve spent so much of my time trying in my way to undo the damage he has done by providing a fig leaf of ideological cover for the gross misdeeds of our ruling cabal, who were only too happy to use the alliances Neuhaus helped forge to elect like-minded, corporatist neocons into public office and appoint them in courts across our country.

But as I read more, I realize that the following excerpts from here are fairly typical…

Neuhaus…became an outspoken advocate of "democratic capitalism," in which corporations are considered to have a virtuous role in public life. Neuhaus is perhaps best known for his thesis that the secular New Class and big government have crowded religion out of "the public square." Since the late 1970s, Neuhaus has argued that Judeo-Christianity should be reasserted back into this public square. He was an early proponent of faith-based policy initiatives and government intervention to promote Judeo-Christian values. During the 1980s, Neuhaus operated the Center on Religion and Society, which was a project of the Rockford Institute and which produced the quarterly journal This World. The Rockford Institute is firmly entrenched in the right's Old Guard, which from the mid-1970s through the 1980s was locked in an uneasy political alliance with the neoconservatives.

Neuhaus, the erstwhile antiwar activist who opposed the U.S. military intervention in Vietnam as an unjust war, has since the 1980s routinely provided theological backing for U.S. militarist ventures. Weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Neuhaus published an op-ed in the conservative National Catholic Register that cast the war on terrorism as part of the "clash of civilizations." According to Neuhaus: "The West is now being compelled to recognize itself more clearly for what most Muslims perceive it to be—the Christian West, or Christendom." Neuhaus, a self-declared "moralist" and "theologian," asserted: "Just war, aimed at establishing just peace, is the mandatory course of charity."

On March 10, 2003, just prior to the Iraq invasion, Neuhaus gave his blessing to the preventive war. Invoking the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Neuhaus said that the planned invasion would be a "just war" because "war is sometimes a moral duty in order to overturn injustice and protect the innocent."
As you ponder how the Iraq war has “protected the innocent,” please recall once more that it has resulted in approximately 2 million refugees from that country, as noted here.


After elaborating the theological foundations that he said makes preventive war "justified and necessary," Neuhaus gave his imprimatur to the Bush administration's attacks on the credibility and value of the United Nations, while taking antiwar Catholics to task for unduly backing the flawed multilateral institution. "In view of the UN's frequent hostility to the Church on family policy, population, the sacredness of human life, and related matters," advised Neuhaus, "some Catholic leaders may come to regret their exaggerated and, I believe, ill-considered statements about the moral authority of the UN" (ZENIT, March 10, 2003, cited in First Things, October 2005).
Am I to understand that this man criticized Catholics such as myself who have opposed Dubya’s Iraq war from its inception merely because we favored UN mediation instead, particularly given that those in our executive branch failed so miserably to make their case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to us (with Neuhaus disapproving of the UN because it was “(frequently hostile) to the Church on family policy, population, the sacredness of human life, and related matters”)?

The ideological landscape of this country is strewn with those who, for legitimate or disingenuous reasons, once stood with individuals referred to in as sneering a way as possible by neocons as “the left” prior to the conservative ascendancy. However, at that moment, they “jumped ship” because they could see how much of this country was turning to “the right” because of the easy answers that side offered to the daunting questions of war, peace, prosperity, security, and whether or not this country would continue to reward success while still providing for its most disadvantaged citizens.

And from what I can determine, Father Neuhaus gave ideological cover to the individuals who benefitted enormously from that shift, at our great, eternal expense.

I really can’t think of a word to describe how depressing it is that an individual who took Holy Orders to minister to those of my faith could do such a thing. I would only add that, though he imagined God smiling upon him, Neuhaus truly did the work of the devil.

Maybe Number 60 In 2010?

According to The Daily Kos (here), it looks like Missouri Repug Sen. Christopher Samuel “Kit” Bond won’t seek another term.

I know it’s easy to overlook Bond’s own peculiar brand of wingnuttery, but fortunately, that’s why bloggers exist, including yours truly. So, with that in mind…

  • This tells us of how Bond warned that, were Barack Obama to win the presidency, he would nominate judges who empathize with “the gay,” again, assuming somehow that there’s only one.

  • This tells us that Bond tried to kill a proposed new program in which mortgage holders would refinance hundreds of thousands of at-risk home loans in return for Federal Housing Administration backing of the reworked loans.

  • This tells us that Bond believed waterboarding to be “like swimming, freestyle, backstroke.”

  • This tells us that Bond (with help from his Repug pals) concocted the supposed “issue” of who exactly it was who sent Ambassador Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate the infamous (and utterly bogus) claim that Saddam Hussein had bought uranium from that country for militarized enrichment.

  • This tells us of a typically self-aggrandizing photo op for Bond in Iraq.

  • This tells us that Bond was one of two senators to vote against repealing a USA Patriot Act provision used by the Bush administration to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation (Chuck Hagel was the other).

  • This tells us that Bond blew off a Senate debate on the Iraq war shortly after the 110th Congress convened.

  • This tells us that, among other things, Bond actually earned a negative rating from the Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP…wow, talk about an endangered species!). The Wikipedia article also tells us that Bond was instrumental in the firing of U.S. Attorney Todd Graves for his investigation into Missouri Repug U.S. House Rep Sam Graves (no relation).
  • So good luck with your retirement, “Kit”; I’m sure you’ll just be so pleased to be roaring at the crickets and the backyard wildlife from the view of your porch instead of inflicting this treatment on your constituents from the chamber of the U.S. Senate (and this post from earlier today tells us of the doings of one of Bond’s ideological kinsmen in the House, and in PA in particular).

    Update 1: Here's more from brownsox at The Daily Kos.

    Update 2 1/28/09: Can't leave soon enough if you ask me (here)...

    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    And by the way, I'll just bet those crazy kids in Mississippi (here) got their sex ed from this video (and to think, I once wore wide lapels and cotton/poly blend print shirts like this doofus)...

    ...The Editors ("Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors" on BBC2's "Later...With Jools Holland").

    The "O" List

    I’ve spent some time over the last few days trying to come up with a list of issues to be addressed by incoming President-Elect Barack Obama and his administration, and here they are (incomplete I know, and I’ll admit that there’s a lot of “If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring” stuff – also, if anyone out there is disposed to suggest changes or additions, be my guest). I figured that, if there was ever a time for this sort of thing, it was now before he took the oath of office.

    Also, I tried to place these items in order of importance, but I’ll admit that some items should probably be higher up on the list than others, so here goes…

  • Withdraw the majority of our forces from Iraq within 16 months, leaving behind a combat presence to supplement Iraq security forces as needed within the parameters of the status of forces agreement (noted here – oh, and by the way, rescind the ban of filming or photography of caskets returning to this country from the war, OK?).

  • Work to stabilize (as much as possible) Afghanistan without further destabilizing Pakistan and making sure neither fortifies itself as a safe haven for terrorists (and no, I don’t have a clue as to how to do that either, to be honest; I thought this was a good recent column on the subject by Bob Herbert of the New York Times…I would only say that we need to maintain a presence of some type in that area of the world to capitalize on any circumstances that would enable us to capture or kill bin Laden).

  • Appoint a special independent counsel to investigate all members of the Bush Administration as necessary concerning the matter of the commission of war crimes (including the events that led up to September 11th).

  • Provide as much of an economic stimulus as required to encourage infrastructure investment and enable credit liquidity that would spur job creation; part of this stimulus should provide relief for some mortgage holders trapped by the subprime loan debacle.

  • Appoint an individual working within the Commerce department (or a team) to determine the status of our infrastructure and the scope of the task at hand to repair it, as well as the cost, coordinating with federal, state and local governments and NGOs; this includes roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit stations, ports, and public works facilities (this will take awhile).

  • Achieve health care coverage for all by supporting employer-based insurance (assisted by a small business health tax credit) or offering a National Health Insurance Exchange for those without employer-paid insurance, providing cost incentives for health care providers to participate in the exchange.

  • As part of the economic stimulus, encourage use of renewable energy sources and development of hybrid vehicles (I would argue for more mass transit funding also as part of the infrastructure stuff above).

  • Determine the legal status of each detainee held at Guantanamo; if no case can be made, either return them to their country of origin or determine an alternate location, or if a case can be made, do so and incarcerate them pending trial in our civilian courts.

  • At a minimum, allow the cut to the estate tax to expire, as well as any other tax cuts originating from the Bush Administration, by no later than 2010 (or earlier if possible).

  • Begin peace talks for real in pursuit of cessation of hostilities and eventual reconciliation between Israel and Palestine, including a two-state solution pending the resolution of the status of Jerusalem, the “right-of-return” question and the end of settlement construction in the Palestinian territories (yeah, I know – good luck with that).

  • Renew support for the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming, and encourage the Senate to ratify UNCLOS once and for all (or attempt to renegotitate it to facilitate passage).

  • Conduct a thorough review of all Bush Administration “midnight rules” and attempt to remedy them through either new Congressional legislation or implementation of the Congressional Review Act.

  • Invest in early childhood education and reform (or scrap outright) NCLB so that talented educators are no longer constrained to “teach to the test” only (and conduct open bidding among vendors for all contracts, not just for those affecting NCLB and the Department of Education, but ALL government agencies).

  • Establish Net Neutrality through an act of Congress as the guiding principle behind all application development concerning personal computers and dependent software, as well as the Internet and other emerging forms of communication.

  • Encourage and support legislation mandating that all congressional earmarks to legislation are disclosed under penalty of law.

  • Require Congress to provide periodic status reports concerning the implementation of ALL recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

  • Encourage Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that ensures a path to citizenship for illegal aliens that maintain a job history, pay taxes and avoid convictions for criminal offenses (and halt construction of the border fence pending an environmental review).

  • Cease development and/or construction of a “space-based missile defense shield” in Europe once and for all (but tell our ol’ buddy Vlad that that’s contingent upon his acceptance of Georgia into NATO and see if he goes for it).

  • Evaluate any progress in negotiations with North Korea on the matter of plutonium enrichment and nuclear stockpiles and develop a new framework to ensure that all materials are accounted for and production is halted.

  • Begin low-level discussion with Iran in pursuit of a halt to military-related nuclear activity, including a program of UN verification tied to sanctions.

  • Sign the “Ottawa Treaty” banning anti-personnel mines.

  • Sign the UN declaration calling for an international decriminalization of homosexuality (according to this, we were the only Western nation that didn’t sign on).

  • Remove any “abstinence only” restrictions on funding the fight against AIDS in Africa and throughout the world (including this country) through PEPFAR (actually, get rid of PEPFAR altogether and route all monies through the AIDS Global Fund and end the damn favoritism and redundancy).

  • Remove any restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research (assuming we’re not hopelessly behind on this by now).

  • Support the restoration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to include all judicial oversight provisions as those that existed when it was originally passed and signed into law in 1978.

  • Restore the workplace rules governing repetitive strain injuries in the workplace that were trashed by Bushco in 2001 after years of negotiation conducted between businesses and the Clinton Administration.

  • Rescind the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 to ensure transparency within our financial markets, and return regulatory oversight to any trading of future commodities.

  • Work to pass and eventually sign into law the Employee Free Choice Act.

  • End the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and appoint a panel of civilian and military personnel to look at the legal and moral issues attendant to the question of allowing LGBT individuals to serve our country (including an examination of the practices of other countries).

  • Assign an individual from the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a review of events that led up to (and occurred during and subsequent to) the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast in 2005, focusing primarily on the city of New Orleans; it will be the job of this person to define and delineate issues affecting all governmental, business and private entities that were impacted and assign/coordinate follow-up tasks and recommendations (including coordination with the Attorney General to recommend charges against individuals in violation of civil or criminal statutes).

  • Assign a legal team to work with the National Archive to review ALL records from the Bush Administration (in paper, electronic, or other form) and determine any material that the administration is legally required to provide that is missing (any lawyers working on this task would have the ability to issue subpoenas to any culpable individuals or entities).
  • If any of these goals are achieved (hopefully more than just a few), I’ll do my best to update this post accordingly.

    “Bibi” And His Crackpot History Lesson

    Through the looking glass we go to the Murdoch Street Journal, where opinion writer (and likely next Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu tells us from here…

    Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.

    If you can imagine that, you can begin to understand the terror to which hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been subjected. Three years ago Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. And since that withdrawal, our civilians have been targeted by more than 6,000 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. In the face of this relentless bombardment, Israel has acted with a restraint that other countries, faced with a similar threat, would find hard to fathom. Israel's government has finally decided to respond.
    The withdrawal from “every square inch of Gaza” was a commendable first step. However, this presents more information on what followed…

    In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.
    The sticking point, as has so often been the case, has to do with trying to get the Palestinians to renounce terrorism, which is difficult when an organization like Hamas, for their many faults, appears to be the only apparatus that can provide basic services (sometimes) to a population living under duress that most of us cannot imagine.

    Still, I could be somewhat sympathetic to what Netanyahu says here, until he tells us…

    The charge that Israel is using disproportionate force is equally baseless. Does proportionality demand that Israel fire 6,000 rockets indiscriminately back at Gaza? Does it demand an equal number of casualties on both sides? Using that logic, one would conclude that the United States employed disproportionate force against the Germans because 20 times as many Germans as Americans died in World War II.

    In that same war, Britain responded to the firing of thousands of rockets on its population with the wholesale bombing of German cities. Israel's measured response to rocket fire on its cities has come in the form of surgical strikes.
    I’ll put aside the fact for now that, in this recent round of hostilities, five Israelis have died as opposed to approximately 500 Palestinians, including many, many children, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the wounded (a result of “precision strikes” against Hamas), and I’ll do that because the loss of any life is a tragedy.

    Instead, I want to focus on Netanyahu’s highly objectionable comparison between what Israelis have suffered and what Great Britain suffered during World War II; as you can read here…

    By the end of May 1941, over 43,000 civilians, half of them in London, had been killed by bombing and more than a million houses destroyed or damaged in London alone (the “blitz” of England began on September 7, 140 with the bombing of London which took place over 57 consecutive days).
    I have not yet been able to find a reasonably precise count of Israeli casualties over the three years since the Gaza pullout, but somehow I cannot imagine that it comes close to 43,000 ("proportionality" indeed).

    And here’s more propaganda for easily digestible wingnut consumption (with Netanyahu framing the conflict as a struggle against “militant Islam”)…

    The struggle between militant Islam and modernity -- whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza -- will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.
    Spare me, “Bibi”! That hasn't worked for Bushco in years, and it won't work for you either.

    These are four entirely separate circumstances, with all but one of them what I would consider to be nationalist conflicts and nothing more; the past, present and future battle for us is in Afghanistan/Pakistan, but because of Dubya’s disastrous war of choice in Iraq, that has greatly hindered our ability to prosecute it as we should.

    In closing, I’d like to return to the Guardian Op-Ed for the following…

    No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.
    And please keep in mind that these are the words of a man named Avi Shlaim who, as the Guardian tells us, “served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy.”

    (And by the way, I also posted over here.)

    Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    I don't know who else besides me noticed the hit piece that Michael Scherer of Time wrote on Minnesota's new Democratic Senator Al Franken today (you mean, Franken did things in his past that he regrets??!! OMIGOD!!!), completely lacking in perspective and without any substance at all on the matter of Franken's political activity to date (even calling Franken an "intellectual terrorist"? Give me a frackin' break!!), but to provide some semblance of balance, I think it's best to provide testimonials from two very important women in Franken's life (see, he isn't some juvenile hippie comedy writer and entertainer, at least not any more - this was somewhat more balanced).

    The first is from his wife Franni here...

    ...and the second is from former New York senator and soon-to-be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton...

    ...more "Bushed" scandals from K.O. (via YouTube, since MSNBC's videos are hosed because of garbage code): Interior Secretary "Dirty Dirk" Kempthorne adds $235K worth of upgrades to the bathroom of his office, on our dime of course - wonder how happy Ken Salazar will be with that?; more on "Bomb 'Em" Bolton and "Torture Yoo" calling for the Senate to reclaim some prerogative after being emasculated along with the rest of Congress by this ruling cabal; and speaking of which, "Deadeye Dick" claims that "keeping us safe after 9/11" was Bushco's biggest accomplishment - gee, how about keeping us safe ON 9/11, HUH??!!)..

    ...Pawnshop Roses ("Gets So Hard," recorded at the Grape Street Pub in nearby Manayunk, Pa. - just a tad Dylanesque?).

    Ode To A Peanut Farmer

    I realize that ridiculing Glenn Beck, regardless of what corporate media outlet he shills for, is not unlike poking a stick at the village idiot, but I must point out the following anyway from Think Progress here…

    On his radio show (yesterday), conservative talker Glenn Beck responded to the current violence in Gaza by arguing that former President Jimmy Carter should be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize:

    BECK: Can someone please retract the Jimmy Carter Nobel Peace Prize? Can someone please say, “You know what Jim, we gotta take that back. I don’t know what we were thinking, but there hasn’t been all that much peace there.” … Eh, I don’t think you get the prize for the peace when the peace didn’t really happen. … Can we take his peace prize back from him?
    First, I don’t know how Carter is supposed to be blamed, seeing as how he didn’t call for the Palestinian elections two years ago that installed Hamas and gave them the legitimacy they don’t deserve (as noted here). The responsibility for that one lies with President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (though Carter, ever with an eye to the future, tried to achieve a reconciliation with this bunch that pretends to govern in that area of the world, as noted here).

    Second, though I realize it’s too much to ask for Beck and his fellow nematodes to give Carter the credit he’s due, I think other people with more than a particle or two of brain matter would be interested to know the following from this excellent actual, real-live, non-AP-Ben-Feller-concocted analysis from Walter Rodgers, which tells us the following from here (also timely, I think, given that the incoming Obama Administration will FINALLY take over in about two weeks, and Carter’s credits stand as an example)…

    (Carter) kept us out of endless wars. He protected the Alaskan wilderness (Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin once told me that "Carter was the greatest environmental president the country ever had.") He promoted a visionary energy policy. He countered the Soviet military threat. And since he left office, he has persistently promoted the cause of peace around the world. The landmark Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty he fashioned remains in force today.

    Against the backdrop of an unnecessary trillion-dollar war in Iraq, it is instructive to recall how Carter avoided a similar morass when he negotiated the Panama Canal treaties, for which he was excoriated by Ronald Reagan's Republicans. When he left office, he was able to say with Thomas Jefferson "[D]uring the period of my administration not a drop of the blood of a single citizen was shed by the sword of war."

    In the public mind, Carter continues to be judged as "ineffectual." Yet he started that treaty ratification process with fewer than 40 votes of the 67 needed. Pentagon generals advised him it would require 100,000 troops, rivers of blood, and untold treasure if the US did not return sovereignty of the canal to Panama.

    Carter was keenly aware that retaining US control of the canal, as Reagan demanded, might result in another Vietnam-like conflict. Today, looking at America's open-ended wars in Southwest Asia, Carter should be thanked for his wisdom and vision.
    It should be noted as well that Carter has the second-longest record of military service of any president who has held the office since 1952 (Eisenhower had the longest), and for the record, I incorrectly attributed the word “malaise” to the actual text of Carter’s energy speech here (corrected by Rodgers), which stands as truly prescient even though he gave it 30 years ago.

    All of this actually makes me wish that we had a “blogosphere” (still hate that word, but no other fits) dating back that far also to counter all of the smears about Carter and democrats in general that have become ingrained into our political dialogue over time.

    Also, Carter figures prominently in this post from earlier today.

    Monday, January 05, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert narrates the carnage in Gaza - here's the link to C&L for more... grotesque as the Israeli war is at this point (any sympathy for them on my end just evaporated), I still want to note the following (hopefully, you'll forgive my change of the subject here); namely, that Dubya is about to award three of his most loyal lap dogs with the Medal of Freedom (as noted here), and given that, I think it's appropriate to pay tribute to one of them again, and that would be Tony Blair, yet another "better man" hoodwinked by George W. Milhous Bush (here's "Gay Bar," by The Electric Six)...

    ...again, maybe humor is inappropriate given what is going on half a world away, but this year-end review of '08 was forwarded to me by one of my senior correspondents, and I just wanted to share it before the prior year fades into history (we need to laugh when we can, people)...

    ...and here's Lucinda Williams ("Real Love" on "The Late Show" - I'll let Dave "take us out").

    Watch Your Ass In 2019, Dubya!

    (I should emphasize that I don’t encourage violence against anyone except bin Laden, not even this loser – I also posted over here.)

    This McClatchy story tells us that Dubya, thanks to congressional legislation passed in 1997 (when the Repugs were in charge, trying to figure out how many times Bill Clinton unzipped his fly to the exclusion of practically everything else), will be the first president to receive Secret Service protection for only ten years upon leaving office.

    And as for Deadeye Dick, the Dems actually did him a favor (God only knows why) and cosponsored legislation covering his mangy butt for six months after he departs, as noted here.

    Of course, if Jeb gets in (as Poppy talked about here - God help us), then he’ll change the law back to protect both his brother and his "boss" for the rest of their lives, right?

    Well, as I said here, let’s unearth all of the “dead bodies” that the former FLA governor is responsible for again, shall we? Let’s have that discussion once and for all.

    Update 1/6/09: Awww, c'est dommage (here).

    Bushco Keeps Trying To Tie Obama's Hands

    As it prepares to crawl away from the world stage like the vermin they are, I find it amusing to watch acolytes of our ruling cabal now trying to give back the power to other branches of government that they claimed for themselves before Barack Obama is sworn in as our 44th president.

    We have yet another example of that in the New York Times today in an opinion piece written by John (“Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran”) Bolton and former administration lawyer John (Torture) Yoo (of course, the very first problem is that these two were even given a forum by the Times; interesting how Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt will wrestle with other, more subtle issues of coverage than the basic question of why his newspaper provides a soapbox to two such rank liars and propagandists...or this, oddly enough).

    Picking through the flotsam of phrases like “binding down American power and interests in a dense web of treaties and international bureaucracies.” “to subordinate (our) policies, foreign or domestic, to international control,” “the benignly labeled ‘global governance’ movement,” and “quixotic and impractical global governance regimes,” we find such “Oooga Booga!” scare language as the following…

    Candidate Obama promised to “re-engage” and “work constructively within” the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Will the new president pass a new Kyoto climate accord through Congress by sidestepping the constitutional requirement to persuade two-thirds of the Senate?
    I no more know the answer to that question than these two characters do. However, I just wanted to point out the following about the Kyoto Protocol (from this Time story dated June 2001)…

    …the real significance of the revised Kyoto Accord lies less in its impact on the planet's climate than in the fact that it survived Washington's withdrawal. The determination of the nations of the industrialized world to hang in and negotiate a binding treaty even after it had been nixed by the "indispensable nation" suggests that we may have entered a new era in international affairs. And that it will be an era in which the U.S. will no longer be automatically granted the leadership role among Western nations it established during the Cold War.
    By the way, I think the fact that we are no longer an “indispensible nation” in world affairs, as noted by the author, is another tragic Bushco legacy (and something else greatly ignored by our corporate media). Because we have chosen to cede any kind of ownership or even participation in a discussion concerning the most critical issues faced by this and other nations, others (notably China) have stepped into that void.

    Continuing with the Time story…

    The Clinton administration was never happy with the terms of Kyoto, but it kept its negotiators at the table to grind away at the original treaty. President Bush gambled that withdrawing from the negotiations — that is, removing the indispensable polluter — would force the international community back to the drawing board to seek an agreement more favorable to the U.S.'s gas-guzzling economy. But summary withdrawal from a decade-old process and failure at the same time to advance any alternative was read by the Europeans as a lack of seriousness. Indeed, there was spontaneous booing in the conference hall at Bonn when U.S. delegate Paula Dobriansky told the meeting, "The Bush administration takes the issue of climate change very seriously and we will not abdicate our responsibility." On global warming, the "indispensable nation" is looking rather more like a "rogue nation."
    Also (back to Bolton/Yoo)…

    In 2002, the administration considered submitting the Treaty of Moscow, a nuclear arms reduction agreement, for majority approval of Congress. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who was then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, privately made clear that he would vigorously oppose such an attempt to evade the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives. The administration agreed to submit the agreement as a treaty, and the Moscow agreement cleared the Senate.
    I don’t really have anything to say about that, but it’s funny to read Bolton pretending to defend the “Senate’s constitutional prerogatives” on the matter of approving a nuclear arms reduction agreement, when as noted here, Bolton and the rest of Bushco walked away from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that “bans all national missile defense” in pursuit of a “Star Wars” missile shield (the perpetual neocon pipe dream – the story by Michael O’Hanlon, of all people, was dated August 28, 2001; as we know all too well now, any talk of missile defense would disappear for years as a result of the events that transpired about two weeks later). Basically, Bolton/Yoo pretend to care about ratifying only the agreements that suit them and their handlers.

    Returning to the Times Op-Ed…

    President Bush, like President Clinton, did not sign a global agreement that would ban antipersonnel land mines, on the grounds that they are a key component of the American defense of South Korea. But his administration has pressed for ratification of the treaty on the law of the sea, which would subject disputes over the free passage of American naval vessels to the jurisdiction of an international maritime court — which the Senate has so far refused to ratify.
    Bolton/Yoo just pushed one of my many buttons here, in particular on the matter of land mines used for the “defense” of South Korea; this tells us that…

  • Official U.S Army briefers in Korea have stated that the US has no responsibility for the frontline defense of South Korea.

  • Of the 1.2 million landmines stockpiled for use in Korea, nearly half are not even in that country, and plans call for turning all but 5% of the remaining half over to the South Koreans.

  • Seventy-five civilians have died from mine accidents in Korea since 1990, and the number of injuries is much higher.

  • It is estimated that there have been over 1,000 civilian mine victims since the end of the Korean War.

  • Many landmines stockpiled for use in Korea are non-self destructing or “dumb” antipersonnel landmines that can remain active for decades.
  • Basically, there’s no good reason for the continued existence of land mines, unless our government wants to kill, maim or cripple civilians. And though I’ll admit that I have more reading to do on the issue, I wonder why, with our economy in such a calamitous state, we even remain in South Korea at all (if the ROK can’t defend itself after we’ve maintained a presence for about 50 years, will we ever see that day in our lifetimes?).

    Also, Bolton/Yoo are correct about the Senate’s failure to ratify UNCLOS, which has created an opportunity for our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin to do a lot more than poke his head over the border of Alaska (here), as Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin put it a few months ago.

    It’s amusing, actually, to read Bolton and Yoo’s faux diplomatic musings here given the fact that Bushco is about to exit at long last. I, for one, would like to hear them (particularly Yoo) try to explain why Obama should not be conferred all of the “unitary executive” powers that they believed that Dubya possessed over his failed presidency. After all, aren’t we still “fighting the global war on Terra! Terra! Terra!”?

    By the way, Dawn Johnsen, an Obama appointment to head the OLC, had some rather choice words for Yoo and Bushco lawyers in general, as Glenn Greenwald notes here (h/t Atrios).

    Sunday, January 04, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    With that horrible Ben Feller column of "analysis" in mind from yesterday and this excellent opinion piece from Frank Rich in today's New York Times as well, I went looking for some Dubya-haranguing commentary, and I found this from Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks from last July (before TARP, when $700 billion was still only $25 billion - remember those heady days?)...

    ...Plushgun ("Dancing In A Minefield"; hey, if it has a clip from "The Family Guy," I'm there!).