The Watering Hole, Monday, December 15th, 2014: Surreal

While the vast majority of the current political, cultural, and social events have become increasingly surreal, here’s just a few examples of the WTF? society in which we are floundering.

In the wake of the release of the Senate Torture Report (“Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee’s Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program”), the defensive reactions of some are wandering in the realm of surrealism. There was that, pardon the expression, bimbo on Fox screaming that “America is AWESOME!”, there’s Dick Cheney calmly and coldly dragging Dubya under the same bus that HOPEFULLY runs down Cheney.

There’s surreal hypocrisy, as in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (spit!) stating that there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits torture. From HuffPost:

“Scalia…said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. “I don’t know what article of the Constitution that would contravene…”

[How did this scumbag get to be a Supreme?]

“In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb [ala the fictional Jack Bauer in 24]. “It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” he said.”

On the other hand, regarding a real imminent potential crisis situation:

“In January, Scalia seemed less concerned about the safety of residents of Los Angeles when the court heard arguments about whether anonymous tips could justify a traffic stop. Urging the lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm, Scalia suggested that not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source. “I want you to say, ‘Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'” Scalia said.

Then there’s surreal racism/white privilege in ‘law enforcement’. As this Daily Kos diary points out, why aren’t vicious white criminals called “thugs”? One particular white Texas criminal who brutally murdered a white prosecutor, the prosecutor’s wife, and the assistant prosecutor, was:

“…a felon who had a prior record of burglary and theft. Yet somehow he had amassed a veritable arsenal of weapons as prosecutors during the penalty phase of his trial revealed:

“On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors assembled the arsenal of weapons found in Williams’ storage unit in the courtroom. The guns were displayed on three wooden racks in the middle of the courtroom, 42 handguns in the middle and 22 long guns flanking each side. In front of the racks were boxes of ammunition — thousands of rounds were recovered — and a crossbow. Bullets were loose in bags, as well as still packaged in boxes.”

Now let’s switch to more palatable surrealism: I ran across this assemblage of ’30 surreal photos’ while I was clearing out/sorting my emails at work–Wayne had sent me the link in a 2012 email, noting that he liked this photo:

"Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm" - photo by Keith Williams

“Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm” – photo by Keith Williams

While I found many of the “surreal” photos to be too contrived – I like the ones where a simple alteration of one’s perspective reveals a glimpse of other-worldliness (see “Towering”, among others) – I agree with Wayne, I love the swallows photo. For more of photographer Keith Williams’ bird photos, I highly recommend checking out his gallery – makes a nice palate-cleanser.

This is our daily open thread – go ahead, speak up!

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia’s Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 7th, 2014: Torture

Over the past month or so, there’s been a lot of talk about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the previous administration’s CIA torture program (oh, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”.) Chair of the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused the CIA of accessing Congressional computers and deleting memos and other evidence. Last week brought the news that Senator Feinstein is pushing to have the results of the report made public, in order to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted…”

Cue the attacks, specifically on FauxNews: First, former CIA Director Michael Hayden questions Senator Feinstein’s possible “motivation for the report” is “emotional.” An excerpt from the ThinkProgress article:

“Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

A surprised Chris Wallace asked,

“…You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?” Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.”

Despite whatever Hayden believes the “whole story” to be, the portions that have been leaked seem to be quite detailed and very damning, as discussed in this March 31st article from WaPo.

“Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.””

It does not seem possible that Hayden’s “whole story” could in any way mitigate the fact that torture was systematically used, both here and abroad at “black sites”, supposedly in the name of our “security.”

From the Washington Post article on Hayden’s “emotional” characterization:

“Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden suggested Sunday that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might have compromised the objectivity of a report on CIA interrogation techniques because she personally wants to change them…Hayden suggested Feinstein feels too strongly about the issue on an “emotional” level.”

Feinstein struck back at Hayden’s comments later Sunday by calling her committee’s forthcoming report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

In a statement, Feinstein noted that the committee’s investigation began in 2009 and the report’s conclusions “came from documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”

“I believe last week’s 11-3 vote to declassify the report demonstrates that both sides agree that Americans should see the facts and reach their own conclusions about the program,” she added.

Raw Story tells it slightly differently:

“Yeah,” Hayden replied dismissively, noting that a Washington Post columnist had reported that “Sen. Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.” [Emphasis mine, in that I have been unable to find to which “Washington Post columnist” Hayden is referring, nor any such reporting that Senator Feinstein had directed how “scathing” the report should be.]

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator,” Hayden opined. “But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”… ““You’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its contents,” Hayden admitted.

[The notion that Hayden has “no idea of” the report’s “contents” seems pretty ludicrous; regardless of his professed ignorance, it didn’t stop him from attacking the Senator for one moment.]

Raw Story also provides us with cyborg former Vice-President Cheney’s reaction, which also sparked an invitation from Senator Angus King (I-ME) to have Cheney waterboarded:

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney told college television station ATV last week. “Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture.”

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” he insisted. “The results speak for themselves.”

Sorry, the report’s results do speak for themselves:

“A report that has been completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, has found that the CIA misled the government and misstated the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation program. The report concluded that the CIA lied when it said it had gotten “otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives.”

“I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney,” Senator King explained. “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.”

And finally Cheney’s spawn, Liz, reliably shouts “Benghazi!” Again from Raw Story:

“Fox News contributor Liz Cheney on Sunday argued that a United States Senate report on Bush-era torture was “political” and that lawmakers should spend more time investigating President Barack Obama’s role in failing to prevent terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

“If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,” the former vice president’s daughter said on a Sunday morning Fox News panel. “You’ve got to be willing to say how many American lives would you have been willing to put at risk because you didn’t want to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

“Fox News political analyst Juan Williams quipped that Liz Cheney was the “good daughter,” but the American people had a right to know what the CIA was doing in their name, and if the techniques were effective.

“I want to start by agreeing with Juan,” Liz Cheney shot back. “That we need more congressional oversight… of Benghazi, for example.”

She added that the Senate did not produce a “fair report” because it was “written entirely by Democratic staffers.”

“The Republicans wouldn’t participate!” Williams replied. “People not only wouldn’t cooperate, [the CIA] tried to spy on the U.S. Senate.”

Liz Cheney concluded by saying that she had “missed Juan” during her absence from Fox News for a failed Senate run in Wyoming.

[Yeah, how’d that work out for ya, Lizzie? Finally found out that no one in your home state likes you?]

A couple of the commentors on that Daily Kos thread could have helped Juan Williams bitch-slap that she-devil:

JW: I got a better idea Liz, why don’t we focus on the 22 embassy attacks that happened under your daddy’s watch.

bplewis24:

[Quoting Liz Cheney] “If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,”…Yes. I am fully willing to accept the consequences of that. Reports tend to tell us there are no real consequences of it, but even if there were, that’s the “sacrifice” I’m willing to make in order to live in a civilized world.

I think that I would just go with what Sheppard Smith once blurted out “emotionally”: “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DON’T FUCKING TORTURE!”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 16, 2013: Taylor Swift and The Gettysburg Address

From the website “Learn the Address“:

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, documentarian Ken Burns, along with numerous partners, has launched a national effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reading or reciting the speech.The collection of recordings housed on this site will continue to grow as more and more people are inspired by the power of history and take the challenge to LEARN THE ADDRESS.

The site features this mashup of all five living presidents and a slew of politicians and celebrities, including Taylor Swift, who ABC considered the most important of the celebs to be featured in the video. (Each recorded his or her own.)

At the site you are invited and encouraged to share your own Gettysburg Address reading. You can upload a YouTube video of yourself, then give them a link to it. If accepted, they’ll post it at their site along with the presidents, politicians, and celebrities already featured there. Here is the complete Gettysburg Address, which takes about two minutes to read Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 1, 2012 – There Is No Fiscal Cliff

So what’s all this talk about a “fiscal cliff”? Who’s trying to scare us about what’s happening at the end of the year? Well, it turns out that the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, first described the coming combination of tax hikes and spending cuts as a “fiscal cliff.” He didn’t coin the term, but he was the first to apply it to what may happen. And there isn’t universal agreement that it’s the best way to describe it. There are many who prefer “fiscal slope.” I like “fiscal downshift.” Still moving forward, just a little bit slower.

Despite Republican denials, the stumbling block is clearly the tax cuts for the top-most income earners. The GOP liked the Bush Tax Cuts because it meant their rich benefactors didn’t have to shoulder so much of the financial burden of running the country that made them so fabulously wealthy in the first place. As if the way of life we enjoy had nothing to do with the money the government spent. But after giving them their first round of tax cuts in 2001 (we were running a surplus at the time – which helps pay down the debt – and they felt “people ought to be able to keep more of their own money,” so they gave the wealthiest among us a tax cut that saved many of them more money in taxes than most of us make in a year, as if they really needed it), they started two wars in the Middle East. One of those wars did not require the full force of our military, and the other did not require our military at all as it was based on total lies. Then the Republican-controlled Congress, in their infinite “wisdom” (as in “we’s dumb”), did what no country in the history of Civilization has done. They cut taxes in a time of war. In other words, they started two wars and refused to pay for them.

This ran up our huge debt, of course, but the Republicans lied to the country and told us it wasn’t adding to the deficit. That’s because they were defining the deficit as only pertaining to the actual budget passed and not as the difference between the total amount of money the government took in versus how much it spent. They funded the wars through Emergency Supplemental bills, which is money not counted as part of the budget. The concept was intended to be used for unforeseen spending. The Republicans never intended for either war to ever end, so there was no excuse for calling them “emergency spending.” Yet this is how they were able to tell voters that the deficit wasn’t so bad and deflect their attention away from the ever-expanding debt. When Barack Obama came into office he put the wars on the budget, so they weren’t being funded by emergency supplemental bills that weren’t being paid for with tax revenues, and the Republicans immediately started talking about how much Obama had increased the deficit. You gotta admit, that takes balls.

The vast majority of the political hand-wringing seems centered on the tax cuts for the bottom 98% of income earners, the folks making less than about $250,000 per year. [For the record, I live in New York State, one of the most heavily taxed states in the country. The cost of living can be high here, especially in parts of New York City, but outside of there, $250,000 per year is pretty damn good. The only way those folks would be struggling is if they were trying to live beyond their actual means. It’s possible to live quite happily on that income.] The Congress can rectify that very easily. In fact, they should since it’s quite possible that close to 100% of the House Republicans want the “lower 98” to have their tax rates extended into the new year. A bill to do that has already passed in the Senate. [Yes, a bill for raising revenue must “originate in the House.” But since they’re amending the Tax Act of 1986, they are amending a bill that originated in the House. It just originated there almost three decade ago.] But Speaker John Boehner refuses to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Why not? If you say you want the Bush Tax Cuts to continue but you won’t guarantee that they continue for the folks who aren’t in the top 2% of income earners, it’s pretty hard to say you aren’t trying to make sure the top 2% get their tax cuts extended, too. You can pass them for the rest of us and have a real public debate about whether or not the top 2% get to keep their tax cuts. But they don’t want to do that because the public knows that every one of their arguments in favor of doing so are bullshit. The rich are not “job creators,” and everybody with an IQ in the three-digit range knows that. But even Rick Santorum admitted they would never get the support of the smart people, and the people he said that to liked it. 😆

But all is not lost. Famous rich people like Warren Buffett have said they want their taxes to be increased. They understand that in order to have the great country we have, you need to have a government that can sustain it. And that means paying for things like infrastructure, public schools, and police protection. Goods move to market on well-maintained roads. Businesses benefit from a well-educated work force. And people feel safer when they know there are police (and other emergency first responders) nearby to assist in an emergency. And many of us on the Left have said we’re willing to let our taxes go up if it will help the economy and the nation. So House Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi has announced that if the Republicans don’t act by Tuesday, she will file a discharge petition. If 218 House members (and that number would have to include those Republicans we’re so sure want the Middle Class Tax Cuts to continue) sign the discharge petition, the bill automatically comes to the floor for a vote. And remember, there’s no such thing as a filibuster in the House. The Republicans can’t delay and stall the bill by threatening to filibuster it, the way they do in the Senate.

But is it really such a bad thing if the deal isn’t reached and the sequestration kicks in? Not if they work out a deal right away. You see, it’s not as though all of the spending cuts happen in the first few days or weeks. They could always suspend the rules and pass a bill without it going through all the committees and pass it in January when the 113th Congress convenes. The tax hikes on the lower and middle income earners would be temporary, and the hit on our wallets not so severe. They could even make it retroactive to the beginning of the year and we’d all get that money back. And remember, no Congress can ever tie the hands of a future Congress. They can always repeal or waive existing law and do whatever they want as long as the president signs it (and it doesn’t violate the Constitution, of course.) When the Democrats had the Congress, they instituted PAYGO (Pay As You GO.) All spending had to be paid for, except in extreme emergencies. The Republicans did away with that, usually by using emergency spending bills to authorize spending that often didn’t qualify as an “emergency.” That’s how we got two unnecessary wars and an unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug Bill pass. By the way, another way to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars is to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, the way the Veterans Administration does. Right now Medicare is prohibited from doing so. (Thank former Congressman Billy Tauzin for that one.) It would just be nice if the Republicans would publicly admit that they are primarily responsible for this nation being in such deep debt. Then we can begin to have an honest discussion about what to do about it. Otherwise, the Republicans will pretend their fiscal policies work and have nothing to do with the situation.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the fiscal downshift or any other topic you wish. But relax. It’s not as dire as they make it out to be.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 8th, 2012: “Political Capital”

George W. Bush appears to have had a long-term “thing” about “political capital. From Slate, November 2004:

“Bush has long been smitten with the notion of getting and spending “political capital.” In December 2000, Time asked him, “What did you learn about being president from watching your father?” Bush’s answer: “I learned how to earn political capital and how to spend it.” The interview continued:
TIME: You think he didn’t spend it well late in his term?
BUSH: I think he did not. History has shown that he had some capital in the bank that was not properly spent.”

…and…

“…during an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press in 1999. Bush told Russert he would spend “capital” on his plan for Social Security.”  [Yes, we remember his cross-country “Privatize Social Security Tour” (sigh)]

W’s first press conference after his re-election, on November 4, 2004, has a couple of gems when viewed an eternity later (2012):

On “political capital”:

PRESIDENT BUSH:
I feel — I feel — I feel it is necessary to move an agenda that I told the American people I would move…you go out and you make your case and you tell the people, “This is what I intend to do.” And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when — when that — when you win, there is a — a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view. And that’s what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the president; now let’s work — and the people made it clear what they wanted — now let’s work together. And it’s one of the wonderful — it’s one of the — it’s like earning capital. … I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in — after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election, and I’m going to spend it for — for what — what I told the people I’d spend it on…

On the supposedly all-important Deficit:

“Q Thank you, sir. Many within your own party are unhappy over the deficit, and they say keeping down discretional spending alone won’t help you reach your goal of halving the deficit in five years. What else do you plan to do to cut costs? [emphasis mine]
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.) Well, I — I — you know, I would suggest they look at our budget that we’ve submitted to Congress, which does in fact get the deficit cut in half in five years. And it is a specific, line-by-line budget that we are required to submit, and have done so.

The key to making sure that the deficit is reduced is for there to be on the one hand spending discipline — and I — as you noticed in my opening remarks, I talked about these appropriations bills that are beginning to move. And I thought I was pretty clear about the need for those bills to be — to be fiscally responsible, and I meant it…

The revenues are exceeding projections, and as a result the projected deficit is less. But my point there is is that — so with — with good economic policy that encourages economic growth, the revenue streams begin to increase. And as the revenue streams increase coupled with fiscal discipline, you’ll see the deficit shrinking, and we’re focused on that.”

Now, I have been puzzled about this whole “political capital” idea since I originally saw George W. Bush swagger and leer about it. Back then, the other election buzzword was “mandate”, as in “the re-election of GWB proved that he has a ‘mandate’ from the American people,” even though only a little more than half of the American people had actually voted for him. I’ve never seen Democratic Presidents utilize this reasoning; nor would I actually expect them to do so, for the same reason why I would never use the term “landslide” to describe a win of only a few percentage points.

Three questions:

-Using Bush’s “political capital” logic, shouldn’t President Obama have now earned some of his own, to spend on doing what he promised America he would do?
-Would Republicans and the TV cheerleaders at Faux News admit that President Obama had earned “political capital” to spend, since he had won a “mandate” from the people? …and…
-Will President Obama and the Democrats ignore the Republican obstructionists and actually try to spend that “political capital”?

This is our daily open thread–what do you think?

The Craving (with Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, Again)

This poem was originally published on 12/24/06. It is being presented here on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 criminal attacks. It is this author’s very considered opinion that the attacks should have been treated as crimes and not Acts of War. You don’t use the military to go after the Mafia, and we should not have used the full force of our military to go after al Qaeda. In fact, I firmly believe that had we not gone in with our full military, we would have gotten the intel faster and Seal Team Six could have done their job sooner. But that’s a debate for another day.

———-

There has been much speculation about why the President really chose to invade Iraq. Some say it was to stabilize the region so our access to oil would be secure. Some say it was because Saddam had tried to assassinate the president’s father years before. (Then-President Clinton had already punished Saddam for that one, but that’s another story.) I am of the belief that this was just one part of an ambitious effort by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to expand the powers of the Office of the President of the United States of America to a height even Richard M. Nixon would have secretly envied. They are invoking a theory called the “Unitary Executive” which, in essence, says that the Executive Branch of our government has just as much say as to how the laws and the Constitution should be interpreted as the other two branches. (And I don’t mind telling you that it wasn’t easy to work the phrase “Unitary Executive” into a poem structured like this.) This theory has not been widely accepted by constitutional scholars. That little detail, however, has not stopped them. With sincere apologies to Edgar Allan Poe and fans of his great poem “The Raven”, I would like to present my version of the president’s quest for power with a poem I call “The Craving.” And my most deepest thanks to my wife, Jane, for her invaluable assistance in writing this. I hope you enjoy it. And if by some strange fluke of reality, you happen to be reading this Mr. President, take the hint.

The Craving
By Wayne A. Schneider

Act I: Extremists

Once upon a Tuesday Morning, after I ignored a warning
Over many there came a furious full plume of fiery gore.
Later seated simply staring, suddenly someone was sharing
That the enemy was bearing, bearing toward my White House door.
“It’s those terrorists,” I muttered “bearing toward my White House door.”
It was one, and there were four.

The other planes had landed where the terrorists had planned it,
Bringing death and devastation on a scale unseen before.
But the passengers still flying on Flight 93 were trying
Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 3rd, 2012: Mitt, Mitt, and More Mitt – PLUS a Shout-at from Gramps McCain

Romney Channels GW Bush

We all know what a tactless, undiplomatic person Mitt Romney is, whether on the campaign trail (“You didn’t bake those cookies”) to his London Olympic visit and his fundraising trips to Israel and Poland. For today’s thread, I’m focusing on the viewpoints of other countries on Mitt’s abysmal diplomatic skills. Presenting a trio of recent pieces from Foreign Policy magazine regarding Mitt Romney’s “foreign policy”, or lack thereof.

First, an article by Josh Rogin which discusses Romney’s labeling of Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” An excerpt:

“Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that,” Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. “They are our foe. They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation, and I think the governor was correct in that even though there are some voices in Washington that find that uncomfortable…” “Russia is calling itself a democracy but it is not behaving like a democracy,” he [Williamson] said. “When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of peace? When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of humanity?”

Hmmm, I could ask the same about the U.S.

Next, from “A Dangerous Mind” by Bruce W. Jentleson and Charles A. Kupchan, a couple of insights:

“Whereas President Barack Obama has claimed the middle ground and crafted a strategy based on principled pragmatism, Romney is following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, relying more on bluster than strategy and veering to ideological extremes….Romney’s view of the changing global landscape rests not on a sober assessment of the world that is emerging, but on the same neoconservative myths that led George W. Bush astray. Like Bush, Romney seems to fixate on the wrong threats — and dangerously inflate them.”

“It is worrying that Romney pledges to reinstate a foreign policy of reflexive toughness just four years after Bush’s assertive unilateralism left the United States mired in Iraq and estranged from much of the world… The Republicans would do better to heed the wisdom of their own Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, who has warned that a president who wants to take the nation into another major war that is not absolutely necessary should “have his head examined.””

Of course, Republicans would argue that it is “absolutely necessary” to attack Iran on behalf of the U.S.’s BFF, Israel.

Last (for this post, anyway), here’s a few quotes from Uri Friedman’s “Russian Press Rips Romney and His Promise of Republican Hell“:

From Pravda:

“They [the Republicans] refer to Russia as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China…. To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers.”

From Voice of Russia‘s John Robles:

“Cold war thinkers have drawn up Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance and it does not look good neither for the U.S., nor for Russia or the free world. Continuing the rhetoric that Russia is geo-political enemy number one and promising to confront and make Russia cow to U.S. interests the Republicans have once again proven their complete disregard for diplomacy.

and

“Whether or not the Republicans are just playing for their base or are seriously proposing such policies, they have proven that they will be force for more instability and conflict in the world.”

and

“To say that Romney and his Republican brethren are a danger to world peace would be an understatement. Their “ultra-conservative” views and stances on a number of issues will bring about another era of neo-conservative subjugation for the American people and the world and their backward thinking and confrontational posturing will destroy much of the delicate compromise that has kept the world stable for the last four years.”

Consider that, according to boston.com, “Almost all of Romney’s 22 special advisers held senior Bush administration positions in diplomacy, defense or intelligence. Two former Republican senators are included as well as Bush-era CIA chief Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.” (The article doesn’t even mention John Bolton, aka ‘Worst…Ambassador…Ever.) If Romney somehow manages to win this election, get ready for four more years of Dubya.

This is our Open Thread. Nostrovia!


O/T:
Don’t remember if anyone else posted this, but another old man has been rambling on at an imaginary President Obama. It’s long, and painful/aggravating to read, but…

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 1st, 2012: And Your Advice is Worth???

I like to check out Foreign Policy Magazine online now and again for different stories and viewpoints. You can imagine my surprise today when I saw an article titled “How to Beat Obama”, written by…wait for it…Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. Yes, Karl Rove, despite being wrong nearly as often as William Kristol, still thinks that his advice would be helpful to the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Check out some of the pearls of wisdom Karl and Ed are offering:

“In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

First, the Republican nominee should adopt a confident, nationalist tone emphasizing American exceptionalism, expressing pride in the United States as a force for good in the world, and advocating for an America that is once again respected (and, in some quarters, feared) as the preeminent global power. Obama acts as if he sees the United States as a flawed giant, a mistake that voters already perceive. After all, this is the president who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Voters also sense he is content to manage America’s decline to a status where the United States is just one country among many.”

Ah, yes, the “American Exceptionalism” cliche – Americans are somehow inherently better than the rest of the world, and we damn well don’t need to pay attention to any of those lesser people in all of those other crappy countries. America is a flawless giant, dammit, and just look at how perceptive American voters are, too!

“The Republican nominee should use the president’s own words and actions to portray him as naive and weak on foreign affairs. Obama’s failed promises, missed opportunities, and erratic shifts suggest he is out of touch and in over his head.”

Karl, do you remember anything of the presidency of George W. Bush, or have you simply blocked it all out?

“The Republican candidate must address at least four vital areas. The most important is the struggle that will define this century’s arc: radical Islamic terrorism. He should make the case that victory must be America’s national goal, not merely seeking to “delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” as Obama’s May 2010 National Security Strategy put it. As in the Cold War, victory will require sustained U.S. involvement and a willingness to deploy all tools of influence — from diplomacy to economic ties, from intelligence efforts to military action.”

I thought that this 2012 election was all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS – oh, wait, that was the 2010 mid-terms, or…well some election was/is supposed to be about JOBS…I think.

“Second, the Republican candidate must condemn the president’s precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan and his deep, dangerous defense-budget cuts. Both are viewed skeptically by the military: The former emboldens America’s adversaries and discourages its allies; the latter is of deep concern to veterans and other Americans who doubt Obama’s commitment to the military.”

Jeebus knows that we don’t want to “precipitously” leave Afghanistan after, what, only eleven years or so? And didn’t I hear that President Obama has actually increased the defense budget?

“During the 2008 campaign, he also argued that Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t “pose a serious threat.” How foolish that now seems.”

“In part because of how he has mishandled the Iranian threat, Obama has lost much political and financial support in the American Jewish community. His approach to Israel must be presented as similarly weak and untrustworthy. The Republican candidate must make clear the existential threat to Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran…”

We certainly wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself all alone, with only a few hundred nuclear weapons, against a possible/future/maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, now would we?

Obama recognizes that he’s seen as “cold and aloof,” and the Republican nominee should hammer this point home. The president has few real friends abroad (excepting, of course, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he told Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria). The Republican nominee should criticize Obama for not understanding that the U.S. president’s personal engagement is essential for effective global leadership. Obama’s lack of regular close contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which has destroyed relationships with America’s erstwhile allies, is simply the most jarring, inexplicable example of this president’s hands-off approach.

If the Republican candidate turns out to be Mitt Romney, our allies (and enemies, too!) will be SO overwhelmed by the “warm and fuzzies.” So, President Obama hasn’t been calling al-Maliki and Karzai as much as Rove and Gillespie think he should? What are they, Obama’s mother?

“Because the fall campaign must be devoted to promoting the Republican message on jobs and the economy, the GOP nominee must share his big foreign-policy vision no later than early summer.”

“The fourth line of attack must be about America’s fragile economy and how to restore it. Many voters think Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been inconsistent and even counterproductive.”

Of course, talking about jobs and the economy can wait until the fall – it gives the Republican nominee that much more time to think of something other than “cut taxes and regulations for corporations” and “make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”

“Undoubtedly, Obama will attempt to preempt criticism of his foreign policy by repeating endlessly that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. By campaign’s end, some voters will wonder whether the president personally delivered the kill shot.”

Yes, undoubtedly, ’cause that’s what Rove and Gillespie would do – it would definitely convince “some voters”, i.e., FuxNews-watchers.

“Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.”

What the…”absent a major international crisis”? Such as, Karl?

“A November 2011 survey conducted by Resurgent Republic showed that 50 percent of voters (as well as 54 percent of self-identified independents) think America’s standing in the world is worse under Obama, while only 21 percent believe it is better. This represents a sharp drop from April 2010, when 50 percent of voters (and 49 percent of independents) believed Obama had improved America’s standing.

That’s because Obama has failed to become a strong international leader, and the Republican nominee must reinforce this message — one most Americans already believe. Foreign policy is a weakness for this president, not a strength.”

Hey, guess who’s a Board Member at Resurgent Republic? Why, good old Ed Gillespie!

Hmmm, I don’t think that your advice is so hot, Karl (and Ed.) Maybe they should read another article at Foreign Policy magazine that refutes their arguments.

Regardless of whether or not Rove and Gillespie’s advice is useful, I don’t think that either of the current ‘leaders’ for the Republican nomination would be capable of following it.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to opine on this or any other topic.

Keith Olbermann and Jeremy Scahill ‘thank’ Bush for the ‘success’ of the Iraq war

Raw Story:

‘They’ say that it really isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up inside. On Wed. evening’s MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the liberal host and his guest, The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill went the healthy route and let it rip.

Discussion centered around President Obama’s address on the Iraq war and the ensuing criticism from neoconswho complained Obama should’ve thanked and praised President George W. Bush for the ‘success’ of the surge in Iraq.

“These people have a Ph.D in lying and a master’s degree in manipulating intelligence,” Scahill says of the neocons, “And it is, it’s really sobering to see this kind of brash historical revisionism happening in real time. The idea that these people want to post some kind of false flag of victory on the corpses of all who have died in Iraq because of their decisions. These people destabilized Iraq, they destabilized the Middle East, with their neo-con vision of redrawing maps, and they didn’t even succeed in their own stated mission. This is a special kind of pathological sickness that these individuals are plagued with.”

Scahill then begins to bust the ‘surge’ myth, “Pardon me for introducing a little bit of fact onto cable news over these 24 hours, but the reality is there was no success of the surge. The fact is that Bush’s policy in Iraq caused massive destabilization, led to a civil war that killed upwards of a million Iraqis; there were ethnic cleansing campaigns. When the surge troops went in there, Baghdad was a walled-off city, the Sunnis had been pushed out and sided with the United States, Muqtada al Sadr responded to the announced timetable for withdrawal that the neocons so opposed by saying he considered it a truce with America and pulled his forces off the street… So, the entire surge myth permeates to this day, and its actually one big lie.”

(Continue reading..)

This was awesome—a MAJOR dose of reality, and well delivered. It’s refreshing to hear somebody say it like it actually happened.. Facts are pesky things…

The Top 10 Differences Between Bush & Obama, the First 7 Months

Informed Comment

I thought this was an interesting list.  It not only illustrates some of the differences between the first seven months of the Bush and Obama presidencies, but shows that Obama is on top of his game (and a lot less nutty).

Obama, unlike Bush:

1. Has no plans to invade any new oil countries.
2. Knows who president of Pakistan is
3. Knows how to safely consume pretzels
4. Does not take orders from his veep
5. Not on vacation 40% of time
6. Clears away Bush’s harm, rather than clearing brush on farm
7. Worried about 47 million uninsured, not about 47 thousand idle rich multi-millionaires
8. Not removing oversight from bankers on theory that financiers would never steal from own bank!
9. Does not believe US menaced by Gog and Magog
10. Not ignoring threat of al-Qaeda

Posted in full, with the espressed permission of Juan Cole.

“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

It’s the Torture, Stupid

Who cares what Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? That isn’t the point. The point is what it is that she is accused of knowing – That the Bush Administration, in violation of both US Law and International Treaty, tortured people. Continue reading

Cafferty: Why is it that the more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support torture?

Here are some of the answers that were e-mailed to Cafferty’s Blog:

Alex from Florida writes:

Pastors need to teach their congregations that supporting a conservative ticket based on some values like marriage and/or abortion does not mean you have to support the parts of the platform that don’t jive with those values.

Jim from Chicago writes:

Jack, the Evangelicals support torture because by and large they have bought into the Bush-era malarkey that “enhanced interrogation” is not really torture. Through their lack of critical thinking and questioning of the validity of this premise, they somehow feel that these techniques are necessary and effective for our safety. How ironic that Jesus was only subjected to “enhanced interrogation” by Roman soldiers just before he was crucified.

Kathy writes:

All I can figure out is that church goers do not apparently read the Bible and know little about the actual teachings of Christ. They seem to be real big believers in the Old Testament and “an eye for an eye”. How they claim to be “Born Again” when they don’t follow Jesus message of peace and forgiveness I cannot understand. No way would Christ have ever been a Republican, too selfish and unforgiving.

Keith Cameron writes:

If evangelicals want to continue their act of being better-than-thou, it’s about time they showed some views that actually qualified them as being “good” people. Harsh, I know, but seriously, if you’re going to claim to take a stand on morals, the most basic morals on the planet are “love others, even your enemies” and “be the bigger person.” Both apply to this situation.

Continue reading

We Lock Up Governors, Why Not Presidents?

“…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,”

The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 3

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I don’t know what to say. I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and I remember growing numb as I listened to what I was hearing. I’m still kind of numb, even as Rachel Maddow interviews Rep Adam Schiff about what we learned today, and I don’t know how to admit it, but I can’t quite remember exactly what it was that they say our former president, George W. Bush, the man who stood before the American people and said, “We do not torture!”, authorized be done in my name, in your name, in all our names, to the people we captured after September 11. I remember this: It was torture. And we did it.

I’m not going to tell you that I stood by our president the whole time and said, “Well, if he says we aren’t torturing anybody, then I take him at his word.” I’m not stupid. I’m not insane (by certain definitions). I’m not naive. At the time he stood before us and said those words, those four words far more nefarious than the sixteen words, I knew what kind of person was telling me that. A pathological liar. A sadistic man-boy. A spoiled child who was given everything he had in life, including his millions of dollars, and never once understood the concept of responsibility. A man who didn’t know how to admit a mistake, even when it was obvious to people less intelligent than he. A man who could not make the mental connection between the the things that he did and the events that resulted from them. Or between cause and effect in general. His mind simply does not operate from a factual basis. He makes decisions based on things that he believes, not necessarily things that are actually, provably, demonstrably, inconclusively true. He knows that torture is not legal. But he was told that what we were doing was not considered torture. And he believed that. So it was, as far as he was concerned, if he had any concern at all about the subject, true. And so he told us, “We do not torture.” Except that it was. And it was done in our name. It was torture. And we did it.

No, I knew immediately that when George W. Bush uttered the words, “We do not torture,” that we were, possibly at that very minute for all we knew, torturing people. Continue reading

77 Days In Office – The Right Wing Claim Obama Most Damaging President

I found an op-ed at MichNews.com that was just over the top.  Lynn Stuter, a guest contributor,  it putting all the blame for everything on President Obama.  To hear her tell it, he is going to be our ruination.  Ms. Stuter just goes straight for the jugular in her opening statement about President Obama.

The United States of America lays in shambles. In 77 days since usurping the Oval Office, the Also Known As (AKA) Obama Administration has done more damage to this nation than any president before him.

First off, the definition of usurping is, to seize and hold (a position, office, power, etc.) by force or without legal right.  If there was some kind of brilliantly executed coup, we would have heard about it.  However, I distinctly remember on November 4th, Obama won, fair and square, the election for President of the United States.  I don’t know where Lynn was, but she missed the party of the decade.  She further states that:

In that short time-frame, AKA …

· has signed into law legislation that will, in one year, put this nation $1.8 trillion further into the hole, bearing in mind that the total deficit spending of the Bush Administration, in eight years, was $400 billion!

Where to begin, I’ll start with Bill Clinton, who enacted a bill to cut the deficit.  That bill contributed to dramatic decline of the budget deficit in the years following its enactment–in 1998, for the first time since 1969, the nation achieved a budget surplus.

The economy continued to grow, and in February 2000 it broke the record for the longest uninterrupted economic expansion in U.S. history—lasting ten years. In the year 2000, the nation was on track to be debt free for the first time since 1835.  The surplus in fiscal year 2000 was $237 billion—the third consecutive surplus and the largest surplus ever.

George Bush was left with a deficit cutting plan that was working, instead he decided in 2001, to give a $1.35 trillion tax cut program—one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history.  Oh No, he wasn’t going to use it to pay down the deficit, instead Bush had a town hall meeting where he announced, “the surplus is not the government’s money. The surplus is the people’s money.”  This was a mistake that cost this country dearly.

Continue reading