Monthly Archives: July 2011


It’s hard to believe the circus going on in Washington.  All I can feel is complete and total disgust for all parties involved.  Every so-called plan put forward to raise the debt ceiling at the cost of complete cuts in essential programs is more draconian than the last.  Regardless of what Obama said, ordinary people have been forgotten altogether.

Obama’s biggest mistake was to suppose he could placate the conservative fanatics by meeting them more than half way.  On every single occasion he has concede ground getting further and further away from the ideas that brought him to office.  When you desire to win at any price, you sell your soul to the devil.  Of course, in their own destructive way, the Republicans have done exactly the same thing.  Hence the disgust.

The debt ceiling is an  enduring problem for presidents.  It’s been around since World War I, and ever since Presidents who went to war or battled economic depressions have gone deeper into debt.  It’s not as if the country’s finances can be balanced the way families sometimes balance their budgets at the kitchen table making sure that incomes cover costs.  In America we’ve gotten into trouble in the last 12 years by refusing to save or balance our budgets as individuals and families, thinking that the boom times would never end.  Well, George W. made sure they would end by not paying for his wars or his drug benefits and donating beyond his ability to pay to the wealthiest among us and their corporations.  Now Republican super conservatives are using the debt ceiling and risking the US credit rating in a ridiculous effort to fix what they themselves broke.  Rather than being responsible about owning up to their own profligacy, they are using this situation as a bludgeon to hit Obama with and hopefully (from their point of view) ensure his defeat at the polls in November 2012.

The Wikipedia has an interesting graphic for those interested in history:

It doesn’t take a great brain to see what happened after 2000.  And who knows?  With the constant drum beat of Republican propaganda from Fox News, they may actually succeed in bringing down the President.  The only trouble is they may well bring down the country as well, proving themselves totally unfit to govern.

Sinking Feeling

I’ve been having that feeling for the past week now, and I’m not happy with it. Usually in our recent past history, Washington politicians have come to their senses and done the right thing by the nation rather than agree to a tailspinning disaster. I just don’t think that’s going to happen this time. Republicans seem determined to cause hardship and misery for millions for the sake of an ideology that only the Tea Party fanatics believe in. Do they really think that bringing down the US economy will win them the White House in 2012? The Democrats aren’t much better. They’ve all decided that cutting everything will be good for the country. Oh yeah? And what, exactly, do they mean by that? Good for whom? Those who are already rich and getting richer by the minute? Do they care about the millions who have already lost their shirts, literally? If they do they sure do not seem to, and meanwhile the Danny Hartzell’s of the US and the world multiply.

Calling the battle over the debt ceiling “a contest between grown-up sobriety and juvenile righteousness”, George Packer, writing in the New Yorker sums up his view of Washington behavior and Danny Hartzell’s plight this way:

Nor does it leave much hope. President Obama, responsibly acceding to the reality of divided government, is now the leading champion of fiscal austerity, and his proposals contain very little in the way of job creation. More important, he no longer uses his office’s most powerful tool, rhetorical suasion, to keep the country focused on the continued need for government activism. His opponents’ approach to job creation is that of a cargo cult—just keep repeating “tax cuts”—even though the economic evidence of the past three decades refutes such magical thinking. What does either side have to offer the tens of millions of Americans who have settled into a semi-permanent state of economic depression? Virtually nothing. But if responsibility were fused with conviction—if politics were a vocation in Washington today—the Hartzells would be represented at the negotiating table.

Read more.

If the plight of Danny Hartzell so vividly described by Mr. Packer were the only case in sight or even one of an exceptionally small number of people, maybe it wouldn’t be quite so appalling for the politicians to ignore them.  But there are millions of similar cases.  We all know people who are out of work and have been for months or years, and who have also run out of benefits, lost their homes, moved in with relatives or friends with no way to care for sick children.  There is no sane reason for this move by all toward the radicalism of extreme right wing conservatives.  It is a surrender to those who yell the loudest, who repeat the same nonsensical lies until they have finally silenced the opposition.  Seems to me a similar thing happened in Germany in the late 20’s and 30’s, but I forget – nobody studies history any more.  They just make it up to suit what they believe has to be true according to their ideology.

The job loss map at Slate is terrifying, and it only shows the years between 2007 and 2009.  Imagining what it would look like today is nightmarish.  Go take a look, and remember that all that red indicates the losses of individuals, most of whom have worked hard for most of the lives and many of whom will remain unemployed for the foreseeable future all because of minority of fanatics in Washington.

Labor of love?

I have been reposting some old blog posts from my former site which is now defunct. The advantage of using iBlog to create and publish them was that copies of everything were kept on my computer, so I still have everything I wrote all those years ago. It’s a weird experience, reading and reposting those bits and pieces. It’s also very time consuming, so it will take me months until I have everything caught up to date. I wish there was an easier way to just move the site from one place to another, but I couldn’t find one. Of course, I am also still commenting on the events of the present, and I do not always have time to upload any of the old ones. I haven’t done my list of Blogroll yet, either, as much of it has changed over time. Sites have disappeared. People whose words I used to read daily don’t post so often any more. Some people have disappeared altogether, like Riverbend the writer of Baghdad Burning, whose words were turned into a book. The members of A Family in Baghdad have scattered around the world. In other words, this site is not really ready for prime time yet, and I have more to learn about how to get it the way I want it to look.

Reading words that I wrote myself back in 2004 reminds me of how it felt to be lost in those early days of the war in Iraq. Some of what I wrote then turned out to be dead wrong, but some of it was right on target. I never meant what I wrote to be more than a diary of sorts. I wasn’t very much interested in the kind of self-promotion that seems to go with so much of what appears on the web these days. I only wanted to get my thoughts into some kind of order that maybe a few might be interested in reading. I haven’t changed that attitude even though I am now well into my 70’s and still struggling to make some sense out of the world I live in, still fascinated by the game of politics and what passes in the US for foreign policy, and, yes, still disgusted with the inanity of much of it, like the idiocy going on right now in Washington. If the Republicans didn’t make much sense during the Bush era, they make even less sense now. What kinds of people are they to propose laws they know will not pass, just so they can evade responsibility (they hope) for not compromising with a Democratic President on they financial mess they mostly got us into? What a selfish irresponsible age we have come to!

Hidden terrorist or anti-muslim injustice?

There was a report on NPR Morning Edition this morning concerning a professor in Ohio who was smeared by people who came to “train” state security people and then fired. The professor has been in this country since 1979. He is an American citizen. NPR gives his name as Omar al-Omari, a gentleman who came to the US from Jordan. He is suing the state.

The incident remind me of the terrible injustices our government did in the 50’s to anyone who could be labelled a Communist sympathizer. Republicans still persist in using it, though the so-called Communist menace disappeared some time ago. They don’t forget their false nightmares. How many perfectly innocent lives were ruined, because someone began a rumor that became a story that led to character assassination of those individuals who were accused. It happened in the 70’s when some of us went witch hunting for anti-war protestors. We seem to be doing it again, only this time the smear words are Muslim terrorist. Omar al-Omari was fired from his position because he omitted the names of some universities where he had worked from his resume. Huh? I’m not sure why this would make a difference, especially since he seems to have degrees from several different universities in various countries.

Guandolo [the trainer] suggested when I interviewed him on the phone that there were things he knew about Omari that the FBI didn’t. “We know we have our facts right, because we have to,” Guandolo said. (Nearly a dozen sources contacted by NPR in the intelligence community, the FBI and at the Department of Homeland Security said Omari has no links to terrorists or terrorism. They said the accusations against him are unfounded.)

Just who does he think he is? That’s the kind of answer a liar and a bully gives to make you think he knows more than he really does and to intimidate you. It is a stark reminder of how far down the path toward gross violation of civil rights and intolerance we’ve been led by the GWOT. There are prisoners still in Guantanamo because someone was certain the facts were correct, only they were wrong or they used torture to get “confessions” or both. There are people in prison in the US who were entrapped by the FBI or others into saying something or boasting or obtaining materials that were urged on them by informants, who don’t belong there. There are prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan who are innocent of the charges against them, or who just aroused some anonymous person’s suspicions. None of this is law they way Americans are said to practice it.

The CIA has done a similar thing to Juan Cole who writes the blog Informed Comment. He is also suing, and you can read about his experience here. Cole is also a professor, but he is at the University of Michigan. He has the ACLU on his side. I hope al-Omari does too.

The larger question is, when does the hysteria stop?

Mitch McConnel’s “Deal”

He seems to think he’s being oh-so-clever with his proposal to “give” the White House the power to raise the debt ceiling without getting the approval of Congress first. The Administration would have the power to raise the debt ceiling and Congress could only defeat the move with a 2/3rds vote in both houses. Really? On the surface it sounds like a slick way around the current impasse – go back to the way things were before 1974 and the battle will be moot.

But wait, McConnell seems to be doing what Republicans love to do, evade all responsibility for their part in our present financial fix, and still have the ability to blame the President afterwards for not coming to an agreement with them. If I can see it, it’s got to be a pretty transparent move, yet I’ve seen nothing so far that makes the same point.

David Brooks, in his really great July 5th column at the New York Times, ends with this:

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

If McConnell has his way, responsible Republicans will be unable to take control, and the talks will fail. The one thing that McConnell and other Republicans can’t get past is their determination to make Obama fail, no matter what the cost to themselves and the country. They have forgotten, or refuse to see, the fact that their “base” constitutes barely 1/3 of the country, and that what they call listening to the American People, is just an excuse for their extremist views. They have forgotten that their Constitutional duty is to the country as a whole and not to some fanatic faction. (Of course, I have to admit that according to Rasmussen, declared Democrats are also just over 1/3.) In any case, the rest of us seem to be pretty much in the middle between the 2 extremes, and that 1/3 contains the people both parties should be speaking to and for, since they are the swing voters who matter the most. That’s where the President seems to be.

Here’s this from Politico:

Online, a cadre of establishment-type conservatives largely aligned with Wall Street (and the Wall Street Journal) are backing McConnell’s move as “fiendishly clever,” while grass-roots Tea Party types pronounced themselves horrified and called for the Senate leader to be burned in effigy.

So far, the President and the White House seem to be avoiding the trap. I think Obama may be a better poker player than that. I think Reid and Pelosi need to have their heads examined if they continue to support this non deal. And if the Republicans really do split, Obama may have the chance to divide and conquer. In any case, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

Structural Lies

Gareth Porter in a recent article in Truthout:

The story of the lies that took the Obama administration into a bigger war in Afghanistan shows that those lies have structural, systemic roots. The political dynamics surrounding the making of war policies are so completely dominated by the vested interests of the heads of the Pentagon, the military, and other national security bureaucracies that the outcome of the process must be based on a systematic body of lies. Only by depriving those institutions of their power can Americans have a military policy based on the truth.

It fits with what I have been saying about the machinery of government having all the momentum in decision making by the administration, and it explains to a large extent why Obama has been so disappointing for progressives. No matter what he might have thought to be a better way of dealing with the world before the election, once surrounded by those with vested interests in their ways and methods, he has had little opportunity to make his own kind of foreign policy or way decisions. He will have to rid himself of many of the oldovers from previous administrations if he intends to accomplish much on his own. Even Hillary is wedded to the old ways of accepting the combined “wisdom” of the intelligence agencies and the military. It has been a long time since anything resembling original thought got any kind of a blessing in Washington.

Go have a good read. It’s well worth it.

Do you remember Iraq?

You know, that war we fought for 5 or 6 years? That place where Democracy was going to take root and be this great example for the rest of the arab world? That place where we spent billions to “reconstruct” the country? Well, guess what, it’s still a place where the children are dying for lack of medical care:

Unfortunately for Iraqis, their doctors are still leaving the country because so many of them have been kidnapped, or assassinated or both. Medicines are another problem, as the video shows. Much of what the US has spent on rebuilding education has been swallowed up in corruption. Many of the young people whose blogs I still try to read have also left the country. The brain drain certainly will do the country no good for the future. Those who have been displaced inside Iraq by all the fighting may have the hardest time:

Few in this country seem to care any more what may happen in Iraq after US troops pull out (if they do). Many Iraqis have said they want the troops to stay, but Prime Minister Maliki owes his place to the Sadrists, and their leader, Moktada al-Sadr,  is adamant that the US must leave as promised.  Allowing our military involvement to drag on indefinitely doesn’t seem to be very popular here, either.  What the two countries may agree on is some sort of “training” mission that allows for many US forces to stay, and there are the ubiquitous “contractors” draining the budgets of both countries.

Our US military will not want to leave.  They never do once they’ve been sent somewhere as Obama is discovering about Afghanistan.  So we can probably expect that reports of more deaths from IED attacks in Iraq will continue, and the country will remain rather chaotic for the foreseeable future.  Our soldiers are both a help and a hindrance as we prop up a government that does not have the confidence of all the Iraqi people.  And if that also sounds familiar, it’s because we keep following the same patterns of actions no matter where or when we go to war in a far away place.  We say we want stability, but that’s not what our actions accomplish.

Something Fishy?

Something about the Strauss-Kahn news just doesn’t smell right. Why is the NYT now saying that the victim lacks credibility? What they cite doesn’t really seem to amount to much, and has nothing to do with the present case. A connection with a man imprisoned for marijuana possession, seems too minor for her suddenly to be accused of lying all over the place.

It sound more to me like someone high up is bringing pressure on the prosecution to allow Strauss-Kahn to go free. Just because the lady doesn’t always tell the whole truth doesn’t mean that assault didn’t happen, nor does it give others the right to smear her.

I don’t think we have all the facts, and I think the news media is being just as irresponsible now as they may have been when they placed Strauss-Kahn under house arrest. The NYT and NPR really ought to do more checking before them come out with sensational stuff like this.

If the victim were a white American, would the prosecution and the media have gone after her like this? What was said in her conversation with the guy in prison? If Strauss-Kahn has been a philanderer in the past, why should he now be believed? What is the real explanation behind the apparent mismatch between the asylum documents and what the victim has said? Intimidation is bound to figure in an attempt to get her to recant and drop the charges. Haven’t women of all colors and races suffered enough of this sort of thing like rape and sexual assault in recent years? Where are all the female voices of disgust at the outrageous overblown publicity?

If this were some African country, I would say that there is probably money involved here between some of the parties and the prosecution. How far away is the US from that kind of law enforcement? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time here that money and power have exerted influence that has allowed persons involved in criminal acts to escape justice.

The media frenzy needs to come to an end. They don’t really know what they’re talking about, and of course, neither do I. We weren’t there in the room to witness. Judgement should be left to the court. We can only pray that Mr. Vance will allow the legal process to take its course based on the evidence and not on any of the extraneous so-called “facts”.