Blog Archives

Decision time

It’s coming soon now.  Next week we will have the votes in Congress that determine to a large extent whether the US attacks Syria or not.  The administration has certainly been trying its best to stir up support both at home and abroad without a great deal of success.  The media seems to be behind Senator McCain’s pro-war, pro-rebel stand to a great extent, but the larger public keeps saying, “no”.  Little of the mainstream media is skeptical of this possible effort, and the reports that cast doubt on Administration propaganda are mostly ignored.  If the President decided to  wait for a Congressional decision, he doesn’t seem to have wanted to use it to change his mind, which I hoped for at one point.  This morning’s New York Times talks of air raids by US and French planes as well as the missiles to “degrade” Assad’s ability even more.  That would mean even more civilian casualties, death, and destruction than there has been already.  I fail to see how such a plan would deter the Assad regime from the path it is already on.  If it is true, that the regime feels itself as backed into a dire corner between life and death, as I believe it does, it is bound to choose its own survival by whatever means.  Nothing much that the West can do aside from wiping the slate clean as in Iraq, will have much effect.  All sides in this fight have been incredibly brutal, and to pick one as the incarnation of evil is to misread the people involved and the facts on the ground.

The article also contains this statement:

“They are being pulled in two different directions,” a senior foreign official involved in the discussions said Thursday. “The worst outcome would be to come out of this bruising battle with Congress and conduct a military action that made little difference.”

I think that’s what’s likely to happen anyway, no matter what John McCain and the hawks say. The President has not seemed to want another war, and has tried to reassure people about no boots on the ground.   That doesn’t mean he can’t be dragged into more agression.  Once begun, military action of any kind has been rather self-perpetuating.  If the military action makes little difference, it might cause an uproar here at home among the war party, but it will not change the ultimate outcome in Syria, even if there are cries for more attacks.  The Syrians themselves have to sort out what is to become of them.  Whoever or whatever caused the deaths by poison gas, our entry into a local civil war will not change the ultimate resolution on the ground.  Morality has nothing to do with this other than as a propaganda tool.

Nothing we did in Iraq turned the country into that shining example of democracy that President Bush promised.  It only served to make most Iraqis detest us for the foreseeable future.


It amazes me that people are so quick to condemn something they’ve seen on the cover of a magazine or heard about through gossip and feel free to say the most awful things about stuff they know nothing about.  This week’s cover of Rolling Stone is one example.  People just saw that face and went off, or they heard about it and went off.  The other is the President’s remarks yesterday on the Trayvon Martin shooting.  I doubt that many of them actually listened, but off they went making the most outrageously awful, ugly and prejudiced statements on Facebook.  The Media say we’re polarized.  I think there may be more to it than that.  Both the stories are tragedies;  for Tzarnaev and his family, and for Trayvon’s family.  Are they both victims of the hate that gets thrown around on the internet under a cloak of anonymity?  The remarks about Obama’s speech that I saw had little to do with what he said, it was more about the writer’s hatred for him.  Todd Starnes Facebook page is an education in right wing nasty looniness.  I must be living in some other country where people try to reach across divides and understand each other no matter what their differences.  This is what Todd Starnes said that began the discussion:

 “President Obama is now our Race-Baiter in Chief. His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible. 

 “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said. He actually said the outcome might have been different if Trayvon had been white.

 Folks – we have reached a very dangerous point in this nation when the president of the united states begins to question the judicial system.”

That’s a deliberate misinterpretation of what the President said.  He questioned the validity of one particular law, not the entire judicial system.

A kind of “balance” can be had it you also check out Newshounds.  At least it’s somewhat better written and more understandable than Starnes’ site. (Why do I read this stuff, anyway?)  It’s hard to know what the folks on Starnes’ site actually believe.  What would they say if confronted in person about their words?  Quite possibly, like the crowds of Obama haters at their rallies.

Anniversary of Iraq invasion

I’ve just finished reading Victoria Brittain’s piece on TomDispatch.  I know a bit about how bad things have been for people under suspicion of terrorism here in the States, but what she describes about policies followed in Great Britain is far worse than anything I have yet read about what happens to people here.

I will eventually have to buy her book, Shadow Lives,  but I don’t seem to have much time to read these days.  It’s too hard keeping up with the daily idiocy that America has become.  She quotes Desmond Tutu at the end of her piece, the same quote I pulled not long ago:

…”I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity”.

I don’t think it’s a threat anymore.  I think it’s happened.  The so-called debate over the drone wars makes it pretty clear.  Why is Rand Paul the one and only lone voice trying to get guarantees that our government won’t go after us with drones without legal protections?  Where are all the other public voices, even that of our constitutional lawyer President? We are already depraved by our own brutality and fear, and he, the President, has been ill-served by the powerful forces in Washington that are determined to continue the fighting, the killing, the military-“intelligence”  machine that seems to have taken over everything in our government.

These drones will be back one day to haunt and terrorize us as they have terrorized thousands in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.  The whole concept of this kind of war is morally bankrupt and just plain wrong.  It’s use reveals the bottomless fear that has distorted and crippled our views of others in this world.  We are forcing ourselves to believe that those women and children killed with the supposed insurgents aren’t worthy of life or thought or compassion.

Where are the liberals and the Democrats who berated George W for his policies of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial?  How do we know that our super secret government isn’t continuing the same policies in one form or another, but giving its actions a new name, a different euphemism to describe the morally reprehensible?  WE do not regain the moral high ground because we claim to have stopped those practices when we are still detaining people without trial for years on end – even our own citizens – and rain down death from the sky on other innocent people.  America was supposed to be different, but ever since we walked into Vietnam, we’ve lost our original constitutional, legal justification for being an exceptional nation. We can’t call ourselves the virtuous, righteous nation any more with out our faces turning the deep red of shame.

Reading Brittain’s piece is like listening to Hugh Sykes Documentary at the BBC World Service, as he speaks with Iraqis affected by American brutality and stupidity.  Some of that is powerful indeed, and there is more to come with a 2nd part next week.  He exposes the anger and frustration of those left behind in the mess we made of Iraq, and about which we no longer seem to care.  The bloggers I used to read who described their lives under Occupation are mostly no longer blogging, but scattered here and there around the world.  Those who remain in Iraq do so with remarkable optimism and humor as Sykes notes.  Having to survive in awful conditions seems to do that to people.  Iraqis share it with many Palestinians.

Having listened and read, I now want to ask questions here about the families of those entrapped by the FBI, and the consequences they faced after their husbands or sons were carted off to prison having been convicted by fearful juries and judges.  What happens to those under surveillance?  Are their funds cut off as well?  Do women who traditionally have stayed at home now have to work to support their families here?  What happens to the children in these families?

Somehow, part of me has held on to the belief that Great Britain, home of the Magna Carta, was somehow better, more civilized that we barbarians across the water, but now I’m not so sure.  In fact, if I really think about it, the Brits have always been part of that European empire building frame of mind with the same attitudes toward “native peoples” as we have now.

We should have had that long reflection after George was no longer President.  We should have tried those who were guilty of war crimes and otherwise faced our problems truthfully and rationally, but we missed that opportunity when Obama said let’s move on.  All that did was shove the mess under the rug where it has festered ever since, and trapped him in the same kind of monstrousness.

Take look at Clifford May’s piece:

And another on our wimpish Democrats:

The Military Point of View

There was an article in the NYT yesterday (9.23) on Iraq, which appears to be critical of the Obama Administrations’s efforts to end the military presence in Iraq:  “In US Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts of Americas Last Months in Iraq”.  It’s an excerpt from a book due out next week called the “Endgame: The inside story of the struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama” by Michael Gordon, the NYT reporter and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainer.  The timing is suspiciously political.  It’s even a 2nd printing.  Didn’t attract enough attention the first time?


Vice President Biden comes off as naive and foolish, and Obama himself is criticized for coming late to the negotiations as well as botching them.  It seems to me that the situation on the ground had already been thoroughly botched by the Bush Administration beyond the point of the rescue of the so-called American interests.


The article is written mostly from the military point of view.  The military never wanted to leave Iraq, even under George W. The military never wants to give up on an operation, even when there is no choice as in Vietnam. It dragged its feet in Iraq, and now it’s dragging its feet again in Afghanistan. 


George & Co. had already made such a mess of things by the time Obama arrived in office that there was not much that could be done to create that chimera of the “balanced, stable democracy”.  It was the American post colonial policy of divide and conquer under the Provisional Authority that set the stage for all the struggles that followed, including the civil war and Maliki’s slide toward authoritarian rule.  The American government never learned much about Iraqis and Iraq all the time they were present in the country.  They only saw their own point of view, their wants, their needs.  No one ever asked the Iraqis what they wanted until the elections were forced on them in 2005, and then the arrangements were pretty much rigged to favor the Shia continuing the sectarian divide.  The Bush administration was never able to get Maliki to agree to leaving some soldiers in Iraq because it would have had to go through parliament which wanted all Americans out of Iraq.  What influence the Americans had was pretty much gone by the time the Bush administration was gone and Obama came in.


To attempt to blame Obama for the mess we left in Iraq is to have some kind of political agenda that ignores history and the present facts on the ground.  There was no way they were going to undo what George & Co. had created.  It will take time and a lot of hard work on the part of the Iraqis to come out of the chaos that followed the invasion.  We here at home should be extremely wary of those who think our military can do everything.  They can’t, as we have found to our sorrow in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


A more accurate analysis can be found in Michael Schwartz’s “War without End: The Iraq War in Context”.  Just because it’s a political season doesn’t mean that newspaper articles should be irresponsible.

Music Video

Off my usual beaten track, but this is fascinating:

Putumayo Presents: African Blues-Playing For Change featuring Tinariwen “Groove in G” from Putumayo World Music on Vimeo.

It’s such a huge contrast between the perception given here of musicians from around the world cooperating and playing together and the perception given in an article in The Atlantic Monthly by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Fear of a Black President”, which emphasizes the visceral fear among some whites, most often conservatives, of black men in power like our Commander in Chief. Much as they love and promote their myth of American Equality, Freedom and Democracy, it is stunning how little Republicans practice it. The underlying racism has been apparent since the first Tea Party rallies after Obama won the Presidential election. Remember these?


And they say they aren’t racist?!!!!!

Even the bit in Romney’s Convention speech where he says:

I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we CAN do something. With your help we will do something.

seems patronizing and insulting to me, especially since it’s a lie. Romney doesn’t wish any such thing, nor does his party. They’ve spent all their efforts over the last 3 and a half years trying to engineer Obama’s failure as a President.

In an interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett, McConnell candidly acknowledged that he feels his “single most important” job is to defeat President Obama in 2012:

MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”

NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

Quoted from ThinkProgress Oct 25, 2010.

Unreasoning fear took over the Republicans in Congress to the point of nearly halting government operations and causing the downgrading of the US credit rating by Moody’s. What Congress needs is a few more musicians to show them what tolerance and working together can do.

Things that go bump in the night?

Watching Mr. Romney squirm about his activities at Bain from 1999 to 2002 and whine about Obama’s ad that questions how he could be there and not be there at the same time reminded me of 2 things: how boys who are the instigators of mischief use the same excuse when caught out (“I wasn’t there!”), and a silly nonsense poem we sometimes recited at home:

Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

Oh, how I wish, he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three

The man was waiting there for me

But when I looked around the hall

I couldn’t see him there at all!

Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!

Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair

A little man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

Oh, how I wish he’d go away.

William Hughes Means, 1889

I’m beginning to think that this supposed “business” genius, is neither as smart nor as skillful as he makes himself out to be. It would be so nice if one of these days his party could find some candidate who wasn’t a fraud.

Welcome to our new nasty world!

Obama gave in.  The Tea Party can jump for joy, and then remember that what they’ve done will affect them as much as the rest of us.  I first saw this video at  It was made by a teacher at Kahn Academy a website that is a treasure trove for us folks in education.  I have used it for K-8 math a lot. It explains the difference between the Deficit and the Debt Ceiling in a way that is easily understood.  Have a look:

It’s a little long, but it explains very clearly how we got where we are, and perhaps, why President Obama finally gave in to what is a really bad deal for the country.  You can see how unhappy he is with the situation in this picture that I “borrowed” from the NewRepublic’s newsletter.

That is one very tired and discouraged gentleman!  And well he might be, since who knows if either the full Senate or House with OK the deal.  The so-called TeaParty politicians seem to have a special talent for upping the ante and making a really terrible problem even worse.  They have already managed to damage out standing with the rest of the world and are on their way to making the Great Recession return with a vengeance.  Hang on to your hats!  And your pennies.