Monthly Archives: January 2010

Military Democracy

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If there was any doubt whether the U.S. system of government had become a Military Democracy (as opposed to a representative democracy, constitutional monarchy, corporate theocracy), the president has proposed a freeze on discretionary spending. And guess what is non-discretionary?

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Filed under Essays, Obama 44

Getting Things Right, Getting Things Wrong


Regardless, I think that yesterday’s one year anniversary of President Barack H. Obama in office warrants some reflection, especially considering that I was an outspoken Obama supporter during the election. Now, one year later, I think it is safe to say that I got one thing right and one thing very wrong.

What I got right was that Obama’s victory was going to be a blessing in disguise for the Republicans.

But if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t fret too much (unless I was running for reelection tomorrow [Election Day, November 4, 2008]). Remember 1992? Bill Clinton was in the White House and the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton was unable to pass any significant legislation. Two years later, the Republican Revolution took control over the Senate and the House for the first time in 40 years, as well as big gains in state legislatures and governorships around the country. That’s right, Americans love divided government. It took a little longer for this to happen to George W. Bush, but the same thing eventually happened to the Republican dominated Congress in the 2006 elections.

What does this mean for Republicans? My guess is that the Democrats will have big congressional victories in state and federal elections tomorrow and if Obama also wins, Americans will once again show their preference for divided government in the 2010 midterm elections. If on the other hand Obama loses, we’ll have divided government with a Republican presidency and Democratic Congress, and no tangible incentive to vote Republicans back into government.

In other words, all Republicans have to do until 2010 is say no to everything coming from the White House, call the president a socialist like its the 1950s, create a legislative stalemate, and voilà, the Republicans will see congressional victories all over the country. But don’t forget that in 1994, President Clinton’s popularity didn’t rise until the Democrats lost their congressional majority and the Republicans thereafter became the fall guys for all of the country’s ills. So in an ironic turn of fait, what is good for Republicans and bad for the Democrats in 2010 – Republicans regaining congressional seats — may be the key to Obama’s reelection in 2012. Americans do love their divided government.

Now to what I got horribly wrong. Back when debating whether Obama’s early choices for cabinet officers would lead to change or was simply recycling the old institutional players, I wishfully argued that unlike Clinton who surrounded himself with his Arkansas boys or Carter who failed as an outsider, Obama was “concentrating not so much on looking like change but on who was most capable of implementing the necessary changes.” Guys like Rahm Emmanuel (who my uncle Charlie had warned me against from day one), Leon Panetta, Geitner, and Summers were supposed to be the insiders who knew how to play ball and get the president’s job done.

But instead of zealously pushing for the president’s mandates, these pro-bowl insiders have done little more than insure the inside status quo. Who would have thought you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks? So instead of real change you can believe in, we have had a full year of more of the same. On almost every initiative and campaign promise of change, President Obama and his team have – quite to the contrary of the Republican cries of socialism – moved far to the right. There has been absolutely nothing progressive or even remotely liberal in any of the Administration’s actions to date. I defy anyone who voted for change — or even those who voted against Obama’s alleged radicalism — to signal a single area where Obama has not caved. Continue reading

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Filed under Essays, Obama 44

Sleep and Believe

This I promise is not a political post. It is about the willingness of the masses to believe whatever the government tells them (with the full support of an abetting media). Ironically, for a nation that innately distrusts the government in all things domestic, it is a blind follower of the government abroad as supreme warrior leader beyond good and evil.

The most recent example is the new story in Harper’s Magazine by Scott Horton about the government’s cover-up of three detainee deaths — most likely from torture and made to look like suicide — at Guantanamo in June 2006. All three of the detainees had previously been cleared for release.

In reference to this article, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic writes,

We have been told for so long that “enhanced interrogation techniques” are just “aggressive questioning”; that the ancient waterboarding technique is not torture; that Guantanamo Bay is a model prison facility where detainees are, if anything, molly-coddled (in fact, Rudy Giuliani recently opined that “Guantanamo is better than half the Federal prisons.”) We are also told routinely on Fox News that the United States has not and never would torture prisoners; we are told by the New York Times and NPR that use of the word “torture” is too biased; we have been told by many that to argue that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are war criminals is such an extreme position it disgraces anyone who states it, and marginalizes them to the fever swamps of leftist haters and hysterics.

These are all lies. They are pre-meditated lies. They are attempts to lie about some of the worst crimes committed by a president and vice-president of the United States in history. Anyone with their eyes open and their mind not closed knows this somewhere deep inside. And the only reason we do not know more about this is because of the criminal cover-up under the Bush administration and the enraging refusal of the Obama administration to do the right thing and open all of it to sunlight.

In the past, the Bush-Cheney administration could cover up their total control of the torture program and their direct authorization of the techniques used at Abu Ghraib by several distancing moves: “we are shocked that this happened”; it was the work of a “few bad apples”; the techniques we use are “relatively benign”; waterboarding is only torture if the Communists do it, and so on.

Glenn Greenwald explains the problem as such

The single biggest lie in War on Terror revisionist history is that our torture was confined only to a handful of “high-value” prisoners.  New credible reports of torture continuously emerge.  That’s because America implemented and maintained a systematic torture regime spread throughout our worldwide, due-process-free detention system.  There have been at least 100 deaths of detainees in American custody who died during or as the result of interrogation.  Gen. Barry McCaffrey said:  “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”  Gen. Antonio Taguba said after investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses and finding they were part and parcel of official policy sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, and not the acts of a few “rogue” agents:  “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.  The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Despite all of this, our media persists in sustaining the lie that the torture controversy is about three cases of waterboarding and a few “high-value” detainees who were treated a bit harshly.  That’s why Horton’s story received so little attention and was almost completely ignored by right-wing commentators:  because it shatters the central myth that torture was used only in the most extreme cases — virtual Ticking Time Bomb scenarios — when there was simply no other choice.  Leading American media outlets, as a matter of policy, won’t even use the word “torture.”  This, despite the fact that the abuse was so brutal and inhumane that it led to the deaths of helpless captives — including run-of-the-mill detainees, almost certainly ones guilty of absolutely nothing — in numerous cases.  These three detainee deaths — like so many other similar cases — illustrate how extreme is the myth that has taken root in order to obscure what was really done.

At the end of the day, it becomes hard to believe almost anything we are told about the War on Terror either by our government or the rubberstamping mainstream media.

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A Letter from Satan to Pat Robertson

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Here’s a very clever response by one Lily Coyle in the Minneapolis Star Tribune to Pat Robertson’s preposterous claim that Haitians had signed a pack with the Devil, resulting in the recent the earthquake (chickens roosting?):

Dear Pat Robertson, I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll. You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan

Thanks to Cristina M for sending me the link.

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The Polisario in Madrid?

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the bewildering infatuation of the Spanish intelligentia with the independence from Morocco of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

What is so strange about this relationship is that the end of Spanish rule over Western Sahara in 1975, some twenty years after Spain and France relinquished control over most of the rest of Morocco, remains in the collective Moroccan mind as a landmark in the history of independence and sovereignty. Spanish interference into the claims over Western Sahara – without getting into their merits here – are reminiscent of the Franco era and foreign imperialism.

Flash forward these weeks and upon return from Christmas, I find that my hipster neighbors (who had an anti Iraq war “No a la Guerra” banner a few years ago) were now hanging the flag of the Polisario, the rebel group in favor of an independent Western Sahara.

What does the Western Sahara have to do with my neighbors? Why do they care? They are against a war in one Arab country but in favor of rebels in another? Do they even know that the Polisario was supported in the 1970s by the Franco regime and is now largely subsidized by Algeria? With the unemployment rate in Spain at 20% and an inept government in power, you’d think they would be more worried about what’s happening outside their own window.

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Filed under Living la vida española

Osama bin Llamazares

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The barely relevant Spanish Politician, Gaspar Llamazares, of the equally unimportant far left wing party, Izquierda Unida, is upset after his image was used by the FBI to generate its new updated profile of what Osama bin Laden. Of course, FBI clumsiness should be no surprise to anyone (heck, we bomb countries every time the FBI and CIA fail to communicate with each other), but it is another thing for Mr. Llamazares to even hope to be sufficiently interesting enough to become a target of American intrigue.

(Though I do suppose it is noteworthy to mention that the son of former Izquierda Unida party leader, Julio Anguita, died while embedded as a journalist with the U.S. military early on in the Iraq War, a war which Izquierda Unida vehemently protested).

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Resolution for 2010

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After a record long intermission from Grave Error, I am back with my 2010 New Year’s Resolution. Now, I know I have mentioned before that this was not a political blog, was never intended to be one, that I would try harder to steer it back towards its more digressive origins, and that I have routinely failed at doing so. Nevertheless, for 2010, I am resolving to write less about politics. That doesn’t mean that I won’t slip off the wagon ever now and then or that politics are off limits altogether. Just that I will make a more conscious effort to concentrate more on digressions than on the absurdities of our political discourse.

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