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      Sounds like it: Net neutrality is not dead. But it may be about to take a big blow to the head. The Wall Street Journal has a foreboding scoop that provides details on an early draft of the Federal Communications Commission’s new net neutrality rules. And to put it mildly, Internet activists will not be […]
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Shoot me now

I’ve spent the last two days with Brook trying to get her to focus on her history final.  It has been brutal.  Try explaining the horror of the Reagan years to someone who has never known anything but trickle down economics.  “It was bad, you had to be there” {{shudder}} That just doesn’t convey the awfulness of what Reagan, the Southern Strategy, Jesse Helms’ Quota ad and Anita Bryant did to us.  Morning in America it wasn’t .  Remember when Barack Obama said he admired Reagan?  Kind of makes you throw up a little in the mouth, doesn’t it?

Anyway, she just went into one of the sound proof booths of the library for the three hour ordeal.  Wish her luck.

 

Book Review: Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Quick aside before I start: I grew up in the military.  My little sister and I were dropped off at The Nursery on the Naval base in Norfolk when my parents wanted to go out for dinner.  My sister, going through a period of separation anxiety, would cry for what seemed like hours.  I spent the first hour trying to console her and the rest of the evening having a blast with other kids, playing games and watching cartoons from an overhead projector.  If our parents were late, there was a room with bunkbeds for the kids who hadn’t been picked up yet.  It was like a sleepover and we’d talk quietly to one another until our moms and dads plucked us out of bed and took us home.

We got our healthcare from The Dispensary.  That was a clinic staffed with corpsmen and doctors who handled our shots, my bout of hepatitis A when I was four and my sister’s unending stream of asthma attacks.  There was a pharmacy on site that dispensed bottles of thick yellow Tedral that made my sister jittery but allowed us all a few hours of peace each night to sleep.  My parents shopped at the PX and The Commissary.  My family ate generics before the rest of the country knew what they were.  They weren’t even store brand.  They were canned foods with white labels with black block lettering that said “Peaches” or “Green Beans”.  Nothing fancy but sound and good and American grown by some farmer in the midwest.

In the summer, we went to Summer Fun at the base at Pearl Harbor where the first thing we did each day was swim 40 laps in the officer’s pool followed by survival training where we learned to stay afloat for hours in case riptides dragged us and our boogie boards out to sea.  We took field trips and polished kukui nuts and made flowers out of wire petals dipped in a liquid plastic material that is probably now off limits to children.  At night, we ran around military housing until the wee hours and dodged the patrol cars trying to enforce curfew.

So, my experience of growing up military brat was mostly positive.  Changing schools so often wasn’t fun but it was easier when other kids were in the same boat.

I suspect it’s not like that anymore.  In fact, on Google maps, I can’t find the old military housing where I lived in Pearl Harbor.  My old elementary school is there but the rowhouses with the enclosed lanais have been replaced by pods of condos.  But there was a price to pay for being a brat during the Vietnam War.  From the age of 2 until I was 10, I saw my dad for only a couple of months a year.  And we were the lucky ones.

[Katiebird (KB) here. My comments will be in italic: ] My childhood experience was a little different too.  My parents met while working at a Navel Atomic Energy Research Lab and my dad worked there until he transferred to Water Pollution Control (later the EPA) in 1967. So I had some exposure to the fringes of military life although we were very much civilians. And the mission of the lab my dad worked in was to find a defense against nuclear weapons so that was a little weird too.]

Rachel Maddow’s book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, is about the modern military and how we got here.  If you are a fan of Rachel’s style on Air American and MSNBC, you’ll find this book an entertaining read.  I read the first two chapters and then listened to the rest of it on Audible.  And while we are going to give away a signed copy of the book, I recommend the audible version.  Maddow’s snarky, ironic style comes across better in her oral interpretation of the book in the audio format.

This book is well researched and very well written.  Each chapter moves smoothly into the next.  She hits what she considers to be the most important series of events that lead from the limited use of our military for serious wars to the establishment of a full time military with unprecedented lethality but burdened with unaccountable private contractors and the loss of generational technological memory.

[KB] I was stunned by the amount of research that went into this book.  And her skill in condensing and combining facts in an interesting and readable fashion.

Early on, she introduces us to the Abram’s doctrine, which arose out of Vietnam.  During the Vietnam war, President Johnson made the decision to not involve the Reserves or National Guard.  This was unprecedented in American military history where previous conflicts involved them.  Instead, Johnson used the draft to meet the increasing demands of an escalating war.  The Reserves and National Guard became a haven for the rich and well-connected and the draft the place for the less fortunate.  As the war was winding down, the Abrams doctrine was introduced to tie the hands of the president.  With respect to future conflicts, the involvement of the Reserves and National Guard would be hard to avoid so that the whole country would feel the sting of war and would therefore enter into one more cautiously.  After the implementation of the Abrams doctrine, the president would need to consult with Congress to get approval for committing troops to wars and the Reserves would need to be included.  As you can imagine, the Republicans didn’t much care for tying the hands of their executives.

[KB] I really liked being reminded about the relationship of the draft and the Vietnam war vs National Guard & the wars since. That might be my biggest takeaway from this book.

The rest of the book highlights how various presidents have attempted to get around the Abrams doctrine and how, over the intervening 40 years, they have mostly succeeded.  The sections featuring Ronald Reagan’s “Arms for Hostages” Iran-Contra affair are both hillarious and horrifying.  The impression one gets about Reagan is that he was playing a dangerous game but that trying to get around Congress was just a lark to him.  Either Reagan was the simpleton Maddow makes him out to be, which is terrifying enough, or he knew exactly what he was doing and his actions should have gotten him impeached.  After all, what the Arms for Hostages deal involved was selling missiles to Iran through Israeli middlemen in order to free Americans who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Then the money from those sales were passed on to the Contras in Nicaragua.  Congress had specifically prohibited any help whatsoever from the US government to the Contras through the Boland Amendment.  But Attorney General Ed Meese had found chinks in the amendment that would allow the assistance, even going so far as to say that Congress hadn’t prohibited the Department of Agriculture or Health and Human Services from aiding the Contras.  In other words, the Reagan Administration was going to do it no matter what impediment Congress put in Reagan’s way.

[KB] I read through the bits about Iran-Contra several times because I’ve never understood what happened there.  At the time it seemed like the entire Reagan Administration was going down…. and then it was never mentioned again.  Well, Rachel has pages of detail – quotes from Congressional Hearings, Time Magazine & a step-by-step description of what happened and when. But, the climax is just as vague to me now as it was then:

The president had been caught red-handed. Congress had exercised its legal and constitutional prerogative to restrain the executive france from waging a war in Nicaragua. Reagan responded by by breaking the law, waging the war anyway, and funding it by illegal and secret weapons deals that the president insisted weren’t happening. The secretary of defense was indicted on multiple counts, as were two national security advisers, an assistant secretary of state, the chief of Covert Ops at the CIA, and two other senior CIA officials. The president himself escaped largely by pleading exhaustive ignorance and confusion: “I’m afraid that I let myself be influenced by others’ recollections, not my own . . . the simple truth is, I don’t remember — period.” The Reagan presidency — the whole mythology of Reagan’s leadership — was laid bare. This was competence? (pg. 122)

Is that clear? “The president escaped largely by pleading exhaustive ignorance and confusion” Really?  Is that really how that happened? Because from there we skip onto George H. W. Bush and his pardons — and we don’t really look back. From then on the precedent was set and we just don’t have to expect trivial respect for legalities from our Presidents anymore.

Maddow details the disaster in Grenada and it comes off sounding like a tragic version of Keystone Kops planned the invasion and 19 servicemen died.  She recounts Bush Senior’s conflict with Congress over the first Gulf War as well as the Dynacor contractors in Bosnia who bought sex slaves with US taxpayer dollars as the military shifted to private contracting in the 90s.  In her last chapters, she talks about what is happening to our nuclear arsenal and the almost complete absence of documentation that would help the military maintain and replace components, including the hydrogen producing substances in the missiles themselves where the recipe for making more material has gone missing and military scientists are unable to reproduce it.  North Dakota is at the mercy of a socket wrench and air force specialists don’t bother going through safety checklists.

Throughout the book, Maddow maintains attention to resources and detail.  It is obvious that a lot of research went into writing this book.  Where she found time, I’ll never know.  But I do have some issues with the way the book was written and, based on my short discussion with Katiebird, we both are finding it problematic in the same way.  Maddow lays out pretty clearly how the drift occurred but she makes no attempt to suggest why it happened.  One almost gets the feeling that if you are a follower of Maddow’s brand of politics, you don’t have to wonder why it happened.  You just know.  It is to be assumed that the military industrial complex is driving things and that the presidential players are in on it, although her treatment of Bill Clinton and Al Gore seems ambivalent at best.  According to Maddow, it was all those Nurseries, Dispensaries and Summer Fun that persuaded Clinton and Gore outsource military dependent care to private contractors.  Maybe it’s just because I was an adult during the 90s and old enough to pay attention but I suspect that the high price of daycare on military bases was a Republican concern.  Consider military brats the equivalent of the welfare queen.

But if it is true that the military industrial complex is driving the drift to permanent war standing, why doesn’t she take that theory to its logical conclusion?  I mean, she justifiably comes down pretty hard on George W. Bush for starting two wars, one of them wholly unnecessary, and then giving the country a series of irresponsible tax cuts, but she spares Obama for extending the Bush tax cuts when we simply cannot afford the wars anymore.  Obama did this unnecessarily and irresponsibly as well.  Where is the condemnation for that?

Similarly, Obama is given credit for signing the new START treaty at the beginning of his presidency but not condemned for negotiating a contract for modernizing our nuclear defense systems which will include nuclear laden drones.  The price tag is crushing and the prospects of unmanned nuclear drones terrifying but you get the idea that Obama’s hand was forced by Republicans.  He’s just being dragged into things.  None of this is his fault.  It’s everyone else’s fault for starting wars and hiring private contractors. Obama is the only president who seems to be blessed with an excuse.  I’m not buying it.  Not only am I not buying it but if we have drifted into maintaining an expensive standing army at perpetual war, then it would seem that a good way of turning American’s attention to it would be to fix the economy first to free up some mental capacity for putting an end to the trend. But there is no suggestion that that might be necessary or that Obama has the wherewithal to do it.  And if that’s the case, can we please get a replacement who knows what the heck he/she is doing?

Another oddity is that Maddow almost entirely skips the controversy of the Iraq War Resolution.  I’m not sure why she chooses to do this since it was the basis for the left favoring one candidate over the other in 2008.  You’d think the IWR would merit some kind of coverage but I guess we’re all supposed to be so familiar with it that there’s no need to rehash all of the ugly details.  And she doesn’t say too much about the shocking use of misleading information and propaganda that was used by both Bushes for their excursions to the Persian Gulf.  I can’t account for this since the rest of the book is heading for it and then it just disappears, *poof!*, from the historical record.

[KB] I was kind of confused as well.

I think the problem with “Drift” might be the collision of Maddow the Researcher vs Maddow the Democrat.  My biggest complaint about the book is that I do not believe that any of the events had anything at all to do with “Drift” — Nothing so consistent as our move toward scaling back domestic spending and building up military spending happens without a deliberate decision among Very Serious People. And that decision had to include Republicans and Democrats.  It had to. If the Democrats were against it — truly against it — they would have made sure there were headlines in all the appropriate places. And the same thing goes for the Iraq War Resolution (perhaps in this case she didn’t want to expose just how limited that resolution was).

And while I appreciate the high level of research and quality of the writing, I’m still dissatisfied that Maddow didn’t take more time to find out what was driving Reagan, Bush Sr. and Dick Cheney.  Maybe in the end, it doesn’t matter why they did it as long as we voters insist that it stops because it is bankrupting us.  But if we never identify the actors who made it happen, and I think the public actors are not at all the whole story, we can never get to the source of the problem: the aspects of American culture that encourage a cavalier attitude for profit and glory at the expense of rules and the common good.  On this problem, one can almost hear Maddow saying, “Beats me! I have no f*$(ing clue.”

[KB] I think this book comes right up to being a fantastic history of how the relationship between the President & Congress evolved through the last 45 years or so. I am, however, disappointed by her lack of courage — or whatever it was that held her back from sharing the full story. I don’t believe she has “no f*$(ing clue.”  She’s too smart for us to let her get away with that.  This is a great book for what it is. It could have been off the scale with a little more work.   

Still, pretty good read.  Very entertaining.  Get the audible version and clean your house.  On a scale of 1-5, this one rates 4 sponges.

*****************

We are giving a signed copy of Rachel’s book away.  If you are interested in reading it, please indicate in the comment thread below.  I’ll use a random number generator to select a lucky recipient and will contact you through your email address.  If you have previously indicated that you wanted to read it, I will add your name and address to the entries.

A new “ketchup is a vegetable” moment

I don’t know what to make of this comment from David Obey about the Obama administration’s suggestion that funding for Obama’s Race to the Top educational initiatives be taken from food stamp funds:

The secretary of education [Arne Duncan] is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted .… [W]hen we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together.

We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. …Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.

Hmmm.  I don’t know where the White House is shopping but here in NJ peaches are still retailing for $1.99/lb.  Yep.  It seems that when gas prices spiked a couple of years ago at $4.00/gal, grocery stores raised prices accordingly and now we have a “new normal”.  It’s not nearly as bad as it is in Maui where my older daughter lives where a couple of bags of groceries can easily cost $100 but it’s still pretty bad.  I marvel at the cost of a single dinner.

Around here, the layoffs are thick and furious.  One minute, you’re making enough to pay your mortgage and property taxes, the next, you’re facing foreclosure as soon as the severance bennies run out.  One of the obvious solutions is to not live in NJ.  Or New York, where unemployment benefits peak at something like $450/week.  Now, that might seem generous if you live in Alabama but that money won’t even pay the rent around here for a single month.  Imagine if you have hungry kids?

There’s no shame in accepting food stamps.  Unemployed people paid for them throughout their working careers.  When it’s time to collect, they need to be able to pay the going rate for food in their area.  That’s an insurance policy against malnutrition.  And no Race to the Top scheme is going to work in a state where children are too hungry to think.

And while the House Education and Labor Committees just approved a bill that would help improve our school lunch program, advocates say the measly sums appropriated for it will not be enough unless a convincing case can be made on the House floor during debate:

“From our view [the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act] is really the best child nutrition bill that we’ve ever had. It includes stronger nutrition standards and grants for farm-to-school programs,” says Gordon Jenkins, program manager at Slow Food USA. “The amount of funding however, is very modest at the $.06 addition to the current $2.68, which leaves only about $1 for ingredients. It won’t be enough to make a significant change. That can be modified on the floor if Congress hears it’s important enough.”

For those too young to remember, Ronald Reagan’s administration tried something similar in the early 80′s during another severe recession.  It tried to sut money from the school lunch program and reclassify ketchup as a vegetable.  That didn’t go over too well with the public, even among those who thought there was a cadillac driving welfare queen behind every application for a free lunch.  You do not skimp when it comes to the nutritional needs of children.  That kind of callous indifference will definitely get you pilloried by the public, which may be Obey’s intent.  We can read a lot of political subtext into this little ditty.

In the meantime, food insecurity is a big problem in this Great Recession.  If you have the means, remember that there are a lot of unlucky duckies who still can’t find work and feed their kids.  You can help by donating to Feeding America.

Saturday Morning: We’re Living the “Shock Doctrine”

Good Morning Conflucians!

Is it just me? Suddenly, I’m feeling almost in shock at what’s happening in our country and around the world. Maybe I could just regress back to childhood and watch cartoons on TV this morning? No. I have to stay present and face the reality of what is happening.

When Reagan was elected, I kind of checked out for awhile. I refused to read newspapers or watch TV news. I knew it was going to be bad, and so I just focused on other things than politics.

I did that again for awhile after 2000. I was so devastated by what happened–how the election was stolen with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court. I checked out again for awhile–until Bush used 9/11 to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve been paying attention since then. For some reason, this time I just can’t check out and pretend it isn’t happening.

In her book,The Shock Doctine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein writes:

“The history of the contemporary free market was written in shocks….Some of the most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market reforms.”

Klein’s book is about the most influential political-economic philosophy of our times, Neoliberalism–which originated with Economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics. I’m sure Dakinikat can articulate it all much better than I could. I only understand it from my experience and reading–from living it. Klein writes:

Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market would rule every aspect of life, from school to health-care, and even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices, and eviscerating government services. These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock….

Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical ‘free market’ crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. he called this method “economic shock treatment.”

Klein drew an analogy with the CIA methods of mind control and torture, which were used in federally funded experiments back in the ’50 and ’60s in government programs with weird names like MK-ULTRA, Project BlUEBIRD, later called Project ARTICHOKE.

Klein quotes from CIA interrogation manuals:

It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are in essence methods of inducing regression of the personality… Experienced Interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the subject is far more open to suggestion and far likelier to comply than he was just before he experienced the shock.

And another quote:

The subject should be apruptly awakened and immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. When arrrested at this time, most subjects experience feelings of shock, extreme insecurity, and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

This is what our government is doing to us. Bush was pretty good at it, but the shocks somehow seem more harsh under Obama. Maybe it’s because–even though most of us here at TC knew Obama wasn’t going to bring “change we can believe in,” it still seems more shocking when these beat-downs come from a President with a D next to his name, backed by an overwhelming majority of D’s in Congress. And somehow, the fact that these shocks are being administered in the name of health care reform seems so hideous and cruel, that it’s hard to remain present and keep educating yourself about what is happening. Sometimes, I really feel like I’m being hit in the head with a hammer–again…and again…and again.

Here are a few of the latest news stories and opinions. Let’s hang together and fight back against the forces of shock!

From Robert Reich’s blog: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them….

…we…end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs or the costs of pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.

MSNBC: U.S. grapples with child hunger ‘epidemic’

Three weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama set an audacious goal: end hunger among children in the United States by 2015.

Since his inauguration, Obama has seldom broached the subject. His aides brainstorm weekly with several agencies, but their internal conversations so far have not produced fundamentally new approaches. The president’s goal could prove daunting: Childhood hunger is more complex than previously understood, new research suggests, and is unlikely to be solved simply by spending more money for food programs.

NYT: Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Boing Boing: Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

“In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”

Robert Scheer: Dear Barack, Spare Me Your E-Mails

Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.

In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.

With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.

Let’s face it: President Obama is Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.

What are you reading this morning, fellow Conflucians? I hope you can find something to cheer me up. No matter how bad things are, we are all still here and we are in it together, so….

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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Peter Galbraith Tells His Side of the Afghan Election Story

Peter W. Galbraith

Peter W. Galbraith

A couple of days ago, I predicted we would be hearing more from Peter Galbraith on his recent firing from his post as deputy special representative of the United Nations in Afghanistan, by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Today Galbraith tells his side of the story in The Washington Post. Galbraith says he was ordered not to talk to the press, but since the UN chief didn’t honor their agreement on the public announcement of his firing, Galbraith no longer feels bound by that agreement.

Peter Galbraith is the son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and the author of two books on the war in Iraq: The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End (2007), and Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies (2009). In 1987, Galbraith discovered Saddam Hussein’s systematic genocide of the Kurds. In 1997, Bill Clinton appointed Galbraith U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. He worked for the UN in East Timor and has taught at the National War College. Galbraith tried to convince the Reagan administration to act by writing the “Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988″
, but the bill was never passed, and Colin Powell convinced Reagan and Bush to let the gassing of the Kurds slide.

Now Galbraith is making an impassioned plea for the U.S. to recognize the fraud that took place during the recent election in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s presidential election, held Aug. 20, should have been a milestone in the country’s transition from 30 years of war to stability and democracy. Instead, it was just the opposite. As many as 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent, and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates. In several provinces, including Kandahar, four to 10 times as many votes were recorded as voters actually cast. The fraud has handed the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners. Continue reading

Why do I experience Barack Obama as so inauthentic?

salvadordalimetamorphosisof-narcissus1

I’m hoping someone can help me understand why Barack Obama comes across to me as so inauthentic. Is it just because I don’t like the man? I’ve mellowed quite a bit toward him. I don’t fly into a rage anymore when I hear him talk. I no longer feel nauseated when I see him on TV. I generally distrust him; but I don’t feel intense emotion about it anymore.

I detested Ronald Reagan, but I never got a feeling that he wasn’t authentic. I always felt that Reagan was pretty straightforward in his words and actions, and sometimes I even found myself almost being charmed by him. I thought he was very bad for the country and felt he was unqualified to be President, but I never thought he was a phony. I despised George W. Bush and thought his policies were dangerous–even evil. But I never got the feeling that he wasn’t being authentic. He always came across to me as pretty upfront about who he was and what his sympathies were.

When I refer to authenticity, I mean it in the sense that Heiddeger used the term. From Wikipedia:

Authenticity is a technical term in existentialist philosophy, and is also used in the philosophy of art and psychology. In philosophy, the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Here is another description of authenticity that resonates with me:

Authenticity is synonymous with Integrity in the sense of a “state of being whole and undivided”. Being authentic is our most natural state though often contrary to our conditioning. What is authentic for each of us is something only we can know and stay true to. Authenticity helps us choose to what we should devote our energy and in making that choice we invest what we do with meaning and live ‘on purpose’. We actively engage in the making of meaning when we choose authenticity; each begets the other.

I like the idea of an authentic personality being whole and undivided. It has always seemed to me that Obama has no clear sense of himself–of who he is and how he fits into the worlds he inhabits. A few days ago, commenter Inky applied the term “inauthentic” to Obama in the sense (I think) that I’m talking about–that of a feeling response that she had to him. She too was discussing Obama’s behavior during a TV interview–the one where he called Kanye West a “jackass.” Here is a portion of the comment:

I acknowledge that I have a predisposition to finding Obama inauthentic, but I recommend watching the video one more time. Does it really still feel authentic to you? Especially after Obama’s misstep on the Gates v. cop controversy, making such a comment seems like such a no-brainer to me; I certainly would have advised him to do just that if I were David Axelrod

Is that what I’m feeling? That Obama sounds inauthentic because he has practiced the lines that are bothering me? I really don’t think so. Most of Obama’s appearances seem practiced and somewhat artificial. To some extent, the President has to be. I think there is something more happening here, but I’m not sure what.

I’m not talking about lying. All politicians lie. I’m talking about something more subtle, and I’m not sure what it is–speaking style, body language? It seems to me I get the same sense of inauthenticity from Obama whether I’m just listening to his words or watching while he speaks them. In fact, the inauthenticity may come across more strongly when I’m just listening to him.

Some recent examples are in Obama’s appearance on David Letterman Monday night. I heard some excerpts from the show on NPR yesterday, and I got that strong sense of inauthenticity when Obama spoke about his daughters having sleepovers with friends over the summer and their friends’ parents getting frisked by the Secret Service. I don’t know if it was the words themselves that bothered me, or the way he said them. It could even be a sense that Obama isn’t comfortable when he jokes or when he talks about his powerful role as President. Here is some poor video of that section of the interview. The “frisked” comment is around 3:56.

Another place in the interview where I got that same feeling when when Obama “joked” that he had already been black before he got elected President. Here’s that portion of the interview. The part that bothered me most was when he said “one of the things you sign up for in politics is that folks yell at ya.” Whenever Obama refers to “folks,” I get that feeling of inauthenticity. Why?

Here are a few more excerpts from the interview.

Am I seeing something real here, or is it just my dislike of Obama coming through? Again, I’m not talking about his lies. We all know he lies constantly. Is it that he seems inauthentic when he tells the truth? Or when he talks about himself or his family? I wish I knew.

Could it be a class thing? I come from a middle-class family, but certainly not upper middle class. My mother’s father was a dentist and her siblings all went to college and were successful. My father’s family was definitely working class, but he moved into the middle class as result of his service in the army–which enabled him to go to college, get a Ph.D. and buy a home. My family is very down to earth. Could it be that I resent Obama when he tries to seem “folksy?”

I really think I’m sensing something about his character–am I making too much of this? Am I getting too “meta?” I’d really be interested to know if anyone else understands the feeling I’m trying to get at, and especially whether anyone can articulate what it is that bothers me so much about Obama’s behavior in interviews.

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Eric Boehlert Needs to Get a Grip

Eric Boehlert is the guy on the left.

Eric Boehlert is the guy on the left.

I love Eric Boehlert. His book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, was terrific. And he even mentioned The Confluence in his recent effort, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. But really, this is too much.

A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this

I’ve been thinking a lot of Kennedy and Dallas as I’ve watched the increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama be unfurled….The radical right, aided by a GOP Noise Machine that positively dwarfs what existed in 1963, has turned demonizing Obama–making him into a vile object of disgust–into a crusade. It’s a demented national jihad, the likes of which this country has not seen in modern times.

Here is the link that Boehlert used to back up his claims of violence and racism at Glenn Beck’s September 12 event. It shows a number of tasteless signs that attack President Obama and a couple of wacky videos of Glenn Beck and Orly Taitz.

Eric, are you serious? I have no doubt that some of the right wingers who have attended the tea party events are racists, but that doesn’t make their attacks on Obama worse than the ones previous Presidents have endured. Have you forgotten the incredibly vicious attacks on President Clinton in the ’90s? If you’ve forgotten where the term “right wing noise machine” came from, here is a short reading list to refresh your memory.

Joe Conason and Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it, remember?

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

Their book was even made into a documentary that was shown in theaters.

Here is a great summary of media attacks on the the Clintons:

eRiposte: THE MEDIA’S GORE-ING OF PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON (AND HILLARY CLINTON)

And to refresh your memory about the vicious attacks on Bill and Hillary Clinton by “progressives” during the 2008 primary campaign, here’s another piece by eRiposte at The Left Coaster: Clinton Derangement Syndrome = CDS = Clinton Double-Standard.

Finally, here is a recent blog post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon: Is the Right’s attack on Obama’s legitimacy new or unprecedented?

The attacks on Obama are far from unprecedented, and they are nowhere near as vicious as the ones I can recall lefties using against Richard Nixon or the ones that the right wingers used against the Clintons.

As much as I hate to admit it, even George W. Bush was ridiculed in some pretty nasty ways. The Nation lampooned him as Alfred E. Newman. And he was likened to a chimp all over the internet, here for example I’d say that’s pretty demeaning.

I can’t stand Glenn Beck or the rest of the rabble rousers at Fox “News” Channel. And I certainly have no patience for the nutty folks who believe that Obama was born in Kenya or that he’s a closet muslim. But every President faces public attacks and ridicule and yes–even the risk of assassination attempts. JFK was the last U.S. President to be assassinated, but have you forgotten that Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were victims of assassination attempts? Both men were Republicans, and their failed assassins weren’t crazed right wingers.

Squeaky Fromme made a weak attempt to shoot President Ford in September, 1975. She later claimed she did it to bring attention environmental issues. Later that same month Sara Jane Moore shot a gun at President Ford and was stopped by a bystander. According to the LA Times,

Moore was an FBI informant who was enmeshed in radical politics after moving to the Bay Area. A peripheral player rather than a leader, she volunteered for a group that distributed $2 million in food, as had been demanded by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the extreme leftist band that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

The man who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan was John Hinkley, Jr., a paranoid schizophrenic who was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. I don’t think there was any right-wing hatred involved with that one either.

There have been people who tried to assassinate every modern President, including Richard Nixon. Wikipedia has a list of recorded assassination attempts here.

The truth is there are nuts on both sides of the political spectrum. I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored. And please don’t accuse me of calling President Obama an ox, okay? No doubt there are plenty of right wing nuts who hate Obama. But that’s politics. It ain’t beanbag, you know. Let’s hope the Secret Service does its job well and keeps President Obama safe.

In the meantime, Eric, please get a grip.

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Obama’s asking the GOP for advice on…the ECONOMY???

he-resigns

But…but, isn’t that the party who royally screwed the economy from 2000-2008?  This is like a farmer asking the fox for advice on building a more secure chicken coop.

Obama seeks GOP help on economy; McConnell hopeful

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is making good on his promise to hear from Republicans as he pushes for swift passage and bipartisan backing of his massive $825 billion plan intended to jolt the country out of recession.

The unanswered question: Whether the new Democratic president will actually listen to GOP concerns about the amount of spending and the tax approach — and modify his proposal accordingly.

With the economy worsening, Obama was making his first trip to Capitol Hill since his swearing-in last week for two private afternoon sessions Tuesday with House and Senate Republicans. A former Republican congressman who is a member of Obama’s Cabinet, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, was accompanying the president.

“The goal is to seek their input. He wants to hear their ideas,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “If there are good ideas — and I think he assumes there will be — we will look at those ideas.”

“I think the president is genuinely serious about this,” Gibbs added.

The presidential spokesman would not, however, reveal what concessions Obama may be willing to make, if any, to demonstrate his seriousness about securing Republican support.[edited by me: oh yes he did, see below in next blockquote.] Gibbs, however, noted that there already are tax provisions in the measure, mostly small business cuts, that are direct GOP suggestions to Obama and his economic team.

DakiniKat, our resident Conflucian Economist, wrote about the dangers of tax cuts at this time in herTax Cuts Don’t Cut It or Cure It post. I’m no economist – but it seems to me that having a job stimulates the economy, not more of the same what Bush did.   When people are working, they can pay their bills, rent, mortgages, insurance, spend on consumer items, invest their extra pennies tucked away etc.

But WHAT is being done to make sure people don’t lose their jobs, and for those that lost their jobs (hello, me!) how can we help them to get new ones?  Not a damn thing.

This part of Liz’ article just made me angry as hell:

In a sign that Obama may be willing to compromise, officials said the president made a personal appeal to House Democrats to jettison from the package family planning funds for low-income people. Republicans have criticized the provision as an example of wasteful spending that would neither create jobs nor otherwise improve the economy. A decision on the provision was expected Tuesday.

Get that?  JETTISON.  As in, throw overboard.  Well, no soup for Planned Parenthood!  But Faith-Based initiatives are safe and tucked wonderfully under Obama’s wing.  Here’s where that “family planning to low income people”  money’s going to:

(From USA Today)

Many people assumed that any Democrat would restore the secular work of government and strive to remove religion from politics. But Obama has indicated that he intends to expand, not eliminate, the faith-based programs. Indeed, he has stated that Bush’s faith-based office “never fulfilled its promise” due to a lack of funding. This “lack of funding” cost this country $2.2 billion in 2007 alone.

Obama reportedly plans to change the name from the “Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” into his own “White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” The old office would become 12 offices to carry out the expanded program. Not exactly the change that many secularists and liberals were hoping for.

Again, Obama is NOT interested in helping the middle class, the jobless, the uninsured, or for that matter, the liberal-minded.  He’s not interested in liberal principles or philosophies, since Obama considered them as “excesses of the 60s & 70s.”

But Obama will bend over & kiss the Republicans’ tooshies by doing away with programs that religious zealots have been fighting to eliminate since Jerry Falwell created the “Moral Majority.”   Yes he can!

I can see Obama making a deal with Republicans & PNAC Neo-Con crew, promising to carry out their agenda so long as he wins.  Is it any wonder WHY Obama had a secret dinner with Bill Kristol & friends?

Now I have no doubt.  Obama’s hell-bent on being Ronald Reagan with a tan & Caesar cut.

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Obama = Triangulator

Joe Lieberman ain’t got NUTTIN on Obama when it comes to DINO ism (Democrat In Name Only):

Obama says would include Republicans in cabinet

SUNRISE, Florida (Reuters) – U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Wednesday he would include Republicans in his Cabinet if he wins the election.

Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, also said he had “some pretty good ideas” about people he might tap for senior government jobs, though he emphasized he is focused for now on the final days of the campaign and takes nothing for granted.

“There is a transition process — that I’m not paying attention to on a day-to-day basis — but that has been set up,” Obama told ABC News in an interview.

Obama said he “absolutely” considered it important to have Republicans in the Cabinet but he sidestepped a question on whether he would ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his job. There has been speculation that either Obama or his Republican rival, John McCain, might ask Gates to stay on.

“I’m not going to get into details,” Obama said, but he added that national security policy, in particular, should be nonpartisan.

Other people mentioned as possible defense secretary picks in an Obama administration include former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska.

Some analysts have speculated that during the transition period between November 4 and January 20, when a successor to President George W. Bush will take office, the new president-elect would move quickly to fill key jobs such as Treasury Secretary, Defense Secretary and Secretary of State.

Some public policy experts see a need for early announcements on such appointments in light of the global financial crisis and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“I am not going to jump the gun on this,” Obama said but he gave credit to the Bush administration for its offer to make government resources available to both candidates to begin the vetting process early.

I knew it!!  This is the main reason why I never liked Obama.  Since his proclamation of his Reagan worship, I knew that Obama was a Blue Dog Democrat.  As RD explains here, Liberalism is DEAD in the Obamacrat party.  They want to be Republicans sooooo bad, but they don’t like the “Republican” name brand and this is is why so many of our current 2008 DNC leadership love him so.   They are all DINOs each and every one of them.  No wonder Colin Powell and other Neo-Cons are salivating at an Obama presidency, they gets to war-monger and skim the books all they want!  McCain/Palin won’t let them do that, look what happened to Ted Stevens in Alaska!

Question for the Obots getting paid $7 as hour by Axelfraud to troll our site, I have a question for you and I challenge you to answer it in the comments section:  When the Obama campaign hired you guys out on your “I hate Hillary” mission, your main excuse was that “Hillary is a triangulator.”  Well, isn’t what Obama doing called “triangulating?”  To help in your homework assignment, here’s a Wikipedia definition:

Triangulation is the name given to the act of a political
candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between”
the “left” and “right” sides (or “wings”) of a traditional (e.g. UK or
US) democratic “political spectrum”. It involves adopting for oneself
some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent).
The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s
ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular
issue. Opponents of triangulation[who?],
who believe in a fundamental “left” and “right”, consider the dynamic a
deviation from its “reality” and dismiss those that strive for it as
whimsical.

Obama started his career with people with far left leanings only because that was the way to get ahead in the Chicago Machine.  Personally, I don’t buy that Obama is a socialist, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening in his neighborhood.  Neo-Cons cook the books and make money off of war, while Obama’ and his cronies cook the books and make money off of low-income housing.  Different means but same intent.  Exploit the poor and bamboozle them into voting for you.

Voting for Obama is truly a vote for the Neo-Con Borg Collective.  So don’t feel bad when you vote against the DINO-crat, my loud and hellacious liberal principled PUMAs.  Remember this?

¡Que viva los PUMAs!

Government Of, By and For the One Percent

All Ur Moneez R Belong 2 Me

All Ur Moneez R Belong 2 Me

Friday I wrote about how I hated Reagan with a white-hot passion. Today, I would like to explain why, in further detail.

Remember Reagan’s “Nine Most Terrifying Words“?

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

He then added,

“Unless you’re in the wealthiest One Percent of America. In that case, call me anytime!”

Well, that’s what he should have said. Because that was at the heart of Reagonomics, sometimes called “trickle-down” economics, sometimes called “voodoo” economics, and more recently called “put your head between your legs and kiss prosperity goodbye” economics. And George Bush practices it, religiously, and without Reagan’s late-term realization that he had to raise taxes or destroy the economy altogether. In Bush’s world, the elite One Percent are, indeed, his base.

We’ve been told so many conflicting things about the credit crunch that has been panicking the stock market and the business world. One thing everyone agrees on is that it started with bad mortgage debt. But how did the debt get so bad in the first place? Why did so many banks make such risky loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back? And why where they able to bundle the debts together and swap them among different entities, effectively making it impossible to tell who owns what piece of the bad debt at any given time?

Well, as we know, it was Bill Clinton’s fault. (Isn’t everything?) He relaxed the regulations in the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. That was the root of all evil.

One policy Clinton said he doesn’t regret is his repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which, for the first time since the Depression, allowed commercial banks to engage in investment banking activities. Clinton said the commercial banks were an important moderating force on the risk-taking of the big investment firms that collapsed this week. “In the case of the current crisis, I believe the bill I signed allowed Bank of America to take over Merrill Lynch,” he said.

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