Secretary of State John Kerry waxed eloquent about the need to punish national leaders who violate international law. He meant Syria’s Bashar al-Assad but his lecture could have applied to American officials who enabled the invasion of Iraq, including himself, just one of many US hypocrisies, as Lawrence Davidson notes.
Middle East Online
President Barack Obama sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.
As a consequence President Obama announced on Aug. 31 that he now supports a congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity. … It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. … Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, it’s about who we are as a country.”
For all I know, the President really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme.
Lest we forget, the US. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed and maimed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese and an estimated half a million children have subsequently been born deformed. It also did a fatal job on many of the American troops that handled the stuff.
Later, the US. sold chemical and biological weapons-grade material to Saddam Hussein and followed up by helping his army aim the stuff accurately at Iranian troops. Saddam also used it on the Iraqi Kurds. Then there is the fact that our “very special friend,” Israel, used phosphorous bombs (a banned chemical weapon) on the civilians of Gaza. At the time Israel did this, President Obama occupied the Oval Office.
I don’t remember him displaying any moral angst or positioning US. ships in the eastern Mediterranean with cruise missiles aimed at Israeli airbases. The truth is that during all of these episodes no one in the government worried (at least publicly) about what our actions or lack thereof, said about what sort of country this is.
However, this question does deserve a direct answer. What sort of country is the US. in relation to the use of chemical weapons? The kindest answer one can give is it is a bloody hypocritical nation.
Back to Congress
Nonetheless, sending the issue of a possible attack on Syria to Congress is a timely political move for the President. It puts off having to face the dilemma of taking military action that cannot both constitute meaningful punishment for the violation of international law and, at the same time, keep the US. from becoming ever more deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war.
It also could be a good political move for the US. as a whole because it creates a good precedent. Having Congress debate and vote on the issue of military action against Syria could help resuscitate the moribund War Powers Act. Although Obama claims he has the authority to launch an attack no matter what Congress decides, he would be politically hard pressed to do so if the legislators said don’t do it.
Thus the maneuver might narrow the otherwise rapidly expanding powers of the imperial presidency. Of course, none of this means that Congress can’t be scared or otherwise bamboozled into giving the President the power to do something militarily stupid. Vietnam and Iraq stand as powerful precedents in that regard.
There is another very interesting potential consequence of the President’s going to Congress. It might create a situation where there is a publicly noticeable difference between the express desires of a majority of the voting population and the special interests now encouraging military action against Syria.
In my last analysis, I laid out the idea that in the interim between elections, influential special interests have much more to say about policy than do the voters, most of whom pay little attention to foreign policy. Now, however, we have a rare moment when the populace is paying attention and polls indicate that a healthy majority do not want further intervention in the Middle East.
Who will the Congress respond to in the upcoming debate and vote, their special interest constituents or the voting kind?
Of course, the notion that the President of the United States, with or without congressional approval, has the authority to act as the world’s “policeman” and punish violators of international laws, that it itself flaunts, is offensive and dangerous.
There are international institutions in place such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, imperfect as they are, can be used to prosecute violations such as the use of banned weapons. (It is to be noted that the cause of “human dignity” would be greatly advanced if the US. would stop refusing to ratify the treaty empowering the ICC).
How do you characterize a situation where one or a small number of community members takes it upon themselves to go outside the law to punish alleged wrongdoers? Here in the US. this is known as “vigilante justice.” Most often this sort of behavior results is a “lynching” based on little or no reliable evidence.
President Obama’s going to Congress will not change the vigilante nature of US intentions. Let’s just hope that Congress listens to the people this time around and tells the President to keep his cruise missiles to himself. And then, let’s hope he does just that.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest;America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions fromBalfour to Israeli Statehood; andIslamicFundamentalism.
Archive for the ‘Political’ Category
Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.
E.J. Dionne Jr. Writes about politics in a twice-a-week column and on the PostPartisan blog.
What boggles the mind is that Scalia thought it proper to jump into this political argument. And when he went on to a broader denunciation of federal policies, he sounded just like an Arizona Senate candidate.
“Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem,” the politician-justice proclaimed. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are simply unwilling to do so.
“Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty — not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it.” Cue the tea party rally applause.
As it happens, Obama has stepped up immigration enforcement. But if the 76-year-old justice wants to dispute this, he is perfectly free as a citizen to join the political fray and take on the president. But he cannot be a blatantly political actor and a justice at the same time.
Unaccountable power can lead to arrogance. That’s why justices typically feel bound by rules and conventions that Scalia seems to take joy in ignoring. Recall a 2004 incident. Three weeks after the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case over whether the White House needed to turn over documents from an energy task force that Dick Cheney had headed, Scalia went off on Air Force Two for a duck-hunting trip with the vice president.
“I am astounded at the world reaction to Guantanamo,” he declared in response to a question. “We are in a war. We are capturing these people on the battlefield. We never gave a trial in civil courts to people captured in a war. War is war and it has never been the case that when you capture a combatant, you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. It’s a crazy idea to me.”
It was a fine speech for a campaign gathering, the appropriate venue for a man so eager to brand the things he disagrees with as crazy or mind-boggling. Scalia should free himself to pursue his true vocation. We can then use his resignation as an occasion for a searching debate over just how political this Supreme Court has become.
Replaces Voting Rights Act with Katherine Harris Acts
by Greg Palast for Truthout
Tuesday, 25. June 2013
They might as well have burned a cross on Dr. King’s grave. The Jim Crow majority on the Supreme Court just took away the vote of millions of Hispanic and African–American voters by wiping away Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When I say “millions” of voters of color will lose their ballots, I’m not kidding. Let’s add it up.
Last year, the GOP Secretary of State of Florida Ken Detzner tried to purge 180,000 Americans, mostly Hispanic Democrats, from the voter rolls. He was attempting to break Katherine Harris’ record.
Detzner claimed that all these Brown folk were illegal “aliens.”
But Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act requires that 16 states with a bad history of blocking Black and Brown voters must “pre-clear” with the US Justice Department any messing around with voter rolls or voting rules. And so Section 4 stopped Detzner from the racist Brown-out.
I’ll admit there were illegal aliens on Florida’s voter rolls – two of them. Let me repeat that: TWO aliens–One a US Marine serving in Iraq (not yet a citizen); the other an Austrian who registered as a Republican.
We can go from state to state in Dixie and see variations of the Florida purge game. It quickly adds up to millions of voters at risk.
Yet the 5-to-4 Court majority ruled, against all evidence, that, “Blatantly discriminatory evasions [of minority voting rights] are rare.” Since there are no more racially bent voting games, the right-wing Robed Ones conclude there’s no more reason for “pre-clearance.”
Whom do they think they’re fooling? The Court itself, just last week, ruled that Arizona’s law requiring the showing of citizenship papers was an unconstitutional attack on Hispanic voters. Well, Arizona’s a Section 4 state.
You’ll love this line from the Ku Klux Kourt majority. They wrote that the “coverage” of Section 4 applies to states where racially bent voting systems are now “eradicated practices.”
“Eradicated?” I assume they didn’t see the lines of Black folk in Florida last November. That was the result of the deliberate reducing of the number of polling places and early voting hours in minority areas. Indeed, if the Justice Department, wielding Section 4, hadn’t blocked Florida from half its ballot-box trickery, Obama would have lost that state’s electoral votes.
And that’s really what’s going on here: The problem is not that the Court majority is racist. They’re worse: they’re Republicans.
We’ve had Republicans, like the great Earl Warren, who put on the robes and take off their party buttons.
But this crew, beginning with Bush v. Gore, is viciously partisan. They note that, “minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.” And the Republican Supremes mean to put an end to that. See “Obama” and “Florida” above.
And when they say “minority” they mean “Democrat.”
Because that’s the difference between 1965 and today. When the law was first enacted, based on the personal pleas of Martin Luther King, African-Americans were blocked by politicians who did not like the color of their skin.
But today, it’s the color of the ballot of minorities – overwhelmingly Democratic Blue—which is the issue.
Pre-clearance goes WAY north of the Confederacy to Alaska where Alaska’s Natives are often frozen out of the voting system–and West to California.
In the Golden State, an astonishing 40% of voter registration forms were rejected by the Republican Secretary of State on cockamamie clerical grounds. When civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy and I investigated, we learned that the reject pile was overwhelmingly Chicano and Asian—and overwhelmingly Democratic.
How? Jim Crown ain’t gone, he’s moved into cyberspace. The new trick is lynching by laptop: removing voters, as was done in Florida and Arizona (and a dozen other states), by using poisoned databases to pick out “illegal” and “felon” and “inactive” voters—who all happen to be of the Hispanic or African-American persuasion. The GOP, for all the tears of its consultants, knows it can’t rock these votes, so they block these votes.
Despite the racial stench of today’s viciously anti-democratic ruling, the GOP majority knew they were “handicapping” the next Presidential run by a good six million votes. (That’s the calculation that RFK and I can up with for the racially-bent vote loss in 2004—and the GOP will pick up at least that in the next run.)
And the Court knew full well that their ruling today was the same as stuffing several hundred thousand GOP Red votes into the ballot boxes for the 2014 Congressional races.
The Republican court knows that to swipe 2016, they had to replace the Voting Rights Act with a revival of the Katherine Harris act.
I snapped this pic with my iPhone waiting at a red light. Just wish I had time to make a better picture. Click it to see the whole scalding message.
Not enough has been said about George W. Bush being a war criminal. He should be tried for his many crimes against the people of the United States. The ramifications of his time in office continue to haunt the American people. His legacy will not be erased easily while current presidents struggle with the mess he left behind.
The “chained CPI” proposal in President Obama’s budget continues to draw much-deserved fire, which is only likely to increase as more information about it becomes known.
Here are nine embarrassing facts about the chained CPI which the White House and its defenders would prefer to see overlooked:
1. Of course it’s a benefit cut.
Chained-CPI defenders say it’s not a benefit cut. It’s just a slowdown in the rate of the benefit’s planned increases. That’s a silly semantic game unworthy of serious leaders or analysts. The Social Security benefit, as laid out on the Social Security Administration’s website, includes adjustments designed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
Those adjustments aren’t a benefit increase. They’re designed to prevent the benefit from being decreased as a result of inflation. If you lower that adjustment, you’re cutting benefits. Period.
2. Of course it’s a tax hike.
Same goes for the tax impact of the chained CPI. Our tax brackets were designed to make sure that taxes didn’t go up inadvertently because inflation kicked them into a higher tax bracket. That was done to make sure that people who weren’t earning more in real dollars – which includes many (if not most) of the “99 percent” – weren’t hit with an unearned tax hike.
If you substitute the chained CPI for the current formula, as the president has proposed, people will be kicked into higher tax brackets earlier. Then they’ll pay more in taxes, even if they’re not making any more “real” money.
That’s a tax hike.
3. And it’s a tax hike for everybody but the wealthy.
In fact, it’s a tax hike on all but the highest levels of income. The richest earnings won’t be affected because they’re already in the highest tax bracket.
Got it? So it’s a tax hike on everybody except the richest among us. (Actually, it’s a tax hike for them too, but only on their lower levels of income. The richer you are, the less you’ll see in a tax-rate increase.)
4. You could save much more money in other, better ways.
The White House has said the chained CPI will save $122 billion in benefits over ten years. Leaving aside the fact that Social Security doesn’t affect the deficit (which we’ll discuss shortly), here’s what isn’t being done:
Close capital gains loopholes: $174 billion.
End the Bush tax cuts at Obama’s original $250,000 level, rather than the compromise $400,000 number: $183 billion.
Cut overseas military bases by 20 percent: $200 billion.
Negotiate with drug companies: $220 billion.
Enact “Defense-friendly” Pentagon cuts: $519 billion.
End corporate tax loopholes (without being “revenue neutral,” as the President’s proposing): $1.24 trillion.
Enact a financial transaction tax on the folks who ruined our economy: $1.8 trillion.
Faced with those numbers, the chained-CPI benefit cut is… well, embarrassing. (Details, and additional alternate deficit reducers, here.)
5. The White House’s proposed “bump” disproves its own argument.
The administration’s been claiming that the chained CPI is merely a “technical adjustment” designed to make cost-of-living increases more accurate. But it’s just introduced an adjustment for seniors who live longer in order to offset the impact of its reduction over time.
But if the chained CPI really measured inflation more accurately, it wouldn’t affect real benefits any more after 20 or 30 years than it did after the first year. Confusing? We explain here. (With pictures and everything.)
Bottom line? They know it’s a benefit cut.
6. It’s political suicide for Democrats.
The polls are clear on that question. Voters over 50 hate the chained CPI. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, or independents. They hate it.
And older Americans are more likely to vote than other voters (who also hate it, according to earlier polls.)
It took the Republicans all of 15 minutes to portray this move, which they’ve supported for a long time, as a “shocking attack on seniors.” They’re ready to run a reply of their successful 2010 strategy, when they ran to the left of Dems with a “Seniors’ Bill of Rights” — and recaptured the House.
7. The Social Security cut doesn’t reduce the deficit.
Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit, since it’s funded separately. In fact, it’s forbidden by lawfrom contributing to the deficit.
It doesn’t even belong in these negotiations.
8. That tax hike on everybody except the wealthy will help a little. But …
On the other hand, they’ll be hitting everybody except millionaires and billionaires with tax increases that grow with every passing year.
If regressive taxation is something you believe in, then I guess that’s something. Except for our last embarrassing fact …
9. The deficit’s already shrinking rapidly.
The deficit is already shrinking — and “rapidly,” in the words of those radical lefties at Goldman Sachs.
The deficit isn’t our most urgent economic problem. It’s not even close. We desperately need jobs, real wage growth, consumer confidence, financial security for the elderly and disabled (which means increasingSocial Security) …
Sure, deficits need to be addressed after the economy’s been righted, but right now they’re nowhere near the top of the list.
In fact, there’s an extremely good chance that the cuts in the president’s budget will make the deficit worse, as austerity cuts have in Europe. The Republican budget would certainly have that effect, since its cuts are far more severe.
The bottom line? The chained CPI is the wrong answer to the wrong problem at the wrong time. It’s time for the White House to recognize that and move on. In the meantime Democrats need to walk away from it fast, before they pay a high price for it at the polls.
Conversations about how government isn’t working are all too common — and for good reason. Washington is paralyzed by special interest politics and partisan gamesmanship.
Elected officials serving their local communities are just as frustrated with Washington as the rest of the American people. Local leaders are pragmatic problem-solvers, not partisan warriors. Citizens expect safe streets, good schools, affordable services — and it’s up to local governments to deliver…Solutions to many of our most pressing challenges will need to be pioneered in cities — and, based on what is already happening, we have great faith and optimism that they will…Today, on behalf of The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropies, we are excited to launch a new platform that celebrates the boldness and creativity of mayors and cities across the country…
In this new section, you’ll find video submissions from the 20 finalist cities pitching their ideas and hear directly from their mayors…Watch videos and view posts from the 20
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge finalists:
Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Television Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, “confidential”.
Because it was marked “confidential” on each page, the oil industry stooge couldn’t believe the US State Department had given me a complete copy of their secret plans for the oil fields of Iraq.
Actually, the State Department had done no such thing. But my line of bullshit had been so well-practiced and the set-up on my mark had so thoroughly established my fake identity, that I almost began to believe my own lies.
I closed in. I said I wanted to make sure she and I were working from the same State Department draft. Could she tell me the official name, date and number of pages? She did.
Bingo! I’d just beaten the Military-Petroleum Complex in a lying contest, so I had a right to be chuffed.
After phoning numbers from California to Kazakhstan to trick my mark, my next calls were to the State Department and Pentagon. Now that I had the specs on the scheme for Iraq’s oil – that State and Defense Department swore, in writing, did not exist – I told them I’d appreciate their handing over a copy (no expurgations, please) or there would be a very embarrassing story on BBC Newsnight.
Within days, our chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, delivered to my shack in the woods outside New York a 323-page, three-volume programme for Iraq’s oil crafted by George Bush’s State Department and petroleum insiders meeting secretly in Houston, Texas.
I cracked open the pile of paper – and I was blown away.
Like most lefty journalists, I assumed that George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to buy up its oil fields, cheap and at gun-point, and cart off the oil. We thought we knew the neo-cons true casus belli: Blood for oil.
But the truth in the Options for Iraqi Oil Industry was worse than “Blood for Oil”. Much, much worse.
The key was in the flow chart on page 15, Iraq Oil Regime Timeline & Scenario Analysis:
“…A single state-owned company …enhances a government’s relationship with OPEC.”
Let me explain why these words rocked my casbah.
I’d already had in my hands a 101-page document, another State Department secret scheme, first uncovered by Wall Street Journal reporter Neil King, that called for the privatisation, the complete sell-off of every single government-owned asset and industry. And in case anyone missed the point, the sales would include every derrick, pipe and barrel of oil, or, as the document put it, “especially the oil”.
That plan was created by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists and neo-cons working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2004, the plan’s authenticity was confirmed by Washington power player Grover Norquist. (It’s hard to erase the ill memory of Grover excitedly waving around his soft little hands as he boasted about turning Iraq into a free-market Disneyland, recreating Chile in Mesopotamia, complete with the Pinochet-style dictatorship necessary to lock up the assets – while behind Norquist, Richard Nixon snarled at me from a gargantuan portrait.)
The neo-con idea was to break up and sell off Iraq’s oil fields, ramp up production, flood the world oil market – and thereby smash OPEC and with it, the political dominance of Saudi Arabia.
General Jay Garner also confirmed the plan to grab the oil. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired Garner, when the General, who had lived in Iraq, complained the neo-con grab would set off a civil war. It did. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld replaced Garner with a new American viceroy, Paul Bremer, a partner in Henry Kissinger’s firm, to complete the corporate takeover of Iraq’s assets – ”especially the oil”.
But that was not to be. While Bremer oversaw the wall-to-wall transfer of Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, he was stopped cold at the edge of the oil fields.
How? I knew there was only one man who could swat away the entire neo-con army: James Baker, former Secretary of State, Bush family consiglieri and most important, counsel to Exxon-Mobil Corporation and the House of Saud.
(One unwitting source was industry oil-trading maven Edward Morse of Lehman/Credit Suisse, who threatened to sue Harper’s Magazine for my quoting him. Morse denied I ever spoke with him. But when I played the tape from my hidden recorder, his memory cleared and he scampered away.)
There was no way in hell that Baker’s clients, from Exxon to Abdullah, were going to let a gaggle of neo-con freaks smash up Iraq’s oil industry, break OPEC production quotas, flood the market with six million bbd of Iraqi oil and thereby knock the price of oil back down to $13 a barrel where it was in 1998.
Big Oil could not allow Iraq’s oil fields to be privatised and taken from state control. That would make it impossible to keep Iraq within OPEC (an avowed goal of the neo-cons) as the state could no longer limit production in accordance with the cartel’s quota system. The US oil industry was using its full political mojo to prevent their being handed ownership of Iraq’s oil fields.
That’s right: The oil companies didn’t want to own the oil fields – and they sure as hell didn’t want the oil. Just the opposite. They wanted to make sure there would be a limit on the amount of oil that would come out of Iraq.
Saddam wasn’t trying to stop the flow of oil – he was trying to sell more. The price of oil had been boosted 300 percent by sanctions and an embargo cutting Iraq’s sales to two million barrels a day from four. With Saddam gone, the only way to keep the damn oil in the ground was to leave it locked up inside the busted state oil company which would remain under OPEC (i.e. Saudi) quotas.
The James Baker Institute quickly and secretly started in on drafting the 323-page plan for the State Department. With authority granted from the top (i.e. Dick Cheney), ex-Shell Oil USA CEO Phil Carroll was rushed to Baghdad in May 2003 to take charge of Iraq’s oil. He told Bremer, “There will be no privatisation of oil – END OF STATEMENT.” Carroll then passed off control of Iraq’s oil to Bob McKee of Halliburton, Cheney’s old oil-services company, who implemented the Baker “enhance OPEC” option anchored in state ownership.
Some oil could be released, mainly to China, through limited, but lucrative, “production sharing agreements”.
And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward.
Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits.
And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.
The result: As we mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion this month, we also mark the fifth year of crude at $100 a barrel.
As George Bush could proudly say to James Baker: Mission Accomplished!
Click the link to see the original article: The Real Reason for the Iraq War | VICE United Kingdom.
“A 20-year low for the GOP…Hard-liners are a drag on the party.”
The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.
The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.
Americans’ values and beliefs are more divided along partisan lines than at any time in the past 25 years. The values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than the one between men and women, young and old, or any racial or class divides.
But while members of the Republican and Democratic parties have become more conservative and liberal, respectively, a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives has become a dominant force on the right. Indeed, their resolve and ultra-conservatism have protected Republican lawmakers from the broader voter backlash that is so apparent in opinion polls.
For decades, my colleagues and I have examined the competing forces and coalitions within the two parties. In our most recent national assessments, we found not only that the percentage of people self-identifying as Republicans had hit historic lows but that within that smaller base, the traditional divides between pro-business economic conservatives and social conservatives had narrowed. There was less diversity of values within the GOP than at any time in the past quarter-century.
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: March 22, 2013
Senator John McCain called the far-right darlings Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Justin Amash “wacko birds” earlier this month. (McCain later apologized for that burst of honesty and candor.)
Ann Coulter used her Conservative Political Action Conference speech to take a shot at New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, who was not invited to speak this year. Coulter quipped: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” What a lovely woman.
Also at CPAC, the half-term ex-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, took a whack at Karl Rove, challenging him to run for office himself. “Buck up or stay in the truck,” she said with her usual Shakespearean eloquence. Rove shot back that if he were to run and win, he’d at least finish his term. Ouch.
Donald Trump took to Twitter recently to call the conservative blogger Michelle Malkin a “dummy” who was “born stupid.” It’s hard to know whom to side with when two bullies battle.
But all this name-calling, as fun as it is to watch, is just a sideshow. The main show is the underlying agitation.
The Republican Party is experiencing an existential crisis, born of its own misguided incongruity with modern American culture and its insistence on choosing intransigence in a dynamic age of fundamental change. Instead of turning away from obsolescence, it is charging headlong into it, becoming more strident and pushing away more voters whom it could otherwise win.
Andrew Kohut, the founding director of the Pew Research Center, pointed out in The Washington Post on Friday that the party’s ratings “now stand at a 20-year low,” and that is in part because “the outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the G.O.P. what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.”
And too many of those hard-liners have a near-allergic reaction to the truth.
A prime example is Michele Bachmann, the person who convened the Tea Party Caucus in Congress and a Republican candidate for president last year.
She burst back on the scene with a string of lies and half-truths that could have drawn a tsk tsk from Tom Sawyer.
PolitiFact rated two of her claims during her CPAC speech last Saturday as “pants on fire” false. The first was that 70 cents of every dollar that’s supposed to go to the poor actually goes to salaries and pensions of bureaucrats. The second was that scientists could have a cure for Alzheimer’s in 10 years if it were not for “a cadre of overzealous regulators, excessive taxation and greedy litigators.”
She also said during that speech that President Obama was living “a lifestyle that is one of excess” in the White House, detailing how many chefs he had, and so on.
The Washington Post gave that claim four Pinocchios, and pointed out that “during last year’s G.O.P. presidential race, Bachmann racked up the highest ratio of Four-Pinocchio comments, so just about everything she says needs to be checked and double-checked before it is reported.”
And in a speech Thursday on the House floor, she said of the federal health care law:
“The American people, especially vulnerable women, vulnerable children, vulnerable senior citizens, now get to pay more and they get less. That’s why we’re here, because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”
Factcheck.org pointed out that her “facts” didn’t match her hyperbole.
Last year The Washington Post quoted Jim Drinkard, who oversees fact-checking at The Associated Press, as saying, “We had to have a self-imposed Michele Bachmann quota in some of those debates.”
It’s sad when you are so fact-challenged that you burn out the fact-checkers.
People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent.
When all the dust settles from the current dustup within the party over who holds the mantle and which direction to take, Republicans will still be left with the problem of what to do with people like Bachmann.
And as long as the party has Bachmanns, it has a problem.
Here is a follow up letter from Jerry on the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Looking up the Freedom of the Press Foundation is heartening. You’d have to explain the following history to your readers so that they would understand why socially astute leaders created the Foundation. The reason is that non-legal, non-government, no-recourse-in-the-courts steps were taken to suppress political dissent. The Foundation restores political donations to a menu of crusading organizations. Here is the timeline that made it obvious to many that a funding foundation was needed to protect the public funding of political dissent.–jerry
THE ATTEMPTED SUPPRESSION OF WIKILEAKS: TIMELINE
Tuesday 30 November 2010
Amazon steps in after DDoS attacks on Wikileaks, to solve Wikileaks Web presence issues, by giving them “Simple Storage System” (S3) data hosting and “Elastic Compute Cloud” (EC2) computational support (Web page servers) ca Tue 30Nov. (S3 and EC2 are collectively called AWS, Amazon Web Services.)
Joe Lieberman’s staffers phone Amazon Wed, 1Dec2010.
Joe Lieberman publicaly thanks Amazon Wed, 1Dec2010.
Senator Joe Lieberman’s office promptly calls to place pressure on Amazon to oust Wikileaks. After Amazon does so on Wed 1 Dec., Lieberman publicly stated it was the right thing to do and he hoped it would set a standard for all American companies.
• Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, calls for Wikileaks to be taken offline. “I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company – whether American or foreign – should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials.”
Wednesday 1 December 2010
• Overnight Tues 30Nov-Wed1Dec2010, Amazon removes Wikileaks’s content from its S3 and EC2 cloud service, but later insists it did so because the content could cause harm to people and did not belong to Wikileaks – and that it was not due to political pressure or the (right wing) hacker attacks against the Amazon site.
1 Dec marked Amazon’s complete removal of Wikileaks data from Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS hosting service had provided Wikleaks’ Web server mirrors.
• TECH: Tableau Software, which offers free software for data visualization, removes the public views of graphics built using information about the diplomatic cables. It admits that the reason was pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman.
The company EveryDNS gives wikileaks.org 24 hours notice to set up another site and DNS service “pointing” to it by 03:00GMT Thursday 2 December.
At 3AM GMT Thurs 2 Dec, 10PM EST Wed 1Dec, everyDNS ceases DNS name resolution for Wikileaks. EveryDNS acted just after Amazon took down the Wikileaks server mirrors
Thurs, 2 December 2010
Stripped of both its page servers and the DNS translation service pointing to them, wikileaks.org moves to Europe as “wikileaks.ch”
Friday 3 December 2010
Fri 3Dec/Sat4Dec 2010: I (JIN) canvass my suburban WashDC subdivision (ca 100 homes) for financial support for Wikileaks. Just go to the Wikileaks page and send some money. But government employees tell me they have been told it is illegal to go to the site even on their home computers. “It’s OK if you don’t contribute, forget I even asked” I tell the lady who explains she works for the CIA.
Wikileaks shifts to a backup domain registered in Switzerland as Wikileaks.ch, and actually hosted in Sweden, at Wikileaks.ch, though the cables are hosted in part by OVH, an internet provider in the north of France.
• FRANCE: French industry minister Eric Besson writes to internet companies warning them there will be “consequences” for any companies or organisations helping to keep WikiLeaks online in the country.
PROTEST on the RIGHT, PROTEST on the LEFT
EveryDNS claims that the DDOS attacks against Wikileaks were disrupting its service provided to thousands of other customers. The company says it is “following established policies so as not to put any one EveryDNS.net user’s interests ahead of any others. Lastly, regardless of what people say about the actions of EveryDNS.net, we know this much is true – we believe in our New Hampshire state motto, Live Free or Die.”
Saturday 4 December 2010
• MONEY: PayPal, owned by US auction site eBay, permanently restricts the account used by WikiLeaks due to a “violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy”. A spokesman said the account was suspended because “[it] cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”
You can still donate at Commerzbank Kassel in Germany or Landsbanki in Iceland or by post to a post office box at the University of Melbourne or at http://wikileaks.ch/support.html
• TECH: Switch, the Swiss registrar for Wikileaks.ch, declines pressure from US and French authorities to remove the site or block access to it.
7Dec 2010 Visa Europe halts service to WikiLeaks
• MONEY: Visa Europe begins to suspend service to the Wikileaks account a day after Master Card. “Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks’ website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules,” said a spokesman.
The BBC reports, MasterCard Worldwide is choking payments to the Wikileaks site.
The BBC reports, Swiss bank PostFinance has closed Julian Assange’s account there.
The companies have insisted that their decisions are not politically motivated.
Wednesday 8 December 2010
• MONEY — PAYPAL
“Speaking at the LeWeb conference in Paris, Osama Bedier, vice-president of platform, mobile and new ventures for PayPal says that ‘What happened is that on November 27th [the day before Wikileaks began releasing cables] the State Department, the US government basically, wrote a letter saying that the Wikileaks activities were deemed illegal in the United States. And so our policy group had to take a decision to suspend the account… It was straightforward from our point of view.’ He added, ‘We … comply with regulations around the world, making sure that we protect our brand.’ ”
“Though he later reined back the comments, saying that PayPal had not been contacted directly by the State Department but had seen a letter it had sent to WikiLeaks, his remarks will undoubtedly intensify criticism from supporters of WikiLeaks that the site is being targeted for political reasons.”
“Note: an earlier version of this [Guardian] article wrongly referred to easyDNS.com as having provided DNS routing for Wikileaks. This was wrong, and the company was not involved at that time – although easyDNS.com is now providing routing for Wikileaks.ch.”
(PayPal cut off Wikileaks payments on Saturday 4 Dec 2010.)
PAYMENT EMBARGO SUMMARY:
Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union, Amazon and Bank of America blocked support of political site Wikileaks.