Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ship of Fools

Paul Craig Roberts laments in Counterpunch

For many Americans, war is like a sports contest in which they take vicarious pleasure and cheer on their side to victory. Millions of Americans are still bitter that “the liberal media” and war protesters caused America to lose the Vietnam war, and they are determined that this won’t happen again. These Americans have no realization that there was no more reason for the US to be fighting in Vietnam 40 years ago than to be fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan or tomorrow in Iran.

I read of this sentiment being expressed just two days ago in an Independent article by Johann Hari - telling conversations on an annual ocean cruise for readers of The National Review:

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public – that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich – are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" the writer Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

Back to the Counterpunch article, Roberts concludes:

Americans are filled with hubris, not with knowledge. They have no awareness of the calamity that their government’s pursuit of hegemony is bringing to themselves and to life on earth.

Of course, going from rightly asserting that "For many Americans" to making a universal statement suggesting that ALL "Americans are filled with hubris" is a rhetorical stretch.

However, candidate Obama wants to leave Iraq so "we" can finish the job in Afghanistan / Pakistan -- using the military might of the U.S. to seek out an kill Osama Bin Laden. Obama too has pledged American allegiance to Isreal vis-a-vis Iran, "leaving all options on the table" (including, one surmises nuclear). In this, I feel confident, Obama has the backing of the majority of Americans.

Which leaves me feeling not at all charitable towards him, no matter how soaring his rhetoric, no matter how well staged the convention, no matter how much worse a choice McCain is.

I'm in this kind of a mood now:
For many disaffected, delusional and ignorant Americans, especailly including the political, financial, and media elites, war and politics are like sports contests in which they take vicarious pleasure and cheer on their side to victory. To the victor of the political constests goes the "right" to determine against whom the succeeding wars shall be fought. The status quo will not continue into perpetuity.

How will the status quo end? Karmically.

How many state governors have 85% approval ratings?

Amazing how selecting this particular vice presidential running mate so soon after Senator Obama's inspiring speech in Denver has helped mute much of what should have been "the buzz" about Obama's speech. Time's Mark Halperin notes:

In the short term, the pick will create excitement among the kind of grass-roots conservatives who have never been enthusiastic about McCain, and in the media, which will be fascinated by Palin's good looks (matched by those of her dishy husband), intelligence and charm.

Yes, it surely will work well for all the media types "fascinated by Palin's good looks" and also those fascinated by her husband's "dishy" good looks (which will appeal both to females and apparently males of some stripe; note to self - NEVER write about a the "dishy" good looks of a woman's husband). Expect MoDo to make a play, just has to. The vamp-tramp can't help herself.

Must give the Rove election team full credit too for keeping the veep's identity such a guarded secret from the MSM, who were caught absolutely flat-footed and virtually clueless about this choice. Although I don't remember the pundits flopping about like salmon returning upstream to spawn who the gop veep would be. Maybe they only behaved liked crazed loons when covering democrats ... hoping to see a meltdown.

I'm sure many bloggers by now have commented on this Palin comment, which really ought to make the rounds of Leno, Letterman, etc etc (from Politico)

Larry Kudlow of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Co.” asked her about the possibility of becoming McCain's ticket mate.

Palin replied: “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.”

Clearly someone is going to have to bring Governor Palin up to speed on the VP's duties:

(1) Tell New York Times and Washington Post reporters what to write.

(2) Appear on Sunday morning talk shows and tell the hosts what to think (because they read it in the NYT and WaPo).

(3) Tell the CIA what to tell the President.

(4) Listen to oil, coal and other traditional US energy intersts tell you what the nation's energy policy should be and then ensure that their will be done.

(5) Shoot attorneys you like in the face (as a not-so-subtle warning to other attorneys -- worse could happen to you)

(6) Fire attorneys you used to like if they end up not doing the job you want them to do (which doesn't need to be done -- e.g. prosecuting voter fraud at the polling places) rather than the job you don't want them to do (which does need to be done -- e.g. prosecuting corrupt republicans).

But the more I read (and think) about it, choosing Alaskan Governor Palin offers some potentially significant electoral college advantages - via Digby

So, I wouldn't be too smug about Palin. She's got something about her that the people who know her really like. She has an 85% approval rating up there, which includes quite a few liberals. Her western state appeal is an amalgam of right wing populism and libertarianism, something that shouldn't be discounted among swing voters who might also find her to be an attractive working mom who manages to run the state while taking care of her snowmobile champion husband (Arctic NASCAR) and their five kids.

And she will energize the fundamentalist base with her anti-abortion view and anti-scientific educational positions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whacking her around like a piñata one more time (regardless of the facts)

Writing for Media Matters, Eric Boehlert painstakingly deconsturcts another MSM favored fairy-tale narrative involving the vile Hillary Clinton and the softie Barak Obama.

While the press has made it sound as if letting the name of Senator Clinton be put up for nomination at the Democratic National Convention and letting the Senator speak are unprecedented events which bespeak of her evil motives to create pandemonium and walk over Obama, Boehlert points out that the only thing unprecedented is Clinton's almost immediate endorsement of Obama.

From Gary Hart to Jesse Jackson to Jerry Brown, runner up candidates have put their name up for nomination at the convention, and also been given speaking time. Neither Jackson nor Brown actually supported the nominee (Dukakis and Bill Clinton).

From Boehlert's report:

Fact: Many in the press have portrayed Clinton's planned convention address, as well as the fact that her name is being placed into nomination, as an unprecedented, heavy-handed power grab.

Fact: It's not. In years past, Democratic candidates who won lots of primaries and accumulated hundreds of delegates (sorry, Howard Dean and Bill Bradley) have always been allowed to address the convention and very often place their name into nomination. It's the norm. It's expected. It's a formality.

This newly manufactured media attack on Clinton is just the latest in a long line of press grenades thrown her way this year. But this time, she's not the only victim, because the media's concocted story line is being used to unfairly skewer Barack Obama, too.

Consider New York magazine: "Obama Agrees to Roll-Call Vote for Clinton. Does That Make Him a Sissy?"

What's so startling in watching the coverage of the Clinton convention-speech story has been the complete ignorance displayed about how previous Democratic conventions have dealt with runners-up like Clinton. It's either complete ignorance or the media's strong desire to painstakingly avoid any historical context, which, in turn, allows the press to mislead news consumers into thinking Clinton's appearance (as well as the gracious invitation extended by Obama) represents something unique and unusual.


Even after all these months, I still don't completely understand why Clinton's essentially centrist campaign for the White House ginned up so much open contempt from the press corps, which has felt completely comfortable addressing her in an openly derogatory and condescending manner. The issue of her convention involvement simply allowed the press to whack her around like a piñata one more time, regardless of the facts.

So many in the mainstream media have literally hated the Clintons for so long, and that hatred was so manifest that all things Clinton, including Al Gore had to be slimed, to be lied about.

And history was made as one manifestly unfit for the office of President has led this nation breaking its laws, leaving its citizens to fend for themselves, sanctioned torture, shredded the constitution, and on and on.

And this is what journalism has become. Like unto a perpetual fraternity hazing exercise.

Short on biographical details, long on idealism

David Brooks creeps me out. Slimy, serpentine. Maybe I should cut him some slack, since this op-ed piece was written on deadline.

Obama is already an elusive Rorschach test candidate, and now he’s being pulled by his party in a thousand directions. The Democrats are in danger of doing to Obama what they did to their last two nominees: burying authentic individuals under a layer of prefab themes.

What the DEMOCRATS did to their last two nominees? How about what the main stream media did to the last two democratic nominees. Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert to name two.

Obama’s chief problem in this campaign is that large numbers of voters still don’t know who he is. They are having trouble putting him into one of the categories they use to grasp those they have not met.

And because large numbers of voters still don't know who he is, this makes him an elusive Rorschac test candidate. A tautology mon-sewer Bobo. Not really sure why the voters don't know who Obama is. For months upon end, media covered his campaign fight against Hillary Clinton on a daily basis. He's also written an autobiography. And there is a legislative voting trail.

And now he has to define himself amid the phantasmagorical vapors of his own party: the ghosts of the Kerry campaign, the overshadowing magic of the Kennedys and the ego-opera that perpetually surrounds the Clintons.

Oops. Somehow or another, I thought I remembered Al Gore as one of the last two democratic presidential nominees. Guess Al Gore left no phantasmagorical vapors, no overshadowing magic, and no perpetually surrounding ego-opera. Well, he did manage to win a Nobel Prize. And an election.

Of course, the Obama campaign has been here before. Just about a year ago, Obama was stagnant in the polls. His supporters were nervous and full of advice. And in the crowning moment of his whole race, Obama shut them out. He turned his back on the universe of geniuses and stayed true to his core identity.

Could it be Bobo - that you are trying to tell a large number of voters something about Candidate Obama? When in the crowning moment - Obama stayed true to his core identity. Whatever that core identity might be. Surely, Bobo - you have glimmered it. Please Bobo, tell us some momo. Sounds like ... a narrative is forming there ... the man who when polling stagnant, turns his back on the nervous-nellie universe of geniuses. I guess it goes without saying, that what Bobo seems to say he did, he did, and it worked. Although Bobo does not say soso.

"In the crowning moment of his whole race" sure LOOKS like bobo has made a fruedian here -- and (inadvertantly) pulled the race card out of his lap top. Alternatively, for bobo - maybe this is as good as the "multi-cultural" race is ever gonna get it - one crowning moment - and then the other race can reassert itself.

Is there no editor anywhere in Gotham who might have changed that particular sentence to:

"And in the crowning moment of his entire campaign Obama shut them out."

Maybe not as good as a perfect game, but at least the prospect tossed a shut out. If I may be permitted to torture a sports metaphor some more.

At the core, Obama’s best message has always been this: He is unconnected with the tired old fights that constrict our politics. He is in tune with a new era. He has very little experience but a lot of potential. He does not have big achievements, but he is authentically the sort of person who emerges in a multicultural, globalized age. He is therefore naturally in step with the problems that will confront us in the years to come.

I see it all -- Obama -- a man of not big achievements, but unconnected, skinny on experience, but a lot of potential. If her were a basketball player, one might call him, a project. And naturally in step with the problems that will confront us -- sounds kind of like maybe he IS at the core of the problems that will confront us. Thanks for making it more clear, bobo.

Yes. It is the tired old fights that constrict "our" politics. Not the vested interests. Not the lobbyists. Not the military-industrial-congressional-prison-media-infotainment complex. Not the politicians. Certainly not the GOP, not in the present era of partisan politics.

So as I’m trying to measure the effectiveness of this convention, I’ll be jotting down a little minus mark every time I hear a theme that muddies that image. I’ll jot down a minus every time I hear the old class conflict, and the old culture war themes. I’ll jot down a minus when I see the old Bush obsession rearing its head, which is not part of his natural persona. I’ll write a demerit every time I hear the rich played off against the poor, undercutting Obama’s One America dream.

Now bobo flits from potentially not helping us know the candidate any better (a man not of big achievements might not have any achievements after all, unconnected, skinny on experience) to getting all ready to RAG on the CONVENTION. Get out the red pen. Every jot and tittle, ever image-muddying theme will be checked. Cuz bobo's gonna call you on it - skinny man of little achievement -- if you DARE talk "class conflict", "culture war" or Bush-obsession-head-rearing, bobo gonna hit you with a red demerit. And don't dare play the rich off against the poor, lest you skinny man of little achievemnet undercut your own dream. For which bobo will call you on it.

Don't want none of that class war-fare, lest bobo's marginal rates go up.


Obama may yet recover his core focus. Now he has to preserve it against his most terrifying foes: the “experts” in his own party.

Okay. So now we know better who this Obama is - a prospect who once shut out his own team. Because never let it be said that Carl Rove or Jerome Corsi are anywhere near as terrifying as the democratic party "experts" (which is in quotes here, because they aren't, although please do note, that "geniuses" of universal yore, unto whose backs Obama turned, did not even merit the quotes, because that was too obvious).

Obama is also a loser - in that he lost his core focus; which he may yet recover. And, even though he has not yet recovered his core focus, he has to preserve it. Not so sure you can preserve that which you have yet to recover. Must recover it first. Bobo - you write bad prose. Muddled is as muddled does.

Shorter bobo:

Many voters don't know who Obama is, and I refuse to help them learn. But if he can withstand the terrifying slings and arrows of his own party, rich people should not have to pay higher taxes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Advocates of the status quo will mount a tenacious defense

Andrew J. Bacevich has some realistic and sobering thoughts on what we can expect from the next president.

[P]residents don't make policy; administrations do. To judge by the cadre of advisors they've recruited, neither candidate holds much affinity for outside-the-box thinkers. Obama's "national security working group," for example, consists chiefly of Democratic war horses, including former secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher and former national security advisor Anthony Lake -- a group that is not young, not charismatic and not known for innovative thinking.

McCain's national security team features a strong neoconservative presence, including pundits such as Max Boot and Robert Kagan, along with hawkish Washington insiders such as Randy Scheunemann and James Woolsey. All figured prominently among advocates of invading Iraq; none has yet to repent. Agents of change? Not likely, unless having a go at Iran qualifies as creative thinking.

The very structure of American politics imposes its own constraints. For all the clout that presidents have accrued since World War II, their prerogatives remain limited ... A President Obama, even if his own party runs the Senate and House, won't enjoy all that much more latitude, especially when it comes to three areas in which the dead hand of the past weighs most heavily: defense policy, energy policy and the Arab-Israeli peace process. The military-industrial complex will inhibit efforts to curb the Pentagon's penchant for waste. Detroit and Big Oil will conspire to prolong the age of gas guzzling. And the Israel lobby will oppose attempts to chart a new course in the Middle East. If the past provides any indication, advocates of the status quo will mount a tenacious defense.

Will it be asking too much to expect a significant reduction of the one trillion dollar defense budget? Yes, for the tentacles of the military-industrial-congressional-prison-infotainment complex suck hard on the teat of government largesse, and that complex contributes the big bucks. Besides, Keynsian militarism (and cheap oil) have greased the gears the U.S. economy since 1945 and its easier to keep building weapons and war machines than to retool to rebuild infrastructure or develop alternative energy sources.

Will it be asking too much to develop a sane national energy plan and begin to take the steps to put the brakes on global warming? Yes, for wee, the sheeple love our automobiles, our suburban wastelands, our air conditioning, our malls, our illusions of freedom, and the cultural impact of American television on the rapidly developing economies of India and China has made their huddled masses yearning to be free to drive gas guzzlers.

Will it be asking too much to rethink the role of the U.S. military from one of an implementer of an imperialist hegemonic foreign policy philosophy to a policy of actual national defense? Yes, for what's the point in having the world's most effective killing and destructive force (absent total nuclear war) if you're not going to use it? Just recognize that it's most effectively used in places like Grenada and Panama rather than countries like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Will it be asking too much to take a realistic cost-benefit analysis with the U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis the middle East, and our status as a virtual strategic lapdog of the Israeli government? Yes, for Obama and McCain have pledged their fealty to Israel and all U.S. politicians fear the wrath of AIPAC.

Change? Change is inevitable. Empires decline, and the American political, financial, and media elites are in a state of denial. How shall the empire end? With a bang or a whimper? Probably with a whimpering bang, trying propogate a permanent warfare state until the credit cards are maxxed out, and even the military can get no more petrol.

Stripping away the regular-guy facade

Paul Krugman has a fair and balanced op-ed column in today's NYT. Key points:

In an ideal world, politicians would be judged by their actions, not by their wealth or lack thereof. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to wealth, but that didn’t stop him from doing more for working Americans than any president before or since. Conversely, Joseph Biden’s hardscrabble life story, though inspiring, didn’t stop him from supporting the odious 2005 bankruptcy bill.

But in the world we actually live in, pro-corporate, inequality-increasing Republicans argue that you should vote for them because they’re regular guys you’d like to have a beer with, while Democrats who want to raise taxes on top earners, expand health care and raise the minimum wage are snooty elitists.

And in that world, stripping away the regular-guy facade — pointing out that everything Rush Limbaugh said about Mr. Kerry applies equally to Mr. McCain, that Mr. McCain lives in a material world few Americans can imagine — is only fair.


The Obama campaign ... doesn’t need to convince voters either that he’s the awesomest candidate ever or that Mr. McCain is a villain. All it has to do is tarnish Mr. McCain’s image enough so that voters see this as a race between a Democrat and a Republican. And that’s a race the Democrat will easily win.